Over the past few years, various crazes have hit mountain biking, some with more permanence than others, some with a sublime sense of the ridiculous, and some rather divorced from the fun of riding a bike. These include fat bikes, semi-fat bikes, #enduro, and bikepacking.
In my mind, bikepacking straddles a precarious divide between fun and ridiculous. The concept is beautiful – riding a mountain bike through beautiful scenery, camping out, and immersing in the beauty of nature. The reality frequently has something more to do with saddle sores, faffing with frame bags, getting rained upon, atrocious hygiene, and a tendency to reflect (in blog form, or facebook) on just how horrible the experience truly was.
My Kiwi Brevette has inspired me to believe in a slightly modified form of bikepacking which alleviates some of the above issues (although getting rained upon is the third constant of life, in the esteemed company of death and taxes). This form of bikepacking involves days in the Goldilocks spectrum – long enough to be varied and epic, short enough not to be a death march – nice scenery, the propsect of accommodation, should one so desire, and luxuries like lunch, showers, soap, and towels.
The Tumut 3 hour presented an opportunity to indulge in this slightly modified form. The trails of Tumut are fantastic, majestic Autumn weather was promised, and – most promisingly – Tumut’s only about 120km from home, albeit with a few significant mountain ranges interposed.
Indeed, for my first three hour there in 2008 (where I got hypothermia and pulled out after 2 hours), I met a very nice tall young man on a very pretty Salsa – Seb Dunne. Before this all gets a bit too romantic, I’ll (reluctantly) point out that Seb’s wife Beth is equally as adventurous on board a bike. With this fantastic couple – soon Tour Divide bound – a cunning plan was duly schemed and hatched.
It began – like all good adventures – with a drizzly, rainy morning heading out on the roads of Cotter Uriarra. Tarmac soon transitioned to dirt for the long climb to Piccadilly Circus, and mist to rain. It was wet and cold when the sizeable climb was eventually summited, and rain jackets were appropriately donned for the descent down to Brindabella Valley.
The elevation plummeted and the temperature warmed as we approached the valley, clearing to a nice – if chilly – Autumn day. The climbing soon resumed, grinding away up and out of the valley towards Bondo State Forest. It was slow, hard graft, somewhere on a towering, endless ridgeline. Once again, my little XTC was proving the perfect dirt touring bike – (complete with ghetto frame bags) – light, stiff and responsive, with reliable and grippy tyres and the ability to make molehills of mountains.
Eventually, forest transitioned to plantation country, and loose gravel to tar seal. With majestic views, sunshine, and an outrageously pleasant tailwind, we made good time across the plateau, and rapidly found ourselves plummeting into Tumut, in time for a nice lunch.
… it all felt a little bit too easy, with an afternoon of chilling out, watching trashy chick flicks, with the luxuries of a cabin and a shower. Glampacking was soon coined as the phrase.
The next morning, a brilliant morning dawned for the 3 hour race, while Seb and Beth headed over mountains again back home. With the race not starting until midday, I was a bit at sea for the morning, eventually delving deep into Aldous Huxley and coffee.
The race consisted of a fantastic 8km trail climbing and scouting around some steep native hillside, with the trail featuring a nice assortment of rocks and rolls, and a pleasing lack of flow-track style artificial features, and a fantastic gratuitous fireroad pinch.
In typical Tumut fashion, the race started with a violently steep fireroad climb. This soon gave way to flowing trails in golden sunshine, and after some fun laps with Dan Beresford and young roadie gun Chris, it was shaping up to be a superb day.
After 2 hours 56 in the golden sunlight and trails, I was keen enough to head out for an 8th lap and blow some smashed legs even further. The race had completed a superb weekend on the bike with all the fun of an excellent, club run event – the 3 hour has been running for 11 consecutive years and is a firm feature on my calendar. #Glampacking and #racing – it’s the new #enduro!