Cordelia

“Cordial”

“What?”

“Cordial, that’s her name,” smirked Kayden, as his buddies sniggered concomitantly.

“No, it’s Cordelia”

“Yeah, Cordial” and the remainder of Kayden’s posse sniggered again.

Cordelia rolled into the car park on her trusty hardtail and confirmed her presence, before Mr ‘Ev’ Evans continued checking attendance. The new teacher marked off a number of boys before arriving at an unfamiliar name:

“Adian”

“Eeeuuh,” protested the smallest member of Kayden’s posse, “It’s Ai – dan, not Ad-i-an.”

“Sorry,” replied Mr Evans, “it’s spelt A. D. I. A. N. – Adian”

“Eeuuh, that’s not how it’s said, it’s Aidan.”

“OK, settle down. So that’s Aidan, plus Brayden, Hayden and Jayden…”

and the three remaining boys grunted reluctantly at the teachers.

“Alright guys,” advised Ms Symonds, “we’ll start today on the skills track and the pump track, then we’ll go for a free ride, maybe right to the top today. Oh, and there’s a little surprise for everyone today.”

“That’s gay,” muttered Kayden under his breath. “Why can’t we just ride?”

It was futile to engage with Kayden, so the teachers led half the group to the skills area and the other half to the pump track. One group of students sized up the skills track: balance features, cornering challenges, a little rock garden, a seesaw and one final drop. The students laughed, stumbled and strained their way around the skills track with varying degrees of success, while Ms Symonds offered advice at various obstacles,

“Throw your bike forward off the drop,” she reminded them as they filed through the final obstacle.

“Good TJ”

“That’s it Matty”

“Exaggerate the throw Cordelia, so you don’t land on your front wheel like that”

Thud, whack, ouch!!!

Stuart crashed to the ground in a tangle of limbs and metal. His full rigid Malvern Star offered no shock absorption from the half metre drop and even the WD40 his Dad had sprayed all over the chain upon arrival couldn’t save him. He dusted himself off and assured Ms Symonds he was ok to continue amid a cackle of mocking laughter from the posse.

“He rides like a girl,” Kayden muttered.

“Kayden, don’t be sexist,” Ms Symonds admonished.

“What, I didn’t say anything about sex.”

“No, sexist, when you make bad comments about girls or women.”

“So what, there’s no girls here anyway.”

“What about Cordelia?”

“You mean Cordial?”

…and the boys laughed on command.

Stuart limped away from the obstacle course to put his bike and his pride back together.

“I didn’t do it properly either,” whispered Cordelia sympathetically, and Stuart’s rosy blush turned bright red.

Hayden and Jayden had excused themselves from the skills session and were obsessing over the positioning of their GoPro. Ms Symonds wondered when they’d ever do anything worth posting to their much-hyped Youtube channel.

“Yes Matty,” she complimented as he negotiated the drop.

“Perfect Angus”

“Yes, that’s it Cordelia” and the students bounced off the drop for the last time.

All except one.

Stuart picked his way through the skills course on his unforgiving retro bike, before nearing the final drop. Ms Symonds moved her hands instinctively towards the first aid kit, and the remaining students held their breath. The rigid front forks inched closer and closer to the edge of the drop while Stuart’s eyes widened in terror.

Would he make it?

Then something snapped and the terror disappeared. Stuart slammed down on the pedals, and with two strokes his front forks took flight. He leaned back, and with a strength belying his skinny arms he thrust the bike upwards and forwards.

Everyone waited.

His front wheel remained airborne and his back wheel finally left the boards. Arms extended and weight back, the bike flew down, down, down towards the dust. From tangled mess to perfect landing, Stuart had nailed it. A casual thumbs up from Cordelia turned his cheeks an impossible shade of red. He could always blame sunburn. Yep, he would blame sunburn.

Meanwhile, Ev was guiding his new students through the pump track.

“Look through the corner,” he said,

“Where you look is where you go”

Rider after rider rolled the bumps and swept through the turns. Some smoothly, others with a grating screech of brakes.

“Brayden and Adian can you not skid around every corner!”

“Why?”

“You churn up the track, you damage it for everyone else.”

“So?”

“Well, are you going to repair it?”

“As if, that’s so gay.”

Ev focussed his attention on the more receptive students, before realising one was missing.

“Kayden, are you going to join us?” he enquired. Kayden instructed the teacher to talk to the hand, while the other clutched his phone.

“I need it now,” he was saying, “hurry up and bring it…”

Kayden didn’t lower himself to skills sessions. His Santa Cruz Megatower 29er wasn’t built for technique practice or advice from ‘gay’ teachers. The brand-new, shiny, super expensive machine played the supporting role on his much-hyped Youtube channel.

The teachers swapped groups before deciding it was time to ascend.

“Let’s go,”

“What about the surprise?” asked Matty.

“Ah,” the teachers looked at each other, “…we’ll tell you when we get to the top.”

“Tap out a tempo on the climb, take your time, and we’ll meet at the start of Sidewinder. TJ, can you lead?”

“Wait!”- Kayden wasn’t ready.

“What’s the matter Kayden, are you OK?”

“Yeah, I’m waiting for my Mum. I need my other GoPro.”

“When will she be here?”

“I dunno!” Kayden snapped.

Again, discussion was futile, so Ms Symonds waited with Kayden and Adian, while Ev started the climb with the rest of the group.

Cordelia tapped out a rhythm on the long, slow climb, and the hill sessions she’d done by her house seemed to be paying off. Behind her, Stuart was puffing and panting on his heavy metal frame. Ev sensed a greater motivation in Stuart today – maybe it was the blonde ponytail up ahead.

Back at the carpark, a young boy stepped out of a late-model Hilux with a confidence Ms Symonds recognised. He walked to Kayden and thrust a GoPro into his hand.

“You might be riding with us soon,” remarked Ms Symonds in a friendly, off-hand manner.

“Nah, this is gay,” replied the young upstart, before being summoned impatiently by his mother,

“Get in the car Zayden!”

With his second GoPro attached, Kayden granted Ms Symonds permission to begin the climb. It wasn’t long before they caught Jayden, Hayden and Brayden, who were already pushing their bikes up the hill. The teacher was forced to dismount and listen to the posse whinge about the heat and the steepness of the climb,

“…they should put a chairlift in,” said Adian.

Ms Symonds distracted herself from the drudgery of the hike-a-bike by examining the bikes the posse members were riding. She was very happy with her Giant hardtail, especially after the dropper post had been added, but she was amazed at the machines in the hands of the 14 and 15-year-old boys. Kayden led the hike with his Megatower, while his minions trailed on Commencal , Canyon, YT, Nukeproof…all new, all carbon fibre. Ms Symonds began calculating the combined cost of the posse’s bikes, and how long it would take her to earn that much money. She stopped when it got too depressing.

“Now we can have some fun,” Ev assured them at the top of Sidewinder “…and I’ll be filming you guys on this trail, then on Taipan, Billy’s Bobsleigh and Sewerside, and the final edit goes into a video we’re going to show at the presentation night.”

“What, in front of everyone?”

“Yep. Classmates, parents, teachers – everyone.”

“Sick, cool, great…” they replied, with excitement and a hint of nervousness. The pressure was on.

“Send it!” and they were off.

Kayden’s posse had forced it’s way to the front of the convoy and led off with hoops and hollers and skids. They popped over the little jumps and sent dust flying from every corner and berm. Dom and Paddy followed and pulled off a ‘turnbar’ and ‘one foot’ on the little kickers in a determined effort to star in the video.

Ev knew some of this footage was usable and was even more excited when he reached the end of the trail and turned around to see Matty pull off an ‘ET’ on the big jump which concluded the trail.

“YEEEEUUUUUWWWWWW” they all screamed as Matty skidded to a halt.

“Ev, is that going in the video?” Matty pleaded hopefully.

“Maybe”

Next was Sewerside. Starting beside the stinky water reservoir, it was steeper, a bit more technical and a whole lot of fun for anyone light on the brakes.

“Relax, and keep your hands off the brakes as much as possible – just like Tracey Hannah,” Ms Symonds encouraged.

“Go!”

Off they sped, twisting and turning their way through the top technical section over rock gardens and drops. Jayden was the first to fall at the rock garden, followed by Hayden on the second drop. Only their egos were bruised, so the group careered its way down the hill straining to make their way onto the final cut.

Then it appeared.

“Nooooo!!!” screamed Stuart. A startled wallaby stood dead still in the middle of the trail, rooted to the ground. Stuart was going way too fast to stop and somehow threw his bike from side to side to avoid the poor animal and scare it off the trail into the bush. He returned his bike deftly to the trail and hung on with sweaty palms and gloveless fingers over the rocks, drops and gravel at the bottom of the trail.

More great footage, thought Ev.

Cordelia was beaming.

“Stu, you almost hit that wallaby”

Stuart was embarrassed, and mumbled,

“I just tried to get out of the way.”

“Yeah, with a tail whip – that was so impressive.”

This was the best day of Stuart’s life.

During the traverse to Taipan, Ev suggested to Kayden that he and his buddies contribute their GoPro footage to the presentation-night video. Even through his designer sunglasses, Kayden could be seen rolling his eyes.

“Nah, this is for Youtube – not for some gay school video.”

Discussion was futile.

Before sending the excited teenagers off Taipan, Ms Symonds reminded them to concentrate on their technique. They were getting tired. Plus, technique equals speed,

“…just like Jolanda Neff.”

“Who?” blurted Kayden.

“Jolanda Neff, world champion, world cup champion, she’s a Cross-Country rider from Switzerland, and she won a lot of races with strong technique on the descents…

“What, some chick!!” Kayden

“Yes, some chick who would beat anyone here, including you”

“As if,” and Kayden trailed off to his boys to issue orders for the impending descent.

“Don’t forget to smile for the camera,” Ms Symonds told everyone, and they were soon hurtling down Taipan.

Ev let all the riders glide onto the trail hoping to capture the kaleidoscopic train wind its way down the descent. The juxtaposition of vibrant colours on red-grey dusty trails enhanced the footage, and the beginnings of the final cut were coming together in his mind.

Brayden soon hit the deck after an ill-fated attempt to skid around a berm, and the camera focussed right on him as Ev turned his head to negotiate the corner.

“Smile,” he said as he whizzed by. Brayden didn’t see the funny side. Could he include that in the final cut? Ev asked himself, just before he witnessed something astonishing.

Cordelia was cruising through the flow trail with her distinctive blonde ponytail swishing around the turns, when he saw it;

Reddish-brown.

A metre long.

Venomous.

Just 2 metres in front of Cordelia.

Oh no!

A taipan. Smack bang in the middle of the trail.

Ev was helpless.

Please no!

Cordelia spotted the snake just in time.

Instinct took over.

Down, back, up..

In one deft movement she bunny-hopped the world’s third-most venomous snake before pushing into the next jump and flowing around the berm. The snake slithered off for cover and the newby teacher exhaled. She’d saved her own life, and probably his.

That was close.

Only two people had seen it. Soon, the entire school would.

Students and teachers soon found themselves at the top of the final run: Billy’s Bobsleigh. Tired, thirsty, sweaty, dusty, hungry and happy, they took in the amber glow of the afternoon sun and sipped from water bottles.

“This is it,” Mr Evans declared.

“Your last chance. Everyone has footage, but the final cut hasn’t been made. Now, remember to be careful and concentrate, and think about one thing:

Drop Dead.

The students gasped.

Silence ensued.

Yes, Drop Dead. The highest drop on the the hill. Wooden boards which followed a berm then stopped abruptly. Nothing but fresh air.

Remember, you can take the ramp to the right, or take the drop. It’s entirely your choice. You’re all capable. It’s the same technique you’ve been taught, just higher…

“A lot higher,” – said Matty.

“Yes, a lot higher,” confirmed Ms Symonds.

“If you take the drop, focus straight away on the little jump just after you land. Now, I’ll ride down first and wait at the drop. I’ll watch you down the trail, then hide under the drop and film you all go past. No matter what you choose, you’ll be on film.”

As Ev set off to position himself for filming, he heard Kayden barking orders at everyone. he gave the signal, then pressed record.

The smiling students cruised up and down the embankments which gave the trail its name. The first bike approached and Ev recognised the distinctive whirr of a bike he wished he could afford. He heard the violent screech of disc brakes as the rider succumbed to fear, and Brayden’s Canyon Strive rolled tentatively down the ramp. Three more carbon fibre contraptions repeated Brayden’s efforts, then the remaining students threw their bikes to the right and down the ramp.

Thud, whack, ouch!!!

A bike crashes to the ground in a tangle of limbs and metal. Ev peeks out expecting to see the trusty Malvern Star sprawled all over the trail, but instead he spots the shiny Megatower beside its owner writhing in pain. Ev zooms in cheekily on the whimpering Kayden, and while he decides whether to leave that shot in the final edit, he calls,

“Kayden, get off the trail!”

But it’s too late. Kayden submits to the pain and can only look skyward. The final rider whirls down the trail. Ev hears the tyres grip the berm and roll onto the boardwalk. He points the camera at the ramp to the right but at the last second senses the bike approaching the drop.

Is this it?

Is someone finally going to take on the drop?

Before he can mentally prepare for a mid-trail rescue of a broken-boned teenager, he sees it.

The front wheel separates itself from the wooden board and there’s no turning back. The back wheel follows and bike and rider fly out into the bright blue sky and fill the frame of the camera. It’s magnificent. The tropical afternoon sun dances off the frame of the bike to backlight the rider perfectly. The lens tracks the bike as it plunges toward the rocky trail with rider still in place. The danger is not over. The landing has to be stuck, and this is no mean feat from a drop of such height.

The rider sails over Kayden and his Megatower, and with perfect technique the hardtail lands gracefully on the trail and two slim legs cushion the blow, before sending the rider high up into the next berm and sailing over the ensuing jump.

Ev is already anticipating the reaction of the entire school body when they watch the footage on the big screen, and he runs out to catch the final shot. He points the lens at the long blonde pony tail as it snakes its way effortlessly down the trail.

Are spider webs edible?

Are spider webs safe for human consumption? I certainly hope so, because I’ve consumed my fair share of them on my local mountain bike trails this past summer. They cover my bike, my arms, my hands, my legs and my face, and some of them end up in my mouth. Try as I might, I can’t spit them all out. I’m constantly spluttering and blowing raspberries like a toddler as I wind my way down the trails and through the network of sticky delicate traps which traverse the single track.

I try again to remove them from my mouth when I finally stop for a drink, but by then some of the web has started its journey down my esophagus

For those who ride the same trails later in the day, free of spider webs: you’re welcome.

Are webs poisonous if swallowed? Plenty of Australian spiders are poisonous, and some of those deadly critters lurk beneath the undergrowth beside the trails. If a spider is poisonous, does that mean its web is automatically poisonous, or potentially more toxic?

I know spiders sit waiting for prey to entangle themselves in their web, ready to devour them once the animal stops writhing in vain to free itself from the web. The local spiders could be waiting for me. They could also be plotting their revenge, knowing it was me who destroyed their hard labour the previous day when I slammed through their silken creations. I’m sure they recognise me.

I’m inherently suspicious of any substance that is produced by the repository of an animal – but then again, so is the world’s most expensive coffee. Does that mean spider webs could be nutritious? Could spider webs be packaged, marketed and sold as a new super food, and could I charge as much for one vile of web as cafes do for one cup of Kopi Luwak?

If it’s that good, it will find its way onto the WADA list of banned substances; there goes my Olympic comeback.

In reality, some spider webs are potentially harmful. New research from molecular biologist Fanciele Grego Esteves and colleagues from University of São Paulo State, has found that golden orb weavers lace their webs with neurotoxins. Only the larger spiders of this species employ the neurotoxins, because only their webs are thick enough to carry the extra weight, but these spiders are found in Australia, as well as Asia.

Maybe I need to wear a face mask: COVID safe, Spider safe.

Maybe I should ride with a vertical propeller protruding from my helmet to swat away the spider webs, like hikers waving a stick to clear their path.

If only there were a way to coat the webs with honey, or chocolate…

The webs don’t appear to be doing me any harm. I’m still alive.

But so are the spiders.

Image: Olha Sumnikova

Retired sprint cyclists to donate their muscles to charity.

Professional sprint cyclists will donate their unwanted leg muscles to charity upon retirement to give recreational riders a new level of speed and power.

“Retired cyclists don’t need their leg muscles,” announced a spokesperson for the charity.

“This initiative allows those riders to donate their muscles to a recreational rider and to see those muscles re-used. Sprint cyclists work extremely hard to build their extraordinary muscles so it is great to see those muscles will not go to waste. It’s also another way for cyclists to give back to their sport.”

Thousands of local riders have already signed up for the program, and have requested muscles from one track star in particular.

“Robert Forstemann.”

“Every local rider wants Quadzilla’s thighs. Even though he’s still competing, he has promised to donate them to the charity when he retires from international competition. The muscles are so big we actually plan to divide them and distribute them to about 10 different people – no single amateur rider can handle thighs that big.”

“We’re also offering Thighs of the Realm, from Sir Chris Hoy and Elis Ligtlee, who is a Knight of the Order of Orange-Nassau. Muscles were also donated by Shane Kelly, Laura Trott and Jason Kenny, plus Kristina Vogel, Anastasia Voynova and the recently retired duo of Stephanie Morton and Anna Meares.”

Road cyclists have also agreed to participate in the program. German sprinter Andre ‘Gorilla’ Greipel will donate his calf muscles when he retires to concentrate on his singing career. Dylan Groenewegen and Erik Zabel are offering their pistons, and Mario Cipollini’s muscles come with a free waxing and tanning kit.

Each set of muscles comes with a diet and workout guide to help maintain the muscles, as well as a free pair of custom-made jeans which will actually fit over the ample legs.

The program is so popular organisers are requesting muscles from current riders, and may expand the program’s remit to include other body parts.

“We’ve made contact with Peter Sagan, whose muscles have been requested by road cyclists, sprinters, puncheurs and mountain bikers. Marianne Vos, Wout van Aert and Pauline Ferrand-Prevot have been swamped with requests, and everyone wants Mathieu Van der Poel’s legs, heart, lungs…

Image: http://www.gettyimages.com

Earn your turns at The Oaks flow trail.

Jump, hop, drop and flow on The Oaks flow trail. Rail the berms and float over rock features at the end of the Woodford to Glenbrook fire trail in the NSW Blue Mountains National Park.

Treat yourself to some fun and frivolity on a well-constructed single track trail after the journey down from Woodford. Take the black line and pop off every jump and drop, or opt for the blue line and just feel the flow. You can even do both. The trip from the end of the flow trail back to the start is only about 2k on a sealed road.

The flow trail runs parallel to the last section of the fire trail in the national park and is a reward for enduring the undulating trek from Woodford, kind of like the fun you add on to the end of a workout. The Oaks Trail is a moderate workout, and the beginning of the MTB trail can be reached from Woodford in about one hour without too much effort – it is essentially downhill, so

‘keep your hands off the brakes and your eyes upon the trail’

You can warm up for the flow trail at certain parts of the fire trail. You could read the following signs as a warning, or an invitation. With enough speed, you can get good air off the humps.

The signs are great for your confidence too, as they tell you you’re going so fast you need to be alerted to the presence of speed humps.

Upon arrival at the first boom gate, you’ll see a short single track off to the right, and while this has no designated features, it is still fun and more interesting than following the fire trail. It’s also a walking trail, so keep your eyes open for hikers.

Cheat

You could cheat. You could get yourself to Glenbrook, then ride or drive to the start of the MTB flow trail, without doing the hard work from Woodford. The start of the flow trail lies a few kilometres from town and it is even possible to drive all the way to the carpark before enjoying the jumps, drops and berms.

That said, the climb out of the gully from the creek crossing back to Glenbrook is quite steep, and almost as arduous as riding from Glenbrook all the way back to Woodford on the fire trail.

Still hungry?

If you’re still hungry for single track and MTB features, cross the highway to Knapsack Reserve and enjoy the trails in this small section of bushland. There’s enough to keep you entertained for a good while, and the downhill track is steep and rocky.

Image: Nick Rickert

Keep your hands off the brakes…

Keep your hands off the brakes, your eyes upon the trail…let it roll baby roll, let it roll, baby roll…

Feel the flow, face your fears, glide around corners and sail over jumps.

Embrace the risk, raise your heartbeat and feel the endorphins course through your body.

Stay off the brakes and carry the speed from the downhill into the next up hill around the berms and into the jumps then up, up, up into the air.

Fix your eyes on the trail ahead, scan and search for danger and excitement. Feel more alive than you ever have before.

Ride on through the storm as Jim Morrison and The Doors implore. Splash through puddles, plough through dirt, rattle over rocks and slosh through the snow.

Eat dirt, get back up, and eat it again.

Keep your hands off the brakes…

Have you tried Fred’s Man Boobs?

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I have; both of them.

What were they like?

They both had their own feel, their own personality as such, and the sensation was very distinct, but I must say I enjoyed the experience.

One was distinctly harder than the other, it’s curves tighter and sharper, it’s surface coarse and less soft to the touch.  A number of its more salient protrusions sent my hands and head cascading giddily.  The propensity of its tiny bumps would normally deter me, but are something one must tolerate in the pursuit of pleasure.

The other, despite its proximity, was far smoother and provoked an entirely different response. Its soft, flowing contours guided my hands and the rest of my body around its entirety and at times caused a feeling of weightlessness – as if I were floating on air.

That said, both set my heart racing, sped up my pulse and left me with a dry mouth. They both left me weak at the knees and slightly out of breath.

Fred and Man Boobs are both mountain bike trails in Squamish, British Columbia, Canada. The trails lie fairly close to each other and can be ridden consecutively after climbing on this famous trail network.

Man Boobs is a fun, flowy trail with a decent gradient, berms and small jumps which encourage the rider to let go of the breaks and enjoy the chance to get some air.

Fred, on the other hand, is a more technical trail with small rocks and tree roots and is also known for a few short climbs which lead to some reasonably steep and short rock rolls which set the heart racing.

I almost fell on Man Boobs. Not from an errant rock or obtrusive tree root, but from surprise. As I rounded a corner and looked ahead to negotiate the trail, I glimpsed its eponymous artwork. Halfway up a tree, a manikin with a garish wig and lacy bra strapped around the chest caused such a distraction that it nearly threw me off my bike. Luckily I stayed on and managed to negotiate and enjoy the rest of the trail and make it to Fred, where the trail became flatter but also more tight and technical.

The two trails were as distinctive as their names and it made me wonder, how do mountain bike trails get their names?

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Essentially, mountain bike trails are named by their builder. You build it, you name it.

The names of mountain bike trails, therefore, tell us something about mountain bikers.

Trails attract names like Toads of the Short Forest, Handsaw and Gretel, Butthead, A Reptile Dysfunction, Sleeps 3, which provide some insight into the mindset of the average mountain biker.

Many trial names carry a back story, but the average rider knows nothing of that story as they set off on trails like Misty Mushroom, Curse of the Were-rabbit, The Ducks Guts and Wine Shanty, while riders descending Dirty Little Secrets must surely have their curiosity piqued.

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Some trail names are informative, and carry words like loop, creek, hill or link. Some examples, like those in Adelaide, South Australia, include Uprising, a climbing trail connecting riders to a downhill trail, or Blue Luge, an intermediate trail whose lower half boasts long sweeping turns which hug the banks of the small creek and are enormous fun to ride. One of the world’s most famous trails is Top of the World in Whistler, Canada. No prizes for guessing that this massive trail starts on the top of a mountain and descends to the Whistler resort area.

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Mountain bikers have a peculiar sense of humour.

The trails of south Nowra, in NSW, Australia, are managed by the local organisation called South Coast United Mountainbikers – proud to be known as SCUM. Another trail in the Nowra region is called How Roo’d, and if you’re lucky, you might spot a kangaroo on these trails. Meanwhile, close to Man Boobs and Fred, riders can start on Tinder and finish with Your Mum – how rude indeed.

Mountain bikers are mad.

Many trails suggest impending doom. Names like Certain Death, Widow Maker, Verge of Ruin, Rock and Roll Suicide, Treachery and Tombstone, reflect the inherent danger of this extreme sport.

Ultimately, mountain bike trail names reveal their fun-loving irreverence of the average mountain biker, and while I don’t know why a couple of Squamish locals called a trail Fred, I do know that a fellow local has a serious obsession with man boobs.

Images: Simon Blake