STORY DAMIEN ASHENHURST PHOTOGRAPHY ADAM SPENCE
So you’ve entered your first organised trail ride? First of all, good on ya! There’s no better way to spend a weekend than on a well-put-together trail ride. But, if you’ve never done it before, there are some rookie mistakes that can put a dark cloud on your ride. Here’s a guide to preparing and surviving your first organised trail-ride weekend so you get the most from it and come back for more next time.
LISTEN TO THE BRIEFING
Every ride begins with a riders briefing. It’s amazing how many people don’t bother listening or even turning up for it. The riders briefing is important because there you’ll learn up-to-date track conditions and any changes made to the route. Generally, you can also get more information on the difficulty of the routes on offer and that can help you make a good decision when it comes time to choose the easy or hard tracks.
DON’T GET SMASHED
The temptation when you’re at a campsite with a bunch of mates is to hit the cans hard. There’s nothing wrong with that and it’s part of the whole experience for most of us, but know this: riding heavily hung over is balls. Stopping to spew through your helmet sucks and you can’t really enjoy the day in this condition. Have a couple of brews and a laugh and get some sleep because you might be surprised just how physically taxing a trail ride can be.
WET IT DOWN
Carry water always in a backpack or hydration pack, wherever you can, but don’t head out for several hours of riding without something to drink. Even if the weather is mild, you need to drink.
TAKE A SNACK
Grab some muesli bars, boiled eggs, Vegemite sandwiches or Space Food sticks — whatever spins your beanie. If it doesn’t melt, pack it. Your enjoyment level is significantly related to your energy levels and you need to eat and drink to stay pumped.
RUNNING ON EMPTY?
Check your fuel and know your bike’s economy rate. The length of the routes will be covered in the riders briefing and maybe distributed in written information pamphlets as well. Make sure you know you can make it around or, in the rare case that there is one, that you can make it to a fuel stop.
PACK FOR CRAP
Check the weather conditions in advance. Just throw a jacket into your kit in case nature decides to throw a curve ball. Riding wet is OK but real cold can be a real bummer. Buy a pair of winter undergloves and leave them in a bumbag or backpack; they’ll be a godsend if the temperature drops — and expect that to happen if you’re climbing a lot of hills and gaining altitude.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
Stop to take in where you’re riding. The draw for a lot of rides is the location and good trails will take you directly to some amazing views, so stop and take it in every now and then. Take a photo or just a deep breath, but make sure you appreciate it.
GET TUBED, DUDE
Run heavy-duty tubes and take spares with you. Ninety-five per cent of the blokes you’ll see stuck on the side of the track are there because of a flat tyre that too many of them have no way to replace or repair — so they have to wait for the sweep riders or a generous mate.
TIM THE TOOLMAN
Take tools. Don’t pack a full cabinet but take the essentials and be prepared to fix or adjust stuff here and there. If you’re riding with a group of mates, pass the bumbag on every now and then to share the load.
BE STOCK AWARE
Always close farm gates. Leaving them open is a dick move so don’t do it or nobody will be invited back.
Pack a pair of safety glasses in case the weather gets wild and your goggles fog beyond all repair.
GET THE RIGHT RUBBER
Don’t go riding with a heap of blokes on a tricky or wet ride with tyres that look like they came off Valentino Rossi’s race bike. You won’t be able to get up hills, you’ll crash and get stuck on logs and just piss your mates off every time they have to stop and wait for something that could’ve been avoided.
Don’t argue or make trouble over petty stuff with the people running the event. A lot of them are volunteers and more work than you’ll ever know goes into making these things happen. Say “hello” and “thanks” and don’t bitch about scrutineering taking too long. Clean up your site before you leave, too. The condition the place is left in dictates whether the powers that be will allow it to ever happen again. The folks who worked hard to make the weekend happen will appreciate seeing you leave with your own rubbish rather than just treating the camp ground like a tip face.
EASE THE PAIN
Take some pain killers like Nurofen, if for no other reason than for the drive home when you’re sore and sorry.
REMEMBER THE SUN-SAUCE
Take sunscreen and make sure you cover the back of your neck, face and arms with it. Take it on the trails and re-apply during the day. This is Australia and the sun hates you