Club Goof Gabb found himself recently heading across to Sydney and so, naturally, he was thinking about riding opportunities - could he squeeze in another great ride up in the Blue Mountains? LINK TO BOTTOM

A few emails to his Freaky Styley buddy Jono, who had moved to Sydney about 5 years prior, confirmed that a ride was definately on the cards.

Excited to have one of the lads coming across, Jono quickly made arrangements to be free all day Friday for a Blue Mountains Adventure.

Gabb had transported his bike across to Sydney before, but decided this time to rely on a hire bike, avoiding all the hassle of getting his bike on a plane.

Mountainbike Blue Mountains, Sydney, Australia
Once up the top, Jono gleefully chases Jono around the nice plantlife that is part of the pleasure of a visit to Woodford Station, a quaint little train station.
Mountainbike Blue Mountains, Sydney, Australia
The Woodford Station has quite a personality of its own - even the toilets have artwork!

Once again, his mate Jono happily helped out by booking a bike for hire at Glenbrook, the town where they were to catch the train up through the mountains. Both lads knew what the terrain is like and hoped to get a full suspension for the rocky trails with constant drop-offs and multi-line trails.

But it all that was available were hardtails. Gabb hadn't ridden a hardtail for sometime. Having gotten very used to his black and silver GT i-Drive, would he be too woosey to handle the stiff ended GT Avalanches? Surely not...

The adventure kinda started the the night before with a late night session of banter over a bottle of Aussie red. The mates caught up on all the happenings with Gabb updating Jono on the Auckland MTB Scene and relating his story of his recent 4-ride visit to RotoVegas, riding with Freaky Styley legend Rob Scoobie-Doo Metz. By midnight, Jono convinced the looney Gabb to hit the sack - it was to be an early start in the morning.

Mountainbike Blue Mountains, Sydney, Australia
The Woodford Station ticket office features wonderful artwork depicting the station in years gone by - is that a GT Penny Farthing?!

Cut to Friday morning - about 6am. All showered and fed with the Yelof special all-fruit diet and the lads set off in the JonoMobile towards the outskirts of Sydney.

To Gabb, this is a big city - over 4 million inhabitents. And it seemed they were all heading East at 7am as Jono Schumaka negotiated the many freeways and lanes that make up the Western Highway. The lads continued their off-road banter as they passed over the Parramatta River with Gabb extorting the virtues of the Parramatta Eels rugby league team who he hoped would win the NRL Minor Premiership that evening versus the Broncos.

Past the Parra and in the horizon, through the haze of a slightly drizzly morning, the awesome Blue Mountains rose into view. Past Penrith - the city at 'The Foot of the Mountains' and the highway now started to weave up towards the lads' destination - a nice little town called Glenbrook.

Mountainbike Blue Mountains, Sydney, Australia
"OK Gabb, strap on yer balls mate - choose high gear and hang on for the ride!"
Mountainbike Blue Mountains, Sydney, Australia
Even when the trail levels off, there is plenty to keep you occupied, like these leapable logs that Gabb superbly bunnyhops on his GT Avalanche hire bike.

And it was at Glenbrook that the boys were to collect Gabb's hire bike before catching a train up the hills. The shop, which is predominantly a climbing store, opened up right on time.

The shop dude Ralph was very hepful, assisting Gabb in putting his own Crank Brothers pedals onto the sleek black GT Avalanche mountainbike. At $40, Gabb considered the deal, along with pump, spare tubes and optional helmet, quite reasonable.

Jono watched on wondering if the prospect of Gabb the Clown riding over the countless rocks on a hardtail would lead to a day of pumping and patching. Well, they had a train to catch before they found out.

Down to the carpark to get kitted out and after watching a punter make 36 attempts to back into a space and then parking crooked, the kiwi bikers headed for the platform. With the usual Jono perfect timing, they were on a train within minutes.

Mountainbike Blue Mountains, Sydney, Australia
If you like technical downhills - some fast, some rating 'just-wanna-stay-on' status, then this has it all. The sheer size of some of the rocks is breath taking - Gabb was buzzing!
Mountainbike Blue Mountains, Sydney, Australia
The bike that took Gabb 40km via a 500m vertical drop - a GT Avalanche from the Glenbrook Adventure Store.

Jono showed an amused Gabb his well rehearsed bike parking manouver within the carriage - punters minded their own business, seemingly unimpressed with these big kids who were quite obviously not on their way to work - was that envy we saw in their eyes?

Jono related to Gabb how the popularity of these various rides is such that the train can be quite chocka full of MTB riders on Saturdays and Sundays. As they enjoyed the comfortable view of the climb up through the Blue Mountains, the lads were getting noticeably excited about the adventure to come - thank goodness for baggy riding shorts!

After more MTB banter, Jono the local gave Gabb the nod as they approached their stop - Woodford Station. Off they disembarked and were greeted to the first signs of sunshine - sunshine that would stay with them for the rest of the day.

Woodford Station is a great place to check out on the Blue Mountains train ride - the locals have taken quite a lot of pride in presenting a very clean, pretty station with a lot of history of the area related via interesting posters.

Once the keen riders had taken a few pics and topped up on water, it was off for the short ride from the station to the start of the track proper.

Gabb had ridden this trail before with Jono, which explained the hightened awareness and energy he felt through his body as the adrenaline built in anticipation of the fast paced experience that was beyond the gate designating the entry into the Blue Mountains National Park.

Sure enough, the lads were away with Jono leading on his trusty GT i-Drive full suspension. Gabb followed, getting a rap on this hardtail he had straddled.

Mountainbike Blue Mountains, Sydney, Australia
Rockin' Jono negotiates one of the tricky sections leading to the steep drop into the Duck Pond river crossing.
Mountainbike Blue Mountains, Sydney, Australia
The Circles - the oldest rock carvings ever found. Good spot for a stretch too!

The downhill gradient is not overly steep for most of this ride, but the hard rock surface combined with lots of loose rocks make for a great run where you just cannot relax - brilliant in other words!

The trail begins nice and wide, enabling for riders to chose multiple lines for some good racing and/or side-by-side riding.

First stop along the way was at The Circles. This piece of geological history features some of the oldest human art ever discovered on the planet. On one of the many huge rocks, ancient aboriginies carves various circular designs.

The sense of seeing something that was made by fellow humans thousands of years ago was quite moving for a lad from New Zealand, where history predominantly means 100 or so years in the past. As these well-tuned athletes stretched in the sunshine, talk shifted to the ride ahead.

The ride from Woodford up in the hills down 400m to Glenbrook has several options. Jono's regular is the Oaks Trail, a more direct fully fast run that takes a couple of hours with breaks. But with his buddy over from the shakey isles, he was keen to check out the more extreme St Helena's Ridge Ride, which includes the amazing Lost World and a steep descent to the Duck Pond area.

Gabb was naturally keen - he appreciated that Jono was sensible not to ride this out-there ride on his own and so it was almost his duty to accompany this Aussie-based kiwi on what was sure to be a great adventure.

Another respectful look at The Circles, a quick swig of water and the off-road pals were on their way.

Gabb was really starting to enjoy this hardtail hire bike he had - it was the weight, or lack thereof, that he was liking. Compared to his full suspension everything-bike, this thing was half the weight!

Mountainbike Blue Mountains, Sydney, Australia
Jono speeds fearlessly forward as the trail narrows between two enormous rocks. And then down, down, down. Awesome.

This meant that when the trail did head uphill (which it did from time to time), he was able to stay in big chainring, stand up on the pedals. "With the lightweight bike, it was just like running - but easier!".

Mountainbike Blue Mountains, Sydney, Australia
Whilst the gradient is not too steep, cranking through the rocks in big chainring means you just can't relax.

Jono was fair impressed too. "Whilst I was selecting middle and then downshifting, Gabb was already at the peak! Ba#%@d!"

And Gabb had also chosen to hire a medium sized frame, rather than a large that his massive, well cut 1.8m body would suggest. "Knowing the type of riding we were to encounter, I thought a small frame would be easier to throw around, dodging rocks and leaping logs. I was spot on there."

Mountainbike Blue Mountains, Sydney, Australia
Some sections were technical and steep.

It wasn't long before the champion chums reached the first turn-off. Thanks to Jono's expert Blue Mountains terrain knowledge, there was little hesitation as they veered left, leaving the Oak Trail part of the ride once and for all.

Mountainbike Blue Mountains, Sydney, Australia
"Watch out for snakes Gabb!"

Not only is the rocly track surface different to most of the New Zealand riding, the forest and fauna is also quite dissimilar. This is the area that has big fires on a fairly regular basis and so many of the trunks of the eucalyptus trees are black - they actually need fires to procreate. The forest tends to be less dense than a New Zealand native forest



Mountainbike Blue Mountains, Sydney, Australia
It's different. It's magnificent.
Mountainbike Blue Mountains, Sydney, Australia
Jono the hucker considers a Lost World Leap - yeah right!



Mountainbike Blue Mountains, Sydney, Australia
And to make the ride complete, there is a river crossing!