Narrowneck track, 21st Jan 2012

Today, despite thrashing rain and thunderstorm warnings, I took my bike for a bit of a ride.

Driving out to the Blue Mountains in driving rain - and a couple of scary aquaplaning moments - I questioned the wisdom of doing the ride at all. There was a lot of rain on the radar, and thunderstorm chances were high, but arriving at Katoomba things looked dry-ish

So, off I went. The first potential mistake happened when I parked on Cliff Drive. The start there is, I have subsequently discovered, at the top of a category 5 climb. Lovely on the way down, pretty harsh on the way back up. However I digress.

The rain was minimal as I started, but within three minutes, as I arrived at the sensible riders' parking spot, the rain was battering down.

I had second thoughts. For about two minutes. Rain doesn't bother me in and of itself. The effects of rain do, but more anon.

The official start of the track is a little further along, past some steep tarred road, and though there is a small descent immediately after the gate, you're looking at another 5-6kms of on-off climbing, until the really good bit starts.

And it's the final half of the outbound ride that really makes the day. Raining insanely as it was, I found the lesser inclines welcoming, and the surrounding forest began to open out, leading to a long descent to the lookout at the far end of Narrowneck, where I caught up with three riders I'd be trailing behind for most of the way

Which is where this happened

Oh Lawdy. Thunder.

Shortly before that, I'd seen a perfectly straight, single bolt of lightning between the valley floor and a point in the clouds below where I was standing. I was slightly worried about running the last 12-13km back along an exposed ridgeline, on a metal contraption, with that storm heading my way.

So I started to head back.

It was during this run back, which if anything was easier than the ride out, that I rediscovered some old habits. Such as conversing with my own legs. They tend not to answer directly, but they seem to at least respond somewhat, though the climbs became walks in short order. And the rain continued.

Additionally, I realised that the sandy soil of the Blue Mountains, when mixed with water, becomes a grinding paste. The sandy mud is probably less of a problem for a modern, disc-brake equipped bike, but my bike is early-90s vintage and still runs cantilever brakes, grinding sandy mud against my expensive-back-when-I-bought-them rims.

My wheels are in trouble. If I ride these trails much more, I'm going to have to buy new wheels three times a year.

Still, I was almost back to the car. With only a very large descent - and then that cat 5 climb - to go. And on the descent I discovered that I'm rubbish at judging corners whe I have no glasses on. And the tree I crashed into (non-injuriously) was probably as surprised as I was. Still, it was nice to get the heart racing (more) before the final climb.

I slogged hard but still ended up pushing the last section, though when the riders I'd met earlier drove past me, they gave me a hearty "great effort" for my work.

Verdict on the route: Fantastic, would get 5 stars in dry conditions. So I'll be back, obviously.

Now, give me more beer.

posted @ Saturday, January 21, 2012 10:51 PM


Comments on this entry:

# re: Narrowneck track, 21st Jan 2012

Left by Ripples at 1/24/2012 4:29 PM
I can say that even with disc brakes I suffered riding in that region. That sandy soil gets everywhere, especially if you navigate using tree brail or ride like mtb pinball

# re: Narrowneck track, 21st Jan 2012

Left by Jason at 1/25/2012 10:15 AM
The sand is HORRIBLE. I suspect my rear cassette might have been infiltrated by it too. Did a fast 40km ride the other night and found the drivetrain was slipping a fair bit, so I almost definitely need a new cassette, and maybe even a rear hub. Which, given the age of the parts, really means "new rear wheel"

Fairly high price to pay for a ride, even if it IS a five star view.

# re: Narrowneck track, 21st Jan 2012

Left by Ripples at 1/25/2012 12:20 PM
Sounds like general wear has come to haunt the drive train brought on by the evil sand demons. You might be able to escape with a new cassette and chain. If the hub is old an attack of the regrease may get another million k's out of it.

its a 5 star view but it's also a most excellent tale of adventure and tenacity against the odds. There may be a movie in this, the man of skeptical mind pitting himself against nature and the elements in the journey towards true woo free enlightenment.

Would make a good talking point with some vino. Nice video, its amazing how much texture the sky carries with the ponderous and portentious clouds

# re: Narrowneck track, 21st Jan 2012

Left by Jason at 2/20/2012 1:51 PM
Re-did the track yesterday on the Speedfox. Massively enjoyable, and the hills were far more ridable in the dry ;-)
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