Category Archives: The Dark Side

Cape to Cape, Western Australia

By: Mick Lehpamer

Tales From The Dark Side

Seven brave ANZA souls took up the challenge laid down by our MTB Director…  Let’s fly down to Perth, drive for another 3 hours to a sleepy little spot called Margaret River & then go flog ourselves silly doing a 4 day mountain bike stage race amongst 1,000+ other crazies just like us….  And, without a hint of hesitation or reservation, we all say it was bloody AWESOME!!


Stage 1 – Just look at that photo… Nothing more needs to be said! If you need more convincing watch my 23 second video..(ANZA Facebook Thursday 22nd). Where else can you ride on the pristine beach ½ way through a killer first stage! And did I mention sand… yes, sand, sand, sand & more of the stuff…

Hint for next year… go practice on the stuff as it was everywhere!


Stage 2 – Sand…  a little less than yesterday but just enough to remind you that you still hate it.  Once again, majestic views of an awesome coast line followed by some pea gravel single track to test your handling skills..  And you got to love a stage that finishes at a winery!  Half way through and we all just wanted more!  Let’s not mention the speed bump Gilles…


Stage 3 – The Pines  – Singletrack heaven!  Some of the best singletrack I have ever ridden..  Simply awesome!  This is why you go mountain biking and until you experience it & the thrill of nailing the berms, jumping a huge tabletop complete with a hooting crowd, cow bells ringing  & a screaming chainsaw  (yes, there was a guy with a chainsaw cheering us on) you have not biked!  And to cap it off… this stage finished at a brewery!

Stage 4 – With somewhat tired (read concrete) legs, the 7 brave ANZA MTB souls raced strongly to the finish line…  we were once again spoilt with awesome singletrack, tough pinch climbs, screaming fast downhills and a few sections of blacktop to ease the pain …  we were all greeted with a huge cheer as we all successfully completed an amazing, stunningly beautiful MTB stage race!


Who finished where… who cared? Well… we did.. just a little..  The ANZA pecking order went Phil, Arran, Me, John, Fredrik, Liesbeth & Gilles…  We’ve now all set our base times & we’re all going back to beat them next year…  Who’s coming with us?


Singapore MTB National Championships and Carnival

Phil Routley

Lor Asrama was again the venue for the 2015 Singapore Mountain Bike Carnival and this year it was combined to include the OCBC Singapore National Mountain Bike Championship.

In the lead up to the race there was some healthy discussion between the organisers and representatives from the local MTB community on the course design, the outcome was a vastly improved track which included 50% more single track over the original course and a shortened circuit of 6kms.
Those competing in the Nationals were sent off first followed by the solo riders and teams competing in the MTB Carnival race

Arran Pearson and I opted for the mildly crazy 6 hour Solo category as a means to getting some km’s under the belt, while Mike Lehpamer (Super Masters – 3 lap race) and Chris Clarke (Masters – 4 lap race) took the more sane approach and competed in the Nationals.
With all riders starting only minutes apart and racing the same course the invariable bottle neck of riders occurred as they entered the first section of single track. For those in the Nationals this meant a trail of riders to navigate as they lapped them in the latter stages of the race.


If you want to perform well in endurance racing it essentially boils down to riding consistently (fast) and avoiding mechanicals. I managed to untick both boxes on lap 1 when my rear shock decided to blow out. At first I thought I had a slow flat and decided to nurse the bike back to the start before I realised the shock was completely blown. I passed Mick on the way back (I’m younger I guess) and relayed the news.


When I arrived back in the pits, the shock still wasn’t holding air, with Recovery Plan A out the window it was onto Plan B and over to see the Santa Cruz distributors to ask if I could borrow a demo bike (for 6 more hours), they were not so thrilled on that idea with looks of concern and muttering something about I better not crash it and deciding instead to swap out my reach shock. Given I crashed later in the race their concerns were justified. As the boys from SC were looking to swap out the shock this was when they realised the canister was loose and the cause of the issue. With that fixed I was back in the race on my own bike but with now well over 5 minutes lost.

Arran and I were racing self-supported which logistically meant we had left an eski (no beers – my bad) at the start line so we could grab more water when needed and keep going, sadly after 5 laps and 2.5 hours I’d pretty much exhausted my water for the day and realized I’d have to pit and find some new water supplies. Thankfully for me Arran had had enough racing and was sitting on said eski, after a quick chit chat and finding I was currently in 2nd place Arran refilled my bottles and I kept going.


With temperatures now at over 40+ and around 200m of elevation over a 6km circuit, fatigue and cramps were kicking in and mistakes started to come. Ultimately it was a tough race over a solid course.

Mick Lehpamer, reformed smoker and one time backup to Pseudo Echo, finished 11th in Super Masters
Chris Clarke put in a very solid performance in a strong field, finishing 4th in Masters

Arran retired after 5 laps but still finished 18th in Mens Open Solo and I managed 3rd place with 12 laps but frustratingly 2 minutes behind 2nd place and 13 minutes behind 1st place.


Congratulations to DirTraction for pulling together yet another MTB Carnival in Singapore and a big thanks to the sponsors for supporting the event, especially TIMBUK2, Sony, Buff, SPY+ who have supported the event for a number of years with awesome prizes

Bali MTB Marathon

Massimo Nanni

June is one of the hottest months in Singapore, humidity and heat are at their top with air at times almost unbreathable, a good excuse to look for some alternative ‘dirt fun’ somewhere else in a milder climate.

I found this option in the 4th Bali MTB Marathon up in Mt.Batur area on Sun 7th of June.


The race is organised by a small group of cycling enthusiasts whom, among the cycling fun, are also trying to raise awareness on the conditions of Mt.Batur, the largest volcano of Bali, where continued excavations to collect sand are putting at risk the balance of the local community.

Mt.Batur is a volcano in a volcano. Once arrived at Kintamani, about 2 hours drive north of Denpasar International Airport, you are faced with a nice but not impressive conical shape mountain that rises from a valley about 500mt below, with a lake at its feet. Having seen other big volcanoes and read that Batur is one of the largest volcanos in all Asia you might be puzzled but what you may have missed at first is that at Kintamani you are actually standing on the lip of a 13x10km crater of which slopes start 30 km down below right after the town of Ubud. That IS the Batur volcano itself… realised that, then you’ll be impressed!.

Batur is an active volcano that has built in its huge crater an inner escape vent that has developed into another volcano shaped mountain. From here the most recent eruptions have taken their course. Impressive the black lava field which is still visible on the southern side of the inner mountain, where, I discovered later, the last stretch of the race goes through giving a real feel of nature immense force… People live and trade inside this monster of a caldera which one day would probably erupt again wiping away everything and everyone… but that’s normal life in neighbour Indonesia.
In this exotic and pretty much exiting environment, at about 1000mt of altitude and the perfect cycling temperature, the 70km Bali MTB Marathon is held since 2011.

The drive to Kintamani takes you through Celuk, the silver artefacts district of Bali and Ubud, where Balinese culture mix with handicrafts and nightlife, to the famous terraced paddy fields and the plant nurseries in the perfect weather closer to summit, always having temples and divinity statues left and right of the road reminding you of the soulful Balinese culture… if you plan to drive, remember though to get your International Driving License renewed as a stop by the local police is most likely going to be part of the excitement.

I arrived in Bali on Friday 5th from Singapore, rented a car at the airport and spent the rest of the day among the waves of Kuta Reef, thanks to a surfer friend who lives in there… there is always something to do in this exotic island.

Saturday morning I took the journey up to Batur for the race kit (the number) collection and the technical briefing, The traffic was a bit heavy and I took my time stopping here and there for some pics or to browse some local shops on the road, so I reached the race head quarter at Hotel Segara Batur at 1pm… after a donation to the local Police Dpt. due to the lack of a valid International Driving License. Number collected and bike set up from the traveling box, I took some time to explore around, in particular to look for the race starting point which was located in a not well defined point on a not well defined map. It took a while but I finally found it hidden among big black boulders on top of a short but steep climb… the terrain was sand and loose volcanic (oh, really?) gravel and I had to push my bike to reach it… not a good sign as a start, mhhh…

The race briefing was set for 4pm, I was back by then eager to hear about all the secrets of the course, the rules and as much information as possible, only to hear ‘there will be 4 water points and some marshals to point where you’ll need to turn, follow the paper trail and you’ll be fine, see you tomorrow at 8am!’… well, yeah, what else do we need to know indeed? The route and altimetry was displayed on a map, and I thought the altimetry graph has to be wrong, those climbs can’t be that steep in real life!…but I was about to get a ‘nice’ surprise the following day as volcano’s walls are indeed pretty much damn straight up!

After a night in a nice resort Balinese style villa on the slopes of main Batur, for half the price of a half the stars with half the view of hotels in Singapore. At 7am I got to the starting line where the race atmosphere was building up, some known faces from other teams from Singapore, and a couple of riders I met here and there around the region, was part of the 150 strong total participants. It was a nice feeling, lot of laughter and smiling faces all around led up to the start, and at 8am sharp (amazingly, being in Indonesia huh?) the race was flagged off.

Sensibly the organiser had neutralised the first stretch that was the tricky and slippery rocky downhill that I did uphill to reach the start/finish line, and the race itself started only once the group has reached the main road.


The first 20km was a paved road stint out and back around lake Batur, a nice legs warmer, with a couple of sharp rises which put the heart rate in gear and thinned the whole group. The paved road changed to dirt, rolling, skirting the huge lava field of the inner cone, the group thinned down further, with the stronger riders moving away as expected. I settled in my rhythm half expecting what was laying ahead. Dirt changed into tarmac again for another 5 km and thank to the good work with a couple of other riders we managed to get back to the main group of 15 other riders ahead. Then the ‘fun’ began.
We quickly approached the wall of the caldera and then there was only one way, up!

A broken tarmac road with a gradient up to 30%, unridable for most (me included) took us in about 1.5km of road from 1100mt to 1400mt of altitude, to the first plateau, just a breather as the second part of the climb, with slightly softer inclines, ‘only’ up to 25% in some points but longer then the first and more ridable due to better paved surface, took us all the way to the outer volcano’s walls at 1650mt above sea level. Lungs were bursting, legs were screaming, the 32-42 XX1 that I was using was not really the best option, not at least for me. At the top I was offered a banana and some water which I gulped like it was my last meal. It was wet, the early morning clouds have left a trail of moisture and crisp air, it was almost cold…but it was nice and the crisp air revived me in a flesh!

I was with a younger rider from Singapore, nice talkative chap, from here we rode the crest of the crater on a rolling single trek which at times showed stunning view of the whole island, the ocean was visible, almost touchable, breathtaking views in a superb 10 km rollercoaster of a trail, we ride fast and we catch 3 other riders. At km 50 we were back down at 1100mt of altitude again, but it was only 2 of us left, the others have disappeared behind somewhere.

I was warmer, humid and not as nice, and then we hit the 3rd major climb of the day, another wall-up, 1km, 300mt of ascent, my legs (and brain) refused to even try and I walked all of it, my companion of the moment dared a bit more and obviously had better legs and slowly went away in front. At that point the group was all diluted, everyone was moving at their own pace in their own zone.


At sharp 3 hours of riding (and walking), like a swiss watch and as I was expecting and as always happens, the first tingles of cramps on my legs started to bother me, luckily the hard climbing was over and the precious as gold salt tablets+energy gels gave me just enough replenishment to keep the tingles as just a minor nuisance for the rest of the ride.

The next 6km were mostly in dirt, gravelled, rocky rolling roads, mostly slightly uphill to close a loop ending at the top of the first climb at 1400mt of altitude.
Then back from were we came, downhill the same broken tarmac road, it was steep, oh yes it was, tough even downhill…then the rolling paved stretch and the dirt road skirting the lava field.

The lava field was looming black and silent on my left, and at km 65 a marshal pointed us ‘go left’, straight inside the black mass. Lava is a porous and relatively light sort of sharp edged rock, the trail was cut through huge black boulders and made of small lava rocks which were providing basically zero grip as they were sliding away under the bike’s tires, a ‘floating’ exercise slow motion moving forward, legs were completely empty, eye sight was blur but focus was still a must as a slight distraction could have costed dearly with a possible a tire tear or a nasty fall…no, you don’t want that once you reach there just few km from the end.

Tough as it was, the lava field ride was a stunning and rare experience, the icing on the cake of a brutal but a fantastic ride.

A motorbike rider from the organiser announced ‘3km to the finish’, I did not have anyone behind that could challenge my position, nor anyone in front to try to catch, so I just enjoyed the moment, entered the woods at the edge of the lava field, those first line trees had to have witnessed quite a spectacular show when in 1968 the red lava was pouring right beside their trunks, and arrived to the last, now familiar, dirt and rocky climb to the start, now finishing, line, under the cheers of a number of local people who have assembled to see the faces of those crazy people who dared challenge the vulcano’s fields.
The time keeper told me that I was 6th of the Veteran (over 40) category, 70km, 1424mt of elevation gain in 3h52min. Strava confirmed it all adding as well 1424mt of elevation gain and an Epic Suffer Score of 315! not bad, not bad at all!


Till next tale from the dark side… see you in numbers on Singapore trails!

Tales From The Dark Side – Mountain Biking in Spain

Tales From The Dark Side
Report from Monachil – Sierra Nevada, España
By: Luka & Danielle Cherriman

 After waiting in a queue for over an hour just to see the inside of a church, I was dying to do something more interesting and so I was really excited when mummy said we were going mountain biking tomorrow.

We set off in the car and drove [more like a rally driver down from our village, making me feel sick at every turn – Danielle] to a small mountain village called Monachil in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range just outside of Granada.  We drove around and around looking for a parking space that both mummy and daddy were happy with and got out to find our guide.  We found the bar after what seemed to be an age of walking around in circles, and sat down for a drink; as well as the drink we were given some funny looking tapas, that consisted of slimy mushrooms, some bacon and a loaf of dry bread.  Mummy dived in [just for a change – Danielle] and we sat back disgusted!  Shaun our mountain bike guide finally turned up and we walked across the square to his bike shop.

In the bike shop, which was jam packed with dirty and grimy mountain bikes – so different from our lovely clean road bikes.  We were given four different mountain bikes [lucky because there were four of us! Ed.] and some very smelly and sweaty helmets.  The bikes were loaded into the minivan and off we went.  The bikes had pride of place on the back seat and we were crammed into the front.
DSC05113After we drove up the mountain, we got to our destination – which seemed to be a park in the middle of nowhere. While testing out our bikes Shaun told us we would be cycling uphill, I didn’t think this was going to be a problem, after all, I am a cycling demon!!  I set off keeping up with mummy and ahead of Shaun who at one point told me to wait for Danielle because she wouldn’t like being last.  After about 15 mins I realised that mountain biking wasn’t easy at all because we had to drag a heavy bike up a 5000km hill – OK maybe it was only 5!  I was exhausted, I was out of breath as Danielle zoomed past me and not very happy at all [but my super dad was very sympathetic, which is unusual for him – Ed.].  We reached the top – to see what?  We were still in the middle of nowhere looking at a mountain in the middle of nowhere.  Mummy and Shaun seemed to enjoy the Geography of the area  To me we were in the middle of nowhere!  In case I’m not making it clear we were in the middle of nowhere.

Move over Luka it’s my turn to say something.  We left the view point, now for some downhill.  At first it was really easy, we were on a wide fire trail, but suddenly Shaun turned off the track down a narrow rocky path.  Shaun went first, followed by mum – how hard could it be?  I set off, it was easy for about 30 seconds, but then……   I hit a rock, my nose hit the handlebars  and I thought it had broken.   I tried again, I hit another rock, I slipped off the pedal and it hit me in the shin.  I tried again and went another 30 seconds before hitting another rock – ahhh I hate going downhill.  Dad showed no sympathy and shouted for me to stop messing around (not quite as politely though) and mum rocketed down the hill – she showed no sympathy either.  I got it together and managed my first single track descent – Luka would have said “I owned that downhill”.  I was really pleased with myself.

A little further down, after some more fire trail, it was all going well and  Shaun decided that we could handle some more single track – again I looked down , it was steep, narrow and this time there was a drop off to our left hand side.  No worries….  Luka went down first, showing no fear.  He managed to get down the steep part, no problem, he went round the corner, leaning downslope,  he hit a root and stopped in the wrong place and the next thing I saw he was tumbling down the slope, goodbye Luka I always wanted to be an only child……  Oh wait I’ve got to go down there too….

Hey Danielle – this is my epic fail – “I totally owned that fall”  I was face down in a bed of spiky thorns with a bike on my head.  Mummy and Shaun came to my rescue and removed the bike, I don’t really remember what happened I just fell and ended up with a bike on my head!!

DSC05182The rest of ride was much better, I stayed upright and enjoyed the different downhill sections as we rode back into the village.  Final thoughts I really hope I don’t have to do that again….  But mum and dad says we are going again on Tuesday.

X-Terra Great Ocean Road – Australia

By: Max Nanni

Tales From The Dark Side
Darkside or Triside?

When toward the end of last year I leisurely checked the 2014 X-Terra world tour calendar l immediately felt a tickle down my back noticing that the Australian date at Anglesea, on the Great Ocean Road (GOR) in Victoria was matching with my kids school holidays in March… It all ended few minutes later with me signing up to combine a nice Race + Family Holiday trip.

Anglesea is a little piece of paradise, seated at the beginning of the GOR, with its own little cafes on the waterfront, a golf course where kangaroos roam frees and unafraid, good food, a fantastic surfing ocean beach and plenty of hills with great trails for some super fun MTB rides or hikes, not to mention the GOR itself which skirts for kilometers the ocean below providing a perfect setting for cycling, motorbiking or even just a car drive all the way to the 12 Apostles.

The race was set for Sun 30th of March and down in Victoria at this time of the year it can be be cold… and it was!

IMG_4113The morning of the race at 7am when we (the whole family) left for the start it was 14 C, my wife Enrica and my son Alessandro were registered for the 10km Trail (actually l should say ‘Beach’…) Run scheduled to start at 7:45am. I was a bit undecided what to wear as X-Terra flag off was only scheduled for 9am and after some debating, considering l will have to stay quite a bit outdoor waiting for my time, l decided to go full suited up, with trisuit and wetsuit already on… Not the best if you expect a toilet break but good in terms of warmth and organization.

It was cold indeed and my body ‘armor’ was a blessing!

Waiting for the minutes to tick by and for half of the family to finish their run l had a good look at the swim course which was supposed to be 2 laps of a 500mt quadrilateral, 3 sides in the water and 1 running on the beach… It looked much longer then advertised… But they always look long, don’t they?

At 9am the race went off sharp on time, about 15 Pros first and a minute later the usual horde of boys, girls, ladies and mamils hit the water.

IMG_4114Until then l only had the courage to dip one toe in the freezing ocean water so the first impact was hard, even with the wetsuit on l could feel the icy liquid numbing my skin from ears to toes, thank goodness the adrenaline build-up right under the first layer of skin did the usual wonders and 1 min into the swim it felt much better already.  I was not in a particular good ‘swimming shape’ so l decided to start a bit on the side, trying to avoid the usual carnage of the first couple of hundred meters, still l ended up right in the middle of the pack with the self preservation instinct working at its best… as usual after 3-400 mt it all quieted down and it became very pleasant.

As l was predicting the swim course was longer of the advertised 1km Swim resulting instead in 1.8km which l covered in 26min and very happy with myself.

Transition was about 300mt away and l never enjoy transitions… So it sucked as usual taking longer than it should, with several people taking places off me which, though, was restored to its rightful order soon after l jumped on the bike.

IMG_4051Trying the MTB course the day before was a blessing as I knew exactly what to expect, that helped a lot to get in the right rhythm and especially to position myself ahead of other riders just before the 3 single trail technical section, hence not wasting time stuck behind slower wheels. The MTB was a fun fun thing, completing the 26km and 500mt of ascent in just over an hour and several positions gained… I was aware though that it was a short lived feeling since, as always, the run is my curse.

In the meantime with the sun well up in the sky temperature rose to close to 30 C which was also not ideal for what was coming next.

DSC_3451I had no idea of what to expect in the run course, which in any case would have not changed anything. In and out transition in another not very impressive style and time the course took us back to the beach close to the surf for about 500mt, then some 20-30 steps and a steep not runnable (at least for me…) climb to enter the gravel trail which skirts the GOR, the views were surely fantastic, it’s too bad I only managed to keep my eyes transfixed on the ground  1 mt ahead of me… a few up and downs on that for over a km and then the hell was upon us, back to the beach for 6km of soft sand running, half way through and with dozens of people already flew by me l had the strong urge to simply stop, strip off and jump in the cold ocean… I resisted the urge and kept going, beach done, more steps, more up and downs, back to the sea and through some big sea rocks brought us back to the first beach and the last km before the finishing line, all done in 1 hr for the Run and for a total race time of 2h36min in 10th place of my age group (yeah, Australia is not Asia where coming top 3 and picking a Maui slot is always an option…).

Even though the placing was not great my times were good for my current fitness and l was very pleased of the overall experience and performance.

IMG_4129Lastly I definitely strongly suggest  everyone who loves quietness, cycling, sea and nature to take a trip to this little paradise named Anglesea and the whole GOR, you won’t be disappointed!

Cheers from the dark side.


Max Nanni

Tales From The Dark Side – Pulau Ubin

Tales From The Dark Side
Report from the Ketam Trail in Pulau Ubin
By: Massimo Nanni

MTB in Singapore may at time become a bit frustrating due to the very limited offer of off road trails, this is due to the size of the island, the amount of population which requires extensive building, and the strict rules enforced by National Parks to keep a lot of the still available forested area off limits to cyclists.

Ubin001We do have, however, some beautiful trails nearby.  One of these is the 7km Ketam loop located in Pulau Ubin which is North-East of Singapore in the Singapore Strait reached by bumboat from Changi Village Ferry Terminal.

Going to Ubin is an adventure from the start.  Boarding the bumboat at Changi Village which takes you and your bike to the small Island is a jump into the past, and a very welcome one considering what has now become of Singapore.  The 15 minute cruise is normally shared with people going to the island for various interests; fishing, bird watching, walking, a family escape, or a bike ride.  On the island cars are not permitted, except a few vehicles used by the ‘locals’ to transport mostly food and drink goods around, making the Ubin004location perfect for a peaceful outdoor adventure.  Having arrived on the island early in the morning to avoid too much crowd on the trails and the usual tropical heat,  it is a 10 minute ride west on a small tarmac road, perfect for a quick warm-up before hitting the Ketam trail which basically revolves around the west-most old quarry.

The first section of the trail is a flattish grassy path, without any major technical difficulty, perfect for anyone who might be willing to start getting the taste of some off-road, or even for kids.  The trail then enters an intermediate section with a few tight corners between trees before reaching ‘The Hut’ which marks the entrance of the technical part of the loop.

Ubin002The trail has been designed to provide the perfect experience for hard core riders as well as off-road newbies, with choices possible between technical lines (marked by black diamonds signs) or easier ones (blue diamonds signs).

Taking the black diamond route right after ‘The Hut’ there is the first technical rocky drop; nothing too dramatic but a good wake up call for the senses and for what is coming.  The trail start to rise inside the forest in a nice single track path, with switch backs, up and downs, zig-zags between trees, and few technical passages always avoidable by going through the Blue route if preferred.  The first half section of the trail is fast and Ubin005flowing with uphills and downhills that feel like riding a roller-coaster until the ‘Rock Garden’ which is a compilation of big uneven rock and roots which even the most seasoned riders will be challenged to ride over without putting a foot down.

The Rock Garden, is the start of the second half, and most technical portion of the trail.  A series of sharp rises and drops with rocks and roots scattered in every direction (let me rephrase, always in the direction of your front wheel!), make this section very challenging but still fully rideable by the more expert rider.  A couple of decently long up hills with following fast, technical down-hills (including the very technical ‘Black Cobra’ route, normally avoided even by the best riders) spice up the whole experience to conclude one of the best MTB loops around.

Ubin003Ubin is an experience worth making the trip for, and can be easily combined with a family trip on a weekend morning or late afternoon.

Cheers from the dark side.