The other day, while on a ride with some mates on our local trails, we came across a familiar gnarly downhill section. I love this section. It scares the hell out of me and rates very high on the “Bum Clenchometer”, but that’s what makes it so good!


On this day, I stared down the chute and after a nice clear run down this feared bit of trail one of my mates yelled out, “nice work noobie”.

And there it is. I have been riding for 2 years and after a steep learning curve, consider myself fairly capable. The guys I ride with have all been riding since Noah was a boy, and when 2 inches of travel was considered cutting edge. To these guys, I will always be the noobie.

I remember the day very clearly, when I decided that if I was going to do this mountain bike thing, I was going to do it properly. I even remember the exact moment. That decision could have had something to do with my K Mart clunker snapping in half under me, halfway down the previously-mentioned downhill section. After making my decision to “do this mountain bike thing properly” I went out that day (once I washed all the blood off) and bought my first real mountain bike, and have never looked back.

There are lots of benefits in being the noobie: you have an excuse for being slow, no one bags you for being the last up a nasty climb, and it is a given that you will have at least one horror crash per ride.

One of the negatives, however, is that your riding mates are always trying to put you in a situation to see you meet that quota of horror crashes.

I have a riding mate, Sleepy Bill, who lives about 4hrs north of me. Originally, he used to be just plain Bill, until he came down one weekend to ride our trails and did a little too much re-hydrating Saturday night. By the time he woke up, and was in any state to ride, he only had enough daylight to drive home again.

On a recent trip north to Sleepy Billsville (aka Cairns), he had planned “a really sweet ride for me”. Cairns is a city squeezed onto a coastal plane at the base of a big, angry mountain. The majority of the trails start at the top and drop over the cliff until you hit the bottom, way, way down. These are the trails that Mick Hannah cut his teeth on.

On arrival at the trailhead, I was met with the sight of Sleepy Bill unloading what looked suspiciously like a light downhill bike. I put it to him that I suspected he might be setting me up, subtly of course. “What the f@#k is going on Bill, am I going to able to ride this on my Trance?”.  He made a show of looking hurt and reassuringly replied, “no worries mate, I just haven’t had the Norco 6 out for awhile. Piece of cake”.

We set off into the rainforest, and I was pleasantly surprised. It was really great single track, mostly downhill, and although steep and technical in places, very rideable. I was having a hoot! Just as I was feeling a little guilty for suspecting Bill’s evil motives, things got ugly, very, very ugly. The trail that had previously been smooth, with the occasional tree root, had now become a near-vertical descent, strewn with baby head sized rocks, and big drops!!

While hanging on for dear life, I became aware of a girl screaming her lungs out, and realised, to my horror, that the noise was actually coming from me. In between the screams I listened closely and could hear Bill’s evil shrieks of laughter coming from somewhere below, while he bombed away on his Norco.

After what seemed like an eternity, I screeched up to the top of a set of steps and saw Bill waiting for me at the bottom basically licking his lips in anticipation of the show that was about to start. There were about 10 very steep steps, and a 90 degree corner at the bottom. If you missed the corner, your bike ride suddenly included a free helicopter ride, once they found you at the bottom of the cliff.

Normally, I would have walked it, but due to the vertical nature of the track, stopping was not an option. With my butt over the back, and getting hit by the back wheel after every step, I was going ok. Suddenly I became aware that, even though my brakes were being squeezed to death, I was actually getting faster. I realised later, it was because my wheels were not spending much time on the ground. Faced with the option of an early bail and certain, probably minor, injuries or trying to stay on board but risk a helicopter flight, I decided on the former option, and rode the last few steps on my arse.

With the worst of it over, we set off again, only to come across a couple of barefoot local kids pushing a couple of old rickety K Mart clunkers to the top of a particularly nasty section. They would have been lucky to have been 13 years old. We said “Hi” as we rode past, and told them to be careful, as the trail was pretty gnarly. Feeling as if we’d done our bit to look out for the young folk we continued on our merry way. What seemed like seconds later, the young kids came bombing past us, K Mart specials clanging, bare feet bouncing all over the pedals, each one looking like the next Mick Hannah. A few seconds later they were out of sight.

When we reached the bottom, I was amazed that the only damage I had done to man and bike was a set of badly soiled baggies and 3 teeth missing on the big ring. Sleepy Bill and I sat down next to a beautiful creek and I was amazed at the tranquillity of our setting, which was a sharp contrast to the screaming and horror that preceded it.

Bill had a huge grin on his face. “See, I told you, piece of cake”, he said, “nice work noobie”.

By Darren Eckford – reproduced from Enduro Magazine Issue # 16