DRZ400 in the bush

Riding The Rattlesnake Track at the Glasshouse Mountains

Friday 27 November 2020

I've given myself 24 hours to think about this ride - on one hand, it was amazing but on others it was a real test... here's how it went.

Christmas is coming so the weekends are crazy busy meaning the usual 48 hours off from the world is kinda spoken for and time for getting out on the bike is becoming scarce. But weekday rides are ok right?! Luckily for me, it looks like a couple of other riders in the group were also keen to get out as while I was typing 'is anyone free for a ride this Friday...' into WhatsApp Matt posted the exact same message! Much smaller group this time, Matt on his new Husqvarna and Ronnie on his KTM were the only riders available so we set a plan to meet around 6.30/7 at Elimbah and hit the trails.

I've done a couple of rides up at the Glasshouse Mountains and some trails are becoming familiar. But today was going to be all new as Ronnie had covered a different area on a ride with another group the previous week. The first section was very sandy, something I'm still getting used to and then it was off into single trails. The good thing was there was very little tarmac and this was the usual single track, sandy, muddy, whipping-through-the-trees riding that I love the Glasshouse Mountains for.

Then things got a little tougher... Ronnie had warned us that the next section was probably the toughest bit and he wasn't wrong: a steep descent down a hill track covered in ruts with loads of loose gravel... Not a lot of traction and slippery as all hell! I managed to get down most of it but had to walk the bike down a section as I was terrified of stacking the bike. Despite my slow pace, I did manage to slip the front wheel bring the back around to wallop me on the legs and down the DRZ went... Not too bad, easy enough to get back up, limp down the last bit and then catch up with the fellas back on the trails.

After that, the next couple of sections were all fantastic culminating in the excellent 'Rattlesnake Track', so called due to it's twisty nature. This was something else and probably some of the best riding I've experienced. It's not fast, but it's definitely fast paced! It's all enclosed single track with either sand, mud or pine needles. There are loads of twists through the trees (thank you Barkbusters for saving my knuckles on more than one occasion!), whoops, corners - we were flying along and loving every second.

Having done a bit of research into the track, it turns out that it might actually be intended to be for mountain bikes?! Can't quite imagine doing it under pedal power, far better on a dirt bike.

Once we were out of that track it was a short hop up to the big red car park for a breather and then off again to try out another new (to me) trail. Which is when I came unstuck for the second time of the day, again on a steep descent... I don't know what it is, getting up hills isn't a problem but going down them is becoming my nemesis, especially if there's rutts. The hill in question wasn't actually too bad, and maybe if I'd just gone for it I would've made it no problems - but as it stood, I slightly panicked, tried to walk the bike down a particularly steep bit of slippery as rock and yup, the front wheel slipped and down the bike went.

This one was tricky as the bike was on an incline - if I picked it up, it'd just run away and I wouldn't be able to stop it, meaning a bigger (and potentially damaging crash below). So I waited for the fellas to double back and luckily Matt came to my rescue. Between the two of us, we managed to get the bike upright and limp it down the hill with the engine off, using the clutch as a brake. Thinking about it, that was my mistake and why I ended up with a downed bike. If I'd used the clutch/brake technique I probably would have made it down by myself?!‚Äč

On we went and by this time, things were heating up... We were getting onto 10.30ish which doesn't sound early but when you've got up at 5am, rode for 45 minutes up the highway and then done 3 and half hours zipping around single tracks it begins to take its toll... But we were all keen as mustard and off we went again, this time hitting a single track known to us as 'The clergyman's Track' after it was shown to Matt and Luke on another ride by a couple of dirt biking clergymen! I only recognised it halfway through as we were doing it in reverse, the giveaway being a fallen tree that was tricky to get around last time but was a breeze in reverse.

At the end of that one, we were pretty beat but again our enthusiasm got the better of us and we headed to one more track which I call the 'Burnt out car track' (can you guess why?!). We'd done this on a previous ride when it was heavily overgrown and it's got a few challenges, mainly getting over and under fallen trees but there wasn't anything too tricky.

We were doing fine but decided to stop after a tree hop and have a breather which is when it all went to shit for me...

Setting off again, Matt and Ronnie headed off and I swung myself onto the bike putting my right foot down... into thin air and then sand which then led to completely over balancing and down the went the bike for the third time this ride! Now I initially laughed this off seeing the funny side in overballencing but that laughter soon turned to a little bit of panic when I discovered I couldn't get the bike upright. A combination of ending up in a bush leaving me with very little room to maneuver and the fact every time I attempted to pick up the bike it slipped forward in the sand left me puffing and panting and to be honest, beginning to freak out... I just didn't have the physical strength to pick the damn thing up!

Now what I should've done is calm down, not panic and think the situation through. We were on a single track with one way in and out. The fellas knew that I'd be on that track and would figure out I was somewhere between them and where we stopped so it was only a matter of time before they came back and helped me out...

Then I spotted Ronnie through the trees, he'd come back to check on me - only to not notice me in the bush, turn back around and speed off! No! I was totally stuck. I tried calling Matt but there was no coverage on the phone which only added to my mental stress.

I quickly realised there was no way I was getting the bike up so wasting what strength I had left was pointless and would only lead to me either hurting myself or guzzling even more of my dwindling water supply. And off course they came back - Matt, my saviour for the seconds time this ride appeared through the trees, helped me get the bike up and off we went again. Really, it wasn't a problem, I should've just sat in the shade and waited... but panic does funny things to your brain.

Looking back, I think the main problem was I'd pushed myself harder than I can handle. By 10.30/11ish I was done. The early start, the heat and the constant concentration of riding the technical single tracks had left me feeling far more fatigued than I'd realised. In addition, I'd pretty much drunk the 2.5 litres of water in my camelbak as well as the backup bottle I carry on the bike leaving me not only thirsty but with nothing to hydrate with.

To be honest, the whole thing left me pretty shaken. Since I started riding offroad I've always had an awareness that a potentially bad accident could easily happen at any time and it seemed ridiculous that a life threatening situation could have resulted from me overbalancing on a stationary bike!

So lesson learnt: carry more water, say when you're done (there's no shame in it!) and if you have a down, sit tight, wait for the cavalry and try not to panic!

I took the rest of the ride ridiculously easy. The other fellas steamed off but I took it very slow and steady back to the car park. After saying our goodbyes, I headed to the Big Fish servo, aired up the tires, fueled up and drank a couple of litres of water - I was that dehydrated that my leg muscles were cramping!

Streaming down the highway back to Brisbane I mulled over the ride. There had been some amazing times, the 'Rattlesnake Track' being the absolute highlight - tracks like that are the reason I was so desperate to get into dirt biking! But I will be practicing picking up the bike in the garden, trying to get more physically fit to build my stamina and definitely trying to figure out how to store a bigger backup water bottle on the bike.

Check out the ride on Relive - you'll notice the 'Rattlesnake Track' at the 17 second mark ;)