It all started with a sly comment about needing to make the “coasties” suck on some thin air, negotiate the Piney’s notorious root sections and a couple of good grinds. Over the years a considerable number of New England Mountain Bikers (NEMTB) had dropped down to the coast to ride some sweet smooth flowing tracks like Coffs’ “Cows with guns” and the Kempey Golf Club to name just a couple. So it was time to repay the hours of effort the coasties had put in with a track of our own.
To get the coasties to crawl out of the sea we needed to hold a decent XC styled race with lots of single track. Matt our VP managed to secure the 5th race in the 2010 Mid-North Coast Series, so we had a mission.
The Piney’s been a bit of a single track stable for Armidale MTB as it’s located only a few k’s north of the town and has enough variety to suit everyone from the novice to the bigger hitting rigs. The Attitude @ Altitude track mixes it up with fast big cog action in Big Dog’s Den, the flowy Snake’n’Ladders, grinds and rock gardens.
There’s one main climb through IGOR and Rooty Hill to get you up to the peak at just over 1,000m. Once you’ve crunched the grind it’s into the rock gardens of Angry Eyes and The Fort, all meshed together with single track. The forest thins a little and heads into the tech structures from Decked Skinny to Wibble-Wobble. A few “bridges” (a strong word) including the fabled Lucy’s Leap, gets you tracking the creek line. You leave the forest over the fence on The Gnarly Knock Over, not for the faint hearted – unsure - take the B Line.
The track changes to open single track and then feeding onto the only long section of vehicle track allowing a slow steady climb along The Strip to the start of the fast pine forest section Big Dog’s Den.
GETTING THERE –
The best way to get onto the track is a warm-up ride north out along Rockvale Rd, 4.9 ks from the Erskin Rd interestion, to the third entrance on the right into The Piney (Armidale State Forest). If you’re feeling a bit spongy and the climb out of town on the tar doesn’t constitute mountain biking then there’s parking at the entrance. As The Piney is vehicle free you need to ride 350m along the main access road into the forest to reach the start of Snake’n’Ladders. Watch for the plastic white signs with black arrows that mark the trail head.
TECHNICAL NATURE –
This is a track for everyone. Don’t be too concerned with all the big talk of grinds and tree roots as it’s all just banter to scare the visiting ocean dwelling clubs. The grind up Grandpa’s and Rooty Hill are made for all levels of rider with the flowy Snakes’n’Ladders thrown into the middle for a breather and a “B line” diverting around the final aggressive pinch through the Crow’s Nest. If you find that the legs and lungs are not burning enough then have a crack at Igor for a more ugly rideable grind. There is a total of eight sign posted B lines to get you around the more technical stuff while you work up the courage.
YOU’LL NEED -
Armidale is at 1000m above sea level and can be a bit cooler then you may be use to. Throw in an extra layer and check the forecasts before you ride. Tyres of choice up here are smooth rolling Crossmarks, so even though there’s a bit of clay it just tends to get a little slippery if the heaven open up. There are a few black spots with mobile coverage (G3 is the go) but a short walk up one of the hills will get you back into coverage if needed. Bring your water as even though there are flowing creeks the cattle tend to ...... wash their feet in it.
A loop of the 9.2 km track takes around 50 minutes if you’re checking out the scenery or sub-30 if you‘re smoking. You can easily burn a few hours to complete a couple of laps or a few smaller loops on the sections you really get into.
Our local for a coffee shop is The Goldfish Bowl on Danger St, and when up the hill in Guyra we hit Rafters Cafe.
We suggest you stay on the north side of town at the Armidale Motel (02) 6772 8122 or if you’re looking for a caravan park then the Highlander Van Village (02) 6772 4768.
AT A GLANCE:
TECHNICAL RATING: 2-4
FITNESS LEVEL NEEDED: 2
TYPE OF RIDING: XC ---- Trail
BEST TIME OF YEAR TO RIDE: Autumn to Spring
WHILE IN THE AREA, ALSO CHECK OUT: Great camping at the Styx River State Forest or Cathedral Rocks National Park, but you will have to leave your bikes on the rack.
LOCAL BIKE SHOPS: Bicycle Central on Marsh, 0415 254 614.
Winter Series 10.9 km loop - http://app.strava.com/segments/1020637
Summer Series 2.2 km loop - http://app.strava.com/segments/635987
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