With the Dwellingup100 off-road enduro coming up in September and having just done the Kep track with PIHC I was in need for some more distance mountain biking. I’d only ridden the usual XC rounds and a few small enduros since the last 100km effort (2010 Karri Cup). I remember telling myself after the Karri Cup that I’d need to put in some more saddle time before doing the 100km again. The time for action was nigh.
I was keen to give the Kep Track a decent effort after the small introduction a few months ago. It’s basically a dirt track that follows the Golden Pipeline from Mundaring Weir to Northam, 75km away. It’s not technical at all but does provide ample riding distance on dirt which would suit our purpose nicely. I’m not really into touring and staying in Northam didn’t interest us, so it was put forward that we ride it out and back. It’s not even hilly but my thinking was that what it lacked in elevation would be made up for in distance. The Dwellingup100 involves quite a lot of up and down but is only a mere 100km – so surely this would be a good training ride! A few emails to some interested parties, a short debate on a free weekend and a date settled on. It’d be good to knock this one over in a day.
By the time Sunday morning rolled around our band of riders had been whittled down to four. Lee, Craig, Dave and myself, rocked up to Mundaring Weir Hotel carpark at 0600  where it was deserted and dark. Dave and myself on dually’s, Lee on his cool Focus hardtail and Craig on his Surly Long Haul Trucker. After some Mindless Banter™ – mostly about how chilly it was, and jibes about Dave and myself not having lights we set off shortly before 0630.
The other three headed up the road and then wondered where I had got to. Having done this ride before I knew the way. I did the first half klick on the track whilst the others plodded up the road and then joined the track. Jumpers and jackets were discarded shortly afterwards. The 7km or so to Mundaring township is mostly wide-ish sniggletrack , crosses the road a couple of times and very pleasant to ride, even uphill. It was dark, with just enough moonlight, and a bit of mist. A favourite part of any ride, we were just waiting for the Tauntauns to appear out of the white haze…
We negotiated the unsigned dogs-leg at Mt Helena with no hassles thanks to my prior knowledge. Most of the track is easy to follow but this intersection could be a trap for first timers.
Past the BMX jump track near Chidlow, the rest of us resisted Craig’s call to ride the jumps. I was keen not to break anything too early in the day.
The next section of flat path was dry but quite bumpy. In the not too distant past it seems a horse or two had been through here when it was wet and left many hoof marks which had now dried hard. Kind of like corrugations but different. Certainly not the most pleasant surface to ride on.
Went past Baker’s Hill and it’s pie shop. Plodding along at a steady pace, Dave starting to feel the effects of his limited saddle time of late and the previous day’s crit race.
Nearing Clackline there was a fun downhill run ending in a gully across a stream. Video
Six or seven kilometres of deserted road provided Craig with a chance to stretch his Surly’s legs necessitating him to wait for the rest of us at a lovely paddock edge. Reminded our two ex-pats of Wales apparently. It is quite scenic in parts and all the sheep were out with their lambs following them about. We continued on past the West Northam water tanks followed by a nice run of downhill sniggletrack just before Northam where I got the chance to open it up and show Craig he can’t beat me at everything on a bike. A cool, rough downhill, complete with dodgy pipe crossover (almost came unstuck here) before a short pathway blat into Northam town centre where the Garmin told me we had done 75km on the dot.
Not much doing in Northam on this lovely sunny Sunday. I was looking forward to the mountain bikers lunch of choice  but was sadly disappointed with what was on offer. A bakery, a cafe or Chicken Treat. We settled on the bakery which was empty when we arrived but within a minute of entering it was filled with more than a dozen locals. Purchases were made and we adjourned to the local park by the river to scoff down our sausage rolls, pies, buns, pastries, milk & Cokes.
After refilling CamelBaks and bottles we headed back out of town and climbed the steepest part of the ride. The rough track next to the pipeline wasn’t as hard going up as I thought it might be when I was barrelling down it earlier on, but was still a task after the recent belly filling.
A regroup at the Wales-esque paddock took place as the others waited for me, before the short roll down the road to Clackline. We waited there too as it seems Lee had a puncture. Craig went back to help him out with Dave and me heading off up the track. It wasn’t too long before Craig and Lee caught, then passed us and we were off the back again. This was the last time I saw Craig until I finished the ride! Lee I could see in the distance for a bit then he disappeared into the yonder again. I was struggling at this point but a short break and a few lollies gave me an energy burst and helped me catch up to where Dave had stopped and waited for me. He was knackered and inhaled his emergency gel and we had some more lollies to see us thru. A lady rider heading the other way said she hadn’t seen anyone else on the track. We figured Lee and Craig must’ve finished. We re-mounted , determined to finish off the day. Dave spent most of the remaining kilometres back to Mundaring township yo-yoing off the back of my wheel. I perked up once we reached the downhill sniggletrack back to the Hotel, this was the prize at the end of the day and we bombed down it, legs forgetting that we’d already asked 143km of them. We rolled into the carpark, and the band was playing in the pub across the road, with 150km on Mr Garmin.
Craig was waiting for us – and had been for 25 minutes! Strangely, Lee turned up a few minutes later than us. Turns out he stopped to fix another flat and then got lost, missing the dog leg mentioned previously at Mt Helena on the way back and started heading to John Forrest.
The ride was certainly harder on the dually than if I had taken the hardtail as previous, but the whole exercise was time in the saddle on the same bike I would do the Dwellingup100 on.
* A big thanks to Dave since he wrote most of this and I edited in my bits.
 “It’s 0600. What’s the O stand for? Oh my God, it’s early!” – Adrian Cronauer, Good Morning Vietnam
 Meaningless MTB-OZ reference
 Sniggletrack = singletrack
 burger with the workx & chocolate milkshake