Flying Nun is goood
So the nasty grey clag that smothered Christchurch in June is a distant memory as a change in the weather patterns have seen warmer Nor-West weather patterns. For Chch this means warmer sunny days while the weather is nasty in the Southern Alps. All the tracks up the Port hills are dry again, and there was even dust on my bike after going for a ride yesterday!
Nick Browns work on the track from the top of Worsleys Track – Marleys Hill is a fantastic piece of work!! The track is known as “The Flying Nun”. This track has been up the hill for many years and was built zig zagging down the sunny face of the Marleys hill. The changes that Nick has made to the track really show much the building of specific mountain bike tracks has advanced over the last 10 years. Before Nick started reshaping the track it was a fun little track, but the radius of the corners meant that people had to brake hard coming into the corner and then pedal to accelerate back up to speed once traversing again. This caused big braking bump holes to appear before the corners and often wore the track surface into a single rut about 20cm wide and 15 cm deep. The fact that there were little or no grade reversals in the track also meant that the water would run down the rut caused by bike wheels and cause even more erosion of the track.
What Nick has done is choose a line that makes the radius of most of the corners very wide (5 to 10 meter radius as compared to the old 1 or 2 meter radius) and he has managed to incorporate this by putting a grade reversal into the track that shoots you uphill before the corner, which means you often do not need to brake for the corner. He has looked very carefully at water drainage and ensured that the track sheets the water off the track very regularly and that there is nowhere that water can pool on the track. There is a lot of rock on the hillside, and he has used many of the rocks to armour the trail surface. He has also ensured that he has built lines that flow nicely at speed on a bike. There is nowhere on the track that you need to grab big handfuls of brake to throw out the anchor so you can get around a corner. All of the above track building techniques are enough to make any track easily sustainable and fun, but Nick has gone one step further and identified specific features of the hillside and worked his track around and over some of the volcanic bedrock that emerges from the top soil, and he has built the track so that confident riders can grab some air launching off these features while the less confident riders have an easy path around. This has meant that he needed to build wooden bridges in a couple of places to make these features safe.
The end result (well almost, Nick is still just finishing a few corners at the very top of the track) is a fantastically fun piece of track. It is fast and flowing with challenging features for confident riders and it is fast and flowing for less confident riders, with options for them to avoid many of the challenges. The proof of how good this track has become is that many people are now riding this track more than once per ride, and many people are even driving up the hill, parking at the bottom of the track and doing a number of laps of the track. It always used to be more of an XC orientated track, but now even the big DH bikes are being pushed up the access track to have fun on Flying Nun. A 5 or 6 inch travel trail bike is probably the ideal bike to enjoy this bit of track, but everyone from the fully rigid single speeders to the full on DH crowd are loving it. Proof that one man with a vision of how a track should be can get it exactly right.
This video on Vorb is a good demo of what the track is like. The first couple of corners in the video have now been changed to big sweeping corners like further down.
[Edit] A newer video with the camera on the bike is now up here. https://mountainbikingzane.wordpress.com/2009/10/27/flying-nun-at-speed/