Meet Bronwyn's

by Danny Trudgett

The title to this story isn't a typo (Who is Bronwyn?) or an incomplete sentence (Meet Bronwyn's what?). Bronwyn's is a downhill track at Gap Creek in Brisbane. A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of making her acquaintance.

The entrance to Bronwyn's is marked with a black diamond and lots of serious warnings like "very difficult terrain" and "don't ride beyond your skill level" and "there be monsters here" and stuff like that. None of this fazed me as I've skied numerous black diamond runs without serious incident (those double black diamonds are a whole different matter though- causing me minor apocalyptic terror culminating in tears, of both kinds). This was however my first confrontation with a black diamond on a mountain bike... and even if I didn't know what I was doing I was going to do it anyway. I'd consumed the almost evangelical reviews on mtbdirt.com and viewed photos of the sensational structures that have been built. I was here to ride. Monsters, be damned.

The track starts steeply. I forced my body back, way back behind the seat and pushed into the pedals for control. I remember thinking "I've not done this before", but it seemed to be working pretty well. So far, so good. Then we arrived at 'all-rock corner' - which is a lot steeper than it looks at first glance. That's because there's a warp in the time-space continuum right at the start that increases the gravitational pull of the earth. Scientists will one day study this in great detail but until then trust me - gravity sucks really hard at the entrance to the rock corner.

The log at the approach is right where you would want a nice stretch of flat track to brake and suss out the best line. As my front wheel dropped over the log I found myself peering under the handlebars, trying to determine what was on the other side - a black hole or neutron star perhaps? What I should have done was follow the advice on the sign: stop, get off, walk downhill, check everything from several different angles, make a few decisions and then ride with the confidence of an assured man. Instead, I was charging downhill, nutting things out on the fly while dodging stellar objects. I bounced over the log- with my weight too far forward, a tad too much speed and my line too close to the inside of the corner. With brakes deployed and handlebars pointing back to the middle of the track, I had a 'moment' that involved a dug-in front wheel and the bike rotating around its front axle with rider attached. I thought "this is no longer working pretty well" as I let off the brakes, yanked on the bars and closed all open sphincters. With luck prevailing over skill, the front wheel started rolling again and the rear re-united with the earth. It wasn't pretty, but I somehow maintained vertical superiority over the bike and stayed on the groomed stuff. No apocalypse yet.

The next section of track has some sweeping corners and jumps that came and went without drama. Some of the jumps had me sailing through the air - landing hard, but with a big grin. The party stopped when I arrived at the 'Evil Knievel Grand Canyon Launch Ramp Replica'.

So ominous did it look through my eyes, that I acquiesced to procedure by stopping to check it out from every angle before making a few decisions. The first decision was that I would rather fall over the tree than into it - surely that would hurt less. I really didn't know how fast to ride the ramp. Faster had to be better, guaranteeing that I cleared said tree. The alert reader will seize on the fundamental flaw in the logic... it's a classic positive feedback loop with no break point. The loop runs like this: reach the 'ideal speed', then go a 'little bit faster' just to be safe. Now you've reached the real ideal speed, right? Wrong! Having reached the 'ideal speed', go a little bit faster just to be safe. Repeat several times until you're going way too fast, then panic.

Adding to the impending sense of disaster, the superficially sage advice to check out the obstacle from every angle is somewhat flawed. I could walk that run 47 times, take measurements, photographs and GPS readings, but as I have never ridden anything remotely like the 'Evil Knievel Grand Canyon Launch Ramp Replica', I would still not have a clue how it ought to be tackled. I could see it was about a metre tall, steep on the way up and the way down- but so what? How fast does one ride over this thing? How far back does one lean? Should one turn one's iPod off? I mean, what if Billy Joel's Uptown Girl starts playing while I'm approaching the ramp and I start convulsing with disgust? I don't want to die listening to Uptown Girl. What if it is still playing when they discover my body? The humiliation would be more than any grieving family ought to endure. The net of all this angst is that the only decision I could possibly make about riding the 'Evil Knievel Grand Canyon Launch Ramp Replica' was to ride it too fast.

Evil would have laughed out loud had he seen the look of abject horror on my face as the bike and I inadvertently became airborne at the top of the ramp. I can't say how fast I was going or where my weight was positioned, but I can tell you that for a split second I was so bloody terrified that time stopped. The wind became silent and birds froze mid-flight as I, all puckered and panicked, hovered over the 'Evil Knievel Grand Canyon Launch Ramp Replica'. Sadly I don't think there were more than a couple of inches of clean air between the timber and my tyres. But for a moment it felt like I was really flying. After regaining terra firma, I halted the bike and laughed manically at the sheer thrill of being unharmed.

Bronwyn's continues rolling along with lots ofgreat terrain and a terrific bermed timber corner that is quite straight forward providing you don't go too fast and stay on the bottom level. If, hypothetically, you were to ride it in a conservative manner and think "that was too easy - I'll go back up and do it faster so I get up to the higher level and have even more fun", then you might end up introducing yourself to a tree as you exit the corner. Not that I would know.

It's fitting that a track as great as Bronwyn's saves the best until last with some elevated track that can only be appreciated by riding it. It's also fitting that a story like thisexcludes some treasures, so I'll leave it to your imagination what Bronwyn's final fling is really like. However, I can reveal that the ramp is not the same width all the way down and there's quite a bit of not-much-at-all at the end of the ramp. Now if only there was a chairlift at the bottom of this sparkling black diamond to whisk you back to the top.

Nitty Gritty

  • Bronwyn's (Pipeline) can be found in Gap Creek Reserve within the Mt Coot-tha Forest- just a bunny hop from downtown Brisbane. Mountain Bike Dirt has the good oil. 
  • You'll also find a number of cross country singletrack and fire roads that cater to all skill levels. Lantana is often cited as a must-do ride. 
  •  Back in 2005, Brisbane Council policy threatened trail closures in the Mt Coot-tha Forest, leaving just cross country riding in the area. Local trail builders breathed life into an existing trail to create Bronwyn's as a downhill suitable to riders of all abilities. Design and construction is to IMBA spec. and beyond. It's still work in progress with plans for plenty more berms, jumps and North Shore style features. 
  • Nick Byrne and a team of keen riders meet, greet and build on the third Saturday of every month. Contact Nick at design@ultrapfd.com to get your hands dirty. 
  • The Brisbane City Council provided approval, rocks and tools to get Bronwyn's under way. Ground Effect's Slush Fund stumped up with $1000 for timber to build the wooden berms.