Singlespeed Cyclocross

Bottles and Chains rolled out for round one of the Dirt Devils cyclocross series with an eye to populate the ‘singlespeed’ category. …and populate we did, in what was the biggest BnC turnout on home-soil for some time we filled the one gear field making it the largest (and most hotly contested) of the day.

Racing was fast over a flowing and non-technical course. There were a few hazards to be found with both Kiwi and Benny kissing dirt on gravelly corners. Our Laurel was the fastest woman on track with kid protege Callum crossing the line in first place singlespeed.

Big thanks again to Mishmash for running the BBQ and to Blakey for taking some epic photographs. We’ll be back on deck for round two!

Through the heart of the forest

Some people collect stamps. We collect roads. Over the last few years, a few of the Bottles and Chains folk having been slowly exploring the gravel forestry backroads of Southern Tasmania. Generally not well marked on maps and passing through remote and unpopulated country, they see little traffic. By trial and error we have been linking up familiar routes and filling in the gaps between them.
This ride arose out of Ben and I wondering if it was possible to join up some routes in the state’s southern highlands with our homes in the Huon Valley. It looks possible on the map, which doesn’t always mean much. So routes were plotted on RidewithGPS and elevation profiles scrutinised and the whole thing was debated and finally downloaded onto the Garmin. Bus tickets were booked, the weather forecast scrutinised. Sometimes there’s only one way to find out if something is possible or not – and that’s by having a red-hot go.
The 180km route takes us through some pretty remote places: via the Florentine River Valley then into the Styx, famed as the home of giant trees, the largest of their type in the world. Along the way there was massive climbs as our route bobbed up and down repeatedly over the 600m mark, again and again. We broke it into three 60km sections and hoped there would be somewhere to camp at the end of each day.
The bus dropped us off at Bronte Lake. It was cool but the forecast rain was holding off. Ben rode a single speed, bikepacker-style, I took my geared Longhaul Trucker with panniers. We made good time down Fourteen Mile Road, neatly avoiding the tortuous Tarraleah Gorge. Briefly back on the main highway we dropped down to Wayatina in time for lunch. The old town seemed deserted.
The first big test of the ride came when we arrived at the Florentine River Bridge just down the road. A sign announced that the bridge was out, something which sparked a memory of an article I’d read in the newspaper some time back about a bridge being burned down by vandals or something. Soon after, two more signs said the road was closed. Then we were at the river’s edge, looking out on the swiftly-flowing waters where the bridge used to be. It took a moment to sink in.
A few minutes of scouring the river revealed a possible crossing point. Fortunately the river level was low. We manhandled the bikes down the bank and pushed them precariously across the slippery riverbed. It was good to be back on our way, even if the next section of our journey involved a long and steep climb. The late start and the delay caused by the river crossing meant we were late finding a camping spot. We passed on one possibility before a magnificent downhill run took us to a derelict bridge leading to a perfect spot by the river just as daylight began to fade. We set up in quick time and ate dinner around a roaring campfire Ben improbably conjured from wood sourced in the damp surrounds.
According to the weather forecast, day one was supposed to be the cold day, day two the rainy one. We were glad the couple of showers that fell during the night had cleared by morning. Through the heart of the Florentine we saw not a single car. The long straight road stretched out in the distance as we rolled over the small rises through forest and logged coupes. A final push saw us on the downhill towards Maydena where we stopped for lunch at the roadhouse, a chat with the local policeman eliciting incredulity at our plan.
After lunch the big climb over the ridge into the Styx Valley was followed by a long, gradual and most enjoyable descent through the tall forest and a ferny understory that is lush and green and lovely. Before long we were hunting for a campsite. We settled on a postcard-perfect spot by the riverside and ate dinner s small trout jumped about in the water nearby.
Again our luck with the weather continued. Anyone who knows southern Tasmania will tell you that you will need a raincoat this time of year. The intermittent overnight drizzle petered out by the time we were on the road again. Day three featured a climb we had dubbed “The Wall”. We reached the bottom tired after two days of solid cycling and briefly debated our options. In the end the urge to finish what we had started won out and we set off up the beast.
Two hours of riding, pushing and complaining saw us at the top. The views are we took a break for lunch were magnificent as we realised we were getting very close to our goal. Just 20km and one major climb and we would be on the long downhill to home. Here we rode through forestry coupes recently set ablaze, one still freshly smoking after the “regeneration burns” which are such a feature of the Tasmanian autumn. We were lucky: the day after we passed new burns made the route we had followed temporarily impassable.
The final climb loomed ahead and was quickly behind us. The final 15km begin with a long descent into the Huon Valley on the Plenty Link Road. We saw the second of two cars for the day just before we launched over the lip, a forestry worker who’d waved as we’d pushed up the other side of the range. He waved again, wondering no doubt what sort of mad buggers attempt this sort of country on bikes.
Soon enough we were down, hands aching from the constant braking, rolling over the last few tiny rises before home, where a shower and a cold beer and a sense of achievement were never so well earned. And where to next, what two points on our map has no fool yet joined? Figuring that out is the next adventure.

The Weld Flyer – A short account

Bottles and Chains isn’t dead. It has been quiet, yes.. …but dead? No. In fact, it’s been bubbling away steadily underground like some larva filled subterranean  grotto. We’ve been baking up ideas. The first to rise? ‘The Weld Flyer’.

‘The Weld Flyer’ is something Dave Killick (Killer) and I have been dreaming up over the last few years. We envisioned a mid winter gravel event traversing the Southern Forests that would challenge even the toughest riders. What we delivered was exactly that. 85km of unsealed roads with 1800m of climbing that had to be traversed within a 6hr time limit. A tough ask made tougher with snow laying on the highest parts of the course.

Over 40 riders registered for the event, most presented on cyclocross bikes with a sprinkling of mountain bikes and one slim tyre road bike. Most of the field managed to finish within the allotted timeframe, Emma Flukes being the fastest with a time of 4:45hrs. Our boy Tim Stredwick was DFL, finishing outside the timeframe but completing the ride in 6:41hrs. A solid effort from all considering the cold conditions on course.

The second check point is worth noting. Being a Bottles and Chains event we wanted to make the check point memorable.. …so we added a wood fired OzPig stove, couches, banged out punk music on an old set of speakers, cooked hot sausages and presented an esky full of ciders at the top of the final hill. Riders seemed to like this action as all but three stopped for a snag and a cider!

Anyway, there’s a few short words about this years event. We’ll be back again next year with version II of ‘The Weld Flyer’. Keep your eyes to our Facebook page for details. Thanks to event sponsors, Willie Smiths, Huon Bikes, Judbury Community Hall, to our partners Audax Tasmania, and much love for all the Bottles and Chains family who helped make the day memorable.

Rep The Colours!

Holy shit, action on the BnC blog!?

Things have been a bit quiet here, so we’re kicking things off good and proper. It’s been a long time coming, but the brand new Bottles and Chains team kit is finally here! It’s up for pre-order now, on our shiny new webshop. The pre-orders close on January 2, 2017 so you’ve got a little bit of time to rob some pennies, but it’s a busy time of year so don’t wait too long.

Get shopping here.

BnC Team Kit Pre-Order

Rosko Cycles – Custom Single Speed – Part 1



South of the Huon Valley are untold kilometres of dirt roads, pushed into the wilderness by Forestry Tasmania during the bad old days of the Paul Lennon led State Government. These roads track up mountain-sides and along dark river valleys. Picton, Weld, Plenty… names ingrained to the Tasmanian psyche as the ‘front-line’, the places where Protesters halted the chainsaws. The saws have been silent since December 2013 and the roads are quickly returning  to nature. Flooding rivers wash away bridges, culverts collapse leaving holes in the road, saplings push up through the coarse gravel surface. This is no place for a dainty road bike. This is fat tyre country.

I’m a simple guy who likes simple things. No bells, no whistles. I had been looking for a steel, single speed specific, fat tyre dirt road bike to tackle these remote, backcountry roads but was unable to find a bike suitably ‘Spartan’ to my taste. I contacted Seth Rosko, a New York City frame-maker to discuss a custom build. We chewed on a few ideas and came up with a plan. We’d use Columbus steel, canti mounts (with Paul ‘Mini-Motos’ in mind), clearances for a 41c tyre, short rear stays, a low slung bottom bracket, plenty of standover height and a geometry based loosely on one of my favourite bikes. Roll the clock forward twelve months and what we have is what you see above. A single speed dirt road bike.

The new whip is currently winging its way to me. Should have it in hand soon. Will post an update once she is built.

Knopwoods – Calling ‘Last Drinks’


Sad times! The start and finish of the ol’ Bottles and Chains silo runs, as well as being the location of the opening volleys of many a booze-riddled bike ride or big night out. Knocking back jugs before heading up Mt Wellington, hassling the grommet about his choice of drinks, lazy afternoons shipping pints across to the lawns, not-so-subtly lugging liberated glasses home, and many a rainy afternoon hiding away from the world. Plenty of good memories from Knoppies, can’t shut those down. Thanks old friend.