The old adage that pain is close to pleasure is no truer than in the sport of mountain biking. Pushing your body to its mental and physical limits as you climb towards a seemingly never ending mountain peak gives you a seriously rewarding experience. Hurtling back down the slippery, rocky mountain with just a helmet and flimsy two-wheeler between you and catastrophe is one of the best adrenaline experiences man can taste.
Stromlo Forest Park is situated around 30 minutes from central Canberra in the surrounding mountains. After being burned out by the 2003 bushfires the area has recovered and been designated as a purpose built outdoor recreation area.
The mountain bike area takes you to the observatory at the peak and back down at lightning speeds. Don't worry though, there are cured and well maintained tracks for all different fitness and experience levels.
For the more casual riders, you can take a laid back ride around the valley or follow the scenic road up to the peak. There is plenty of wildlife along the way and stunning views once you reach the observatory.
For those who back their abilities there are dozens of harder tracks featuring rocky outcrops, slippery climbs, endless switchbacks, impossibly narrow gaps, cliff hugging trails and spectacular views most of the way up. These tracks can also take you to the best views over Canberra in the area.
Just to give you a bit of extra motivation, Scope Cafe sits up the top of the climb (yes you can drive there, but where's the sense of achievement in that). The food is brilliant and you can knock back the pain with a glass of beer or wine whilst enjoying those uninterrupted views.
The way down is a lot quicker, and is also much more dangerous. The adrenaline pumps as you wind your way back down steep and sometimes slippery tracks with ominous names such as 'the luge' and 'roller coaster'. It's not uncommon to see Lycra clad riders whiz past in a flash.
The resident adrenaline junkies seem to think this isn't enough so they've spent months building their own BMX track complete with steep banks and perilous jumps. It's just awe inspiring watching these guy go about their daring idea of fun.
If you don't feel like going to the peak the park features a bike 'playground' too. The playground is a short trail near the base of the park featuring many different terrains including tree ramps, jumps and drops of varying sizes.
Stromlo also sponsors a few professional riders known as the Park Pros. The pros compete nationally and internationally and are available to contact to help you out with your own riding. If you'd like to help the park you can join in on trail maintenance days... presumably to keep it somewhat safe (in their eyes).
Exploring the various downhill, cross country, mountain cross and trail facilities is sure to rekindle that special childhood passion of riding a bike, albeit in a much more thrilling manner. With tracks for all difficulty levels no one has an excuse to turn down the opportunity!