I’m not sure about the rest of you, but the love I felt for my first down-hill bike can never be forgotten. My 18 kilo second hand 2003 Rotwild RFR frame was re-built for me in the small Scottish Highlands town of Aviemore (where I happened to share a house with a relatively unknown cyclist named Danny Macaskill!). I unfortunately had to leave her behind when I returned home to Australia, but the memories I have of learning to ride down some awesome rock gardens and steep snowy terrain will stay with me forever.
I do miss having my first MTB with me or it could be the memories that I hold onto from this time in my life where I was much younger and fitter. I often think to myself about how nice it would be to ride for hours without wishing my bike was lighter or even an E-Bike. I was just happy to be on a bike when I first ride my Rotwild and it didn’t matter if it was carbon or not. We were the perfect partners. She had adjustable Fox float travel and Manitou Black Forks that ensured I was always able to match my ride to my mood. She was a tank but when I rode her it was smooth, and I always finished.
If you are nostalgic about this era of Mountain Biking - where every bike was an experiment, the chance of your frame snapping was high and the first debate between clip-ins and flats really started - then I have a must-do stopover in South-Australia for you.
In the small township of Willunga, SA you will find an 1852 barn that is home to Australia’s first Mountain Bike Museum (though some might argue it’s an excuse to expand the garage which was overflowing with mountain bikes. It is this over-abundance, however, that allows us to relive the 90s nostalgia and the retro bikes of days gone by. The location of the museum is conveniently located to ensure you are within range of some of the state’s best MTB tracks.
The awesome curators and visionaries of Australia’s first Museum of Mountain bikes are Joe Mullan and Krischan Spranz. Having both entered the racing scene in the 90s, these two old boys have recaptured the amazing feels they had from riding and racing their bikes in this pivotal turning point for this sport.
I think we can all be a little jealous that these two get to hang out and talk bikes with their bike buddies all day. So why did they decide to open an MTB museum?
“Well, we thought, why not!? The sport and industry have now hit an age where a few generations have experienced it and with such a fast maturity curve (materials, suspension, mass manufacturing, racing limits being pushed) it was time to celebrate the pioneers and the innovators that pushed all these elements forward. In fact, our nominated 'Mentor Museum' is the Australian National Motor Museum...they were incredibly pleased to take us under their wing as they have been the 'new kids on the block' until now, that is, as a subject matter compared to fine art and historical artefacts. So, with such a rich story to tell and such a diversity of approaches that has got us here (to 2022) we thought it's time to start capturing and sharing the history.”
Deep inside what they call the ‘Cave of Wonders’ you really start to appreciate how far this sport has come. The walls are lined with iconic brightly coloured frames from the 90s with biking technology and trends that shaped the mountain biking community to what we see it as today. As Joe stated,
“Yarp, the 90's was the one. It was the decade of constant leaps and changes on all fronts. Other decades had huge changes in single or limited categories, but they didn’t shape the industry to the same extent. That’s not to say the 90's was the 'best'...wow there were some abominations and bad bets back then! did EVERYTHING snap?”
Between Joe and Krischan, they have expertly restored many bikes with original specs. These bikes, well 40% of them, are from their own personal collections. The space is filled with genuine, first of its kind forks, coils, shocks, SPDs and even magazines. If you happen to have a retro bike or parts lying around and are willing to part with your baby from the 90s, then this is the place to donate it to. One area that may need attention though is the sexy biking apparel. Where it was less about protection and more about the midriffs… and not for the women.
In a world where everyone wants the next best thing, we can all take a lesson from Joe and Krishan and appreciate what we already have. Dust off those old frames you have hiding in the back of the garage, it is time to show them a little love and an upgrade. Get on that old girl and ride!
Make a weekend of it and add Australia’s Museum of MTB to your next must do’s. You may already know that South Australia have great road and gravel riding options available. Were you also aware that they hold brand new trails funded by Forestry South Australia with many new and exciting projects in the works?!
Joe highly recommends hitting the trails @foxcreekbikepark @bikemelrose @kersbrook @sturtgorge @OHalloranhill. With Willunga being in Maclaren Vale Wine region you will find many cellar doors ready for a spot of wine tasting and plenty of accommodation options. Fox Creek Bike Park is located in the Adelaide Hills with spectacular locations to rest your head after a day of riding South Australia’s #1 MTB Trail, Blues Groove.
Gather your riding buddies and book in a time to meet with Joe and Krishan to relive the era that helped direct mountain biking into becoming one of Australia’s fastest growing sports.
A good day is day spent on your Mountain Bike.
Written by Courtney Nicholson.
Courtney is a local legend in her mtb community. When not shredding the trails herself, Courtney is a core member of the Chicks Who Ride Bikes management team, helping empower, encourage and enable female riders to feel more confident on their bikes.