OL' DIRTY 2018: FULL METAL RACKET
Episode 2 of the 2018 Dirty Trilogy; a day where gravel and next level off-road surfaces would reign supreme when compared to the terrain riders found themselves on during Episode 1 at the Tour de Beechworth. If there’s one free for all off-road frenzy that we were going to stick in the warm, gooey centre of this trilogy of extreme sports bike riding, it’s the Hells 500 Ol Dirty.
2018 marked the fourth straight year we would officially attend, and another occasion in which we would be invited by Staff Sergeant AVB of the Hells 500 itself to play a special role in shaping the day. The mission was alarmingly simple, yet still asked for as much firepower as possible. This led us to assembling an Elite Special Forces crew simply known as Souper Fi. All guns blazing we gathered in the heart of the Dandenongs, ready to take on every Double Black Diamond line we could find. Photos come via Adrian, Ben and Ron – despite us entering a war zone no drones would feature, we haven’t quite reached MW2 levels just yet. Ooo-rah!
For the second year running we were tasked with putting together the official event playlist. An event so full of vibrations called for a curated list of songs that would do the weapons and bluetooth speakers strapped to bikes justice. We wanted to make sure everyone was hitting the battlefield jacked, and as far as we were concerned this mix of synthesised and classical beat drops would do just that.
Inspiration was taken from our playlist of 2017 – a unique blend of songs paying homage to the history of this fabled ride, before we took you on a transatlantic journey. Chants, army training like drum beats flowed into mumble wrap and hella bars from the city of Atlanta, Future’s “Fuck Up Some Comma’s” straight drop punting you over into the streets of London where some of the toughest contemporary grime artists made you wish 15 year olds shopping at SuperGlue hadn’t ruined the common tracksuit.
Wrapping things up was Americana into sludge into fucking Slayer. Songs that rustled leaves from the trees as you bombed down single track, each song placing themselves among the mudshred through lyrical content, song or band name.
II: BASE CAMP
Arriving into Base Camp brought on many memories of early drill exercises and routines. That wake up at dawn, hydrate, rehydrate, hydrate some more. Cleaning our chosen weapons, our uniforms, ourselves. Weeks and months and years of hard work and supreme dedication came down to this on mission day. A final checklist before our mission briefing ensuring we had everything locked and loaded, and wouldn’t be heading into battle a clip short.
ITEM ONE: A Killer Fade
Rich Kemp from barbering and everesting on a Melbourne bike fame was slicing and dicing the follicles pre-ride. If hair was getting in your eyes it was trimmed – vision couldn’t be impeded on this day. Heads were moulded and sculpted into a more aerodynamic fashion, which in the latter parts of the days battle would pay great dividends as fellow fighters began to slow.
ITEM TWO: War Paint
To pay homage to seminal comedy film The Waterboy (1998), various other American Football films and TV shows (Remember the Titans, Friday Night Lights) and to blend into our surrounds in the name of #stealth, face paint was applied. Keeping the glare down, becoming one with the forest and showing that you meant business was all part of the pre-roll out process.
ITEM THREE: Camo
We’d put the call out to our recruits new and old to don suitable camp for such mission. Some went traditional, others looked to showcase the future of on-bike military wear, while many went for the lumber yard militia vibe. Patched, embroidered, torn, bulletproof, each and every member put their own spin on their uniform, but most importantly they wore it with pride and with the kind of steely resolve that would ensure the mission would be a success.
ITEM FOUR: Tactical Goggles
Keeping mud, rocks, sticks, branches and leaves out of the eyes would be paramount when ducking and weaving through the tight confines of the war zone. For many, a build it HUD connected to Strava or Wahoo UAV’s would also play an important role in letting the rider know the status of their energy, ammunitions and current location.
ITEM FIVE: Caffeine
Heart palpitations coming on strong and fast as the first battle cry approached, many turned to the solace of a warm cup of filter coffee as one last goodbye to Base Camp. The inner warmth it would provide let you reminisce of “back home”, of summer days with your loved ones, and pressed the heart a little further into the outside of your rib cage. You felt alive, you felt ready for what lie ahead.
ITEM SIX: War Hound
As far as we can tell (after consultation with a number of war historians and elite level FPS gamers) is that Killing Them With Kindness™️ via the deployment of War Hounds has been a wildly underrated tactic. Surpassing the warmth and heart feels that a steady dose of caffeine provided, the aura of War Hounds strolling through Base Camp caught our brothers and sisters in arms unaware, the gift of their presence a cause for celebration as we completely escaped the thoughts and fears of the mission ahead.
III: TUTORIAL MISSION
With each company gathered in the field of the Base Camp, our Staff Sergeant would give his mission briefing. The first wave of our mission would be the longest of a 2 prong attack. The second would be shorter, it would be more difficult, but it would also pose the greatest reward if we were willing to jump in the deep end and take the appropriate risks.
Halfway through divulging this important intel, members of the Sierra Kilo Forces hastily arrived on the scene. Unsure if they were the superiors of our Staff Sergeant, they immediately took control, citing that the “situation had changed.” They immediately got us to work – no time to practice throwing flash bangs, swapping out to pistols or ducking and weaving through Killhouse, it was time to go old school with tyres, crawling and pushing through adversity (breathing in flare smoke).
IV: CAMO UPGRADES
It was rocking our unique blend of camouflage that we hit the opening stretch of our mission – a fire road cutting through the heart of the Dandenong ranges. Our Blue Tiger camouflage had been achieved by obtaining 75 headshots with our weapons of choice, exceptions being made for shotguns and pistols, requiring only 50 and 25 headshots respectively. Similar to “Woodland” and “Desert” just black and blue, or in the case of Nick with a wavey inclusion of subtle crimson – this camouflage functions quite well at Blue Light Disco’s or within the photographic realm of Tungsten white balance.
Being that it is a camouflage that needs to be earned as opposed to one that it just handed out at random, as we joined brothers and sisters in arms on the fire road climb, through the first section of twisted single track, and through hucking it off banked sections early on, others would know that we were well on our way to our first Prestige.
Ensuring supplies were constantly at premium levels, Private Brando kept in close quarters at all time, ready to spool out equipment from a support pack filled with spares, snacks and a defibrillator. His special role came with a unique camo to match – his Lumber Yard Militia tech wear displaying a series of intertwined red crosses signalling his importance.
IV: SLIDING DOWN GRADES
As is common with Ol Dirty missions, the first push out of Base Camp is always designed to create rapport among the ranks, but thin the charging light brigade out as to not turn us into an easy target. Following a chance to regather and take attendance at the top, only one thing was left to undertake this first part of our mission – bomb it all the way to the bottom.
Not needing any further invitation, and something of a loose unit among Souper Fi, Benno led the charge. The rest of our squad would follow suit, knowing that the dust left by their fellow squad member would do well to keep them hidden from enemy eyes.
V: ADVANCED WARFARE 14
In an era booming with e-bikes we give you this: the Moterra. Cannondale have gone and commissioned a band of creative young minds who normally spend their waking hours messing around with and on their Alienware computers to piece together this overclocked motherfucker. Just look at it. Bosch drivetrain, a frame fashioned from the weapons of the future, tyres that could take on any terrain the days mission would throw at us. To boot it up and install all required drivers was Benno, taking it for an early morning spin within Base Camp, ensuring that no lag would be unexpectedly dropping in for a cup of tea amidst the battle.
And aboard such a steed? Ron. Somewhere in this thing is at least 2 Nvidia graphics cards, and somewhere in the realm of 20 quad core processors, powered by 2 quad core processors of the riders own. Not since the first Crysis dropped have we seen such a unique level of tech both in rideplay and graphic quality – the only difference being that an elaborate cooling system isn’t required to get this one boosted to 11.
VI: BOSNIAN FOREST
The forest would open up briefly, the lurking eyes of hikers making us realise that we needed to return to the dense and dank refuge of the trees. Deep and hard we would go, grinding up the side of a short steep hill covered in trees and thicc shrubs that kept us blanketed from prying eyes around and above.
Once reaching the top we regathered, more by force than by choice. A steep, slippery drop where the forest reopened would be our last hurdle towards safer passage, riders from our squad and others paused for a moment at the edge of the opening assessing the situation before dropping down through the gauntlet.
Safety on the other side would greet us warmly, members of other squadrons taking small tumbles but making it across unscathed. Shrouded in the depths of sequoia forest we were able to push on to be rewarded with fast flowing single track and a few jumps and obstacles that added a little spice to our final push back to Base Camp.
VII: THIS IS MY RIFLE
In the depths of the sequoia forest we had the overwhelming fear that we were being watched. Despite the shade of the dense forest hiding us from the eyes in the sky, there was the very real potential that we were being stalked by enemy riflemen. With potential to be stranded within the tight, restrictive path we would follow, we became one with our weaponry and recited:
This is my bike. There are many like it, but this one is mine.
My bike is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master the Milly Rock, and as I must master my life.
Without me, my bike holds no resale value. Without my bike, I am but a series of disproportioned muscles haphazardly attached to a skeleton. I must ride my bike true. I must ride faster than the enemy who is trying to drop me. I must beat them, chop their wheel if I must.
My bike and I know that what counts in the peloton is not the turns we pull, the bidon’s we share or the KOM’s we win. We know that it is the yell of “Car Back!” that counts. We will ride the road travelled or less travelled, and we will not pay rego for my bike is human, even as I, because it is my life. Thus, I will learn it as a brother or sister. I will learn its weaknesses, its strength, its parts, its accessories, its shifting and its braking capabilities.
I will keep my bike clean and ready, even as I am clean and ready. We will become part of each other. We will…
Before the Lord Tom Boonen I swear this creed. My bike and I are the defenders of my CC. We are the masters of our enemy. We are the saviours of my life, and a lowered burden on our traffic.
So be it, until there is no enemy, but peace. Amen.
VIII: THE BENNO SHOW
Earlier that week, with a shiny new bike in his stable, Corporal Benno was umming and ahhing over which primary weapon would be best suited to his first Ol Dirty battle. The sleek and slender Bombtrack he had just acquired offered itself an agile package, but quite potentially not enough stopping power, while the other choice, the choice he made – the RIGHT choice – was his Inner hardtail. With the firepower of a heavy gunner but the movement agility of infinite sprint and pistol, he took to the Dandenong fire and single trails like a man possessed.
His efforts throughout the day were more than welcomed, and more than appreciated. Every descent he would be followed by the crowds wanting to catch a glimpse of a master of his craft in action, and any opportunity to stretch the hands, or to give the tyres a breather from their bump n grind with Mother Earth, he more than happily obliged.
IX: DROP ZONE
Troops slowly trickled back into base camp, some doing better than others. The HBC Elite had suffered zero casualties, but through the trickiness of war they limped back precariously awaiting a consolation feed, one of their retro APC’s officially decommissioned.
What greeted us was a hefty supply drop arranged by the commanders in charge. Haribo Gold Bears, Bertie Beetles the classic sweet pick me up, while a feed pack was divvy’d out to the platoon to provide the sustenance for the final part of our mission, and what was billed as the hardest.
X: THE 2018 DOUBLE BLACK DIAMOND LOOP
Named after the World’s Most Recognised Double Diamond Expert: Ben Lehner, the final part of our mission out of Base Camp would immediately prove the predictions and warnings correct. Twisting uphill single track made going difficult, and only became easier for a moment where the track widened. Respite was never on offer as we progressively made our way up the hardest of slogs, proof that for those sitting in luxury atop e-MTB’s there truly were no winners in war.
Our reward would be hectic. It would be the option t go AWOL. We had suffered and endured the worst of the battle, and now if we so chose – we were handed the spoils of victory on a silver platter, but with a gun hidden under the napkin. Our way out and back to Base Camp and official and permanent friendly territory? A series of all mountain and downhill track – terrain perfectly suited to those on cyclocross bikes and gravel grinders.
It was dive bombing down this textbook example of a double black diamond line that our minds were cast back to our Instagram feed, and shared stories of the day. Showing a high level of resolve in the stress and excitement of battle, knee-bashing levels of dare and extreme-ness, and a willingness to push on against the odds, the winners of the first ever SBC x H500 Double Black Diamond Award goes to the elite tactical pairing of Squid Steve and Kate. Preparing themselves for their next battles will be Soup Bæs CX team issue wear, and size small, handheld Hells 500 Jerry Cans and socks.
XI: FINAL KILL WITH THE PUMP ACTION
Knowing we were safe among enemy territory, and like it was during the post-campaign credits, a small side mission appeared on our way back to the Navara APC. Locking and loading, firing off the last remaining shotgun shells was Benno, getting full value from his weapon choice for the day, and wrapping up yet another successful mission.