Once the sighting lap is complete, you can ride lap after lap at your own pace until your arms are shaking on a Find-N-Trax forest ride.
The last FIND-N-TRAX ride would be in the beautiful Second Valley, deep in South Australia’s Fleurieu Peninsula. Once a year riders are allowed into this special forest, and that’s only with Find-N-Trax. Each year Gerry Jongebloed, the founder of Find-N-Trax puts on three forest rides, each in a different forest. I’ve done 10 Find-N-Trax Forest rides now, and loved them all.
Gerry also knows how to read a weather forecast. Today the sun shone and conditions were perfect, despite it being mid May and also Mother’s Day. Like 106 other riders braving a frosty reception from wives and mothers on return I set off with that nervous energy before a full day’s epic riding. One that challenges your skill and fitness through slippery technical forest tracks. Like usual I hydrated for the day by skulling a litre of water that morning and downing a B-Grade coffee and arrived ready to burst with the back teeth floating.
Then it’s the usual process, unload your bike, catch up with mates, have a chat with the riders in cars next to you and wander down to sign on. Next you kit up and get the rider briefing before riding a sighting lap as a whole group. There’s a ‘short loop’ usually 8km and a long loop around 22km through the forest. Both loops start and finish at the same point, connecting up along the trails. Once the sighting lap is complete, you can ride lap after lap at your own pace until your arms are shaking, then reload with a hot bacon & egg sandwich.
The Second Valley forest trail dips straight into a steep downhill, along a rough winding single track. You learn to expect deep ruts, off camber corners at the bottom of slippery hills, exposed damp tree roots, endless trails snaking up, down and around hills and all set with rich dark forest soils. Over the day the ruts get a bit deeper, the roots more exposed and the course that little bit trickier. Countering it, your riding improves along with confidence and it’s a perfect challenge.
For sure these trails make us better riders. To quote Gerry who cut his teeth here as an enduro racer “if you can ride these trails well, you can ride enduro.”
Every now and then, you get relief from the tight forest single trail and pop out on a wider fire trail where the speeds increase before turning back into the forest. From bright sunlight fire trail’s to dark conditions, where the trees are so thick you see your headlight beam bouncing off the trees. There’s always slippery damp sections and you’ll see many riders take a hilarious spill only to get straight back up again.
Later on I caught up with Gerry for a chat, and some backstory. It turns out he has a few yarns that only a 76 year old with a lifetime of racing dirtbikes and organising events could have.
“Ah, Ed. You’re writing an article for ADB right? I know those lads. In 1986 I was racing the 24 hour Reliability Trial and Geoff Eldridge (ADB’s founding editor) turned up. Of course he’d driven all the way from NSW and didn’t have a chance to pre-ride the track, which is what you had to do in those days, so he just followed me thinking I’d know the course.
“Well, the headlight on my 125 was crap and I ended up face down in the mud because his light threw my shadow ahead of me and I couldn’t see. He asked if I was alright but it was hard to speak with a mouth full of mud and my goggles totally blacked out with the stuff. Anyway I battled on and won the 125 class that year and he put in a finish and then bagged me in an article for not talking to him!”
Ed. These rides are awesome and are the reason many guys get back into riding including me, but what drives you to organise them?
It’s a labour of love. I grew up riding these forests. The ranger used to let my two brothers and I ride here. Then I loved my time racing bikes and had the odd small win.
I raced an ‘84 KTM250 in the 1985 A4DE in the SA Junior Team at the age of 39, and we came second. I raced enduro for years and won the inaugural Alice Springs Masters Enduro outright in 1988. I started setting enduro events in SA forests and in 2003 set up and ran the A4DE. I then moved on to four years as a steward at the Australian Safari followed by getting the SOARC set up and running in SA.
I handed over the SAORC after five years. Motorcycling South Australia awarded me Lifetime Membership for the effort, a very great honour. I then founded Find-N-Trax. and have been running rides for 12 years. I get a kick out of seeing you guys enjoying my trail rides.
My past history with ForestrySA using the various forests for motorcycle events over 40 years has given me the ability to gain forest access and continue giving younger riders a place to ride. South Australia has no access to any forests except in those events.
Ed. It must be tons of work, do you get much help?
The guys you see here in hi-vis vests, many of them have been great racers, ex-champions and great mates from my racing days. At older ages they’re still fast, for example Paul over there has done 24 x 24 hour reliability trials and is doing another this year despite being 70. He’s still good at what he does.
David is a two time Australian A4DE class champion, multi SA champion and that’s just pointing out two. We are all mates and still enjoy each other’s company.
When it comes to setting the courses it’s hard work. I normally walk them and use the quad for the road and track sections but this year it was all walking and an E-bike for longer sections. As you know, the long loop alone is 23km and it’s very steep and hilly! I have walked for 38 hours over three weeks marking the course, and lost 2kg in the process, I must be one of the fittest 76 year olds around.
Ed: Phew! It was hard enough riding my Husky round that long loop. What else is hard about putting on these rides?
Well you need to get somewhere good to ride. Access is not easy. I work closely with the ForestrySA rangers and had to deal with pollies and government bodies to make these rides happen. Their main concern is potential damage to the roads and fire trails so I have put up a bond, and then myself on the hook for any potential damage and reparation costs afterwards.
I also caught up with a few punter riders to get their feedback on the event.
Ben Whitlock – 2022 KTM350 EXC WESS edition
Number of Find-N-Trax rides: Lots!
What brings you here: I love it. We have a great big group of mates who ride. We actually just got back from a trip to the high country. It’s great fun, great fitness and good for men’s health.
Shane – KTM500
What brings you here: I’m a sweep and love going on these rides. We rode the course Saturday, that’s the sweeps privilege getting a lap the day before.
Number of Find-N-Trax rides: Six years worth, so 18 rides as a sweep.
What does being a sweep involve? Having fun! Looking out for rider safety, fixing any bunting knocked down, helping riders if they’ve had a breakdown, run out of fuel, strayed off the course, we’re just there to help basically. We lap continuously. We also make sure riders respect the signs, and the river crossings and so we can all enjoy the forest rides next time.
Zack Langworthy – : 2022 KTM250 EXC TPI
Number of Find-N-Trax rides: My 1st!
What brings you here? Some mates recommended it. And I’ve had a ball. It’s different to the riding I normally do and a great challenge being in a forest.
Tim Pengilly – 2020 Sherco SEF500
Number of Find-N-Trax rides: 10
What brings you here: They’re always great fun. We have a great collection of mates who turn up. It’s both our social and sporting fun. Plus if you’re into dirt bikes this is as good as forest riding gets.
Edward Hartley (author) – 2023 Husqvarna FE501
Number of Find-N-Trax rides: 10
What brings you here: The same as everyone else. It’s fun, social and demanding riding. At the end of the day you’ll be sore no matter how fit you are. It’s so good for your technical skills and just fun. The only problem is the day goes so fast!
ENTER ONLINE: Find-n-trax.com.au
WHEN: Normally three rides a year between May – October
WHERE: Any three forests in South Australia from; Second Valley, Bundaleer, Mt. Crawford, Wirrabara, or Mt. Burr.
HOW MUCH: $140 (that includes lunch, a donation to Foodbank, medical support and epic trails).
REQUIREMENTS: A motorcycle licence and registered dirt bike (rec & club rego is ok).
Fun Factor: 10/10 (make the trip!)
THE FULL FEATURE IS IN ISSUE #529 (OF ADB)