Biggles' Day Out Blog
The Adventures of Crash Test Biggles
Introducing Crash Test Biggles
Female Ambassador for Big Boys Toys Expo and wannabe Master of Fun.
A little bit sporty, kind of outdoorsy, a wee bit nerdy, old enough to know better (but I'll do it anyway). A complete dag, but bursting with enthusiasm for new experiences, new places and positive people.
Who is Crash Test Biggles? -
I'm Crash Test Biggles, and I'm going to convince all the ladies out there why you should get along to the Big Boys Toys Expo. Firstly, the 'boys' bit is just a name - Big Boys Toys rolls off the tongue like 'Taco Tuesday' or 'Mojito Wednesday'. It sounds like fun! Secondly, as women we are far too self-deprecating when it comes to spending something or investing time in ourselves.
We'll get a new carpet for the house. A bigger shed for the husband. New sports gear for the kids.
So why don't we invest in ourselves? And why do we put ourselves down? Have you met up with a group of ladies for a run or a social cycle lately?
"I'll be coming up at the rear, as I'm not really fit."
"I'd like to come along, but I'm not a very good hill climber."
Sounds all too familiar?
I hear you asking, "What has this got to do with Big Boys Toys?" Well, let me tell you!
I recently bought my dream mountain bike. I won't lie: it was a little more expensive than a regular out-of-the-box mountain bike. But it's not about the price, it's about the principle of investing in a toy that was hand-built for me and me alone.
And oh my gosh, is it beautiful! Matte-black carbon fibre frame with shiny new blue handlebars. Did I need them? No, actually, as I have a perfectly decent set of bars from my old bike that I could've used...but...they are not shiny and blue, and oh my gosh so damn pretty. Can shiny new blue handlebars bring a person happiness? Absolutely!
Am I a super duper skilled mountain biker? No, I'm not.
Am I the fastest person or the fittest person on the trails? Not even close.
But do I care? No I don't.
Why? Because I get a huge smile when I walk past the spare room and see the wheel poking out. Sometimes at work, when I'm drowning in deadlines, I get a warm feel-good glow throughout my entire body when I think about going for a ride on my new toy in the forest that very afternoon, those pretty blue bars just waiting for me to wrap my mitts around them. My new bike makes me want to get up earlier in the morning so I can squeeze a quick ride in before work. When I'm on the trail it's just the bush, those delightful shiny blue handlebars, and that wonderful luxurious sense of well-being and indulging of a rare moment that's all being about me.
We all need those moments. We all need time to indulge ourselves every once in a while.
And that's what the Big Boys Toys Expo is all about! It's a place to indulge yourself, to test all those big toys you never get to try anywhere else, to let your hair down and treat yourself. So ladies, I dare you to come to the Expo and chat to someone about getting yourself a shiny blue set of handlebars for your bike, or checking out that gizmo, gadget or toy you've always dreamed of, but were too scared to mention that you always really wanted. But be careful ladies, you might not want to leave!
If you are not still convinced the expo is for you? Over the coming months, I, Crash Test Biggles, will be throwing myself out of my comfort zone and working with the team from the Big Boys Toys Expo to test their products, experiences, gadgets, gizmos and thingamabobs, and showing just why you should be experiencing it for yourself.
Who is Crash Test Biggles? She is all of you, out there playing with her big girls' toys.
Those damn new blue shiny new handlebars -
It's been several weeks since I came home with an outrageously amazing new bike with blue handlebars and yes I still love it, if you hadn't already guessed. And yes, I'm still bouncing out of bed in the early morning darkness and going for at least two rides a week before work.
The onset of autumn means it's still cold and dark when I leave but such is the power of the blue handlebars. So, by the power of Greyskull, I'm stepping outside my comfort zone and have entered my first ever cross-country mountain bike race. Gulp. Thanks Big Boys Toys *insert eyeroll here*.
I will be 'funning' it up in the Masters division, which is a polite way of saying you have no racing experience and lets leave the younger people to play together. Masters age division. BAH. So this Sunday, I'll be getting out of bed outrageously early to drive to a forest in the middle of nowhere in the pursuit of fun.
I also just wanted to get it out in the open, right from the outset, that I'm terribly nervous. The event is still days away but I can already feel the butterflies creeping into my stomach while I try and convince myself that everything is normal, nothing to see here people, move along...
If you want to step out your comfortable zone and try something new, I know a place that might just suit you. See you at Big Boys Toys!
My first MTB race, Crash Test Biggles style -
4:30 am. Dark and cold. Mutter, mutter, thanks Big Boys Toys, mutter, mutter.
I stagger around the house and pack up the car. I think I am ready but before I can leave for the race, the ol' butterflies in the bottom of my stomach kick in. Thank goodness for 24 hours McDonalds – a coffee and hash brown pit-stop on the way to the race takes the edge off. I keep telling myself this is just for fun, just to have the experience and gauge what kind of fitness I have from those early morning plays on my new bike. So why the dancing stomach?!
I can't stop talking to the other contestants: it's my mechanism for distracting myself from what's about to unfold. I register, velcro the timing chip to my ankle and zip tie the number plate to those damn blue shiny handlebars. I chortle as the sound of zip ties echo through the cold crisp morning air. Those damn blue handlebars are the reason I am here this morning.
Off I go on the practice lap. The course is damp and the rocks are slippery but nothing too technical. Then the uphill section kicks in. Holy skin tight lycra, Batman! This is one steep hill to climb but the downhill section is gloriously fun. I make it to the end without falling off and I only had to walk three sections. Phew. You know what, I just might get through this. The course is a 4km loop and my 'old lady just wants to have fun' division has to do 2 laps.
The first race is the under 13s on a shortened modified track. I am so glad that I got to watch the kids race as they launch with an enthusiasm, energy and innocence that only young kids can offer. There were crashes, tears, laughter, giggles and squeals. There were kids wearing gum boots and trackie dacks, old t-shirts and Spiderman outfits, and seeing the smiles on their faces as they zoomed by was worth the early morning start.
That's what I'm here for. I want some of that energy!
My race is up next. We have a wave start. Under 19 boys, 1 minute gap, under 19 girls, 1 minute gap, open women, 1 minute gap and then my division. Or something like that. Truth is, I can't really remember as I was in shock as the race organisers tells us that we have to do three laps. WTF. 3 laps?! I'm not sure I have three laps in me! After some good natured banter from the other ladies in my category about "are you really sure it's three laps as the website said it two!", it's time to start racing.
My pack takes off like startled race horses while I try to calm my nerves and ride at my own pace. After a short while, I realise I'm pushing myself harder and harder and attacking that uphill with everything I have. Wow. Not sure where that came from but I'm liking it. On the downhill section, there are some faster riders in front of me. I push myself to stay on their tail and you know what, I do. Aw yeah! Fist pump! By the end of the first lap, I'm thoroughly enjoying myself despite the lung burning and jelly-legs, and my support crew at the finish line screaming and cheering me on results in the biggest, silliest grin all over my face.
By the time I finish, I'm absolutely shattered but I can't stop smiling. I pushed myself harder than I thought I was capable of and loved it. My support crew (two friends) are sucked helplessly into my excitement. There's no escaping the joy I'm experiencing!
I take back my under-the-breath cursing at Big Boys Toys for making me get out of bed early on a Sunday. This experience is one I'm grateful I tried.
Need a little get up and go in your life or an excuse to step over the threshold of your comfort zone? Want to try something new like I did and LOVE IT?
Then I'll see you at Big Boys Toys.
Up, up and away -
Damn you Big Boys Toys, you were RIGHT. I did enjoy stepping way outside my comfort zone.
I did take pleasure launching blindly into a new experience. I learnt so much about myself in the process that it almost scared me. Who knew that I had the capability of pushing myself as hard as I did in that race? My early morning rides will never been the same again.
While conveying my race experience to my friends post-event I can't help but get a little louder, a little more animated and that damn grin sneaks back onto my face as I recount that morning. It's infectious, too - my friends and colleagues seem to reflect my enthusiasm of the day.
So what's next for Crash Test Biggles?!
I am very good at flying...when somebody else is doing it. Flying means kicking back (hopefully in an aisle seat) with my media player and escaping the world for a few moments while this incredible jet powered machine carries me across the country.
Recreational Aviation Australia (formerly known as the Australian Ultralight Federation) have agreed to host Crash Test Biggles. I open their website and I am greeted with an image that looks to me like a flying go-kart with a parachute. Holy lack of oxygen Batman!
Recreational aviation means everyday people like you and me get to cross the fence, step onto the airfield and into the pilot seat of a small aircraft. And its not nearly as hard or expensive as you might think. All you need to do is take that first step.
Biggles is a childhood nickname that I acquired in the one-something age bracket when it seemed like I had the world's biggest feet. It started out as Bigfoot and quickly de-evolved into Biggles by the neighbourhood kids and has been with me ever since. So would you believe that my nickname Biggles has nothing to do with the famous James Bigglesworth aka "Biggles". The fictional pilot, adventurer and star character of the children's books by author W.E. Johns. Surely everyone remembers those books (trying not to show my age here). So is it a coincidence that my next experience is to do with flying?! I think the team at Big Boys Toys are toying with me...Oh the puns just keep coming!
Biggles' Day Out -
Picture this: thousands of feet in the air, I've got my hands on the controls, life or death. Fantastic!
Flying is something I'd always associated with the hustle and bustle of airports, with crying babies and jumbo jets. But the personal experience of flying is so far from this. And so this has been the hardest blog update to write to date because I've been bursting with adrenaline ever since coming down from being 'up'. I’ve been attempting to think of every adjective available to describe Crash Test Biggles' 'Big Day Out'. At a loss for the right words, all I can say is that this was seriously good fun.
I'd set out that morning to meet Neil S, my host for the day (he's the Assistant Operations Manager for Recreational Aviation Australia, although he also goes by the call sign "Buzz Lightyear"). "Look for the little orange plane," he said. From the carpark, it was unmistakable. "Holy skid-marks Batman! I'm going flying in that?"
A short chat with Neil and all my nerves were dispelled. I slid into the passenger seat of the two-seater 600kg plane, buckled myself in and put on the headset. Neil ran through safety and pre-flight checks and before I knew it, we were taxiing along the runway. "Woo Hoo!"
Take off. We were flying!
Neil took me through the controls and then handed them over to me. Apparently it's all about "subtlety" and being "delicate" with the actions. Me? Delicate? Ha! I could just hear my family and friends going to town on me for that one. Regardless, I couldn't afford to get it wrong, so tiny, subtle adjustments it was. Soon after, breaking out of intense concentration, I realised: "I'm flying a plane...!"
You can barely hear the hum of the propellers as you glide through the air. Peaceful, calm and beautiful are the words I'd use to describe the experience. Flying height was between 500 and 10,000 feet and the view was nothing short of spectacular.
The thing that really struck me was the change of perspective. In a landscape that I have driven, hiked, biked and paddled across for many years, being in the air brings a whole new dimension to the countryside and how you view it.
Everyone I met on Biggles' Big Day Out was just so damn friendly and relaxed. It was all about fun - serious fun (safety first, don't you know) - but serious fun. Recreational Aviation Australia is also super accessible - there were kids as young as 14 in the pilot seat!
If you wanted, this could be a stepping-stone for something greater...I know I'm hooked. And I'll be back to see these guys at the Big Boys Toys Expo. To infinity and beyond, Neil.
Meeting with the Devil: Polaris ATV -
Calavera translated to English means skull, which makes my date with the Polaris RZR XP 1000 Calavera Limited Edition at Bayldon Agriculture a dance with the Devil.
I'm sure there are lots of practical reasons for owning an ATV, particularly if you own a large property. But why can't a work horse also be used for glorious, fast paced, muddy fun? And oh what fun it is!
When I arrive at Bayldon Ag I'm greeted by the most bad-ass but sexy looking off-road vehicle I have ever seen.
'Oooh' I gasp. Sitting right in the middle of their showroom floor is the devil himself, tempting me from every angle. I can't take my eyes off it.
110hp Prostar 1000cc engine. Electronic power steering. 30 inch mongrel tyres. All dressed up in an orange, white, and black extreme custom graphics skull theme, inspired by the Latin American Day of the Dead. There are only 206 of these Limited Edition bad boys. Why 206? Because that's how many bones there are in the human body. Each one is numbered so if you pick one up, you'll be certain it's unique.
'Ooooooh' I gasp, as the guys start him up and drive him out of the shop. I am speechless. I never knew the devil was going to be so damn bad ass.
'Oooooooooooh!' I gasp, as I climb into the passenger seat and grip the "Holy S**T!" bar that is conveniently located in front of me.
Arrrrrrggggghhhhhhh!' I scream as my driver launches forward. Holy Contributing to the Delinquency of Minors Batman! Nothing actually prepares you for just how fast this thing goes. It doesn't help that my driver is a former rally car mechanic and co-driver.
As you can tell, I am smitten. The Calavera is a beautiful beast, worthy of the name. And even though I can't justify buying the Limited Edition Polaris, I quickly learn that there are other options available in all shapes and sizes (but none as nearly as sexy or bad ass as the Calavera...Just saying).
If you want to experience a Polaris ATV get down to Big Boys Toys Expo. Please note: I will not be responsible for what happens when you meet the devil. All I know is that you will never be the same.
The ATV experience might be new to some of the ladies at the Expo, but don't be afraid! It's not about ditching being girly. You're allowed to fuss over your hair and indulge in manicures, but if you've always wanted to zoom through the dust with the wind in your face, DO IT! Shine on ladies, get out to the Big Boys Toys Expo and find out what you've missing.
On track at Power Kart Raceway -
As soon as you walk through the doors of Power Kart Raceway you're immersed in a racing world. This is not some backwater go-kart track like we all experienced as a kid. This is a professional, well run setup that's all about going fast, faster and FAST.
I'm glad for the safety barrier, because these things are MOVING. I liken the sound to Indy cars zipping around. I was a tad sceptical at just how fast a go-kart could actually be but seeing these bad boys zooming around the track, all scepticism has been shattered. Disintegrated. Destroyed. BOOM. They are FAST.
Even better: there are no two-stroke fumes to choke down. These speed machines are electric. HUGE bonus. The track is inside so there are no foul weather elements to battle and no dirt and dust flying around. I just can't wait to get in one of these things.
The briefing is quick: they hand over a licence and a ninja-balaclava ski mask to wear under the helmet (the hygiene freak in me says this is super important) before pointing out that the accelerator is on the right and brake on the left. It's race time!
I roll out of the start grid, accelerator flat to the floor and I'm thrown back in my seat. Dang, these things have some serious acceleration!! After the first lap my inner Ayrton Senna emerges and I’m throwing this thing around the track. I don't ever recall go-karts being this fast. Managed to lap a few people. Aw yeah! It's all about the corners.
The race is over far too quickly. My go-karting buddies and I can’t stop grinning at the end. SO MUCH FUN! Of course we make use of the podium to flaunt our victories. I managed a third place and I’m already thinking about how I can save time and change my racing lines.
Thanks, Power Kart Raceway! That was AMAZING!
Running silent with Capital Stealth -
When someone mentions an electric bike, I immediately think of those hideous looking folding e-bikes that assist riders by saving energy when pedalling (and overtake me on the daily commute to and from work, resulting in a muttering under my breath and if I can be bothered an eyeroll).
Wrong. I was oh so very, very wrong.
The hybrid electric bikes from Capital Stealth are not your average electric bikes. One quick glance at capitalstealth.com.au website will bust any pre-conceptions you had. These things are BAD ASS.
We rendezvous at Tuggeranong Pines so I can try one of these things out. As soon as Capital Stealth vehicle pulls up with these glorious machines on the back, the mountain biker in me is drooling.
To put it quite simply, I'm in love. My first chariot is the Fighter, 34kgs and a top speed of 60km/hr. One run on the Fighter and you too will be addicted. The Fighter looks like a mountain bike, complete with pedals but with a zesty engine so you don't have to pedal! I BRRRRAAAAAAP to the top of the hill and cruise down the single track. It's heavier than my downhill bike so it took a few laps before I could get it off of the ground but DAMN ME! This thing is FUN.
I also got to test ride the Hurricane, in the style of a motor bike with fixed pegs. Top speed of 80km/h no less! I was getting into all sorts of (good) trouble with this one as it's been a long time since I've ridden a motorbike but it was still fun. The electric engines are ninja-quiet. I am convinced my downhill mountain bike is noisier than these electric-hybrid machines.
My other worry was that an electric bike would spend all its time plugged into the mains instead of out on the track. No fear! These bikes charge in just 2 hours. A quick recharge in the morning and they're ready to roll!
If you want to be acquainted with your own kick ass experience, you can find the Hurricane and The Fighter from Capital Stealth at the Big Boys Expo.
Total Action Sports - The Big Daddy Skateboard -
So for the next adventure...
But not just any skateboarding. ELECTRIC skateboarding.
I've snowboarded and tried wakeboarding but never a skateboard, let alone an electric skateboard. So of course, I Google to find out what I'm getting in to.
The Total Action Sports website greets me with the 'Big Daddy' of skateboards: chunky monster truck looking tyres and a beefy engine for off-road riding. Once again, any previous thoughts I had about skateboarding have been completely busted by the team at the Big Boys Toy Expo.
The Big Daddy electric skateboard and Darius from Total Action Sports are easily spotted in the middle of the park. The Big Daddy is the biggest skateboard I have ever seen but up until recently, I have never paid attention to skateboards. It even has tail lights!
Darius gives me the low down. It has three speeds, and is controlled by a hand held remote control shaped like a toy gun.
"But does it have brakes?" I nervously ask.
Yep: ABS brakes! But I'm told to go easy because if I jam on the brakes I'll go flying over the end of the board in a classic AOT manoeuvre.
I tentatively step on the Big Daddy, wiggle around, get my balance, pretend that I know what I'm doing, convince myself that grass is actually a bed of pillows and slowly pull the trigger. The Big Daddy creeps forward.
I'm surprised at how stable I feel on the board. At first it feels weird that I'm holding a toy gun in my hand and the controller is disconnected from the board but before too long, I love the freedom this offers. Turning is so simple! All you do is lean. From accelerating, braking and turning, the Big Daddy is so straightforward and simple to use.
I manage a couple low speed turns. Okay, it's time to get this baby up to medium speed. I leave the 'safety' of the nice soft grass and head for the pavement to see how fast thing can really go. Yep, the Big Daddy moves along. Now let's get to maximum speed!
At max, the Big Daddy feels like unrestrained racehorse. I never quite reach top speed, not even close to the 35km per hour that this thing can do. Yes, you read that right – 35km per hour! The off road tyres handled the grass, gravel and pavement with ease. Darius tells me he has just returned from the beach with this thing. It weighs approx. 30kg but to me it feels much lighter. I've decided I want one. Maybe I can buy one for my nephew as an excuse for me to ride it. Hmmmm...
I'm honestly sold on the Big Daddy for its off road capabilities. I'll see you and the team from Total Actions Sport at Big Boys Toy Expo!
Tortured Gum Brewery -
What's better than kicking back with a nice cold beer? Enjoying one you've brewed yourself! Thanks to Craig and Jane at Tortured Gum Brewery for showing me how it's done!