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Kinross Forest death trap: 'It was set up so a motorbike would accelerate and go straight into it'

July 18, 2022

Stock image.

By Peter Holmes

Who is trying to injure the dirt bike riders and cyclists of Orange?

This is a question businessman and dirt bike rider Tully Denahy and many others in the city would like answered.

Denahy was road testing a new 4WD on the weekend at Kinross Forest. He said he’d barely turned a corner off Kinross Lane when he spotted what looked like cassette tape stretched tightly across the road in front of him.

At eye level, it shimmered in the sun. Denahy braked hard and came to rest just centimetres from the dangerous obstacle. It was not cassette tape.

“I thought, ‘Holy shit, that’s not supposed to be there’,” Denahy told The Orange News Examiner. “This is a regulated, signposted road, not like a fire trail. It was set up so that a motorbike would turn the corner, accelerate and go straight into it.”

Denahy hopped out of his new wheels and inspected the line.

“It’s called Spiderwire, and it’s used for deep sea fishing,” he said. “It’s a plastic covered steel line that looks like piano wire. You couldn’t burn it, and I couldn’t cut it with a box cutter.”

The wire had been attached on one side of the road to a log strainer post in a fence line, and on the other to a fallen tree on the edge of what Denahy described as "logging mess".

He managed to unhitch the wire on the fence side and coiled it up.

One type of Spiderwire. Amazon.

Denahy said there had long been a beef between small elements of the groups that use the area for recreation. They include mountain bikers, dirt bike riders, horse riders, families on picnics with bicycles, and 4WD enthusiasts. The Orange News Examiner is not suggesting members of any of these groups were involved.

He said it wasn't the first time such line had been tied across a road in the forest.

Dirt bike riders and cyclists also faced caltrops - nails welded into a spiky pyramid, an "area denial weapon", variations of which date back to Ancient Rome - being scattered on the trails to deflate tyres, he said.

The cyclical logging in the area had drastically reduced the number of trails, which hadn't helped: “Now the logging’s done, only two trails are left.”

Stock image.

Denahy estimated that there used to be more than 50 trails and said they were “all mapped properly, maintained properly. Then the logging comes through. We were left with nothing".

He said logging had made much of the ground unsafe for recreation because of “the timber debris everywhere”.

“Now dirt bikers have to go all the way out the back of Kinross (Forest) to Mount Bulga, and to get there they have to go along the road where the trap was set.”

Denahy said the thoroughfare was also used by families cycling and people on horses. He feared for what could have happened to them if they had travelled into the Spiderwire.

“This would get a child on a bike at about neck height,” he said.

The feeling between mountain bike riders and dirt bike riders goes back some way, said Denahy, who has used the area frequently over several years to ride dirt bikes.

Tully Denahy pointing at the wire. Supplied.

While registered dirt bikes are allowed, unregistered bikes are not. Those who ride in Kinross Forest are typically a mixture of both, Denahy said. While registered bikes had to pass safety and noise emission tests, unregistered bikes obviously did not. That was one cause of the friction, Denahy said.

“The cyclists believe that the unregistered bikes have no business being in the forest,” said Denahy. “And technically, they’re right to be upset. But where else are [riders with unregistered bikes] supposed to ride?”

He argued that souped-up 4WDs made the same amount of noise, and did more damage to the environment, than unregistered dirt bikes.

Denahy said that the majority of cyclists and dirt bike riders got on well, and that it was about all parties treating the others with respect.

An aerial map of the area, showing the logging and Mt Bulga. Google Earth.

“[If I saw a cyclist] I would slow down, pull over to the side. If I saw someone on a horse I’d stop and turn around. Most cyclists are fine [with dirt bike riders].

“I rode out there every day for two years because I take riding seriously, and I reckon two thirds of the cyclists were pleasant and happy to share, no issues.”

Orange City councillor and member of Orange Mountain Bike Club, Dr Steve Peterson, condemned whoever had hung the Spiderwire across the road.

He said he was not particularly aware of tensions between the groups, and said that many mountain bikers were now cycling at Lake Canobolas and Glenwood State Forest Trail.

Peterson said that in the past some dirt bike riders had been responsible for damaging single file mountain biking trails in Kinross Forest, as their bikes weren't suitable for the terrain.

Tully Denahy made the point that the person responsible for the wire was not to know if the first person coming across it would be riding a registered dirt bike, an unregistered dirt bike, a bicycle or a horse. Or in a car or 4WD. Or maybe a runner? Which made it all the more perplexing.

One dirt bike rider, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told The Orange News Examiner that they’d experienced cyclists stopping in the middle of trails, getting off their bikes and using the bike as an obstacle.

One type of caltrop, which is an "area denial weapon". Wiki Commons.

“They wave it at you like it’s a chair to stop you getting past,” they said. “But if your bike gets attached to my motorbike you’re going to get hurt and your bike is going to get damaged. It’s idiotic.”

The rider said that the reason people used unregistered bikes in Kinross Forest was mainly due to cost. They said that an entry-level registered dirt bike would cost between $6,000 and $8,000.

An unregistered bike? About half of that.

“Some bikes just can’t be registered - they’re motocross bikes that have been stripped of everything,” they said.

Tully Denahy described the person who tied the fishing line across the road as a “clown”.

In 2019 the ABC reported on a dirt bike rider who said he felt lucky not to be decapitated when he came off his bike after hitting a high-tensile wire strung up across a forestry road at neck height in Gympie, Queensland.

A few weeks later a group of off-road enthusiasts found copper wire strung across a Gold Coast track popular with dirt bikers and four-wheel drivers, the ABC said.

In March 2021 a cyclist ​in Edinburgh was seriously injured after falling off his bike due to wire being strung across a popular cycle path.

A duty officer at Orange Police Station told The Orange News Examiner that a person responsible for tying high-tensile fishing line across a road could face a number of charges. They said the seriousness would depend on whether the person was charged for the act of putting up the line, or whether the line caused a minor or major accident to occur.

They said police would investigate further if Denahy made a statement. Denahy said he was not confident anything would come of a complaint.

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