Must Ride: Alice Springs, NT

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Words by Chris Southwood | Images by Reiner Schuster (video and stills)

Flying into towards Alice Springs from Sydney is like watching some incredible abstract painting unfurling in front of your eyes; a canvas of swirling colours and ripples, like a pond with a rock lobbed in. As you near Alice itself the ripples consolidate into larger and larger peaks and cliff lines, eventually compressing into the impressive McDonnell Range that looms over the town.

I’d refused to buy into the hype about Alice Springs, but as the wheels touched down and I saw the landscape around me from ground level for the very first time, I began to grasp the potential here. I lived for a few months in Moab, Utah, one of the most revered mountain biking destinations on the planet. Alice looked remarkably similar, with the same ancient crumbly escarpments, open terrain unrestrictive of trail building, big red rocks… it was all eerily familiar, albeit with the altitudes shrunk down a bit.

Like nowhere else in Australia.

When we hit the trails the next morning, early so as to beat the still-hot sun, it really sunk in: the crushed granite and quartz singletrack under my wheels was world-class, right up there with Moab. Over the next few days we rode trails that rivalled anything I’ve experienced in Australia, and around the world, and there’s so damn much of it.

Looks good, huh?

Three main trail ‘centres’ cluster around Alice, like a clover leaf, all within five minutes’ ride from the middle of town. And once you’re out there, you really out there, you can lose sight of town and civilisation in a heart beat.

For our visit, on the tail end of summer, the middle of the day was still roasting (winter is gorgeous all day long though) forcing us to ride early or late. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Sunrise and sunset is pure magic – “like swimming through cider” – with golden light making the reds and oranges or the landscape glow like they’re lit from within.

As the sun sets, the rocks change colours by the second.

I admit that I’m prone to effusive frothing, but Alice is the real deal. The terrain is magnificent and completely unique in Australian mountain biking. The trails are as endless as the sky is vast and it’s all there, three hours from anywhere in Australia. Drop by.

 

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