Opinion: Big Cities vs Small Towns – Part 1: The Big Smoke

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Words by Nic Learmonth | Images by Internets

Itinerant Kiwi Flow-ster Nic Learmonth has lived in towns of every shape and size, from cities of over four million people to a nine-street ‘township,’ most recently leaving her latest home, in Alice Springs, for a three-month stint in Melbourne. So Nic’s well placed to kick-off the big cities vs small towns debate.


Big cities are choice. And I really do mean ‘choice’. When you’re in a place with a population that’s measured in millions, you can easily spend a leisurely Friday morning at your desk mulling over the big decisions in life.

Which bike shops shall I visit this weekend? What bike models do I want to take for a test spin? Hey, wasn’t there a demo day on somewhere? Which trail was that, again? Weren’t Jo and Steve talking about heading out to the Youies on Saturday arvo? Hmm… but if I ride with them, I’ll be too stuffed to ride in Sunday’s six-hour.

And so on. Us mountain bikers who live in a big city are spoilt for choice.

First up, Australia’s cities are really nice places to live; last August Melbourne was named the nicest city to live In The World. For the third time running. Also in the top ten were: Adelaide (fifth), Melbourne’s archrival Sydney (seventh), and Perth (ninth). No wonder one in two Australians call a big city home. And thanks to our 13 million urban neighbours, city dwelling mountain bikers have our choice of choices.

Bike shops

A quick google reveals that I have seven bike shops within a 5-kay radius of my apartment in Melbourne. Of course, being in Carlton, two of them specialise in electric bikes, and a third stocks a full range of fold-up and electric bikes – including the BH Emotion Neo Jumper 650B electric mountain bike. See? Told you we have more choice than we can shake a stick at.

More bike shops equals more brands and models to choose from. Yes, there’s a reason Flow HQ is outside the Sydney CBD – riding past all those bike shops on Kent and Clarence streets gets very expensive very quickly.

Now, can I be bothered riding up those hills at Forrest this weekend, or should I drop by Dolomiti Electric Bikes on my way out of town?

Access to trails

The words ‘city’ and ‘mountain bike tracks’ might not seem like regular companions, but trust me, living in the city gives you access to a tonne of good tracks. Just load up your bike, grab a coffee and program Lysterfield or the You Yangs into Navman. Or grab some mates and spend the weekend dirtbagging and riding in your favourite singletrack destination. Once you’ve cleared that peak hour crush, every track in the state leads to your next feed station.

Events and demo days

Just in case you need some more motivation to get out, there is always a race, a festival or a demo day on somewhere in the city or within a few hours’ drive.

More people

Birds with like-coloured feathers love to hit the trails together, and living in a population-dense environment can only increase the odds of you meeting people with the same warped sense of humour and compatible weekly riding schedule.

Training’s easier in bigger cities, too. You will almost certainly live a respectable riding distance from your workplace, too, so you can pack in a solid number of kays every day. And let’s not forget that cities attract road cyclists the way a hearty steak draws the flies, so no matter where you are and what your training window is, there will always be a bunch ride to suit.

And if your current training bunch or singletrack crew is not quite you, no worries. The Urban Jungle riding scene is so big you can afford to drop them as quick as they drop you – there’s always a new club to ride with and another café within crawling distance.

The final word

These are the joys of living in the Urban Jungle. The choice is yours. If you live in the Big Smoke, take a big breath in – big city living can’t get much better for us singletrack fanatics.

Could this be the final word on the matter? Stay tuned for part two of ‘Big cities vs small towns,’ coming soon.