Words by Flow | Images by Flowtographer

The Australian Alpine Epic Trail is Mt Stirling and Mt Buller’s final piece in their amazing mountain bike network, hidden away in the stunning altitude-fuelled Victorian Alpine Region. It’s also the Southern Hemisphere’s first IMBA (International Mountain Bike Association) accredited ‘Epic’ trail, to receive that status a certain level of ‘epic-ness’ is required, more on that later, but for now we share some memories of a great day when we first rode The Epic.

December 6 was the day when hoards of frothing mountain bikers joined those who were already in town for the Australian Mountain Bike Summit to ride the Epic first. It was a real unknown, not even the locals had ridden it, anyone who found their way onto it or snuck in a ride before the open date were spotted on the surveillance cameras and busted custard accordingly. We even tried to pay the trail builders a visit earlier in the year when the trail was under construction, but the talk of being blindfolded and walking through the bush scared us off, so we eagerly awaited what was in store of this massive project.

To date, the project has received $125,000 in federal funding through T-QUAL Strategic Tourism Investment Grants, $375,000 in state funding through Regional Development Victoria. Mt Buller Mt Stirling Resort Management has contributed $225,000 and the Mansfield Shire Council a further $25,000.

World Trail began construction in November 2013 a 40km trail that takes riders from the Mt Buller Village all the way down to the valley floor at Mirimbah via some old favourite trails and the recently completed linkages. You begin by riding some of the existing network toward the top of the well-loved Stonefly track, and it heads even further into the wilderness along ridge lines and mountain tops with a mixture of old and new trails. The juiciest bit is the 7km descent that throws you down the mountain in the finest flowing singletrack you will ever ride. Then you cruise a 2.7km undulating trail along the Delatite river to Mirimbah where an uplift shuttle awaits (if you’re organised) to return you back to Buller. It’s a mind bending ride, a real tough undertaking and is not for the faint hearted. A lot of climbing is rewarded with fun descending, so expect some highs and lows, cursing and hotting, it’s a real epic day ride.

Mount Buller threw one hell of a party for the riders to celebrate the Epic opening, whilst the weather didn’t like to party as much, the day was a real blast. This is how it unfolded.

Australian Alpine Epic first ride 1

The drive to Buller is always a real pleasure, a true road trip in all respects. You pass through great country towns, it’s super scenic, and the approach to the big mountains always gets us very excited to ride.

We made it onto a really big billboard! Life is complete.

We made it on to a really big billboard! Life is complete. That Damian Breach photo is a real winner.

The launch of the Australian Alpine Epic Trail coincided with the inaugural Mountain Bike summit. Like the G20 Summit, but more focussed on mountain biking... Trail advocacy, event management, industry, media, land management and networking all went down in a fine gathering of the key playing in the MTB community.

The launch of the Australian Alpine Epic Trail coincided with the inaugural Australian Mountain Bike Summit. Like the G20 Summit, but more focussed on mountain biking… Trail advocacy, event management, industry, media, land management and networking all went down in a fine gathering of the key playing in the MTB community. The future is bright, and we were honoured to be involved and presenting in the Summit.

A visit to Buller can't be complete without a visit to the summit for a sunset beer.

A visit to Buller can’t be complete without a walk up to the summit for a sunset beer.

Australian Alpine Epic first ride 2 (2) Australian Alpine Epic first ride 3 (2) Australian Alpine Epic first ride 1 (2) Australian Alpine Epic first ride 5
Australian Alpine Epic first ride 6

Some hoppy goodness from the nearby town, Beechworth, Bridge Road Brewers.

The morning began with the old favourite trails that took us up high towards Mt Stirling. Dave from Albany, WA burns his altitude-trainied lungs in anticipation of what lays ahead in the fog.

The morning began with the old favourite trails that took us up towards Mt Stirling. Dave from Albany, WA burns his altitude-trained lungs in anticipation of what lies behind the curtains of fog.

Australian Alpine Epic first ride 9

Patty Young from Specialized Australia begins the famous Stonefly climb.

Don't be fooled, there's a lot of climbing to earn the descent.

Don’t be fooled, there’s a lot of climbing to earn the descent.

Way out in the middle of nowhere, tubes were blasting riders up the climbs. Alpine rave, anyone?

Way out in the middle of nowhere, tunes were blasting riders up the climbs. Alpine rave, anyone?

IMBA's Joey Klein enjoying an alpine pink lady at the Stonefly summit. This is his 9th trip to Australia, and the Epic blew his mind.

IMBA’s Joey Klein enjoying a crisp pink lady at the Stonefly summit. This is his 9th trip to Australia, and the Epic blew his mind.

Telephone Box Junction is not only a place to begin or finish a ride, with public road access closest to the best bits of The Epic, there is also COFFEE!

Telephone Box Junction is not only a place to begin or finish a ride with public road access closest to the best bits of The Epic, there is also COFFEE!

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Coffee in the middle of nowhere should not be that good, right? Wrong. The Epicentre serves up a stellar muddy heart starter as we approached The Epic.

Pop your head into The Epicentre for a realllllly good coffee, organic food, bike repairs, local advice and a bit of goody shopping.

Pop your head into The Epicentre at the Telephone Box Junction for a realllllly good coffee, organic food, bike repairs, local advice and a bit of goody shopping.

The signs we were waiting for.

The signs we were waiting for.

Bike Buller surprised riders again with a remarkably remote juice stall.

Bike Buller surprised riders again with a remarkably remote pedal powered smoothie stall. Free!

Cheers for the juice, but we had to pedal the bike/blender ourselves? Sheeeesh...

Cheers for the smoothies, but we had to pedal the bike/blender ourselves? Sheeeesh…

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Beats water and and warm jelly snakes any day. Fresh fruit smoothies! Free!

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Free Epic smoothies!

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This is where our photos become a bit thin in quantity… The descent began and it became really quite hard to stop and shoot, please accept our apologies, a full report is coming soon though we promise.

Australian Alpine Epic first ride 2 (1)

Feature packed, the Epic takes you through, past, around and over eye-poppingly gorgeous wilderness.

Australian Alpine Epic first ride 1 (1)

In true World Trail style, the flowing descent rewards all your efforts that lay behind you.

Australian Alpine Epic first ride 3 (1)

Imagine descending 7km of trail like this? Hardly any pedalling or braking, just dreamy flow.

When we couldn't yell any more, our bodies were exhausted, heads exploded, we were greeted by another remote surprise.

When we couldn’t yell any more, our bodies were exhausted, heads exploded, we were greeted by another remote surprise.

Free ice cream!

Free ice cream!

Never tasted better.

Never tasted better.

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Specialized’s Nick Van der Linden rolls past another disgustingly scenic and fun piece of trail towards the end.

The Delatite river roared beside the final section of the trail, crystal clear and lined with massive green ferns.

The Delatite river roars along beside the final section of the trail, crystal clear and lined with massive green ferns.

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We were a part of something special, first to ride on the Australian Alpine Epic Trail. Done, but not quite dusted.

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Brett and Aaron from Blue Dirt Mountain Biking were shuttling exhausted and muddy mountain bikers like mad back up to Buller from Mirimbah. Cheers, guys!

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Beats climbing. Well, climbing may well have been impossible by that stage. It’s exhausting to ride the full Epic!

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Ryan De la Rue from World Trail celebrates on his finest work yet, he’s responsible for many happy mountain bikers now.

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The rain pushed the celebrations inside, but one last surprise from the folk at Bike Buller, fireworks to cap off a mega amazing day.

The Australian Alpine Epic is open, get to it people!

Stay tuned for a complete story, and a seriously amazing video of Ryan from World Trail shredding the Epic soon.

http://bike.mtbuller.com.au

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