"Build it, and they will come." That was the plan, and dang, if it didn't work.
It’s been a little over 12 months since Derby announced it was open for business as a mountain bike destination, and we came for a visit. Back then, the name Derby meant nothing to us – a bit of Googling revealed it to be a sleepy, some would say depressed, town of just a couple hundred folk. Halfway between Launceston and St Helens in Tassie’s north east, it’s a stunning piece of the world, and until you look really deeply you’d never guess that the whole region was ripped apart, and sustained, by tin mining until the mid-20th century. But those industrious days had faded, and Derby was at risk of rusting away, like a forgotten old piece of mining hardware abandoned in the forest.
What we found and rode on our first trip was the highlight of the year for us and we’ve been itching to come back to see how the scene and trails had developed. Finally we made it to Derby again, and things have definitely changed, in a big way.
Derby is the most successful experiment in mountain bike-driven social recovery that we’ve ever seen in Australia. A bold investment in the belief that if you fill the hills with amazing trails, mountain bikers will flock to them like gulls to a picnic. While we’re sure that most of the townsfolk hadn’t had much lycra in their lives previously, they’ve embraced the new legions of visitors too – bike paraphernalia is everywhere, and new bike-friendly accommodation and cafes are emerging too. Why has Derby’s transformation been such a success? It has the winning formula: amazing trails, incredible scenery, just the right amount of remoteness, all backed up with the facilities you need to feed, water and maintain riders and their bikes.
But of those four elements, it’s the trails that matter the most, and the way this network has grown since our first visit here is pretty extraordinary. And it’s not complete yet, not by a long shot. The final piece in the puzzle currently under construction is a mammoth trail from the Blue Tier, which will be almost 25km long, and overwhelmingly descending. When it’s opened in June 2016, there’ll be over 80km of truly world class trail in this most unlikely of locations.
This time around, we were treated to a tonne of fresh riding, including the brand new trails of Atlas and Black Dragon, which open on 30 October 2015. Browse on, and make sure you head to ridebluederby.com.au for all the information on trail conditions, maps, accommodation and more.
This blue level trail is a fresh addition since our last trip to Derby. You can ride it as a loop, with an insane bobsledding descent back to the huge chasm of Devil Wolf, or peel off from the climb to continue on to Dambusters.
Representing a huge leap in the development of the Blue Derby network, Atlas is a brand new trail and it’s absolutely epic. About 10km long, it actually begins high up in the hills outside of Weldborough, about 20 minutes drive from Derby. Vertigo MTB are running a shuttle service to the trailhead, or the masochists out there can pedal up from town, but we’d recommend saving your legs for the descent that’s coming.
This trail is a real contrast to those in the drier terrain closer to Derby – it charges through incredible rainforest, under huge ferns. It all feels a lot like New Zealand, all dark dirt, mosses and filtered green light.
Atlas is a complete overload of amazing sights. Everywhere you look there’s another massive, ancient tree, or ginormous rock outcrop, and that’s not to mention the creative and flowing trail features either. World Trail have taken it up a notch with Atlas, offering more A/B lines, some seriously decent jumps, berms that you stick to and insane feelings of surfing through the forest.
Eventually, Atlas emerges from the green and merges with the descent of Dambusters, which is itself is already a standout. A top to bottom run of Atlas is a life changer, no doubt.
Pack a sandwich and your camera – Dambusters is a great adventure trail. Dambusters has been open for a while (it was completed just in time for the Marathon National Champs here in March 2015) and its reputation is already well known, for good reason.
A complete loop of Dambusters is a solid ride. After climbing out of the valley, you scoot along the side of the water, ducking in and out of singletrack and across the river that feeds Cascade Dam. A look at the elevation profile of this trail shows it ends with a avalanche of a descent, but first you’ve got to climb. As is customary with World Trails work, it’s not a grunt, and the trail takes nibbles at the elevation, until you’re suddenly at Lakeview Drop with nothing but flat-out descending ahead of you.
The run back down is as insanely fast as you’d ever want to go. Huge berms catch your traverses and spit you back across the hill, with poppy rollers and sly doubles keeping you in the air half the time too. It goes on, and on, and on… If your eyeballs are watering too much, you’ve also got the option of splitting off onto another new trail, Black Dragon for a steeper, more technical descent.
Handbuilt trails are a rarity in the modern mountain bike park, especially ones like this. Black Dragon is a properly challenging, technical trail, climbing and descending the ridgeline steeply. You can ride it as a loop from Devil Wolf (fair play to you if you clear the whole climb!) or ride it as an alternative descent on Dambusters.
There’s plenty to think about on this trail, with steep rollers, off camber lines, some tricky rock sections and steep chutes that require a bit of thinking ahead! We love it, and think it’s an awesome bit of spice.