1. Dunsborough and Margaret River Local Trails
If you have time before the event, hitting the trails around the Dunsborough Country Club is great for getting a feel of just how slippery WA’s infamous pea-gravel trails can be. There is about 10km of trail, a lot of it you will ride at the end of day 4 of Cape to Cape MTB. The race organisers tend to wisely take out some of the rock rollover structures and A-lines so it’s a good place to come back and play and ride it like the locals do. Plus some of the best swimming beaches in the region are at the bottom of the hill so you can ride then soak faster than you can say ‘ice bath recovery’.
Visit the local bike shop www.bikesheddunsborough.com.au for some insider knowledge. It’s five bucks for a five day access to the trails and they even have a newly completed pump track (and some of the cheapest beers on the Cape at the Country Club).
Similarly if you’re based in Margaret River for the event, before packing you bike into the box for the long journey home maybe drop by the new trail hub at the bottom of the town called “The Hairy Marron” (69 Bussell Highway Margs 08 9757 2346). Grab a coffee or check their bikes out. The situation for trails is evolving rapidly and the boys will be able to give you a heads up on the best places to ride. Large networks of trails at Carters Road and Middle Earth have been only lightly used in the Cape to Cape for a raft of reasons but the great news is there are new top class trails for you to discover without having to travel far.
There is a reason that Pemberton is always in the must visit section of all the guidebooks. Climbing up the 50m+ fire spotting tree is an experience no one ever forgets. Pemberton also has a multitude of aggressive tracks with steep ups and steep downs rather than meandering rolls through the bush. At the bottom of the hill is a large lake used for swimming and it is always ice cold in our experience, making it a great place to recover.
There is a jump track, pump track, skills section at the nearby camp and bikes for hire on the main street. If you have overseas visitors and are camping the next town over Northcliffe has Round Tu-It campground which has a cross country singletrack loop out the back of the property. It also has some of the tamest kangaroos you’ll ever come across. Yes, it’s a bit out of the way, yes it will take two hours to get there, but you can return to Perth a more direct way and you will not regret taking the time to ride Pemberton (just watch for roos at dusk).
3. Collie Region
If you’re not in a rush to get back to Perth and want to keep long stints in the car a minimum (ie bad back) a good option is to skip the rush of the highway and head inland through some lovely countryside. From Margaret River skip cross country on nice back roads toward Lowden where long time MTB local Barry has his own block complete with a 6km XC circuit, workshop, camping and accommodation. www.cycletrek.com.au.
After checking out Gnomesville (yes you will take photos) Pile Road trails (formally Mt Lennard) are just over the valley and are long sweet singletrack inside a national park. Our pick is parking at the bottom, then riding up Bolands out on Wals, back on Griz. Check here http://trailswa.com.au/trails/mt-lennard for a full trail map.
Just a bit further north is Collie. The bush that surrounds Collie is very pretty and the hills are much bigger than anything in the Cape to Cape. Our first port of call normally is the local bike shop, Crank’n’Cycles (crankncycles.com.au). We’ve learnt to keep a firm grip on the wallet, as this country town bicycle shop is chockas with exotic bicycle gear. The locals ride two trails, both pedalling distance from town, Dead Cat trail and then Rays Trail. Rays trail now has a carpark at its trail head and if you are driving it’s the easiest to navigate to out along Harris River Road. http://trailswa.com.au/trails/rays-trail
It seems Langford Park (Jarrahdale) isn’t as popular as it used to be. The extensive network of trails at Kalamunda east of Perth seems to have absorbed the majority of Perth riders, and now Jarrahdale – around an hour south of Perth – doesn’t get the traffic it once used to. That is good news if you are travelling to/from the Cape to Cape though, as you can stop in on the way back from Margaret River as you would have been driving for close to three hours at this point.
Take the South West Highway from Bunbury turn to Jarrahdale and then onto Nettleton Road. The carpark has been upgraded as has the signage and the trailhead maps. Thrashed out legs will appreciate the gentle gradient as you roll through some creative trails. The Yellowbrick Road is a bit of a regional classic but the The Fox is our favourite, with tight twisting fun keeping you at a good pace.
This place is always best after rain, as it can get a little slippery in the dry with the pea gravel… What are we talking about? You’ve survived the Cape to Cape, you’re a seasoned pro now at the two wheel drift!
The network can get a little confusing but keep hydrated and rolling through the network and you’ll be back at the car before you can say “But I thought the carpark was that way!” Check out the full trail map here http://trailswa.com.au/trails/langford-park-jarrahdale