Ask any veteran Australian mountain bike racer about Mt Beauty, and you'll usually get a wry grin, followed by something like, "Mate, gotta love Beauty." This little town, tucked under Mt Bogong in the high country of North East Victoria, is almost mythologised in Aussie mountain bike history. It's a town that has forged more champion mountain bikers per capita than any other place in Australia, and it has been the scene of countless epic races (and race after-parties). And it's true, you do 'gotta love it' - it's just a great place to be on a bike.
Beauty breathes mountain biking; from the second you roll into town and spot the dozens of little jumps that locals have shaped into the roadside embankment, you know this a town that loves riding on dirt. The riding and the town are enmeshed, in a physical as much as a notional sense, with the singletrack fingers of the Big Hill Mountain Bike Park stretching out to stroke the main street.
Getting into the trails is as easy as crossing the road. But once you’re in the trees, you quickly see why the Mt Beauty locals are so fit and such great bike handlers. These are physical, technical trails with some grunty climbs to be had, and the kind of whizzing singletrack that doesn’t excuse sloppy riding. It’s this challenge, and the local culture of laconic competitiveness, that has seen local talent like the Panozzo clan and XCE World Champ Paul Van Der Ploeg rise to international prominence.
Unlike so many of the bike parks around the place now, Beauty has been built by hand, not a machine. Benched, scraped and chipped into the tough earth by locals who never seem to stop building. There are plenty of old favourites, but new trails seem to raise their heads almost as frequently as the black snakes that love this woodland too. Because it is such a complex web of trails, grabbing some advice (or a local) from the local bike shop is worthwhile – there’s so much there, it’s easy to miss the best bits.
Outside of the bike park, your options are as limitless as your legs will allow; there are fireroad routes that disappear over far flung peaks and valleys, or if you’re a fan of road riding too, some of Australia’s best climbs are within easy reach. When the days get too hot (and they do in summer, after mid morning), the rock pools can’t be missed, they’re just a ten minute ride from town.
What really appeals about Mt Beauty is that it’s not an isolated destination; drive half an hour across the Towanga Gap and you’ll find yourself in Bright, or climb up further into the Bogong High Plains and you’ll soon reach the rapidly growing trail network of Falls Creek. This entire region is alive with cycling, and Mt Beauty is at its heart.
Where to stay: Flow stayed at the Svarmisk Apartments. These stylish, funky standalone apartments have private bike storage, epic views, are totally setup for self-catering groups. They also have the advantage of being literally 30 seconds from the trails.
Where to eat: In the off season, Mt Beauty can be quiet in the evenings, so plan ahead. Lunches at the Mount Beauty Bakery are the ticket. And, of course, it’s vital you try a local ale or two. Sweetwater Brewery is Mt Beauty’s own craft brewer. The brewery bar is right in town, so drop by for a tasting. Check their site for opening times: http://www.sweetwaterbrewing.com.au
Bike shops: Rocky Valley is the local shop, right on the main road into town.
Local knowledge: Head to the rock pools, on Rockpool Rd, to cool down after a morning shred.