NSW’s South Coast is going to be bonkers, with trail builders cutting kilometre after kilometre of trail at three new trail destinations, all within about 200km of one another. At the southern edge of the region is the aptly named Gravity Eden, where Contour Works has about 300m of elevation to work with, creating 56km of trails.
With completion of the network projected for July, we caught up with the Contour Works crew and the Eden Mountain Bike Club to see how this exciting trail development is coming along.
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Working in Nullica State Forest, Contour Works co-head Ryan De La Rue tells Flow that at the beginning of April, they have completed over 40km of trail, and are quickly closing in on the finish line. In addition to the bulk of the network, they’ve just had the tick of approval for a couple of jump lines and an asphalt pump track at the trailhead.
“With the way the network is laid out, you take in quite a diverse range of environments. When you’re down low in the valleys, it’s really nice and green and ferny, and there are these cool little creeks. Higher up on the ridges, it’s bigger trees, more exposed and bigger rock shelves,” he says.
At the start of a major build like Eden, it’s hard to know exactly what is waiting for you in the woods, but fortunately for the Contour Works team, the surprises have mostly been the kind that leaves you stoked.
“The last probably 100m of the trail I have been building was earmarked to be sort of a techy black trail, and there is so much rock on it. But I just found a couple of pockets of this beautiful gold dirt, so I just shaped up a couple of nice jumps,” says De La Rue.
De La Rue tells us that quite a lot of the natural rock outcrops they have found have been usable, and they have even found a South Coast play on the Detonate boulders.
“We came across a smaller version of that (Detonate). It’s not quite as much of a chute as in the walls right beside you. But there is a cool little rock formation that we found, and rock armoured through it so the rider can feel like they’re dropping over and bombing down it,” he says.
But it’s not just the big scary rocky features that will wow riders, even the pedal in from the trailhead will leave its mark.
“One of the first trails that we started on near the trailhead follows this beautiful little stream. It starts off with pretty standard scrub for the area, but as soon as you drop down close to that creek, it’s like 10-degrees cooler and traces the creek for probably 700m before it crosses. There will be a nice bridge and a little cascading waterfall right below that.
I think it will blow people away because it’s so close to the trailhead,” he says.
A small town ready for riders
Contour Works has been on the ground for about a year now. Even though quite a lot of their work so far has been largely out of sight of the regular townsfolk, Eden locals are buzzing about the impending trail network.
“I’ve been through just about all the local businesses and cafes, and you know if we didn’t have it three months ago, we have it now. There’s heaps of cafes, we’ve now got a nightlife, and there’s live music. Just about anything you can want or need, we’re ready,” says Stan Soroka from the Eden Mountain Bike Club. “Now it’s just about getting a few bike stands around town.”
With the trail network proposed to open in July, Eden locals have been busy getting ready in preparation. The Hotel Australasia, which has been closed since 2010 has been revamped and reopened in December 2022. The Great Southern is undergoing similar treatment, and $100-million in development is happening down at the wharf.
A shuttle operator has already signed on, there is a new bike shop in town just waiting on stock to come in, and the club has ramped up.
“We’re starting with junior programs at the beginning of April, running skills clinics, and bringing Jo Larkin (from Bike Betty) over from Jindabyne. It’s all coming together for us,” Soroka says.
De La Rue tells Flow that he’s enjoyed calling Eden home for the last year, and not just because of the natural beauty of the area.
“There seems to be a really good community spirit here that’s going to get behind the trails. It (the town) already has that summer tourist vibe, but the average temperature here is just amazing. Even in summer — I saw on the news the other day that it was 41C in Sydney, and down here, it was mid-20s. It’s not often it gets over 30C here. It just felt perfect,” he says.
The start of a legacy
Having played a role in building some of the most iconic trails in Australia — including some used in the Derby EDR— we don’t think anyone doubts De La Rue and his business partner Evan Winton’s trail-building chops. However, this will be the first full-scale, start-to-finish destination project the pair have undertaken since starting Contour Works.
De La Rue says they have felt this pressure through the build, but it hasn’t kept him up at night.
“One of our main goals with Contour Works is for Evan and I to always be on the ground, and putting in to make sure that we maintain a quality that we’re proud of,” he says
“For myself, it didn’t feel daunting to take on a project like this because I have been a part of so many other destinations around the country. But I’ve gotta say that also comes down to the team we’ve put together. They have put in the hard yards and make our lives easier by being so good to work with,” says De La Rue.
While that team does have some experienced operators that have worked on other big projects, there are a lot of new faces that bring a unique vision and skill set to the build.
“There is a whole range of skill sets in our crew, and it’s been really cool to spend time with them and skill them up. We’re really stoked how they’ve been going, and they’ve picked it up really quickly,” he says.
Trails for everyone
With three brand new significant destinations on the cusp and a number of smaller existing trail networks on the South Coast, the big question is where Eden will fit in.
“We’re all different. You know, people say, “oh, you’re going to take stuff away from Tathra,” says Soroka. “No, the trails are totally different there, and there is fantastic riding. But Eden offers something unique to Tathra, or Narooma, or Mogo. We will all complement each other.”
It’s right in the name, Eden has gravity, but even within that niche, the terrain allows for a massive variety of trails catering to different riders.
“There is so much diversity in the trails. The green trails are in really beginner-friendly terrain, and the more advanced trails are in more aggressive terrain,” says De La Rue. “The layout of this network also works really well with being able to shuttle up, and make the most out of the descents, but there is also a quick climbing route to the top as well where you can get up to the high point that comes up one of the ridge lines.
For someone on an e-Bike, you can punch out a couple of laps, and hit some really fun descents,” he says.
An exact opening date is yet to be announced, but Soroka has confirmed they’re aiming for July. We’ll be headed back to Eden to check out the network once it’s rider ready. Until then, for the latest updates on the network head over to the Gravity Eden website, their Facebook or Instagram.