Ride, Swim, Eat, Repeat: Day 3, Mountain Biking the Atherton Tablelands


See our day one and three adventures here:

Atherton EP:1

Atherton EP:2


It was time to turn it up a notch on our third day in Atherton.

We didn’t bring Dave McMillan all this way for just his good looks, we wanted some trails for him to let loose on and see what he’s capable of.

This photo of Dave McMillan sits alongside the definition of ‘steeze’ in the dictionary, we’re sure of it.

Casual gap boosting.
“Yeah, jump from here over this huge hole to that tiny landing space just before the hard right-hand corner, ok?”
Big turns, loads of speed.

On the trail map, there were a few black runs to explore, but the one we remember from a few years ago ‘Ricochet’ was reportedly running super-sweet with some fresh work done, especially on the big banked turns.

It sounded like our jam, so up we went, the long pedal to the top. It can be shuttled, perhaps not in our Kia people mover, but a 4WD with decent clearance would make life a little easier.

Looked like fun at first, just didn’t think ahead for a plan to return to land…

Ka Powww, Ricochet.

This track rips, with some of the biggest jumps, deepest turns and fastest lines on the hill. It was time to let Dave do his thing, entertain us, and make us all feel inadequate with his effortless style and carefree riding at the speed of lightning.

Keep it low, or…
Let it fly.

Corner after corner he pushed his Stumpjumper harder and harder, finding traction where we certainly wouldn’t, and gapping between sections of the trail that we don’t even know that the trail builders would have thought possible.

It’s the type of descent that is made for riders like Dave, with many years on the World Cup DH circuit his speed is unbounded but the way he does it is what makes it such a pleasure to watch.

Tools down, time to roam the Tablelands some more.

From the hair-raising descents to the valley floor we could feel a hunger coming on, a hunger that only one thing could satisfy. A classic pub-style parmigiana.

Banana picking Atherton style.

Gin, whisky, vodka and everything in between.

A distillery tour at Mt Uncle Distillery is a fun and enlightening way to sample a little more of what the Tablelands can offer, we gave it a good nudge and learnt quite a lot along the way.


http://www.athertontablelands.com.au/

https://www.ridecairns.com/

Where we stayed – Big 4 Caravan Park is a stone’s throw from the trails and is well set up for mountain bikes with a dedicated wash bay, work stand and tools.

Ride, Swim, Eat, Repeat: Day 1, Mountain Biking the Atherton Tablelands


See our day two and three adventures here:

Atherton EP:2

Atherton EP:3


Why does life feel like it is ending when summer draws to a close, how could it be considered ‘good news’ to hear that the mountains have received their first snowfalls for the season?

Why can’t we live some nomadic life and chase the sun? Ok, while that’s clearly not going to happen – it’d take too long to pack – we do have some fairly sensational options here in Australia. As mountain bikers, a typical holiday can be so much more than seeing the sights or lying on a towel, lucky us we get to ride.

Head north, soak in the warmth.

On a recent trip to Atherton in Tropical North Queensland, we rode the sun-drenched singletrack, swam in the crater lakes and under incredible waterfalls, ate our way through the delicious local produce, kicked back in historic old pubs and repeated it all again three days in a row.

It was awesome.

Warm singletrack, bliss!

Getting there is easy, with a very scenic 1.5-hour drive west from Cairns. Up on the Atherton Tablelands, the spaces are incredibly unique; it’s tropical, lush, vivid, and being at a higher altitude than Cairns it’s typically a few degrees cooler.

Atherton is a small town that received a huge government grant to build mountain bike trails by professional mountain bike trail companies, the network is extensive, varied and well signed. The green trails in the flatter areas are mellow and remarkably scenic, blue trails take you higher into the foothills of the range for a longer ride, and black runs pack a punch with a faster ride and options to boost jumps and tackle technical rock sections.

The trails start right in town, literally, from town you have hours of riding available to you, it’s pretty sweet. We arrived just after an unseasonably wet summer, which saw the mountain bike park closed for quite some time to preserve its state and minimise damage. 

But the trails in Atherton MTB Park is only half of the reason we love travelling there, the region is packed with things to do when your legs have had enough. We’re talking about feasting on all that the Atherton Tablelands offers, eat, swim, drink, relax, repeat.

Day One – Ride, eat, swim, drink, eat, repeat.

We bit off a big chunk of riding on our first day, taking on an epic loop of trails including Stairway to Heaven, a big climb that takes you right up high where the views over the whole region make up for the burning in your legs. 

What goes up must come down, and it was our first run down Drop Zone, aptly named this black grade trail gave our resident bike magician Dave McMillan the chance to let fly.

Yeoooo, A-line versus B-line.

As the speeds crept up, so did the technicality of the descent with dozens of sections of trail that kept us on our toes, negotiating loose corners and sharp embedded rocky bits. Drop Zone could be the training ground for a keen enduro racer it’s that wild.

Rack your bike, it’s time to submerge.

Grabbing a bowl of fruit and avocado for lunch we were recharged to relax the arvo away. Lake Eacham is a short drive from Atherton, and it’s a complete paradise! A lake formed from a volcanic crater and free from any powered craft, its clear water and the overhanging jungle is amazing.

Give your legs and bike a rest, time to get submerged in a clear freshwater lake.

Like some dream, the swimming is such a sweet way to wind away the day, and we were lucky to be there on a sunny afternoon to watch the sun go down. We were buzzing.

Pub timewarp.

Look, we aren’t going to hide the fact we love a good old pub, and the Tablelands do them so well. There are half-a-dozen great old pubs on the area worth checking out, well preserved and littered with historic photos and artefacts from the original farming and sawmilling days.

While the craft beer scene doesn’t seem to have migrated that far north yet, the food servings are generous and the mixture of locals and fruit picking backpackers from the UK is quite bizarre. It’s a really good time.


http://www.athertontablelands.com.au/

https://www.ridecairns.com/

Where we stayed – Big 4 Caravan Park is a stone’s throw from the trails and is well set up for mountain bikes with a dedicated wash bay, work stand and tools.

Must-Ride: Flowtown, Falls Creek


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We don’t think anyone could have predicted just how spectacular Falls would eventually prove to be.

It was back in 2013 that Falls Creek opened their first stage of mountain bike trail development, the latest in a procession of alpine areas to acknowledge that ski seasons were becoming patchier than Trump’s policy detail, and summer is the way of the future. Back then, if you’d been a talent scout for mountain bike trails, you’d have put Falls Creek in the ‘has potential’ column – it was a place with all the bones for an incredible mountain bike park, but there was no meat. Let us tell you, there’s plenty of meat here now – we don’t think anyone could have predicted just how spectacular Falls would eventually prove to be. When you consider that Falls only began mountain bike trail development in earnest three years ago, and that the place is covered in snow for a good chunk of the year, it’s unreal how far it has come.

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Vandy drops off the end of Frying Pan Spur and into High Voltage, with the Kiewa Valley in the distance way below.

This summer sees the completion of Falls Creek’s fourth stage of trail development, including the opening of Flowtown, which will certainly become a signature trail for the region. We last visited Falls in 2015, at the end of the third stage of trail development, but with Flowtown now cranking, along with a regular shuttle service from the crew at Blue Dirt, Falls is the full monty. If you’ve got a mountain biking holiday on the brain, Falls has got to be on the list – it genuinely will go head to head with any of east coast Australia’s best mountain bike destinations. You could quite blissfully spend an incredible week in the Falls/Beauty/Bright zone. You could quite blissfully spend your entire life there, actually!

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Fresh mountain air and afternoon light, amongst the gums.
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Full throttle, on Flowtown.
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Flowtown is full of hits and gaps that are worked into the bench of the trail.

In the context of Victoria’s high country Falls Creek, Mt Beauty and Bright form a tight little love triangle at the eastern end of the strip of mountain bike towns that run across the region like a rich seam of gold: Mt Beauty, Beechworth, Yackandandah, Bright, Mt Beauty and Falls Creek. The Falls crew knew, that being a little more far flung from the population of Melbourne, they’d have to work hard to entice riders up the hill from Mt Beauty. But with visitor numbers doubling every year, and the hugely successful Ignition MTB event seeing almost 400 riders on the hill for Falls Creek’s opening weekend, the message is out there now.

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Lots of this caper to be had.

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The setting couldn’t be more spectacular: resting on the cusp of the Bogong High Plains, hemmed by views of the magnificent Kiewa Valley and rolling alpine meadows, Falls Creek is just a stunning place to be. The stark, white fingers of gums line the surrounding mountains, with the Bogong Dam a shimmering in the backdrop to the village. Sunset from the peak of Mt Mackay alone is worth spending the evening for – the view from the top of Australia’s highest public road across the range to Hotham is truly top notch.

The bulk of the trails are located in the huge bowl that naturally funnels you back towards the village – this accessibility is one of Falls’ real draw cards, with the trails starting and finishing literally on the edge of the village square. Exhaust yourself, and you’re not staring down the barrel of a long slog back to a brew. Stage 4 has also seen the development of a new beginner loop too, which keeps riders within cooee of the village, but is a great gateway into the broader Falls Creek network. Of course, the area’s sensational aqueduct trails, which we explored last time we visited, are all out there too if you’re keen on a mellow day in the mountains. Or, if something seriously epic is what you desire, then the legendary Fainters Track is a must-do as well – a multi-hour mission that traverses the ridges of the surrounding hills before dropping like a stone back into Mt Beauty miles away.


Check out coverage from our previous visits to Falls Creek too:


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Fresh brown trails, and a good set of rubber. Tip it in!
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Towards the end of Flowtown, the trail begins to weave into a few green gullies, crossing small creeks, before ramping up for a ridiculously fast finish.

Laying some tracks on Flowtown, the brand new creation from the folks at World Trail, was the main driver for our trip to Falls this time around and it left us a fizzing at the bung. This all-new 5.5km descent is a gem, linking seamlessly from some of the existing trails, you can effortlessly put together over 20 minutes of face-warpingly awesome descending from the peak of Falls all the way back to the entrance gates hundreds of metres below. The run from Frying Pan spur, into High Voltage, then Wishing Well and finally down Flowtown is just unbelievable fun. Finally, when you pop out on the main road, jelly-legged from almost half an hour of flat out descending, you’ve got the option of either jumping in a shuttle back to town, or taking in the gradual climb back up the recently opened Pack Horse track.

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Granite, gums, a giant on a Giant and good light.

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The visionaries at Falls who’ve made this all happen deserve all the success in the world. Like so many alpine areas, they had to overcome the winter blinkers that have commonly hampered mountain bike development in ski areas, but they’ve made it happen! Each year Falls has bulked up, and now it’s a true contender – make sure you’ve got it on the list this summer.

For all the details, including a full trail map, visit http://www.fallscreek.com.au/mtb

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Thanks for shredding for us, Paul! Sorry we made you crash.

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Must Ride: Adelaide, Belair and Sturt Gorge


One of the key reasons Adelaide has so much potential as an international mountain bike destination, is that it offers such a huge amount of trail, so close to the middle of town. And even better, you can access the trails by rail, so you don’t need to have a car or pedal yourself up into the hills.

During our time in Adelaide we parked up right in the centre of town, just one block from the famous Central Market and only a couple of minutes’ ride from Adelaide Station, but within half an hour’s train ride we could be way up in the hills with literally hundreds of kays of trails to choose from.

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The Central Market is a must-visit while you’re in town. Epic breakfast and cheap, fresh food.

Belair is the last stop on the line, and after half an hour of winding its way up the hills and past some glorious views out to the beaches, the train drops you literally on the doorstep of Belair National Park, the second oldest national park in Australia. The trails in Belair were a bit of a game changer really, the formalisation of trails there was the first time that a South Australian national park officially welcomed mountain bikers onto singletrack, setting a precedent that has allowed mountain biking to flourish around the state.

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With dedicated spaces for bikes on the trains, you can forget about hiring a car to get to the trails.

As the highest point on the train line, Belair is the natural point to start an exploration of the Mount Lofty Ranges. There’s a huge loop of formalised trail in Belair, mixing fireroad and singletrack through deep the gullies, which in itself serves up more than 20km of trails. On our ride, we split from Belair and after mandatory pasties at Blackwood, we cut through Craigburn Farm (which we’d revisit properly later) and into Sturt Gorge.

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Welcome, to the oldest national park in South Australia.
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Ian Fehler on some slippery Belair National Park trails.

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Even in deep summer, the gullies of Belair stay green, while much of Adelaide browns off.
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Adelaide mountain bike club icon, Matt Ackland, not letting rigid forks and one gear slow him down.


 


Sturt Gorge

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Take a look at the trail map, it’s easy to see how close the Sturt Gorge trails are to the suburbs. That’s Adelaide mountain biking summed up – it’s all so accessible.
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The early stretches of our Sturt Gorge ride follow the creek, with plenty of technical, rocky pinches like this.

The entire Sturt Gorge Recreation Area is pretty phenomenal, the trails ranging from hand built, technical creekside singletrack, to brand new flow trail descents, all woven through residential neighbourhoods. An ‘urban epic’ is a pretty good way to describe it all – you feel like you’ve been on a real adventure and ridden so many different styles of trail over 40km, all within cooee of backyard pools.

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The real gem in the Sturt Gorge network is the De Rose descent, a fast, rhythm-filled run that traverses the scrubby hillsides above the western end of the gorge, with views to the coast and the city. It’s only a few minutes on the bike path from the end of the trail to the beach, too. Our 40km urban epic ride left loads of trail on the table for later too, some of which we’d come back to enjoy later in the week, but with plenty more for our next trip back as well.


Next up, Craigburn Farm and Shepherd’s Hill, but why not check our time at Eagle Mountain Bike Park too while you’re here. 

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Jackson Davis floating into the upper section of the De Rose descent with the city centre in the distance.
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The final leg of our urban epic loop, above De Rose.
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Flat out, hooking into a Sturt Gorge corner.
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Take us back!

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Must Ride: Adelaide, Eagle MTB Park


In late 2015, we made the short trip to the City of Churches that we should have taken years ago, and we left convinced that the Adelaidian sense of hometown pride isn’t misplaced; Adelaide is undeniably Australia’s most mountain-bike friendly metropolis, and it’s well on the way to cementing itself as a destination of international repute.

Over the course of four days, Adelaide locals Garry Patterson (Trailscapes) and Ian Fehler (Escapegoat Adventures) took us just a smattering of Adelaide’s amazing spots, all right on the edge of the city and all accessible by public transport. In between trails, they explained to us the grand vision for mountain biking in Adelaide, the Mount Lofty Ranges Mountain Bike Masterplan, which will see new linkages and fresh trails added to the network. By 2020, the hope is to have over 200km of mountain bike trails, right on Adelaide’s doorstep.

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Eagle MTB Park

Eagle is the iconic Adelaide trail centre that most of the Australian mountain bike tribe seems to know about. It can lay claim to being Australia’s first official mountain bike park, and as home to the National Champs for a number of years, the name Eagle is synonymous with racing too.
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Eagle’s reputation is for tough, rocky riding. Its challenging nature is what makes it such a proving ground for racers, and there’s still plenty of hard, technical riding to be found in the former quarry site. But recently, some of the trails have been getting a fresh lick of flow, giving them more rhythm and fun. Two of the most recent updates have been the realignment of Hills Hoist, and the reworking of On the Verge into a huge 800m jump trail, so that’s where we headed.

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MTBA Coaching and Skills Instructor, Evan James, against a typical Adelaide endless blue summer sky.

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Dropping into the steepest sections of the recently reworked Hills Hoist.
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Trailscapes’ Garry Patterson grinning as he gets to sample of bit of his team’s handiwork on Hills Hoist.
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Getting all twisted up with the old Scando flick on Hills Hoist’s new lower berms.

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Warm Adelaide summer sunsets.


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On the Verge is 800m of massive jumps and rhythm. Elliot Smith from Trailscapes sends it much bigger than most!
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US downhill pro, Luca Shaw, happened to be in town for a bit of off-season training with his mate Connor Fearon. Style for days. Adelaide does seem to breed some incredibly high-quality riders.


Instrumental to the Mountain Lofty Ranges Mountain Bike Masterplan is the inclusion of two new iconic descending trails, which will take riders from up in the hills into the city below. The alignments for these trails is yet to be set in stone, but each trail should be at least six or seven kilometres of flowing descent.

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With the city centre only a few kilometres from the base of the ranges, Adelaide ticks a very important box for success as a mountain bike destination – proximity. Having a train line from the middle of town high into the hills is just the icing on the cake.

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Mt Buller: One Mountain, Many Ways to Ride it

With trails to suit just about every style of rider and bike, Buller’s the kind of place that can tempt you into to all kinds of quasi-justifiable, but potentially financially/familially destructive bike purchasing rampages.

You see, you’ve gotta bring a road bike, so you can enjoy the proximity to some of the country’s best roads and climbs, including the famed 16km ascent to the village.

And then you’ll definitely want a cross-country bike too, for ripping around the endless amount of flowy singletrack, on trails like Gang Gangs, Misty Twist and Medusa.

But then something with a bit more travel wouldn’t go astray as well, maybe an all-mountain bike, so you can really hammer it on the epic descents like Copperhead, Stonefly, the Australian Alpine Epic or the Delatite River Trail.

Of course you’ll also to bring your downhill bike, for cutting laps on the chair-lifted trails of International and ABOM too, so make sure you leave space in the car for that one as well….

Join us, as National Enduro Champ Chris Panozzo shows you how to make the most of Mt Buller!

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Climbing on perfect roads in the late arvo light.
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Picture perfect alpine singletrack on Misty Twist.
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Heading up Medusa, with Mt Stirling in the distance.

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Sunset at the Buller summit is to die for. It’s always worth the climb.
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Clancy’s Run, off the peak of Corn Hill.
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Jamming it into another granite berm on Clancy’s Run.
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And don’t forget your downhill bike. The descents of ABOM and International have been part of the Australian downhill circuit for years, for good reason.

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Must-Ride: Blue Derby, Stage 3 – World Class Tassie Trails


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.

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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.


Flickity Sticks

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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.

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Atlas

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.

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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.

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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.

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Dambusters

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.

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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.

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Black Dragon

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.

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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.

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New Blue Derby Website with Trail Cam – A World First

Dorset Council is excited to announce the launch of a new website for the Blue Derby Mountain Bike Trails! The new Ride Blue Derby website is LIVE  – And the trails will reopen after winter maintenance works this weekend: www.ridebluederby.com.au

In a world first, mountain bikers will also be able to check out the current riding weather on the new website! The Blue Derby Trail Cam will feed LIVE footage directly to the website, with no slow hourly updates or boring single-frame shots often seen on online Snow Cams.

You can now see how hard the wind is blowing, how bright the sun is shining, and if your best mate has taken off to the trails without you!

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In fact, the Ride Blue Derby website has loads of great new features! Merchandise, including jerseys, t-shirts, caps, drink bottles, stickers and magnets can all be purchased from the website. Blue Derby merchandise is only available through the website or, at present, local businesses in Derby. All proceeds from the sale of online merchandise goes directly towards funding the maintenance of our beloved Blue Derby Trails, so buyers have the added bonus of giving something back to the trails that have given them so much enjoyment!

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With an improved layout and content on the new Ride Blue Derby website, riders can easily access all the information they could possibly need for planning their next trip to the trails! Trail routes and ratings are clearly shown on an interactive online map with PDF download option, and you can easily browse accommodation options, places to eat and anything else you could possibly need to know!

The website is designed around the Blue Derby slogan of RIDE, EXPLORE, LIVE. Top of everyone’s list will be RIDE – What trails are in the Blue Derby network? How hard are they? How do I get there? – find the answers to these questions and more! Check out what else is on offer in and around Derby under the EXPLORE menu – What options are there for a meal? Where can I stay? What else is there to do in the region? – there’s plenty to choose from in north-east Tasmania! And for those that just can’t get enough of the trails, come and LIVE a bit closer!

In addition to an awesome network of mountain bike trails, this special part of the world provides the perfect lifestyle with a suite of education and health services, and a full range of work and investment opportunities available in the Dorset and Break O’Day municipalities.

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In addition to all this, there’s the opportunity for riders to provide feedback and upload videos of the trails. Those visiting Blue Derby for the first time will be able to see what other riders have thought of each section of trail, and any hot tips they may have for conquering Dam Busters or perfectly executing Berms and Ferns…

So make sure you check out www.ridebluederby.com.au and see the Blue Derby Trails like they’ve never been seen before!

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And local businesses that would also like to be included on the website listings can easily fill out an online form for their details to be uploaded: www.ridebluederby.com.au/list-your-property 

The Blue Derby Trails were funded by the Australian Government’s Regional Development Australia Fund.



Flow visited Blue Derby, did we love it?? YES!

Click for our destination feature on Derby.

 

Rotorua's Latest and Greatest – Rainbow Mountain

Rainbow Mountain

A 26km drive from Rotorua on the road south towards Taupo is a lone mountain that pops out of the lush green rolling hills, smack bang on top of some very active geothermal ground. Rainbow Mountain is a wonderful experience, the trail is challenging and fun to ride, the native bushland is amazing and peculiar and finishing the ride with a swim in a natural hot spring is bliss. Flow and Enduro World Series racer Anka Martin explored the mystical place, here is what we found.

Rotorua, sitting on all these geothermal hotspots, is quite a special place, unlike anywhere else that I’ve ever ridden, but I’ve always been drawn to and fascinated by Rainbow Mountain and the trail that they built there. – Anka Martin, Ride House Martin/Team SRAM Juliana Racing


See part one of this series in the Whakawerawera Forest – Eagle v Shark here. 

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The ride takes you up to the top on a multi-use shared trail, it’s a bit of a grovel to climb up, but with multiple rest spots along the way at many of the viewing platforms, the climb is broken up nicely. It’s worth it, and you’ll no doubt want to do it all again when you get back down.

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Feel the hot ground beneath your tyres, and the warm smoke drifting across your path.

You’ll come across little pockets of bubbling mud and boiling water and steam coming out of the rock gardens, creeping out all over the trails and hanging eerily in the forest.

Rainbow Mountain has a very sacred, very spiritual feeling to it, to me anyways and I find it very different to riding in the Whakarewarewa Forest, which is also stunningly beautiful, but Rainbow Mountain feels like this special mountain filled with otherworldly spirits and powers.

Rotorua's Latest and Greatest - Rainbow Mountain 55

After an eyeful of massive views, the singletrack takes you down the other side, the fun way!

Divided in two parts, the top half is a hand built trail. Narrow, tricky and exciting, it keeps you on your toes. And after crossing the fire road the descending trail takes on a very different flavour, with big machine built turns and more predictability letting the speeds get higher and higher.

Under stunning rimu trees, and past hot spots of thermal activity under your tyres, the descent is fun, beautiful and fascinating.

Rotorua's Latest and Greatest - Rainbow Mountain 66

Rotorua's Latest and Greatest - Rainbow Mountain 83

I know this might sound pretty airy fairy, but this mountain is unlike any other mountain I’ve ever ridden my bike. It sticks with you and makes you wonder about nature and mother earth and how insignificant and small we are.

The 360 degree view from the top is magnificent, and the trail that they built is so much fun. A great mixture between natural and groomed, jungle & new growth, fast & flowy, guaranteed to make you grin, hooting and hollering all the way to Kerosene Creek – a hot river at the bottom of the trail and another baffling element that I’ve never experienced elsewhere.

Rotorua's Latest and Greatest - Rainbow Mountain 118

To cap off a brilliant ride, the trail ends at Kerosene Creek. A natural hot spring for swimming and relaxing, in true Kiwi style.

Rotorua's Latest and Greatest - Rainbow Mountain 127

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For more details and directions to Rainbow Mountain, visit Ride Rotorua.

Rotorua’s Latest and Greatest – Rainbow Mountain

A 26km drive from Rotorua on the road south towards Taupo is a lone mountain that pops out of the lush green rolling hills, smack bang on top of some very active geothermal ground. Rainbow Mountain is a wonderful experience, the trail is challenging and fun to ride, the native bushland is amazing and peculiar and finishing the ride with a swim in a natural hot spring is bliss. Flow and Enduro World Series racer Anka Martin explored the mystical place, here is what we found.

Rotorua, sitting on all these geothermal hotspots, is quite a special place, unlike anywhere else that I’ve ever ridden, but I’ve always been drawn to and fascinated by Rainbow Mountain and the trail that they built there. – Anka Martin, Ride House Martin/Team SRAM Juliana Racing


See part one of this series in the Whakawerawera Forest – Eagle v Shark here. 

Rotorua's Latest and Greatest - Rainbow Mountain 9

The ride takes you up to the top on a multi-use shared trail, it’s a bit of a grovel to climb up, but with multiple rest spots along the way at many of the viewing platforms, the climb is broken up nicely. It’s worth it, and you’ll no doubt want to do it all again when you get back down.

Rotorua's Latest and Greatest - Rainbow Mountain 19

Rotorua's Latest and Greatest - Rainbow Mountain 29

 

Feel the hot ground beneath your tyres, and the warm smoke drifting across your path.

You’ll come across little pockets of bubbling mud and boiling water and steam coming out of the rock gardens, creeping out all over the trails and hanging eerily in the forest.

Rainbow Mountain has a very sacred, very spiritual feeling to it, to me anyways and I find it very different to riding in the Whakarewarewa Forest, which is also stunningly beautiful, but Rainbow Mountain feels like this special mountain filled with otherworldly spirits and powers.

Rotorua's Latest and Greatest - Rainbow Mountain 55

After an eyeful of massive views, the singletrack takes you down the other side, the fun way!

Divided in two parts, the top half is a hand built trail. Narrow, tricky and exciting, it keeps you on your toes. And after crossing the fire road the descending trail takes on a very different flavour, with big machine built turns and more predictability letting the speeds get higher and higher.

Under stunning rimu trees, and past hot spots of thermal activity under your tyres, the descent is fun, beautiful and fascinating.

Rotorua's Latest and Greatest - Rainbow Mountain 66

Rotorua's Latest and Greatest - Rainbow Mountain 83

I know this might sound pretty airy fairy, but this mountain is unlike any other mountain I’ve ever ridden my bike. It sticks with you and makes you wonder about nature and mother earth and how insignificant and small we are.

The 360 degree view from the top is magnificent, and the trail that they built is so much fun. A great mixture between natural and groomed, jungle & new growth, fast & flowy, guaranteed to make you grin, hooting and hollering all the way to Kerosene Creek – a hot river at the bottom of the trail and another baffling element that I’ve never experienced elsewhere.

Rotorua's Latest and Greatest - Rainbow Mountain 118

To cap off a brilliant ride, the trail ends at Kerosene Creek. A natural hot spring for swimming and relaxing, in true Kiwi style.

Rotorua's Latest and Greatest - Rainbow Mountain 127

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For more details and directions to Rainbow Mountain, visit Ride Rotorua.

Rotorua's Latest and Greatest – Eagle vs Shark

Rotorua – Eagle vs Shark

Eagle vs Shark is the first ‘new’ trail to be made in Whakarewarewa Forest after a long quiet spell.

After the whirlwind of Crankworx, we met up with Gary Sullivan, Rotorua’s fastest silver fox for a razz down one of his favourite trails. Amongst many roles in the mountain bike community, Gaz is best known for being the owner of NZO riding gear, with his partner Glen they produce some super durable and well-designed riding threads. Glen is a textile whiz and her quality control skills are tack sharp, whilst Gaz’s favourite role at NZO is ‘product testing’, hence the reason he knows his way around the trails like the back of his gloves.

Gaz has been busier than a three-legged man in a two-legged race with a one-legged woman recently with the opening of a new bike shop in town, the store has been loaded with all the NZO goodies you’ll ever see, so naturally our ride date ended up at Ride Central drooling over fancy stuff, trying on new season NZO kit and drinking really good coffee from next door.

We were lucky to grab Gaz for a ride, and up to the top of the shuttle road we went to see why Eagle vs Shark rates so high with a seasoned local.


 

Eagle v Shark 44

 

Trails have been revised, extended or reinstated, but fresh new trails through previously untravelled forest has been a rare commodity.

That has only changed lately, with a lot of new stuff on the agenda, and Eagle vs Shark was the first of the new stuff to get done.


Eagle v Shark 45

Permission was given by the land-owners for a couple of new lines, and this one was designed to be a Grade 3, built by Rotorua local Jeff Carter and his trail building outfit starring Casey King. It’s a trail for the folks who love the likes of Split Enz or Tokorangi.

Eagle v Shark 53

Eagle v Shark 51

Eagle v Shark 36

Eagle v Shark 25

Eagle v Shark 52

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The track is very fast, and very flowy, and the trees on either side feel very close as they blur by in your peripheral vision.

It is a simple trail with nothing tech about it, it is not difficult to ride but it is hard to do it without smiling or whooping out loud. Must be because its fun.


 

Have a gander at the sweet NZO clothing here: www.nzoactive.com

For all mountain bike trail maps and info, all you need is here: www.riderotorua.com

Rotorua’s Latest and Greatest – Eagle vs Shark

Eagle vs Shark is the first ‘new’ trail to be made in Whakarewarewa Forest after a long quiet spell.

After the whirlwind of Crankworx, we met up with Gary Sullivan, Rotorua’s fastest silver fox for a razz down one of his favourite trails. Amongst many roles in the mountain bike community, Gaz is best known for being the owner of NZO riding gear, with his partner Glen they produce some super durable and well-designed riding threads. Glen is a textile whiz and her quality control skills are tack sharp, whilst Gaz’s favourite role at NZO is ‘product testing’, hence the reason he knows his way around the trails like the back of his gloves.

Gaz has been busier than a three-legged man in a two-legged race with a one-legged woman recently with the opening of a new bike shop in town, the store has been loaded with all the NZO goodies you’ll ever see, so naturally our ride date ended up at Ride Central drooling over fancy stuff, trying on new season NZO kit and drinking really good coffee from next door.

We were lucky to grab Gaz for a ride, and up to the top of the shuttle road we went to see why Eagle vs Shark rates so high with a seasoned local.


 

Eagle v Shark 44

 

Trails have been revised, extended or reinstated, but fresh new trails through previously untravelled forest has been a rare commodity.

That has only changed lately, with a lot of new stuff on the agenda, and Eagle vs Shark was the first of the new stuff to get done.


Eagle v Shark 45

Permission was given by the land-owners for a couple of new lines, and this one was designed to be a Grade 3, built by Rotorua local Jeff Carter and his trail building outfit starring Casey King. It’s a trail for the folks who love the likes of Split Enz or Tokorangi.

Eagle v Shark 53

Eagle v Shark 51

Eagle v Shark 36

Eagle v Shark 25

Eagle v Shark 52

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The track is very fast, and very flowy, and the trees on either side feel very close as they blur by in your peripheral vision.

It is a simple trail with nothing tech about it, it is not difficult to ride but it is hard to do it without smiling or whooping out loud. Must be because its fun.


 

Have a gander at the sweet NZO clothing here: www.nzoactive.com

For all mountain bike trail maps and info, all you need is here: www.riderotorua.com

Must-Ride: Majura Pines, ACT

This rabbit warren of singletrack in iconic Canberran pine forest has been a part of Australian mountain biking for decades; its twisty, rooty trails have given rise to champions of the sport, and seen countless legions of mountain bikers thread through the pines. There is a whole generation of Australian mountain bikers who grew up racing at Majura, or reading about the exploits of our champion riders at ‘Maj’ in the pages of magazines.

Flow Mountain Bike - Majura Pines 1

It was taken for granted that Majura would always be there for a blast before work, a club race, or as a destination for a weekend road trip. These trails were famous Australia over, and while they didn’t have any ‘official’ status, their future seemed safe.

And then, a couple of years ago, came the bombshell: Majura Pines was going to be shut down, a four-lane road thrust through the middle of it all.

Mountain bikers found their voice, and while the road still went in, the trails were saved. And not only saved, they’ve been given an overhaul that takes Majura Pines to a whole new level.

Flow Mountain Bike - Majura Pines 76Flow Mountain Bike - Majura Pines 46

Flow Mountain Bike - Majura Pines 86

The Majura Pines Trails Alliance, together with professional trail builders Jindabyne Landscaping, the ACT government and Anthony Burton and Associates, have worked together to ensure Majura Pines has a healthy future as a mountain bike park.

There’s now 15km of world class singletrack, a mix of new trails and older ones that have been brought up to speed with modern trail building techniques: beginner trails, to black diamond descents, rooty, tight lines, to massive machine-built berms, a pump track, a huge dirt jump park and all of it signposted and mapped.

Flow Mountain Bike - Majura Pines 40

It would have been a disaster to lose this seminal mountain bike destination, so to have such a brilliant outcome is a real dream come true. Majura Pines is back, it’s better than ever, and now it’s here to stay.

For more information about Majura Pines, or to view a trail map of the entire network, visit the Majura Pines Trail Alliance.

Must-Ride: Stromlo’s Sweetest Six

There’s over 50km of trails for you to pick from; with a huge amount of quality singletrack on offer, it’s sometimes hard to decide which trails to hit up. So please, allow us to make some recommendations! Join us for a look at Stromlo’s Sweetest Six.


For location information, trail maps, events and more, take a look at the freshly re-vamped Stromlo Forest Park site. Click here.


1. Western Wedgetail into Skyline

Welcome to the peak of Stromlo! Now the question is, which trails do you take back down? For a lot of riders, there’s one standout route from the top of the mountain; Western Wedgetail into Skyline. These two trails are both rated as green descents, but they definitely aren’t dull! Linking these two trails together in one run is some of the fastest, flowiest riding you can do at Stromlo.

Stromlo's Sweetest Six 22
The iconic descent of Western Wedgetail has some of the best views of Canberra going.
Let 'er rip!
Let ‘er rip!

2. Luge

So you’ve just ridden Western Wedgetail and Skyline. What’s next? Luge! As the name implies, Luge is a snaking stack of perfect berms, with barely a moment in between them to compose yourself of wipe the grin off your face. This trail is often picked as a favourite and it’s easy to see why. If you love ripping round a berm, you’ll love Luge.

Stromlo's Sweetest Six 36
A stack of berms on Luge.
Stromlo's Sweetest Six 37
Did we mention the perfect, bermed corners?

3. Pork Barrel and Double Dissolution

The slightly more technical route down from the saddle below Western Wedgetail is the linkup of Pork Barrel and Double Dissolution. These two blue-rated trails have all kinds of features, especially Pork Barrel, which combines berms, rocky sections, drop-offs and a few sneaky gap lines. Double Dissolution is a little flatter, but fast as hell, with a load of fun tabletops and an easy climb back out if you’re keen to hit it again.

Stromlo's Sweetest Six 7
Choices, choices, choices!
Stromlo's Sweetest Six 1
The fast, playful Double Dissolution.

4. Blood Rock and Black Snake Gully.

The western slopes of Mt Stromlo don’t get as much attention as the eastern side, but if you take the trouble to explore you’ll find two of the most rewarding trails in the whole park. Blood Rock and Black Snake Gully are two super technical, challenging trails, which climb, traverse and descend across the rocky western side of the mountain. They’re both rated a black diamond trails, not because of any major risk or features, but simply because the tight, rocky and pinchy climbs require good technique and bit of grunt. These two aren’t for everyone, but they are supremely rewarding to get right, and the recent extension to Black Snake Gully is some of the best technical descending in park too.

Stromlo's Sweetest Six 41
The technical, rocky climbs of Blood Rock might take a couple of cracks to get right, but cleaning them feels awesome.

5. Vapour

Vapour is another trail that too many people overlook. Tucked sneakily in alongside the downhill race track, it’s a short, fun run, full of jumps with multiple lip options, big berms and step-downs. Plans are afoot to extend this trail all the way down the mountain too, and if that happens, it’ll be the real jewel of Stromlo. Watch this space!

Stromlo's Sweetest Six 15
Vapour has the biggest, best jumps on Stromlo aside from the downhill track.
Stromlo's Sweetest Six 11
Dropping into a sweet Vapour fadeaway.
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A neat side option of Vapour is the G20 Drop, which shoots you straight over to the start of Luge too.

6. Trunk Trail

A truly enjoyable climb is a rarity, but the Trunk Trail at Stromlo is definitely one of these gems, whisking you to the top of the mountain and it’s many, many awesome descents. With a perfect gradient, swooping switchbacks, heaps of line/difficulty options and great views, we had to include this one in the Stromlo’s Sweetest Six.

Stromlo's Sweetest Six 44
Trunk Trail is the kind of climb every ride should start with. Mellow enough to have a chat, with enough technical challenge to keep your mind occupied too.
The climb is broken up with short descents and some great corners.
The climb is broken up with short descents and some great corners.

 

Must-Ride: Derby, Tasmania


Slightly fearful that Derek might throw his glass at us, we assure him that he’s been correctly informed – the 21km of trails we’ve just spent the morning exploring in the beautiful wilds around Derby are absolutely world class.

Flow Nation - Blue Derby 44

Despite his volume control problem, Derek (a lifetime resident of Derby) is actually very enthusiastic about the new mountain bike trail development that’s about to put this place on the world mountain bike map. “The whole region’s been rooted,” says Derek, “it’ll be good to see people coming back to Derby.” And come they will, in their droves, because this tiny little town of 200 people is about to become the epicentre of the fastest developing mountain biking region in Australia.

Flow Nation - Blue Derby 11

Derby’s been pretty quiet for a little while now… once upon a time, it was the centre of a tin mining boom that saw its population swell to over 3000 people and brought wealth to the region in a huge way. But when the dam burst in 1929, flooding the mines and killing 12, the town never quite recovered. Mining operations limped on for another few decades, but when the rail line to the town was shut in 1992, Derby slipped into the sleepy state that’s defined its existence for the past 20 years.

But things are about to change. The entire north-east corner of Tasmania is undergoing a mountain bike renaissance, and for the past 12 months, some of Australia’s leading trail builders have been mining the rugged hillsides and valleys around Derby for the kind of gold we like.

Flow Nation - Blue Derby 59

We’d been given a run down of what to expect at Derby over the phone by Glen Jacobs of World Trail, but it wasn’t until we hit the ground that the scope and challenge of building trails in this area really hit us. This is a region that had been absolutely ravaged by mining before words like ‘sustainability’ even existed, but over the past 50 years the Tasmanian wilderness has fought back. What you’re left with is terrain that melds man-made and natural features; huge piles of rubble now swallowed by moss and ferns, deep gorges where rivers have been re-routed, tunnels, dams, massive pieces of abandoned mining equipment. It’s the kind of terrain that would have been near impossible to envisage laying a trail through, and Jacobs is the first to admit that it seemed that way at first. But the challenging terrain is what makes this place all the more special – it’s an area you’d never, ever expect to be able to see on your bike, and the trails take you on a real tour of the highlights, both natural and man-made.

Flow Nation - Blue Derby 53

Flow Nation - Blue Derby 19

The Blue Derby trail development is an ongoing project. Stage 1, opening 7 February 2015, is what we’ve been lucky enough to explore. At a little over 20km, it comprises just a quarter of the total trail that will eventually make up the Blue Derby network, including a mammoth all-day point-to-point ride from the Blue Tier back to Derby, via Weldborough. The trails are of the calibre that we’ve all come to expect from World Trail nowadays (holy hell, we’re a spoilt lot!) – bermed, ludicrously flowy, sneaky jump lines everywhere – with a great natural progression featuring easier trails close to town, getting faster and more involved as you get up into the wilds a bit further.

Flow Nation - Blue Derby 16

Flow Nation - Blue Derby 15One of the great things about the Blue Derby trails is that they are literally on Derby’s doorstep – the trailhead is a 200m ride from the Corner Store (yep, the same as you’ll find in Forrest and Mt Buller) which is a 20m ride from the bike wash which is a 10m walk from the pub! You get the idea – it’s all right there. And the whole place has the kind of character that mountain bikers will love too, an authenticity that you don’t get much in the city, and that’s a large part of this place’s appeal as a mountain bike destination.

Flow Nation - Blue Derby 25

With a lot more trail development in the pipeline, and the awesome riding of Hollybank and Launceston not far down the road already, we’re looking forward to spending a lot more time in this corner of Tassie in the coming years. If you’re in the region this weekend, get along for the first serving of an absolute trail feast that’s coming our way.

For more information about accommodation options, trail maps, bike hire and more visit http://www.ridebluederby.com.au/

Flow Nation - Blue Derby 13 Flow Nation - Blue Derby 7 Flow Nation - Blue Derby 6 Flow Nation - Blue Derby 28 Flow Nation - Blue Derby 27 Flow Nation - Blue Derby 24 Flow Nation - Blue Derby 31 Flow Nation - Blue Derby 51 Flow Nation - Blue Derby 49 Flow Nation - Blue Derby 35

 


 

Queenstown and Wanaka: Top of the Pile


Flow Mountain Bike - Queenstown and Wanaka 58

This place is almost too easy to fall in love with; the setting is breathtaking, the town has a buzzing, outdoorsy vibe, it’s big enough to have all the facilities, small enough to get around without a car… And it has an absolute tonne of world class mountain biking right on its doorstep.

Flow Mountain Bike - Queenstown and Wanaka 8

We spent four days getting just a sniff of what this place has to offer. It’d be overstating things to claim we even scratched the surface of all the riding, but we did get enough of taste to make us wonder why the hell we, and other Australian mountain bikers, aren’t making this trip an annual journey.

Flow Mountain Bike - Queenstown and Wanaka 70

A gondola-lifted bike park, heli-biking galore, superb shuttled riding, endless backcountry epics, the best dirt jumps going, and it’s all just three hours flight from the east coast. So enjoy the vid, soak up the images, and begin making some plans to get your family, your mates, your crew across to Queenstown.


 

Skyline MTB Park is literally on top of town - the gondola runs from just 100m from the main street.
Skyline MTB Park is literally on top of town – the gondola runs from just 100m from the main street.
Another perfect corner. Get used to them!
Another perfect corner. Get used to them!

Flow Mountain Bike - Queenstown and Wanaka 54

There's a real variety of trails in the Skyline MTB Park, from the buff and groomed, to the steep and loose.
There’s a real variety of trails in the Skyline MTB Park, from the buff and groomed, to the steep and loose.

Flow Mountain Bike - Queenstown and Wanaka 53

Rude Rock is one of many killer shuttle-able trails that run from Coronet Peak, about 20-mins outside of Queenstown.
Rude Rock is one of many killer shuttle-able trails that run from Coronet Peak, about 20-mins outside of Queenstown.
Flow Mountain Bike - Queenstown and Wanaka 10
Oh god.
Flow Mountain Bike - Queenstown and Wanaka 20
Scenic much? Rude Rock is an incredible trail.

Flow Mountain Bike - Queenstown and Wanaka 15

 

Wanaka, about an hour from Queenstown, might be the prettiest town in existence.
Wanaka, about an hour from Queenstown, might be the prettiest town in existence.
The Millennium Track is a 30km out-and-back along the shores of Lake Wanaka, with views like this the entire time.
The Millennium Track is a 30km out-and-back along the shores of Lake Wanaka, with views like this the entire time.
More Millennium magic.
More Millennium magic.
No trip to Queenstown would be complete without flashing (and riding) the Shotover Jet maniac canyon boats.
No trip to Queenstown would be complete without flashing (and riding) the Shotover Jet maniac canyon boats.
Dropping in! The Shotover Canyon Swing is classic fun. Terrifyingly classic fun.
Dropping in! The Shotover Canyon Swing is classic fun. Terrifyingly classic fun.

Flow Mountain Bike - Queenstown and Wanaka 91

Flow Mountain Bike - Queenstown and Wanaka 95

Queenstown is also home to one the most famed dirt jump parks on the planet, the Gorge Rd Jump Park.
Queenstown is also home to one the most famed dirt jump parks on the planet, the Gorge Rd Jump Park.

Flow Mountain Bike - Queenstown and Wanaka 126

Flow Mountain Bike - Queenstown and Wanaka 125

No trip to Queenstown would be complete without some heli-biking. Greg from Fat Tyre Adventures guided us for a run down Crown Peak. Mammoth stuff!
No trip to Queenstown would be complete without some heli-biking. Greg from Fat Tyre Adventures guided us for a run down Crown Peak. Mammoth stuff!
Flow Mountain Bike - Queenstown and Wanaka 98
Greg’s done approximately 500,445,499 heli-biking trips, he’s your man.
This is the kind of elevation you get with a chopper. Save your energy for the descent.
This is the kind of elevation you get with a chopper. Save your energy for the descent.
Flow Mountain Bike - Queenstown and Wanaka 30
The lower reaches of the Crown Peak heli-drop take in some 100+ year old mining trails that cling to the canyon walls.

Flow Mountain Bike - Queenstown and Wanaka 106
Flow Mountain Bike - Queenstown and Wanaka 28

Flow Mountain Bike - Queenstown and Wanaka 57
Cheers, Queenstown! It’s been special, let’s do it again soon.

Keen to do this trip yourself? We recommend:

Air New Zealand for direct flights and staff who’ll look after your bike like they own it.

Skyline MTB Park for some kick-arse trails.

Vertigo Bikes for quality bike hire and excellent guiding.

Fat Tyre Adventures for a variety of incredible heli-biking trips.

Queenstown Bike Taxis for all your shuttle services.

Pinewood Lodge for the great bike-friendly rooms, right next to the Skyline gondola.

Edgewater Resort for the great rooms in Wanaka.

Shotover Jet, Shotover Canyon Swing and the Skyline Luge for a break from the bikes.

 

 

 

 

Must-Ride: Falls Creek, Victoria

Flow Nation Mount Beauty-Falls Creek 120

Flow Nation Mount Beauty-Falls Creek 12

This is just the second season that Falls Creek has been up and running with its new trail network, and already they’ve got more than enough quality trail in place to put themselves on the map in a region where mountain bikers are truly spoilt for choice. World Trail, the same team responsible for the magic of Mt Buller, have been handed the shovels at Falls Creek, so the calibre of the trails certainly aren’t in question. Think of the best bits of Buller, but closer to the village, and more easily accessed – because the Falls Creek resort has a ‘bowl’ layout, with the village at the bottom, a burger is never too far away.

Flow Nation Mount Beauty-Falls Creek 195
The trails are right above the village. A beer is always close at hand.
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World Trail have made the most of the natural features, like these big rock rollers.

They’ve already got four trails in place – two cross country trails which begin right in the village, and two descending trails that can either be ridden to, or shuttled with the help of the guys at Blue Dirt Mountain Biking. Between all four, there’s more than enough riding to keep you going for a full day, and once the whole lot is completed, taking on all the trails at Falls will be a multi-day affair.

Flow Nation Mount Beauty-Falls Creek 151
Cracking berms? Tick.

Flow Nation Mount Beauty-Falls Creek 158 Flow Nation Mount Beauty-Falls Creek 125

But the bike park is only one feather in Falls’ cap, and the alpine trails across the Bogong High Plains are something pretty special too. The whole region is criss-crossed with aqueducts that feed water into the hydro-electricty plant, following the gradual contours terrain. Alongside each watercourse runs a fire trail, and there’s near endless exploring to be done, with huts along the way if you’re keen on an overnighter.

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Backcountry huts dot the plains.

Flow Nation Mount Beauty-Falls Creek 175 Flow Nation Mount Beauty-Falls Creek 77 Flow Nation Mount Beauty-Falls Creek 29

The Fainters Track is another must-do backcountry ride, descending from Falls all the way to the valley floor at Mt Beauty. This 40km ride is one of the best out going; it’s a tough half-day affair, real, raw mountain biking at its finest. Leg burning climbs, eye-popping views and brake cooking descents. You’d be mad to ride Falls Creek and not give this one a try while you’re there.

Already a must-ride destination, we’re looking forward to re-visiting Falls over the coming years as even more of the vision for this beautiful spot is rolled out.

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High on Fainters Track. Way in the distance is the Kiewa Valley, where the ride finishes up at Mt Beauty.
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Blue Dirt Mountain Biking are the crew to handle all your shuttling needs at Falls Creek.
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There’s a lot of hand-ravaging descending on the Fainters Track!

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Stay: 

Snow lands Apartments – Big, roomy apartments, right in the heart of the village. Just metres to the trails! http://www.snowlands.com.au

Eat:

Last Hoot Pizzeria – Generous and well-priced pizza, pasta and other suitably rider-fuelling food. http://www.fallscreek.com.au/LastHoot

Stingray, QT Hotel – The sunniest deck in the village, perfect for lunch or mid-morning coffee. http://www.qtfallscreek.com.au/food-drink/stingray/

Shuttles and guiding:

Blue Dirt Mountain Biking – these the only guys you need speak to for all your shuttling and guiding services in Falls Creek. Not only will the whisk you to the top, but they know all the backcountry trails like the back of their hands. Give them a bell to get the most out of this place. http://bluedirt.com.au/mtbriding/

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Flow's Holiday Must-Ride Video Playlist

Time for a mountain bike holiday? Looking for some inspiration? We’ve got over an hour and forty minutes of great destinations from across Australia and New Zealand right here for you! Travelling with your bike and exploring new places is, for us, one of the real joys of mountain biking. So settle in, grab a beer, and starting planning a trip for you and your mates to some of the amazing trails our region has to offer.

 















 

Must-Ride: Wanaka, New Zealand

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The surface of the lake is 300 metres above sea level, but the bottom is actually lower than sea level by a few metres. Visibility is incredible; the only thing blocking your view in the water is all the trout!

Wanaka makes an incredible first impression. The road into town presents you with an uninterrupted shoreline, offering you a view across the glass-topped surface of the lake to snow-capped peaks in the distance. It’s breathtaking, and this outlook sets the tone for much of the riding in Wanaka; your eyes are on the views, as much as they are on the trail.

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The Millennium Track is 15km each way. It’s quite a hilly ride, but one of the most spectacular you’ll ever find.

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Compared to the very gravity-oriented vibe of Queenstown, Wanaka has more appeal for the cross country or trail rider – the kind of person interested in an epic, scenic ride. The Millennium Track exemplifies this. Wrapping around the western shore of Lake Wanaka, this dual-purpose track is mesmerising in its beauty. Carving around bluffs that allow you to look straight down into crystal clear sapphire waters below, or dipping down to sandy beaches, this 15km point-to-point mightn’t be most technical trail going, but it’s a ride you’d be a fool to miss.

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There’s a tonne of dedicated mountain bike trail too, with both Sticky Forest and Deans Bank networks only a few minutes from the centre of town. Or if you’re looking for something more epic, the Pisa Range with its high-alpine descents and overnight huts awaits. Wanaka is increasingly expanding its appeal for gravity riders too, with more and more downhill tracks opening up in the Cardrona Valley, and the Cardrona ski area opening its chairlifts for riders this summer from 27 December – 11 January.

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Dean’s Bank is a fast loop, crammed with great berms like this.

While it’s easy to get fixated on Queenstown and its glut of trails, you’d be mad not to spend some time in Wanaka too while you’re in the region. This sporty, genuine little town really struck a chord with us, and we’ll be back, you can bet your possum-fur undies on it.


 Where to stay:

Best Budget Option – The Wanaka Hotel. Located in the centre of town, a stone’s throw to the lakefront and close to the bars & cafes. Secure bike storage. www.wanakahotel.co.nz

Best Mid-Range Option – Edgewater. Located on the absolute lakefront – just roll your bike across the lawn and you’re away! Great coffee & check out the baked-to-order scones. Secure bike storage. www.edgewater.co.nz

Best Premium Option – Riverrun. A boutique lodge set on a working farm with direct access to the Clutha River walking & biking tracks. Secure bike storage. www.riverrun.co.nz

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Where to eat:

Breakfast – Federal Diner. One of Wanaka’s best kept secrets. Don’t miss the world famous (in Wanaka) cheese scones! Complete with bike racks. www.federaldiner.co.nz

Lunch – Kai Whakapai Cafe. Wanaka’s iconic lakefront café (corner of Ardmore & Helwick St). Kai Whakapai means “food made good”. Rehydrate with a local Wanaka Beerworks “Brewski”… Bike racks onsite…

Dinner – Francesca’s Italian Kitchen. Authentic pizza & pasta with a twist of Masterchef at great prices. DO NOT miss the polenta fries… www.fransitalian.co.nz

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We’d drive to Wanaka for the polenta fries alone. Francesca’s is a must.
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A Wanaka Beerworks ‘Brewski’ goes down a treat.

More info:

The Pisa Range is a mix of Dept of Conservation and Snow Farm, with a $10 honesty box for access. For more information:

http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/tracks-and-walks/otago/wanaka-makarora/pisa-conservation-area-tramping-tracks/

 http://www.snowfarmnz.com/summer/mountain_biking

 

For more information about Wanaka, head to www.lakewanaka.co.nz  

Must-Ride: Skyline MTB Park, Queenstown NZ

Now get this: it’s real, and it’s only a few hours from the east coast of Australia. We’re talking about Queenstown, a true mountain biking paradise.

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Like a postcard. Just prettier, and with better jumps.

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The mountain bike gems of Queenstown are no secret – this place has always been a mountain bike hot spot – but in recent years things have gone from a quiet simmer to totally boiling over. The riding options in and around Queenstown are now so plentiful that you couldn’t dream of covering them off in just one trip: epic cross country loops, heli-biking, mammoth shuttle runs, the best dirt jumps you’ll ever see. And sitting, literally on top of the town, is the major mountain bike drawcard, the Skyline MTB Park.

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Serviced by a gondola that’ll get you to the top in just six minutes, the Skyline MTB Park is an ever growing beast. Local stalwart Tim Ceci of Vertigo Bikes explains: “Often new trails will get built on the sly, illegally, by locals. Then the next year, they’ll be incorporated into the park.” Already there are a huge number of runs, many of which are criss-crossed by other trails, allowing you to keep it fresh by stringing together dozens of different combos. Even if you came to Queenstown solely to ride the gondola accessed trails, you could easily fill a week with riding, hammering out runs until your hands can’t take it any more.

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From buff, machine-built flow trails…..
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….to steep, rooty, raw chutes.
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Drowning in a sea of green, beneath the beech.

With so many people fixated on ski resort riding in North America, we found ourselves asking time and agin:”Why fly to Canada to ride?” Sure, somewhere like Whistler may have more runs, but when you look at the complete package of Queenstown, it’s an unbelievably good option: it takes three hours to get there from Sydney or Melbourne, the town itself is pumping, the airfares are affordable, there’s bugger all time-zone difference and, most importantly, the riding is insanely good.

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New Zealand is already on the bucket list for many Australian mountain bikers, and we can’t stress this enough, Queenstown MUST be on your itinerary if you’re heading across the ditch.

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Where to stay: There are more accommodation options in Queenstown than you can point and bacon butty at, but we stayed at Pinewood Lodge, which is fantastic value. You can stay in dorm-esque backpacker rooms, or rent the new self-contained cabin like we did. (We’re too old to party with backpackers!). Pinewood Lodge is supremely well located, and it’s less than 100m ride to the gondola! They even have downhill bikes you can rent.

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Bike hire: There are plenty of places to hire a bike in Queenstown, but when our video man Sean ‘The Prawn’ Anderson needed a bike, we went to a true Queenstown original – Vertigo Bikes, located right in the middle of town. They have a massive fleet of downhill, all-mountain and trail bikes to choose from, as well as a range of other services from guiding to skills clinics and transport. Check them out here.

Where to eat: We’re going to offer the same advice we were given: Go to Fergburger. This ridiculously popular burger joint always has a queue (and we mean always!), it shuts for just a few hours a day, has a golden reputation the world over for serving some of the tastiest burgers out there. So good, we went there twice.

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Where to drink: Atlas Bar, on the waterfront, is the mountain biker’s watering hole of choice. Serving a great variety of craft beers, this little joint puts back into the Queenstown Mountain Bike Club with generous donations. They do excellent, great value meals too. Lock it in for a pint or four.

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Must-Ride: Mt Beauty, Victoria

Mt Beautys butts right up against some serious mountains. There's no concept of travelling to the trails, they're right in town.
Mt Beauty butts right up against some serious mountains. There’s no concept of travelling to the trails, they’re right in town.

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.

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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.

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Current 24hr National Champ, Tory Thomas is just one of the elite riders who call Mt Beauty home. This place is the perfect training ground, whether on the dirt or road.

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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.

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Local Chris Panozzo, giving his side knobs a work out.

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.

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The social riding scene in Beauty is a lot of fun. Mid-week arvo session with the local lads.

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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

Sweetwater Brewery is the local craft brewer. Drop by for a tasting - they're open over the weekends, but check their website for exact hours.
Sweetwater Brewery is the local craft brewer. Drop by for a tasting – they’re open over the weekends, but check their website for exact hours.

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.

Our Travelling Partner: Trek Fuel EX 9.9 29

If you’re looking for a travelling mate, you want someone dependable. You want someone open to new experiences. Someone who can cope with situations that might be out of their comfort zone… like getting robbed by prostitutes while sleeping in car park.

The top-shelf Trek Fuel EX 9.9 29er is sure doing a lot of travel with us: this is one of the bikes we’ve picked to take along on our Flow Nation trips across Australia and New Zealand. In just the past three months, we’ve taken this bike to Alice Springs, Tasmania, the Victorian High Country, as well as spending plenty of time on our local trails too. So how’s it going as a travelling buddy?


 

Watch the Fuel EX 9.9 29 in action, in Alice Springs, Hobart and Falls Creek, below:


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The Fuel EX 9.9 with RockShox RS-1 in Hobart.

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The Fuel EX 9.9 29 is the top-shelf 29er trail bike in the Trek range, a flashy 120mm-travel steed that’s aimed at the rider who wants a no-compromise cross-country/trail bike. With a full carbon frame, XTR sprayed all over it, and plenty of Bontrager’s lightest components, it weighs three-tenths of bugger all. But while the feathery weight will rival most cross-country race bikes, it’s also decked out with the all the necessities for technical trail riding, like wide tyres and bars, and a dropper post. Hands down, this is one of the fastest and lightest trail bikes going. We’re going to get into the particulars of this bike’s handling down the track with another update, so for now we’ll stick to the changes we’ve made, and why, and how it’s all holding together.

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Locally made, the Noble Entities CB1 is a neat single-ring and bash guard in one.

We were also eager to further reduce the bike’s weight and cable clutter, so fitting a single front chain ring was the call. We went for the Australian-made Noble Entities CB-1 ring/guide, with 32 teeth. While the XTR setup with a single ring doesn’t offer the same gear range as a SRAM 1×11 system, for a bike this light, pushing the 32:36 low gear isn’t a hard ask. Without a front derailleur, the bike just looks great too – it’s so clean!

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No chain drops issues here.

The Noble Entities chain ring/guide has been flawless. We haven’t dropped a chain yet, and the extra protection of the integrated bash guard adds a little reassurance too when riding rocky terrain. It is a bit noisier than a narrow/wide ring (because the chain flicks against the bash guard), but it seems more secure overall.

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When the Reverb Stealth post is working, it’s great. But these guys do have occasional issues – we’ve had problems with two of them in recent months.

For us, riding without a dropper post is like eating a pizza without the cheese. The Fuel is equipped with a Rockshox Reverb Stealth, a very fine post indeed, but not when it doesn’t work. (Those with keen eyes may have noticed this bike was running a different post when we took it to Tasmania). Our post had to go back to SRAM, which was doubly a pain in the butt thanks to the Trek’s internal cable routing. Re-installing the post meant both removing the bottom bracket and the main suspension pivot axle in order to re-thread the hose. It’s now working perfectly, as we’d expect.

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Excuse the ugly tape! We taped the crank arm to protect it from damage on a bike trailer in Falls Creek recently. Reinstalling the Reverb Stealth post meant removing the bottom bracket and main pivot.

In terms of ongoing maintenance, we’ve had to give a little bit of love to the rear wheel. An occasional loose spoke has been bit of a surprise, but the wheels have still stayed nearly dead straight in spite of the hammering. The performance of the XR3 tyres has been top notch – no flats, no cuts, plenty of grip. We remember a time when Bontrager tyres would make us wince in anticipation of crashing, but now they’re some of the best on the market.

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Bontrager’s XR3 tyres are excellent all-rounders.

We’ve just received a set of Zelvy Carbon wheels to review, so we’ll be popping them onto the bike very soon. It’ll be interesting to see how the wider rim of the Zelvys (35mm) changes the bike’s performance.

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We’ve had some strange contamination issues with our XTR brakes.

The XTR brakes have also surprisingly needed some attention, with the pads seemingly to mysteriously become slightly contaminated if the bike goes unridden for a while. We’ve had this problem with XT brakes on previous test bikes, but never with XTR, and we imagine this is a pretty unusual occurrence. Giving the pads a quick once over with sand paper and regular riding seems to keep the problem at bay, and thankfully we haven’t heard other XTR users complain of the same issue.

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We tested the RockShox RS-1 on the Fuel too. It’s a unique piece of kit. But is it better than a conventional fork?

We’ve run a couple of different forks on this bike over its short lifetime already; the stock FOX 32 Factory, and the super trick new RockShox RS-1. (Read our full review of the RockShox RS-1 here) We’re hard pressed to say which one we prefer…. The weight, looks and quiet operation of the RS-1 are magic, but the FOX is less cluttered (no remote lock out) and, we feel, a fraction stiffer. It’s also a lot cheaper! If money was no object, we’d run the RS-1.

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The Re:aktiv regressive damping system does work. It’s not a game changer, but it’s an improvement.

On the topic of suspension, the Fuel comes equipped with the new Re:aktiv DRCV shock, developed in conjunction with automotive suspension company Penske. This ‘regressive damping’ system was released to much fanfare earlier this year. Does it work? Yes, it does. It won’t blow your mind, but the Re:aktiv valving does offer more pedalling support and a smoother transition into the shock’s stroke than a standard FOX CTD shock. As a result, we’ve been running the rear shock in the Trail setting pretty much the exclusively.

We’ll bring you a final wrap up of this bike in a couple of months time, when we’ll focus more on the construction and handling aspects, and you can watch the bike in action over in the ‘Must-Rides’ section of the site for now

Must-Ride: Meehan Range, Hobart

While we mainlanders have been making cruel (and basically untrue, of course) jokes about Tasmanians for years, it’s now their turn to laugh at us. Because when it comes to mountain biking, Tasmania is storming ahead of the rest of Australia in the trails-to-population ratio. Tasmania Flow Nation 114

The first part of our whirlwind trip to Tassie was spent unwrapping the brand new parcel of singletrack love that is the Hollybank Mountain Bike Park. Watch the video and read all about this fantastic new development here. Stop number two was in Hobart, or more specifically, the rabbit warren of great trails on the Meehan Range on the eastern shore of the River Derwent. On these steep slopes, a combination of professional trail builders and passionate volunteers have stitched together a network of over 30km of trails, which have now become the backbone of the Hobart riding scene. Tasmania Flow Nation 94 Slotted neatly in alongside the Tasman Highway, these trails bring mountain biking right up to the edge of suburban development; they’re the perfect example of what can be achieved when you have a council which ‘gets it’. Rather than driving the sport into the depths of some far flung state forest, Clarence City Council has encouraged the development of the network within a stone’s throw of backyard Hills Hoists. While we were there, we ran into every possible variant of mountain biker, from racers on a training ride through to groups of kids out for school sport, so the ethos of accessibility is obviously working, and it’s attracting droves of new riders. “Even a year ago, the carparks at the trailheads where typically empty,” says Simon French of Dirt Art, “whereas now you’re lucky to find a park even on a weekday.”

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Local pinner Ben Bradley of the Target Trek racing team. A lot of fast riders come out of Tassie.

Tasmania Flow Nation 89 Tasmania Flow Nation 159 It’s already an incredible playground, with an interesting mix of hand built singletrack, intermingled with machine-built flow trail. The network is also home to arguably the nicest view of Hobart you can reach on your bike, with cliff top trails offering you a beautiful outlook over the city, Mt Wellington providing an imposing backdrop. But as good as the current web of trails may be, it’s the proposed master plan being championed by local trail builders Dirt Art which has the potential to cement Hobart as the premiere mountain bike-friendlly capital city in Australia.

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Looking back east from town over the river towards the Meehan Range.
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The view from the cliff top trails back over Hobart is truly awesome.

In a nutshell, the Meehan Range Strategic Trail Plan seeks to consolidate and formalise the best bits of the existing network, and add up to 70km of new trail, bringing the proposed total up to a staggering 100km of dedicated mountain bike trails, all within a five-minute drive of the CBD. “The plan provides a range of iconic longer distance rides, while also offering a number of flow and technical all-mountain descents,” says Simon French. With mountain biking already booming in Hobart, if the entire strategic plan is realised in full, we could be looking at Australia’s own version of Rotorua, without a word of exaggeration – lucky then that the master plan contains expanded carpark and event centre facilities, because we get the feeling they’ll be needed! Tasmania Flow Nation 151 Tasmania Flow Nation 170 Tasmania Flow Nation 107 Tasmania Flow Nation 90

Must-Ride: Hollybank Mountain Bike Park, Tasmania

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Dropping in to steep slab section high up on Juggernaut at the peak of the park.

Our recent journey to the apple isle had two motivations, the first of which was to check out the brand new Hollybank Mountain Bike Park, just a few minutes outside Launceston. While mountain biking was first slated as a development option for the Hollybank Forest Reserve in 2003, it was only early this year that shovels broke earth and construction began on more than 20km of new trails. Local Tasmanian trail builders, Dirt Art, have been hard at work in the rocky terrain all year and now the goodies are on the table to be enjoyed.

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Surfing the loam.

There are three main trails in the park, all feeding into each other and allowing a natural progression; there’s something for riders still developing their skills all the way through to those looking to put a few dings in their rims on high-speed, rocky hammerfests. The 5.5km No Sweat loop passes through a wide range of vegetation and terrain, with no significant climbing and an all-weather trail surface that should allow year-round riding.

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The trail surface on No Sweat should handle wet Tassie winters and remain rideable year round.

 

While more experienced mountain bikers will likely bypass No Sweat for the more challenging Tall Timbers or Juggernaut, this kind of trail is absolutely key for growing the sport and we’re sure it’ll see a lot of use by tour groups, school groups and those getting into the sport. It also passes right by an incredible swimming hole, so note it down for a hot day. No Sweat eventually drops you back right at the trailhead of the intermediate rated Tall Timbers, which has some of the most incredible, loamy berms. Their perfect, rounded, bowled out shape is like they’ve been carved out the earth with some giant ice-cream scoop. After six kays of ripping flow-trail descending and mellow climbs, you find yourself with the option to take on Juggernaut, the real jewel of the Hollybank park.

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The berms on Tall Timbers are ridiculous. Like bottom out your fork and shock ridiculous.
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Inside lines and gaps are littered everywhere on Juggernaut, the key is spotting them when you’re flying through over the rocks.

Without a word of exaggeration, Juggernaut is amongst the best trails we’ve ridden in Australia.

Juggernaut is technically rideable as an out and back (a 20km return trip), but with the whole trail being easily shuttleable, we can’t envisage too many people will go climbing it. The access road to the top is a gazetted public road, though rather than shake our own car to bits, we took advantage of the shuttle services offered by VertigoMTB who can provide un uplift service for over a dozen riders at very reasonable prices. Check here for shuttle service dates.

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Rob Potter, one of Dirt Art’s team, can seriously ride. Here he takes on the steep line of Juggernaut – it’s a trail that will challenge a lot of riders.

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Without a word of exaggeration, Juggernaut is amongst the best trails we’ve ridden in Australia. Constructed in incredibly rugged, rocky terrain, Dirt Art have managed to blend the best of both machine-built and hand-built trails in one 20+ minute descent. Getting the trail building digger through involved some fairly hairy winching exercises apparently, but the results speak for themselves. Juggernaut possesses a technical challenge that few new generation ‘flow trails’ deliver. It’s fast, rough in places, and uses the natural rock features to find awesome rhythm with some steeper black-diamond lines thrown in as optional extras. Eventually the trail links back onto Tall Timbers to complete the return loop, or you can easily pop back out onto the access road to shuttle till your heart is content and your brakes don’t work any more.

Hollybank is the first cab off the rank in the North-East Tasmania mountain bike master plan, and with a lot more trail on the way we can see ourselves spending a lot of time in this sensational part of the world. Jump on a plane (or the ferry) and take a look for yourself.

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Must-Ride: Alice Springs, NT

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Like most people, when we first heard whispers of world class riding in the arid heart of Australia, we were dismissive, but curiosity got the better of us and we’re glad it did. We took the three hour flight from Sydney, leaving behind a miserable winter, and found ourselves in the most unique, ideal mountain biking environment that Australia has to offer.

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It’s not extraordinary that mountain biking exists in Alice (desert towns the world over have healthy mountain bike scenes, just look at Moab or Fruita), but what is incredible is the quality and sheer quantity of trails around town. There must be literally hundreds of kilometres of riding out there, if you know where to look. Previously you needed a local’s helping had to get around the trails of Alice, but thankfully finding desert gold getting easier, with the recent formalisation of trails around Telegraph Station seeing proper signage at trailheads and junctions for the first time. From these professionally built trails, it’s easy to link up rides further afield, with singletrack worming its way across the the landscape at all points of the compass.

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Given Alice’s population base, it’s impressive just how active the local club is. The Central Australian Rough Riders are a hyperactive bunch; when they’re not working with land owners to secure trails, they’re running events or petitioning MTBA to get their town onto the National Series Calendar. It takes serious determination to lure complacent east coast riders away from home, but the Rough Riders’ Easter in the Alice Muster event now attracts mountain bikers from across the country, and next year the event will be combined with a round of the Marathon National Series too, which should open even more eyes to what’s on offer in Alice.

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The accessibility of the riding around Alice is a key part of its appeal. The only transport you need to worry about is getting from the airport into town, after which it’s no more than a 10-minute ride to the trails in any direction. Accommodation providers get it too, and an increasing number of hotels and apartments are billing themselves as mountain bike friendly; we stayed at the Alice on Todd apartments, where bikes are so welcome we’re surprised they didn’t get given their own beds.

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Weather wise, there are parts of the year when mountain biking is pretty much off the cards – you wouldn’t want to be on the trails much after sunrise in the peak of summer – but Alice is at its best when large parts of the country are at their worst. Throughout winter you can bet the bank on 28-degree days, cloudless blue skies and the most spectacularly clear nights imaginable. Even though the middle of the day is prime for riding, you’d be mad not to get up early for at least one sunrise, it’s magical watching the ridge lines change from the cool grey of the pre-dawn to an absolute explosion of reds and oranges as the first sun rays hit. Time your trip right and you might even catch the desert in bloom. Seeing the wild flowers come to life in the desert is a pretty amazing experience.

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While at first glance the terrain around Alice all looks pretty similar, once you’re into the trails, it’s a different story. Riding in the desert throws up constantly changing terrain and surfaces too; the trails are an evolving, engaging mix of rock, quartz, sand, shale. Dodging potential side-wall slicers and floating over high-speed sandy patches becomes part of the fun. Luckily the almost complete absence of scrub means you’ve got visibility for miles, so you can always let it run and you’re rarely caught out.

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If we had to put our finger on what makes Alice Springs riding so appealing to us, it’s that it offers an experience that is uniquely Australian. The baking desert is one of the elements that characterises Australia – it’s the ying to the yang of the surf and beaches – but it’s the last place many of us explore, especially not on our bikes. One of mountain biking’s charms is the places it takes us and what it allows us to see, and we promise you, you’ll never have seen mountain biking in quite that same way as Alice delivers it. Check it out.

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Must-Ride: Cairns and the Tropical North

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But for Australian mountain bikers, that pilgrimage is to Cairns. This tropical paradise in Queensland’s northern reaches is the sweaty, un-tamed birthplace of mountain biking in Australia. It’s where our sport bloomed, where the limits were pushed and incredible talents grew quickly like sugar cane in the rich volcanic soils.

Flow headed not just to Cairns, but we mapped out a rough plan to explore some of the riding in broader region too. It turns out that while the nation’s mountain bikers have been focused elsewhere, the local contingent have been working harder than the bed springs in a Cairns backpackers – this place is officially going off!

Join us for a three-day razz around the region as we get a taste of the trails on offer at Smithfield, Mareeba, Atherton and the Cassowary Coast – three incredible areas all within a short distance of Cairns. Watch the vid, get your froth on, then head to www.ridecairns.com for more info.

[divider]Smithfield[/divider]

Read more about our time in Smithfield here.

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[divider]Port Douglas[/divider]

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[divider]Mareeba[/divider]

Read more about the riding in Mareeba right here.

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[divider]Atherton[/divider]

See more shots from Atherton and learn more here, or watch a video all about the trails here.

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[divider]Cassowary Coast[/divider]

Learn more about riding the Gorrell Track right here.

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Mission Beach at sunrise

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Wait-a-while vine. It'll stop you better than any four-piston brake.
Wait-a-while vine. It’ll stop you better than any four-piston brake.

Must-Ride: Cassowary Coast, Gorrell Track

Mission Beach
Mission Beach

 

Inland from the immaculate paradise of Mission Beach lies the Gorrell Track. It’s an old road, forced through the jungle long ago, part of an effort to connect the tablelands to the coast, passing through some of the most densely vegetated slopes imaginable. It’s proper rainforest out there, the air is thick with moisture and dangling wait-a-while vines and massive snakes move silently amongst the moss and decaying wood of the forest floor.

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Wait-a-while vine. It'll stop you better than any four-piston brake.
Vines that grab your attention. It’ll stop you better than any four-piston brake.

Having just left the easily-accessible, landscaped perfection of the Atherton Mountain Bike Park, the Gorrell Track couldn’t have provided a starker contrast to round out the whole spectrum of mountain bike experiences we’d had in the Cairns area. Where the Atherton trails roll out right from the centre of town, just getting to the trailhead of the Gorrell Track is an exercise in itself, with the track starting 20km off the sealed road. To remind us just how wild things are out here, our path in was blocked by a four-metre carpet python that was so ensconced in its sunny position on the fire road that only a prod with a stick would move it!

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Another crystal clear river crossing.

The Gorrell Track is a 24km long point-to-point ride – if you’re looking for it on a map, you’ll find it somewhere in a big patch of green between Millaa Millaa and Mena Creek – and at the time of riding, it has only just been opened up to mountain bikers. We parked a car at the far end and shuttled it, but if you were after an all-day outing, it’s perfectly rideable as an out-and-back from either direction.

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While the whole trail is fire road, this is not a groomed ride, and the surface beneath you ranges from slippery clay to lumpy bits of black volcanic rock. The climbs are long, but the descents feel longer (and fast too), as the track plunges from valley to valley, with river crossings galore in between. Depending on rainfall, there’s a high chance that many of the causeways will be underwater too, but when we rode through only one was deep enough to cause any concern. Speaking of which, the water is good to drink, as you’re well away from any grazing country.

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By the time we’d encountered our fourth black snake (including one we rode right over by accident) and had used our second and last spare tube, we’d begun to feel acutely aware of just how isolated you are out on the Gorrell Track. In three hours of incredibly scenic riding we’d seen no one else and we’d had zero mobile reception, and with the rainforest so dense around you there’s no outlook so it’s impossible to get an idea of where you might be in relation to the trailhead or finish. It’s really just you, your bike and the jungle. This is the kind of riding never, ever grows old.

Snake bite? Or snake bite?
Snake bite? Or snake bite?

After more than three hours, with our tyres pumped up rock hard to ward off another flat, we rolled out of the jungle, and not a moment to soon. Our plane back home was due to fly in three hours, and there was two hours of driving to be done to reach Cairns and two bikes to be boxed as well! Still stinking of the jungle, with mud on our faces, we crawled onto the flight south.

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It was impossible not to reflect on the diversity of the riding we’d encountered in the Cairns region – from the history-steeped trails of Smithfield, to the surprise packet singletracks of Mareeba, the ever-expanding glory of Atherton and the wilderness of the Gorrell Track. In just three days, we’d tasted a motherload of sweet mountain bike fruits, and we want more. Next time we’ll be back to gorge on this tropical banquet properly.

For more information on riding in around Cairns, check out www.ridecairns.com.

Must-Ride: Mareeba and Atherton, Qld

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It was time to head up into the hills to the tablelands.

After sampling the goods at Smithfield and Port Douglas, we turned our attention inland to continue our exploration of the riding on offer in the Cairns region. The first stop on the itinerary was Mareeba, home to a passionate club of riders who harbour a network of singletrack that’s even sweeter than the pineapples the town’s famous for.

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Davies Creek lies about ten minutes outside of Mareeba, and it’s where the Mountain Goats play. We were joined on the trails by Rudi, the club secretary, who was fizzing at the bung to tell us more about the trails and show us their latest creations.

The feeling of riding a machine-built trail that’s yet to get chopped up or skidded out it is not an opportunity to pass up.

The arrangement at Davies Creek is a model we’d love to see more of across Australia. The land on which the trails are built is actually subject to a pastoral lease, with beef cattle roaming amongst the trails and termite mounds; the riders and farmers look out for each other, and both parties have a vested interest in keeping the place free from the scourge of rubbish dumping and motorbikes ripping up the trails.

Our timing could not have been better, Rudi told us. The club had recently secured a matched grant for the development of new trail, which was only days away from completion. And would we like to give it a test ride? Hell yes! The feeling of riding a machine-built trail that’s yet to get chopped up or skidded out it is not an opportunity to pass up.

 

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The new Tank Trail is a gem. Just shy of 10km long, it takes in a huge variety of soil types and milks the most out of the terrain, but without feeling forced or awkward – it’s a great piece of trail building. After looping through gully after gully, the trail finishes up with a ridge-run that should top well over 50km/h once the ride line is established.

Davies Creek was a real surprise for us. The names of Cairns and Atherton are well-known in mountain bike circles, but little Mareeba, sandwiched in the middle, should not be overlooked. If you’re venturing up over the range from Cairns en route to Atherton, you’d be a fool not pull in to Davies Creek for a couple of hours and an ever greater fool if you didn’t get a milkshake from the joint down the road afterwards!

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Creative trail building. This might steep slab of granite is an optional offshoot from the main trail. Plenty of chain-snapping traction here!

With a stomach full of dairy and still buzzing from the flow of Davies Creek, we rolled into Atherton once again. It was only a few months ago that we were in town for four days of amazing riding in this blossoming mountain bike hot spot, and it felt like we’d never left. Atherton is a fantastic town, and this place must go on your bucket list!

There’s a staggering amount of trail weaving across the slopes of Mt Baldy already, and the network is growing steadily. So to this the bike-ification of town, with plans to build a trail right from the centre of town into the singletrack, and business (like the Atherton Tourist Park, where we stayed) beginning to cater to mountain bikers with facilities like bike washes and work stands. We’ve got a feeling that within a few years, mountain biking will be the beating heart of Atherton.

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Hooking in to one of the amazing turns at the start of Trail 9.

Part of the reason for our return to Atherton was to ride a final piece in the puzzle that hadn’t been completed last visit, but which was now open for business. Ricochet (or Trail 9) is one of the gems of the Atherton Mountain Bike park, but until recently it was only accessible by a long, steep fire road climb – it wasn’t really part of the network. But that’s all changed now, with a new 14km section of Trail 9 completed, winding its way up to the pinnacle of the park, and this is what we’d come to ride.

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The climb is broken up into mellow, rolling pitches, and takes in some great views and features to make you forget all about your legs.

 

It’s not often that a trail is so good that you’re forced, totally involuntarily, to scream with happiness. We lost count of the number of times that the opening section of Trail 9 reduced us to howling like girls at a Beiber concert. The first section of Trail 9 is genuinely one of the nicest pieces of trail we’ve rolled tyres over. It descends into a gully that’s so steep you’d battle to walk down it, so the trail is layered down the slope with a series of massive switchback berms that suck you in and spit you out so fast you don’t quite know what’s happening. And these berms go on, and on, and on, and on… By the time you reach the valley floor, you’re not even sure which way you’re facing.

With a descent like that under your belt, the climb back up is forgotten in the afterglow. Once again, the trail is superbly built, biting off the nine kilometre climb in easily digestible chunks, with incredible views and rest spots along the way. Before you know it the whole valley is laid out beneath you. There’s only one way back to town, and that’s straight down the bobsled track of Ricochet.

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Richocet feels like you’ve been thrown down a bobsled track.

We’re not exaggerating when we say that the complete Trail 9 loop is one of the finest trails we’ve ridden in Australia. Nine kays of climbing may sound a lot, but it’s a fantastic ascent, and the opening and closing descents are ridiculously good. With the completion of this trail, Atherton reaches a whole new level, with some truly epic singletrack loops. And with plenty more trail in the pipeline, who knows how much better things can get here? We’ll definitely be back to find out again next year.

For more information on the trails in the Cairns region, check out www.ridecairns.com.

 

 

 

 

 

Must-Ride: Cairns, Smithfield

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This berm alone is worth the trip to Cairns.

The colourful Cairns mountain bike crew deserve a lot credit for the fantastic state of Australian mountain biking today. Back in the 1990s, up in the rainforests of the Kuranda range, a wild bunch on mountain bikes began blazing their own trail. They were developing mountain biking in their own sweaty microcosm, not caring a damn about how the sport was shaping up in other parts of the world. This was Cairns mountain biking; raw, slippery, fun and independent.

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Exceptional trail building on Black Snake.

Soon enough the antics of the Great Cairns Hill Tribe began to capture the attention and the imagination of riders across the country and the world. Word and vision of just how far the Cairns crew were pushing the limits of mountain biking began to trickle out, and along with it an awareness of what an incredible haven of trails this mob had created. Eventually even the UCI caught wind, bringing the World Cup and World Champs to Cairns in 1994 and 1996. Suddenly Cairns was on the mountain bike world map. In this pressure cooker, talented riders blossomed; Kovarik, Hannah, Ronning and many others, all rising to the top of World stage and cementing the status of Cairns as a leading international mountain bike destination.

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But then in the early 2000s, things went off the boil, and the Cairns scene went a little quite. It continued to simmer away until quite recently, when a concerted effort by riders, local authorities and mountain bike luminaries thrust Cairns and its surrounds back to the forefront of Australian and international mountain biking once again. In quick succession we saw the revitalisation of the legendary Smithfield trails, huge new trail developments at Atherton (just up the road from Cairns) and the announcement that Cairns had secured a World Cup round AND the World Champs – all our Christmases at once!

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What locals are keen to emphasise now, is that Cairns itself is really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to riding in the tropical north. In addition to the Smithfield trails, you’ve got Atherton, Mareeba, the Cassowary Coast, Port Douglas and a million different hidden trails in between, all within a couple of hours drive from one another.

Given we’d be in town already for the World Cup, the opportunity to explore the region was simply too good to miss. So we packed the bikes, rustled up some Hawaiian shirts and bug spray and hit the trails. First up on our itinerary, Smithfield! No sooner had the course marshals removed the bunting, than we were delving into the jungle to rip it up on the red clay.

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With graded, signposted, mapped trails, Smithfield is hassle-free riding of the finest quality. It’s the perfect place to get your tropical northern mountain bike adventure underway.

Smithfield is the ultimate place to start any riding trip in the Cairns region. Not only is the closest trail centre to Cairns itself, but the trails are signposted, mapped and graded, so it’s practically impossible to get lost and find yourself a victim of the Minjin (local mythical mountain panther).

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Flowing through the sea of green. Everything is alive and growing in the forest.

Given that Glen Jacobs was the driving force in the revitalisation of these trails, it’s no surprise that you feel like you’re carving through the vines on a hoverboard – these are classic flow trails for the most part, with a mesmerising rhythm, punctuated by the occasional A-line that requires you to really think about where you want to put your wheels.

There’s more than enough riding here for a full day of singletrack; get your fill, then head into town for some people watching by the lagoon – that’s our second favourite activity in Cairns!

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Terrible place. Just awful.
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The drive north to Port Douglas is stunning. You can see just how the mountain range plummets straight into the sea.

Just north of Cairns lies the honeymooner’s paradise of Port Douglas. It’s the kind of place where you could easily spend way too much time; most of the ‘locals’ we met had blown in from some far-flung corner of the globe and found themselves mysteriously stuck seven years later.

For mountain bikers, Port Douglas is home to the brake-cooking Bump Track descent, plus a bunch of rough and raw trails that lead you to some fairly special swimming holes – with the range teetering over the coastline, there are innumerable magic spots where water cascades down cliff faces and into deep, clear pools. The trick is knowing where to find them! We joined up with local guide Tom Dayshe of Bike ‘n’ Hike tours to worm our way through the forest and unearth some of these gems. When you’ve cooked your legs on Smithfield’s trails in the morning, this is absolutely magic.

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Bike n Hike Adventure tours, ready for action.

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Get back to work, Mick!
Get back to work, Mick!

 

For more information about all the riding in and around Cairns, check out www.ridecairns.com. 

 

Must-Ride: Orange, NSW

With a passionate club, super active trail builders, all-year riding weather, regular race meets, properly equipped bike shops and a healthy cycling vibe throughout town, it’s got all the foundations to grow into one of the leading regional mountain bike destinations in Australia.

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Rodney Farrell. Local mountain bike agitator.

Over the years we’ve made many a trip west to spend some time on the singletrack that laces its way through the pines of Kinross State Forest, though we’d never found the time to explore beyond the confines of the 25km Kinross network. But in recent months, local mountain bike stalwart Rodney Farrell has been in our ear, with near-weekly phone calls: “Guys, you have got to come ride Mount Canobolas. We’ll do some proper mountain biking, on a proper mountain.”

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Hold me back!

Lately, the excitement in Rodney’s voicemails had begun to reach a fever pitch, and with good reason.

The determined voices of a few visionaries with the Central West Off Road Bike Club had captured the ear of Orange City Council and a seed was planted. Pointing to the hugely positive impact that mountain biking has had on towns like Forrest and Atherton – and the huge numbers of riders travelling to destinations such as Mt Buller – the CWORBC crew began to spell out their vision for Orange: a dedicated and large-scale mountain bike park on the slopes of the Mt Canobolas.

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Kinross.

Canobolas lies just outside of Orange, overlooking the town from a towering 1430 metres above sea level. It’s a deceptively massive mountain – the rolling surrounds leave you unaware of its bulk – but when you find yourself on its peak, as we did one chilly morning, the scale is awe-inspiring. The terrain is incredible too, with ridge lines sprawling in all directions, huge granite outcrops, gorgeous native bush and endless swathes of pine. In short, its the kind of canvas that trail builders can only dream of.

“You’ve got to come out here and see the potential,” Rodney urged us. And so we loaded up the Flow Mobile, packed the knee warmers, and headed west once again.

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Canobolas. It’s big. very big.

Rodney was right. Mount Canobolas is potential defined. In just a few hours, we rode all kinds of awesome trails – from flat-out fireroads, to steep chutes, to jump-riddled descents through the pines. But what got us most excited wasn’t the stuff we rode, but the stuff we could imagine riding in the future. The sheer scope of Canobolas gets your mind spinning with possibilities.

All the boxes are ticked: Incredible terrain; an established riding community; a pre-existing reputation as a mountain bike destination; great weather; proximity to a capital city; plenty of accommodation; stuff for a family to do; bike shops… The only thing needed now is a council to push the go button and trail builders to put shovel to soil.

If the Canobolas Trail Project goes ahead, it’s no exaggeration to say we believe that Orange could become Australia’s own version of Rotorua. Here’s to putting the Can in Canobolas!

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Lake Conobolas.

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See you again soon, Canobolas!

Must-Ride: Mt Buller, Victoria

Over the past half dozen years, Mt Buller has really stepped up the game in Australian mountain biking. Working with trail building powerhouse World Trail, the Buller team has doggedly pursued an audaciously ambitious plan to craft the slopes of Mt Buller, Mt Stirling and surrounds into an absolutely stunning network of trails.

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Riding in Buller is simply amazing. Far from your normal trail centre experience (park the car, ride a loop, go home) Buller offers something far more substantial, immersive and rewarding. The hills are huge, the distances big, the trails challenging – this is mountain biking as it should be.

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As Buller’s reputation has spread and as the rider numbers have increased each year, so to have the facilities in the village to support the influx. More and more accommodation options have flung open their doors, there’s quality bike rental, guiding, great food and coffee.

We’ve showcased just a sample of Buller’s wares here, but there’s plenty more to explore, and come late 2014 there’ll be another 40km once the Epic trail opens!  Enjoy the video, soak in the glory of the photos below and don’t hesitate to plan your own road trip to Buller.

Get all the low down right here.

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Sunsets from the summit, just behind the village, are unmissable.

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The new Gang Gangs climb makes the return loop to the village much nicer than in years past.
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Perfect turns on Copperhead.
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Misty Twist, definitely a favourite.
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The summit of Stirling is a rewarding climb, the views are sensational and gives you a real sense of just how much terrain the Buller trail area covers.

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The Delatite River Trail.

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There’s even a Buller app with trail maps, trail conditions and more.

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The trig station on top of Cornhill has become a bike sculpture. Some nice XTR chain rings on there actually!
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Descending Cornhill.
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Quality on-trail signage.
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Wild flower season in Buller.

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Following Ryan on Misty Twist.

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Shuttles, bike rental and servicing and food. What more can you ask for?

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STONEFLY. How can one trail have Australia’s nicest climb and one of the best descents too?

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More Stonefly goodness.
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Insert sound of your brain exploding in joy here.
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We lost count of the number of bridges across the river on the Delatite River Trail – maybe 13? Amazing trail building.
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Text book singletrack perfection.


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More Delatite. More awesomeness.
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Soaking away your cares at Merimbah.
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Riding the thermals.

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Must-Ride: Thredbo, NSW

But despite its strong history, over the past ten years it had started to become clear that Thredbo’s lustre was fading a little; other alpine resorts were investing heavily in mountain biking and Thredbo was losing ground. Simply having ‘the hill’ was no longer enough. Thankfully, rather than allowing the mountain biking program to slip metaphorically downhill, Thredbo too have launched a program of rejuvenating the mountain bike side of their operations. Since our first trip to Thredbo over 15 years ago, we’ve held this place in high esteem, and so we had to come see for ourselves just what changes were underway at Thredders.

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Tim Windshuttle from Thredbo MTB, feeling the love on the freshened-up downhill track.

What we found left us feeling extremely positive. After years of talking about expansion, it’s really happening. With Resort Operations Manager Stuart Diver at the helm and a seriously passionate crew running the Thredbo MTB outfit, the wheels are in motion. Already there have been some great revitalisations to the downhill track, the new Kosciusko Flow Trail has been souped up, the magnificent Thredbo Valley Trail is ready to roll and a master plan for 40km of new trails has been unveiled.

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One hell of a place. Thredbo’s setting in glorious.

We spent four days in Thredbo: you can read about each of them here, here, here and here. During that time we checked out the absolutely stunning Cascade Trail, rode the downhill and Flow Trails, and took in the Thredbo Valley Trail too. Whereas in the past we’d only considered bringing our downhill bike to Thredders, there’s now a true variety of riding on offer and you’d be silly to leave your trail bike behind. It’s only going to get better too, with more cross country trails planned for the valley floor, and an new 11km-long all-mountain trail going in from the peak too.

As we said in the video, this trip to Thredbo left us feeling more positive about this old dame than we’ve ever been before. New trails, spruced up oldies and big plans for the future make us sure we’ll be spending a lot more time in Thredders than we have for many years, and not just for racing, but simply to ride. Thredders, it’s good to see you back on top form.

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Our first ride in Thredbo was actually outside the village, on the Cascade Trail, which Stuart Diver called the ‘original Thredbo downhill’.
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The Cascade Trail. Idyllic.

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It feels vast up here at Dead Horse Gap. If you come to Thredbo and don’t ride this trail, you’re really missing out.

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Brumbies. We were very excited to catch a glimpse of some wild horses, but the locals tell us they’re everywhere.

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The second day of our trip to Thredbo was a real contrast! After sunburn the previous afternoon, we awoke to snow! Even in December, the high country weather can be pretty unpredictable, so it pays to be prepared. Thankfully it had largely melted by the following morning.

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The valley terminal hire centre is huge now. The workshop has been greatly expanded, as has the hire fleet of Giant Glorys and Reigns.
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Workshop guru, Petri, in his domain.
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The view from Eagles Nest at the peak of Thredbo never gets old.
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That Thredbo fire road corner. Gotta love it.

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The new nine-metre canyon gap on the downhill adds some huck to the mix.
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The Snakes and Ladders section of the Cannonball downhill has been opened up to make it faster and more flowy. A welcome change.
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The bottom of the downhill track gets some flavour too, with a new wall ride, doubles and a big 30-foot table top.
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Good cub scouts are always prepared. Jackets, hats made from dead animals and beer.
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The Flow Trail adds a whole new dimension to the hill, offering a 10-minute chair-lifted descent that’s purpose built for the kind of bikes most of us ride.

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The Thredbo Valley Track is a multi purpose trail running alongside the Thredbo River. It’s not the world’s most technical trail, but it’s absolutely stunning.

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Along its course, the Thredbo Valley Track criss-crosses the Thredbo River eight times, on bridges that are built to withstand a once-in-a-hundred-year flood.

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Flow Nation: Mt Buller, Day 3

Stonefly has been named as Australia’s best trail many times, no wonder why.

This single track loop is the crown in the jewel of the incredible trail network around Mt Buller. World Trail have created a masterpiece, a truly wonderful experience in the form of a single track climb and descent that blurs the line between a scenic tour and a real thrill.

Check out first and second days in Buller here.

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Stonefly takes you through the full range of vegetation that Buller has to offer, from green, fern-filled rainforest, to open woodland and all the way up to alpine above tree line.

It’s quite an undertaking to ride Stonefly, it climbs up alongside the summit of the mighty Mt Stirling, the other big whopping mountain you can see clearly from the Mt Buller village. But although it may sound a bit backwards, we believe the climb is as good – if not better – than the descent back down. It’s not one of those climbs that grinds up, and up and up, it has been lovingly built to take in the best parts of the climb, and provides the rider with many moments to rest and recover.

From the greenest of green ferns, to open gum tree woods dripping with bark and up higher into the ghost-white alpine forests, the trail also crosses bubbling stream and waterfalls with delicious cold water. It’s a trail built to last, with extensive armouring and a great mixture of natural and imported features to help the delicate terrain withstand years of happy tyres humming along.

When you make it to the top, it’s time to make the call – slog the 1.5km diversion to the summit of Mt Stirling – or begin the ball tearing descent down Stonefly straight away. You’d be crazy not to visit the top at least once, the views are gargantuan, so vast, it makes the whole Buller experience a very special one, with views of where you have been, going and where the Epic Trail is under construction. Sit under the lone tree, an old wiry gum that must have made it through the wildest of conditions over hundreds of years.

And when you get back to the post the signals the start of the Stonefly descent, you’ve got a lot to be excited about, so much to look forward to lies ahead!

The descent is fast, and bloody exciting. By the time you get rolling, you don’t really slow down until the bottom. Built by riders who love to shred fast, the flowing singletrack makes the most out of the hard-earned elevation.

Riding behind someone accentuates the flowiness of the trail, when you turn one way, the rider ahead turns the other, and it repeats over and over again. The corners are bliss, and there are plenty of sneaky lines to jump next time, or if you’re a bit reckless, go for it.

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Large parts of the terrain around Buller have been logged, way back in the early 1900s. Many of the original bench cuts put in by the loggers are still visible and sometimes form backbone for the new trails.
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The Mt Stirling summit isn’t actually part of the Stonefly loop, but it’s only a 700-metre diversion. It’s a real grunt of a climb to the peak, but the view is definitely worth it.
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The views from the Stirling summit are incredible.

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That’s the Buller village, way, way in the distance. To ride the full loop of Stonefly from the village is a decent old undertaking, so leave yourself three to four hours.
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The lone tree on the Stirling summit. Who knows how long this fella has been up here fighting the elements.

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It’s a great time of year to be in Buller, with all the wild flowers out the trails look fantastic.
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Letting it all hang out on the Stonefly descent. There’s a reason so many people rate this as the best trail bike descent in the country – you forget the climb pretty damn quickly!

Flow Nation: Mt Buller, Day 2

On day 1 in Mt Buller, we got chatting with Norm Douglas, a fella who spends a lot of time up here. His favourite ride? “The Delatite River Trail,” he said, “it’s got something for everybody.” And so taking that recommendation on board, that’s where we pointed ourselves for our second day on the Buller trails.

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The Buller team have developed a great smart phone app to help you get the most out of your time on the trails. It has trail maps, trail info and loads more – definitely worth the download (it’s free).

As you begin the long, winding drive up the mountain to the peak of Buller, you pass a beautiful park and camping ground at Mirimbah; this is where the Delatite River Trail exits, right at the very base of the hill. And its start? Well that’s way, way, way up the mountain – this is a long, generous run, the likes of which are almost unknown in Australia.

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The sky-high eucalypts that surround the Delatite River trail are beautiful, just don’t hit one.

There are many, many aspects that make the Delatite a ride that is guaranteed to stick in your memory. There’s the sheer speeds you reach, fast enough to leave you short of gears; the lingering threat of potential carnage should you stray off the ride line in the rubble strewn fireroad fringe; the towering gums that stretch out of the gullies; the thirteen bridges that span the bubbling waters of the Delatite River… But for us, it’s the way the Delatite Trail just keeps on giving which really stands out. Just when you’re 100% certain you’ve reached bottom, the trail begins descending once again, and you’ve just got to laugh – “it’s still going!”

A dip in the river and a coffee at the excellent Mirimbah store is the perfect way to finish it all off before jumping in the shuttle bus back to the village. Paradise, or what?

Our afternoon was spent on a very different trail, Copperhead. Where the Delatite is raw and natural, Copperhead is a manmade, sculpted flow trail that snakes its way down the ski runs. It’s the ideal trail bike friendly accompaniment to International, Buller’s downhill race track. Berms aplenty, massive corners and a surface that keeps you on your toes, Copperhead doesn’t need a bike with lots of travel for you to have a good time. it’s also the ideal trail for when your legs are blown and the thought of riding back up is enough to send you to the pub.

Tomorrow, we’re taking on Stonefly, a trail we’d have to rate as one of the best in the country.

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World Trail’s Ryan De La Rue joined us on the trails again today. He carries a telescoping fishing rod in his pack – what a legend! He normally bags a trout or two on every outing, but they weren’t biting today.
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There are 13 of these bridges that span the Delatite as you hammer towards Mirimbah. Talk about iconic.
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A quick foot spa in the refreshing (cold) waters of the river before jumping into the shuttle bus.
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Copperhead lets you make the most of the chairlift for some quick vertical, even if you’re not riding a downhill bike.

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MAGICMAGICMAGICMAGIC!


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Flow Nation: Mt Buller, Day 1

It’s been a good half dozen years now since the Mt Buller team embarked on mission to become Australia’s leading alpine mountain bike destination. No doubt, it’s a mission well accomplished.

We’ve been coming to Mt Buller, making the solid drive down the Hume, for a long while now. Originally, back in the nineties and early two-thousands, it was the downhill track that drew us here. But now it’s the staggering quality and quantity of the Buller cross country trails that keeps us coming back.

Every time we’ve returned to Buller since 2007, we’ve been surprised by the pace of the trail development. And we’re not just talking a few new sections of trail here and there, but massive projects – huge, beautiful loops like Stonefly, or lifted flow trails like Copperhead. This time around, Buller’s embarking on an even bigger undertaking, a 40km IMBA-recognised ‘epic’ trail. The IMBA Epic tag isn’t one that’s given out lightly, and when this trail is completed it’ll be the first of its kind in Australia.

But that’s in the future, and for now we’ve got three days to soak up everything that Buller has to offer. Here’s a taste of our first day on the trails; come back tomorrow for more, and hold tight for a Flow Nation video soon too.

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The scrappy fireroad descent that once linked the village to the rest of the Buller trail network is long gone. In its place is the new Split Rock trail, a punchy, rocky, bermed trail. Fantastic stuff.
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If you’re ever looking for a reason to stay the night in Buller after a day on the trails, this is it. The sunsets from the summit will blow your mind.
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With the wild flowers out at the moment, Buller is prettier than ever. Pity about the rider.

 

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Trail builder Ryan De La Rue showed us around the trails this afternoon, as we tried to keep up. This is the view we saw a lot of.

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Climbing back up the village was once a serious mission, but a new, mellow singletrack now makes the ascent a pleasure. In places where the terrain is impassable, bridges have been brought in to get you through.

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Warm days, dusty trails. Feels like summer!
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Norm and Jess Douglas, of Forrest fame, have recently opened up The Corner Store in the Buller village. It’s a great little hangout, with excellent coffee and food, and really fun vibe. It’s cool to have a place like this in town.

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World Trail’s Ryan De La Rue, a super relaxed mountain man. When he’s not building trails, he’s planning his next backcountry adventure or making the most of the mountain lifestyle.
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Misty Twist is looking, and riding, better than ever. The trail has formed into a perfect flow line, 12-inches wide, carving through the wildflowers.
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Hooking in at the peak of the Cornhill descent.

Must-Ride: Mt Wellington North-South Track, Tasmania

When a trail is a really good one, you’ll know it’s name before you even know where it starts. Hobart’s North-South Track is one of these masterpieces. A ten kilometre (mostly) descent that takes riders from a signposted car park at The Springs, half way up Mt Wellington, down to Glenorchy Mountain Bike Park.

This is a track that is purpose built but has nothing to do with racing. It’s genius lies in its ability to thrill riders of all types, a carefully crafted journey with a landscape that changes dramatically along the way.

Postcard city views.
Postcard city views.

Our partner for this ride was Simon Townsend, a bushwalking guide in a past life who knows the Tasmanian bush like the back of his hand. The pannier racks on the back of his bike give him away as the father of a bubbling two year old and someone who is refreshingly unconsumed by new bike technology.

We couldn’t have asked for a more local, Tuesday afternoon experience. This is a track where you simply come to enjoy the riding and relax.

Moss thrives in the rainforesty first part of the trail.
Moss thrives in the rainforesty first part of the trail.

Moss thrives in the rainforesty first part of the trail.

Starting in rainforest with thick moss on both sides of the trail it’s hard to decide whether to take in the scenery or focus firmly ahead, pumping the surface for thrills and speed.

Simon says: 'Let's get going already!"
Simon says: ‘Let’s get going already!”

All of a sudden, the wide, hard packed singletrack catapults riders into an enormous rock-scape. An oversized scree slope created by a glacial melt, frozen by time, covers the hillside to the left. While not an uncommon sight in Tassie, it’s not something you’ll see on the mainland.

The rocks take some momentum to get over, but they’re not the type to spit you off line or make you feel unstable on the bike.

The rocks take some momentum to get over, but they’re not the type to spit you off line or make you feel unstable on the bike.
The rocks take some momentum to get over, but they’re not the type to spit you off line or make you feel unstable on the bike.
Better to pack your own food.
Better to pack your own food.

A paved rocky trail shoots you past moss-covered boulders to more closed in bushland. Cast your head right for a quick view of the city.

The rocky scree slope is an amazing sight to take in.
The rocky scree slope is an amazing sight to take in.

If we could ride a trail like this regularly, we’d shoot through here yelling, screaming and holding our speed. Not sure when we’d see such a dramatic landscape again, we had to get off our bikes to take it all in.

The Octopus Tree is hidden off to the side of the trail early on in the journey.
The Octopus Tree is hidden off to the side of the trail early on in the journey.
Raised bridges and a few drops are well signposted on the side of the first part of the track offering extra challenges for advanced riders who aren’t afraid of heights.
Raised bridges and a few drops are well signposted on the side of the first part of the track offering extra challenges for advanced riders who aren’t afraid of heights.

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It was here that were blown away with how many locals we met enjoying the trail as part of their day. The sun was out after a wet couple of months and the quick draining trails were almost dry. It was such a lift to see so many people outside on bikes making the most of the afternoon. A few lycra-clad warriors were riding in the South-North direction but they were less keen to stop and chat.

The half way point, time wise (the first section of the trail has some climbing), is marked by a cabin where you can take a moment to sit and refill your bottle. You can give your arms a rest if you’ve been clenching the bars too tight or are out of practice riding sustained singletrack descents.

Junction Cabin is a friendly place for a break.
Junction Cabin is a friendly place for a break.

The other side of Junction Cabin was built later on in the project under contract by many skilled trail workers. This included Dave Mason from Mountain Trails who built a lot of the singletrack for the Hellfire Cup. The Eucalypt bush is drier here and the grainy singletrack heads almost completely downhill.

It was here that I could feel my calves start to twinge from spending so long standing on the pedals, the only indicator of how long we’d been riding. Time felt frozen for the rest of the experience on the trail.

We started to cross over fire trails and other paths that signalled possibilities for extending the ride into a longer or different loop. We snaked our way left down big, grainy berms all the way to the Glenorchy Mountain Bike Park.

Glenorchy Mountain Bike park. Practice your skills, extend the ride, or call for a lift back up the hill.

Glenorchy Mountain Bike park. Practice your skills, extend the ride, or call for a lift back up the hill.
Glenorchy Mountain Bike park. Practice your skills, extend the ride, or call for a lift back up the hill.

Despite the high profile races that have taken place here, the park was almost a let down in comparison to the journey we’d just been on. The rutted trails and weedy landscape a stark contrast to the impeccably maintained singletrack we’d traversed for the last 10 kilometres.

In contrast to the social experience of the North-South Track, there wasn’t a person in sight save a couple of dirt jumpers enjoying the sinking afternoon sun.

What blew us away most about this journey is that this is a trail that brings riders of all types to jump on their bike and experience a place. You can loop it up on your own, or get dropped off at the start and collected again down the bottom.

A lot of money and infrastructure is being invested into mountain biking throughout the country for economic growth, primarily through tourism, in regional towns.  The North-South Track certainly attracts a lot of holidaymakers to experience its thrills.

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But perhaps even better than that, and what struck us most about the North-South Track, is that it adds so much quality of life experienced in a capital city. Imagine if a trail like this was around the corner from your place.

 

Flow Nation: Thredbo, Day 1

It was only a couple of days ago that we were trawling the net, looking for mountain bike videos for our regular Throwback Thursday feature. In our YouTube haze we came across some footage from the 1994 National Champs, held in Thredbo.

Ah, Thredbo – as that video served to remind us once again, Thredders is a destination that’s an integral part of of Australian mountain bike history. We’d struggle to count the number of times that we at Flow have made the drive from Sydney to the idyllic Snowy Mountains, usually with a downhill bike in the back of the car, all set for another weekend of riding Australia’s longest chairlift accessed descent.

And now we’re back again, this time on a mission to learn more about the changes afoot here in Thredbo. Of course we’ve got our downhill bikes with us, but we’ve also got the trail bikes too; the recent development of the Flow Track and the commencement of work on the new Thredbo River Trail has opened up the hill to riders other than those on downhill rigs.

Our first day here couldn’t have been more spectacular, with perfect blue skies and temps in the mid-twenties. Local legend Stuart Diver (Thredbo Operations Manager) had something special to show us, a little way out of the village itself; the Cascade Track. This absolutely magnificent fire trail revealed to us a side of Thredbo that we’d never seen before. It climbs up into some of the most stunning alpine country we’ve ever seen in Australia. In fact, some of the vistas didn’t even look like Australia at all, with the huge open expanses reminding us of rides we’ve done in places like Colorado and Utah.

With a crystal clear river running through the valley floor, wild brumbies roaming the hills and the ghostly fingers of dead snow gums clawing the air, it was a sight we’re not likely to forget. If you ever come to Thredbo and don’t explore this area, you’re doing yourself a disservice.

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The Cascade Track starts at Dead Horse Gap, about five kilometres from the Thredbo Village, which you can see nestled down in the valley.
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Just magnificent; grassy tundra, spooky snow gums and blue skies that went on forever.
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From Bob’s Ridge you can look out across the range to Victoria’s Mt Feathertop.
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Stuart Diver has been exploring Thredbo for almost 20 years.
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The ‘Devil’s Kitchen.

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This ride is one where you earn your turns; there’s no chairlift out here, but the descent feels all the better for it.
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Warning: horses! Wild ones!
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Moments after this shot was taken, the photographer crashed on this creek crossing with such violence that he almost cleared the entire creek with his body. Amazing stuff!

Must-Ride: Atherton, day 4 in paradise

Our trip to Atherton could not have been planned any better; our final day of riding took place under blue skies, but the very next day the rains rolled in. For the next few months, that relentless pattern of morning mugginess followed by afternoon downpours will be the norm – the wet has arrived.

The tremendous rainfall in this part of the world is the reason it all feels so alive and vibrant, but it does present a challenge for trail building. Everywhere we looked, clever drainage and armouring solutions had been employed to preserve the trails. We were fortunate enough to grab a chat with Glen Jacobs from World Trail, the man who developed the Atherton mountain bike master plan, and he explained some of the techniques the team had used in weatherproofing. Glen cut his trail building teeth in Cairns, an area that can get over seven meters of rain a year, so he knows a thing or to about drainage.

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There are numerous junctions in the Atherton network, allowing you to put together loads of different loops. It’s not like you come here and just ride in a circle.
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Top: Pepper the cattle dog practices her skills, rounding up this chook. The resulting Mexican standoff was priceless. Bottom: Arty the horse comes in for some muesli.

There’s more rock armouring in Atherton than just about anywhere we’ve seen, no more so than on the magical Waterfall track. This was the final trail we rode in Atherton and it’s spectacular. It climbs deep into a gully, traversing across two waterfalls along the way. These weren’t running when we rode, but we’d love to come back to this track after a decent rain as you’d literally be riding through the cascading sheets of water.

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The signage in Atherton is spot on. Numbering the trails makes it easy for out-of-towners to find their way around, while the locals tend to use trail names instead.

We guess we’ll just have to make another trip back up to Atherton soon for that experience. It won’t be difficult to woo us back; the trail network in Atherton is growing like lantana in February, and with Cairns and its trail just down the road too, there’s more than enough riding on offer here to keep you in a singletrack daze for a few days.

We’ll have our full Flow Nation video from Atherton up very soon.

 

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Climbing up the Waterfall track – note the rock armouring across the gullies.
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The Crocodile Belly berm on Waterfall.
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The pay off – ripping back down Waterfall. The perfect grade reversals surf the hillside.
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Glen Jacobs has been involved in the Atherton development process for almost a decade now.

Must-Ride: Atherton, day 3 in paradise

Our third day on the fine Atherton trails was all about catching a juicy sunrise from the sweet singletrack high above the luscious town of Atherton.

Building trails atop a ridge line makes for some fast undulating riding, Ridgey Didge is a great fun track joining up three hilltops above town has gorgeous views and ripper singletrack that undulates its way high up in the range. When passing through Leasies Lookout the day before we knew that this would be a particularly nice spot to start the next days exploring, with its easterly aspect overlooking green pastures. Returning there just after sunrise dressed in no warm clothing whatsoever, we were greeted with a glorious warmth in the air and on our faces as the sun began its day of cooking everything it touches.

Early bird catches the warm hues, and low temps.
The early bird catches the warm hues, and low temps. Leasies lookout, a fitting place to park up and soak it in.

We thought we were up early, but it turns out we weren’t alone, many friendly locals passed by on their morning ritual on world class singletrack before their day grinds onward. It’s clear that mountain biking is becoming more integrated into the way of life up here, the locals are embracing it, and we even bumped into a German couple making their way from Canada, USA and Australia with their mountain bikes. They too were surprised what they discovered when the rode out from the quiet country town and into the forest.

Ridgey Didge is filled with line choice options, with a drop or small step-down on the insides of corner to hit on your second run through.
Ridgey Didge is filled with line choice options, with a drop or small step-down on the insides of corner to hit on your second run through.

From Ridgey didge, up Bandy Bandy we went, snaking our way up big switchback turns that seem to help you elude that unsavoury feeling of grinding up a long climb. And from crackling dry scrub, to whistling casuarina forest, random rocky outcrops and pockets of bright green bracken, Bandy Bandy takes it all in.

With berms big enough to hold more than twice your speed we hurtled back down the other side and around to the start of the loop, wondering how the descent could have given so much back, earned from what seemed like quite an enjoyable climb.

Dropping in off a sneaky inside line on Ridgey Didge.
Dropping in off a sneaky inside line on Ridgey Didge as the day warmed up.

We are really getting a feel for the lay of the land up here now, you could really take in some epic loops as many of the trails link together really nicely.

It’s a good life up here, we are loving the gentle pace of lifestyle, exciting and unique climate, great trails and remarkably sweet pineapple.

Until next time, we’re off for a XXXX.

 

Must Ride: Atherton, day 2 in paradise

The mountain bike community in Atherton is a dedicated mob, and we’re not just talking about their persistence, patience and perseverance in acquiring over $1.5 million in trail funding.

Our morning's ride began on the cruisy green trails of the park's flatlands, before heading up over Ridgey Didge.
Our morning’s ride began on the cruisy green trails of the park’s flatlands, before heading up over Ridgey Didge.

Every morning at 6:00am sharp, a local crew gathers for a ride in the main street, sometimes on the road bikes but generally on the mountain bikes. From town, they roll the two kays out to the trails and get in some quality singletrack time while most of the world is still sleeping. We figured that joining some locals for a dawn ride was as great way to meet some of the crew and get a feel for the trails on our first day in town.

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This bit of trail is named after Atherton Cycle Sports Club president, Mark Knowles. It celebrates the glory of his Nard… whatever that is.

On this particular morning four fellas happened to have turned up for the daily social ride; there was Drew, Dean, Mark and Chris. As we rolled through the mellow entry-level trails that occupy the lower slopes of the Atherton Forest Mountain Bike Park we learnt a bit about them. The crew – a mixture of recent arrivals and lifetime locals, business owners and semi-retirees – took us up and over the fantastic Ridgey Didge and then back into town for a surprisingly great coffee.

Stormy skies gather over the local crop.
Stormy skies gather over the local crop.

This is the tropics and our trip comes right on the cusp of the wet season. Needless to say,  as the day warmed up, the storm clouds gathered and the heavens opened. But our local ride guides for the afternoon weren’t deterred – they had a true gem of a trail to show us.

Ricochet (trail number 9 on the map) starts way up high above Atherton on Mount Baldy. While many of the locals pedal up the fire road, we took the lazy man’s option and piled the bikes into the back of the ute, driving up into the clouds.

Mountain bikers in the mist.
Mountain bikers in the mist.

 

The scene at the trailhead was straight out of Jurassic Park, the mists swirling through the vines, but the trail itself was more like Disney on Ice! The afternoon’s rain had turned the top third of the run into a super slick slide; following 15-year old Behailu through the greasy berms was an education is going with the flow. This kid is one to watch, his style and playfulness on the bike are unreal, not to mention his commitment! Behailu spotted a gap that would have been tricky enough in the dry but was borderline impossible in the wet, but he wasn’t going to be talked out of it. You’ll have to wait for the video to see how it all went down, suffice to say we’re still not quite sure how he stuck the landing.

Behailu leads the way with a fearlessness that made us feel very, very old!
Behailu leads the way with a fearlessness that made us feel very, very old!
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By the sixth berm like this, you’re pretty dizzy.

It’s hard to do this trail justice – it feels like the flowiest parts of Whistler’s A-Line have been mellowed out for trail bikes and then transplanted into the Australian bush. Huge berms, rollers, doubles and drops come at you in rapid succession. While the trail stands alone from the rest of the network at present, it’s only a matter of weeks until a 12km linking trail is completed and it’ll be possible to string together a truly epic loop crowned by the Ricochet descent.

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The flat out lower section of Ricochet tempts you to make gap jumps out of rollers that seem impossibly far apart until you hit Mach 1.

Must-Ride: Atherton, day 1 in paradise

Up where the cassowaries play and the kangaroos swing from trees (for real), there’s a little town called Atherton. A little town, with a big plan for mountain biking.

Over the past twelve months, we’ve heard ever increasing amounts of talk about Atherton, and finally we decided to pack our bags, head way north and see it for ourselves.

Three hours from Sydney, and you're in Cairns, add one more hour and you're in Atherton with singletrack galore.
Three hours from Sydney, and you’re in Cairns, add one more hour and you’re in Atherton with singletrack galore.

Atherton is real banana bender territory; it lies about 80km from one of Australia’s seminary mountain destinations, Cairns, but away from the coast up on the tablelands at about 800 metres above sea level. It’s cooler, calmer and there are far fewer poisonous jelly fish. It’s incredibly beautiful too, with volcanic crater lakes, rolling pastures and rainforest clad ranges.

Signed, mapped and growing.
Signed, mapped and growing.

But Flow’s here for the mountain biking, and over three days of filming and shooting we’re capturing what riding in Atherton is all about. There’s over 30km of amazing singletrack in the Atherton Forest Mountain Bike Park already, but the long-term plans for mountain biking in the town are colossal. As the old saying goes, ‘build it and they will come’ and that’s exactly what they’re doing here, with plans for well over 60km of world class trails.

Chris and Mick flowing up - and out of - Bandy Bandy, one of our favourites loops.
Chris and Mick flowing up – and out of – Bandy Bandy, one of our favourites loops.
Ridge line razzing on Ridgey Didge.
Ridge line razzing on Ridgey Didge.
And as we've discovered, there is plenty of tropical goodness to entertain us off the bikes. This photo is not fake, Mick cops a freshwater head massage in the rainforest after lunch.
And as we’ve discovered, there is plenty of tropical goodness to entertain us off the bikes. This photo is not fake – this place exists – Mick cops a freshwater head massage in the rainforest after lunch.

Our impressions so far? These trails are sweeter than a Mareeba pineapple. We’re in heaven.

Flow Gone Troppo: Tropical North Queensland Part 2, Atherton First Look

Atherton is a wonderful example of those instances where strong passion, hard work and community spirit succeeds in making things happen.

What the locals and visitors have in the way of mountain bike trails now is astounding. The small town with a big heart desperately wants to be known for its quality and quantity of trails, and from now on they will be. What we found in those hills behind the town was pure gold.

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Atherton locals can see the obvious benefit in creating something new and exciting like mountain biking to hopefully bring hungry, thirsty and weary visitors to town, and give the economy that is largely built around the agriculture a boost.

The Baldy Mountain Forest Reserve and Heberton Range State Forest, a couple minutes drive, or ride from Atherton town, are now littered with a network of singletrack that will quench the desires of the most demanding mountain biker.

Flow will be returning to Atherton in mid November to film a full Flow Nation dedicated video and destination piece. For now, here are some of our highlights.

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A sugar mill steams in the distance, as we wind our way up from Cairns to the Atherton Tablelands.

The drive from Cairns to Atherton took just over an hour, and was a great experience in itself.

It’s usually about 5 degrees cooler up in the Atherton Tablelands than in Cairns, making the hour trip more worth while for a solid days riding.

Sugar cane plantations galore, between Cairns and Atherton the agriculture is diverse and healthy.
Sugar cane plantations galore, between Cairns and Atherton the agriculture is diverse but not as healthy as it used to be.
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The tablelands sit high above the coast, green and lush fields of coffee plants, legumes, bananas, sugar cane, pretty much anything grows up there. Even mountain bike trails grow aplenty.

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Bananas, XXXX and those classic QLD houses will remind you where you are.
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Local ripper – Belaihu buries himself in a mega berm down the popular Ricochet track.

The trail building team – World Trail have been behind much of the latest trail construction, with many hours sculpting lines into the hardpack dirt with well-operated machines.

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Gravity fans will love it here, with many descents sculpted into lines that can be jumped, doubled and ripped apart very hard and fast.
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Left, right, left, right, left, right, jump, pump, left, right. Ricochet is one of those perfect trails that World Trail are known for.

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Rocky armouring of the trail through terrain susceptible to damage will help the trails last years and years.

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The climbs are actually quite fast, its amazing how a well built climb can carry you to the top of the hill without that feeling of grinding away for ages in your lowest gear.

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Vice President of the local mountain bike club, Leasie Felderhof has approached the project with both a scientific and passionate angle, and we take our hats off to her and her team, things are really happening in Atherton.
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Mountain Bike parks with such great singletrack make travelling worth while.

Put Atherton on the list for trails to explore, they are well and truly worth it. The QLD aspect of the region is especially fun for those coming from interstate.

So, stay tuned for our complete video report from Atherton very soon.

 

 

 

Video: Ride Rotorua Top Ten Trails #4 – Huckleberry Hound

This combination of trails must easily be one of the most popular link ups in the whole forest. Huckleberry Hound and Little Red Riding Huck dish up a dizzying flow of playful jumps and berms that just keep going until your face hurts from grinning.

Hit these two trails in combination back to back and you’re in for almost 100 jumps over 4.4km, an uncountable number of berms and a bunch of signposted drops for good measure too. The whole shebang is so easy to shuttle too; the trail head is right at the Southstar Shuttle drop off and you roll out about 50m from the pick up point. Perfect.

It’s the kind of trail you can enjoy on any bike too, nearly all the jumps are rollable, and the grip is absurd. Fearless local pinner Keegan showed us how it’s done, hunting us down with his wild style, throwing everything into it as he whipped and scrubbed every lip.

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Young pinner.
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Old dogs.
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And this is where Keegan caught us. And passed us. In the air.

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Style for miles.

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A worms view of a mountain biker on the Huckleberry Huck trail, Rotorua, NZ.

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Flow Gone Troppo – Tropical North Queensland Part 1, Cairns

It’s easy to forget just how far north Cairns is, situated way, way up the east coast of our gargantuan continent. What comes with being so far north is not just beautiful tropical climates, sweet mangoes falling from trees, blonde backpackers lounging around the streets, epic coral reefs to swim in or oddly dangerous flora & fauna, it’s actually one of Australia’s most happening mountain bike hot spots loaded with premium trails.

It’s also easy to forget that Cairns mountain biking could also be thanked for putting us on the international mountain biking scene radar with the world stage being set in a World Cup in 1994 and a World Championships in 1996 in the steamy tropical jungle. April 2014 sees the return of the international elite riders, and Smithfield will once again go under the knife with a revamp of existing and some new trails to lift its game even further.

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A world away from your same old, same, same local trail that get really familiar after a while. And cold, oh so cold in winter. But not up here, the winters are especially glorious.

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On our journey from Cairns north to Cooktown and back, we took in some of the best destinations for our fat tyred exploits. Cairns, with direct flights from most major airports in Australia, is a quick hop-skip and a jump into paradise. Without a doubt, Smithfield Mountain Bike Trails are as iconic as the jungle itself, and riddled with fun singletrack.

Smithfield

Dubbed ‘Australia’s iconic mountain bike rainforest destination’, Smithfield has undergone a few major facelifts over the years. The most recent was only last year and again new trails are being constructed ahead of the 2014 World Cup. With up to an astonishing 7 metres of rainfall in a year, and a lot of that coming down hard and fast during the wet season, the trail builders and maintenance team have worked so hard to produce sustainable and bloody good fun trails.

Signed, mapped and well marked. Lucy, as the jungle is thick and riddled with trails.
Signed, mapped and well marked. Lucky, as the jungle is thick and riddled with trails.

Playing in the bright red dirt, tree roots and rocky surfaces in the foothills of what the locals call Minjin Mountain, we ripped about on twisty singletrack, ducking big vines, and popping our wheels off the ground over small rises in the trail surface. The trails hurtle you through the forest so thick that the canopy blocks out sunlight in sections and your eyes adjust in only just enough time to glimpse what may – or may not – have been a legendary forest creature quickly retreating into the trees.

Mike Blewitt boosts out of the canopy, across a dry creek crossing and back into the greenery.
Mike Blewitt boosts out of the canopy, across a dry creek crossing and back into the greenery.

There is a great mix of everything at Smithfield, and it shows. We saw an extraordinarily wide spectrum of users from all walks of life, experience, age and bike style loving a couple laps of the trails on a warm weekday afternoon. The downhill trails via uplift are obviously challenging, as anything that points down in Cairns is, but the best way to enjoy the trails is to ride in, rip around and ride out.

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In the jungle, the mighty jungle, Tim Sheedy climbs with panache.
Well signed with cool names, built to last, with nice views of the tropical coast and vegetation you only find this far north. Mmm, Cairns.
Well-signed with cool names, built to last, with nice views of the tropical coast and vegetation you only find this far north. Mmm, Cairns.
Cairns is great, with a funny mixture of whacky tourist traps, and a great outdoor lifestyle. It's so QLD.
Cairns is great, with a funny mixture of whacky tourist traps, and a vibrant outdoor lifestyle. It’s so QLD.

There is 60km of the good stuff! The local club is super active, and their site provides loads of great information on the trails, conditions and events: www.cairnsmtb.com

Smithfield is one of many good riding destinations in Cairns, but most definitely the most popular. Only a short 15 minute drive from the city centre, and you have a whole lot of trails to explore, and even a sweet little pump track at the trail head car park to get the juices flowing.

In our minds what makes Cairns such a wonderful mountain biking destination is much more than just the sweet trails. Unlike some of our greatest trail spots we often road trip to there is just so much to do off the bike. Cairns is in the tropics and a bloody wild party town! The outdoor lifestyle is colourful, and exciting and due to the large amount of travellers, and especially backpackers, the night life is great value and fun for anybody.

In the cooler months of winter, Tropical North Queensland goes through their dry season, clear skies and consistent mid-20s temperatures making for absolute perfect riding conditions.

I could keep going on, and on, and on about it all but rather, here’s some more photos to show you how great it is.

Look appealing? It's nice, really nice to be riding in a tropical rainforest. Coming from Sydney, it was a real treat.
Look appealing? It’s nice, really nice to be riding through a tropical rainforest, coming from Sydney especially, it was a real treat.
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Ryan De La Rue from World Trail, one of the builders of these trails knows his way around Smithfield, its obvious, as he plays with the terrain at remarkable speed in freakish comfort.

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More trays are being built, and existing ones revamped for three world events coming to Cairns over the next four years.
More trails are being built, and existing ones revamped for three world events coming to Cairns over the next four years.

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The Wool Shed, Cairns backpacker party life personified.
The Wool Shed, Cairns backpacker party life personified.
A quick 40 minute boat ride away from the centre of Cairns is Fitzroy Island, with crystal clear waters, warm snorkelling and a super tropical outdoor bar, it's heaven.
A quick 40 minute boat ride away from the centre of Cairns is Fitzroy Island, with crystal clear waters, warm snorkelling and a super tropical outdoor bar, it’s heaven.

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For the purpose of the photos, to portray what you could be doing in Tropical QLD, we staged these photos…

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Bleached white coral beaches, and water with incredible visibility.
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Cheers!

For more information on the region, drop by this site: www.ridecairns.com

And we’ll see you again, Cairns, at the latest this April for the World Cup!

In the next part of our Tropical North QLD adventures, we head to Atherton where the single track is brand new and fabulous. Stay tuned.

 

 

Video: Ride Rotorua Top Ten Trails #3 – Gunna Gotta

Built in 2004, Gunna Gotta, like B Rude Not 2 from last week, is another iconic Redwoods trail that recently received a facelift courtesy of the bulldozer’s blade. In this instance, the logging not only gave builder Dave Hutchings and the Rotorua Mountain Bike Club a clean slate to reshape the trail, but it also revealed some absolutely cracking 360-degree views!

It’s a fair pedal up Katore Rd to reach Gunna Gotta and its neighbouring trails, but it’s not hard to justify the climb. The vista is magic; on a clear day you can look north over Lake Rotorua to the coastline at Tauranga and to the south you might see snow-capped Whakapapa on the far side of Lake Taupo.

Morgan Wilson – the fella behind Zippy Central, a local cafe of legendary repute – might ride a rigid singlespeed, but even with only one gear to get him to the top, Gunna Gotta is one of his favourite trails. The new upper section wraps around the hillside, benched into the steep slope, and offering a fantastic outlook if you can draw your eyes away from the trail. After a kilometre or so, the singletrack plunges back into the forest, rejoining the original trail, chucking you about like a pinball before spitting you out on Katore Rd once again.

Follow the photos below to get a feel for the two distinct halves to this awesome trail.

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The tree won.

 

 

 

The Ride Rotorua Top Ten Trails: Day 4, How Can Life Here Be So Good?

It’s also the variety of trails here in Rotorua that makes the experience so damn good, and today proved that to us, with our first run down the hill on a particularly cool trail; Boulderdash. Aptly named, as after a long fast run through a felled area of the forest with step downs, high speed open turns and sneaky double jump lines, we hurtled into a mine field of boulders.

Bryce Shapley from the local Specialized dealer, Cycle Zone chose this one as his pick, and valiantly led us down the track with ball-tearing pace.

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Bryce from Cycle Zone showed us his pick of the forest. Here he assures Chris that the track is safe, and ‘just follow me’.
Hugging a cliff littered with boulders, the brand new track is super wild!
Hugging a cliff littered with boulders, the brand new track is super wild!
Mick drops into a dicey corner on the expert line, Boulderdash.
Mick drops into a dicey corner on the expert line, Boulderdash.

With bluebird skies, and a morning out of the trees in the open, we ripped about on machine-built perfection for the cameras.

Bryce, all limbs and raw speed. On a track like this, you can lay off the brakes and relish in the fine work of the creative local trail builders.
Bryce, all limbs and raw speed on his dialled Specialized Enduro 29. On a track like this, you can lay off the brakes and relish in the fine work of the creative local trail builders.
The whole Challenge Block has about four different runs down it, from 1.4km to 600m.
The whole Challenge Block has about four different runs down it, from 1.4km to 600m.

From the machine built swopping lines of the open terrain around the Challenge Block, we took a ride up to the very top of the forest to the natural native forests of the Te Tihi o Tawa track with the local legend we all love, Gaz Sullivan from NZO. Two very different tracks, just a few minutes ride from each other in the forest.

Gaz Sullivan from NZO, local legend and a formidable singletrack pinner.
Gaz Sullivan from NZO, local legend and a formidable singletrack pinner.

He’s loved by many for a variety of reasons, besides from making hardy mountain bike clothes he supports the scene passionately, and is so frothingly pumped to show us around his favourite trails. And his pick was Te Tihi o Tawa, the lushest most slippery almost spiritual experience you can have in this forest.

Gaz told us a few historic stories of the local Maori people, and the stories behind the names of the area and trails. Then led us into the moist forest like Pied Piper.

A few showers through the night made for a few puddles, and questionable traction surprises galore.
A few showers through the night made for a few puddles, and questionable traction surprises galore. Damian Breach snaps another beautiful shot in the forest, we love the man.
Gaz threads through the greenery, as it leans over to take a look at his planted and powerful style.
Gaz threads through the greenery, as it leans over to take a look at his planted and powerful style.
Some are slippery, some are grippy. Just don't trust your own judgement, best technique is to hope for the best and hang on!
Some are slippery, some are grippy. Just don’t trust your own judgement when your tyres hit the roots, in our experience the best technique is to hope for the best and hang on!
Chris soaks up a bowl hole at full extension on the Pivot Mach 6.
Chris soaks up a juicy bowl hole at full extension on the Pivot Mach 6.

Filming on this track offered us a unique opportunity to stop and look around us instead of whizzing by the beautiful old forest. The ferns and vines are so thick, building this trail is a feat of amazing perseverance!

Everything grows on everything in soils so rich here, it's about as green as the world can get in here.
Everything grows on everything in soils so rich here, it’s about as green as the world can get in here.

Cheers, Redwoods!

Trails: Christchurch Adventure Park

The Christchurch Adventure Park is the working title of the project to create the world’s first purpose built, year round chairlift accessed downhill mountain bike park on the Port Hills near Christchurch, New Zealand. Select Evolution, a developer focused on creating exciting new adventure sport destinations globally, leads the project.

The ethos is simple; we aim to produce the world’s best quality, most accessible downhill mountain bike park in the world. Building on our experience of similar operations worldwide, this will provide opportunities for all levels of ability and knowledge, from total beginners who require equipment rental and skills instruction to the world’s top downhill mountain bikers in search of the perfect destination for training and competition.

In addition to this, the park will host a range of complimentary attractions and activities to ensure a broad appeal, including a restaurant, retail, ziplines, sightseeing and a mountain coaster. All will be sympathetically designed to blend with the beautiful natural surroundings of the Port Hills as part of an overall program to reintroduce a range of native plant species to the area.

(This content was originally posted on the Select Evolution website)

 

Must-Ride: Tathra, NSW

Tathra, oh Tathra… Tucked away on the far south coast of NSW, Tathra is a cruisy seaside town harbouring a sensational singletrack secret.

Stashed away in the hills that slope down to meet the golden sand is more great trail than you can squirt a leaky hydra-pack hose at. There’s almost 50km of some of the finest handbuilt trails imaginable; in fact there’s so much trail and so few riders that the locals are crying out for more more riders to drop by and help keep the leaves off.

We’re good Samaritans here at Flow, so we heeded the Tathrans cries for trail-clearing assistance. We packed the cars, loading in our cross-country bikes, and hit the road south. You can read all about it in issue #3, but watching the video above and casting your eye over the shots below should give you a pretty good idea of what you’re missing out on.

Flowing down the ‘Bridges’ trail. This is a must-ride.
Signposted and mapped trails, plus a full-stocked bike shop. You cannot go wrong.

Razzing around the ‘water tank’ trails on the south side of town.
It’s all about the burgers. Small town, big burgers.
The killer trails of Bermagui are just up the road.

Bikes, boards and bromance.

Two hands for beginners please.

 

Must-Ride: Jindabyne, NSW

In the next issue of Flow (Issue #4) we are going to feature the trails and grand plans of mountain biking in Jindabyne.

The little township of Jindabyne, NSW is a small dot on the mountain bike map however recent work and future plans may mean that Jindabyne, and the greater area, could very easily become an Australian mountain bike mecca. There’s already a smorgasbord of trails in the greater Snowy area and Jindabyne is the perfect hub to explore them all.

The new trails between Tyrolean Village and the township of Jindabyne are just the start of those future plans and Flow got to ride them on a recent trip to Thredbo.

Probably like most, we normally drive straight through Jindabyne, however his time we decided to make the stop – and it was more than worth it. On top of the new trails in the video, the old network of trails in the Tyrolean area still running, and access has also been granted for all to ride the sweet network of trails at Bungarra (just a few minutes out of town).

Look out for a full feature in issue #4, and make sure you add Jindabyne to your list of favourite trail destinations. You can even grab a locally brewed ale just metres off the trail. Now that’s worth the trip alone.

Road Trip: Go West, NSW

This feature first featured in issue #1 of Flow. Apart from some copies we may find in the back of a toilet somewhere, issue #1 is now unfortunately sold-out.

To avoid the sorrow of missing out on getting your hands on Flow magazine make sure you’re signed up to get your own personal copy. Being a Flow Royalty member also means you can avoid going to the local news agency as it’s delivered right to your door. This means more time on your bike and less time at the shops – win, win situation.


 

On my too frequent visits to the local bistro, I usually default to the $10 rump with pepper sauce. it is a good option – the value is undeniable and you get to cook it yourself, which appeals to the control freak in me. But sometimes I yearn for the crispy crumbiness of a schnitzel, or the barbecue tang of a rack of ribs.

Trail riding is the same. The old favourite trails will always cop a flogging, but occasionally you find yourself craving something new, fresh trails in far away towns, and topped off with nutritious post-ride parmigianas.

One tuesday evening, I was perched at the top of a cleat-marked rock on Manly dam in northern Sydney, a place that I’ve stopped at umpteen times. Squinting up through the evening’s smoggy haze, I could just make out the lumpy horizon of the Blue Mountains, like a grey caterpillar crawling over penrith. as sometimes happens – far too frequently for my wife’s liking – I began singing a village people song: ‘go west… life is peaceful there. go west… lots of open air.’

Hmm… if there’s one thing I’ve learnt, it’s that you should always listen to the village people. I’d ridden north, I’d ridden south, and east is where the sharks live. It was time to go west. it was time for new bistros and fresh singletrack. Blueys, Lithgow, Orange and Parkes. It already smelled like fun.

Scribblies, Picnic and Hanging Rock and Lockyear’s

Our crew was five strong: Paul Rowney – a man of wizened years (and face), who has an infatuation with chilli and beers. Chris Benny – photographer to the stars. He bunny hops like roo on a trampoline and but has an aversion to hills of the upward variety. Mick Ross – toys with shaving his legs, but usually limits himself to trimming his chest. Greg Chalberg – this guy never crashes, ever. But I have it on good authority that he bears a surprising resemblance to Moby (or a timid Peter Garret). And me – usually excited as a spaniel and, when that’s mixed with singletrack, often bleeding.

It was blowing a wind stiff enough to push your teeth back into your gums when we pulled into Leura and cracked open the predictably red front door of the Red Door café. remarkably, we were on time to meet our guide, the disturbingly fit Chad Gossert. Judging by the absence of body fat on this man, I thought it wise to put honey as well as butter on the banana bread I wolfed down before we followed Chad in convoy out of town to the first stop of the road trip, Scribblies.

Chad wasn’t sure if Scribblies got its name from the preponderance of scribbly gums, or the fact the trails feel a bit like an excited child has drawn them onto a topo map in crayon in those five minutes the adults were out of the room. These popular, whoopy trails twist and turn back on themselves with endless turns and poppy little gaps jumps. Within seconds I was frothing like a puppy on a choker chain, drifting through flat and bermed corners, the sandy quartz flying off my tyres and getting whipped into my eyes in the wind.

This was exactly the kind of singletrack people had told me did not exist in the mountains. The flow was just insane, making the climbs feel so effortless that even Chris Benny was having fun.

I got a little too excited and tried to jump a gap that really required a motor to clear it. Let me tell you now, Scribblies’ dirt is a particularly abrasive variety, just the thing for exfoliating that unwanted skin from your chin. And it’s tasty too.

The Blackheath Sourdough Bakery is a must- do. Not only did the kindly gentleman sell us most of the shop for $17.10, but he didn’t laugh at the bleeding hole in my face. With most of our blood supply now digesting baked goods, we followed Chad out to hanging rock with the promise that the view would make us wet our chamois.

The trail in proved to be almost as awesome as the view itself, a classic fire road descent that had the crew chopping each other up like frustrated cabbies on George Street. The vista was properly stunning; a sheer drop of hundreds of feet, made terrifying by the 80km/ hour wind gusts and Mick’s game of trying to ‘skid’ rocks over the edge into the abyss. A hundred kilometres away, blurry behind its smoggy veil, Sydney could be seen at the end of the Grosse Valley. As Chad pointed out other rides in the area, which we didn’t have time to do, I had one of those surreal moments when you’re sure time has been stretched. It seemed impossible that just a few hours had passed since I was sitting in Sydney traffic. There’s nothing like fresh trails to reset your brain.

As we trundled to our next destination, Rowney lamented that for too many people
the adventure element has disappeared from mountain biking, replaced by clean, easy loops. Little did he know, we were about to get a double helping of adventure. Craig Flynn, president of the Central Tablelands Mountain Bike Club, is 100% Lithgow local. When we met up with Craig at the foot of Mt Victoria, he had lights strapped to his bike and he suggested we do the same; the sun was already dipping low. Cue Indiana Jones music, it was time for something epic.

After a gentle grind to the saddle of Mt York, we joined a ridge-running singletrack that, for me, was a highlight of the whole trip. Lockyear’s is a walking trail that seems handcrafted for mountain bikes. Loose, chundery descents, sandy bermed corners, steep chutes and lumpy sandstone: there’s something far more rewarding about a trail that has evolved perfect flow over time, as opposed to being manufactured that way. It finished with a plummeting descent that we did in the purple half-light of early evening, our pupils almost as wide as our smiles.

The crawl out under lights was a challenge, especially for Chris Benny our photographer, who was on the point of literally crawling. At one stage he asked me to ‘leave me here to die’. I think he actually meant it. The lure of a pub meal pulled us through, though, and by the time we’d descended back to the car the smiles were fixed in place again. This ride was a bit of a game-changer for me, a real wake up call as to the kind of riding I’ve been missing out on lately – an adventure, rather than a pedal.

The Commercial Hotel welcomed us that night. Trivia was played, beers were drunk, though the absence of parmigiana from the bistro menu was a shocking blow. The Commercial’s steak Diane, a superb offering of fat on protein, went some way to easing my pain.

Commercial Hotel, Lithgow: 1 x steak Diane, 4 x James Squire Original Amber Ales

Rydal and Hassans Walls

‘Why is the rain bouncing off my handlebars?’ asked Mick. ‘Oh. it’s frozen.’ clever lad. Things get cold fast on the far side of the great dividing range, as we discovered that morning when a driving wind cut through our warmers and vests. Luckily Rydal warmed us up quick- smart. And no, Rydal is not a man. Rydal is the township that plays host to a recently installed cross-country race track, about fifteen minutes out of downtown Lithgow.

The local crew, as well as folk who travel from further afield, come here to race every Tuesday (except when it gets too cold for the time keepers) and to punish the side knobs of their tyres. If you like going round corners, you’ll be quite happy on Rydal’s 10-kilometre loop. It’d be a tough place to race, with little space for rest and constant accelerations to keep you on the rev limiter.

Speaking of rev limiters, while Chris Benny had been suffering on the trail the previous evening, his car, overwhelmed with empathy for its owner, underwent its own quiet meltdown and had a little under-the-bonnet bonfire. Putting safety first, and adding to the drama, young Greg locked his keys inside his car, where no one could steal them. To free them, we had to join the NRMA, which gave us a new unit of monetary measurement: ‘the Member$hip’. Our accommodation for the whole road trip came to just 1.3 Member$hips. Things were even more affordable for Mick, who’d left his wallet at home and didn’t have to pay for a thing.

With four men, their luggage, bikes and body odour now sandwiched into the one car, we headed back to Hassans Walls. Not, as it may sound, a medieval castle, Hassans Walls is an amazing rocky outcrop that towers above the plains on the southern side of Lithgow. It is littered with fast, punchy rim-pinging rocky descents, in complete contrast to Rydal. Even better, it can be shuttled in just a few minutes on a smooth dirt road. Blindly following our local guides down leaf-littered trails that moved beneath my tyres was unreal. I wasn’t sure if the tears streaming down my face were from joy or from the wind-chill making my eyeballs cry in pain. Craig Flynn reckons there are 15 unique descents from Hassans, all depositing you at different points around town. We’re itching to come back and have a crack at them all.

Less than hour and half down the road, our car doing some impressive wheelies, we pulled into Orange. I was relieved to find that our accommodation conveniently adjoined a drive- thru bottle shop, but disappointed to find that our accommodation budget didn’t stretch to five beds. Despite Mick’s pleas that he was chronic bed-wetter, there was some sharing.

Ophir Tavern, Orange: 1 x parmigiana, 3 x Tooheys Old

Kinross

‘We have a bogan problem,’ said Scott, Orange Mountain Bike Club president. He indicated the burnt-out cars that sat in various orientations (commonly upside-down, to make it easier to steal the gearbox) around the edges of the dirt carpark. ‘But at least they’re cashed up bogans,’ chimed in Steve. Fortunately none of the pine trees around the blackened shells had been caught aflame yet.

The trails of Kinross are a-grade: classic, sinuous pine forest singletrack. They are lovingly maintained, sometimes obsessively, by a core crew in the 50-strong club. ‘They staged an intervention,’ Scott tells me, ‘because I was out here trying to build trails with a broken collar bone and my arm in a sling.’ There’s over 30 kilometres of singletrack gold to be dug out, sometimes literally – with so much trail and so few riders, the pine needles can quickly bury the trail surface.

Flowy, grippy, with enough elevation change to keep you honest, the Kinross trails are the kind of loop that I wish existed in every town. Anyone can ride them, but at speed you’re on the edge, especially if you clip an errant pine cone. There are some real challenges, including a switchback that is so tight I’ll buy you a hamburger if you can ride it. But on the whole it’s pure in-the-groove stuff.

Broadway Hotel, Parkes: 1 x Avondale schnitzel, 1 x cheese platter, 1 x Pizza Hut Plank, 4 x Tooheys Old

Parkes

The Kinross groove is mighty, but it couldn’t match the display of groove that went down later that afternoon in Parkes, when Greg found the jukebox. I don’t think the Parkes farming and mining community quite grasped the funny side of the ABBA, the Bee Gees and at least four other boy bands being blasted out at 4:30pm on a Saturday arvo. I was happy to slink outside to take a pretend phone call.

The town was bristling with mountain bikers, all in Parkes to race the annual Back Yamma Bigfoot, held in the Back Yamma state forest, about twenty minutes south of Parkes. I met riders from as far away as Melbourne and Brisbane, and we ran into Jason English who wanted eating partners for a pre-race, all-you- can-eat assault on Pizza Hut. We opted instead for a bistro famed for it’s plethora of schnitzels, Parkes’s Commercial Hotel, and it did not disappoint.

Parkes has a great vibe and particularly welcoming locals (thank you, random pub youth, for telling Greg he looked like both ‘Moby’ and ‘Peter Garret’ in the same sentence). The Broadway Hotel was the perfect place to bunk down – its guest list seemed to consist mainly of itinerant old men who smoked while crapping in the shared bathroom, and it was well stocked with dairy products that were at least 12 months out of date. At $55 a night for three (or 0.2 Member$hips), that’s entertainment you can’t beat.

The glorious morning that greeted the Back Yamma Bigfoot the following day was a welcome change from the frosts of Lithgow and Orange. Race organiser, Rocket Rod, was clearly happy with how the day was shaping up – the only hiccup was provided by some particularly creative bogans who’d placed a dead roo in a port-a-loo and then dragged it around an empty paddock. Bogans in Orange: you’ve just been upstaged.

Fast, flat, dusty and wildly fun, the trails of Back Yamma were such a contrast from
the rocky descents of Lithgow or the pines of Orange; this road trip had served more
sweet variety than the confectionary aisle in a Blackheath deli. It was sensational riding at Parkes; sweeping bends that were full of hidden lines and ruts to keep you on your toes, slippery quartz-filled corners, dipping gully runs, bursts of yellow canola fields, and some of the straightest, longest fire roads in the universe. All of it covered in a powdery red dust that stuck to our faces, leaving us looking like a pack of manic Oompa-Loompas. Powered by who knows how many pizzas, English won the race (surprise!) As the rest of us crossed the finish line, I was drawn to the prodigious BBQ, where I soaked up the chilled-out vibe, chatted with the big family groups who’d made a camping trip out of the weekend and enjoyed the feeling of warm sun on my tired legs.

Our last stop in the road trip complete, we packed a couple of spare steak sandwiches and began the four-hour jaunt back home to Sydney. A week on the road, complete with dusty bikes, smelly socks and a head full of great times on new trails, can’t be beaten. Heed the Village People and go west – good times await. Disco never lies.

Must-Ride: Bikes and Brews Tour, Part 1

You know those perfect moments on the trail, when the light is amazing, the riding is mellow and you’re just in 100% cruise mode?

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Just a few weeks ago, Flow headed to Beechworth, Mt Beauty and Bright in north-east Victoria. We were there for the Bikes and Brews tour; three days of amazing riding, delicious breweries and good times.

Along the way, we shot some video to capture what the region is all about. Here’s a little taster from a particularly golden afternoon in Beechworth.

We’ll have the full video up soon and you can read all about the Bikes and Brews tour in issue #2 of Flow, out 9 January 2013.