Ride High Country: Mt Buller


Of course, you’ve got to grind out a few metres in the other direction to earn all the descending, but thankfully the human brain is awfully good at quashing the hards times from memory and elevating the good. So all you’re left with is a head full of amazing downhills.

Maybe that’s why we always think of Mt Buller so joyfully. All we can remember is railing perfect turns on Misty Twist, screaming at full-speed down the Delatite River Trail, pumping the pure rhythm of Stonefly… It’s almost too good.

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Making the trip to Buller is pretty much an annual ritual for us, but this time our visit to Mt Buller was the final stop on our mammoth Ride High Country Road Trip, a week-long journey through the Victorian north-east’s best trails.

While the other destinations we visited on our road trip are all clustered tightly, Buller stands apart, about two hours’ drive from Beechworth or Bright. But coming to this part of world and not making the trip to Mt Buller would be like not eating dessert. And no one wants to miss out on sweet, sweet dessert.

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You need a big map board when you’ve got big mountains.

To our delight, we scored Mt Buller is absolutely prime conditions. Our guide, the resolute Shannon Rademaker of All Terrain Cycles, took us straight to the best dirt on the mountain, at the recently refreshed Misty Twist. This trail has always been a favourite – it’s close enough to the village that you can squeeze it in for a quick afternoon loop, and the trail is a perfect ribbon of loam, draped through atmospheric snow gums. It links back into the fast and furious Clancy’s Run too, which is another iconic Buller fave.

That afternoon, slapping through brown berms, following the trustworthy wheel of Shannon, we locked yet another magical Buller memory away in the vault.

 

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Misty Twist at its best.

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With only limited time up our sleeves before facing the run back up the Hume to the Real World, we headed to the Delatite River Trail. If you’re looking for a uniquely Buller experience, this is it: 1000m of vertical descending, at speeds you frankly have no right to be hitting on a mountain bike!

The trail tapers out with its famous log bridge river crossings, and the icing on the cake is literally cake, in this case a brownie from awesome Mirimbah Store at the end of the trail. A quick coffee to get the brain back in order after the fury of Delatite, and it’s back up the hill on the shuttle, right to the peak of the village. You can see why saying goodbye to this place is always a rough breakup.

For more information on Mt Buller, or riding right across the Victorian High Country, head to ridehighcountry.com.au.

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No, I never want to say goodbye…
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The final stretches of Delatite.

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Ride High Country: Bright


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Well obviously you’d want a region that was crammed with places to ride. And plenty of diversity too, because there’s no point in riding the same style of trails for a week. And you’d want a pumping mountain bike culture too, making you feel right at home. And breweries of course, as every good ride finishes with a beer.

In short, you’d want to head to the Victorian High Country. That’s what we did, as we set out for a week of sensational experiences, on our Ride High Country Road Trip.


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You see why this place is a fave?

Our Ride High Country Ride Trip began in Bright, a town that we’re certain you’ve heard mentioned many times here on Flow. It’s a real cycling paradise, for both mountain bikers and roadies; set on the Ovens River, streets lined with oak trees, hills rising on all sides, we can hardly imagine a more perfect little town.

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Machine-built flow trail is increasingly becoming a part of the Bright network, complimenting the traditional pine forest singletrack.

Mountain biking is woven into the fabric of the place too, part of the culture in a way that we associate with towns in Canada or Colorado. Wherever you look you’ll see bikes in utes, people strutting in SPD shoes, riders fuelling up at the bakery or winding down at the brewery (which is owned and run by mountain bikers!).  It’s all set against the backdrop of Mt Mystic, home of the Mystic Mountain Bike Park.

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Aaron Gungl, wagging the tail high on the Hero Trail.
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Perfect dirt? Check. Trails right from town? Check. Brewery on the river? Check.

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The classic pine forest singletrack here has been the drawcard for a long time; technical, engaging trails, weaving across the slopes of Mt Mystic and down to the riverside. When you factor in Bright’s ultra challenging downhill and enduro trails, you can see how the flavour of Bright mountain biking has always been favoured by riders looking for somewhat ‘spicy’ experience.

But lately, the new school of trail building has come charging on in. The traditional nature of the trails is beginning to get a modern twist, with more beautifully shaped machine built trails coming online, bringing some much needed flow to the park. Of course, the ultimate symbol of this progression is the opening of the aptly named Hero Trail – an absolutely masterclass of trail building, and a monster to ride!

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The Hero Trail is completely unique in Australian mountain biking – the closest parallel this country has seen yet to experiences like Whistler’s A-Line or Dirt Merchant trails. A flow trail on steroids? Certainly, but that doesn’t come close to conveying the feeling of ripping into a berm that’s way higher than your head and which tries to tear your tyres off the rims, or the buzz of flying off lip after lip after lip at full speed. The step up is kind of like graduating from paddling in the white wash of Bondi to big wave surfing at Maui.

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The Hero Trail incorporates a smattering of built features into its flow too, like this wall ride which you can hit or just fly on by.
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One of the Hero Trails most incredible corners. Hear your tyres protest as you pull some g’s.

That’s certainly not to say that you have to be an elite level shredder to enjoy this trail. Every jump is rollable, and there are multiple lip options on most to let you move from C, to B to A-lines. And if jumping isn’t your thing, no worries, everyone can enjoy the feeling of hooking into so many perfect corners.

 

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The Bright Brewery is really the social hub and centrepiece of town, and they’re all 100% mad for mountain biking too, including owner Scott Brandon (centre).

To show us the ropes, it only seemed right to get some insanely talented and passionate riders involved, riders who encapsulate where things are headed for Bright: Kaia Ellis, Aaron Gungl and Phil Roubichard.

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At just 13 years old, Kaia represents the future of Australian mountain biking – living at the base of Mt Mystic, shuttling every day, he’s already in the national spotlight as a rider headed for big things. Aaron rides this trail with such ease and style you’d think it has been built to his specifications. And Phil, originally from Canada and with plenty of experience in the bike industry of North America, has seen how trails like this can transform a mountain bike scene across a region.

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Where things are headed: Kaia Ellis, Phil Roubichard, Aaron Gungl.

 

The popularity of the Hero Trail is undeniable: in the short time we loitered at the trail head, we saw at least six different groups shuttling the trail, and a good handful of riders who’d pedalled up the climbing track too. In a region that already has a huge number of iconic must-ride trails, the Hero stands proud as something truly transformative, both for individuals and for the Australian scene more broadly.

The Hero Trail stands proud as something truly transformative

We think the success of this trail in drawing a crowd demonstrates a coming of age for mountain biking in Oz. Gravity trails like this have largely been seen as a niche offering, but the Hero Trail seems to be telling a story of mainstream appeal from what we can see. It’s certainly taken Bright from a 10 to an 11 in our books!

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A lesson in style.

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