Tropical Trails: Tully and The Cassowary Coast

Looking up the valley into Tully Gorge as the sun dips over the bananas. #queensland

Tully lies just a couple of hours south of Cairns, but it’s a world apart. The only nightclub here is the monthly gathering of the bridge club. Surrounded by an incoming tide of green, the town chomps back at the cane fields, feeding the bustling refinery that in turns feeds the blood sugar levels of Australia. It’s also the gateway to the incredible Tully Gorge and its impenetrable, stunning rainforest, which is what we’d come to experience.

Cassowaries: elusive and vaguely terrifying.

This whole region is often called the Cassowary Coast in honour of the slightly terrifying, prehistoric looking flightless bird that roams the rainforests of the region. Despite bumper stickers and roadside warnings galore telling me to Look Out, Cassowaries About, I’ve never seen one, but it’s a nice name for the place all the same.

Not the sunrise we were hoping for!

We decided to kick off our time here with a sunrise pedal on the hard-packed, majestic sweep of Mission Beach, hoping for one of Queensland’s trademark killer sunrises. But Tully’s weather was blowing eastward today, clouds and drizzle scuttling along the coast. With the sun refusing to honour its part of the get-up-early-get-good-photos bargain, we headed inland to Tully and the gorge beyond.

Mission Beach is totally hard-packed, meaning it’s actually perfect for a waters’ edge cruise.

Our trip to Tully was all about finding a different kind of riding experience – we’d had the flow trail of Smithfield, the vintage downhill of Kuranda and the classic Bump Track – but the wilderness around here serves up slight rawer kind of mountain biking.

There’s not a lot of information about the riding around here; the purpose built mountain bike trails of Atherton, Smithfield and Davies Creek tend to get the limelight, and so searching out some solid intel on where to mountain bike in the Tully region took a bit of investigating. After a couple of emails and phone calls, some Strava sleuthing and a bit of time on Google, I’d settled on a ride; Ryan and I would take the H-Road to Elizabeth-Grant Falls, which we’d been promised were a spectacular and underrated sight.

Driving into the gorge, the banana plantations and cattle paddocks are slowly squeezed by the narrowing walls of green, until the road is soon running right along the river’s edge. It was here we pulled off into the dirt and unloaded the bikes; we knew we had about a 10km pedal in each direction to reach the falls, but beyond that we were in the dark.

Just another ridiculously cool tree in the rainforest.

The greasy clay fireroad seemed to have had little recent traffic, which made it all the more surprising when the road came to a stop in a campground, currently attended only by two fellas wearing blue singlets and footy shorts, harbouring four cases of beer between them. “Mate, we come here every year for a weekend,” one of them croaked, “enjoy the peace and quiet, a bit of a reunion.” And to get super drunk too, by the looks of it. Apparently another couple of mates would soon be arriving to give them a hand with the grog.

After crossing the river, the trail becomes wilder.

From here on, across the river, the ride began take on a different tone. The jungle came in closer, and any sign of traffic, either foot, bike or 4WD, totally disappeared. Thick strands of Wait-a-While vine kept you looking ahead, and the gloop of the red clay began to build up on our tyres till the tread disappeared entirely. Around us, the jungle continued to press in thicker and thicker, thousands of textures and shades of green, so alive you could almost feel it breathing.

Jungle textures.

Apparently, somewhere up ahead, lay the falls, but at the moment any sight or sound of them was swallowed up by the rainforest, leaving us alone with the noise of a grinding drivetrain and the occasional ‘too-whip’ bird call in the trees. Every so often a particularly incredible tree would catch our eye, and we’d stop to take a photo of it, before noticing another even more stunning specimen right next to it, and then another, and then another. Every step off the track into the forest brought something new and incredible to look at, you could spend a lifetime here, seeking out the secrets of the jungle.

The trail narrowed again, slippery roots coming to the surface, demanding attention be given to the patch of dirt just a couple of metres ahead, which is what made it all the more incredible when we popped out suddenly into a tiny clearing. “Oh shit!” laughed Ryan, and that was just about the only way to put it; somehow we’d made it right to the edge of steep gorge, and we were now looking across the expanse to the 300m cascade of the Elizabeth Grant Falls. The contrast between the green tunnel vision of the past hour and the sudden expansive movement and noise of the falls was a seriously dramatic.

Out of the green tunnel. Elizabeth Grant Falls, from across the gorge.

This was the pay-off, and I’ve got to say it was easily as rewarding as railing a perfect corner, or blasting a descent after grinding up a long climb. Once again, I was reminded that it’s these kind of experiences that are really at the heart of what mountain biking is all about – your bike is a doorway to places and things that just wouldn’t be on the radar otherwise.  And up here in the Tropical North, the potential is endless. Embrace the jungle, get off the beaten track, you’ll never regret it.


For more info on the mountain biking in Tropical North Queensland, check out the Ride Cairns site right here.


Yes Day: Tropical North Queensland


Tokyo Swim Team made a film about making a film about it. In Tropical North Queensland. With Specialized Australia riders Fiona Dick and Ryan De La Rue.

Embrace the wild, red clay of Smithfield.

There’s mountain biking in Smithfield, there’s as many activities as a human can do on Fitzroy Island, there’s some sweet air at AJ Hackett, there’s rafting in the rainforest down the Tully River, and there’s a meal so good even the camera crew had to sit down. So much Yes!

With so much on offer in and around Cairns, which Yes-es make you want to get outside the most?

Huck your meat off a bungy.

Troy Brosnan | Escape to Paradise: Part 2

After Troy Brosnan was invited to Cairns, the task was set to ensure he got to experience everything Cairns could throw at him within a week.

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Troy went scuba diving for the first time on the Great Barrier Reef, fed giant saltwater crocodiles, took on bungy jumping, glided over rainforest mountain ranges and got sent sky high hot-air ballooning. In between experiencing all this for the first time, the Cairns UCI World-Cup DH course was going to be the most important part to Troy’s stay.

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In 2014, Troy had a less than ideal race in far less than ideal conditions. Cairns saw a cyclone skirt past the region days before the event, leading to the post-cyclone rain to fall down as racers began to hit the course. Conditions were bleak, and the track fell apart infront of our eyes. 

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While the event ran smoothly and the region hailed for its efforts ensuring so, all riders left with unfinished business as no visiting rider got to experience the course to its full potential. Troy had multiple sessions on the course during his visit, each time finding new and daring gaps and lines not even fathomable during racing in 2014. His time on course in the dry left Troy eager for his return in April, with a head start in what to expect in any condition of racing.

Whether a returning athlete, visiting spectator, local or far away tuning in online – we know this race is going to be a step further in the right direction as Cairns perfects itself in preparation for the 2017 UCI Mountain-Bike World-Championships.


For more on the region, places to ride and info on the upcoming World Cup this April head to – www.ridecairns.com

An Odyssey Through Paradise – Boosting Fresh Trail in Cairns

Part 2 of our mini 3-part series highlighting the region and its perfect fit with Mountain Bike adventure features Evan Winton and Sam Fraser attacking some fast and fun descent in the thick Tropical North Queensland hills.

No berm or jump is left un-tamed as the duo soar into the blue skies on a custom-built line of big jumps and berms right in the middle of the rainforest, bordered by the Kuranda Scenic Railway and the noble Glacier Rock point. Sit back and hold on. This one is going to be exciting!

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Rosemary Barnes and Dan MacMunn defend Australia-wide Gravity Enduro Series titles in Cairns

The final round of the Australia-wide Gravity Enduro Series was hosted by the Cairns Mountain Bike Club at Smithfield on the weekend. The local rider Berend Boer from Holloways Beach stood his ground and a gripping finish against the Series Leader Dan MacMunn from Spring Gully (VIC) resulted in a tie between the two riders. In the elite women’s division, Genevieve McKew from Sydney won ahead of Rosemary Barnes, whose second place brought her enough series points to claim the overall win.

With some of the club’s strongest riders at the start of the final Australia-wide Gravity Enduro Series, more than a two thirds of the competitors had come from interstate – as the series leader, Dan MacMunn was the strongest contender for the Elite Men’s win against fellow Victorians Ben Randall and Ryan De La Rue. Canberra’s Rosemary Barnes had travelled to tropical Cairns to claim her title with a lead of more than 600 points ahead of Sydney’s Genevieve McKew, Vanessa Thompson and Kath Bicknell.

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Genevieve McKew was the fastest elite woman of the weekend.
Cairns trails demand endurance and technical riding skills
The local Cairns Mountain Bike Club had put on six timed stages with neutral transition rides to the race starts. “Everything went really smoothly. These are the types of events we need and that we enjoy hosting – we were really happy to meet so many interstate riders that we could show off our fantastic trail network to”, said the club event manager, Craig Nissen.
In the elite men’s division it was a tight race from the first stage to the last. Over two days the final sixth stage was going to decide the race and it ended up in a tie to the second – both Dan MacMunn and the 27-year old local rider Berend Boer finished in 19:13 minutes. With an unfortunate crash right ahead of the finish, Rhys Atkinson from nearby Kewarra Beach still finished third with a gap of 24 seconds. As a precaution he had to be transported to hospital via ambulance due to a suspected concussion and was later cleared of any further serious injuries.
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Berend Boer, the local rider who finished on equal race time with series winner Dan MacMunn.
First gravity enduro elite series titles go to Victoria and New South Wales
The shared first place was still enough for the overall series title for Dan MacMunn. The 32-year-old fire fighter had participated in five out of the six series events and said that the final QLD round turned out to be his favourite. “The types of trails we got to ride and race here over the weekend are just ideal and a really fitting way to conclude this awesome series. It was tough, but exciting racing and I’m proud of my overall title”, he said.
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Rosemary Barnes claimed the overall elite women’s series title.
The four elite women at the start agreed that they enjoyed the event and riding the trails together. “Some of those neutral rides to the starts were really tough – just steep and long, but the descents and timed stages were just so rewarding”, said women’s series winner Rosemary Barnes, who added that she was hopeful for more women to compete in these types of events in future. “We’ll spread the word until next year about how much fun they are”, she said.
More than 550 riders had participated in the series, which included events in NSW, VIC, SA, WA, ACT and QLD, covering almost all states and territories.
“We’re really proud that with our partner Alpine Gravity and our hosting clubs we were able to deliver this first all-Australian gravity enduro series to our riders. The rounds included a wide variety of trails and race formats and we are looking forward to a strong 2015 season”, said Rocky Trail’s Martin Wisata, who had travelled to Cairns from Sydney to support the hosting club for the final series event.
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Elite Women’s series podium (l-r): Martin Wisata (Rocky Trail), Genevieve McKew (3rd), Rosemary Barnes (1st), Vanessa Thompson (2nd), Kath Bicknell (5th) – absent: Jaclyn Schapel (4th).
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Elite Men’s series podium (l-r): Ben Randall (4th), Simon Buzacott (2nd), Dan MacMunn (1st), Ryan De La Rue (3rd) – absent: Ben Cory (5th).
Full QLD race and series results are available via www.rockytrailentertainment.com
Top Results QLD Round
11+12 October 2014
Elite Male
1. Berend Boer [#117] // Discovery cycles-TREK // Holloways Beach QLD // 19:13 min
1. Dan MacMunn [#112] // Yetioz-Shimanoaust-Schwalbe-My Mountain // Spring Gully VIC // 19:13 min
3. Rhys Atkinson [#115] // Specialized, Sram, fjc clothing, Fektor // Kewarra Beach QLD // 19:37 min // + 24 sec
4. Ryan De La Rue [#130] // Specialized AU Lusty Industries // Colac VIC // 20:18 min // +1:05 min
5. Ben Randall [#119] // My Mountain // Hurstbridge VIC // 21:24  min // +2:11 min
Elite Female
1. Genevieve McKew [#128] // Knolly Australia, Endless Flow Cycles, Fox Australia // Chatswood NSW // 24:24 min
2. Rosemary Barnes [ #127] // Onyabike, Swell Design Group // Lyneham ACT // 26:19 min // +1:55 min
3. Vanessa Thompson [#124] // Single tracks  Banshee // Yanderra NSW // 27:24 min // +3 min
4. Kath Bicknell [#129] // Roxsolt // Sydney NSW // 29:06 min // +4:42 min
Overall Results Series 2014
Elite Male
1. Dan MacMunn // Yetioz-Shimanoaust-Schwalbe-My Mountain // Spring Gully VIC // 2720 pts
2. Simon Buzacott // Focus Bikes, Dissent labs, ion // Somerton Park SA // 1800 pts
3. Ryan De La Rue // Specialized AU Lusty Industries // Colac VIC // 1490 pts
4. Ben Randall // My Mountain // Hurstbridge VIC // 1270 pts
5. Ben Cory // Giant Bicycles, SRAM, RockShox, OnyaBike, Vans // Kambah ACT // 1100 pts
Elite Female
1. Rosemary Barnes // Onyabike, Swell Design Group // Lyneham ACT // 2540 pts
2. Vanessa Thompson // Single tracks  Banshee // Yanderra NSW // 2240 pts
3. Genevieve McKew // Knolly Australia, Endless Flow Cycles, Fox Australia // Chatswood NSW // 1700 pts
4. Jaclyn Schapel // LivAustralia:4Shaw:Adidas Eyewear:Torq Nutrition // Adelaide SA // 1520 pts
5. Kath Bicknell // Roxsolt // Sydney NSW // 1220 pts
Series winners in remaining categories:
Expert Male (B-Grade): Anthony Elliot // Wallaroo NSW // 1200 pts
Junior Under 19 Male: Aaron Felton // Sans Souci // 1020 pts
Junior Under 17 Male: Jarrod Murphy // Mount Marha VIC // 2301 pts
Veterans Male (30+): Michael Clarke // Seaham NSW // 1640 pts
Sport Male (C-Grade): Damien Brombal // 720 pts
Master Male: Joshua Lester // Westgate NSW // 2040 pts
SuperMaster Male: David Empey // Maindample VIC // 2400 pts
Junior Under 15 Male: Lachlan Clarke / Seaham NSW // 2290 pts

 

Must-Ride: Cairns and the Tropical North

Flow Nation Gorrell Track 29

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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Flow Nation Gorrell Track 18

 

Flow Nation Gorrell Track 13

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: 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.

Flow Nation Cairns 9

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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.