A mountain bike trip doesn't need to mean bunk beds and one toilet for six people.
Photos: Nick Waygood, Marcus Enno
Mountain biking has its roots in dirt bagging and sacrificing luxuries to go riding — except for the bike of course. Who among us hasn’t stayed in dorm-style accommodation, rented a room above the pub or spent a few nights camping at a riding destination to do a trip on the cheap. Heck, even some of mountain biking’s most prominent events like The Pioneer and Cape Epic house competitors in tent cities.
Derby, in north-east Tasmania, really only attracted visiting riders in 2015, but since then the remote town has gone from a drive-by village to a destination that attracts visitors from around the world to ride bikes. Derby has also been the catalyst, triggering a chain reaction of other small towns across Tasmania to jump into mountain biking. St Helens and Maydena cut the ribbon on new networks in the past couple of years, and new trail centres have been approved for Queenstown, George Town and Mount Wellington.
Before the trails and the mountain bikers, mining brought people to north-east Tasmania looking for work. But as the story goes, when the mine closed, so did the isolated little town, and Derby was very nearly a place we would refer to in the past tense.
Margaret Dingemanse grew up in the area and remembered camping up near Cascade Dam as a child.
“It was still a stopover as you were heading through; there was a shop where you could get your basics, and then about 15-20 years ago, it totally went dead, and you couldn't get anything in Derby,” Dingemanse says.
“There were a lot of people there that bought houses to retire, and you couldn't even get rid of blocks. There were people that didn't want to pay their land taxes, but had no choice because they could not sell them.”
Derby has gone from a ghost town to a two-time Enduro World Series (EWS) Trail of the Year winner, seemingly overnight, and at the beginning the tourist infrastructure was limited — in Derby proper, you were looking at the Dorset Hotel, a couple of private rentals, or camping.
Of course with the influx of tourists coming through town, there was a need for accommodation. An enterprising bunch of locals and transplants have risen to the task, creating what is quickly evolving into the world's first mountain biking town, and you no longer have to rough it if you don’t want to.
Dales of Derby
Dingemanse is one such local, with the Dales of Derby; a group accommodation that can sleep up to 24-people right in the heart of town. With a big family herself, Dingemanse found that whenever they would go away with another family, they could never find somewhere big enough to house everyone.
“We wanted to provide something that allowed groups to be able to get together, and have fun together,” she says. It’s one thing to ride the trails, but then coming together at the end of the day, hanging out and telling the stories of the fun you had, or the crash that you had — that’s what really makes the memory,” she says.
Situated right up against the Ringarooma River, the Dales of Derby is nothing like the Scout Camp you’d need to hire in most places to house two dozen mountain bikers. There’s no need for sleeping bags or inflatable sleeping mats, because everything you need is already inside. There is a vast shared living space, complete with a fireplace and a mile-long dining table perfect for family-style meals.
The whole place is finished in timber for that ultra-modern look, but Dingemanse points out it serves a dual purpose — it’s a lot harder to damage than a painted wall or tiles, which is ideal because mountain bikers are a clumsy bunch.
The Dales also have secure bike lockup, complete with a work stand and basic tools, so you’re not wheeling muddy bikes through the kitchen. The bike lockup is also situated right next to the BBQ, so you can get your bikes ready to ride while you’re cooking up some snags.
Get all the details on the Dales of Derby website.
River Cabins Derby
Not everyone is travelling with a small army, and if you’re headed down to Derby with a few mates, or maybe as a family, The River Cabins are just up the Ringarooma from The Dales of Derby and offer something a bit cozier.
“Over the last few years, there has been a boom in renovating existing houses and prefabricated buildings being installed in the area. With the experience that we had as riders coming to Derby, we could see that there was a gap in the market for something that was different,” says River Cabins Derby co-owner and Shimano Australia Brand Manager Toby Shingleton. “Our goal from the start was to create cabins which are designed specifically for smaller or individual bookings, and which utilised local craftsmen and Tasmanian materials.”
The River Cabins opened at the beginning of the year with one and two-bedroom options, with flexible layouts for the beds, foldouts for the mini shredders, a full kitchen and big decks to enjoy some of that crisp Tasmanian air.
Get more details on the River Cabins Derby website.
Photos: Nic Betts
Derby Gravity Shuttles
We’ve all hopped onto a shuttle bus squished in next to a bunch of other sweaty riders — the stench is always impressive. Access to shuttles alone is a luxury, but Derby Gravity Shuttles are offering a unique uplift experience with its new fleet of Can-Am side-by-side ATVs.
With seats for five riders, Derby Gravity Shuttles will be focusing on private charters, so you and four friends can book a buggie and a driver for a few hours. Even just getting around in a side-by-side ATV is fun. Derby Gravity Shuttles uplifts with Can-Am buggies because they can reach terrain that would leave vans and busses, bogged and in need of a tow.
“Because they are a small vehicle they (the Can-Am ATVs) get up and down the shuttle roads a bit quicker than a bus and trailer, so you can get more runs in a shorter space of time — the whole idea is more gravity in the time you’ve got,” Tim Cafe who runs Derby Gravity Shuttles, and the Premium MTB Transfers tells us.
The Can-Ams can do laps from town to BlackStump, and are the only vehicles that do pickups from the bottom of Devil Wolf. One of Derby’s pinnacle descents starts from the remains of the old Altas tin mine situated about 400-vertical-metres above the rest of the trail network. With the Can-Ams capable of negotiating ultra-rugged terrain the buggies can get you all the way up to the Big Pappa shuttle drop off, adding 100m of vertical drop to the already sizable descent.
You can find out about all their private shuttle options right here.
Bay of Fires Bush Retreat, St Helens
The crew at AMB love a bit of camping, but for those who don’t want to deal with a rain fly, tent footprint or natural toilets, but still want to sleep outside, glamping at the Bay of Fires Bush Retreat might just offer the right mix of rugged and luxury. With bell tents and bungalows available, the Bay of Fires Bush Retreat is located only a few minutes from Swimcart Beach, the crescendo of the new 42km Blue Tier to St. Helens Bay of Fires Trail. There are full-size beds inside the tents, and some of the swankiest camp showers we've ever seen.
The Bush Retreat has a fully equipped kitchen so you can cook up your own bush tucker, or leave it to live in chef Thomas Dicker. As the former head chef and part-owner of Angasi at Binalong Bay, and Drift Cafe and Restaurant in Devonport, Dicker puts a premium on quality Tassie sourced produce and will whip up a gourmet meal to have you fueled for your next day on the trails.
Photos: Adam Gibson
You can get mnore details about the bush retreat on their website.
Top end experiences in and around Derby
Floating Sauna, Lake Derby
Keen to add that spa retreat touch, with an outdoor feel? There's a floating sauna on Lake Derby, so you can add some European relaxation to the end of your day on the trails.
St Helens MTB Adventures
Offering tailored tours and shuttles, Glen from St Helens MTB Adventures can provide gastronomical delights and shuttling for you and your friends, with food and drink sourced locally from some of the best produce providers! Oysters on Swimcart Beach after the Bay of Fires Trail is quite an experience.