Take a trip along the famed Bay of Fires Trail on Tasmania's East Coast!
Accessing the Bay of Fires Trail
The drive up to Blue Tier takes about an hour whether you're leaving from Derby or St Helens and it takes you along a windy dirt road, climbing fast. The fauna is lush and green, and the world passing by outside the window offers an accelerated preview of what's to come.
With all of the shuttles from Derby booked out, Nick and I left our accommodation in Branxholm bright and early drive to St Helens and jump on one of Gravity Isle’s party shuttles, complete with multi-colour strobe lights to the Blue Tier — Daft Punk and disco ball not included.
You’ve probably heard of the Blue Tier; it makes up the ‘blue’ part of Blue Derby, and is well established with trails like Big Chook, its own wilderness trail and the ride through Weldborough which guides you back to the small mining town. The new Bay of Fires Trail descends the opposite side of the mountain directing you towards the coast.
The trailhead was electric, as at least a dozen shuttle loads of riders climbed off buses and unloaded their bikes and rode under the archway towards the coast beginning their journey to the Bay of Fires.
On the trail
The trail dives quickly into a myrtle canopy, before pointing you towards a rocky outcrop and a clearing in the canopy. As you round the corner you’re greeted by a sprawling vista of what lies ahead — it's one of those breathtaking spots that gives you butterflies. Our day began overcast and hazy, with the weather threatening to test the mettle of or rain gear as we pedalled up the initial climb. Even with the haze hanging in the air, you could just make out the electric blue water just off the coast.
As the trail dives back into the trees, the fun begins. The first kilometre climbs 40m in elevation from the trailhead to 786m above sea level, and then points down toward the ocean racing down 14km of flowy and fast singletrack. Nick and I were well off the back of the groups ahead of us, but hoots and hollers permeated the trees. Being one of the first 100 or so sets of tyres to roll the descent, the trail surface was still loamy and soft, providing for oodles of grip in some areas and spicy two wheel drifting in others. As more people ride the trail and it beds-in, the singletrack will become hero dirt — the kind that tacky soil sticks to your tyres and provides the kind of grip those in dry and dusty climates can only dream about.
Twisting and turning down the mountain, as the metres descended racked up, the forest becomes lush, green and mossy. The myrtle and ash trees are gradually replaced by ferns big and small and the descent is one riders at every ability can enjoy; the faster you go the harder it gets, with a plethora of little lips and rocks to pop off. There are a few gap jumps and drops, but everything has B-lines — that said there were a couple of drops that caught both Nick and I off guard. Stay woke and scan the trail ahead to pick your lines.
After covering 14km, with hardly a pedal stroke it's damn near impossible not to have a smile on your face. The undulating terrain of the 9km fire road liaison ahead was a welcome change of pace because my hands were tired from braking on the descent, and spinning out my legs was much needed after the lengthy downhill.
"How good are eBikes," Nick calls out as we cruised up the fire road at 25kph. Both of us were aboard Trek Powerfly LT eMTBs, and we'd both shifted into turbo mode; taking full advantage of the Bosch motors at our cranks, and reeling in at least a dozen riders along the way.
It might seem odd to have a section of forestry road situated below what will surely become an iconic descent, but as the World Trail founder Glen Jacobs and Ben Pettman, Break O'Day Council's Trail Project Manager explained, they ran into land access red tape during the build. Rather than tie up a bunch of resources and delay the completion of the trail, the decision was made to work around this roadblock and incorporate the existing fire road while the land access dispute was litigated. Jacobs tells us they are working on this and will be replacing this entire section with purpose-built singletrack.
As you cross Ansons Bay Road and enter the Doctors Peak Forest reserve, the halfway point is punctuated by a bike hygiene station to prevent the spread of Phytophthora cinnamomi, commonly known as root rot, from spreading from the dense rainforest down into the Tasmanian dry sclerophyll forest below.
Mountain bikers often get a bad rap when it comes to environmental impact and quite often the argument against riders and new trails comes down to the stress singletrack and riders can put onto flora and fauna. It doesn't take much time with experienced trail builders to realize these concerns are almost entirely alarmist, and the health of the domains are well-considered. Infrastructure like the bike hygiene station explicitly shows the wider community that trail networks aren't the result of a bunch of yahoos with shovels and hoes ripping up the undergrowth, but instead shines a light on how much consideration actually goes into these projects.