Queensland must be pretty close to a mountain biker's paradise at this time of the year. From the trail explosion in South East Queensland, with trail expansions at Bayview, Old Hidden Vale, Gap Creek, Ipswich and of course Nerang, by late April the wet season is on the way out and the mountain bike playground of the tropics starts to win favour.

STOP! There's been an update and all the events will now take place at Douglas Mountain Bike Reserve, right behind James Cook University in Townsville.

Find the latest course map here!


The riding in Cairns, Atherton and Port Douglas is well-documented. We've visited Mackay as well, and their mountain bike park is top notch, with plenty on the horizon. But somehow many people have forgotten Townsville. Home to Douglas MTB Park with about 35km of purpose built trails, Cape Pallarenda with iconic trails like Smedley's and Under the Radar - right on the Coral Sea, and home to one of the countries biggest marathon races - the Paluma Push.

Bec McConnell won the Marathon Championship in Townsville in 2017. Photo: Dave Acree

In 2017, the Townsville MTB Festival was set up in the North Queensland city, with a combination of social and competitive events held across a 3-day weekend. With two days of events, those who came north (or south!) enjoyed the dry and technical trails that skirted the Coral Sea, overlooking Magnetic Island.

The event venue at Cape Pallarenda is just 10km up a bike path from the centre of Townsville, and has trails from rocky singletrack, smooth, fast and flowing trails, and double-track. There's enough climbing to keep it interesting, and more than enough technical challenges to keep experienced riders on their toes.

The Townsville MTB Festival in 2018

The good news? It's back! The Townsville MTB Festival has expanded in 2018, and lands on 27-29 April - which is pretty soon! The events will stillbe hosted out of Cape Pallarenda, making parking and travel to the event location easy. The big change for this year is the addition of the North Queensland Schools Challenge.

On April 27th, The North Queensland Schools Challenge sees high school students compete in 3 categories. Junior (Years 7 and 8), Intermediate (Years 9 and 10) and Senior (Years 11 and 12). Schools can enter as many, or as few, riders as they like. Given that a number of schools in North Queensland have a booming school MTB community, we're expecting to see strong numbers on the Friday of the Festival.

The events cover a true mix of mountain biking. First up - cross country! Events will run from 30 up to 75 minutes depending on which category riders are in, and each age group will have a mass start for a set course. Every rider's time counts towards the points score, with time penalties for not finishing.

The second event is Observed Trials - not quite what we saw at the National Championships, but a selection of technical challenges where 3 'dabs', or putting foot on the ground, means a section isn't complete. Every completed section takes a minute off the rider's cross-country race time. So if you weren't that fast in the cross-country, but perfect in the trials - you could well be ahead! There's a points score, and a tally for the greatest amount of points will find winners in each category, for boys and girls.



Here comes the weekend!

The weekend holds plenty of racing for adults - but also the Glow Ride social event on Saturday. Most riders will have their eyes on the big day - which is Sunday.

The local club, Townsville Rockwheelers, have developed a testing course for the Marathon on Sunday and there is something for everyone. Under 15, 17 and 19 men and women race a half distance event, but Elite and Expert men and women, and Masters 1-10 Men and Women all race the same course.

There is a half marathon option for Open Men and Women - but this event doesn't have a Championship status. The National Championship is also part of the National XCM Series, as Round 3 of the Series. So it's worth attending if you have eyes on the overall point score within your category.

There's a change to the course for 2018. In 2017, riders started at the Quarantine Station, before heading out in an anti-clockwise direction, hitting singletrack soon after the climb past the WW2 pillbox.

But now, the course will run in a clockwise direction, heading along the Townsville Common first, which is a mix of doubletrack and wide walking paths above the marsh land - it's a better way to thin out the competitors before heading to Smedleys, and then tackling the rocky climb above the bays.

This will bring riders back along Under the Radar, with the Coral Sea on their left, creating a flowing descent down the rocky switchbacks, before passing along an open stretch and coming back to the Quarantine Station - where the lap will finish and there will be a feed and tech zone for food and water.

The Quarantine Station provides shade and parking, a perfect area for the start/finish.

The lap should be about 25km, with approximately 250m of climbing. 

What should you expect in Townsville?

A warm welcome! Townsville Rockwheelers are one of the biggest MTB clubs in Australia and cycling is definitely part of the community in this art of Queensland. Beyond that, it is likely to be warm. You probably don't need a jacket.

The trails are rocky, and the best way to think of Cape Pallarenda in terms of trail conditions is comparing it to Mt Stromlo - but more of the back trails than the front. It's a little flatter, but the trails flow in the same way, however some areas are pretty rocky.

Make sure you have a good think about how you will drink in the event. There's every chance it will be pretty warm, and one bottle per lap isn't likely to cut it. 

Jump across to the event webpage for full details and entry links - and see you there!