You’ve seen it on social media, but what’s it actually like to ride Maydena?
On the dirt at Maydena
As I arrived at the first stage I was to shoot, I pulled up on the landing pad above the iconic white-barked Regnans Eucalyptus trees that line the upper section of Sticks and Stones which was Stage 2. The race volunteers who were stationed at the start warned me the singletrack dropped off after the first corner as they set me off ahead of the racers.
From the top, I could see a short section of trail that looked pretty mellow before a bend where the trail disappeared into the trees; appearing to contour along the side of the mountain.
"How steep could it be?" I said to myself.
As I rounded the corner, I let out an audible' fwooooaaahhh,' as my butt buzzed the rear tyre and my brakes squealed in a futile attempt to counteract gravity. The trail did not contour along the slope, and just as I had been warned, the narrow ribbon of deep brown dirt dropped off, following the fall line into a sharp off-camber left-hander — I could hear laughter coming from the starting area permeating through the trees as I descended.
And this type of hang onto your helmets, steep, loose and technical riding is Maydena Bike Park's bread and butter. French tells us the initial concept for the park was for an Enduro audience, modelled after the bike parks you find in North America and Europe.
"It's the nature of this hill," French laughs. "This style of bike park is hugely popular elsewhere in the world, but it's pretty young down here. There has been a big shift, not only in the bikes themselves but people who used to be XC riders are focusing more on enduro. There wasn't really anywhere for them to go, and with the elevation, we had the opportunity to build something for that audience."
There is no doubt you've seen images on social media of the mammoth berms and even bigger machine built jumps, but a large portion of the network is hand-cut, with the trail surface left to be loamy and natural. The sheer variety in the type of trails you find at Maydena is truly impressive, and that's thanks in part to the size and elevation of Abbotts Peak with at least four distinct ecosystems on its slopes. But regardless of the colour associated with the trail you'd like to ride, it has been designed through the lens of an enduro bike. French tells us all the builders at Maydena Bike Park are riding enduro bikes, and you can tell with the way the trail contours and approaches obstacles.
"The trails are up there with some of my favourite runs around the world," says Newcastle's Joe Killen, who raced the Gravity Enduro National Championships, and joined us for a pedal the next day. "Not many people would expect a mountain bike park in Australia to be able to compete with somewhere like Queenstown and some European alpine resorts with the elevation, steepness and the length of runs. Plus there is pizza and cold beer waiting for you at the bottom."
Maydena Bike Park has earned itself a hair-raising reputation, and in an open face helmet and knee pads, you can feel a bit underdressed squished in next to a busload of riders sporting full face helmets and armour. While Maydena's roots are gravity fed gnar, that's not all the network has to offer. Don't get me wrong: it's not the place for someone who's never ridden knobby tyres, but the network has plenty of less formidable trails that don't require a full face and hanging from the ragged edge.
"We recognised gravity riding was a smaller part of the market, but it was part of the market that didn't really have anywhere to go in Australia," French says. "But the long term vision has always been to build out the lower slopes with beginner-focused trails."
In fact, Dirt Art is in the process of purchasing a large parcel of land at the bottom of the mountain to improve the options for beginner riders and families. But, even now, you don't need to be a full #endurobro to enjoy Maydena Bike Park, and there are still 52km of green and blue trails in the network. From the top, Regnans Ride allows you to link together green-rated trails like Skyline, Pandani, Green Room, Tyenna and Homeward down the entire 820m vertical drop the mountain has to offer — keeping in mind these are still 'dark' green trails so, steep sections, jumps and rocky obstacles are to be expected.
The newly completed Wilderness Trail is Maydena's latest route designed for a wider audience. It's technically a (dark) blue, but the difficulty is largely determined by how long you can let gravity do its thing without reaching for the brakes. Descending nearly all of Abbotts Peak, with only three trail crossings along the way the Wilderness Trail is comprised of Vista, Middle Earth and Outerlimits, traversing the Maydena side country, making a b-line for the boundary of the bike park and staying away from the rest of the network for the majority of the ride.
Being a top to bottom run, you experience the entire ecosystem of Abbotts peak, with the bench cut singletrack starting near the craggy summit before snaking through towering Tasmanian Oak and Pandani Palms. As you descend, the ground scrub morphs into ferns, and the moss becomes greener, the soil loamier.
“I don't think you can get much more wilderness unless your bush bashing,” laughs Killen after taking a low hanging Man Fern straight to the eye.
Even though it's only about 5km in length covering the mountain nearly from top to bottom with only a few trail crossings, it feels like you're riding through an untouched environment, and nearly emulates a backcountry riding experience.
Coming into Maydena, its reputation played heavy on my mind, and full disclosure I was intimidated. In the few days we spent at Maydena I quickly learned you don't go there expecting a leisurely ride. The trails are technical, and some can only be described as intentionally janky, designed to test your skills.
Just like the rest of western Tasmania, Maydena is wild, and you go there for an adrenaline rush, to push your limits and even scare yourself a bit. There aren't many places in Australia you can truly scare yourself and find that limit of your skills and the traction of your tyres — there are even fewer places in Australia where riders from all levels can achieve this feat. But this is precisely what Maydena offers, and best of all you don't need a passport or a visa to get there.