Part two of our backyard trail feature heads to Stromlo Forest Park, Canberra, ACT!
Trails in our own backyard
The internet, social media and our own pages are typically awash with images of trails designed to inspire and enthral mountain bikers. We show photos of trails in destinations that are exotic, we show photos of hero lines and with epic scenery. And while we want to share the stoke of mountain biking, we also want to fuel that fire to get out and explore, and ride somewhere new. Travelling to new trails is one of the best ways to meet new riders, develop greater skills and of course have a great time doing so.
It is easy to forget that sometimes the best trails lie closer to home. Some riders say the best ride you can do is the one you're doing right now. Being able to put your helmet on, grab some spares and get out on your bike and ride to the trails is a luxury that not everyone has. Here in Australia though we are lucky enough to have pretty good trail access even in some of our biggest cities, and four riders told us about their dirt that is closest to home.
Words and photos: Nick Waygood
Mountain biking for me has always been about the escape – working in the photography industry a large part of my days are spent emailing and editing, with Netflix binges in between jobs. It’s nearly a requirement to escape to the nearby trails for an hour each day, and usually as the sun sets behind the mountain ranges.
Living in Canberra, we have a great scene ranging from families to semi-pro and professional athletes willing to ride for hours. We’re lucky to have so many great locations to ride our bikes, and it is easy to ride straight from the front door to the trail head.
On the dirt at Stromlo
Most mountain bike riders around Australia are familiar with Stromlo, with the bike park having first opened in 2007. As the sport developed, so did the crowds and trails. New alignments featuring a wide range of easy and difficult trails have brought cyclists in for years, with the more recent addition of Stromlo’s famous Vapour flow-trail seeing thousands of riders through the summer holidays.
Having grown up in south Canberra, a new group of friends in High School heard of a place not far up the Monaro Highway by the name of Tuggeranong Pines - and so I spent most of my teenage years riding for 20 minutes through the suburbs to the tall pine trees, where my passion for mountain biking (and photography) really kicked off. It wasn’t long before we were watching Timmy Eaton’s GoPro clips of Mount Stromlo’s epic downhill trail, excitedly approaching our parents to drive us out on the weekend.
Pulling up to Stromlo’s car park, the mountain looked enormous. We were so used to these short one-minute descents that suddenly 170 metres of vertical was daunting to a 14-year-old. It soon became a weekly thing; we’d ride the pine forest after school almost every day, and then Stromlo on the weekends, and this riding schedule carried on for the remainder of my teenage years.
As my professional photography career took off, the family moved to central Canberra, where we could smell Stromlo’s dust being kicked up on a summer afternoon from our backyard. Now living only a 5 minute ride from the front door to Stromlo’s trailhead it’s easy for me to escape from the office to the mountains.
With 360-degree views from the peak, there’s nothing better than descending toward the Brindabella Mountain Ranges as the sunset turns golden. Stromlo’s gravel-like dirt keeps the tyres on-edge through the sweeping berms, with jumps aplenty for maximum airtime. The hustle and bustle of the city in the near distance, as silence surrounds the immediate area and the sky turns to a pink hue.
Where I want to ride post pandemic
Tasmania is first on the list to return to, having been there previously. It’s not just the incredible riding to be found in such a small space, but the sense of community that really brings it all together.
New Zealand has been high on the must-ride list for years, and with cheap flights and back-and-forth invitations to visit family in Wellington, a quick hop across the ditch to ride through luxurious rainforests is also on the list for must-visit this coming summer.
Having visited for the Crankworx Whistler event in 2018, the small Canadian town has been battling for top spot of returning for more riding through the enormous forests and huge mountain ranges. The true sense of freedom through mountain biking has the location topping nearly everyone’s list.
What to expect at Stromlo
Amount of trails: +60km
Type of riding: Downhill, Trail, XC
How long can I ride? Entire days.
Don't forget: Water, sunscreen, sunglasses. The Trailforks app comes in handy for first timers.
Best coffee nearby: The Handlebar Stromlo at the base of the mountain
Local knowledge: For the airtime fiends, hit up the top-to-bottom Vapour jump trail.
Meet your local
Name: Nick Waygood
Bike: 2019 YT Jeffsy 27