Words and photos: Dominic Hook  

As a photographer and filmmaker when I’m not riding around Victoria, I’m very lucky to be able to travel to amazing riding destinations like Rotorua - New Zealand, Derby - Tasmania and the Victorian High Country regions. Quite often these trips will involve travelling to these riding locations in my camper van which is loaded up with bikes, camera equipment and coffee making facilities. Lots of time will be spent planning the ultimate riding experience in the location of choice and as I get to witness world class trails being ridden by world class riders, usually in the golden hour and followed up by coffee and food at some quality hospitality establishments, this is a pretty extraordinary way to experience mountain biking. 


Our Backyard trails feature is looking at some of the best riding locations a little closer to home than we usually venture. These locations are the ones that keep us entertained through the week when we're not travelling or dreaming of far away places. Check out the other locations below!

Part One: Gap Creek, Brisbane, Queensland

Part Two: Mt Stromlo, Canberra, ACT

Part Three: Hobart, Tasmania


For my weekly rides I stay close to home. For a long cruisey ride I might head to Lysterfield Lake and ride the variety of trails on offer for a few hours. If it’s adrenalin I’m after I’ll head to the south side of Plenty Gorge in Greensborough for some jump lines and steep chutes. For a landscape closer to something you’d find in New Zealand I may head to Silvan for some steep tracks surrounded by fresh smelling ferns and plenty of flow trails. Staying active during Covid19 has led me to re-discover my mountain biking origins and taken me back to riding what’s readily available right outside my door.

 

On the dirt at Melbourne’s Yarra Trails Network
 
I first discovered mountain biking at the bottom of my street in the suburb of Box Hill North. I started pedalling out of suburbia and rolling into purpose built, tree-lined bike paths that meander their way through the suburbs, along the Eastern Freeway and gradually open up into wider landscapes of native bushland with panorama views of the CBD and plenty of off-road trails to choose from.

The closer you get to the city, the more off-road tracks appear between the trees that surround you, eventually bringing you to the Yarra Boulevard where the real fun begins.
This trail network takes you to the very edge of Melbourne city and is easily accessible from all directions.

 

As I started to discover more about  mountain biking, I found that the further I rode from home, the more steep, technical and varied the trails became, meaning I could develop my riding skills and take on new challenges when I’d built some more confidence and fitness.
 
Riding these trails again gives me a huge hit of nostalgia as I experience all of the old feelings from the beginning of my mountain biking journey. Passing the pump track where I taught myself to jump and broke my collarbone (not necessarily in that order), smelling the particular mix of trees, bushes and river and re-riding tracks I used to build up my bike riding abilities.
 
After a few years of not riding there much, The Yarra Trails are still a great place to enjoy a bike ride and I’m still able to find new sections of trail to ride while staying active in a responsible way. It’s the sort of place you can roll through with a family member or a friend to introduce them to mountain biking or it can be a place you follow a mate down something that scares you a little for the first time. I’m actually feeling a little guilty that I haven’t spent more time on these trails in recent years!


My ideal day on the Yarra Trails is a meandering pedal along the river, pushing back up to hit some features again and ending up in Abbotsford for a coffee and pastry at one of the numerous cafes by the historic Convent. My favourite spot is The Farm Cafe where you can park your bike along the bike path and enjoy a coffee with views of the Collingwood Children’s Farm which frames the trail network beckoning in the background.
 
Where I want to ride post pandemic
 
When all this is over and life returns to some sort of normality, I’m eager to take my van across Bass Strait and complete an epic Tasmanian riding adventure. My limited time in Tassie has always left me inspired to ride new places and always wanting more of what I’ve just had the privilege to ride.
 
What to expect at The Yarra Trails

Amount of trails: 10-20km
Type of riding: XC/Trail
How long can I ride? 1-3 hours if you're playing around
Don't forget: Look up and check for Melbourne’s permanent colony of grey-headed flying foxes (also known as ‘Fruit Bats’) as they rest during daylight hours in trees by the water.


Best coffee nearby: The Farm Cafe or The Convent Bakery
Local knowledge: Head east along the Main Yarra Trail Bike Path to discover vast amounts of single track following the river all the way to Eltham.
 
Meet your local
 
Name: Dominic Hook
Bike: Kona 153
Instagram: @dominichookphotovideo