Day four of our West Australia Road Trip: Linga Longa Bike Park
Words: Mike Blewitt Photos: Tim Bardsley-Smith
Western Australia is a state rich in resources. For those of us in the east, we can't always appreciate how many of those resources are suitable for mountain bikers. From fast and loose pea gravel trails, to hand and machine sculpted red dirt trails beneath Karri trees, and of course beach side trails above an azure blue ocean, the variety on offer for mountain bikers in the west will surprise anyone who hasn't visited before. We were invited to the south west and given a local's tour of some of the great trails in the region, and once on the ground we learnt that there is so much more to come.
After a comfortable night at Eucalyptus House with friends, BBQ perfection and some local wines and ales, we packed up early to hit the road. We're on a road trip after all. It's about getting out and seeing as much as you can! Our destination was Linga Longa Bike Park. It's a bit over an hour north of Pemberton, but we did find time to pull into Manjimup on the way for a much needed coffee.
The mention of Linga Longa Bike Park lights up just about any mountain biker's face in Western Australia. Anyone we have met on the trail has either asked if we are going, or just been stoked that we are when we tell them our itinerary. So you'd think this place was part of the mountain bike history here in Western Australia. But the fact is it hasn't even been open to ride more than a few years.
The property is privately owned, funded and built by Paul (Boxer) Eaton and his family and friends. They found this property to fulfill their dream of creating a property that would be an escape, and they have been working to create something special and undoing the 20 years of neglect the property had before they took it on. While having just branched out into weddings as well as mountain biking might seem odd, once you see the location it makes sense. There's a beautiful lake, with lush grass running down to it from the buildings, and areas planted out with avocado trees in long groves. And this all sits in a valley surrounded by native bushland and some pine plantation to one side. Right now, one hill holds all the trails – and in the future there will be much more on another raw and rocky hillside.
Devin Stafford is also involved in the park, with a lot of input into the trail design. We meet up for the morning with a few extra riders joining our troupe, and Devin gives me a bit of a run down before we jump in the shuttle bus.
“The first trail here was built about 7 years ago, but we lost that one to a big fire that burnt everything out,” Devin explains. Since then the trails have expanded, and there are about 25 kilometres of trail on the ground – most of it loosely graded blue.
“The master plan is to add a bit more stuff to cater to younger families,” adds Devin. “We want to eventually have up to 50 kilometres of trail on one side of the hill, and possibly 20-30 kilometres on the other side with some really epic descents.”
At the moment with one drop off point at the top of the hill, the setup is very popular for those who come to shuttle. There is a climbing trail that is really mellow, but to be honest shuttling was more fun. The setup really suits enduro racing and as such the Western Australia Gravity Enduro (WAGE) series has visited many times.
“We had our first event here in 2015. That was a WAGE race and it was a one off event. We had six trails that suited enduro, as that was what we were riding at the time. But then the park opened officially in 2018, as a place you could come and ride.”
The trails go from blue to double-black diamond, with something to suit just about anyone who likes to point their bike downhill. The top section is pea gravel (don't be surprised!) but depending what side of the hill you're descending into, you'll then dive into loamy corners, hardpack, sandy dirt... the trails and riding vary a bunch depending what side of the hill you take on.
Compared to anything else we have ridden until this point, Linga Longa Bike Park sure has more dedicated gravity riding. We all have our dropper posts slammed, and the shorter travel bikes are getting a work out. Still, trails like the popular Boxers Blast are an absolute hoot to ride. It's a machine built jump and flow trail whereas many of the other trails are handbuilt. Whether you choose to launch the bike and find all the gaps and jumps on the way down, or work your bike and pump through the features, you're still likely to have a huge grin at the bottom.
With each shuttle back up, Devin leads us onto something new. We pull aside to size up gaps and who might do them and who might take the B-line. Or we laugh and joust on the way down some raw trails, riding close and fast and slipping into steep chutes, negotiating challenging descents that were even used to decide the 2019 WA State Cross-Country Champions!
Not a run ends without Tony Tucknott exclaiming 'how good was that!” and it's hard not to share Tony's neverending enthusiasm when riding somewhere like Linga Longa Bike Park. We feel like royalty with Boxer running the shuttle with only us around. Devin says that isn't uncommon.
“We have a group of riders from Geraldton and all they ever do is book a private shuttle day, and they come down every couple of months for a private shuttle day and that's it. They book the place out for themselves.”
Conversely, the bike park can get quite busy on the weekends, especially in the lead up to races where riders want to get a feel for the trails.
“We've done days where we have had 350 riders on the shuttles, all day,” says Devin. “Most riders will get between 10 and 15 runs per day, but we cater to demand, and can put on an extra bus if we need to.”
While the popularity around racing would be obvious given how the park started, Devin has said that increasingly trail riders find it an ideal place to visit, and he expects with more family friendly trails on the horizon, that will continue to be a feature.
“We've had a lot of trail riders here but we started with racers visiting, as for the first couple of years we were only open on race days. We have moved to a wider set of trails as people come down to just ride. With a 3km blue flow trail we have the longest trail of that kind in Western Australia right here.”
After a few more runs and time spent on some fun trail features, we roll to the cafe at the bottom for lunch. On Gravity Days (where the shuttles run) the cafe is open and provides some delicious and wholesome food (including vegetarian options). We take the time to refuel with a veritable feast available from the cafe, including home made kombucha!
It's hard to capture how much the riding we're doing in Western Australia has continually changed. And Linga Longa Bike Park is almost a condensed version of that. From fast and wide flow trails to steep and narrow chutes, with rock features, tall trees and pine plantation trails, there's a lot going on here. There are big jump lines with the mandatory windsock for noting wind conditions through to pretty mellow trails, all in a setting open for camping and swimming.
Where: Cassia Road, Southampton, about 3 hours south of Perth.
Accommodation: There are cottages and camping onsite.
Riding style: Enduro and trail.
Trail surface: Really varied, from pea gravel up top to loam and sandy soil.
Don't forget: How wild do you want to go? Pack your full-face helmet and guards.
What's on? Enduro World Series qualifier in April.
More details: Find all the details about shuttles, accommodation and more on their website