Day 5 of our West Australian Road Trip: Dunsborough
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.
Day 1 - Kalamunda
Day 2 - Dwellingup
Day 3 - Pemberton
Day 4 - Linga Longa Bike Park
As our trip was drawing to a close we needed to aim towards Margaret River for Cape to Cape. So while it wasn't included directly in our road trip, we weren't going to be missing out on the riding. But we had one more stop, and it's a stop that used to be the final stage for Cape to Cape.
Dunsborough is nestled just inside Cape Naturaliste, and the trails head up the hill above the Dunsborough Country Club in Meelup Park. If you finished a Cape to Cape here you would be familiar with a couple of the trails, but I doubt you would recognise the trail network based on what is on the ground now. They now hold dedicated cross-country and gravity enduro races in the network here.
We meet Andrew Spencer Wright, Lee Scurlock and a few other riders at the trail head for a quick ride. Andrew gives me a bit of an update, as I certainly didn't expect Dunsborough to have the trails on offer after my experience of finishing a couple of Cape to Cape's here.
“In 2008 a group of dedicated mountain bikes lead by Myles Happ and Simon Mansfield with the IMBA handbook Managing Mountain Biking as their bible, set about creating the Cape Mountain Bikers to advocate for trails within the greater Busselton City area. Their particular of focus was within the area of the Meelup reserve and the Dunsborough District Country Club (DDCC), which was managed by the City of Busselton.”
Andrew went on to explain that first there was a hand built cross-country loop, built to all appropriate approvals, which set the foundations for being able to have 18 kilometres of trail on the ground now, and another 4.5km in their masterplan.
“This project was managed by the Cape Mountain Bikers who contracted a professional trail builder to help with the project. The aim has been to involve and consult with the local mountain bike community and deliver a network that everyone is invested in. The result is a unique and diverse trail network, which caters to mountain bikers of all skill levels, within the town of Dunsborough.”
That last bit really rings true, as we really are right in the edge of Dunsborough. Western Australia is a big place, so often the trails aren't smack bang in the centre of town, even in smaller towns. But like Pemberton, the trails start right from the northern edge of town at Meelup Park.
We ride up past the golf course and traverse through a mix of trails. From some jump lines in the trees to built rock features, this is not the Dunsborough I remember. We twist and turn through the coastal bush, to pedal into a fast descent with the ocean peeking out above. It's open scrub and the trail is wide singletrack, keeping our options open for line selection. This is really different to the jump lines and rockier trails earlier, where there is typically one line of choice.
I follow James Lobegeiger, one of our road trip crew, through the open traverse before we push into a section of linked corners. Some have small berms, others use natural features that create interest and challenge on the way down.
This is the riding I like, trails that are fast with a few options, something to ride fast and hard with a mate or two. But with the jumps in the trees and the rock features, plus the winding trails through the denser sections of bush, it's clear that the trail expansion has been done with community consultation, as there is something to suit a lot of mountain bikers in an otherwise small area.
We finish off down the trails towards the country club – the descent that was so familiar from Cape to Cape. There are two small trails that continually intersect. They're fun, but somehow made all the better because of the other trails we had ridden that morning.
As we sit around having a coffee after our ride, some of the riders who joined us pedal off to work. Lee needed to open up at the Bike Shed (his shop) for the day. Rex Dubois had done the same, heading off to open the doors at Humble Bike Co. For a small town, two bike shops is notable, and after seeing the quality of trails in a small area, it is clear that a small group of riders can make a lot happen when they work together.
Where: Meelup Park, Cape Naturaliste Road. About 3 hours south of Perth.
Accommodation: Lots of options in and around Dunsborough.
Riding style: Cross-country and trail – with some sweet jumps thrown in.
Trail surface: Mostly pea gravel
Don't forget: Take your beach towel!
What's on? WAGE visits in March.
More details: Head to the Cape Mountain Bikers website.