Day one of our West Australia Road Trip: Kalamunda
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.
This road trip took us from Perth to Margaret River for Cape to Cape, and while we had 5 days of riding it would be easy to spread this trip out over a week and have a really broad mix of riding – but don't miss your chance to sample the tastes of the south-west as well. We entrusted Tony Tucknott to cherry pick the best locations to visit, and enlist local guides to make sure we didn't miss the best trials in each location.
Day One: Kalamunda
Sitting in the Perth Hills, Kalamunda is the most popular area for mountain biking in the area. That was evident when we pulled into the carpark after lunch, passing cars parked along the road and luckily finding room to park our Isuzu D-MAX.
“These trails are so popular that almost all trails are now one way only to avoid collisions,” Tony Tucknott told us.
The trails start right out the back of a camel farm and Rock and Roll MTB who hire bikes and offer mountain bike clinics. Mark Wardle who runs the operation was on hand as our trail guide, along with Cameron Wishart from the Kalamunda Mountain Bike Collective. They are the custodians for the trails so there was no better duo to have showing us around.
It's fair to say that once you're in the Perth Hills there isn't too much further to go upwards. And while the riding at Kalamunda isn't flat, the trails tend to use the elevation changes moderately, swooping between the trees and over smaller built features to really help you maintain flow. It's not often tight and technical, so with a few good pedal strokes you get up to speed and following local riders makes it pretty easy to maintain it as well.
We took on a variety of trails, from those that suit a first time beginner to more advanced trails which have solidly built features. These black diamond trails will need you to be confident launching off drops, but there are B-lines around the built features so at least you can take a look before having another run through and trying it out.
All the trails are signposted which makes it pretty easy to get around if you're visiting, and a trail bike was spot on for the riding. Although the range of bikes in our group spanned from cross-country bikes through to bigger enduro bikes – and it didn't really change the size of anyone's smile. None of the climbs were unachievable, and most trail heads or junctions were the ideal place to regroup and chat about the trails ahead while everyone climbed to the new high point.
“All these trails link together and create some of the best riding anywhere in Australia, in my opinion,” said Tony Tucknott. “You can easily put a 60km loop together without covering the same trail twice.”
I would have to agree with Tony, as there are a lot of factors that can make a trail network good. Kalamunda ticks a lot of boxes as it has easy to follow trail markings, one way trails to avoid arguments and injury, and the majority of trails have a whole lot of flow. Throw in the fact that it's under an hour from Perth's CBD and it's no surprise that the place is so popular.
A lot of the trails are pretty easy going, which is what helps the sport grow and doesn't scare people off. For us coming from the east coast it was also a good way to get the feel for the famous pea gravel under our tyres. As long as you never expect rock solid grip, it's fine. Slide through, move on. No worries.
Kalamunda would be a perfect place to start your own road trip out of Perth given it's proximity to the city, trail variety and beautiful setting. But like with any location, ask around at the trail head or a local bike shop if you want to stay on a bit longer and ride some more trails in the area.
Break the Boundary are a charity that help people with disabilites experience the outdoors. Their club rooms with hand cycles is based at Kalamunda, and you can find out more about what they do online.
Place That Rock
Where: Paulls Valley Road, Paulls Valley, WA
Accommodation: Look up options in the Perth Hills
Riding style: Trail – with enough fast sections and features to keep cross-country and enduro riders happy.
Trail surface: Mostly pea gravel
Don't forget: Download Trailforks so you can see how the trails link together to get the most out of your visit.
What's on? The Kalamunda 50/50 is a 50km race that promises to have 50% of the trails as awesome singletrack. The popular race is in June in 2020.
Local shops: Wembley Cycles, or Rock and Roll MTB at the trailhead for bike hire.
More details: Check out the Kalamunda Mountain Bike Collective