Photos: Nick Waygood and Colin Levitch


Tasmania has always seemed like a rugged far away place; vast and untouched, with pristine prehistoric forests, lichen-covered granite and a jagged alpine skyline that could easily be confused with ranges gracing the northern hemisphere. In reality, the north coast of Tasmania is only about 240km off the southern coast of Victoria, and you can be there in as little as an hour if you live in Melbourne.

In the past few years, Tasmania has become a mountain biking hotspot, with trail networks popping up faster than anywhere else in Australia. No, we're not talking the janky hand-cut trails you and your buddies built in the bush behind your house; these trail networks have been designed by professional trail crews such as Dirt Art and World Trail, with more top quality trail going in by the week.

AMB took a whirlwind two-week trip across the Bass Straight, hitting three of the best trail networks the island state has to offer, to ride with locals and gather beta on the choice trails and après spots. Here are the top spots to include on your own Tasmanian mountain bike road trip.

 

 

Blue Derby mountain bike trails

Our first stop was Derby. It's a little over an hour up the Tasman Highway from Launceston, and in just four years Derby has evolved from a modern-day ghost town, into a fully-fledged mountain biking destination. As you roll into town there are bikes everywhere; on cars, bolted onto the roofs of buildings, and of course under riders. Blue Derby has 125km of singletrack cut by the team at World Trail, ranging from flowy and fast like the Krushkas descent and Flickety Sticks, to full-fledged Enduro World Series (EWS) level gnar like Kumma Gutza and Detonate — both have earned their own respective EWS Trail of the Year awards.

Whether you jump into a shuttle up to Black Stump (or even the Blue Tier) or ride from the trailhead, the singletrack snakes through thick moss-covered rainforest; complete with hidden swimming holes, towering granite boulders, and some of the best dirt we've ever rolled knobby tyres over.

Don't go without:

A shuttle pass. The drop off is right at the junction of some of our favourite trails like Kingswall, Roxanne and Return to Sender. Quite a few shuttle services are running in town, and we ended up grabbing rides from Vertigo MTB, Premium MTB Transfers and in Evolution's brand new Can-Am buggies. The shuttles leave from the bus depot across from the trailhead and range in price from $10 for a single uplift to a couple hundred bucks for a private charter.

Must ride:

Dam Busters. Named for when the Cascade Dam burst in 1929 after a period of heavy rain, Dam Busters takes you for a lap around the lake, guiding you through thick beech and eucalypt forest, stopping at pristine streams and hidden waterfalls along the way. About halfway around, the trail deposits you right on the water's edge in a perfect spot for a swim on a sunny day.

World Trail has just given the final descent a complete makeover; we had read it was one of the fastest and most thrilling descents in the network, and with brand new berms and fresh cut jumps, it lives up to the hype. From the bottom of Dam Busters, head for Sawtooth, an iconic trail in its own right, and make a run through the old mining tunnel which takes you underground for 350m — it's like nothing you've ever ridden, we promise.

Grab a beer at:

Sidetracked. New for this summer Sidetracked is an outdoor beer garden right across the street from Vertigo MTB and Evolution Biking, with a beer trailer pouring cold-ones from Little Rivers Brewing. The Riverside trail deposits you just outside the bottom gate.

 

St Helens mountain bike trails

You've probably heard of St Helens; situated one hour east of Derby it's one of the premier beach destinations on Tasmania's east coast — now it is a location to add to your MTB bucket list. The pièce de résistance is the new Bay of Fires Trail; a 42km wilderness trail that starts from the tippy-top of the Blue Tier, ushering riders all the way to the squeaky white sand of Swimcart Beach.

Beginning in the subalpine, the Bay of Fires Trail kicks off with a monumental 14km descent into thick green rainforest — it's fast, it's flowy, and a trail that riders of all levels will hoot and holler the whole way down. When the speed has run out, the trail traverses across rolling terrain, through changing forests and past imposing granite boulders, some of which are incorporated as trail features.

When we say this is a wilderness trail, we mean there are no services for 42km. Phone service is spotty, so bring enough food, water, tools and spares to get you through the ride wholly unsupported.

Also new for St Helens are the Flagstaff Stacked Loops which are connected to town via purpose-built singletrack, you can ride straight from your accommodation to the trailhead. World Trail is also the outfit behind the network, and with 66km built in Tasmanian dry sclerophyll forest, it takes to total trail mileage for the beach town to 108km. Beginner loops for the whole family surround the trailhead. The distance increases so does the difficulty as you venture out into the longer loops.

Jump on a shuttle from the trailhead to the top of the network at Loila Tier, and you'll find granite features, big bermed corners and jumps. World Trail has only finished the first stage of the Stacked Loops with more difficult gravity trails and even another wilderness trail going in next year.

Don't go without:

A hydration pack, spares, a sandwich, and a rain jacket. Don't be that guy on the Bay of Fires Trail who's run out of water at the halfway point asking other riders if they have any to spare. Make sure to bring your swimmers, too.

Must ride:

The Bay of Fires Trail is a stunning wilderness experience, and definitely worth the cost of a shuttle. If you're coming from Derby, get in touch with Vertigo or Premium MTB Shuttles; if you're in St Helens call Gravity Isle; or Mad MTB from either starting point. St Helens MTB Adventures also do a cool catered shuttle option – with a great lunch at the end of the Bay of Fires Trail before you hit singletrack behind the beach.

At Flagstaff, check out Rock Lobster for a few sendy little jump lines, and grab a shuttle with Gravity Isle to Loila Tier and check out the views from Old Salty Dog at the top of the trail network.

Grab a beer at:

The Social. It's a mix of an outdoor beer garden and a food truck in the same venue. Slinging craft beers from all around Tasmania, their food menu is what we would class as 'street food'— it's delicious, try the steak and cheese burger.

 

Maydena Bike Park

Everything about Maydena BIke Park is wild; from the environment to the trails and even the locals. One of only a few places in Australia that embodies the regions' glaciated past, the surrounds are reminiscent of the Fitzsimmons Range in British Columbia. Beyond its appearance, the comparison to this particular mountain range in the great white north is not unintentional, because nestled in the heart of the Fitzsimmons' is a place called Whistler — maybe you've heard of it?

Maydena is home to some of the steepest and most challenging trails we know of and offers the closest thing Australia has to North Shore style riding. A glance at the trail map shows runs ranging from greens all the way up to those which have garnered the 'Proline' rating, but Maydena is comparatively more difficult than most other riding destinations — a green trail here is anything but cruisey. With 820m of vertical drop, it's also one of the only trail networks that offer descents long enough that you'll need to rest part of the way down because your hands are tired from braking. Did we mention you don't need a passport to get there?

The trails are rooty and rocky, and everything is well signposted, so you don't get in over your head. We'd recommend taking a warm-up down some of the green trails like Pandani or blues like Beach Babe before you make your way onto trails like Styx and Stones or King Brown.

Don't go without:

Knee pads. A lot of riders at Maydena wear full-face helmets, but you will be just fine with an open face lid if you know your limits. There are limited options to eat out in Maydena, and there is no grocery store, so come prepared with provisions to get you through your stay. Maydena Bike Park do put on a good spread at their cafe.

Must ride:

The Wilderness Trail. While it's one of Maydena's less challenging descents, it's an almost top to bottom run with only three trail intersections. With the entrance near the top of the mountain, it heads straight for the bike park boundary, running through a few distinct ecosystems on the way down. The trail is woolly, and it's definitely an adventure.

Grab a beer at:

The beer garden at the base of the bike park. It has a full-service kitchen and beers on tap, it's the perfect spot for an après bike brewski. It's also worth making the 15min drive down to the pub at National Park. When you step through the front door, it's like taking a trip back to yesteryear. But, a glance into the fridges behind the bar reveals an extensive collection of local craft beers, and they serve up one of the best burgers we've sunk our teeth into.


This trip to Tasmania was made possible with the support of Tourism Tasmania.