By Carmen Rey
Located in one of the most remote corners of the globe, the island of Tasmania sits off the coast of Australia, and what may surprise you is the fact that it is one of the best mountain biking destinations in the world. Yes, you heard right, the world! And who better to make that claim other than veteran mountain adventure rider Hans Rey. For almost four decades, Germany’s most famous fat-tired explorer has scoured every continent looking in search of new singletrack challenges.
Has he finally found the cream of the crop in, of all places, Tasmania?!
THE BLUE DERBY
What Tasmania has created in terms of a trail network is simply incredible. Up first for Hans was heading to Blue Derby, where a dreamland batch of trails in some of the most breathtaking nature can be found. Some of the best purpose-built bike trails in the world have been built here in hopes of attracting riders to this small former mining town.
“From families with young children, hard-core riders and veterans of the sport, the trails of Tasmania provide something perfect for everyone.”
Late in 2019, along with local rider Cassie Abell, Hans headed about 50 miles out from Derby to the coast in St. Helens to attend the opening of the 26-mile Bay of Fires trail. This 26-mile-long trail connects Derby and St. Helens and, as Hans was soon to discover, is certifiable as a bucket-list destination for any mountain biker.
It was on an early misty morning with the sun teasing us off in the distance that we set off to experience the new Bay of Fires mega trail. Although not required by the topography, an important value of the Bay of Fires trail is that it is open to e-bikes. With that in mind, and considering that with the distance there would be a fair amount of pedaling, Hans decided that the trail would provide the perfect opportunity to break out his GT e-bikes.
As it turned out, choosing his e-bike was a good decision. After all, even without any steep mountains to climb, pedaling 26 miles on dirt trails still requires some physical stamina. The extra assistance of the e-bike made the trip even more enjoyable.
What was the ride like? Honestly, the Bay of Trails was one of the most fun trails we’ve ever ridden, and that’s no doubt thanks to World Trail Design, who designed and built it. The Aussie-based WTD company is one of the world’s leading trail-building companies, and with both the Blue Derby and St. Helens trails they’ve created a playground for mountain bikers carved out of the natural terrain with integrity and appreciation of the landscape, which changed as the miles rolled us away from Derby and closer to St. Helens.
This trail epitomizes Hans’ definition of a “flow-country trail,” which breaks down as never too hard, never too steep and never too dangerous. Smaller boulders create perfect natural rollers scattered along the long ribbon of dirt with perfect berms railing you into the next line. The sensation of pedaling along the snake-like trail left you feeling like you were flying. The fun was instant, and suddenly you felt like being a kid again—just being in the moment and feeling absolute joy.
The fun didn’t stop at the dazzlingly gorgeous waters of the Tasman Sea; we continued on, thanks to a quick shuttle from Vertigo to the St. Helens Trail Center where we were met by a lot of seriously excited riders of all ages ready to sample a number of new trails, which officially opened that day.
BUILD IT AND THEY WILL COME
Once again, great importance was placed on providing the necessary infrastructure and facilities, and to provide trails for all types and abilities of mountain bike riders. From families with young children, hard-core riders and veterans of the sport, the trails of Tasmania provide something perfect for everyone. Even the easier trails can be enjoyed by more advanced riders; they can just go faster and pump it.
One family that I couldn’t help notice—because one of their young sons was sporting a Union Jack helmet—told of how they lived near Mt. Buller (about two hours from Melbourne on the mainland) and that they were traveling around Tassie and testing the local mountain bike hot spots. Were they impressed? Oh yes! The young grom told us that he already rode the new Bay of Fires trail and that he couldn’t wait to do
The brilliant idea of creating a trail linking one fabulous riding destination to another came from Glen Jacobs and Gerard McHugh, Chief Planning Consultant at World Trail. This massive undertaking means that the northeast of Tasmania can now boast 76 miles of trails at Derby, including Blue Tier, and 72 in St. Helens, including the Bay of Fires. This total of nearly 150 miles (and still growing) really establishes this region as a global go-to location for mountain bikers.
THE JUST REWARDS
As we began the process of boxing our bikes and gear to head home, it was impossible to not appreciate just how this world-class riding destination came about and the renaissance it created for the small town of Derby. It really is thanks to their newfound celebrity as a mountain bike destination that the town enjoyed a rebirth and continues to thrive.
This is an example of how mountain biking trails, which helps fuel both the local economy and the economy of Tasmania as a whole, breathed life into a community, created jobs, provided hope, inspired industrious ideas and actions, and provided fortunate mountain bikers like us the chance to enjoy perfect dirt and trails all cradled by perfect nature.
As Hans himself commented, “Derby does not merely tolerate mountain bikers; it is all about mountain bikers! And I say, there are not many, if any, places on our beautiful planet that can make that claim.”
Where to stay
Bike shops, shuttles and rentals
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Mountain Bike Action is a monthly magazine devoted to all things mountain biking (yes, that’s 12 times a year because we never take a month off of mountain biking). It has been around since 1986 and we’re still having fun.