Expert tips to get you started
You’ve got a 4WD and love camping. Yes? If you don’t, you might be reading the wrong magazine. A lot of 4WDers bolt on a bike rack and take the bikes camping with the kids (big and small). One of the joys of a 4WD is exploring new territory and getting away from the constant FB notifications. That horizon can be extended by heading to mountain biking locations which combine the bush, epic trails and some hard work to have a ton of fun.
Kids have always known that riding a bike is fun. More and more adults are remembering a time when they first learned to ride a bike. Recently bikes have become a lot more sophisticated with Fox air shocks, carbon everything, disc brakes and fat wheels.
Tip one: You don’t have to wear lycra to enjoy riding a bike.
Have you visited Craig’s Hut in the Victorian High Country? Not far from there are some fabulous mountain bike trails that take you through tall forests with amazing views. The word FUN is spelled with all caps when you ride the Epic Trail from Mt Buller.
Most ski fields these days have put in mountain biking trails to make them viable all year round rather than just a few months a year. Makes sense as they are in truly magnificent locations. Thredbo has trails from the top of the Crackenback chairlift that drop around 600m vertically… with one trail lasting for 10 kilometres. Take the chairlift up, then roll and laugh all the way down!
Tip two: Dual suspension is worth it
Even Tassie has some fantastic trails with some of the best being at Derby. In fact, just about anywhere you go in Australia now has mountain bike trails. Cross the Simpson and end up in Alice – there are some great trails for you there. Drive the hills behind Coffs then jump on the mountain bike. Even Brisvegas is surrounded by mountain biking locations with some being 15 minutes from the CBD.
You don’t need a 4WD to get to a lot of these places, but many are on the way to where you are going anyway. If you have never mountain biked, the feeling of some trails is like surfing but unlike surfing… the conditions are almost always good. If you have never surfed, think ‘roller coaster’ but you choose the height and speed.
Tip three: You will fall off at some point so don’t worry about it. We all keep getting back on so it must be worth it.
To find trails on your travels, download a free app called ‘Trailforks’ and this will show you any trails near you and anywhere you might go. It even shows you where you are on the trails when you are out riding. Smart phones certainly do have their uses. There are trails to suit everyone. Kids will amaze you at how quickly they learn how to ride rough trails. The whole family can take on a 20km trail if it’s mainly downhill. The Thredbo Valley Trail starts in Thredbo and follows the Thredbo River downstream before finishing at a great café. It even passes through a couple of National Parks campgrounds by the river. Definitely one for the diary.
Tip four: You don’t have to be Cadel Evans to enjoy mountain biking
There is a difference between going downhill and downhill mountain biking. These days trails at the most popular locations are often rated beginner (green), intermediate (blue) and advanced (black) – similar to ski runs. Start on green and go to blue after you’ve gained a bit of confidence. Black is normally reserved for the hard-core crew with full-face helmets.
Tip five: Carry water and wear a helmet
When I first started mountain biking (in my 40s) I thought $500 would buy me the best bike in the world. I scoffed at people paying $3K for a pushbike. I now have bikes worth more than $3K, but I had as much fun on my first bike as I do now. It’s just that I am pushing my limits more. It’s a bit like starting out with a second-hand poverty pack 4WD, then moving up to something bigger and shinier with air-con.
Tip six: Even the cheaper bikes these day are heaps better than the bike you had as a kid
The best place to carry your bikes is probably on a bike rack that fits your vehicle’s 50mm hitch receiver. If you are towing you can probably mount the rack on the back of the camper, then when camp is set up move it to the back of the 4WD. When travelling on rough tracks, racks that carry the bikes in wheel carriers are the best as they won’t swing around. Some Aussie-made products worth looking at are ISI bike carriers and Gripsports.
Tip seven: If you have teenagers, they will pick it up quicker than you will… so don’t try to follow them at the same speeds. My mate Jon crashed where his son Gus flew.
Unless you ride exclusively at ski resorts, you will have to pedal uphill. Mountain bikes have gears for that very reason – so put it in ‘granny’ (the easiest gear uphill) and pedal. If you have to pedal when out of the seat for very long, you’ll be walking soon after. Not that there is any shame in pushing up some hills; everybody does it at some point.
Tip eight: Park at the bottom of the hill so it’s always downhill to the vehicle at the end
Why ride a pushbike at all? For fun; and you will get a little fitter on the way as well. Enjoying the bush is what we all love and a mountain bike is a great way to do it.
Places to Ride
These days you don’t have to be a local to find the trails. Download the free Trailforks app for your phone and it will show you the closest trails to your current location. If you are on the trails it will geo-locate you so you won’t get lost. It is also great for trip planning as it shows 99% of the mountain bike trails in the country.
Victoria High Country, Vic
Most of the resorts and towns have some great trails. Mt Buller, Falls Creek and Bright are standouts.
Lysterfield and Plenty Gorge would be the pick of the locations for mountain biking near Melbourne.
One of the favourites in Tassie and some of the best trails in Australia (yes, Tassie is part of Oz).
Snowy Mountains, NSW
Thredbo has a mix of downhill, flow and cross-country trails. Nearby Jindabyne has some great trails as well.
Most trails are north of the city but there are plenty of trails in country NSW in places like Orange, Armidale and Nambucca Heads.
Some of the original and best trails in the country. A great place to get away from politicians if you are in the nation’s capital.
Like most capital cities, there are loads of trails. The Trailforks app can show you where they all are.
The south-west of WA is full of excellent mountain biking trails, including the long-distance Munda Biddi Trail.
Some great trails within 15km of the city – with favourites being Daisy Hill, Gap Creek and Bayview in the Redlands. Old Hidden Vale is an hour west with around 80km of terrific trails.
North Queensland, Qld
Plenty of great trails before you get to The Cape.