Tassie MTB Trails with Kids – Derby (Pyemmairrener/Northeast Tasmania)

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In my last blog, I wrote about our family’s experience riding the MTB trails of Tassie’s West Coast in the town of Zeehan – where enjoyment levels across our group varied according to ability!

After the West Coast, we set our sights eastward to Derby for a very different experience. Before we get started though, a gear guide may be helpful for those either new to MTB, or considering giving it a go.

A family of four is perched on their bikes on a rubbly surface, with a pink stippled sky and trees behind them. The father is wearing a blue jacket, the second son wears a navy t-shirt under a grey jacket, and the mother wears a pale grey-blue t-shirt. Each family member is wearing a helmet.

After the West Coast, we set our sights eastward to Derby for a very different experience.

Transporting Your Bikes

Transporting bikes to the trails (because sadly, they’re not always parked on your doorstep!) will require some kind of bike rack. There are all sorts out there, but it really depends on what works for your car, how many bikes you own, and what arrangement you prefer (e.g. tow-ball, or roof racks). We have a four-bike carrier that attaches to the tow-ball, which is easy to load and secure with straps – though take care to ensure the bikes don’t rub on each other and cause damage. As our children get bigger, and their bikes with them, it is now more difficult to fit all four together (see below) – so we’re looking to replace our bike rack with a vertical design. This still sits on the tow-ball but is even easier to load, and the bikes don’t touch each other at all.

Three mountain bikes are stacked on the back of a four-wheeled drive, protruding outwards from the spare tire and secured by a blue strap.

As our children get bigger, and their bikes with them, it is now more difficult to fit all four together.

Bike Security

At times, you will need to leave your bikes unsupervised on the car – so bike security is important if you want them to still be there when you return! Always pack a bike lock or two (more can’t hurt!), as they’ll also come in handy if your accommodation doesn’t provide secure storage.

‘What about the actual bike and stuff?’

I hear you! I’m no brand expert, but I would strongly suggest researching reputable MTB brands. You don’t need to spend a bomb to get a quality bike, though I would not recommend taking one onto the trails from a “big-box” department store without any specialisation in bikes. In terms of suspension, three of us have hard-tail bikes (with front suspension only), and that suits our level just fine.

When buying kids’ bikes, please don’t be tempted to buy one that is too big for them so that they’ll “grow into it”. If they are still building their skills, a large bike will be harder for them to control. Kids need to feel confident in their ability to brake in a hurry, and a large bike will have them straining to reach and apply the brakes comfortably. Typically, bikes are bought as a surprise gift – but it can be worth taking them along to a bike store to be fitted instead.

Replacing bikes for growing children is expensive, so a better option is to buy second-hand. If you know what you’re looking for, you can snap up a great ride and do your bit for the environment. We found a great ride for our eldest – barely used – which has lasted him for years before it was eventually passed on to the youngest. One reason why it’s holding up so well is regular servicing, which is just as important for the longevity of your bike as it is for your car.

Essentials

Our essentials when heading out include:

  • Good quality helmet
  • Gloves to protect your hands
  • Basic repair kit and pump
  • Hydration (we have bottle cages on the bikes, as well as hydration packs)
  • Some may also say padded short liners for extra comfort, too!

In our packs, we also carry things like:

  • A small first aid kit (with compression bandages, in the case of snake bites)
  • Sunscreen
  • Snacks (these are critical to bribe refuel weary children!)

It is also important for someone to have a phone – and that’s not just to record your ride on Strava! If something should go wrong, like an injury or mechanical issue, you may need to call for assistance. Consider Ambulance cover too, as it’s better to be safe than sorry (and out of pocket).

If you have questions about MTB gear, I’m happy to help – just pop them in the comments below.

Now… DERBY!

Its official name is the Blue Derby Trail network (just say ‘Derby’ to any keen MTB-er, and they’ll know exactly where you’re talking about). Originally a tin mining town having experienced boom, tragedy, and eventual decline – you can read all about how it’s been transformed into a mountain biking mecca here. Since opening in 2015 with just 20 kilometres of trail, there are now roughly 125 kilometres of purpose-built trails throughout beautiful forests catering for all skills and styles. With only two nights here, our challenge was to see just how much we could cover!

Two pretty houses of Derby sit side by side, the house on the right lined with a white picket fence. The house on the left is yellow with a red roof and green trims. The house on the right has dark blue trims, and the paint on the roof flaking away.

Derby was originally a tin mining town, having experienced boom, tragedy, and eventual decline.

Day One

Driving down the main street, it’s clear that two-wheelers are the dominant mode of transport. There are mountain bikes everywhere, with their happy riders often covered in mud! Arriving later than planned, we quickly unpacked and pedalled out for a little ride. A few circuits of the pump track certainly warmed up the legs before we headed over the suspension bridge to ride a lap of the lake (or Briseis Hole – originally the tin mine dam). Take note of the Floating Sauna sitting as pretty as a picture on the lake’s edge, where you may wish to book a post-ride treat!

A Strava-style map of a bike route, with a red dotted line indicating where the bike rider has traversed.

A few circuits of the pump track certainly warmed up the legs before we headed over the suspension bridge to ride a lap of the lake.

Two bike riders are parked on the rocky edge of a lake. The lake is glossy, reflecting the bushy, green forestry. There are vivid yellow-green grasses growing in patches on the side of the bike path.

Briseis Hole – originally the tin mine dam.

Day Two

We woke to pretty heavy rain – but Husband had booked a shuttle to get the most out of his available trail time, so had left early. Meanwhile, I waited for it to ease and went for a lovely run along the Valley Ponds-Branxholm Link. This would be a nice, flat ride for little legs, with the wide trail following the Ringarooma River winding gently through ferny glades and forest.

The route can run as long or short as you like. I started at the trailhead opposite Renison Street and turned where the track crosses over the Tasman Highway, which was just under five kilometres.

Husband arrived back in town mid-afternoon, very dirty but grinning ear to ear! After grabbing sustenance at one of the main street cafes, it was back to the trails for him – now with us in tow! Riding solo first allowed him to suss out the best trail options for our abilities.

From the main trailhead, our route went something like this:

  1. Chain Gang
  2. Rusty Crusty
  3. Axehead
  4. Relics
  5. Sawtooth
  6. Cranky Cousin
  7. Derby Tunnel
  8. And finally, the link back onto Rusty Crusty
A Strava-style map of a bike route, with a red dotted line indicating where the bike rider has traversed.

After Husband grabbed sustenance at one of the main street cafes, it was back to the trails for him – now with us in tow!

The weather was clear and the trails primo, making for a great ride! Whilst there was a bit of climbing involved (see Elevation Profile below) – the loamy trails (hero dirt!) made for much easier riding than the slippery gravel of Oonah Hill. We made a few stops along the way to take in the lush forest, beautiful Cascade River with little waterfalls and pools, and view over the town from the Sawtooth Lookout. All of the trails we rode are rated green, bar Cranky Cousin. This short section is at more of an intermediate level, with big berms – but we all managed it just fine.

A graph shaded in green indicates elevation profile of a bike rider over 6.5 kilometres.

Whilst there was a bit of climbing involved, the loamy trails made for much easier riding.

A rushing waterfall travels down a steep, sharp, faceted rockface. The rocks are marbled, coloured with browns, golds, moss-greens, and stippled with white.

The beautiful Cascade River with little waterfalls and pools.

A tepid creek is surrounded by vivid green forestry and bushes, reflecting the yellow-green of the flora and fauna, lit by the warm sunlight streaming through the top of the trees.

We made a few stops along the way to take in the lush forest.

The Derby Tunnel is a must-do. At 600 metres, it’s quite a bit longer than Zeehan’s Spray Tunnel (100 metres) but has soft lighting – so you’re not totally in the dark! As a shared one-way path, just watch out for walkers.

The opening to a dark rocky cave presents a bright, orange beacon of light at the end, indicating the end of the tunnel.

At 600 metres, the Derby Tunnel is quite a bit longer than Zeehan’s Spray Tunnel.

Our experience riding Derby compared to Oonah Hill was like night and day. We found Derby offered more options for beginners, and the ‘green’ trails were both appropriately rated and consistent with what we’d consider the same back home. To be fair to Oonah Hill though, their trails are so different that they really shouldn’t be compared. Derby has obviously been in operation for longer, establishing a much larger trail network and transforming the town into one that centres around MTB tourism.

An overhead view of a winding, muddy track, snaking through green flora and fauna.

Derby has established large trail network, transforming the town into one that centres around MTB tourism.

Three cyclists are wheeling their bikes over the rocks the create a stepping-stone bridge across a yellowing, shallow creek.

Derby’s ‘green’ trails were both appropriately rated and consistent with what we’d consider the same back home.

A rocky bike path surrounded by green forestry, blue sky and fluffy white clouds poking through the tops of the trees and sunlight streaming through the branches.

The weather was clear and the trails primo, making for a great ride!

There are a range of MTB businesses in Derby for shuttles, guided tours, bike hire, and servicing – start here for plenty of information to help plan your adventure. For where to stay, there are many options in town and surrounding areas including camping, Airbnbs, traditional Bed and Breakfasts, and lodge-style – to name just a few. Accommodation tends to cater to the riders’ specific needs – for example, our cute miners’ cottage featured a secure bike shed set-up with storage racks and tools.

A man in a blue jacket is standing outside a small, picturesque cafe built with white slates of wood and blue, red, and white stools perched out the front. There is a bike rack holding multiple bikes with their wheels positioned to the sky.

There are a range of MTB businesses in Derby for shuttles, guided tours, bike hire, and servicing.

Day Three

Sadly, it was already time to leave. We really loved Derby, and it wasn’t just the awesome trails or happy ‘MTB’ vibe of the place. While the boys headed out for one last trail fling, I took a walk along the main street with my camera to capture the history and character of this once-again-thriving little town. We hope to return to explore more trails, and more of what the area has to offer.

A picturesque white building stands with double wooden doors and white wooden slates lining the front wall. To the left are large flower arrangements with orange flowers on the end of long stems. The window roofs are corrugated iron.

I took a walk with my camera to capture the history and character of this thriving little town.

The National Bank of Tasmania - a cream house-like building, with dark green and red trims and a golden-wood door. The roof is red, and the chimney is red brick.

The National Bank of Tasmania

A white building called The Dorset Hotel - black trims along the balcony and doorways, with a black leather couch and black steel chairs outside. Pot plants are positioned by the supporting posts, growing lush green bush.

The Dorset Hotel

Thinking of kitting yourself out with a mountain bike?

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Joined back in December, 2021

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