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.
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.
As our children get bigger, and their bikes with them, it is now more difficult to fit all four together.
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.
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)
- Snacks (these are critical to
briberefuel 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.
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!
Derby was originally a tin mining town, having experienced boom, tragedy, and eventual decline.
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 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.
Briseis Hole – originally the tin mine dam.
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:
- Chain Gang
- Rusty Crusty
- Cranky Cousin
- Derby Tunnel
- And finally, the link back onto Rusty Crusty
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.
Whilst there was a bit of climbing involved, the loamy trails made for much easier riding.
The beautiful Cascade River with little waterfalls and pools.
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.
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.
Derby has established large trail network, transforming the town into one that centres around MTB tourism.
Derby’s ‘green’ trails were both appropriately rated and consistent with what we’d consider the same back home.
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.
There are a range of MTB businesses in Derby for shuttles, guided tours, bike hire, and servicing.
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.
I took a walk with my camera to capture the history and character of this thriving little town.
The National Bank of Tasmania
The Dorset Hotel
Thinking of kitting yourself out with a mountain bike?
About the writer...
Ánika has a background in marine mammal research and is about to embark on a new career as an environmental planner. She also has a side hustle as a freelance travel and landscape photographer and is passionate about inspiring others to connect with nature. She takes her camera pretty much everywhere – trail running, mountain biking, hiking, camping, and SUPing!