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Mountain Biking Australia


Outdoor's MTB correspondent has whizzed up a monstrous seasonal roostertail of a single track update. Basically, stock up on OMO and avoid white riding gear until spring.

The world seems better when viewed from the saddle

I usually find the sound of rain on a tin roof peaceful. The rhythmic tapping of raindrops is calming and relaxing. After a long, dry summer which stretched well into autumn, the rain brings relief to the parched land and the sound is, at first, quite unfamiliar. But it feels like we’ve had weeks on end of this now-deafening drumming. After all, I am penning this from the mountains around Melbourne, where the clouds hang so low that it’s hard to imagine the dry, sunny days of only a few weeks ago. Like many in southern Australia, for the next few months, I can only dream of fast and dusty trails. Riding now consists of puddle hopping, waterlogged shoes and a rooster tail, mud-splattered back. The same trails I could ride with my eyes closed just weeks ago are now a battle for survival with wet roots, rocks and slick clay trying their best to rip my wheels out from underneath me. As much as I love this new challenge, the endless clothes washing, bike cleaning and scraping mud out from behind my eyeballs has got me thinking. A migratory pilgrimage north to enjoy an endless summer of riding may be just what I need.

The world seems better when viewed from the saddle

It’s easy to see why Australia is called the lucky country. Without needing a visa, the hassle of customs or an international flight, we can escape the winter weather and be riding on amazing trails in just a few hours and for only a few hundred bucks for the airfare. While the majority of Australian mountain bikers and trails exist in the southern states, Far North Queensland and the Northern Territory dangle a tantalising cherry for us Mexicans, with their stunning scenery, world class trails and beautiful weather to boot!

Berming beauties

Topping the list of MTB destinations up north has to be Cairns. The city is steeped in Australian mountain biking history. Cairns hosted Australia’s first mountain bike World Championships way back in ‘96 and again in 2017. The sheer number of technical trails make it a perfect breeding ground for elite riders like multi-World Cup winning siblings Tracy and Mick Hannah, as well as a whole swag of other top level mountain bikers who have headed abroad to show off the skills they perfected in the rainforest trails around Cairns. But Cairns isn’t just for the pros. With over 550km of trails in the region, there is trail to suit every style and ability level. The Smithfield Trails are closest to town, but just a short drive away sees you at the trail networks of the Atherton Tablelands to the south or the Daintree to the north. And that’s just the start. While a warm coffee break during a winter ride down south can be heartwarming, nothing beats a refreshing beer and a beach swim after a day of riding rainforest trails - just skip the beach if you’re there during stinger season!

Be prepared to handle all the good stuff that Alice Springs will throw at you

But if rocky, dry trails, surrounded by spectacular desert scenery, are more up your alley, Alice Springs is the answer. While midday summer rides may be out of the question, during the winter, Alice Springs averages around 20°C and only sees a few days of rain each month.

Attacking the outback trails

The main trailhead is at the historic Alice Springs Telegraph Station, where bikes can be hired and the signposted single tracks make it easy for out-of-towners to find their way. But with some local knowledge, you will have access to another hundred or so kilometers of trails around town. More trails are also being built on the other side of the Stuart Highway around Araluen and are due for completion later this year. And, thanks to $12 million from the NT Government, a 200km green (easy) rated trail is to be built, linking the Alice Springs Desert Park in town with Glen Helen in the West MacDonnell Ranges. Dubbed the Red Centre Adventure Ride, this will be a multi-day ride featuring purpose-built campsites set amongst this awe-inspiring backdrop.

Attacking out the sun

Further north, trail networks exist around Darwin at Casuarina, Howard Springs and the Charles Darwin National Park. For a state with a population of around a quarter of a million, the Territory packs a punch with a heap of unique trails supported by a government keen to see the sport and mountain bike-based tourism grow.

Sunset cruising title=

Alice Springs and Cairns are Australia's go-to winter riding destinations, but there are also a bunch of smaller spots like Kununurra, Karratha and Townsville which are home to MTB trails. So no matter where your winter travels take you, there is a good chance that some epic biking isn’t too far away. Come spring, long after the cost of the airfare is forgotten, the only thing you will regret is that you didn’t head north in the winters of years gone by!

Riding rough on the trails


The full feature appeared in the July/August 2018 issue of Outdoor Magazine. Subscribe today for all the latest outdoor adventure, travel news and inspiration.