A Weekend on Two Wheels
Having completed what must be close to five hundred kilometres of mountain biking and road riding this year already, it was no real surprise that my other half wanted to check out the newly built world-class Blue Derby Mountain Bike trails in Derby, northeastern Tasmania.
With rain on the radar when we were due to spend all day out riding, our packing list had grown somewhat to include:
- A rain jacket
- Wool socks
- Wool thermal
- Riding shorts
- Plastic bags*
- Ziplock bags for phones
- Chocolate/high-energy bars (or buy some from the Anvers Factory)
- Small first aid kit
*Tasmania made a very wise decision banning free plastic bags from supermarkets so just make sure you bring something to carry wet and muddy clothes home!
We landed in Launceston, which is totally hip and happening these days, where we spent some time poking around the Gorge. It was certainly refreshing to have such a big nature reserve right in town, and a nice place for a hike.
Pro tip #1: Layer. Or you’ll overheat or worse, freeze while up on a hilltop trying to enjoy the view.
Because Wayn had to work up north in Devonport it made perfect sense to visit the Anvers Factory nestled in between both towns. The premium milk chocolate buttons (which you can buy by the kilo) were a hit, especially in a peanut butter sandwich.
After all the work was done and dusted, it was time to drive to Derby. We had a red Holden Commodore that was great to handle and what’s more, the road was exceptionally scenic. What saddened me however, were the dozens of carcasses lining the sides of the road. Most looked like pademelons, which apparently ran around in mobs on the island.
Pro Tip #2: I’d treat driving in Tasmania like any rural place in Australia. Avoid roads at dusk and at dawn. I’d be beside myself if I ran over an adorable native beast!
Derby is a one-street town, with two pubs (of low repute according to Tripadvisor/Google), some bike rental shops and a couple of nice cafe/restaurants. Both nights we stayed in town, we went to The Hub, a very stylish eatery with wood-fired pizzas and awesome desserts.
Our three-bedroom holiday rental was on North Street, not far behind the local cop shop. It was large and very well set up for cyclists, with a side entrance to a mud room/laundry so you didn’t traipse dirt through the plush bedrooms and lounge. Furthermore, there was a big wood-burning stove that was very welcome after a wet day outdoors.
This was the house: https://www.airbnb.com.au/rooms/17193113
If you haven’t yet signed up to AirBnB, get $50 off your first booking using my referral link: www.airbnb.com.au/c/klaw11
I opened my eyes the next morning to the sound of gentle rain, which made me want to stay in my big, comfy bed. Given I’d paid to play a full day, I forced myself up and pulled on my riding gear.
Pro Tip #3: Forget about mobile reception if you aren’t with Telstra. My beloved smartphone was of zero use to me all trip so I left it in the house.
Five minutes down the road by car was Vertigo Mountain Bikes. We’d pre-booked Specialised downhill bikes with big fat tyres, and the ones we got were in great nick. Also, each of us were personally fitted so seats were the perfect height and suspensions set to our weight. All in all, great service!
A bus trip took us through winding mountain roads to the top of a run called Blue Tier and the plan was to meet our drivers and the rest of the group at the Weldborough Hotel.
Pro tip #4: Sit up front if like me, you get carsick. The shuttle did not have opening windows at the back and for the most part the glass was fogged up so you couldn’t look out. The road was also very winding!
The trailhead was opposite a hiking route known as Goblin Forest Walk. Misty and mossy, this bit was beautiful if a bit spooky. I vowed to come back on foot one sunny day. Then it was time to hit the single track.
Now, if you’ve ever ridden with me, you’d know that I loathe inclines. Blue Tier begins with quite a great deal of uphill riding along rutted (and that day, slippery) single track, with several sections being rather technical. If it wasn’t for the rain, I’d be a sweaty mess. Instead, I was a sodden one – ha!
Anyhow, once we got to the top – and the track started going downhill – it was loads of fun. The trail designers did this section superbly because you almost never had to hit the brakes. Also, the scenery you passed through was very pretty, with plenty of giant ferns and many clear, cold streams. Most of these were easily crossed on the bike; however, on the very last one, the water was rushing along so I hesitated. As I could see my group waiting on the other side, I pedalled hard across the current, spurred by shouts of “go, go, go!” coming from the opposite bank. When I made it to the other side still on my bike, I got a heap of high fives and the guys said, “didn’t you hear us say ‘no, no, don’t cross?”. Nup!
Pro tip #5: There’s virtually nothing that will keep you dry for hours in pouring rain, not even Gore-tex, but you can carry spare socks and a small towel, if only so you’re not sopping wet and cold on the hour-long journey home.
Blue Tier turned into a run called “Little Chook”, which was a nice series of winding berms, rock gardens and jumps. Given the wet conditions, I had to opt for B-lines – not ideal, but the thought of having to wait for an ambulance for hours made me conservative.
Before we knew it, we had reached a fire trail which led straight to the historic Weldborough Hotel. These guys were so lovely and used to muddy, wet cyclists that the floors were covered in towels and there were two blazing fires in the hearth. Also, the food was delicious! Burgers, BLTs, chicken pies, and loads and loads of hot chips went down that afternoon.
Tummies full and somewhat drier, we made a wise decision not to carry on riding to Atlas, which would then lead down to Derby. So we got on the bus and made our way back to the house.
Pro Tip #6: From what I heard, the road from Weldborough to Atlas goes up so take a shuttle if you aren’t a fan of uphill riding.
Having bagged a front seat next to our lovely driver Pete (which negated any need for vomit stops on the way home), I got some tips that would lead to me seeing my first platypus in the wild. To keep Mr Platypus safe, I won’t share where I found him, but spotting him was every bit as magical as I had imagined. I’d even go as far as to say that this was the highlight of my Tassie adventure!
Watch him feeding in broad daylight right here:
Pro Tip #7: In my opinion, platypus aren’t nocturnal – they’re just scared of humans, and rightly so! Stay very still and quiet in their territory to see them, and don’t make sudden movements.