The starting point of my island adventure began in the northern riverside city of Launceston.
With only two days I was determined to max out the riding experience by visiting all the well known riding localities. I enlisted the help of the Shredding Betties of the north, who are an amazing group of Tasmanian women keen on mountain biking and promoting women’s participation in the sport.
Launceston and the Shredding Betties
Within 4hrs of leaving the ferry I had found myself in the good company of one of the Betties and was being guided around the undulating cross country trails of Kate Reed Nature Recreation Area.
What I anticipated to be a leisurely spin with local rider Wendy turned into a gut-busting effort. I stupidly set myself the painful challenge of keeping up with her Giant Liv e-bike.
I had full admiration for her ability to get out on an e-bike after suffering chronic injuries that would have stopped her riding altogether.
Above: Riding with the friendly Wendy from Launceston’s Shredding Betties at Kate Reed. Wendy was all grins with her Liv e-bike, I was all grunts trying to keep up with her! Photo: ©Lisa Matuzelis
My stamina held strong for a good while as we zipped around the well-known tracks like Berm Track, Rock Drop and Boundary, only then to be broken on the Highway Track climb.
Wendy climbed the Highway switchbacks on her e-bike with such grace, like a fairy dancing in the forest, all the while I looked like a flogged mule clambering up the hill in granny gear with a red, sweaty face, and heaving lungs.
Despite a great deal of envy I had for Wendy’s cheeky grin and pedal assist, I had full admiration for her ability to get out on an e-bike after suffering chronic injuries that would have stopped her riding altogether. Hooray for e-bikes!
Above: After a 10km ghostly solo climb at Hollybank I got to the start of Juggernauts. Photo: ©Lisa Matuzelis
Trevallyn Nature Reserve
With barely an hour to recuperate, I gobbled down a chunky banana and emptied a can of baked beans into my belly. With just enough calories to get me through an afternoon session, I drove across town to explore the biking trails of Trevallyn Nature Reserve.
With a family friendly kind of vibe, the predominantly green and blue mountain bike trail markers directed me around a reasonably benign circuit. But don’t be fooled! this kind and gentle circuit could have you gripping your handlebars and side-swiping trees if ridden at pace!
I soon enough found myself off the trail and enjoying a schooner of full-bodied home-brew in the home of my Tasmanian riding sister.
On this occasion I opted for a leisurely pace, only to return the following afternoon with more vigour when I met up with Emma the Shredding Betties founding member. Emma along with her friendly disposition and local knowledge kindly showed me how to get loose on the Trevallyn dirt with favourites like Postman’s, Wiggly and Sidewinder.
Unfortunately, our riding session came to an abrupt end when my Bontrager Team Issue tyre decided to crumple under the pressure. With a flat tyre beyond our means of repair we … or should I say I, started the long trot back to the car park.
With a steady stream of conversation (mostly about biking!) and the melodic clip-clop of my Shimano cleats, I soon enough found myself off the trail and enjoying a schooner of full-bodied home-brew in the home of my Tasmanian riding sister.
A rocky ol’ trail this Juggernauts. Photo: ©Lisa Matuzelis
Despite a comfy and restful night at my Legana family Airbnb the grip of fatigue was slowly taking its hold. With a ride at Hollybank still on the agenda, I made every attempt to organise a shuttle day to rest the weary legs. But the universe wasn’t allowing this.
My efforts to arrange a shuttle were futile, the only way I was going to ride the classic Juggernauts trail was to pedal to the top. Damn it! So like all hard workers I assumed the position of head down, bum up, and started the 10km climb to the trailhead. The cursing soon ceased as the trail transitioned into a silky smooth, well groomed, fast and flowing track that left me beaming with joy.
I spent the next half hour alone in the forest launching off timber drops, pumping around dirt mounds, and making soft squeals for every inch of air time I got but unfortunately for no one to witness.
Above: Slowly pushing myself out of my comfort zone with some bigger drops at Hollybank. The place was a ghost town … no one saw my amazing feat! Photo: ©Lisa Matuzelis
After a long meditative fire road climb, I finally reached the start of the rocky single track of Juggernauts. Entering into the famed descent it rode rough and raw as loose rocks and spoke grabbing twigs littered the way.
The cursing soon ceased as the trail transitioned into a silky smooth, well groomed, fast and flowing track that left me beaming with joy. Clear evidence the trail fairies of Launceston had recently wielded rakes and shovels, good job guys!
The final length of track guided me home to the Hollybank skills area, an eerily quiet setting amongst tall trees with orange-tinged dirt mounds and timber built features just asking to be ridden.
Feeling compelled to challenge myself and put my Trek Fuel EX through its paces, I spent the next half hour alone in the forest launching off timber drops, pumping around dirt mounds, and making soft squeals for every inch of air time I got but unfortunately for no one to witness.
With more riding to be had, it was time to leave the surrounds of the Tamar River and head east towards the world renowned mountain biking destination of Derby.
If Tasmania was a scrumptiously lush cake then Derby was the sweet cherry on top. An incredibly talked up riding destination that I needed to experience for myself. Driving with law-abiding haste along the A3, I followed the signs to Derby.
My city slick hurriedness had soon become restrained after hitting a bloated wombat that left me and my Mazda 3 rattled. A hit of luck as the Derby mechanic later put it, a bent high-tensile steel brace smeared with rotting flesh and a lingering foul stench of death was far better than a car rolled over on its roof. It must have been my lucky day!
Above: When a high-tensile steel brace under your car is completely bent by a wombats head on the road to Derby, you’ve got to thank your lucky stars that
Dismissing the feeling of luck I approached the sleepy town of Derby feeling far from relaxed. Perhaps it was due to the rushed two hour drive from Launceston, or the whirring sound my car made after the wombat
But as luck really had it all those stresses quickly dissipated and before I knew it I was on the back seat with familiar faces Dennie and Baz as the Vertigo MTB shuttle bus roared its way up the dusty Lottah Road to kick start our Blue Derby experience.
The whoops and hollers continued to flow as we pedalled through enchanted forests, fern jungles, creek crossings, log rides, jump lines, and muddy switchbacks.
Wide-eyed and full of anticipation we got our customary departure photograph before we made the one-way descent deep into the Blue Tier. The 20km’s of manicured trail guided us through absolutely stunning scenery.
Above: Blue Tier jungle trail. Photo: ©Lisa Matuzelis
Above: Lunch tastes so good after a ride, but it tastes even better when its at Weldborough Pub with friends while drinking a Willie Smith’s Organic Cider! Photo: ©Lisa Matuzelis
The whoops and hollers continued to flow as we pedalled through enchanted forests, fern jungles, creek crossings, log rides, jump lines, and muddy switchbacks. As we neared the finishing line, all muddied and merry, the promise of a Willie Smith’s Organic Cider and a steak sandwich at Welborough Pub was impending bliss.
Our flow train gradually departed Atlas, traversed across Krushka’s and then descended into Trouty, an insanely awesome technical trail that led you down a mammoth rock slab with views of Derby.
Feeling relaxed and slightly loose after the midday cider we all packed back in the Vertigo shuttle with happy bellies ready for round two. The shuttle dropped us at Atlas, a point to point trail that would deliver us into the Blue Derby network.
A predominantly downhill trail with enough token ups to remind me of the sweet potato wedges I had at lunch. The trail rode fast and flowy with plenty of technical interest to prepare us for the local black diamond favourite Trouty, which was on its way!
Our flow train gradually departed Atlas, traversed across Krushka’s, and then descended into Trouty. An insanely awesome technical trail that led you down a mammoth rock slab with views of Derby, into steep rock gardens, past the belly of an enormous painted fish and finally guided you devilishly back to the township of Derby. I was now a true believer of all the hype.
Content, exhausted and cold we finished the riding day at the public amenities washing the delectable filth off our bikes and bodies. Trading my pennies for public hot showers instead of soft hotel sheets, I stayed in the company of my friends and made residence in the shanty town along the beautiful banks of the Ringarooma River.
Above: Three nights in the shanty town by the Ringarooma River in Derby. Photo: ©Lisa Matuzelis.
A reluctant decision knowing my cheap tent was not likely to withstand the Tasmanian elements, but while the sun was still shining and the vibe was buzzing I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else.
Over the next few days unfortunately the rain began to sprinkle, drizzle, and deluge, and as the dampness staked its claim my bipolar feelings about camping began to surface. A leaky tent floating in a puddle wasn’t great for my morale.
Little by little, we ungrouped giving hugs and goodbyes as our itineraries took us in different directions. I would miss the company of my riding buddies and the amazing trails we enjoyed together.
Fortunately the team spirit at camp was strong, the warmth of the portable wood heater was comforting, the shots of Frangelico were sunshine, and the enthusiasm to continue to ride epic trails was incredibly high. How could I leave!
Three consecutive days had us ride, re-ride, and ride again the wet but astoundingly grippy trails of Blue Derby. Alternating between pedalling up the gentle and beautiful Long Shadows and DIY shuttles to Black Stump with Nancy and Justin’s Shingleback rack, we managed to tick off almost every trail.
Some memorable moments include seeing smiley faces all around after Flickity Sticks, taking on the technical challenge of Black Dragon with Nancy and Baz, my solo attempt of double black Detonate, enjoying the home run of Return to Sender, and the list goes on! Despite Baz having his brake lever penetrate his inner thigh and a couple of us eating dirt occasionally everyone finished the Derby experience intact and in good health.
Little by little, we ungrouped giving hugs and goodbyes as our itineraries took us in different directions. I would miss the company of my riding buddies and the amazing trails we enjoyed together, but it was time to move on and seek out new Tasmanian experiences.
So while the weather was favourable I packed my tent, caught up on laundry and prettied up my hatch before spending my last night in the modest comfort of the Dorset Hotel. This final night being the gateway back into my world of solo travel. With fuel still in the tank and plenty of sheen the next morning, I made my way east to resume my search for Tasmania’s wild trails!
If you missed it, you can read Part 1, here