Gary Allen saddles up for a world-class mountain biking experience in a rugged outpost in Tasmania
I’m feeling the flow. Our guide has put an emphasis on the word throughout the weekend. He explains the “flow” of letting the momentum of the bike propel you down the narrow trails, and we dutifully turn and pedal in unison under the pump of the ultimate adrenaline rush.
As we steer the bike over rocks and boulders, in between trees and ducking branches, our senses are alive and stimulated. Focusing on what’s immediately ahead and considering how to go over or go around, and where to land, all while maintaining control requires total concentration.
The small, little-known town of Derby in north-eastern Tasmania is quickly building a reputation as a mountain biker’s dream destination, with a plethora of trails ranging from easy to downright scary, akin to downhill runs in an alpine ski resort.
The idiosyncratic names of the 24 colour-coded trails roll off the tongue like a vintage Tasmanian pinot – Riverside, Axehead, Sawtooth, Rattler, Flickity Sticks, Black Stump and Dam Busters, to name a few – winding through an ever-changing landscape of waterfalls, lookouts, rainforest, monuments, bridges and dense woodlands.
Steve is our guide and, thankfully, a truly experienced mountain bike trail rider. He owns Blue Derby Pods Ride with his wife, Tara – a business conceptualised while the pair were chewing the fat over a now-memorable meal of fish and chips.
The three-day experience on which the company is built takes riders through the world-acclaimed Blue Derby Mountain Bike trails, starting and finishing at the Leaning Church Vineyard in Lalla.
I listen carefully to Steve’s tutorials on the finer points of trail riding so that I return home without any broken bones, but I’m equally excited to get out into the beautiful Tasmanian countryside and hit these trails.
It’s certainly challenging – each day’s ride varies from 10 to 30 kilometres and one and a half to about three hours – but Steve makes sure we have fun and enjoy the experience while testing some limits. This, says Steve, is flow.
The experience is well organised, down to a detailed checklist sent to guests in advance of what you’ll need to bring – essentially biking gear and accessories like gloves, a water bottle, head torch, sunscreen and casual clothes for evenings.
Blue Derby supplies the mountain bikes, helmets and spray jackets, as well as linen, towels and toiletries in the pods and books for reading in the central library.
After all the riding, the lure of a cold beer and a cool shower is strong and I’m not disappointed. When we return to the lodge each day, utterly exhausted, we’re met with a chilled Tasmanian beer and local cheeses, salamis and olives beautifully displayed on a large plank of Tasmanian wood.
Nestled amid the tall timber forest within the national park are the striking and luxurious accommodations. There are four two-person pods, each with a comfortable king-size bed and a huge landscape window that opens to allow in the fresh air as well as the calming melody of forest sounds. It’s glamping taken up a notch. The pods are spacious and comfortable and ensure a good night’s sleep.
I’m lucky to be a part of an eager group that wants to subject themselves, as I do, to the cold early morning plunge in the secluded swimming hole, a quick 15-minute ride from the lodgings. On one swim, we are joined by a friendly platypus which is happy to paddle nearby, occasionally coming close but not too close.
Blue Derby’s food is another rich reward. Enjoyed family style with our fellow riders, the vegetables, meats and cheeses are all locally sourced ensuring some very tasty meals with plenty to go around. Local beers and wines are on offer as well.
Sitting around after dinner with another glass of wine or beer and beginning to feel the effects of the physical exertion, one by one we succumb and say our goodnights. The rest is welcome and savoured, for in the morning, we ride again.