This coming weekend (the 7th and 8th of February), the gates will officially open on the new Blue Derby trail network in North East Tasmania. Located just an hour East of Launceston, the small town of Derby has been undergoing a substantial facelift over the past 12 months courtesy of World Trail. While the area itself has been home to an array of old mining roads and natural bush tracks, Glen Jacobs and his crew have been busy at work crafting a network of purpose-built mountain bike trails that are set to turn this sleepy town into one of the hottest destinations in Australia.
Last week I flew over to Launceston to get a preview of the new Derby trail network in preparation of the opening this weekend. You may have read Part 1 of our Derby trail article, though Part 2 will be looking at some of the other riding we did around the North East of Tasmania.
Before leaving however, we met up with our trail guide for the day, who was none other than the guy from that Ford Ranger commercial! Also known as Rob Potter, you’ll likely remember this face from the TV ad that features a Tasmanian trail builder, as well as wicked trail schralping from the man himself. Rob is well known in the Tassie mountain bike scene, though he’s become a lot more famous recently for his work on the brilliant ‘Juggernaut’ trail at Hollybank MTB Park, though more on that below. On the note of the Ford Ranger commercial, Rob told us that he was approached by Ford as he was already an owner of a Ranger ute. Rather than paying actors, they wanted to find real people with real jobs that relied on being able to use a trusty vehicle like the Ranger. Pretty cool, but I think the fact that seeing a mountain biker building trails on commercial television is even cooler. It just goes to show how much growth there has been in our sport over the past 5 years.
Our first stop of the day was Blue Tier Reserve Forest. Positioned a further 30min East from Derby (on the way to St Helens on the East Coast of Tassie), the Blue Tier Descent takes riders from the top of a plateau, all the way down an old mining track into Weldborough. The Blue Tier Descent might not be a trail that’s well known by mainlanders, but this little natural wonder is a secret that Tassie riders often whisper amongst themselves. The reason we were riding the Blue Tier Descent trail during our trip to Derby, is because this area is also scheduled for trail development. Rob Potter has already been through to scope out the land, and World Trail are lining up to begin construction about halfway through 2015. The idea will be to link up Derby and Blue Tier (hence the branding ‘Blue Derby’) with mountain bike trail, creating one huge network for riders to explore.
After about an hour and a half worth of descending down the Blue Tier, we’re treated to the welcoming views of the Weldborough Hotel. A brilliant english-style pub located between Launceston and St Helens, the Weldborough Hotel has been a longtime supporter of both mountain biking and craft beers. Mark and his wife own and operate the pub, and they’re regularly treating riders to some grub before they set off on a local mountain bike adventure. They also offer shuttles up to the top of Blue Tier Descent, so you can skip out the long climb back up to the top. It’s a great service, and the pub is a great asset to the area. Admittedly it is pretty much the only thing in Weldborough, but with the quality of the food on offer, the range of beers on tap, and the fact that they have rooms and camping available on site, what else could you possibly need!
After riding the Blue Tier Descent in the morning and getting in a solid feed at the Weldborough Hotel, it was time to head back towards Launceston for a hit out on the trails at Hollybank. Although the Hollybank MTB Park was built by Tassie trail-building crew Dirt Art, the area comes under the banner of the North East of Tasmania. From that perspective, we look at Hollybank, Derby, and Blue Tier as being in the same neighbourhood when it comes time to planning out a ride. For mainlanders, it is well worth checking out all 3 of these locations if you’re driving through, as they all have their own unique aspects to offer.
The Juggernaut trail is the show-stopper at Hollybank. It’s the longest trail out of the 3, and it’s also the most technical. You can either ride from the carpark along the Juggernaut trail until you get to the top, or like us, you can have Vertigo MTB shuttle you up to the top in the bus. Buck from Vertigo MTB is regularly servicing Hollybank, and charges just $5 for a lift back up the hill.
After wrapping up our ride at Hollybank, it was time for us to bid farewell to Tasmania and to fly back over to the mainland. Before going however, we were treated to one final serve of local cuisine thanks to a trip to Cataract on Paterson. Situated just near the beginning of the beautiful Cataract Gorge in Launceston (and very close to the nearby Trevallyn singletrack), Cataract on Paterson is another superb example of why Tassie not only has some of the best produce going, it also has some of the best eateries going too. If you’re a bit of a sucker for good food and booze, it’s just another reason to jump on a plane or catch the ferry over to explore what this island has to offer.
And as what became the overall theme of our time in Tassie, we finished the day yet again with our bellies full of edible Tasmanian souvenirs. To me though, I think combining great riding with great food and booze is the best way to experience what a place like North East Tassie has to offer. Throw in the beautiful beaches of nearby Bay of Fires, some great walking around Wineglass Bay and Freycinet, and you’ve got yourself a pretty solid argument to take your better half or the family on a trip over the Bass Strait. If you’re looking to fill out that itinerary, check out the links below for more information on the trails and places we visited. Also keep an eye out for the upcoming Travel Issue, as we’ll have the full Tassie Trails feature in all its glory for your viewing pleasure.