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.


Following two days of exploring and photographing the new trails around Derby, it was time to jump into the shuttle bus and head a little deeper into the wild to find some of the more natural riding on offer in 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.


Before hitting the descent, Rob took us up to the very peak of the Blue Tier Plateau, where we were offered amazing 360-degree views that stretched out to the East Coast of Tassie.


The Blue Tier Descent couldn’t have been any more different to the riding we did at Derby. There is nothing purpose-built about this ride, but that’s kind of the appeal. It’s rugged wilderness at its absolute best.


The descent gets pretty wild and wooly in spots, with lots of big rock slabs, baby-head granite and open roots keeping your suspension at work. Despite the fact that this was originally a mining track back in the day, the Blue Tier Descent has somehow evolved into one of the fastest and funnest descending trails I’ve ever ridden.


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.


Rob Potter has delivered a Master Class on trail building with the Juggernaut trail. In my opinion, it is without doubt one of the most fun trails in Australia. It is a rollicking rollercoaster of a ride that gets better the faster you go, though there are plenty of rocks to keep your eyes busy on the trail.


But if you don’t hit your line right across those rocks, the Juggernaut can hit back! Here Tim Bardsley-Smith finds out the hard way…


What this picture explains to me is just how much momentum you carry while riding the Juggernaut. There’s nothing super gnarly about it, but the way that you sway left-to-right and up and down along the trail allows you to build up speed very quickly as you pump through the terrain. In this case, a small slip of the front tyre saw a lot of weight with a lot of momentum fold the front wheel as it contacted a rock. It probably fits into carry-on luggage now though!


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 this is one of the main reasons why you would come to Cataract on Paterson; the Stonegrill. Using a heavy slab of volcanic stone, the slab is heated to 400-degrees in a special oven. The stone comes out to you with several cuts of locally sourced meat sizzling on the plate, which allows you to sear and cook the meat to your liking. It is quite spectacular, but it’s also a lovely way to enjoy your food without need for oils or fat. I did make the mistake of ordering my Stonegrill while sitting next to Jess & Norm Douglas though, who are both staunch vegans that weren’t so keen on having fresh meat being cooked next to them…

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.

Ride Tassie
– Weldborough Hotel
Cataract on Paterson
– Blue Derby Trails
Vertigo MTB Tours
The Corner Store
Anabel’s of Scottsdale