The top 10 coolest Mountain Bike Trails.
By Gary Tischer
Born off the back of its forerunner the dandy horse, the iconic bicycle has its 200th birthday this year. The advancements that have been made since 1816 have been nothing short of amazing. But wait, why should you be interested in bicycles when you have a camper or caravan in tow? Bicycles are a great way to get around once you have set up everything at camp. They also reach some terrific spots inaccessible to your vehicle and a bit far to walk to.
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There are many different types of bikes out there from cruisers to carbon track bikes but the most versatile is the mountain bike. They can take you easily along concrete bike paths or flat rail trails, but they can also handle rougher tracks, rocks and sand. The width of the tyres is the main identifier of a mountain bike. The tyres range from two to four inches wide; yes, they are still measured in inches.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A MOUNTAIN BIKE?
First off, go to a bicycle store that sells only bicycles as the people who work in them will be cyclists themselves. Large chain stores sell cheap bikes but often you get what you pay for in bicycles … up to a point.
Wheel size is the first consideration. For years, 26in diameter wheels were the standard size for a mountain bike. These days the 26in wheels and parts are becoming harder to find and replace so it would be best to look at either 29in or 27.5in. The larger the wheel diameter, the easier it will roll over obstacles but harder to turn in tight situations. The majority of bikes in stores have 27.5in wheels and these should suit most people in most situations.
Frames come in different sizes and construction. First there was wood, then there was steel, then aluminium, titanium and carbon. You will have options for all these materials except wood. Which is better? Aluminium is the cheapest; is light but stiff. Steel is relatively heavy but has some flex. Titanium is light, smooth to ride but expensive. Carbon is the lightest and generally the most expensive. For a first bike, most people will choose aluminium.
Rigid, hard tail or dually? A hard tail means that there is no rear suspension, which makes them less expensive and good climbers but, as the name suggests, can be a bit hard on the tail. A dually has dual suspension, meaning that they have a front suspension fork and rear suspension. Commuter and road bikes are generally rigid bikes with no suspension but mountain bikes will normally have at least front suspension in the form of an air/oil-sprung fork which works much like a shock absorber. Suspension is wasted on smooth surfaces but once the track gets rough, suspension is not a luxury, but a necessity.
Brakes are generally hydraulic disc brakes. Gear shifters are cables matched to two chain wheels attached to the pedals and a 10-speed cassette on the rear wheel giving 20 gears. Prices start around $500 and can exceed $10,000. Buy the best you can afford but shop around. New models start coming out in September so look for last year’s model as it will be discounted. Some of the bigger name brands like Giant are good value due to economies of scale, whereas boutique brands will be much more expensive.
A good source of information is a US website that compares the different brands and models which are the same the world over. Just search for the bike you like on www.mtbr.com and you will find a review.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO WEAR LYCRA!
If you live in the city, the weekend roads are covered with lycra-clad cyclists and many of them shouldn’t really be wearing skin-tight clothing. You don’t need to wear lycra to ride a bike and especially a mountain bike. However, padded cycling shorts will make a big difference to your comfort.
Having cracked a helmet after coming off my mountain bike, it doesn’t matter what the law says, I always wear one. My head was fine but I probably wouldn’t be writing this if I wasn’t wearing the helmet.
There are plenty of different bike racks to carry your new bike around the country. Carriers that support the wheels are easier as there are a lot of different frame types, which can make the traditional frame support carriers difficult to use.
MOUNTAIN BIKES ARE A GREAT WAY TO GET AROUND
Now that you have a mountain bike there are plenty of places you can enjoy. The faster you go, the more challenging mountain biking gets so take it easy at first. Especially take it easy on fire roads as they can be more dangerous than the single track through the forest.
10 BEST SPOTS
Some say Canberra is a bit boring after 5pm but with a mountain bike there are plenty of great options. Mt Stromlo and Kowen Forest are just two spots on the outskirts of the city.
There are a huge selection of trails taking in the Victorian Alps. Base yourself at Bright and visit Mt Beauty and Falls Creek.
Mt Buller, Vic
With a name like the Epic Trail, its bound to be good. And yes, it certainly is. There are a lot of other great trails in the area for the beginner to the daredevil.
80km of mountain bike trails through dense tree fern forests surrounded by breathtaking scenery, the Blue Derby trails should definitely be on the bucket list.
Brisbane has a diverse selection of mountain biking surrounding the outer suburbs. Daisy Hill, Gap Creek, and Bayview are three great areas.
Manly Dam is the closest to town but there are plenty of trails as you travel throughout country NSW.
Snowy Mountains, NSW
Cycle from Charlottes Pass to Rawsons Pass just below the summit of Mount Kosciuszko. The Thredbo Valley trail is a gentle trail following the beginnings of Thredbo River for 17km.
World-class trails and World Heritage forests. A perfect place to ride before heading up to the Cape.
Loads of different places to ride. Go for only a couple of hours or take on the Munda Biddi Trail that stretches for 1070km.
With over 70km of trails around Melrose, it is a great place to start to taste some of the great mountain bike trails north of Adelaide.