In three short years since the Derby mountain bike trails were opened the town has gone from strength to strength. The cycling world has fallen for the tracks around this once sleepy North-East town. With stage two of the network now ready to open and a 63 metre bridge linking the mountain bike mecca to Derby's mining heyday, we take a look at where the attraction is headed. Scott Gelston visited Derby to find out more.
The November long weekend is one that stands out on the Tasmanian calendar: the Tasmanian Craft Fair at Deloraine sees thousands of patrons attend, while many families make the most of the spring weather to visit their shacks around the state.
This year the long weekend has also been marked in many diaries as the weekend that stage two of the Blue Derby trail network will start being rolled out for enthusiastic cyclists to explore.
For Dorset general manager Tim Watson, the opportunity to expand the offering to more than just seasoned mountain bikers had been on his radar for some time.
“Stage one was a three million dollar development that was really targeted at the destinational mountain biker,” he said.
“We knew that we had to broaden the product offering, more to that novice level and the soft-adventure based tourist.”
In 2017 the state government made a budget allocation of $800,000 towards stage two of the network, which was matched by the Dorset council through the sale of assets in Derby.
Kicking off with a new bitumen pump track on the riverbank by the town, the area is sure to attract new riders, with an experience that allows for big and little children to test their legs before hitting the gravel trails of the extended network.
The centrepiece of the track is an immaculate reproduction of Blue Derby’s now iconic Thylacine logo.
Right beside the pump track lies an impressive new suspension bridge crossing the Ringarooma River.
Linking the town to the newly developed Briseis Beach area, the bridge means families and the casual cyclist will soon be able to experience some of the Blue Derby trail magic.
“We wanted something that would fit the town and its heritage, and [World Trail director] Glen Jacobs and myself decided a suspension bridge ticked all those boxes,” Mr Watson said.
The Briseis Bridge has been manufactured to allow for the large number of cycling and recreational users Mr Watson and the council are expecting to visit the area.
“The bridge is nearly two metres wide, so you can have bikes going in opposite directions or you can have people and bikes going in opposite directions,” he said.
Winding it’s way along the bank of the Ringarooma River before crossing over to the Briseis Hole, the Lake Derby trail is a mixed-use track, allowing for beginners on the bike and walkers to take in the sights of the region without having to undertake any strenuous exercise.
Fourth-generation Derby resident Derek Hayes holds the lease to the adjacent quarry and sold a large section of his land to allow for the new reserve to be constructed.
“I knew they needed the lake to make mountain biking in Derby 100 per cent successful,” Mr Hayes said.
A vocal supporter of the development, Mr Hayes was happy with the way cycling has transformed the town.
“It's made Derby,” he said.
“It's the number one mountain biking destination in the world and it's going to get better, I think.”
“It's the number one mountain biking destination in the world and it's going to get better I think.”Fourth-generation Derby resident Derek Hayes
The quiet lakeside reserve has been designed to allow for multiple recreational activities.
Briseis Beach gives swimmers a gentle access to the water and a place to launch canoes or kayaks.
The Inland Fisheries Service has stocked the lake with 500 rainbow trout and a lakeside fire pit gives the area a focal point for gatherings.
Meeting with World Trail director Glen Jacobs by the edge of the lake, he sees the public opening of stage two at Derby is somewhat bittersweet.
“For our whole team at the moment it's quite emotional,” Mr Jacobs said.
“Especially these last couple of weeks finishing up, because it's like raising a baby and having to adopt it out.
“You hope the next person, the council, the volunteers and the riders, will look after this baby.”
Jacobs and his team have been an almost constant presence in the town since construction started on the trails in April 2014.
“We're very proud of it,” Mr Jacobs said.
The World Trail team haven’t yet finished in Tasmania, with the Cairns-based company recently picking up the contract on the St Helens stacked loop network.
In the meantime riders will be able to enjoy the four new trails in Derby that open on Saturday; the idyllic and previously mentioned Lake Derby, and slightly more challenging Rapids, Wotchya Upto and Deadly Bugga.
Along with the quartet of new trails that are opening this weekend, construction is on track to see another set of more demanding longer rides coming online throughout the month.
“There’s about another 20 kilometers of trails that will be opened progressively,” said Dorset general manager Tim Watson.
“Bar any unforeseen weather events they should all be opened by mid-November.”
These additional trails will range from ‘blue’ intermediate trails right up to expert ‘black’ level routes, providing new challenges for those who are already on the Blue Derby bandwagon.
While these new trails will help to further cement Derby’s reputation as one of the top mountain biking destinations in the world, the region will also have some star power on hand November 10-11 to lift the profile even further.
Reigning Enduro World Series champion Sam Hill will lead a field of over 100 elite male riders tackling the course, while current national champion and local rider Rowena Fry headlines the women for the inaugural round of the Asia-Pacific Continental Enduro Series.
The event is part of a four race series allowing riders to gain world ranking points for the 2019 Enduro World Series, which after kicking off in New Zealand will return to the trails of Derby from March 30-31 next year.
The Derby round of the Asia-Pacific series will be using two of the brand new trails, giving elite riders a rare chance to pick a line and break in the jumps and berms before the general public.
World Trail’s Glen Jacobs thinks riders will enjoy the new challenges.
“Next week they're going to use Roxanne and Cuma Gutza, that means crashing a lot in mountain bike terms,” Mr Jacobs said with a laugh.
“Roxanne is quite an aggressive trail with really big boulders and it links in with Black Stump, so they can double the length of that route.”
Although the expansion of the Derby network is almost complete, Mr Jacobs won’t be forgetting about his teams contribution to the town anytime soon.
“We're really proud to have delivered Olympic, world cup and world championship courses all over the world, and Derby will always be close to our hearts as this was our first EWS track," he said.
“We even won EWS trail of the year and with these new trails we hope that we will get that again in 2019.”