The Margaret River region will be one of the cornerstones of a new plan to turn WA’s South West into Australia’s mountain biking mecca, with nearly 500km of new trails planned. By Norman Burns.
Whatever way you look at it, mountain biking has gone from a minority sport to big business in a relatively short time.
Last year alone, more than 120,000 mountain bikes were sold in Western Australia, and now the sport is set to gain an even bigger boost with the release of the South West Mountain Bike Master Plan which envisages 495km of new, exciting and challenging trails in the region for mountain biking enthusiasts.
CAPE TO CAPE MTB 20-23 October 2016
The Cape to Cape MTB was first held in 2008 to a field that only reached about 100 participants. Now in its ninth year, it now holds the title as Australasia’s biggest MTB multi-stage endurance race with over 1300 competitors.
Held over 4 days, riders make their way from Cape Leeuwin through spectacular karri forest, across beaches, past wineries, finally ending at Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse.
Known for its fun, friendly vibe, the Cape to Cape MTB sees riders returning year after year.
And it’s not just about time on the bike; launching the plan, Environment Minister Albert Jacob said mountain biking tourism in the south west had increased 38% in recent years and those who came, including many from overseas, would go on to spend money at the area’s other attractions.
He told a local newspaper website that the State Government wanted to build on this momentum: “We hope to have trails in the future of over 80km in Margaret River, Collie and Pemberton that are large enough to attract serious overseas interest.’’
Meanwhile, the area is already home to some of the gnarliest trails around – whether you’re a complete novice, have a good handle on the sport, or are a fully-fledged expert.
We asked Margaret River local, mountain bike trail designer and riding fanatic David Wilcox for his tips on the Margaret River Region’s top trails.
Stop press: Throughout winter this year the Margaret River Off Road Cycling Association and the Department of Parks and Wildlife will develop another 10km of trails in the area known as Compartment 10 which will abut The Pines.
TRAIL: Wadandi Track
LOCATION: Margaret River
WHAT YOU GET: Now stretching from Witchcliffe through Margaret River to Cowaramup, the Wadandi Track offers beginner mountain bikers their first experience of riding off-road. Crossing historic bridges which once formed part of the railway line to Busselton, there are many spots to stop and take in the beauty of the changing landscape, from farmlands to forrest.
TRAIL: 10 Mile Brook
WHERE: Rotary Park, Margaret River
WHAT YOU GET: Follow the Margaret River upstream to the 10 Mile Brook Dam through stunning karri and jarrah forest. Be sure to follow the winter/summer routes unless you want to take a dip in winter. The intrepid can get off the beaten track and ride all the way out to Colonial Brewery for lunch (although not signposted).
TRAIL: The Pines
WHERE: Carters Road, Margaret River
WHAT YOU GET: The perfect place for beginner to intermediate riders to experience fantastic flow track through an open pine plantation. Ideal to take the kids and let them have a nature play experience on the many jumps, rollers and berms. Be sure to ride Aunt Lou and Big Pine, which are the favourites of people visiting the pines and offer fast and open flowing trails. You can immerse yourself in the heart of mountain bike country by staying at Wharncliffe Mill Bush Retreat which has trails connecting straight to The Pines.
WHERE: Boranup – Margaret River
WHAT YOU GET: Ride the awesome trails that feature as part of the Cape to Cape MTB Race at your own leisurely pace, or move it up a gear and Tunnel Vision on the aptly named trail through the majestic karri forest. For a guided tour of the trails and a great way to explore the forests around Boranup, check out Dirty Detours.
TRAIL: Dunsborough MTB Skills Development Park
WHAT YOU GET: Head up to the Dunsborough Country Club and ride some of the trails surrounding the golf course close to Meelup Regional Park.
TRAIL: Middle Earth
WHERE: Gale Road – Busselton
WHAT YOU GET: The brave and fit can join the hunt for orcas on a technical single track at Middle Earth which features numerous log rides and roll overs. Make sure to stop and take a magical photo in the natural archway of the hollowed out tree. There’s lots to check out in this area such as local wineries down Metricup Road or stop and say g’day to local legend Brooksy at Bootleg Brewery.
TRAIL: Creek Trails
WHERE: Carters Road, Margaret River
WHAT YOU GET: A favourite of locals, these trails are pure single-track bliss and are where mountain biking started out in the region. The smile from the fast technical descents of Western Suburbs and Valley Girls will only be wiped off by close encounters with the stunning vegetation as you race through the tight single track. After riding the renowned flowy magic dirt of Goobers Pool, trail down onto the banks of a natural water hole on the Margaret River and take a refreshing swim. For a map of the trails, head to The Hairy Marron bike store and cafe near Rotary Park and finish up with a beer and some nibbles at The Brewhouse at 35 Bussell Highway.
DON’T HAVE YOUR OWN BIKE?
If you haven’t packed your own bike – or want to try mountain biking for the first time – the Margaret River Region has plenty of options for bike hire and advice on where to go and how to get there.
The Hairy Marron (69 Bussell Highway, Margaret River, 08 9757 2346, hairymarron.com) bike store and cafe rents out bikes, as does Margaret River Cycles & Repairs (6/16 Station Road, Margaret River 08 9758 7671).
Dirty Detours (dirtydetours.com, 08 9758 8312) has a great range of tours available (you can only rent a bike if you are going on one of their tours
though). The Bike Shed Dunsborough (Unit 1, 10 Clark St Dunsborough, 08 9759 1495) also has a great range of mountain bikes to hire.
Lifecycle Bikes (6/16 Station Rd, Margaret River, 08 9758 7671) perfectly located for visitors to explore and enjoy the region by bike they do hire, sales and repairs and are only 10 minutes ride from the town’s MTB trails as well as 2-minute ride from the Wadandi trail.
For updates on the Margaret River Region mountain biking scene, contact the Margaret River Off Road Cycling Association (MRORCA), visit mrorca.org.au for details.
While Margaret River is well known for its mountain bike trails there’s a new kid in town – fat bikes; which allow you to ride certain trails other bikes just can’t.
Cam O’Beirne, from Capes to Coast Experience Adventure owns the only fat bike touring company in Western Australia. He takes people on journeys to places that are hard to get to with an ordinary bike.
“A fat bike is a unique kind of mountain bike, specially designed with oversize tyres that let you get over all sorts of obstacles, and float over sand on the beach.
Cam takes people on forest tracks in the Karri Forest, or on journeys across some of the remote beaches in the region.
“I’ve found that these bikes can go literally anywhere, soft sand is their speciality, you just let the tyres down and away you go!”
Cam said “We have special permission from Department of Parks and Wildlife to ride our bikes in the National Park and beaches, which allows our visitors to explore the coast and forest from a different perspective. The bikes make little noise so it’s not uncommon to come across emus and kangaroos right up close. It can be confronting turning a corner on a forest track and there’s six emus just staring at you, but people love it.
“We cater for all ages from eight-years and up with a wide range of abilities. You don’t need to be a regular cyclist to take part in this tour.
One of Cam’s most popular rides is from the Boranup Forest, with its majestic karri trees, downhill to the coast where we finish among the granite headland and pristine beach of Contos Spring.
“It’s a two hour ride, where you’re able to see how the forest and track changes as we near the coast.”
For those wanting something a little bit more extreme, Cam also offers what he calls the ‘Fat Bike Sufferfest’.
“The Sufferfest originated from a trip some friends and I took on the fat bikes. We rode along the coast near Hamelin Bay all the way to Prevelly. It’s a day-long ride on some really tough terrain, including soft sand beaches, through tidal pools, and over granite and limestone rock formations. Think of it as forty km of painful fun,” he says.
“A fat bike is the only bike that can do it. There’s no way a normal bike could stay on the coast for all that distance. The soft sand on some of the beaches just makes your legs burn and then you’d come to the end of a section and have to put you bike on your back and climb over a cliff or rockhop to the next beach section.”
Suffice to say Cam only runs the Sufferfest three times a year and limits the participants to six people.