2 MTB: Adelaide
More info: Adelaide Mountain Bike Club, ambc.asn.au
ADELAIDE, HOME OF the Tour Down Under, rightly has a reputation as a premium road cycling destination [see page 45]. But the riding away from the blacktop is sensational too – Adelaide arguably leads the way as Australia’s most mountain bike-friendly capital city.
With beaches on one side and the Mt Lofty ranges on the other, Adelaide occupies a kind of cycling Goldilocks zone, where you can rip trails in the morning and head to the coast in the afternoon to wash the dust off. But even more so than its location, it’s the government support that mountain biking receives that makes Adelaide such a standout. The Mount Lofty Ranges Mountain Bike Master Plan has top-down backing to see more than 200km of dedicated mountain bike trails in place around Adelaide by 2020, with aspirations to host a World Championships in the near future.
The history of support for mountain biking in Adelaide isn’t a recent phenomenon – Eagle Mountain Bike Park, right on the outskirts of town, can lay claim to being Australia’s oldest official mountain bike park. For many, Eagle is the face of Adelaide mountain biking, though in reality it’s a drop in the ocean of what’s on offer. The trails here have a reputation for delivering some pretty challenging riding, with its jagged terrain having hosted numerous National Championships. It’s a classic spot, but make sure you look beyond Eagle as there’s plenty more diverse riding to be had.
Fortunately, exploring many of the different riding zones around town is remarkably easy. One of the key drawcards for a visiting mountain biker is the accessibility of Adelaide’s trails, you’re never more than a few kays from a beer or a meal in town, and the train runs right from the heart of the city up into the thick of the trails, high in the hills at Belair. From Belair, you’ve got options galore at your fingertips, and it’s a simple task to string together a few hours of riding with just a handful of brief suburban link ups.
From Belair Station, you roll directly into the Belair National Park and you’ll find the 12km Adventure Loop, which is easily linked into Craigburn Farm. These classic flowing singletracks justify a couple of hours’ exploration on their own, before you continue on to Sturt Gorge Recreation Park. The trails here are fast, open and so much fun you soon become oblivious to the fact you’re skirting right past backyard pools and barking dogs.
Shepherds Hill Recreation Reserve is another awesome riding option serving up enough trail to be enjoyed as a standalone destination, or which can be combined easily into an epic day out. These trails have some cracking hilltop views over the beaches and the city, and there’s an excellent variety on offer, with three separate descents, longer cross-country loops, mellow climbing trails and a buff pumptrack, dirt jumps and skills park at the foot of the hill too.
What we’ve listed above really is just scratching the surface of Adelaide’s trail bonanza too; Lynton, Cleland Conservation Area, Fox Creek and loads more are all within striking distance of the city centre. If you’ve got a spare day or two up your sleeve, the iconic little mountain bike paradise of Melrose is about three hours to the north too, on the hem of Mt Remarkable and right at the entrance to the Flinders Ranges. This town is a total gem, painted with character and home to miles and miles of fantastic farmland brilliant singletrack, woven amongst plump river gums. It’s a real experience riding here, and one we’d highly recommend.
In terms of practicalities, there’s plenty of riding in Adelaide to suit just about any style of mountain bike, including loads of proper downhill tracks too if you can find a local to show you. But for most of the trails, anything from a basic cross country hardtail up to a long-travel trail bike would be fine. – Chris Southwood