Australian Mountain Bike - - Between The Tape -

“By the end of June 2018 we’ll have about 60km of for­malised trails. And in the next year we’ll do more up­grades on the east side of town. That will be an ex­tra 25km of sin­gle­track fully sign­posted and brought up to an IMBA stan­dard.”

Cur­rently events are a draw­card for moun­tain bik­ers to Alice Springs, and the trails re­ally suit the in­ter­me­di­ate level cross-coun­try rid­ers who visit. But Marty ex­plained that they’re work­ing to ex­pand the va­ri­ety of trails on of­fer.

“It was very clear from early on that the trail net­work here is very much a cross-coun­try trail net­work. Not that there’s any­thing wrong with that. We’re try­ing to di­ver­sify that a bit, with bet­ter qual­ity green be­gin­ner trails and some higher level black di­a­mond trails. To the ex­tent that the ter­rain al­lows it we want to get some more all-moun­tain style of rid­ing.” But what does that look like ex­actly? Alice Springs isn’t flat, but we can’t imag­ine trails be­ing carved into the Western MacDon­nell ranges. Marty ex­plains it will in­volve us­ing more of the rock fea­tures that trails of­ten carve around. Ad­di­tion­ally, it’s about putting in trails that are also eas­ier for ca­sual rid­ers.

“There’s a few trails out there that have steep rock chutes. It might be adding A and B lines in to parts of the ex­ist­ing net­work, but in that fi­nal 80km trail we’d like to have about 10km of green trail and 20km of black di­a­mond trail to in­crease the di­ver­sity. There are a lot of peo­ple who come to town who are look­ing for some­thing more leisurely. So it’s re­ally im­por­tant that we get some en­try level trails setup.”

Hav­ing trails that suit a broader va­ri­ety of rid­ers is so im­por­tant for a tourist town like Alice Springs. While we love the idea of more ad­vanced trails be­ing added to the al­ready su­per-fun trails on the ground, hav­ing trails to just chill on, or some­thing you can roll out on with kids or sig­nif­i­cant oth­ers who don’t ride much is a per­fect ad­di­tion. But there’s more.

A $12 mil­lion dol­lar Red Cen­tre Ad­ven­ture Ride has been ear­marked in that same master plan for the Ter­ri­tory, and so far there has been mixed feed­back, with re­ports that it will cost $50 a day to ride the trails. Marty is quick to point out that a fee isn’t for­malised yet, but also what the trail will en­tail.

“It will be ap­prox­i­mately 200km from Alice Springs to Glen He­len, west of Alice. It ba­si­cally par­al­lels the Lara­p­inta Walk­ing Trail. From Glen He­len the idea is there are two loops. One out to Or­mis­ton Gorge, and one out to Red­bank Gorge.”

So in­stead of be­ing a mas­sive trail cen­tre around Alice, which is al­ready there and free to ride, this new pro­ject will be a long dis­tance trail, mod­elled off muli-day walk­ing routes in Tas­ma­nia and other places, with well-de­signed eco friendly camp­ing and lodg­ing op­tions.

“The idea is that each day would be 50-60km ride, and you have des­ig­nated camp sites with a range of high qual­ity camp­ing op­tions for self­con­tained trav­ellers, plus op­tions for out­fit­ters to setup some­thing for rid­ers right up to luxe style glamp­ing op­tions,” ex­plains Marty. The trails would all be­gin­ner style, so they might suit some­one rid­ing it fast and light, or re­tirees out for a soft ad­ven­ture. “It’s very much geared for en­try level tourists.”

The fee would likely be ab­sorbed into the cost of a guided tour by the peo­ple you’re pay­ing to cart your gear, and cook for you. This isn’t a trail de­vel­op­ment for a razz after work – this is an ex­pe­ri­ence to take you into the great noth­ing of Cen­tral Aus­tralia. And any fee will go to­wards the im­mense in­fra­struc­ture costs of get­ting power and water to camp­sites.

“It’s go­ing to be pretty chal­leng­ing mak­ing sure the trail and in­fra­struc­ture is cul­tur­ally and en­vi­ron­men­tally sen­si­tive. But the ex­act open­ing date needs to be fi­nalised. The in­ten­tion is to have it fin­ished by the end of 2019.” But that’s not the end of it. Marty as­sures us there are plans for more shared use trails around Kather­ine Gorge, and open­ing up walk­ing trails to moun­tain bik­ing. There’s even talk of open­ing up wa­ter­holes for moun­tain bike ac­cess up around Litch­field, and fur­ther de­vel­op­ments in Dar­win.

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