Derby is a small town in northeast Tasmania with a big secret. It’s home to incredible mountain biking trails weaving through a 10,000-year-old forest. Derby is 1.5 hours drive from Launceston or 3.5 hours from Hobart but in this small little town the air is fresh and wildlife abundant.
The Blue Derby mountain bike trails opened in 2015 and now has 49 trails covering 108 kilometres of all-mountain and downhill mountain biking. The number and variety of trails combined with the gorgeous forest are making Derby an internationally recognised mountain biking destination.
Mountain biking lessons
I arrive in Derby with three friends who like me, have never mountain biked before. The first thing we do is book a lesson with Lync Nietvelt from Shredly’s Adventures. Lync says a common thing he sees is people overestimating their riding abilities and getting themselves in a heap of trouble, so we’re glad we’ve admitted our beginner status and are ready to be shown the ropes by Lync.
Derby Mountain Bike Tours with Shredly’s Adventures teach you the fundamentals of mountain bike riding. Our first lesson is on the correct breaking techniques followed by posture, riding stances and the best body positions for the different types of terrain we’ll encounter while mountain biking at Blue Derby.
Blue Derby Trails
We spend the morning practising our skills on Chain Gang and Rusty Crusty, two green trails near the town. If you’ve skied or snowboarded before, you’ll be familiar with the green, blue or black ranking system of trails, which indicates how challenging each trail is.
Chain Gang is a great loop for first-timers because it is not steep, has undulating rollers and wide berms. Berms are man-made banked turns and there is a special technique to riding them. This trail is also a great place to warm up if you haven’t ridden in a while.
In the afternoon we catch an uplift shuttle bus to ride down Flickity Sticks, a blue trail characterised by tight berms, sandstone rocks and dirt trails weaving through enourmous tree ferns. Lync guides us through the trail, giving us tips and reinforcing techniques each time we stop. Lync’s intimate knowledge of the trails means we spend more time riding and less time looking at a map.
Derby’s forest captivates us with its biodiversity that survived the last ice age. The tree ferns and eucalyptus trees are huge and magnificent to observe while riding through the switchbacks (zig-zagging trails) and berms along the trails. We finish our descent through the Derby Tunnel, built in the 1880s and remnant from Derby’s tin mining time, the tunnel is now a quirky green trail.
Another historically named trail, Krushka’s is one of the longest trails. It is named after the tin mining pioneers, the Krushka brothers. It is a blue run that meanders over a granite ridge before descending with lots of berms.
The fun pump track in town was great to practise the skills we learnt from Lync and gain more confidence. It is located right next to the Derby Suspension Bridge. You can cross the bridge for scenic rides around Lake Derby and Derby Rapids.
Can anyone mountain bike at Derby?
There are 11 beginner, 17 intermediate and 15 advanced trails on the Blue Derby trail network. Starting from easy to very difficult, Blue Derby has eight suggested routes for riders. You can find the downloadable maps here. The 108 kilometres of trails will keep any level of rider busy for days. We spoke to a couple who were mountain biking at Derby for five days and hadn’t done all the trails yet.
We highly recommend taking a lesson if you’re a beginner. From our time with Shedly’s, we were able to transform from novices to riding a blue run within a day.
Derby mountain bike hire
Mountain bikes can be hired from Vertigo MTB, Evolution Biking and Derby Bike shop. Prices start at $125 per day. The shops also offer bike hire and shuttle packages.
Shredly’s also runs lessons at St Helens Mountain Bike Trails. These trails are known to be a little more beginner-friendly and are especially good for families. The benefit of riding here is the panoramic beach views from the trails and riding the Mountains to the Sea trail right into the Bay of Fires. The St Helens to Blue Tier shuttle takes 40 minutes and can be booked through a number of companies.
Read: Tasmania’s best scenic bike trails from beginners to expert
UDA MTB charges $12 for one ride, $65 for a full day or 10 rides for $100 that can be used over several days. Vertigo MTB, MTB Express and Derby Gravity Shuttles charge around the same amount. There is no cost to use the trails.
What to wear mountain biking
It’s best to wear a lightweight long sleeve shirt and long pants or knee pads, helmets can be hired from the rental shops in town. I recommend 50+ sunscreen, especially on your face and forearms.
The only phone signal available in Derby is on the Telstra network. If you are not with Telstra, get a prepaid SIM or simply enjoy being unplugged for a few days.
The Hub is the must-visit restaurant in Derby. Woodfire pizzas and local beers and wines are enjoyed on tables in the garden and couches on the front porch. I’m still thinking about their strawberry and Nutella calzone.
Trails Espresso is a food truck by the shuttle pick up spot. Their burgers are named after well-known Derby trails and the meat is sourced from Ringarooma, a nearby town. There’s an awesome pumpkin and spinach patty option for the vegos. The amazing chocolate chip and salt cookie gave us the sugar hit we needed to ride late into the afternoon.
Two Doors Down Cafe is the best spot for a big breakfast or picking up a pastry before hitting the trails.
A real Derby character is the ‘egg man’ who sells his freshly laid eggs out of his old commodore that he drives around to the trailhead and campsites.
Floating Sauna Lake Derby
Lake Derby is the name of the shared walking and bike trail. Lake Derby is also known as the Briseis Hole and is accessible by foot or bike via the Derby suspension bridge. The lake is a remnant of Derby’s mining past, now you can swim, fish for trout or visit the Floating Sauna.
The Floating Sauna was a perfect way to end our first day of mountain biking. Stunningly picturesque with floor to ceiling glass windows to take in the serenity of Lake Derby.
A one-hour session at the Floating Sauna Lake Derby costs $45 per person and the sauna is open from 8am – 8pm.
Accommodation in Derby
Derby accommodation is mainly cabins, cottages and lodges that cater from small to large groups with kitchen and bike storage facilities.
Derby Pods are the most luxurious place to stay with three or four-day experiences inclusive of food, instructors and bikes.
Free camping at Derby
There are two free campsites at either end of the town; Derby park and derby big rig camping site. We parked our hired Apollo Motorhome at the big rig campsite because it was closest to the main trailhead. Directly behind the campsite is a sandy river beach. It was my favourite shower spot to wash off the dirt from a day of biking.
The toilets, coin-operated showers and bike washing station are a few minutes walk from the campsite.
Anyone with a love of adventure should try mountain biking in Derby. It was a great pitstop on our Tasmanian road trip. We’ve even been looking at buying our own bikes since heading home. Yes, we might be hooked!