Derby. From Tin Mine town to MTB heaven.

Once upon a time Derby in Tasmania was a quiet place, almost a tin mining ghost town. No longer. The townspeople began promoting mountain bike riding and it has rather taken off.

Derby is on the Launceston to St Helens Road. The ‘A3’ it is designated but hardly an ‘A’ road really. We set off to ride a beginners trail – my brother, Mike and his son, Simon who are visiting from the UK and myself. Sue decided to have a non-male day at home !

We are in Tasmania’s north east

And this is our ride

It’s about a 2 hour drive to Derby and I let Simon have the wheel for the climb and descent of The Sidelings, a pass tackled before getting to Scottsdale. I cycled this route a few years ago on my Dahon folder. Once across the Sidelings the road was narrow, fast and poorly driven by the locals. So scary I called off the tour in Scottsdale and phoned home. Nothing has changed. As we drove Scottsdale to Derby I checked the road – certainly a dodgy one for 2 wheels let alone a trike.

Derby. Bike everywhere. Bikes for hire, bikes for sale and bikes just parked.

The first trails have now been augmented by heaps more.

A maze of trails now exists – even one connecting the next town along – Weldborough – with Derby.

A recently developed beginners track takes riders out and around Lake Derby and this was my goal as I was riding the Brompton!

From town, this suspension bridge gives access to the riverside trail

Simon (riding a bike borrowed from friend Rynk) and I rode down to the bridge crossing the river and started along the riverside trail. This led comfortably to the Lake trail.

The Derby Lake trail.

The Derby Lake trail was one-way, narrow and sandy leading riders right around the Lake. On the riding surface it was well packed and hard but the edges are quite soft with loose sandy edges. Not good with the little Brompton wheels. BUT Simon was the one who took a tumble – speeding out of a corner!

The scenery is great – but too much time spent watching the track!

OK. I am not and never will be a mountain bike rider! I like looking at the scenery too much – but this was fun as a one-off.

Back at the bridge Mike was waiting

We returned to the bridge to find Mike (a non-cyclist) waiting for us. Simon took off to go around again while I crossed the bridge and explored the river trail on the other side. Soon after, it was time for lunch.

Derby is busy but there is not much noise. People are cycling around town. Men, women, children pedal past intent on returning to their camp sites, cafes or heading for the trails. All trails are free to ride and the town makes it’s cash with accommodation, food, bike hire and transporting people to the trails further out. It’s a plan that is working well and the benefits seem to be expanding to the nearby towns of Branxholm and Weldborough – both of which look much more prosperous than a few years back.

More bike shops and lots of Cafes to choose from

After lunch I got to thinking. We could manage a ride on the N-E Rail Trail on the way back.

My idea was to drop Simon off at the top of Billycock Hill were he could enjoy the 16k descent to a car park on the trail. This would take him through the spectacular cuttings filled with man ferns.

The cuttings through rock with man fern guardians are a delight

So, we dropped him off OK. The plan was for Mike and I to go down to the car park and I would cycle up the trail a short way to meet Simon coming down.

The best laid plans ……..

Well, I cycled up a couple of ks

The planned ride was from the rightmost point to the green pin.

and then a few more. Getting worried now – it was at least 32°C and feeling warm! Rounding every bend on the trail I expected to see Simon. After 8 kilometers it was obvious something had gone wrong. I hoped there had been a bicycle breakdown and I would soon see Simon in the distance. No such luck. After a couple of hours uphill cycling I had assured myself Simon was not on the trail nor was he at the Billycock car park. About 5 k down the trail there was an exit to the highway and I thought it likely he had taken that. In fact the Rail Trail sign was a bit hidden there so it looked more than possible. So I cycled back down as fast as the Brompton/Tony team would go and arrived back at the car to find Simon there. Relief all round.

Simon had indeed taken the exit, realised it was a mistake but in trying to get back up the steep hill of the exit road had run into heat stress problems. Coming from winter to summer exercising on hot days is not something the body is conditioned to do well.

Anyway, we were all there at the car park and all was well. After getting some water in Scottsdale to begin rehydration, we headed home looking forward to a decent beer to celebrate a busy day.

Author: antc1946

Born in 1946 I learnt to cycle about 10 years later. On a bike with rods connecting brake levers to the brakes - anyone remember those? I emigrated to Australia (from the UK) in 1974 and moved to Tasmania in 1984. Bicycles were in my life for most of that time although sometimes they were replaced by motorised two wheels for a bit more excitement. On reaching 70 I decided to stick to pedal power but in 2019 an electric recumbent made an appearance. it's now 2023 and I have 3 bikes. 2 e-recumbents and the Brompton.

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