As the membership of Townsville Rockwheelers balloons and mountain biking event participation reaches record numbers; TheGo looks at the growing popularity of the sport and the shiny new trails at Douglas and Pallarenda.
“We need that tough, technical stuff, but we also need the beginners’ trails for little kids and the 50-year-olds who have decided they want to lose weight and have bought their first mountain bike” – Haydn Tilley
Look around you — everyone seems to be getting on their bike. But what is it about mountain biking in particular that’s drawing the numbers? “We are seeing the most growth in club numbers in that 30 to 50 year-old-age group,” Rockwheelers secretary Greg Longson says. “It’s people who are looking to get active and regain their fitness, but maybe their knees won’t let them run anymore. Mountain biking is also a great sport because it can be done solo at any time of the day; but it’s also very social and can take you anywhere.”
As Rockwheelers membership sits at an all time high of 480 riders; this year the club’s flagship event, the Paluma Push, sold all 550 tickets in four days, leading to the release of another 100; while HotRock8 in May had record participation.
Club trail building coordinator Haydn Tilley says part of the popularity can be attributed to the quality of the club’s trails, which have seen a $120,000 investment this year alone at Douglas Mountain Bike Reserve which, arguably, stand amongst the best in the state.
He says the key has been getting the balance right between beginner tracks and more advanced options. “Our challenge as a club is to make sure we cater to all aspects of riding,” says Haydn. “We need that tough, technical stuff, but we also need the beginners’ trails for little kids and the 50-year-olds who have decided they want to lose weight and have bought their first mountain bike.”
Here are some of the new trails that have recently opened, or are set to in coming months:
Now under construction, Smedley’s Hill will offer an extension to the nearly two-year-old 10.1km Under the Radar Track (UTR), which is owned and maintained by Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS). Deviating over the salt pans and a new boardwalk, this new 6.6km $240,000 track has a blue square grading (intermediate) and is expected to be completed by early October. A QPWS spokesperson says Smedley’s will see the Townsville Town Common Regional Park’s total length of mountain biking track increase to 17km. “By using all the single trail and shared trail links, a mountain bike rider will be able to cover more than 22km without retracing any part of their route,” she said. Awesome.
Taipan – the new Double Black Diamond Trail
Recently completed by one of the world’s best trail builders, Glen Jacobs, this super difficult trail is now open and is already hosting competitive events. It starts from the south-western end of Spiderbait (the lookout) and follows the ridgeline, joining back to Boulder Dash. Haydn Tilley says this $50,000 track is a coup for the region. “I don’t know of anything else like it in Queensland,” he says, describing the unique Scree Slope (downhill loose rock debris that took nearly a week to build), steep cliff faces, jumps and steep berms. “We wanted Glen to build something challenging and difficult.” And that it is. By the end of the year this track will have an extension so that riders can enjoy the double back diamond level of difficulty all the way to the bottom.
Near the skills park opposite the car park, this new track will be a BMX-style circuit that’s suited to young children and those wanting to advance their skills. This will be completed by the end of the year (in time for school holidays mums and dads!).
Hump to Summit
This $30,000 intermediate trail will offer a more technical climb to the summit (instead of going via The Long Way). Trail builder Evan Rohde from Ground Creations (Evan is based in Atherton, but has built trails throughout the state) says this new track will give more experienced riders a chance to push their limits over rock features and will be unlike any other trail at Douglas and beyond. “In the middle of the trail is a big S-Bend on a very steep ridge,” Evan explains. “We have included a very sharp turn with a sharp step-up; which is something you won’t come across anywhere else. The type of rock and gradient at Douglas offers its own style and we work with those unique features.” The alignment has already been cut and it will be completed by the end of August.
To find out more about the local off-road trail networks, visit Rockwheelers where you will also find comprehensive maps.