The Curse of the Blue Derby

Today we arrive in Derby, a small town in the north east of Tasmania and one of the destinations on this trip which I am most looking forward to. Over the past year I’ve seen many headlines featuring Derby as the little town which has reinvented itself as a mountain biking destination and all 4 of us are keen to check it out!

We arrive at the main (and only) street in town and waste no time gearing up and getting immediately on our bikes. We’ve all brought our own bikes from Sydney, but there are plentiful bike hire and repair options scattered down the road. The community is clearly on-board with the mountain biking tourism as we pass cycling themed sculptures and cafe names like “Crank It Cafe” and “The Hub”.

We start by hitting the small tracks to the north side of the river and from the word go I couldn’t be happier. The trails are well built, the climbs are manageable and rideable, and the views and surrounding forest is beautiful.

Nick and I hit the first descent down from World Trail View and capture some great 360 footage from the handlebars. Note the smile on my face which doesn’t wipe off for the next 48 hours.

Still on a high from that first run we re-group and hit the main tracks on the south side of the river. After a warm up along Axe Head and a long climb up Long Shadows, we decide the first big run we want to hit is Kingswall. We hit the shuttle point at the top of the hill and continue climbing up Snig Track to the Kingswall home trail.

We start the run down Kingswall and it’s everything we hoped for and more. Its beautiful and flowy, and seems to go forever. I’m riding well, nailing some nice lines at significant speed and forever thankful that I’m on my own bike- a machine I can trust. After what seems like a full run (but actually only a third of the way) I turn my mind to the GoPro. It has been running since the top and I’m smiling to myself thinking “this footage is going to be epic”, when I realise the vibration on the bike has pushed the GoPro sideways on it’s mount.

I look for a reasonable place to slow down, but I don’t want to stop as I’ve kept up with Nick so far (which is quite the achievement) and don’t want to lose him! I see a flat rock up ahead and think I’ve got space to quickly pull the GoPro upright with one hand, however this one move is my undoing. I hit the flat rock, slightly more angled down than I expected, so I brake slightly. Unfortunately with only one hand on the handlebars at that exact moment, it jerks me forward causing me to tighten my one handed grip on the bars… and the brake.

Naturally it’s the front brake which I end up wrenching on and I immediately flip over the handlebars. For bonus points, both feet remain clipped into the pedals so it’d be a humorous few minutes of me trying to detangle and detach myself for anyone riding by. Thankfully I was wearing skins at the time, which probably saved my… skin. I walk away with only a few grazes and the ultimate irony: Adjusting the GoPro angle was literally pointless, it films in 360 degrees. *facepalm*

Unfortunately my bike doesn’t fare quite as well as I completely destroy one of the brake levers. Matt catches up with me as I’m getting up as I recount the turn of events. The run is more or less over for me, as although my bike is otherwise unharmed, it’s simply not possible to ride this trail at speed with only one brake. Nick is long gone, and there is no mobile reception, so I let Matt go ahead to tell Nick what happened and why I’ll be significantly later down the hill than planned. Which all goes well for a few minutes, until I catch up to Matt…

I find him bending over the front of his bike and ask if he’s okay. He says “yeah, but…” and holds up his front brake pads. The didn’t notice while riding, but the pin had fallen out and so he stopped when he heard something rattling and the pads just fell out into his hand. While he’s very lucky to not have lost the pads as well, his bike is now also one brake down until we get back into town. Look in all honesty Matt the one brake club isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, but hey- welcome to the club all the same.

So we both continue, at a moderately snail-worthy pace. A couple of times I start to think I’m getting the hang of this and can manage to ride a little faster, while hanging my arse so far off the back of the bike I basically mount the rear wheel. I start the GoPro thinking I might still get a little footage, but no sooner do I get a little too fast, try to brake, and nearly come undone even worse than initially. After a while I stop trying as both Matt and I are resigned to crawling down the mountain until along came Nick.

To our surprise we catch up to Nick, sitting on the dirt bank next to bike. At first we assumed he was waiting for us as he wouldn’t have had any idea why we were both taking so long, and then we see the blood on his leg. I ask if he’s okay and in response he holds up in his hand… his brake lever. He’s hit a berm at the wrong angle, came off in the direction of a tree, lost pressure in his rear tyre, lost a bit of skin, and has ripped his front brake lever clean off. With Nick substantially worse off than I am, I pat him knowingly on the back “Welcome to the one brake club, you’re the president”.

All 3 of us amble down the final third of the Kingswall back to the cafe where we are to meet Naomi. By the time we get here poor Naomi has been here for nearly 2 hours, and with no mobile reception outside of town she had no choice but to wait and hope it was the bikes that were broken and not us.

After some lunch we set about making the necessary repairs and get back on the trail fairly quickly, our egos bruised but spirits still high. We take the car up to the shuttle point and head down Flickety Sticks. It’s a challenging trail for Naomi, but she nails it and only stops once or twice. It just goes to show where some confidence (and a working bike) can get you!

On the way back to the exit I take a side track called Deadly Bugga. Depending on which map you look at it may be marked blue or black. The features themselves aren’t insane and can be easily rolled over or around, however its a fast track and the wrong angle or too much speed can lead to severe (think over the edge) type consequences. But boy is it fun to ride!

The last run for today takes me down Return to Sender. A similar path to Kingswall but a bit more steep and a lot more technical. It’s a solid run and we all reach the familiar bottom section with smiles on our faces, partly because we had a nice time but also partly because we are just happy to still have working brakes this time round. Bring on day 2!

We start day 2 by driving out of town, ready to return by a trail named Atlas. This is a great run, with mostly flow but some technical sections and many a berm cut into the slope to make it something rideable for those of us not marked clinically insane. We descend 400m in just over 10km distance and our hearts are racing (and brakes burning) by the bottom!

To round off the morning Nick and I take the side trip up Krushna’s before heading back to the main trail. A big nasty climb to get into and a slightly underwhelming decent. Don’t get me wrong, the trail was good, but just questioning whether it was worth the climb. I suspect that any other day it would have been but the epic runs of Kings Wall and Return to Sender yesterday have spoiled us.

In the afternoon we hit the trail for one last sesh, and I’m determined to make the big loop around the dam aptly called Dam Busters. Unfortunately no one else is up for this so we all more or less do our own thing and I go alone. Clearly I’ve never seen a horror movie before because this is where everyone yells “No, don’t go into the dark forest alone!”... but I did.

Thinking the bad things have come in 3 yesterday, today will be all good, right? Wrong. The first snag I hit just after the turn off of Flickety Sticks onto The Great Race. I hear something snap on my front wheel and I look down to see my axle is sticking out and is no longer supporting my front wheel, MY DISC BRAKE IS. I immediately panic and stop, thinking I might have bent the disc or worse, but thankfully it just screws back in and everything is fine. Crisis averted. But the next time I’m not so lucky…

I’m having a great run on Dam Busters and I stop at Crystal Cascade, a beautiful little watering hole in the most remote part of the Blue Derby MTB Park. It’s only a short stop and a photo, as I need to make haste and get back to the car at the agreed upon meeting time, so I’m in a hurry to get back on the bike and head out when I step onto the peddle, hit a rock and hear that telltale ping… as my chain snaps…

Well shit.

I look down to see my chain like a silver snake in the dirt, and pick up the missing pieces. Upon closer inspection, it’s not a quick-link which has failed. Fortunately I’m carrying 2 spare quick-links, so it's just a matter of removing the remains of the bent link from the chain and patching it up, but of course it's not that simple. My bike was recently stolen and replaced under insurance, my old multitool had a chain breaker but guess what is missing from the new one? I knew this already, so I packed a chain breaker… it’s in the car.

Umm, fuck?

I manage to macgyver it apart using a rock, a pair of pliers, and the hex key on the multitool, however I’m not even sure how. I was just thankful I managed to do it at all and not damage the chain in the process. It would have been a LONG walk back from here with a downhill-only bike!

So I fix the chain, get back on the bike, and rush the rest of the way around, but while trying to not put too much pressure on the chain / gear changes as I don’t wish to tempt fate. I’m back at the car substantially late and no one is impressed but I think they understood.

It has been an epic 48 hours in Derby riding some of the 125km of trails at Blue Derby MTB Park. And while I can say a great time was had by all, I advise caution. Beware of mechanicals, and GoPros, and trees, and side tracks… and never forget The Curse of The Blue Derby.