• If you haven't ridden the Great Ocean Road, add it to your bucket list now. (AAP)Source: AAP
Looking for the best bike experiences the Great Southern Land has to offer? Add these seven wonders of the road (and trail) to your bucket list today.
By
Kevin Eddy

18 May 2016 - 1:46 PM 

1. The Queen Victoria Loop, Bright, VIC

Widely regarded as Australia’s most challenging mountain ride, the Queen Vic Loop is about as close as you’ll get to riding in the European Alps on this side of the world. The ride is a roughly 250km loop with around 4,500m of vertical ascent. Ridden anti-clockwise, it takes in the iconic climbs of Tawonga Gap, Mount Hotham - Australia’s highest road pass - and the fearsome Back O’Falls climb.

It’s not a ride for the faint-hearted, and one that many complete at the end of months-long training programs as part of events like the Peaks Challenge or the Alpine Classic. However, there’s nothing quite like emerging from the treeline on Mount Hotham on a clear day and seeing the amazing vista of the the Great Dividing Range, or conquering the 15%+ grades on the Back O’Falls.

While you’re in the area…

The truly adventurous can also add in the iconic Mount Buffalo climb to make this a 320km/6,000m day on the bike; local towns Bright, Beechworth and Mount Beauty also boast some excellent MTB trails (as well as a number of superb microbreweries).

 

2. The Great Ocean Road, VIC

One of Victoria’s most popular tourist destinations, the Great Ocean Road swoops and twists its way around the rugged headlands, coastal towns and surf beaches of the Victorian coast from Geelong to Warrnambool. Popular with motorcyclists, grey nomads and cyclists alike, it’s a ride that is best experienced at quieter times of day to avoid vehicular traffic or during a closed-road sportive like Amy’s Gran Fondo.

While the road technically starts in Geelong, the most popular section with cyclists is between Lorne and Apollo Bay. The road becomes more challenging after this point, giving riders the choice of hugging the coast to reach iconic tourist spots like the Twelve Apostles or heading uphill and inland into the hinterland before dropping back down into Lorne on a rapid descent.

 

3. The Captain Cook Highway, Cairns, QLD

Stretching north of Cairns, the Captain Cook Highway is a tropical counterpart to the Great Ocean Road. Like The Great Ocean Road, the ride features spectacular views of rainforest-coated hills, sandy beaches and azure seas.

 While you can ride from Cairns city, a more pleasant departure point is from Palm Cove as you avoid the traffic-heavy northern-bound city roads. The Captain Cook Highway is typically ridden as an out-and-back trip, with multiple turnaround points including the Rex Lookout and hang-glider launch just north of Wangetti or Port Douglas. The truly adventurous, however, can keep going north over the Daintree River and into the prehistoric rainforest all the way to Cape Tribulation - where the cold beer and pizza at PK’s Jungle Village are most welcome after the 120km trip from Palm Cove. Just look out for the crocs… 

While you’re in the area…

Cairns and its surrounding area is another mountain biking mecca, with the Smithfield trails a regular feature on the UCI MTB World Cup as well as hosting the MTB World Championships in 2017. Ranging further afield, trails in Atherton and the legendary Bump Track are must-rides for anyone who likes to range off-road. 

 

4. The Alpine Epic, Mount Buller, VIC

Australia’s most essential rides don’t all require you to hit the bitumen, and this one is well worth breaking out the knobbly tyres for. The 43km Alpine Epic is the only IMBA accredited Epic trail in Australia, and is generally regarded as one of the crown jewels in the Antipodean trail network.

 It begins at the Mount Buller resort, winding its way further uphill on a twisting, sometimes technical singletrack trail known as Stonefly. From the top of Stonefly, you turn down a fast fireroad which eventually leads you onto the Alpine Epic downhill flow trail: 7km of fast, flowing berms through Alpine forest, enormous ferns and mountain rivers. It is, without doubt, one of the best descents in Australia.

While you’re in the area...

The road ascent to Mount Buller is no slouch either, and is well worth breaking out the climbing bike for. The entire area around Mt Buller and Mansfield is also criss-crossed with MTB trails, so why not make it a long weekend on the mountain bike?

 

5. The Adelaide Hills, SA

Adelaide is the location of the country’s biggest cycling festival in late January (the Tour Down Under), but its unique topography makes it a superb cycling destination regardless of time of year.

 Head east or south out of the city, ascend one of Adelaide’s challenging climbs - Norton Summit, Greenhill or Montacute Road to name just a few - or head north-west on the stunning Gorge Road and you’ll enter the criss-crossing network of roads that make up the Adelaide Hills.

Steep bergs, flowing descents, legbreaking climbs like the infamous Corkscrew, snaking valley roads and picture-postcard towns such as Stirling and Hahndorf mean this is less a loop and more of a ‘choose your own riding adventure’ location - one that always ends with a fast descent back into town. 

While you’re in the area…

The beaches to the west and south-west of the CBD offer an equally stunning but much flatter riding locale. In addition, the South Australian capital’s MTB scene is developing fast, with trail centres like Eagle MTB Park on Mount Barker Road garnering plaudits from around the country.

 

6. Blue Derby, Tasmania

It may surprise you to hear that the second MTB entry on the bucket list isn’t in one of Australia’s typical tourist hot spots - it actually resides in a sleepy corner of North-East Tasmania. 

The Blue Derby trails – located near the former tin mining town of Derby (population: 208) – have become one of Australia’s top MTB destinations, hosting the cross-country marathon championships for the last two years. With 55km of trail already built, there’s another 25km due for completion in October 2016 – resulting in a trail network encompassing everything from beginner trail to double-black diamond downhill runs.  

The trails work with the local environment to provide the perfect balance of rideability and technical challenge, all while retaining a wilderness feel and preserving nods to the area’s mining heritage. Check it out below. 

 

7. The Alpine Way, Snowy Mountains, NSW

Last but not least, the Snowy Mountains offer a riding experience comparable to that of the European mountain ranges within four hours' drive of the NSW capital. Perhaps that’s why the inaugural L’Etape Australia will take place in this region in December 2016.

Most routes that tackle the Snowy Mountain peaks use Jindabyne as a base, with the classic climb in the area being the undulating ascent to Dead Horse Gap via Thredbo.

The brave – or foolhardy – can then descend into the valley below to the NSW/Victoria border at the Murray River before turning around and climbing the 17km back up to Dead Horse Gap at an average of 6 per cent, with pinches of up to 28 per cent. 

All up, that’s a 110km day in the saddle from Jindy and back – but for a truly epic day out, add in the 40km climb up to Charlottes Pass via Perisher to make a 200km-plus day with more than 3,000m of climbing. Now that’s a bucket list ride worthy of the name.

While you’re in the area…

Check out the MTB trails around Thredbo and Lake Jindabyne too.