Some people think when they hear the words “mountain biking” that it’s all about bush bashing and full-faced helmets and crashing down steep rocky narrow paths, but it can also be about just enjoying the amazing quiet & natural beauty of the Australian bush on a bicycle.
Yes, the ground is not paved in asphalt or concrete; so yes, there may be some uneven surfaces to ride over, but all you need is a sturdy bike with wider tread (>30mm) & the motivation to go have some fun. In fact, the sport of cyclocross is becoming increasingly popular and essentially this is taking a road bike with thicker grippier tyres off-road.
There are many firetrails through national parks, and also vehicular access trails in state forests or reserves that can be ridden on by cyclists first starting out in mountain biking. For instance, Lane Cove NP, Ku-Ring-Gai Chase NP & the Blue Mountains NP all have firetrails to explore.
Those looking for more adventure, can try out some established mountain bike parks – networks of singletrack (off-road paths wide enough for only one bike to move along) designed & built especially for mountain biking. Recommendations would be Wylde Mountain Bike Park in Cecil Hills; Old Man’s Quarry in Hornsby, and Westleigh-H2O. These all have signposted Easy, Medium and Hard trails which range from flowing tracks with sweeping turns, to log rolls, jumps and drop offs depending on ability & gumption!
Suspension is not necessary but it does make the ride more comfortable; and improves your ability to negotiate rougher tracks without being thrown off in an unexpected direction.
What I particularly love about mountain biking is the peacefulness of the ride and not having to be in fear of your life from motorised traffic; let alone breathing in smog & car fumes. Riding between gum trees with birds all around and looking out over rolling forests and streams brings a smile to my face. Mountain biking can be as relaxing or as adrenalin-driven as you want it to be. It’s just about you & your bike and nature. You can ride by yourself or with a group of friends or join endurance trials or other races. You can do a regular track week-in week-out or you can explore somewhere different each time.
If you haven’t tried mountain biking then give it a go. I lead Bike North rides to The Oaks Trail in the Blue Mountains (photo in this aarticle), and to Westleigh-H2O mountain bike park. Borrow or hire a bike if you don’t have one yet.
There are many online resources with information about trail access and interest groups. Here are some quick links.
For information on trails: http://nswmtb.asn.au/rides
For information on mountain biking in general: https://www.mtba.asn.au/