Long trails in high places are not unique. Mountain bikers in North America have the luxury of countless miles (and kilometres) of singletrack in some pristine environments. Be they in alpine resorts, or just on high plains, or even at sea level actually… it’s there. Often multi-use, or historical trail, but it’s there. A huge population, a love of the outdoors, and the nature of their expansion across the country has shaped the trail network that the US has. Plus they build more!
And it’s the same in Europe. The have much less purpose built trail (although Wales and Scotland do lead the way) but lots of old trails. Ones that exist as they were the way across the Alps for centuries. They were smuggling routes, trade routes, military routes, jeep roads put in by Mussolini’s Fascists… these are the trails of history.
And so purpose built singletrack, trails built for leisure, for recreation – these stand apart. They’re special for an altogether different reason. Yet they are popping up all over Australia.
Having raced on the trails of Atherton in Tropical North Queensland twice, and seen families and tourists enjoy the very same trails days later, it’s clear to see the benefits of a well designed and built trail network. The range of users is immense. Mt Buller has known this for quite some time, and were the first Australian Alpine resort to really embrace mountain biking in the summer months. And although they have classic trails like Corn Hill, Stonefly, Gang Gangs, Misty Twist – it’s the new Epic trail that offers something for the marathon focused rider.
The Epic trail leaves Mt Buller along some well known classics, but once at the summit on the Stonefly trail, you veer left, and down the Telephone Box Junction. What you have done now, besides knocking about a third of the 39km trail off, is moved into an area where you can access all sorts of other trails too. Cross Country skiing trails, old service roads, horse trails – there’s countless kilometres of other trails out there for amazing loops in the Victorian High Country.
The Epic trail leads you up a climb, and along an old forest road bench, through some new singletrack, and on one more final dirt road climb. But then, you have earnt your reward.
The trail descends through stacked berms, with rises to pop over and trees to duck around. There are protruding boulders, log rides, secret gaps, and anything an advanced bike handler would want. But there’s very little to catch out those who like their wheels on the ground. This descent runs for 7km.
The trail leads you back up the river, swooping along next to the flowing water, through ferns, over well built rock features, and into a sycamore grove, where you might be riding just about anywhere in the world. The trail will not disappoint, and should bring a lot of riders together. Just as fun on a hardtail as an all-mountain bike, the Epic trail is like many at Mt Buller – hard to classify. They’re not ‘enduro’ if you’re not being timed. Are they cross-country? Or is that also now too competition specific? And can they be all-mountain if you’re having fun on your hardtail? You decide. The Epic trail, and others, have something for everyone.
The trail finishes at Merrijig, and you can now shuttle back to the village. Or will you tackle the 16km road climb, and do the first Full Epic?