Michael Hanslip Coaching

If you want to go faster, you have to pedal harder

Blue Derby

They've done an amazing job of building a mountain biking attraction in the literal middle of nowhere at Derby. There is a great network of trails draped across the hills surrounding the village. But I really found there is a gap in the network - most of the trails are very XC oriented, and then there are the Enduro tracks that are very gravity oriented and I didn't find anything in between. Take "Trouty" as an example. This trail is on the edge of the network and is visible from the highway - they've painted a gigantic trout on the fish-shaped cliff above the trail and is clearly seen by everyone driving into Derby from the East. It is a pretty amazing and fun trail. But to get to it you have to ride Krushka's, which is up and down, up and down, and even the real descending part of Krushka's would be best done on a trail or XC bike. But then you get to the chunky rock section of Trouty and you need an Enduro bike to ride it properly.
Roxanne is the trail that made the highlights show of the most recent Enduro World Cup event at Blue Derby as the pros tried to figure out the boulder field in pouring rain (note they did it WAY better than I managed in similar wet conditions!). To get to Roxanne requires a climb from the shuttle drop-off point similar to the climb of Mt Stromlo from the parking lot. And that's assuming you get a shuttle in the first place.

We arrived at the trailhead intending to climb up under our own steam, only to find that it was closed for maintenance for the day. Unfortunately, Derby is all about the shuttle and only has one climbing trail from the parking lot (Axehead) - climbing seems a problematic side-effect of being on a hill. The four+ shuttle companies suggests I am in the minority on wanting to go up pedalling. Conveniently, the shuttle pick up is about 10 metres from the trail closed sign and the Up Down and Around van pulled up just then. A ten-ride pass was purchased and we spent the whole of our four days using their shuttles. But the shuttle is more the beginning than the end. Snig Track becomes a necessity with multiple trails sprouting off the top of that climb.

On advice, I took my Enduro bike. On reflection, I should have taken my trail bike. Yes I would have been "under biked" for a couple of sections of Roxanne and Trouty, but I would have been appropriately biked for everything else.

There is a small body of water - the one with the floating sauna in it - that has a gentle green bike path around it. There is also a run little blue trail over there called Watchya Upta. The climb was a mud-fest and not only impossible to ride up but also almost impossible to walk up. So slick. Once past the mud, the rest of the track was good. If it were dry, it would probably be a real blast.
Long sections of track revealed that they were based on plastic lattice tiles. I suggest a few of those on the climb of Watchya Upta would go far to making it weatherproof.

On the Saturday we caught a shuttle up to "First 13" which is the first 13 kilometres of the track that runs from above Derby down to St Helens on the east coast. The first 13 is primarily descending. The trail head is a lovely place, even first thing in the morning when it was still pretty cold in May. Loads of room for the drop-off shuttles, toilets, maps, grass - just a really attractive place to begin. The trail was good fun too. It seemed to take about 10 minutes, but was actually close to an hour. And like almost all the trails we rode, handled being completely wet very well (it was lovely and sunny on the Saturday, but it had rained a lot and there were puddles everywhere. Mud was minimal (but sketchy when it did occur).
Then the shuttle grabbed us and hauled us to lunch. Why do shuttles always have a lunch stop? I just want to ride.
After the pub lunch (most of the guys had at least one beer - not great for the riding to follow), we hauled off again to the top of Atlas. Atlas runs about 8 km into the Derby network at the top (on Dambusters). As I rode all of Dambusters (very XC) the day before, I knew exactly where we'd join in and what my options were for the rest. Atlas, despite being shuttled to the top of a big hill, doesn't have a lot of descending. It is generally down, but not a descent.

All of the trails seem to have a common theme. The descents have climbing and the climbing trails have descending. And as I'll write about later, the St Helens trails where I went next have this same trait. This is a decision of the trail designer to change the direction of flow mid-trail. The Mt Fromme trails in North Vancouver either go up, or go down.

So, I really enjoyed going to Derby. The place we stayed was awesome, just above the trailhead and a couple of blocks from our morning coffee source. The trails are really well built. The vast majority of the tracks ride well wet. The rock sections ride better wet - no dust, dirt of mud on the rock if it is washing them clean with the rain. And it is super-grippy in the wet. But I don't think I get the trail ethos here. Glad I saw almost all the trails and have seen the beautiful place that Derby is, but I won't be rushing back. It is also fairly difficult to get to - nearly 12 hours from door to door (taxi to CBR, fly to MEL and then LST, get hire car, load hire car, drive to Scottsdale for groceries (you can't get ANYTHING in Derby) and then onto Derby).