Mountain bike tracks around Port Macquarie make the wider area an excellent destination for anyone looking to enjoy some adventure.

This sport is growing in popularity and can be enjoyed at all levels. Beginners and kids can have fun on easier cross-country trails. Pros and daredevils can’t get enough of steep descents and challenging terrain.

With the Aussie Endurance Mountain Championships happening in mid October,  why not discover this sport and the mountain bike tracks around Port Macquarie.

The origin of mountain biking

Although cycling took off around the world in the late 1900s, it wasn’t until much later that Mountain biking found its feet. In the 1970s, several different groups across mountainous regions of the US started tinkering with old road bikes. Old Schwinn cruiser bikes were the most commonly targeted. They were retrofitted with better brakes and fatter tires to make them more suitable for rocky and mountainous terrain. The bikes were given motocross or BMX style handlebars, creating the flat style we are familiar with today.

American riders started racing downhill. Stories and videos of their adventures began to capture the popular imagination. By the late 1970s, a few independent bike manufacturers were creating the first mountain bikes for the retail markets. Significantly one of the companies was called MountainBikes, later Fisher Mountain Bikes. Ironically, many of the big bicycle manufacturers failed to see the potential in mountain bikes, seeing it as a fad. By the 1990s, mountain biking was established as a legitimate sport. Sub-disciplines like cyclocross emerged and sponsors started funding the best and fastest riders.

Man biking through the forest
Man biking through the forest

The health and social benefits of mountain biking

Cycling is a  great full-body workout, without some of the harmful impact associated with other fitness disciplines like running.

Mountain biking can be an even greater workout than its road-bound cousin. Encompassing steeper ascents and descents than even the toughest road trail can provide, mountain biking requires all of your muscles. You will need to pull with your arms and work your whole body to traverse jumps and obstacles and to keep your bike under control.

Mountain biking also gets you out in nature. Most psychologists say time spent in nature is excellent for your mental health. Not to mention the benefits of fresh, mountain air and exercise.

Additionally, mountain biking can be a very social sport. It is a great opportunity to spend time with friends or family. You can make it a challenge and race each other, or enjoy a slower ride and a chat in less rugged terrain. Pack a light picnic in a backpack or satchel and find a great spot high in a mountain to relax and eat a healthy, refuelling lunch in good company.

Mountain bikers tend to be a friendly bunch. Their love of the sport extends to introducing it to others. Most MTB-ers (as they are known) love to welcome a new rider.

How to prepare for a mountain bike race

Even novice riders are welcome at mountain bike races. They often allow you to spend as much time on a shorter course as you like over several hours.

Bike trail in the forest
Bike trail in the forest

Make sure you spend plenty of time in the saddle before any race. You will need to be familiar with your bike and with your own limitations as well as building your fitness. If possible, it is a great idea to train on the track on which you will be racing. At the very least you should find a map and learn the ins and outs of the tracks. It is many a mountain biker who has ‘come a cropper’ at an unexpected turn! If you can’t get to the particular track before the race, find something similar to prepare you properly.

Like any activity, mountain biking comes with a set of etiquettes that you should be acquainted with. Here are the major points for when you are training or casually riding:

  • Stick to the trails

    With so many amazing trails open and available in Australia, there is no need to go off the track. Not only is this dangerous for you, but it can also put indigenous flora and fauna at risk. Never ride on private or restricted land unless you have the required permission.

  • Leave no trace

    It should go without saying these days that you leave nothing behind but your footprints (or tire tracks). Never litter or leave waste in the bush. Even food waste can be harmful to wildlife. This includes not cutting new trails or tearing up muddy trails for fun. Other people will use the trail and need it in its best condition.

  • Stay in control

    Hurtling down a hill may seem like an adrenaline rush but you may be putting yourself or others at risk. Keep your head up, be alert and be aware of what is coming ahead of you.

  • Yield

    Make sure you yield politely to those on foot and to cyclists riding uphill. If the trail is specified for cycle use or downhill riding, let them know without being aggressive. Be ready for other trail users as you round bends and stay friendly. Be aware of the local terms for passing (more on that below).

  • Keep an eye out for wildlife

    These animals are a priority. Treat kangaroos, wallabies and even snakes with respect and never try to scare them.

You will also need to be aware of the particular etiquette and rules of the race you are participating in. It is a good idea to check out the Australian rules and regulations found here.

Mountain Bike Australia also advises that as you approach a rider to overtake you must say ‘track right’ or ‘track left’. This lets them know which side you intend to overtake on. If you hear this behind you, act accordingly and allow the rider past. If you have any questions about a particular race, don’t hesitate to contact the organisers.

What to wear when mountain biking

If you’ve ever fallen off a bike you’ll know how painful it can be! Here is a list of recommended gear for safety and comfort:

  • Helmet

    A helmet is an essential piece of safety equipment for whenever you climb onto any bike. A well fitted and comfortable helmet is absolutely essential to keep your skull safe. During a race, you won’t be allowed on the track without one.

  • Goggles or glasses

    A dirt track means debris so goggles or purpose-created sunglasses will keep your eyes protected from any dirt or grit that may come flying your way. Tinted goggles are also a good idea. Sunlight and glare can come blasting through the trees very suddenly and blind those who aren’t prepared.

  • Gloves

    As well as helping to improve comfort and prevent blisters, gloves can literally save your skin. Most people will put out their hands as they fall and gloves will prevent you from tearing up your palms. Most mountain bikers opt for full finger gloves. These provide more protection against bushes and branches as well as for the back of the hands.

  • Jersey

    A light and comfortable jersey is also essential. Most types of cycling jerseys will be suitable. Many riders choose ones with handy pockets on the back for storing small snacks. Opt for a full-length front zip if you get hot easily.

  • Shorts

    Padded cycling shorts a highly recommended. Mountain bikers tend to be in and out of the saddle, not to mention the bumpy ride!

  • Knee Pads

    You will be very unlikely to see a mountain biker without knee protection. On particularly hazardous trails many riders will wear even more padding and protection. This includes elbow pads and even spine boards.

  • Shoes

    Good shoes are a must and you have two choices. You can choose to clip in like a road racer or wear flat-soled shoes, not connected to the pedals. Both options are valid and depend on personal preference. The theory behind ‘clipped in’ shoes is you can leverage both ‘up’ and ‘down’ pedals. However, they can be tricky to escape from if you fall.

Man on the bike
Man on the bike

How to ride safely in a race and on recreational rides

There are a few other tips to make sure your ride is safe and enjoyable. First of all, if you’re enjoying mountain bike tracks around Port Macquarie, make sure you stay hydrated. Water bottles or camel-bags (backpacks with water pouches) are easily found at any cycling store.

As with any Aussie outdoor activity, apply sunscreen! You may be mostly under leafy cover but it is better safe than sorry.

The nature of mountain biking also means you need to adhere to general bush safety rules. Go in a group so that there is back up in case of trouble. Let someone know where you are going and when you are due back so that alarm may be raised if you don’t return. A map of the area is a wise addition to your pack. It can be unwise to rely on a phone. An EPIRB radio beacon may be a good idea if you’re heading out of range.

Specifically for mountain biking, a small, well-equipped tool kit is a great safety precaution. A puncture kit, for instance, can be the difference between a fun ride and a very long walk. Light and easily attachable tool kits can be found at any cyclist store as well as most sports stores. Finally, a first aid kit can be a literal lifesaver and can also attach easily to most bikes.

The best mountain bike tracks Port Macquarie

With its beautiful, hilly surrounds, Port Macquarie is the perfect place for mountain biking. Here are some  of the best mountain bike tracks in Port Macquarie:

Aussie Mountain Bike Champs

They may not be household names but Australia has our fair share of champion mountain bike riders. Here are a few of the best known (keep an eye out for one on the mountain bike tracks of Port Macquarie!):

  • Jared Graves: Hailing from Towoomba, Queensland, Graves has been successful across several cycling disciplines. Most notably, he was 2009 4X World Cup champion.
  • Bryan Atkinson: Though no longer racing at a world level, the Canberra born Atkinson left his mark on Australian Mountain Biking. He placed respectably in international races throughout his career.
  • Sam Hill: This West Aussie was a born mountain biker and should perhaps be known as Sam ‘Downhill’. At just eighteen, competing in the junior section, he came close to besting the fastest time overall at the Downhill World Championships in Switzerland. Hill remains a formidable competitor, taking 1st Overall Enduro World Series Champion just last year.
  • Caroline Buchanan: As well as being an Olympic BMX rider, Buchanan has had an illustrious mountain biking career. After making the BMX finals at the 2012 Olympics she went on to win the women’s title in 2013 at the UCI World 4X Championships in Austria.
  • Jason English: The humble English teacher from Port Macquarie also happens to be one of Australia’s best mountain bikers. As his students well know, English won the World Endurance Mountain Bike Organisation Solo 24 Hour Championship title five times in a row!
Mountain bike track
Mountain bike track

After your ride, refuel at The Westport Club

Nothing works up an appetite like a ride on mountain bike tracks around Port Macquarie!

Head to the Westport Club to refuel. An early ride is perfectly finished with breakfast and coffee at the Hastings Coffee Co.

Later in the day, a drink may be in order at Jimmy’s Bar and Grill or a fine meal at Aqua Restaurant where you can stock up on protein with an amazing steak. Whichever your choice, the Westport Club will welcome you with open arms and provide the best dining experience you can hope for after your mountain biking experience.