Derby, the little town that could

A few years ago, Derby, Tasmania, was a typical dying town with few job opportunities, a declining population and bargain basement real estate. Derby was an old mining town.  The mines closed in the late 1990s and there was a downturn in the forestry industry.  The unemployment rate more than doubled between 2006 and 2013, and residents and investment left.  Shops along the main street closed up and real estate prices plummeted.

Funded by a Federal Government grant, Derby has carved into the surrounding hills 40 km of bike trails with 40 more to come.  Some are calling it the mountain bike capital of Australia.  One local teenager said that, “it’s exceptional just to know I live in what once felt like a ghost town to me, now is a booming town where people come from New Zealand, Canada, all around the world just to ride our tracks.”

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The many bike trails of Derby

An essential component of the mountain biking trails being able to come into existence, is Farmer Derek Hayes. He has lived in Derby for 60 years and reluctantly sold his land, “I thought it would be better for Derby to have the land than me. That is why I did let it go in the end… I don’t know what to make of it.  Just let it go and hope the mountain bikers make a good show of it,” he said.

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A track that leads to a hub of bike trails
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A bike washing bay

Since the bike tracks started going in, Derby has transformed and continues to transform.  Stacks of people come from everywhere to ride (speaking of stacks, I had a go on very tame tracks and had a few tumbles).  There are tracks for different skill levels, including seriously very, very good riders.  The world’s best mountain bikers have heaped praise on Tasmania’s Blue Derby trails at last year’s Enduro World Series, where thousands packed into the small town of Derby to cheer on professionals and enthusiasts tackle the harrowing trails snaking through the hinterland.

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a part of a bike trail that weaves over and around a creek

I visited Derby during a week day, when there was no event or public holiday, and the campsites were full and the trails hosted bike riders all day long.  As trails are one way traffic, there are vans to shuttle bikers.

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Mountain bikes have become part of Derby’s DNA.  Bikes decorate everything, including fences, Derby’s Post Office and more.  I had a go at drawing the post office.

In my wandering around the town, I saw that the old Methodist Church is being inhabited, judging from the view of the backyard, by bike enthusiasts.

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A rider from Queensland, who came to Derby in its earlier days, found that there was nowhere to eat dinner, so he bought the old butchers shop and turned it into a woodfire pizza place called The Hub.  A lovely young couple run it now and their bike injury stories are not for the faint-hearted!

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And there are new businesses and buildings being established along side the locals.

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If you are a mountain bike enthusiast, I suggest you that you put Derby on your bucket list because it will not disappoint you.

Thanks for visiting and take care.

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