I have crossed continents on my bike, I have cycled the highest passes of the Himalayas, I have been organizing bike tours for decades and shaped the industry of bicycle tourism for many years.
And yet I have never owned a mountain bike, and I have never even been on a tour with a mountain bike – until today when I rode the Mt. Buller Epic Trail as an absolute beginner.
My buddy Ben had asked me to join him for a day tour on what he called “the only Epic single trail of the southern hemisphere”.
I didn’t have to think twice, and the next day we sat in a rental car and drove within 3 hours from Melbourne to the peak of Mt Buller, where we had booked some simple accommodation.
The forecast was terrible, but somehow we were both optimistic and lucky enough that the hailstorm had just stopped upon our arrival.
The next day we got up before sunrise, and at 7 in the morning we hit the trail.
For the next 40 km we followed the well-marked Epic Trail.
Almost all of the Epic Trail is a beautiful single trail. I would estimate well less than 20% are on rare fire tracks.
Every now and then (and just when you think you might need it) you find a map along the road. All but one map contained all the needed information about the Epic Trail.
And the one that didn’t? It must have been an old sign, since the Epic trail was not part of it – probably because the trail was just opened in December of 2014.
Some 28 out of the trail’s 40 km are more or less a constant up and down.
This photo was taken after some up. Actually quite some up, especially for someone who had never been on a mountain bike before.
This 1/125th of a second might have been the only moment of the whole tour that I had not quite enjoyed.
But since that’s not worth mentioning, I won’t…
Once in a while you find some spots where the wood chopper have been a bit creative. This might be Australia’s only bike stand that is in the middle of a forest.
The most remarkable spot of the trail is without any doubt this barrier, which actually is a trail sign.
Right here is the start of the most epic part of the Epic Trail: a 12 km all downhill single-trail.
This downhill was… is… a game changing experience for me. Cycling up and down on some dirty forest roads with a mountain bike is somehow nice.
But going downhill with a brand new full suspension mountain bike on a narrow and extremely well made single trail – that blew my mind. I literally did not have to pedal for an hour or more.
I had never before enjoyed cycling and yet not pedalling as much as on this part of the trail. It was not just like flying, but more like flying both too fast and too low at the same time.
My eyed were fixed to the trail ahead, I did not take a single photo (and if you know me, you understand what that means), and I must have been smiling all the time.
Some facts and advices for the Mt Buller Epic Trail:
- Is it suitable for mountain biker and downhiller? I guess so.
- Can I bike it without experience? Well, I definitely had a sore body the days after my ride (especially in my fingers), but I did it and I enjoyed it. In other words: yes, go there and take your time.
- From top to bottom took us 5 hours and 30 minutes. I think more experienced bikers might be an hour faster than I was, and a really good biker might make it in 4 hours.
- There are free maps of the trail (all the different trails) at every corner.
- At the bottom exit of the trail you can take a shuttle up again (where your car might be), reservation is advised.
- We spend the night at the SkiLib, simple, clean and cheap (48 AUD per night).
- We rented bikes at All Terrain Bicycle Store, it was an excellent choice (90 AUD per bike and day)
- Everybody we met gave us good advice. The folks up there really made us feel welcome.
- Did I crash? Nope.
- Did I almost crash? Almost not ;)
- Will I ride the Epic Trail again? Oh yes!
- Do I recommend the Mt Buller Epic Trail? Oh yes!!!
- Did I get hooked for another mountain bike experience? Oh yes!!!!!
About the photos: all but one taken with my beloved little Sony RX 100 III that I was carrying in the pocket of my pants while riding.
If you don’t feel inspired by my photos, please have a look at this this website for many more and much better photos of the Epic Trail.
And this is the official website of the Mt Buller Epic Trail.