Never mind the fact we’re all now addicted to Instagram and cradle our cryptocurrency investments like Tamagotchis: Australian men are still (somehow) known across the globe for being rugged, stoic and confident (thank Chris Hemsworth).
Because of this trope, the average Aussie bloke is unlikely to admit he’s scared of much. In fact, perhaps the only acceptable things to publically worry about, if you want to live up to this classic (others might say limiting) stereotype, is running out of beer or failing to secure the winning bid at a Sydney house auction.
But actually, stepping outside of your comfort zone can be a very healthy experience. Life’s short and it’s worth shaking things up a little, especially after the last sixteen months where we’ve all been a bit housebound and restrained.
And I defy you to find an Aussie man who’s not at least a little bit scared of mountain biking (other than, you know, a mountain biker).
Mountain biking is widely regarded as one of the most exciting yet dangerous sports one can partake in. Downhill mountain biking, in particular, can even be just scary to watch – just check out this GoPro footage of Canada’s Rémy Métailler at 2019’s Red Bull Valparaiso Cerro Abajo in Chile.
Of course, this is a professional downhill mountain biker tackling one of the most intense urban courses on the planet, but the point still stands: it’s not for the faint-hearted. So when I found out my editor James was crook and I needed to fill in for him on a mountain biking trip, I was more than a little nervous.
Swiss watch brand Rado had invited us to Tasmania for the launch of their new Captain Cook High-Tech Ceramic, with mountain biking one of the key events – a tough sport to put a tough watch through its paces with. After touching down in Launceston and enjoying a spot of golf and fine dining (much more my speed), we found ourselves on a shuttle bus off to Derby.
Derby, about 100km east of Launceston, has become one of Tasmania’s hottest tourist destinations in recent years. Originally the home of one of the world’s largest tin mines, the tiny town has since been rejuvenated thanks to a huge investment by the Tasmanian government in 2015, which redeveloped the old mining precinct into one of the best mountain biking areas in Australia.
The Blue Derby network features 125km of purpose-built mountain bike trails, as well as luxurious experiences like the Blue Derby Pods Ride, where you combine your biking adventures with dinner and accommodation in exclusive architecturally designed ‘pods’ nestled amongst the trails. It’s at one of these pods that lunch was waiting for us – but first, we needed to earn our feed by biking up there. So, as they say, on ya bike…
As someone who spends more time on an exercise bike than a real one (and rather infrequently on that score, I might add), I was very nervous about our mountain biking trip. Driving fast cars around the track, cliff-diving or eating bizarre foods doesn’t scare me, but the thought of coming a cropper on a wet downhill trail was weighing heavily on my mind.
But I’m glad I didn’t chicken out. Modern mountain bikes are so exceptionally capable and easy to use that even a complete amateur like me was able to scramble up rocks and shuttle down dips in the trail with ease. Sure, I took a few turns rather clumsily – and almost injured myself in the process – but almost is the operative term. The quality of the Blue Derby trails would make it seriously difficult for someone to really come a cropper.
The adrenalin rush was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. You feel so connected to the elements while mountain biking, particularly somewhere as scenic as the Tasmanian wilderness. Sure, biking uphill through muddy switchbacks was intense, but the reward – speeding downhill, almost weightless, darting and drifting through bends and falls – is totally worth it.
The best part of the experience was knowing that I conquered my fears. Stepping out of my comfort zone and keeping an open mind opened my eyes up to what’s now a favourite sport, and it was definitely a worthy experiment. I can’t wait to head back to Derby for another shot on the trails.
Mountain biking, especially somewhere as scenic as Blue Derby, is something every Aussie man (or woman or child) should give a try. Bite the bullet and give it a shot – you won’t be disappointed. More to the point, don’t be afraid of stepping outside of your comfort zone. You don’t know what you might be missing out on.
Now that’s something worth writing home about.