when we were last in st helens we learned that the trails would officially open at end november. with all the buzz we had to be there to see it happen in real time. it’s just a short trip anyway, right?

so we loaded up the car again and booked the ferry from melbourne to devonport – only this time we chose the night crossing. nat was not happy with the choice; she found it really hard to get to sleep with the constant and sometimes strong movement of the boat.

breakfast in devonport was great and then we zoomed off to st helens. last time we took the scenic road through derby, this time we took the fast but less direct route through st mary’s. on the way we caught up with a gentleman who knows about bush fire protection, the local high school, the council and the hair dresser (she is the only one i trust to cut my hair now, it’s so sad).

of course we also checked our future home. we hiked through the back part of it to find any boundary markers. it felt like a long walk (and drive) but we still only just scratched the surface. it’s a big block.

we also caught up with the surveyor and had another look at where we might build our new home. we’re really spoilt for choice … so hard!

there are a few places where one can bike from a mountain top down to the beach; st helens in now one of these places. the new trail goes down from blue tier (where the trail down to weldborough starts as well) and runs all the way to swim cart beach.

a waratah tree! back home they are a single flower on a long set, here in tassie it’s a massive bush. and apparently it’s possible to make juice out of them. we’ll have to try. this is just a few minutes from the trail head and where the fun starts.

what follows is an absolutely stunning downhill trail that appears to go on forever – my legs were well and truly shot by the time we got to the first road crossing almost 13 km down the road.

the trail drops more than 600 m over those 13 km, berm after berm and jump after jump. careful though, sometimes the trail turns and a little jump can send you straight into the tassie bush in a heartbeat.

does this look long? it is. and that little climb towards the end is actually quite a bit of work. i understand why a lot of people chose e-bikes.

about half way in this bike wash station is not meant to clean the bike of a little dust or dirt; there is a root rot fungus that is unfortunately already destroying plants up at the blue tier and the solution in the tank is meant to kill it and slow its spread down the mountain. i hope all bikers use it.

at 23 km in the climbing starts. over the entire 42 km there is 670 m of uphill pedalling, and the majority of it is done after this sign. still fun though.

there are always a few great flowy sections throughout the ride, like this one. the world trail people also built a lot of little boosters that one can fly over with a bit of speed and obviously knowledge that they’re coming up. that’s probably not on the cards for a first ride.

another one of these great features built around natural obstacles. i have no idea how they find these but they sure did an amazing job with this trail.

swim cart beach (that’s really what it is called) at the end of the ride. it probably looks more promising than it is: the water is super cold and the locals think the beach has dangerous currents. still one of the best places i’ve ever finished a ride.

the st helens trail network is actually located to the south of town (whereas swimcart beach where the epic bay of fires trail ends is about 20 min north of st helens). most trails begin and end right here at the flagstaff trail head.

since the trails are loops there is always a little bit of climbing involved. the tradeoff is always the same: the more uphill you are willing to subscribe to the more downhill you can enjoy. did i mention the same guys who built the derby trails built these ones, too? the great thing about all those trails is that there are no nasty surprises: everything can be ridden with confidence.

at this point in time the trails are very dry and dusty; there simply hasn’t been much rain here for the last three years. sometimes it feels like riding through a dust explosion but this will all settle down after a good deluge.

most trails have nautically themed names, this here is called rock lobster. yesterday we rode one called salty old dog (with a picture of some sort of popeye the sailor typer character). the trail network is expansive (more than 60 km) but it’s easy to see how further trails can be built in the future. we heard the guys are already thinking of more gravity oriented trails, which would be nice.

not that the current network isn’t amazing. it’s more that we’ve been spoilt by all the ‘shuttle up – rip down’ places like derby, maydena, stromlo and thredbo. that said it is worth putting in the hard yards, strength built on the way up helps gain more speed on the way down. it’s a sensible investment really.

we can’t wait to ride all the other trails. and we’ll definitely spend a lot of time on the bay of fires trail, especially the first 13 km.

that is just sensational.