When the 480km Tasmanian Trail was first dreamed up back in the 1990s, it was by horse riders looking for a multi-day challenge.
Fast-forward 26 years and bike riders looking for an adventure to test their gravel and touring bikes are now the dominant trail users.
The Tasmanian Trail is not one continuous pathway but rather a route that runs from Devonport to Dover made up of roads, fire trails, stock routes, private land and dedicated trails. The trail, its signs and infrastructure are maintained by a small and committed group of volunteers who also provide travel and membership advice.
Distinctive red and yellow triangles mark the way and are used with a guidebook and a GPX file, sold by the Trail Association to prospective users to help raise money for upkeep of the trail, its campsites and to pay for insurance.
The Trail Association’s secretary, Donald Coventry, says the management committee has recognised that booming numbers of bike users mean new volunteers with bike riding experience are needed.
Riding expertise needed
“Many of the committee members got involved through horse riding and only few of them have experience or expertise in what bike riders need along the trail,” Donald says.
“We realise we need to build better links with the cycling community to make sure we are meeting our users’ needs.
“We estimate the number of trail users by the number of memberships and guidebooks we sell, and we think that of the 2000 to 3000 people who do the trail each year, most are bicycle riders. People come from all around the world to ride, walk and even run the trail, which some describe as the toughest they have been on."
Donald says the committee only meets four times a year, so the level of commitment is not onerous, and it’s up to members whether they want to get involved in the maintenance work."
There is also an opportunity to help the committee promote the trail and ensure that bike riders are considered and represented in the trail's management and its committee activities.
“If anyone is interested in helping out it would be great to hear from them, our phone numbers are on the website at www.tasmaniantrail.com.au,” Donald says.
“We’d also like to promote how you can do the trail on your electric bicycle. We’ve had a few people do that recently, working out the accommodation along the way where they can charge batteries and have enough power to get them through the next section.”
Riding the trail
Riding the trail seems to have a big impact on people who do it, with multiple videos online, especially of the hairier sections where bikes have to be hauled across creeks and over fallen trees.
As the trail website says, parts of it are not for the inexperienced or the fainthearted.
This clip from a recent user is a comprehensive look at conditions and is pretty funny too, as she details all of her planning and riding mistakes.
Riders can tackle sections of the trail, rather than the whole thing. The trail website lists the easier one and two-day riding options. The trail Facebook page also gives updates and suggestions and shares videos and photos from users. https://www.facebook.com/rovingtas
Images: Thanks to Phil Boglio for use of his trail photographs.