I think most mountain bikers would agree, riding is a wee bit addictive and in Western Australia there is ample opportunity to ride through some contrasting landscapes with endless options when it comes to the style of riding. In the North West of Western Australia, the Pilbara region has a fairly active network of mountain bike trails and crew. I’m excited to share with you, a ride in the Pilbara!
Saturday morning waking up in Karratha, the alarm blares at 4:50 am and we roll out of bed, fumble our way around the dark house before leaving on the bikes to the local BMX track. Once pedalling we’re not so tired anymore and the cool breeze is pleasant as we trace the neighbourhood on the cycle path in darkness with a few FIFO/DIDO mini vans racing along the highway. Already quite warm at 28 degrees, the summer morning temperature today will reach 40 degrees in the early afternoon. It’s a new experience for us cycling in an arid/tropical climate, to date we’ve only really cycled in the cooler temperatures of Perth and the south west forest regions of Western Australia. I probably packed too much water, the backpack feels heavy.
The mountain bike trails can be found in Karratha Hills, on the edge of the residential area and basically across the road from town. No need to drive great distances if you are staying in Karratha, it is a real treat to be cycling to the trails!
Leaving the sealed road back at the BMX track, we roll onto a dirt road as the sun begins to peak over the hills.
We discover plenty of access roads to the single tracks, also making a good transition to the newly travelled terrain for us.
We turn off one access road to another and past a large water tank before finding a trail opening for Penno Lane, the width and a little bit of our tyres. It’s skillfully tight!
Penno lane, although scenic is initially a challenge to appreciate because it requires full concentration from my end to avoid any mishaps. There is no time for sightseeing here. Penno lane, I discover following the ride is a black trail and I bet a few runs of this trail will develop some good cross country mountain bike skills.
The hard ground is made up of lots of rocks of varying sizes and to each side of the trail, spinifex grass and low lying vegetation exists in the rocky landscape. The benefit to this becomes apparent when I stop to take photos and fall behind, but can easily spot Derek ahead. We trace the side of a pyramid looking hill and then downwards crossing a dry creek where butterflies flutter up from the ground over the handlebars and a butcher bird sings a sweet tune above my head in a tree. This short lived Disney experience ends when I realise I’ve failed to put in enough pedal power to exit the so called dip. This results in the bike rolling backwards and me dismounting to push the bike up and out of the creek line.
There are a couple more of these dry creek bed crossings and they become a new skill to master. Derek’s all over the crossing and stops each time, providing some encouragement on the other side. Butt off the seat Lee! The crossing width is very small however it’s the steep incline that gets me, I know I’ll work it out next time.
We’re enjoying the ride and at 7:30 am we find the sun has a bit of a bite to it, so we decide to meander our way back to the BMX park. Before this though, we turn into Watch the Rocks, a trail that becomes the highlight for the morning and a fun, all smiles end to the first ride in Karratha. On this trail we are able to pick up a nice pace, a nice rhythm along a gentle downward section before an expansive view of the town in the background appears, then more gentle downward sloping. We hit a patch of red dirt which appears as if our bike tyres may sink into, but, as it turns out, is quite hard and we have some fun sliding the turns thanks to the soft top layer.
The morning cycling a very small portion of a network of mountain bike trails in the Karratha hills was good fun and a new experience to add to our mountain biking adventures in Western Australia. We were so impressed with the accessibility of the trails from town and the ease of connecting from one trail to an access road to another trail.
If you’re like us and new to the Pilbara heat which apparently eases in winter, head out to the trails before dawn and before that, hit up the Karratha ladies mtbers group and the Burrup mtb club for the latest on their social rides.