Blue Derby's Best Descents
Need some ideas where to get your gravity on? We've created a hit list of our favourite descents in the network.
Not to toot our own horn, but Blue Derby has some seriously amazing singletrack — heck, it has won the EWS Trail of the Year for two separate trails. Sitting on the shuttle bus and looking at the map on your phone, it can be a genuinely difficult decision to pick where to ride.
To help ease your decision, after much deliberation, we’ve put together a list of our favourite descents in Derby.
The first 13
We’ve broken our own rule here by kicking off this list with The Bay of Fires trail, but it’s so bloody fantastic it would be remiss of us not to include it here.
Specifically, we are focusing on the first 13km of the trail, which descends from the top of the Blue Tier down to the Terry Hills Road crossing. Over this distance, you descended over 600 vertical metres on a World Trail masterpiece, and it is literally impossible to make it to the bottom and not have a smile on your face. Trust us, it’s science.
There are two distinct segments, starting at the top and rolling through the myrtle beech forest for the first 7km. It’s tight and technical and then opens up into fast-flowing goodness for the remainder through the prehistoric rainforest.
Vertigo offers a shuttle uplift for the First 13. Leaving from there, we’ll drop off at the top of the Blue Tier and be waiting for you at the bottom. Then, we’ll drive you back up so you can ride the second 7km again — how good!
Big Chook makes up the second half of the Blue Tier — it can be ridden as a loop with the Little Chook climb — and in a not-too-dissimilar fashion to The First 13, it’s the good part.
With jumps, big berms and some sneaky A/B line, passing zones, you can let off the brakes and really test the limit of those shoulder knobbies on your tyres. Laying beneath a thick canopy of Eucalypt trees and towering man ferns, when the #herodirt is firing, you can engage the hyperdrive to hit warp speed on big Chook.
The best part is that the end of the trail deposits you directly on the doorstep of the Weldborough Hotel, where there is a cold beverage and a burger with your name on it.
While it is possible to ride from town up to Weldborough and the Tier, it will be a slog and a half for even the fittest XC whippet. Vertigo runs an uplift from Derby to the Blue Tier, and we hit Atlas on the way home.
Air Ya Garn
The piece de resistance. The big show. The one that showed us what an airflow trail could be. Ladies and gentlemen, the one, the only, Air Ya Garn.
Despite being a black-rated descent, Air Ya Garn can be enjoyed by riders looking to rack up enough frequent flyer points to earn gold status on Qantas, and beginner riders whose tyres won’t leave the ground the whole way down.
After a landslide took out the lower part of the trail in 2022, it’s back up and running from top to bottom, with an unbelievable new ‘infinity berm’ in what was the rubble. You have to see this thing for yourself, as it’s truly something to behold.
The blue-rated Flickity Sticks descent might be the most popular trail in Derby. Often, the first run folks will take from the Black Stump shuttle drop; this blue-rated descent had a haircut in 2022, and it’s basically a brand new trail following the same alignment.
World Trail made it faster and more flowy, added some jumps, whooped up the whoops and made the berms bigger, and boy-howdy this thing is a ball of fun.
Return to Sender
Also stemming off the Black Stump shuttle drop, Return to Sender pops you out just up the hillside from the Derby Post Office — hence the name. This 5.72km trail does have 106m of climbing — shock horror — but makes up for it with 353m of descending.
It’s a bit of a mixed bag as far as Derby goes, starting lush, vibrant, and moss-covered, it gets a bit drier and dustier towards the end. It’s a trail that is begging for creativity and rewards keeping your head on a swivel. For the extra eagle-eyed riders, there’s even a miniature will-your-bars-fit rock chute like the one on Detonate.
Dambusters is a 7km route starting at the Cascade River crossing — at the bottom of Flickty Sticks — and takes riders for a loop around the Cascade Dam. Traversing Beech and Eucalypt Forest, the trail plays peekaboo with the water’s edge and meanders past creeks and geology dripping in moss.
You’ll have to climb out of the river valley, but the Dam Busters descent is one of the FASTEST in all of Derby. Gargantuan berms slingshot you into poppy rollers and the odd double — if you’re game. The Dambusters descent has just had a revamp and it is running the best it ever has — this is one that should be near the top of your Derby hit list.
Winner of the 2019 Enduro World Series Trail of the Year, Kumma Gutza is the epitome of Derby. Speckled with massive granite boulders, big steep slabs and wide off-camber sections that allow the rider to choose their own adventure — this is a racer’s trail, and it’s not surprising that it impressed the best gravity riders in the world.
After a short climb up Snig Track, Kumma Gutza descends from one of the highest spots in the network and truly exemplifies its double black rating. Striking a balance between hand-cut and machine-built goodness, don’t come into this one expecting a mellow walk in the park — otherwise, you will….well….come a gutza.
Named for the giant painted rock on its final descent, Trouty offers panoramic views over town and down the river valley. It’s a bit of a hike to get out to this black-rated descent, but there is a reason that it’s been a double feature when the EWS rolled into town.
Almost equal parts grippy granite and dirt, this is a super technical black diamond descent. Don’t be distracted by the view, you need to know exactly where your front tyre is headed on the way down.
One of the newest additions to the Blue Derby trail network, Cuddles, was built for the 2023 Enduro World Cup and is like no other trail in the network. Paying homage to the slabby riding on British Columbia’s North Shore, there is more granite on this trail than you can shake a crank arm at.
Unlike a lot of the double-black-rated trails in the network, Cuddles is a high-speed ride. And while it’s not one for the beginners, there are multiple line options the whole way down, so folks who may not quite be up to riding some of the other double blacks in the network like Detonate, Shearpin and Black Dragon, will get to the bottom of Cuddles and want to go back for another lap.
The boulders on Detonate are arguably the most iconic feature in all of Blue Derby. Two towering monoliths with a chute cut just wide enough for a set of handlebars, it’s a test of skill and bravery to ride down the middle.
Winner of the 2017 Enduro World Series Trail of the Year, it’s not just about the boulders, Detonate has massive off-camber granite slabs, loose flat corners and some trademark World Trail whoops, it’s a steep and rocky ride that requires skill and finesse the whole way down. Only a short hit, it spits you out on lower Flickity Sticks, making for an excellent mix of rough and rock low-speed tech and blazing-fast flow.
Extra credit Turbo tunnel down to the tunnel
While not a descent you would necessarily go out and do on its own right, what we call Turbo Tunnel is what we think is the best way to come back to the trailhead if you have just come off of trails like Sawtooth, Flickity Sticks, Dambusters or Cuddles.
Cutting in off the access road for a few bermy switchbacks on Turbo Chook (also known as Cranky Cousin) it sets you up perfectly to ride through the Derby Tunnel. An old mining shaft that’s been turned into a rideable trail — complete with lights — it takes you underground for about 350m. It’s a wild ride and definitely not one to miss while you’re here.