It’s a fact, I’m a bit of a square; the most outrageous activity I’ve ever undertaken is surfing. I’ve not even been on a jet ski, let alone sky dived or wake boarded. I am however a fitness freak and have a FOMO (fear of missing out). So when I kept hearing people rave about MTB (mountain biking) I was intrigued to say the least. Plus, it just so happens that Caloundra has its own mountain bike trail, the Sugar Bag Road Bike Trail, literally on the doorstep.
I didn’t fancy just turning up to the trail as I thought I might (a) get lost in the bush or (b) hurt myself. So I reached out to the local MTB community and CORCA (pronounced CORK-A), Caloundra Off-Road Cycling Association, offered to take me on a whistle stop tour of the trail.
After dusting off my old mountain bike, helmet and active wear, I met with Clare, CORCA committee member, at the entrance to Ben Bennett Botanical Park, next to Caloundra High School, Queen Street. To be honest, I felt a bit nervous. I had too much air in my tyres (a no no for travelling off road) and my old bike didn’t even have basic suspension. I wasn’t sure whether myself or my bike would last the distance.
Firstly, Clare took me on a couple of circuits of the park to gauge my skill level and show me the basics. The trail here is very easy and suitable for children, just watch out for walkers (who have right of way).
I managed to stay on my bike, to level my peddles whilst going over bumps and break before sharp turns which meant it was time to head up along Sugar Bag Road to the entrance of the trail.
The entrance to Sugar Bag Trail is signposted, so depending on your level you can choose the appropriate path. Being a novice, we followed the green path aka the easy track. We dropped in and were off, adrenalin pumping, following single tracks through the bush.
The trail is located in the Caloundra Town Reserve. It’s less than 1km in diameter but is made up of over 12 km of ridable experiences. The compact, intricate space was slightly disorientating and I was glad I was following someone who knew the trails well. The trail offers a circuit of tight technical loops, and there were logs, roots and rocks to traverse, hills to climb, bumps to jump, and best of all, a selection of challenging features to attempt (well, maybe next time). We spent over an hour negotiating the terrain and it felt like 30 minutes. It was exhilarating, challenging and a great work out. There’s something to be said for getting outdoors and connecting to nature. It beats a spin class for sure. And I’m proud to say I didn’t fall off and I felt my confidence grow.
What makes the Sugar Bag Trail special is not only its easy proximity to the heart of downtown Caloundra and the beaches, but, that as well as natural features (rocks, drops, crevices) the CORCA volunteers have lovingly added a multitude of manmade bridges, jumps, seesaws, ramps and tricks.
Many of the new additions have memorable nicknames too which adds to the personality of the place: “Barry White” (makes you go ‘oh yeah’), “Nessy” (double humper, looks like the loch ness monster); “Donkey” and “Forked.” There is also a Candy Store theme throughout which relates to its Sugar Bag Road location; the likes of manmade features or TTFs (technical trail features) called Poly Waffle and Toblerone.
In the middle of the reserve is a challenging section of the trals lovingly referred to as “The Playground”. The technical trick filled ‘Playground’ is just that, and taking it on requires a strong nerve and capable bike handling skills.
The section called “The Playground”, is just that and requires strong nerve and bike handling skills. Many of the new additions have memorable nicknames too which adds to the personality of the place: “Barry White” (makes you go ‘oh yeah’): “Nessy” (double humper, looks like the loch ness monster); “Donkey”; and “Forked.”
We returned to Ben Bennett Botanical Park dusty and exhilarated. The experience was a success. I may have only had a tiny taste of the world of MTB but you know what, I liked it and yes, I’d like to do it again. What appeals to me about this adrenaline fuelled activity is that it is enjoyed across all age groups and lifestyles. It’s not age but attitude that attracts people to mountain biking.
Next time though I’m taking my seven-year-old boy along for the ride, borrowing a proper bike from the generous guys at CORCA and investing in a pair of padded pants (as my bum feels a bit sore today).
Experiencing the trails with a passionate advocate really added to my enjoyment of MTB. CORCA and other community groups across the Sunshine Coast run weekly rides and are always looking to help encourage a novice or connect with a kindred spirit.
Tips for an enjoyable day on the bike trails
1. Wear a helmet
2. Take water
3. Don’t have too much pressure in your tyres
4. Learn what the signs mean and what your ability level is
5. Watch out for walkers
6. Take a repair kit
7. Take emergency supplies
8. Reach out to the MBT community, these guys are experts and can make your adventure even more memorable.
Other mountain bike trails nearby
1. Tewantin State Forest – Moderate trail with some aggressive climbs and great multitrack downhills. The jewel of the area though, is the single-track which is now maintained in a Trail Care program. 55km from Caloundra.
2. Ferny Forest at Ewen Maddock Dam. 10km circuit, flat loop through forest on the banks of the Ewen Maddock Dam. Beautiful, easy ride, perfect for beginners and children. 24km from Caloundra.
3. Parklands Conservation Park. Tough series of tracks that snake and wind through 655 hectares of conservation area. Includes Ho Chi Ho, New Zealand, Rock ‘n’ Roll, Road Rage, Chairlift. 34km from Caloundra.
Rent a bike
Thanks to Kurt Martin Recreation Trails Activation Officer for images and CORCA for guided tour.
Article by Jane Chapman.