The ongoing saga of the on again, off again bike lanes can obscure the fact Adelaide has plenty of excellent bike trails, many right on the edge of the city. From gentle downhill rides to serious missions, here are five to try.
Taking it Easy
Adelaide's defining geographical features are the hills on one side and coast on the other. The Linear Park trail links the two, with a shared-use path following the River Torrens through the CBD. An old favourite rather than a well-kept secret, it's one of the city's most approachable rides thanks to a gentle gradient and an abundance of shade along the entire route, from the foothills above Athelstone to West Beach. On either side of the city, banks of reeds and river red gums line the river, and underpasses mean there's no need to worry about traffic. Once at the river mouth, cool down with a dip in the ocean or head north two kilometres to one of the many cafes at Henley Beach.
Head for the Hills
New trails have been created and existing ones upgraded as part of the state government's plan to turn the Lofty Ranges into an international mountain biking destination. The result is a network of more than 100 kilometres of cycling trails linking national parks, recreation parks and council land. The most easily accessible area is Shepherd's Hill Recreation Park, which abuts Eden Hills train station and also has a car park just off South Road. There’s a section perfect for beginners to practice before graduating to a series of scenic loops, downhill trails and a pump track designed by World Cup riders. The trails are all easy or intermediate, so there are plenty of opportunities to take in the sweeping views over the Adelaide plains and enjoy the rehabilitated bushland. Bikes are also available for hire nearby.
If you've really got your sights set on the Tour Down Under, there's always the BUPA Challenge Tour. Stage four of next year's tour begins in Norwood on January 19, and the picturesque course winds its way through the Adelaide Hills to Uraidla. Before the professionals tackle the undulating 137.4 kilometre course, this mass participation ride lets members of the public get a taste of what's required. Fortunately, there are several alternative starting points en route, and it's possible to join with as little as 18 kilometres left. Just make sure you have friends waiting in Uraidla to save you a seat at Lost In A Forest or the [Uraidla Hotel](https://www.broadsheet.com.au/adelaide/uraidla/bars/uraidla-hotel] for a post-ride refreshment.
Sip and Cycle
One of the tricks for a successful wine tasting tour is not getting stuck in too early, which is why local company Escapegoat's tours begin in the hills above McLaren Vale. Onkaparinga River National Park is on the edge of the southern suburbs but feels like another world, with stunning views down the gorge from the Punchbowl Lookout. New trails have opened up this grey box woodland to cyclists and you're likely to encounter roos, koalas and even echidnas among the wildflowers. Once in McLaren Vale, the tour explores the back blocks, stopping for lunch and several wine tastings before a van picks everyone up and transports them back to Adelaide. Best of all, the day's riding is almost all flat and downhill, making this a very easy option.
The Big One
Beginning on the outskirts of Adelaide, the Mawson Trail stretches 900 kilometres through farmer's paddocks, forest fire trails and rocky slopes to the top of the Flinders Ranges. It's one of the most challenging trails in Australia, but the good news is it's possible to tackle it in smaller sections like the 67 kilometre ride from Laura to Melrose.
Nestled at the base of Mount Remarkable, Melrose is the hub of an extensive network of mountain bike trails ranging from gentle loops to steep descents, and rudimentary single tracks such as the gruelling ride out to Bartagunyah. By tackling this section of the Mawson in reverse, you can start with a morning coffee at Over The Edge in Melrose, before heading onto empty dirt roads that pass between broad fields of wheat and canola. These disappear as you near Wirrabara Forest – a mix of native woodland and pine plantations whose name means 'place of big trees'. After that, a narrow track takes you over the rolling hills before you arrive at Laura, where every shop in town will proudly sell you a locally made Golden North ice-cream.