Riding high on SA’s mountain biking destinations

The South Australian landscape is internationally recognised for its unique and striking beauty. From the breathtaking vistas of the Flinders Ranges, to the wild and windswept beaches, or the steep wooded gullies of the Adelaide Hills, there’s something that lifts the spirits and inspires the imagination in just about everyone.

This is definitely the case for Nick Bowman, but with an extra added twist. Because where others see a pretty view, Nick sees trails.

Since he was young, Nick has been an avid mountain bike rider, hooked on the thrill of hurtling downhill, dodging trees, jumping logs and flying by the seat of his pants, powered only by his own legs and gravity.

Nick Bowman designs and constructs mountain bike trails across the state. Photo by Kane Naaraat.

“It’s not just about the excitement,“ Nick says. “It’s almost a kind of meditation for me. With mountain biking, you have to focus. You have to be right in the moment the whole time or you’ll just lose concentration and crash.”

The ongoing pursuit of this feeling naturally led Nick to his chosen profession – the design and construction of world class mountain bike courses, through his business, Destination Trails.

Trained in natural resource and biodiversity management, and with many years working as a landscaper, Nick applies a scientific approach to his work, producing trails that will still be in place generations from now.

“It’s not just about recreation,” he says. “A large proportion of quality trail design focusses on conservation. I believe that a good trail strategy is also a good conservation strategy, and I make sure I apply this in all the projects I’m involved with.”

The down hill mountain biking community in SA is big, with race events attracting overnight stayers. Photo by Kane Naaraat.

The Fox Creek trail network in the Adelaide Hills is a good example of this approach. What began in the mid-90s as a damaged, marginal parcel of forestry land, still struggling to recover a decade after the Ash Wednesday bushfires, is now a thriving mountain biking hub with over 80km of trails crisscrossing a series of gullies filled with native regrowth forest.

Nick, alongside members of his club, The Human Projectiles, has spent countless hours over the years on track construction, weed management and revegetation works. He’s also just in the process of finishing off a new beginners’ loop at the top of the network, funded by the Adelaide Hills Council.

“It’s a great little track,” he says. “Heaps of fun and just challenging enough to keep the kids on their toes, but still safe enough for people of any skill level to use.”

Apart from Fox Creek, Nick and the Destination Trails team have also completed projects at Melrose in the Mid North and Point Turton on the Yorke Peninsula, and they are about to commence work on a collaboration with Murraylands Multisports to expand a trail network in the Kinchina Reserve west of Murray Bridge.

The sun creeps through a forest as a rider makes their way through the rugged landscape. Photo by Kane Naaraat.

Header photo by Kane Naaraat.

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