The mountains are calling this summer, with trails around Canberra and deep in the Snowies expected to be jumping with mountain bikers when the season begins in earnest next month.
Bumper retail online sales through the lockdown period and the fast-tracking of consumer-friendly, battery-assist technology in e-bikes has hundred of thousands of new buyers in the saddle.
Thredbo general manager Stuart Diver is expecting the biggest summer ever at the mountain resort when the season kicks off on November 20, with the Merritts gondola taking up riders for the first time.
The top of the gondola feeds riders into the new Sidewinder beginner/intermediate "gravity flow" trail which winds its way 3.2km down the mountain through a twisting series of berms and banked turns.
There are eight downhill trails in all across the resort, as well as jump parks, terrain parks, cross-country trails and recreational runs through the Thredbo Valley. When the legs become too sore to keep riding, the resort is pushing ahead with other ways to keep visitors engaged.
Two big projects planned are an alpine coaster and a series of mountain zip lines, expected to be the longest and fastest in the country.
"One of the big issues we had with COVID is that most of that stuff comes out of Europe, so there's been supply issues and unfortunately some of those projects have been delayed for around 12 months," Mr Diver said.
"It's not by our choice; we would like to be building them right now if we could.
"But in the case of the alpine coaster, for instance, you need the skilled constructors to come out of Europe and obviously they haven't been able to get here during COVID."
The plan for the 2022-23 summer is to further expand mountain biking into the Cruiser area above Merritts spur "and that's going to become our intermediate mountain biking park".
"Every year we're going to add more area for mountain biking because the growth is just so huge," he said.
One of the "bucket list" Thredbo adventure rides is to buy a $49 scenic day pass and take your bike up the Kosciuszko Express chair to the top of the all-mountain trail, ride down the mountain, hook up with the spectacular new Thredbo Valley Trail and follow it across three suspension bridges to the Gaden Trout Hatchery near Lake Jindabyne, a distance of just over 35km.
Every year we're going to add more area for mountain biking because the growth is just so huge.Thredbo general manager Stuart Diver
Bicycle industry spokesman Peter Bourke said the past seven months had seen extraordinary sales growth across all sectors, with mountain bikes making up about 24.5 per cent of all sales. About 1.7 million new bikes were expected to be sold this year - about 600,000 more than last year - with all the solid growth in past seven months.
"I think that during the lockdown period, many Australians have genuinely rediscovered their love of cycling," he said.
"What we have seen, however, are issues with supply. Shipping delays and rising costs have been an ongoing problem."
Bike retailers are witnessing that growth first-hand. One of the fastest-growing segments this year has been mountain e-bikes, which use a battery to provide pedal assist for riders to get back up the hills.
Riders still have to pedal, but torque sensors on the cranks engage the battery to ease the effort involved.
Shane Wolki, managing director and co-founder of Fyshwick-based bike retailer Pushys, said the company's retail stores had been hard hit during the latest lockdown but online business "has done exceptionally well".
"Electric bikes have been the fastest-growing part of our business and within that genre, mountain e-bikes have been massive," he said.
He said when high-end, dual suspension mountain bikes became commonplace over the past five years "now what we're finding is that the average buyer of a mountain e-bike is becoming younger and younger and the more experienced, fitter riders are jumping on board, too".
"The theory is with these people is that they have maybe two hours spare to go out [riding] with their mates. On a mountain bike in that time they can cover maybe 20km, but with an e-bike they can get twice the riding distance in for the same workout," he said.
"You've still got to work with an e-bike - they're pedal-assist - but the more power you put into the cranks, the less effort is needed to get up the hills. So you're getting up the hills quicker, and covering more distance.
"Most mountain bikers much prefer coming down the hills than going up."
An independent report commissioned by Mountain Bike Australia last year identified it as currently one of the fastest-growing recreational and tourism activities in the world. Sport Australia data revealed there were 341,900 participants nationally.
The data found people spent an average of $3263 on a new bike and $662 on tools, additional features and spare parts, plus $247 on protective equipment and $286 on specific rider clothing.
Two-thirds of the riders surveyed said they took intrastate holidays to go riding.
"Three to four years ago we'd struggle to sell a mountain e-bike over $5000," Mr Wolki said.
"Now it's quite common to sell them over $10,000. Now $5000 is considered on the cheap end."
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