It’s an unassuming, ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ town that most people would simply pass through on their way to the high profile tourist destination of the Flinders Ranges a little further North, but for one long weekend a year, Melrose becomes the epicentre of mountain biking in South Australia.
With a regular population of less than 500, the Fat Tyre Festival in June sees the town literally bulge at the seams with people eager to hit their world famous trails.
Nestled at the base of nearby Mt Remarkable, the town has quietly been chipping away at becoming a mecca for mountain bikers with its pristine single tracks that can be ridden year round. More than 200 riders from across the country attended this year, and as the profile of the event continues to rise, it’s only set to get bigger from here.
Unlike some destinations across the border that become snow fields, or at the very least, not very user friendly courtesy of Mother Nature for a big portion of the year, the Melrose trail system brings year-round goodness to mountain bikers of all abilities. And for the past thirteen years, the Fat Tyre Festival has seen them descend en masse for four days of trails, trails and more trails.
One of the great things about this event is there’s not a race in sight. It’s purely an epic, social get together with numerous events, group rides and goings on across the four days. There’s morning rides, afternoon rides, long rides, short rides, family rides, night time ‘ghost rides’… and no shortage of party atmosphere for everyone to enjoy. And by ‘everyone’, we literally mean everyone!
In a town this small, everyone gets involved in one way or another, and they even block off the main street for two full days so they can set up a mobile bike track for people to test their skills on.
This year’s event was the ‘Lucky Thirteenth’ and was suitably themed. Saturday night’s VIP party had ghosts and ghouls of all descriptions enjoying the ‘Day of the Dead’ style festivities.
The good folks at Over The Edge bike store are the driving force behind the goings on, and they did a truly awesome job of filling the four days with fun and adventure for everyone. After an extended hiatus from the world of retail, it just so happens their store recently became the first place in the world to start stocking I/O Merino again, all just in time to keep everyone warm and comfortable across what was a fine, but chilly, weekend.
One of the highlights of the weekend was when organizers negotiated with local farmers and property owners to give riders access to private land and trails that are usually closed to the public, resulting in what was billed as the 40km ‘Epic Ride’.
I/O Crew member Sputnik was there to join in on the Saturday morning ride and said “epic was definitely a good word to describe it. I loved every minute of it. OK, one or two of the steeper ‘bike and hike’ hills were a tough push, but other than that it was awesome.” Naturally, Sputnik wore his lightweight I/O Merino layers including the Highpoint Necktube, Altitude Crew and Altitude Tee from the near freezing temperatures of early morning through to the milder temperatures of the afternoon. And thankfully, unlike recent adventures, he managed to keep the bike rubber side down and both he and his I/O emerged unscathed.
He wasn’t the only one enjoying the lightweight warmth and comfort of I/O Merino during the weekend with more than a few ‘Mongrels’ spotted around town, along with AzTech beanies and Elemental Jackets as people braved the cold evenings and even colder mornings.