Keep on clubin’
By Jonathan Kennett 2010 [This article was previously published in Spoke Magazine]
Here’s to the clubbers. Between Cape Reinga and Bluff, there are more than 50 mountain bike parks, with over a thousand trails, and at least 100 new ones being built right now, while you’re reading this article. Almost every single one of them has a club behind it; a group of dedicated enthusiasts who are rapidly carving out the best single track in Gods-own. What follows is a tribute to ten extraordinary clubs, and the riding pleasure they have created.
Whakarewarewa – most popular club trails
Famous Fred Christianson was ahead of his time. He started sculpting tracks in the forest near Rotorua in the mid 1990s, but for several years now it has been the Rotorua Mountain Bike Club that has taken Whakarewarewa from strength to strength. They now proudly claim to have the oldest, and most popular mountain bike park in the country. With 100 ks of well-signposted single track, a dedicated treadhead could spend several days riding themselves silly in the forest at Whakarewarewa. And in recent years they have gone from being short squiggly trails to long point-to-point rides that provide a satisfying sense of journey and accomplishment. And when you are finally shattered, there’s the hot pools to recover in. Pick up a trail map for $5 at any bike shop in Rotorua or check out rotorua.mtbclub.org.nz
Taupo - friendliest club
BikeTaupo are the most enthusiastic crew of trail pixies on the planet, and the amount on new track they’ve built in the last two years is incredible. You may have heard of the W2K (Whakaipo Bay to Kinloch) Track that was officially opened last year. Well, in April this year they officially opened another track! The Headland Loop starts and finishes from the middle of the W2K Track. Give yourself a day to leisurely explore both great tracks – for intermediate level riders who enjoy great scenery, they are perfect. Kinloch has a dairy, with great icecreams. Check out www.biketaupo.org.nz for a map before you go.
The club has also been revamping the tracks at Wairakei Forest Mountain Bike Park (a.k.a Craters of the Moon), Go BikeTaupo!
Hawkes Bay - largest club
Eskdale is the premier place to ride on the east of the North Island, and why the Hawke’s Bay MTB Club is by far the largest in the country with over 2000 members in June this year. There are 60 stylie tracks to ride, and they are all in a production pine forest. If you live locally it is worth joining the club – you’ll get all the trail information you need, and a forest permit. Visitors can simply buy a temporary permit for $5 from the Napier Information Centre. This amazing club has also built a smaller mountain bike park at Pukeora, just south of Waipukurau. For more information check out Classic NZ Mountain Bike Rides, or www.hawkesbaymtb.co.nz
Whakatane - best little club
If you aren’t big, you’ve got to be smart, and that’s what the Whakatane Mountain Bike Club are. The proof is in the riding at Te Rawhiti MTB Park. It’s a fun area because the tracks have been well designed and built, and by only a few dedicated people. If you’re heading to the Bay of Plenty for a holiday, then make sure you pop into the Whakatane Information Centre to buy a forest permit and a map for $5. Then head for the hills.
Glenbervie Forest – a club of battlers
They don’t have it easy in Whangarei, but despite their council having virtually no interest in mountain biking, locals in the far north have made steady progress in Glenbervie Forest, 10 km northeast of town. Lots has changed in the last few years and there is now a proper carpark and several sign posted tracks. Start from Maruata Road, off Ngunguru Road, and ride with the Parahaki MTB Club if you get the chance. The track network is a little complicated, and local knowledge helps a lot. Otherwise, print off this map (glenberviemtbiking.zoomshare.com) and take a packed lunch (there is a huge fruit and vege shop at the turn off to the carpark).
Wellington - the most clubs
Long gone are the days when all the track building in the capital city centred around Makara Peak. There are now ten clubs – formal and informal – working on as many projects in the hills around the Wellington Region. It doesn’t matter where you are – Kelburn, Cannons Creek or Khandallah – there will be a mountain bike track close by. And almost every month a new track is completed! The latest is a family friendly loop around the wetland at Wainuiomata Mountain Bike Park, which is now an excellent area for riders of all abilities.
To check out the very latest offerings pick up a copy of the Kennett Brothers’ guide book ‘Wellington Mountain Bike Rides’, in your any Wellington bike shop.
Golden Bay - the greenest club
Project Rameka is New Zealand’s first carbon sink mountain bike park! Situated at the bottom of the famous Rameka Track, between Abel Tasman National Park and Takaka township, a block of marginal farmland has been bought specifically to soak up Co2, but its location lends itself perfectly to mountain bike trails. So a club was formed last year, and will be opening the first trail – Great Expectations – in November this year. The 3 km track serves a dual use: as well as mountain biking, it will be used to access the land for pest control (possums and pigs) and tree planting. Great Expectations is an easy track, accessible to all riders. In December, works starts on The Odyssey, an extreme technical challenge for expert level riders. For more about the ‘whys’ and ‘wheres’, simply google Project Rameka.
Kaiteriteri – the fastest club
The speed of this club is staggering! It’s hard to believe that the Kaiteriteri Mountain Bike Park Society was only formed this year, yet they have already built four tracks. When I phoned the project manager, Guy Trainer, for this article he was thrashing around in the bush designing a fifth track that will be ready to ride this summer. There are also several existing tracks, that aren’t nearly as good as the new ones, but they help expand the network into an area worthy of spending a few hours exploring. And other club members are working on a Pump Track. Next time you head for a holiday at Kaiteriteri, forget the famous beach. The action is in the forest behind the town. The club has a good website at: kaiteriterimtbpark.blogspot.com
Queenstown – the most extreme club
Bungy jumping, rafting, skiing … it seems Queenstown is all about going up and down, up and down, yet it’s premier riding destination is around. Around the Lakefront Trails to Seven Mile Point, where the Queenstown Mountain Bike Club have built the best riding structures and flowing single track in the region. It’s a scenic 30-minute ride from town to The Hub - a central meeting spot surrounded by awesome tracks like Cool Runnings, Kachoong and Grin & Hollar. Check those out and you’ll be begging for more. But give yourself lots of time. There is a good week of cranking to be done around Queenstown, and yes, there’s even some down-hilling if you want to go up and down, up and down.
Invercargill – world’s southern most club
Yep, there’s not a single MTB club south of Tim’s Territory. And the best thing about Invercargill is that it knows how to keep your expectations under control. Everything is so low key, I bet you didn’t even know they had a mountain bike park. They sure do. Only 10 km west of town, at the aptly named Sandy Point. It’s an ideal place to ride during or after rain, which is most of the time, as the sand is firmer. There is only about 10 km of track, and although it doesn’t sound like much, I’ve always enjoyed a spin around the forest at Sandy Point.
For more information on these areas, and all the other great rides built by clubs, check out the guide book Classic New Zealand Mountain Bike Rides.