Wintery Canterbury Foothills Riding
It is definitely winter down here in Canterbury! Dragging myself from a warm bed before it was properly light on a Saturday morning was kind of hard… and it was cold out! There was a crisp white frost covering the ground and I had to get a warm jug of water to melt the ice off the van windscreen before I could leave the drive! However, once on the way with the bikes loaded in the back, the heater pumping and the sun rising into a clear blue sky I was definitely a happy boy!
Bikes out at the bottom of the hill and warm cycling clothes were put on. Going up the access road we were glad that the mud and the puddles were still frozen. It is much faster climbing on frozen mud than muddy mud! We were soon warm from our efforts pedalling up the hill and were getting fantastic views to the north and south of the foothills. There was snow sitting on the access road, which caused some loss of traction amusing moments. After an hour or so of pedalling we were up on top of the world with a trig point. The view from 900m elevation above the Canterbury plains is fantastic! We were still in perfectly blue sky, although we could see some frontal cloud sneaking up out to sea, and the wind had started to pick up. The Southern Alps were looking splendid with plenty of snow covering the peaks. Not long now until all the ski fields will be open!
The single track from the top went off along a ridge, dropping through snow and open tussocks before heading into beech forest with some undulating single track. The track then dropped down a steep spur to the river at the bottom which gives a descent of about 500m of prime beech forest single track. Sorry for the lack of photos of this section, but I was too busy enjoying riding my bike! With the snow and water on the track it was pretty greasy to say the least, but definitely still great fun! There were many technical challenges along the way from off camber rooty traverses to tight switchbacks with loose rocks and steps to rock garden drops with chunky football sized rocks. The conditions had me wanting some big down hill rubber on my wheels as the 2.3 inch Eskars were skating all over the show. However I am unsure that even super sticky DH tyres would have managed to hold onto the fine coating of sodden black moss on the roots and rocks! The track eased us into technical single track by gradually getting steeper and steeper on the way down the hill. This meant we warmed up into our riding as it got progressively more technical on the way down. This made the trail extra fun, as we warmed up easily on the challenges at the top, and kept on riding the progressively harder and harder obstacles on the way down.
After crossing the river at the bottom there was a couple of kilometers of sidling track above the river. Charlie called it the suicidal sidle, as the track is rather narrow and off camber, with a large drop to the river below in places. It also undulated meaning we were pushing up the steep uphill, and then riding the downs hanging onto the narrow track. As we got further along towards the van this track also became wider and easier riding with the occasional set of stairs, roots or switchback to keep us on our game while we flew along the flowing trails.
We popped out of the forest at the Van and the sky was grey. The peak that we had left an hour earlier in brilliant sunshine was now hidden in the clouds. It is such a good feeling knowing that you have used the best part of a day to get out and have some fun and the rain that started falling on the van windscreen as we left the forest made us feel smug! Some people might leave their bikes in the shed over winter, but I know mine will keep getting ridden!