Off the back
I have been getting a lot more biking in now it is December, which makes me a much happier guy. Always good to get out on the bike to leave the Xmas stress behind too! Last Saturday we got out for another ride. We had a bit of a cruisy start to the day getting onto the trails at a very respectable 11.30am.
For a ride with over 1000 vertical meters of climbing and some technical descending, it was a very nice change to have more ladies along than gents (3 girls, 2 boys)! There was the usual 30 minutes or so of part push, part ride before the climb started in earnest. From there it was about an hour of carrying to clear the bush line and about another hour to the top.
Our newest recruit Sonja is a recent import to NZ and while her housemate Mel described her as a “Trooper” I was not certain that Sonja had been filled in on exactly what sort of ride we were going to be taking her along on. However Sonja quickly learned about how to carry a bike, and then quickly learned that walking up a steep hill through close trees is quite difficult with a bike across your back… At least once we got out of the trees there were some good views! The day was very humid which meant I had sweat pouring off me on the way up the hill, and as always the Trig at the top of the hill was a very welcome sight, where we all loaded some food in and took in the fabulous views.
We were soon heading down the open ridge on the usual mix of fun rocky trails that pick their way between the tussocks. It can be quite hard to stay on line and on the track in places… but getting a bit off line does not matter as you just keep riding until you can find the track again.
We quickly dropped from the very open tussock ridge into a mix of open tussock and stunted trees. There are some fun rocky sections mixed in with some fast flowing sections and some steep technical bits, which all makes for a fun ride down!
Diving into the trees it was great to be back under the canopy, squeezing through the tree trunks while rolling over the myriad of roots. So many fun little natural features to pump and play on! There is a quick push up the hill to get to an intersection in the track. We took the lesser used track that heads down off the back of the mountain. The last time I rode this track with Charlie we spent about an hour clearing the fallen branches off the track so we could get down it. To be honest there probably has not been any more clearing work done on the track since then!
There were a few stops as we made our way across the ridge section as we had to lift our bikes over fallen trees or to clear branches and logs out of the way. The ridge holds its elevation for a few kilometers meaning that there are some fun little downhills followed by flat or uphill sections. There were many small branches on the track and I stopped a couple of times to pull sticks out of wheels/derailleurs. Mel who rides an internal geared hub bike mentioned that the main reason for upgrading to the current bike was a spate of 3 broken derailleurs in a row… we should have known better than talking about broken derailleurs . We thought we had got away with tempting fate and were almost to the last section of the ridge where the track descends very steeply down from the ridge. This is the most fun section of the track, and just as we headed down a stray stick put Charlies derailleur into his spokes, mangling and twisting the mech.
While the Ladies went on ahead, I watched as Charlie managed to man-handle his bent derailleur back into line (with the help of a big rock and a leatherman tool!). We were soon on our way down the hill with Charlies gears semi-working. The track dropped into a series of steep switches, with log drops and loose rocky corners. All good fun! After sledging down through these corners the track turns into a brake burner alley for the last 500m. The track is simply steep and fairly straight. If you build up speed, there is little hope of slowing down by much. Both Charlie and I are on 8 inch rotors disc brakes and we both had some serious brake fade on the way down that section! I had just recently bled my Saint brakes, but found I had to stop and let them cool down a little so that I had some stopping power again!
We popped out at the Wharfedale Shelter, ate food and refilled our water. From here the track is a lot more mellow, being part of the Wharfedale track which is a popular day outing for many mountain bikers. We were soon pedaling our way back up towards the Wharfedale saddle.
The reasonably gentle climb was feeling a bit steeper than usual, but I am sure that is just because we had already been out on the trails for about 4 hours! Once over the saddle the track descends and ascends a number of times, all on very bikeable gradients. By this time it was a lovely evening out on the track. The sun was dipping low in the sky and it was very pleasantly warm and still. The birds were singing away in the trees and I saw 3 mice scurrying off the track. The last 40 minutes of track is a lot more downhill and quite fast and flowing. I was in a very relaxed but fast and fun mode by the time I came to barrel down here, and had a fantastic time pumping my bike down the trail, enjoying the weight transfer as I railed around corners and popped off roots and humps in the trail. By the time I reached the river I had a huge grin on my face. The last km of trail sidles above the river with a couple of steep climbs, which I was not liking the idea of. A bright idea saw me jumping into the river and taking a short cut… which worked out very well, as I avoided the climbs and got a little bit cleaner at the same time! Once again, a fantastic day out on the trails with a lovely crew of like minded people!