Hell of a good ride – Kill Devil track
The Kill Devil track near Takaka has been on my list of “must do” rides for a number of years now. I finally rode it early this year, and am very glad to have made it!
The Kill Devil track is tucked away in Golden Bay, not too far out of Takaka. It is a lovely part of NZ, but quite far off the beaten track and so does not get too much mountain bike traffic. It is a technically demanding ride with a large climb in it, which whittles down the biker numbers even more!
It was a pretty hot and humid day by the time we arrived at the bottom of the hill, but I was well rested having spent the previous afternoon/evening lounging on the deck at the Naked Possum, which had involved some very yummy food (menu had many interesting options including rabbit and Thar) and quite a lot of beer. Knowing there was no water along the ridgeline I took a full 3 Litre camelbak up the hill with me, and I was glad that I did.
It is quite a large climb (700 m or so) with many many switchbacks (I lost count!). The gradient is quite gentle in between the switchbacks, but the switchbacks themselves can be quite steep and most are technically challenging. There is a good dirt surface for the first half of the climb, which means most of the switchbacks on the first half are rideable on the way up, as long as you are competent at climbing technical switchbacks . Once past halfway though, the eroded nature of the track makes many of the switches unclimable. The ridge is quite exposed, so if it is a warm sunny day you will get hot.
After an hour or so of climbing I was on the tops, with some wonderful views! There were still some challenging bits of track to get across the tops, but in general the tracks were a bit faster and flowing in places.
From the top you drop down the ridge a bit, and make a left turn to follow another track that gets you to Riodans Hut. Built in 1926 by a pair of brothers who were grazing up to 2000 whethers in the area. It is a very neat place to stop, and was renovated/restored in 2003.
It looks like a cozy wee hut to spend the night in, and was even stocked with Mountain Biking New Zealand magazine. There was a friendly hut mouse that popped out to see me as well. After a well deserved rest in the sunshine I was back on the bike and heading back the way I came, and looking forward to the down hill over the other side of the top!
The top half of the down hill is pretty much one long continuous rock garden with switchbacks. Good fun as long as you have some suspension on your bike!! Some of the corners are a bit challenging on the way down but I managed to ride all of them without too many problems! I was glad to get onto the smoother tracks from halfway down as even with good suspension I was starting to feel a bit beaten up from holding momentum through the rock gardens!
I really enjoyed the ride, and the Kill Devil is definitely a good day out and gives you plenty of practice at riding switchbacks in both directions! If you do not like riding through rock gardens, and if you do not like switchbacks and technical riding, then I would recommend you stay clear of this track… however if you enjoy a challenge on the bike, then the Kill Devil is great! It took me between 4 and 5 hours with a bunch of time spent getting photos with the self timer on the camera.
Map of the track – http://www.mapmyrun.com/route/nz/takaka/678126378210482400