A Thirsty Mt Oxford Loop
I love summer time, and while it is only spring so far the ride we did on Saturday certainly felt like summer!! I would have guessed the temperature to be close on 30 degrees wandering up Mt Oxford with the bike on my back. Sweat was dripping off me like someone had somehow managed to attach a badly leaking tap to my head without me noticing.
We had 7 intrepid adventurers up for the loop. Some of them well versed in the ways of Mt Oxford, while others were well versed in hike-a-bike but new to the Oxford loop. At least one keen man had done plenty of biking, but never carried his bike up a big hill. There were plenty of witty comments and a fair bit of banter as we slogged up the face getting strange looks from the many walking parties. Questions from walkers like “How heavy is your bike” and “Are you going to ride your bikes down this?” never get old…
When the walking got too much and a breather was needed, the views out over the plains and sweeping Waimakariri river to Christchurch were wonderful, as were the views along the foothills towards Mt Hutt. Once at the top the views up the Craigieburn Range and further afield were stunning too.
Pointing the bike down the loose rocky trail that picks its way between the tussocks from the Trig at the top of the hill is where the fun starts. We were soon bowling down the hill, sometimes on the track, sometimes off into the rocks and tussocks… all with big grins on our faces. Along the flat parts of the ridge and then dropping down the rocky spines to get to the start of the beech forest. Through a couple of knobby rock gardens that drop over to fast flowing open sections. One final steep rock garden drops us into the proper forest. It is the driest I have even ridden and there is fantastic grip on the masses of beech forest roots and loamy leaf litter. We squeeze our bars through narrow gaps between trees and drop, pump and float through the maze of roots, trees and corners.
There are ups on the way down the hill and the change back to pushing the bike uphill is unwelcome after floating downhill on wheels, but these are soon forgotten as the trail starts to point down the hill again and get even steeper, more rooty and more fun. The boys are all having fun bombing the trails, and I even manage to snap a few quick photos of people riding the trail (I often just ride and forget about taking photos on the way down). Looking at the photos, I must try and get some from the side on the trails, as the front on photos on the steep trails make it look flat! The new camera (Fuji FX80 EXR) seems to handle the large dynamic range of the dappled sun and shade under the trees quite well, but I am still experimenting with which mode to best capture the mountain biking exploits in the forest. The continuous mode can be nice to capture a bunch of shots as someone comes past… but takes a long time to save to card, which means I miss the next person. Maybe I just go back to single shots.
The trail turns into a real brake burner for a section, getting steeper and more technical as you get down it. Getting off the brakes for a few seconds often equals mega speed and only just pulling up in time to make the next corner! We walk down the one rock face that nobody is keen to ride and then we are into the fast flowy section of the trail. It is like it was purpose built for biking with sweeping corners that switch direction every 50 meters or so. You end up really pumping the bike through the corners and flowing down the trail with a huge grin on your face!! As always we pop out the bottom too soon, all wishing there was a helicopter waiting to take us back to the top. It is out the end of the Wharfedale and then down the Coopers Creek track and back to the cars. There is a surprising amount of uphill in the track to get back down to Coopers Creek, and by the time we get back down I ride straight down to the river, dump my gear and jump into the inviting pool in the river. Absolute bliss!! Everyone else follows suit!
We are soon at the pub rehydrating. The first beer hardly touches the sides!! Great day out with a great crew… this is why I love mountain biking!!
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