Stories of Zane riding his Mountain Bike in New Zealand

Broken River – Camp Saddle – Craigieburn

Last time I went over Camp Saddle was back in about 1996. I think I was riding a hardtail with 2 inches of flexy front travel. Pretty sure that Grant was along on his GT LTS full suss bike and Sarah on her Rocky Mountain. When we told people where we had gone and that we had ridden down the scree slope they all thought we were pretty hardcore extreme!! I wish I had some photos from the ride back then!

Mike, Sci and I headed for Camp Saddle on Saturday. With us all riding 4 or 5 inch travel full suspension bikes it was definitely a lot plusher than it used to be. Not that full suspension bikes make much difference when riding down loose scree slopes!! It was a lovely day with lots of blue sky and birds singing, which made for a very pleasant ride up the Broken River Skifield access road. Turning off onto the Camp Saddle track and things got steeper and steeper. Everything was still mostly rideable, but I know I was “on the rivet” to get up some of it. We climbed steeply through the trees. The further up we got, the shorter and more mossy the trees got until we popped out into the tussocks above the tree line. We managed a number of stops to enjoy the views and take photos.


First views from the climb



Near the tree line



Trail through the tussocks towards Camp Saddle

There was some rideable trail above the tree line, but it soon got too steep and loose to ride. Bikes were shouldered and we continued on foot.


The view back down the valley





View from Camp Saddle looking South


Of course the saddle was the perfect place to stop for lunch, after ducking just over the brow to be out of the breeze. Crickets chirping and magnificent mountain vistas made for a fantastic stop in the sunshine. From our lunch spot we could see the track a few hundred vertical meters below us. The slope was steep, and littered with tussock and scree. The key to finding a fun way down would be to find a soft piece of scree that would let our bikes sink into the scree on the descent. This would enable us to control our speed on the extremely steep slope.  A line was spotted over to the left of the saddle, and we traversed across the scree and tussocks to get to the top of it.


Traversing across scree just after Camp Saddle

Mike had not ridden down scree before and so Sci was telling him how. Instructions went something along the lines of  “you just lock your back brake and your back wheel will sink into the scree and slow you down enough to control your descent”.  Off went Sci, showing us how it was done. (Zooming in on that photo I can see braking going on with both hands there Sci…)


Scree riding

Mikes first effort at scree riding was extremely impressive. Mega speed was definitely obtained and he was able to hold it all together!! Video of the first descent

After his first effort Mike discovered that feathering the front brake can in fact help to control your speed quite a lot, and he descended with a lot more control.


Mike descending the scree, Sci much further down


The view back up to Camp Saddle


We were soon on the track that is known as the “Edge” by the regular Craigieburn riders. A very fun track, just dont look off the side!! Riding the flowing tracks of the edge was a great contrast to the adrenaline and semi-control of careering down the scree.


The Edge

A quick climb up to Lyndon Saddle from the Edge had us sitting at the start of the track known by the bikers as the “Luge”. I traveled around the world with a mountain bike for a number of years and rode a great variety of tracks. Everything from European Alps trails (France, Italy, Switzerland), to Welsh trails, to Bolivian, Chilean and Argentinian trails. Being away for 5 years and riding all those trails, the Luge track up at Craigieburn had stuck in my mind as one of the most fun pieces of trail I have ever ridden. The trouble was I could no longer remember if that was simply nostalgia for the trails back home, or if it really matched up. My first ride down the Luge when I came back to NZ confirmed that it really was as good as I remembered. It is the combination of  curves, flow, trees and roots that just make it a super fun piece of track. We of course ripped down here on our bikes, smiles a mile wide! The only problem with the Luge is that i would like it to go on and on, but it pops out onto the Broken River Skifield access road. Maybe one day the trail builders will get permission to build a trail back to the car park and we will be able to add a couple of kilometers of fun singletrack to the experience! The fact that DOC have approved and are helping build a new piece of track called the Hogsback from Castle Hill village across to the Cheeseman Road is encouraging. This piece of track means that you will be able to ride from the Village via Hogsback to the Cheeseman access road, then ride the Dracophyllum track across to the Broken river access road, then head up to Craigieburn (via Camp Saddle, or up the Luge/Edge, or up Craigieburn Acess road) and return without every having to get on the highway. Fantastic!



Mike hiding behind a tree on the Luge


9 responses

  1. Mikey G

    Haha, related posts: “Fat people are harder to kidnap”! Which one of us is that related to!? Great ride, great day. That first 50m descent will stay with me for a long, long time!

    January 11, 2011 at 9:54 pm

  2. That looks like my kinda day out!

    January 12, 2011 at 7:02 pm

    • mountainbikingzane

      Was this the ride you guys were trying to find that time you had the epic outing up that way??

      January 12, 2011 at 7:06 pm

  3. I have no idea 🙂

    January 12, 2011 at 7:29 pm

  4. Sounds like a very fun day to me!

    January 30, 2011 at 11:20 am

  5. Dazza

    Thanks for sharing, these trails look awsome, looking at heading to NZ this or next year, doing research on where to go for nice trails, looks like theres heaps around Christchurch to keep us busy for a week,If you were planning a trip with a few mates to NZ where would be your fave spot to be based and ride? appreciate anyones feedback.

    April 10, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    • mountainbikingzane

      Hey Dazza, there are so many good riding spots around New Zealand that it is hard to pick just one place i would go! Road tripping NZ is definitely the best way to get your pick of the trails. Take a month and hit up a selection. My favourite places include:
      Rotorua – fast flowing trails
      Nelson/Marlborough – steep hills, technical rocky rooty trails. Favourites include Nydia, Wakamarina, Whites Bay, Sunshine and Peaking Ridge, Kill Devil, Rameka
      West Coast, South Island – Kirwans Reward, Croesus, Denniston Plateau
      Queenstown/Alexandra – Fern Hill Loop, tracks down from the gondola in Queenstown, Old Man Range, Shit track, Dr Strangelove etc.
      Christchurch – Craigieburn, Wharfedale and Mt Oxford, Hamner Springs, Port Hills

      I would suggest you pik up a copy of the Kennet Brothers mountain biking bible as it covers off all the great riding in both islands of NZ.

      April 11, 2011 at 9:13 am

  6. Dazza

    Brilliant! thank you very much, really appreciate your feedback and so many suggestions, i will check out the biking bible.
    Thanks again, Happy Riding.
    I am originally from Wales, where did you ride there? Coed Y Brenin? Betws Y Coed or down south?

    April 11, 2011 at 2:43 pm

    • mountainbikingzane

      Was staying in a stone cottage at the bottom of Snowdon, and so got up and around there a bit, and did some biking in some slate quarries around there. Biked Betws Y Coed a bit as well. Was fun!

      April 11, 2011 at 2:47 pm

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