A bunch of people headed up to Forest Lodge at the bottom of Mt Cheeseman for Mels birthday. On the Saturday Mel, Emily, Heather and I headed over Dracophyllum Flat to the Broken River access road, and then up the track to Camp Saddle.
At Camp Saddle there are fantastic views of the ski fields and valley. Seats are lowered and protection adorned before scuttling across the top of the scree to find a nice line down the hill.
Then it is the scree riding. The steep slope does mess with your head, but once you point your bike down and get both feet on the pedals it is easy to control your speed as the bike sinks into the soft scree
The scree takes you down to the Edge track which is a super fun way to get back down the hill
After the Edge track is the Luge track, which is always very big grin inducing, as is the downhill at the start of Dracophyllum Flat. A most excellent days riding!
Someone had the bright idea that doing the descent from Mt Oxford in the dark would be fun. It is about 1200m of descent, much of it on very fun beech forest trails!! 5 intrepid lads were keen and headed out one fine Saturday.
We set off up the hill. Weather at the bottom was very balmy for mid may and I was dripping with sweat on the way up the first part of the hill in shorts and a T-shirt.
As always the first half hour or so is rideable on and off. The lower part of the track was quite boggy, but once into the beech forest it was quite nice and there was plenty of traction. As you climb it gets a whole lot steeper and before long the easiest way up the hill is to put your bike on your back.
A little over an hour after starting you usually pop out of the trees and into the scrub. The views over the plains and foothills of Canterbury are superb. Once out of the trees it was not so warm and there was a fair bit of wind gusting. Layers and hats started appearing on the boys!
Pads and extra layers were put on at the top. The wind was howling and it was freezing. We decided that hanging around on the top was a very silly idea and bolted off down the hill towards the forested ridge!
By the time I was halfway down the ridge my hands were frozen (I grabbed the wrong gloves by accident) and braking felt like trying to operate a couple of blocks of ice against my brake levers. Trying to stay upright against the blustery cross wind made it extremely difficult to stay on the narrow piece of track and a number of off-piste excursions were taken! I was extremely glad to get into the forest and the shelter of the trees. This is also where the track starts to get really fun, ducking and diving between trees, over rooty and loamy soil. I was even glad to see the first uphill, as trudging up this with my bike on my shoulder bought a whole lot of warmth back to my body!
One fun (but quite wet this trip) flowing downhill section, and another sharp up, and then we were on our way down through the trees illuminating our own little world of track. If anything the night lights make the trail look smoother, and I was easily able to see everything I needed to be able to ride it well. A little bit of moisture made the surface unpredictable in places, but it was super fun. Every time we stopped there were huge stupid grins on all our faces. We could easily see the lights of Oxford and Christchurch twinkling through the trees and the moon at about 3/4ers was a constant companion above us.
Once off the ridge there was a bit of a mud plug to get back to the van. Plenty of slippery mucky goodness, along with a few mishaps including a full body mud splat! Back in the van and quickly home to food and beer. Damn fine way to spend a Saturday evening!!
Was a lovely still day in Christchurch when I picked up Mike. The asphalt in his drive was looking more like a pump track than a driveway with the way the liquefaction from the recent earthquake had reshaped the surface, and driving across Christchurch to get to his place felt much more like driving some out back 4wd track with humps and holes all through it than the nice flat roads that we used to have.
Arriving at the start of the ride and it was quite breezy. A quick look at the cloud formations and I was pretty sure it was going to be blowing pretty hard up the top, but that is nothing new for New Zealand mountains!
We set off at midday on a beautiful sunny day. It definitely felt good to be out of town and letting our tensions ease away into the great outdoors. The track climbs up a ridge and soon had the sweat pouring off me. In the shelter of the trees we could hear the wind roaring through the branches above us. About half the way up the hill we popped out of the forest and into the tussocks and scrub and got the full force of the wind! It was hard to stand in places and I kept missing foot holds as I was blown off course.
Having a bike on your back that acts as a sail definitely did not help!! I had to put a jacket and hat on as the wind chill was cooling me much quicker than the physical exertion was warming me, which is unusual for me as I usually survive most rides in just 1 riding top.
It took a bunch more effort than usual to gain the summit and Mike and I were very glad to be able to shelter behind one of the rock walls that previous wind buffeted people had built on the summit.
From the summit we were heading straight into the teeth of the wind down a ridge. Being steep it was easy enough to gain speed, but the strength of the wind made it pretty hard to stay on line and on track. Once you get off line however you soon realise that the riding on and off track is not very different. It is all steep and rocky with random tussocks and drops and is more a matter of picking good line that goes vaguely in the direction you want!
Along the open ridge we started to get side on to the wind, which was even worse. Trying to stay on the narrow piece of hardpack track so we could pedal was almost impossible with the gusts of wind first pushing you off the track one way and then easing right off so that you over compensate to the other side. Repeat this process over and over! It was great to get a bit more speed as the track steepened and be able to stay on line better.
The track soon drops through some scrub and rocky outcrops before dropping into the forest. It was so nice to drop into the trees and be sheltered. The first tree section is also great fun with much switching of direction through tight trees over steep masses of roots. Too quickly we were at the bog which signals the first of the climbs on the way back down. Bike back on shoulder and my legs are starting to complain that they have done enough walking up hills today. Another fun downhill section from the top of the walk which once again heads up steeply. From the top of this climb we were away down the trail for good. Bombing the straights and pumping the corners. Lofting over root masses and drops, and carefully picking lines down the challenging sections.
There is a rock bluff about three quarters of the way down the hill which we do not ride. This bluff signals the start of my favorite section of this ride. From here the ridge goes from super steep to a gradient that is just perfect for fun biking and the trail switches from one side of the ridge to the other very quickly leading to a downhill pump track. Pump the corner then unweight and pump into the next corner. Add in tree roots, trees, rocks and nice roll over lumps in the track and you have one seriously fun piece of track! There is one tricky section to give you a bit more of an adrenaline blast before pumping your way off down the track again.
Very suddenly you pop out onto the main Wharfedale track and there is a sense of disappointment that the track was over so quickly… although it has taken almost an hour to get down from the top! Time really flies when you are having fun!!
From here it is part pedal and part fun downhill trails for the best bit of an hour to get out. Still good fun biking, but it pales in comparison to the descent from the top. Back to the van and we are soon at the Oxford pub with a jug of cold and very refreshing beer! Beer always tastes soo much better after a good mission on the bike!
The weather often throws a complete wobbly around the Christmas summer holidays in New Zealand! This year was no exception with torrential downpours around the country. I had been really keen to get up near the Main Divide and ride the Cass – Lagoon loop, but huge westerly storms covering the alps on the days I had free put paid to those plans. Howling Nor-West gales are no fun on the open tops, and so a Black Hill ride was the go as it is pretty much completely in the forest.
Tim and Chris were keen and we headed into the Wharfedale track. The Wharfedale used to be a favourite track of mine, but these days it has been relegated to a trail I ride to get other places and never a destination in itself. The track has quite gentle undulating gradients punctuated with copious bog holes, water flowing down the track and stream crossings. This makes for a mostly mucky slog, punctuated by small pieces of fun flowing trail. In a few places there are sharp metal waratahs protruding from the trail surface which can easily rip an entire sidewall out of a tyre. The tracks above the Wharfedale however are worth the trek.
Starting up Fosters Ridge from the junction past the Wharfedale saddle and it gets real steep, real quick. Bikes were on our shoulders and once walking you soon settle into your own pace. There were some trees down on the way up, which made for a welcome excuse to have a rest as did getting cameras out to play. Chris had a new camera and so was busy snapping away with his new toy.
After the initial steep climb there were undulations in the ridge which give respite from carrying. A couple of the little downhills were quite fun! As you get further up the gradient of the ridge flattens a little and the track is able to be ridden in places.
Near the top of the hill there is a track junction where the 2 ridges meet. From the junction we decided to go up to Black Hill hut for a look. Another 20 minutes of uphill grunt to pop out at a nice little hut in a nice clearing. I signed the hut book and we sifted around for a little eating food and enjoying being at the top of the hill and knowing there were hundreds of meters of descending on technical beech forest tracks below us.
We were soon heading down the trail. The trip back to the trail junction seemed extremely quick compared to how long it took to walk up, and it was but a taste of what was to come. From the junction we pointed our bikes down the ridge which would take us down to the Wharfedale Hut. The fun really started here! This trail has everything I really enjoy in a track. It goes from fast and flowing to weaving through trees, to tight off camber corners to rock gardens and root tangles. The surface goes from grippy loam to loose stone and back again. Unlike some downhill tracks which seem to be over in a flash this one does seem to last a decent length of time, although the number of fallen trees that we had to scramble over and through might have had something to do with this. Pulling up at the very bottom of the trail we all had big grins on our faces. Definitely a super fun track!!
A refill with water at the river and then we jumped onto the bottom of the Wharfedale track and started riding home. Past the Wharfedale hut and up to the saddle. My legs were starting to feel it as we had been out for over 5 hours by the time we got back to the saddle. I think Chris was feeling worse, not being used to the longer adventure type riding, however a couple more rides like that and I am sure he would be storming along. We had a reasonably quick blat back out the Wharfedale track and arrived back at the carpark. The beers that were in the van, although a little warm still tasted damn fine!!
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!
There definitely has not been as much biking as I would like over the last month or so! Too busy at work, a bit of DIY on the house, some weekends taken up doing mountain bike coaching and the weather conspiring against me has lead to a lack of biking. So it was fantastic to get out for a blat up and over Oxford on the weekend with some mates.
The weather had been quite nice leading up to the weekend, but a front passing through managed to drop a fair amount of rain on the Saturday, and while the forecast had been nice for Sunday we woke up to grey cloud blanketing the sky. I was a bit slow to get going, as I was recovering from a friends engagement party the night before, but we were out on the trails by a reasonable mid-morning 10.30. There was the usual bike a bit, hike a bit start to this ride. There is about 30 minutes of 4wd track and intermittently rideable singletrack at the start of the climb, followed by about 2 hours of bike carry to get to the summit. The cloud that was blanketing the mountain seemed to keep climbing higher at the same pace we did. I had great hopes that the clouds would just miraculously disappear to give us the wonderful 360 degreee views we usually get from Oxford, but apart from some sneaky views back down the mountain under the cloud there was not much other than cloud to view.
The Trig at the top was a welcome sight, signifying that the hardest part of the day was over, and that we would soon be on the sweet singletrack down the hill.
The group of 8 walkers at the top were a little bemused at the sight of 6 bikers carrying their bikes to the top of the hill, and were interested in how much of the downhill (which they had just walked up) we would actually ride, as they thought that many parts of it would be too difficult. We assured them that it was all rideable apart from 1 or 2 tricky bits, and that it was an immensely fun piece of track. To prove our point we soon set off down the hill with silly grins on our faces. It is not every day you get to ride down 1000 vertical meters of fantastic singletrack!
Starting out in the open with tussocks and small shrubs, it is great fun blasting down the steep trails
V loving the trail.
We were soon into the forest, and wizzing in between the gnarled old trunks and streamers of moss. I always love biking through old growth native New Zealand forests. All the green growth, textures of bark, moss, lichen and loam and the absolute vitality of the forest. Of course I also love the challenges of squeezing through trees, around sharp corners and floating over the roots, holes, drops and humps that singletrack through forest present.
As always the main descent was over waaaay too soon, and we soon popped out on the Wharfedale track, before heading back to the car. After a number of km of steep full on descending singletrack it is quite fun to have a few km of fast flowing open singletrack. I was definitely feeling the few climbs on the way out. I think it is probably the lack of decent biking in the last couple of months, but then being a bit hung over from the party the night before probably did not help either! Still, floating over the rooty goodness on the way out put a smile on my face
The coffee and chocolate mud cake at Seagars Cafe in Oxford definitely helped refuel on the way home too!
As December starts it is supposed to be Summer here, but the temperatures in the low teens over the last couple of days certainly have not felt like Summer! Hah! What global warming!! I definitely have my fingers crossed for some better weather to start happening soon so we can get out and enjoy the mountains some more!!
Today was a good day for a Carry Up, Ride Down (C.U.R.D) mission. Foggy and frosty in Christchurch when we left, but a beautiful winters day out in the foothills, so off we headed with our bikes.
The target for the day was Mt Oxford. Altitude start = 350m (1148.3 ft), top = 1364m (4475.1 ft). A difference of 1014m (3327ft). It was frosty starting out, but we soon warmed up.
There was only about 15 minutes of riding before the hill really started and we were hike-a-biking.
There was still a fair bit of snow in the shady patches. All pretty hard and icy, which was not too bad to climb up! It took just over 2 hours to get to the top of the hill, and we were all commenting how unfit we were feeling, with many of us not getting much riding in over the last 3 weeks.
The trig station at the top of the hill was a welcome sight. It was time to put some warmer clothes on, eat some food and start smiling knowing that there was a whole bunch of single track down the hill to get back. It was a loop that we were biking, and we had just carried up the steep face and were taking the long way home! There was a shelf of snow for us to start on before heading off down the ridge line.
We soon dropped off the open ridge line and into the beech forest. While the ridge was fun with chunky rock and swooping corners getting into the beech forest was the start of the really good track. In my mind this piece of track is totally worth carrying a bike up a hill for a couple of hours!! The beech forests winding trail and rooty challenging drops and corners make a fantastically fun piece of track, and with a 1000m of altitude it goes on for a long time!!
Whenever we gathered on a little uphill the enthusiam and joy at being out riding these trails was pouring out of us. You can’t help but be grinning from ear to ear being on an awesome trail with like minded people on a beautiful day!
It took over an hour to get down the steep ridge line track with one puncture, a crash, a dismount and a number of photos. From here there was a nice technical piece of single track that undulated along another ridge to get us back to where we started. This track had some lovely flowing corners with challenging roots, holes and creeks to keep us entertained. Then we were back to the van, 5 hours after starting out. As you can see from the last photo we were pretty happy with the days outing!!