I love technical singletrack. The Cass Lagoon loop near Arthurs Pass delivers many hours of technical riding and is a favourite of mine. I last rode the loop a couple of years ago, so having a Friday off work was the perfect opportunity to get up there and enjoy it.
Leaving the car at the Cass river there was a 30 min warmup on the road before the climbing began. Onto the track with lovely beech forest singletrack, a little pine forest and then out into the tussocks on the tops with fantastic views while trudging through bogs.
First lunch on Lagoon saddle in the sunshine while surveying the valley dropping towards Hamilton Hut and the fantastic vistas towards the main divide. The technical riding starts from the get go with a few board-walks into bogs leading into rooty challenging beech forest singletrack.
After a while the track pops out into river bed for short sections before diving back into the forest singletrack.
Almost 5 hours into the mission and we were relaxing in the luxurious Hamilton Hilton and eating 3rd lunch. A snooze in the sunshine seemed extraordinarily inviting but the lure of good singletrack got us back on the bikes and heading for Cass Saddle.
A couple of km of grassy flats in the sunshine before heading back into the forest. The singletrack here is mostly rideable as it slowly climbs towards the saddle.
Towards the saddle the track gets a lot steeper and it is a short sharp climb to get to the Cass saddle. Once on the saddle there are fantastic views down the Cass valley and sweet sweet singletrack beckoning.
I had too much fun riding the singletrack on the way out to take any photos. Any tiredness after 8 hours was soon forgotten as we swooped through flowing trails. There was some impressive avalanche damage on the way down the valley. Avalanches had flattened a few sections of forest and obliterated where the tracks were. 9 hours after starting we were back at the car with big grins on our faces. The loop is an outback technical singletrack fix that I have promised myself I will do at least once a year!
Super busy at the moment and so it was great to get away to Nelson for 3 days. A Thursday evening mission from Chch to Nelson got me there by 11pm and ready for a nice easy start the next day. Having never ridden the Rameka track I decided it was time I had a look and while there I could check out the new Canan Downs mountain bike tracks as well.
Rameka is through a lovely piece of forest with technical roots and rocks. Pretty flat for quite a ways but it would be a great introduction to South Island forest riding.
Canan Downs loop. I only did the Northern half of the loop. Someone has put a lot of effort into building the track, and maybe I hit it at the wrong time, but to me it really seemed like a lot of effort for little reward. The soil where the track has been benched has eroded away leaving clumps of grass sticking up leading to a real speed sucking surface. In other areas the track has been graveled, but is not really burmed leading to a fast surface that you are unable to corner fast on, and they have put plenty of corners in the tracks!
Some photos of the track features I liked.
On the Saturday Charlie, Dugall and I headed into Mt Starveall from the Aniseed Valley. The ride up to the Hackett Hut was well known to me and from there we kept going up the same stream. The track eventually reaches a ridge up on Mt Starveall at about 1300m or so. This took about 5 hours of bike carrying and pushing, mostly in the pouring rain. The track back down is fantastic. Many roots and rocks and good gradient for most of the way down. Many technical challenges as is to be expected with a rough track like this that was never designed for mountain biking… I took a couple of photos at the start of the day and then left my camera in a waterproof bag for the rest of the day. All my brand new Ground Effect kit was looking a bit more worn in and mud covered at the end of the day! I would like to go back one day, and perhaps get a helicopter drop at the top…
Sunday was a loop I had done before. We parked at the Maitai Dam and rode up the newly finished track that goes to Coppermine Saddle. There were heaps of people coming down the track, having climbed up the Dun Mountain Walkway to do the loop. People of all ages and abilities including one man who I would estimate at about 60 years old who was coming down the trail on an entry level hardtail with quite skinny slick tyres… Anyway, the new track is a good consistent climb and a great way to connect to Sunshine and then Peaking Ridge via Copppermine and Dun Mountain walkway. Sunshine and Peaking ridge were great fun as always. Super rooty and pumpy up on Sunshine with much more speed and flow on Peaking. They are great pieces of track to put a smile on your face!
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!!
Recipe to go mountain biking for 8 and a half hours.
1. Pack stuff the night before and then get up early!
2. Leave Christchurch and drive to about the middle of the island. Meet some guy from other side of the island at the end of the track and leave one car.
3. Drive to other end of track. Get bike and gear. Check that there is enough food and spares and clothing to last the distance.
4. Start biking.
and the side streams you have to cross start to get bigger! You are now almost half the way around the ride, and about to start heading up a valley instead of down. There is another big climb to get over the saddle at the top of the valley.
Always a fantastic trip through challenging trails!! For the 6 or so hours of biking there is usually about 2 hours of bike carrying, but it is well worth the effort!!
This is a rough elevation guide from the MapMyRide software