Its been a while since I went up Blowhard. I remember it being pretty damn good fun last time and so when an evening mission was planned to go ride it I was keen. Away and out of town and battling the cross winds on the plains to get out to Oxford. A quick stop for essentials such as beer and chocolate and we were soon getting on our bikes at the bottom of the track.
No such thing as a warm up, we were soon sweating our way up the track on a perfectly warm and windless summer evening. Definitely a stark contrast to the Mt Grey gale we rode on Sunday! The track up follows a ridge and has endless steep pinches followed by rideable flat or slightly down sections. As you climb the steeps get steeper and rockier until you end up having to walk, but even these ups are interspaced with fun little downhills and plenty of riding up the hill.
Once you get up to the ridge there are many open sections and again it steps up and down as you climb towards Mt Richardson. There were fantastic views out over the plains, Lees Valley and the other foothills. With the sun low in the sky we kept moving towards the top.
A couple of hours and we were on the top watching the sun set over the Southern Alps. Food in mouths and lights were put on the bikes.
The trails on the way up look like plenty of fun going the other way and we were all keen to hit them up and have some fun! Along the top ridge there are some fast wide open sections interspaced with tight forest sections and rocky/rooty trails. We were soon zooming down the trails only really needing the lights for the forest sections. The tracks are super fun to descend with twisting chutes that act like berms to throw you around the corners.
Once we had traversed the top ridge and started dropping back down towards the van the fun started in earnest. The trail is chunky and rocky and has been water eroded over time leading to very amusing corners with chutes and lots of rocks and ledges to pop off. Further down the trail turns into a choss pile of steep rocky loose baby heads which had Laurence giggling uncontrollably at me managing to stay upright on a bike which was heading every which way and all over the trail underneath me. We made it down somehow managing to keep just within the limit of out of control and loving every second of it.
Some fast 4wd track sections soon had us back at the van finding the beer and food. Blowhard is a fantastically fun piece of trail that does not get ridden anywhere near as much as it should!
On another note, my new Mavic Alpine XLs have now been on a couple of rides and I am finding them good. Stiff on the bike and very comfortable to walk in. There is some pressure on the top of my foot just in front of the ankle from the metal buckle where the velcro strap folds back, but I think this is likely to disappear as the shoe wears in. I have only had short walks carrying the bike so far but I think they are feeling promising for a much longer walk. I will report back once I have done a carry of over an hour up a hill. At least the Blowhard track managed to get a bunch of mud and dirt on them. The white colour is on the way to being covered up!
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!!
Yesterday I escaped from work a little early to head out for a ride. The evenings have started to get dark earlier, and so this seemed like the last chance to do an out of town evening ride without having to use lights. Riding up the mountain it was cool but still. The views out over the Canterbury plains were fantastic in the evening light.
Along the ridge and into the forest. Having ridden out near here on Saturday with very dry tracks I had thought this track would be dry and have lots of traction, but I had somehow forgotten about the 2 days of rain that came through!! The track was very skaty, and I was wishing I had lugged the super tacky tires up instead of the normal trail tyres. There are a few undulations in the forest to get over to a ridge that heads down into the valley, and the track starts out with some reasonably fast and flowy sections and gets steeper and more technical as you head on down.
Basically the grin factor is good at the start and keeps getting better on the way down. Skating around on the rocks and roots was good fun and we still managed to ride all but one uber steep chute. We eventually popped out into the creek at the bottom. The boys doing their “hard done by old miners pose”
From here the track sidles above the creek for a couple of km. There are some interesting bits to ride and quite a bit of carry/pushing up bits. The track climbs quite high above the creek with a steep drop off the side of the narrow trails, leading to someone naming this bit of track “The Suicidal Sidle”. It was getting pretty dim by the time we scooted off the sidle and the last 10 min of riding through the forest it was getting hard to pick out trail features but we made it through without needing lights which was great!
A very fun evening of bike riding!
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!