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!
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!
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!
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!!
As the weather here has been cold, rainy and generally pretty nasty with snow down to low levels on the mountains i have not been out riding my bike much over the last few weeks. I have however had time to look back through some of my photos and thought I would post up some of my favourites.
Click on the photos for larger images.
I love the forest and the mossy green trail flowing off down the hill in this photo. I love biking trails in forest like this. Kirwans Reward Track, Reefton.
This photo reminds me what it is like to be way up in the mountains on a great day. Craigieburn Range.
I just like the spikiness in the foreground. Craigieburn Range.
Mmm snow + biking. Carrying up Mt Oxford to get to the trails on the other side.
This photo is from a couple of years ago. I like the view, and that I managed to take this photo using the self timer on the camera! Photo is on the Pack Horse track and that is the Lyttleton Harbour and Port Hills in the background.
This photo is also from a couple of years ago and I only found it the other day. Start of the Nydia Track.
I have a few other photos I might post up in the next few weeks if I dont have anything else interesting to post!
Waking up on the West Coast to the sounds of native bird song is a lovely way to start the day. Knowing that you can go ride your bike on some fantastic forest single track instead of heading off to work is an even better feeling!!
We met Tim, Angela and Bevan at Capleston, which back in 1877 boasted 7 Hotels and 1000 residents, but these days it is just a gorse lined paddock with a few nosy cows. Kirwans Reward track is named after William Kirwan who discovered loose gold bearing quartz back in 1896. These days the workers are long gone, but there is still gold for us who enjoy mountain biking in the shape of graded and benched pack tracks that the miners left behind!
Leaving the cars the track gently climbed on a wide 4wd track for a couple of KM’s before a quick drop through a water tunnel that popped us out to a swing bridge to cross the river. From here there was about 30 minutes of undulating track alongside the river to test our skills, with many slips and slumps, sheer drops into the river and slippery roots to navigate. After going over a couple of foot bridges the climb started for real and with a starting altitude of around 200m and the hut at about 1200m we had a fair bit of altitude to cover along the way!
The track started off gently, but it was not long before we found ourselves clicking down to the lowest gears with our lungs and legs getting a real work out! Like many tracks of this nature with challenging roots, rocks and steps on the way up, it meant that we had to put in effort to gain enough speed and momentum to clear obstacles as we headed upwards. Such efforts (as we know to well) left us all panting for breath and trying to recover on the flatter bits between the roots and rocks. As we went upwards it seemed that there were less sections to recover but even more challenges!
As we climbed through the dense rain forest it started thin out and the canopy got lower and lower with an abundance of moss covered trees and track. There were often trees that had fallen across the track too, and while some of these had been cut away and cleared, many of them simply had a step cut into to allow us to climb over. With the girth of some of these trees being 2m or more I was not surprised to see that they had not been moved at all! The forest was really enchanting and alive with native birds and vivid greenery.
After about 3 and a half hours we reached Kirwans Hut and there was a liberal dose of snow coating the top of the hill. This would be a great hut to stay a night in with a commanding view out over the Paparoas and Victoria range. Apparently on a clear day you are able to see Aoraki (Mt Cook) from this hut. We took 20 minutes to eat some food and put on warm clothing for the downhill run, and then pointed our wheels downward!
On the way down, Kirwans Track had some fantastically long flowing sections of trail where we had great visibility to see what was coming up, so we were able to really let go of the brakes and float down the curvaceous single track between the moss covered trees. Lofting the bike over roots and humps in the trail and drifting in the leaf litter put huge smiles on our faces and the downhill just seemed to go on forever!! The flow was only interrupted by having to climb over trees and slips, but such breaks were a welcome breather as we exclaimed to each other how good that last section was!!! After an hour or so of descent there were a final 30 minutes of undulations along the river. After the adrenaline and flow of the downhill this part did seem a bit unnecessary, but we were soon at the car for a very well earned beverage and salty snacks. Seven hours of riding definitely filled the riding quota for that day!!
There is a short video clip of the descent over on Vorb if you would like to have a look http://www.vorb.org.nz/kirwans-reward-t94990.html