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build it and they will come


There are trails that would never be found unless somebody told you about them. There are trails made for horses in the 1800s that for some reason flow like butter. There are some with sections that make us stop and look, to work out whether the next bit can be ridden at all, and if so by whom and how. The rideability of a section is a mental equation that contains guesses about width, traction, and momentum and also factors such as consequences (what happens if it turns out to be impossible at the first attempt?), the party (are any of the group medics?) and remoteness (if we get this wrong, how long will it take to get help?). The second set are abstract, but they are the reason I can ride along a white line on the road, but not along the handrail of a bridge.

Sunday’s ride was not one of these.

The Great Lake Trail has been rolling around the north shore of Lake Taupo for quite a few years now, and recently a piece has been finished which will be the western terminus of what will be a multi-day ride. It is called Waihaha: it’s easy to find, well-signposted, and is such a well crafted trail that it could be managed on a zimmer frame. Like the rest of the Great Lake Trail, it also has flow, views, hundreds of corners, and did I mention views? The Waihaha Stream cuts a deep canyon, the trail skirts along the top, and at spots along  the way time must be taken to stand and stare.

From the reasonably deluxe carpark to the end of the trail at present is allegedly 13kms. The return trip didn’t feel like 26kms, but it was a decent ride. When the next section is complete there will be over 30kms of trail out that way, and eventually it will connect with the rest of the GLT.
The best part of the day was the people I met along the way: several large groups had shuttled to the far end by van, allowing some complete beginners to have an achievable introduction to mountainbiking in a remote location, and they ranged from kids of 8 or 9 through to mid-life couch jockeys, all having a great time. There must have been over 50 people out there.

At the top of a long climb I met Mark from Top Gear, with his family. That includes three kids, two on bikes and one little tiny one in a contraption on her mother’s bike. We got to talking about the ability of the kids to tackle these trails - they were only 4 and 6! Mark reckoned they had made it pretty happily to the spot where we met up, considering they are not ‘summer fit’. Hearing a term like that applied to pre-schoolers is great. Makes me feel a lot better about my own winter condition.




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