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September 2012

Be Rude Not To

Some years ago I was riding up Red Tank Road in the Whakarewarewa Forest near Rotorua. My friend Nick was along for the ride. Red Tank clambers up the lower slopes of the hills “out the back”, and back then they were not laced with trails like they are today. On the northern side of the road is a valley, with a small canyon at its heart, and cloaking the various run-offs and ridges above the canyon was a stand of Californian Redwoods and Larch that were about 80 years old. Some of the trees were huge, and the old track through the middle of them called “The Wash” formed a favourite downhill run in those simple days before shuttles and endless downhill singletrack. I can’t remember where we were headed, but at the top of Red Tank there is a junction of several roads which has always been a popular place to stop and have a scratch around in the feedbag or whatever. Just before we got there one of us said, wow, it would be cool if there was a trail that sidled down through these Redwoods, imagine how cool that would be.

Just before the junction is an old drainage cut through the bank, and Nick sort of steered into it saying, yeah it could start right here. Then he said, come and take a look at this!

There was a trail. In those days before there was a plan, or any rules, that sometimes happened. It was always exciting, and completely mysterious unless you were in on it.
We peeled off down it and found it was short but perfectly formed, cutting a few nice curves then dropping down to The Wash.

Over subsequent months it grew like a snake, until in stretched in lazy esses right down to where it dropped like a stone into the big clearing where the redwoods turned to pine.

Mark Smith and his helpers crafted a trail that would Be Rude Not To (that’s what they called it). It became incredibly popular, even lending its name to a movie.

Fast forward half a decade and the invisible hand of the market came and chopped down all the trees in that block except some token Redwoods, half a dozen at one end, two at the other. Teeth were gnashed, hands were wrung, but while the trees will not return for some time, the trail reappeared as if by magic. It wasn’t magic, it was more hard work by the original builders, aided by the tree-fellas (good karma). Please excuse the crappy photos taken with my phone to illustrate the same spot before and after.

Lately the Rotorua Mountain Bike Club crew has re-invented it, and it is now a wide, smooth, bermed, table-topped speedway.

It isn't like it was, and you wouldn't want all the trails to be much like it, but it does induce a certain sort of grin that isn't the same as the one you get from any other trail.

If you get to Rotorua, get on it. It would be rude not to.


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