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September 2013

into the woods and out again

240913HeadBack in the day, and the day I am talking about is way back, mountain bike races were the best way to find places to ride.
The Kennett Brothers had yet to find their calling, there were no ‘parks’, and a lot of weekends were spent blundering around in the bush, looking for bits of trail that felt like we thought they should when we wheeled our new-fangled mountain bikes out of the bike shop.

Blundering around in the bush has its attractions, but finding somebody else who will do it on your behalf should be encouraged. Primitive race organisers evolved a few years after mountain bikes, but before many trails, so they had to be explorers as well as promoters.

Entering their races served two purposes besides the obvious benefit of paying to spend several hours in discomfort: their discoveries became ours, and they were incentivised to explore further.

The race organisers were primitive, so sometimes their discoveries were only slightly better then the desperate messes we got ourselves into unaided, but following an arrow into a dubious looking slot between the gorse bushes is a lot more appealing if you have a number on the bars, which implies a race, a finish line, and therefore a definite way out.
Those days are long gone, and today we have more places to ride than time to get to them all.

But still, there are some places that are remote and challenging enough that it can be simpler if you can enter an event to enjoy them for the first time.

That is why we are getting in behind the Nzo TrailBlazer, an event to be run on the Pureora Timber Trail on February 2, 2014. The Timber Trail is 85kms of singletrack and old logging tracks that stretches from Pureora in the North to Ongarue in the south, and snakes it way through ancient forest and across numerous bridges, some of them huge. There are three distance options, and a relay option too, so that the 85km full distance can be raced by a two-person team. Transport is available as an option to make logistics easy.

The Nzo TrailBlazer is an introduction to an amazing piece of bike-friendly back country, and a mountain bike marathon that is mainly singletrack but not technical. We’ll keep you posted on how things are shaping up over the next few months.



Head100913October is an interesting month. It’s the middle month of spring for a start. When September slides away behind the Mamakus there is still faint hope that serious preparation can be done for stuff that will happen before summer. By the end of October there is only stark reality: it is too late. October evaporates all too quickly, training plans lie in tatters, and xmas is only 39 shopping days away.

But this year, for Kelly Shrimpton, October is going to be longer than usual, and way longer than it is for you and me. Because every day, for the 31 days October hath, she is going to ride 31 kilometres. If that doesn’t sound like much, you have never tried to ride every day for a month.

At various times over my long history as a bike rider, I have resolved to ride every day. About 3% of you will be thinking, wait a minute, I ride every day, what’s he on about? I am addressing the remainder.

Each time I made this resolution I would make it open-ended, because each time I thought it was the dawn of a brave new world where the habits formed (and shed) in this new daily-ride lifestyle would make me a skinnier, faster version of my old self.

Of course, the existing lifestyle got in the way on perhaps the fourth day, and within a week I had become resigned to remain as I am, riding every second or third day if I am lucky.

But I never had the sort of reason Kelly has to embark on such a mission. In 2006 she lost her partner Nick to lymphoma, and this year Kelly had the idea of doing something out of the ordinary in his memory. Her epic task is to ride 31ks a day for 31 days, and by doing so raise awareness and some funds for Leukaemia and Blood Cancer New Zealand.

Like her on Facebook, donate here at givealittle.co.nz.

Once you have done those things, the entertainment options are endless. Keep track of her progress, vicariously share the experience. Like holding your breath while you watch this, start riding 31ks a day on October 1 and see how long you last. Place some bets with your workmates, get some skin in the game.

And wish her well, on a mission that will be fun, funny, thought-provoking and harder than you’d think.



Head020913Unless you are living under a rock, you will know that mountain bike wheels now come in a variety of sizes. Even if you are living under a rock, you must have noticed some wheels seem to roll over it easier.

Apparently, after three decades of fun and frolics on wheels that are more or less 26 inches across, it turns out they never should have been that size. It’s just that’s what was available. A lone voice in the Colorado mountains started wailing about 29 inch wheels almost immediately, but nobody paid him much attention until Gary Fisher did. Like civil unions, 29ers became available, then acceptable, then almost mainstream.

But wait, there’s more. The euros already had a different wheel size, and it sits somewhere in between the other two. Pioneers like Tom Ritchey even gave them a crack way back when. They call it 650b, we call it 27.5 inch, because we use the metric system in everything except wheel sizes.
Most brands are all about this new size, and word from up the hill says you won’t find a 26 inch wheeled bike above a midrange price point pretty soon.

If you were going to move to 29 inch you probably already have, taken the snorts of derision and the derogatory comments, and rolled over things more smoothly. If you are going to stay small you will more than likely flog your current rig until it breaks or you forget its on the roofrack when you come home from a big day out, and your new sled will be a mid-sizer.

What does all this mean to us? Depends who you ask. If it’s somebody whose job is selling this year’s model, you will get a black and white answer. Same goes if you talk to somebody whose day job is talking about new stuff.

You certainly don’t need to stress: one of the priests at my place of worship currently has two top shelf bikes in his possession, stunning examples of each of the smaller wheel sizes. His level of trail craft is far removed from that of ordinary mortals. I thought I could ask him about the differences he had found, surely he would know.

He couldn’t really say, because only one of his bikes has carbon rims, the other was carrying alloy ones. The unstated message was that alloy rims are so generally inferior as to render any comparison moot.

As he pointed out, definitely a first world problem.

I have decided my favourite wheel size is the one on the bike I am riding when I should be working.


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