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November 2013

There and back again

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The idea for Nzo was hatched about 20 years ago when we spent a couple of years wandering around the northern hemisphere in a VW van.

Living in a prolonged roadtrip with a lot of time to sit around the campfire got us talking about the work we would do if we could do anything we liked and get away with it. The vague and far-off plan was to live somewhere near a forest, and have a studio at home where we design stuff. The stuff we would design would be things we would like to use to do the things we like to do, and that was about as sharp as the planning got.

It took a few years of the day jobs to confirm they were too much like day jobs, and a few more years of scheming before we decided to give Nzo a go. Many wrong turns later, we sit in a barn at the side of the house, and design stuff we like to use for the things we like to do. What we like to do hasn’t changed much, and road tripping is still near the top of the pile. Hanging a bike or two on the back of a va n and hitting the track is about as good as it gets.

We have a made a few deluxe modifications: the van is not an air-cooled rattler any more. The VW was a very reliable vehicle, but it would struggle to pull the skin off a rice pudding. The current edition has to pull a caravan.

We could probably still operate in the confines of a kombi, but as responsible campers (we have a sticker that says so) we have to cart a little bathroom along for the ride. And if you are going to have a bathroom, why not a kitchen? And a kitchen needs a fridge. And a waste water tank.

Amongst all these comforts we still think about that little orange Kombi. It carried us 50,000 kms from San Francisco to Central Turkey via many points in between, and the German couple we sold it to racked up a similar distance in their travels. Where it is now we have no idea, but this diagram shows the basic concept. We have stuck it on a red shirt to recognise the onset of the festive season, but you can change the shirt colour if you fancy.

Or ask us to put it on a hoodie.


Mendocino, CA, 1991
Mendocino, CA, 1991


Bavaria, 1992Bavaria, 1992

 

FILTHINESS IS OUR GOAL

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One of the features of living in New Zealand is the weather. It is reliably unstable. When something is coming up on the calendar that would benefit from a being held on a nice day, the last thing we want is sunshine three days out. On a skinny little country in the South Seas the odds of getting the desired conditions shorten dramatically with every perfect day that doesn’t share the date of the outing.Keeping all that in mind, here is the procedure that makes our mountain bike shorts last as long as they generally do: a sample gets made in my size, and I go and test it. It gets washed, dried, measured, inspected. If that works, we do it again. This is repeated for several months. If it is fabric we are testing, we try to subject the item to all the indignities you will think of if we send it out into the world.

We are working on a new thing, and so far so good. I like the way it feels, people out on the trails like the way it looks, GraemeMurray.com wants a pair right now. But we need more testing, and one of the things we need for testing is mud. There is none. Its been mint and dry under the wheels for weeks. I went to the very top of the forest, where not long ago we filmed this in all its water-soaked glory. There were some drying mud patches, and some of them held vestigial slop, but here is the weird thing: even though mud was what I needed, and even though I had climbed for 40 minutes to get to where there might be some, I was unable to willfully plough through it.

A quarter century of avoiding crap has left me hardwired to look for the dry line. I try not to widen the trail by riding around a muddy spot, but my bike seeks higher ground like it’s on autopilot.

Even with the beast doing its best to keep me clean, I managed to get some mud here and there. But not enough, and not in the varieties we really need: thin and watery, thick and sticky, a fine slurry like valve-grinding paste. But hey, it pissed down yesterday at our place and there are thunderstorms forecast for this afternoon. Keep your fingers crossed I get disgustingly dirty today, remember I am going to be knocking off early to go riding as a selfless act of research for your benefit.

 

The Nzo Moonride

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Every year since the beginnings of mountain biking, Rotorua has hosted an event called the Moonride. Originally dreamed up by the visionary Fred Christensen, it may have been the first race of its type in the world, held in darkness and competed in by teams to make the whole thing less arduous and give everybody a go.

There have been versions that were cold, years that were wet, and some that were cold and wet. There have been big ones, huge ones, and really big, huge ones. Start times and event durations have moved around, but the concept has stayed true to its origins.

The 2014 version is refreshed with a longer lap, better trails, and Nzo at the top of the poster. We are getting in behind the event and we are looking forward to teaming up with Event Promotions to make it a good one.

For a lot of years we produced a t shirt each year for the event. One of our favourites was the 08 edition. I honestly can’t remember what inspired it, but we must have thought it was a goer because we ran 5 colours in the design. Just because we can, we are re-releasing the design for one week starting from today. You don’t have to have been there to get one!

 

 

Rolling out the dirt carpet

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On the weekend I was lucky enough to get to visit Tasmania.A film festival in Launceston included a session that showed a snippet of Trailnotes among other films, and a discussion followed which included the benefits to a town of having accessible mountain bike trails nearby.

That’s what I was there to talk about.

Wherever you go in the world, where there is mountain biking there are people pushing very hard to make it better. In Launceston, Buck from Vertigo Mountainbike Tours is one of them. On my free day he collected me in his van, a selection of bikes on the back, and we headed off into the hills to Hollybank, where there will soon be a purpose-built loop trail and a downhill run available.

Nearer town at Trevallyn a loop trail that is close to perfection, and a downhill run that was equally entertaining with bermed turns and heaps of rocks keeps things interesting.

That is all we had time to see, but like a mountain biking evangelist anywhere Buck outlined all the other stuff there is to do further afield and all the things that are planned.

Tasmania will be a great place to visit again, but with a bit more spare time.

The mountain biking culture in places like Rotorua has taken 20 years to build, but other towns see what can be done and can get to their own version a lot quicker.

That is great... mountain biking is a great excuse to go somewhere new and sample some new trail.

The more places rolling out the dirt carpet the better it is for them and for people lucky enough to visit.

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cornflakes for lunch

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Local voyages are like people you see every day: changes take place so gradually they are not really obvious. Occasional sudden changes disrupt the familiarity, some trees are cut down, a beard is shaved off, but the new look quickly becomes the old look and the slow changes continue invisibly.

Trips taken once in a while can have a lot more surprises.

Yesterday we took our first ride through the Moerangi Trail for this summer, and it was both familiar and new at the same time. Even though we are lucky enough to live near this patch of old forest, we don’t go very often. It’s a mission, it takes all day, and it makes our legs hurt.

The forest is as old as anything else in New Zealand except the rocks themselves, but the bike trail only dates back 5 years or so. Every time we do it there are new things growing along the edges, some stuff gets going and throttles whatever was there before, and then some other stuff gets the upper hand. A twice annual trim back takes place, and the process repeats.

Weather makes big changes. Slips are commonplace on the steep mountain sides, so there are new places where the trail gets narrow. Trees fall down, washouts develop. Every so often something really big happens: a side canyon opened up a year ago that would hold a four lane road.

This time there was a new feature that covered most of the trail. Leaf litter in native forests can be like cornflakes, tiny brown leaves dry up and carpet any bare ground, making a fantastic surface to ride on. Some of it must have been there on previous visits but this time it seemed much more luxurious. With no season of falling leaves it must take a long time to build up, a constant and gradual dusting that is now primed and ready for bike-surfing.



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