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July 2014

Gear off for new dirt

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What would make a sensible young woman strip to her knickers on a frosty Rotorua morning, and ride down a frozen jumps trail for the camera? Long story:

Rolling around in the vast network of trails that snake through the forest on the south side of Rotorua is a privilege available to anybody who turns up.

You can pedal out of a busy trailhead that on any Sunday (and practically any other day) resembles a small village, and within minutes lose yourselves, and see nobody much for as long as it takes. You can find trails for complete beginners, slots through the jungle that seem a very unlikely place to take a push bike, and trails of every grade in between.

We are often asked how we got lucky enough to have this park provided to us, and all the amazing trails within..

The truth, as usual, is stranger than fiction. Whakarewarewa Forest is not a park.

It is land owned by iwi of Te Arawa, and they generously allow access and will consider allowing trails to be created. The forestry company managing the tree crops growing on the land are likewise helpful in the way they do so, they work around us as much as they can.

The trails themselves have many ways of coming into being. There are ancient lines created by willing workers from the Corrections Dept, trails made by club working bees, personal projects made by community minded individuals in their spare time, and major projects fundraised by the Rotorua Mountain Bike Club and built by contractors.

Everything (except the Corrections projects!) is voluntary. The planning, consultation, marking, fundraising, signage and maintenance and arrangement of sponsorships is done by members of the club.

These days getting the green light for a new trail takes a fair bit of effort, so when one gets the nod it is exciting. This year there have been three major trails approved, one has been created by volunteers, one is still on the drawing board, and one is underway.

With a working title of ’Eagle vs Shark’ it is actually two trails, which will merge and drop riders out towards Lake Tikitapu, and will make a whole pile of new routes a lot more fun. Designed to be a flowing Grade 3 ride, it is being funded by donations from anybody out there, with financial support from Southstar Shuttles.

And that brings us back to the initial question: why was Lisa Horlor semi-naked in the woods? She threw out a challenge for herself and her mates: fund the trail, and she would lose most of her apparel for a run down Challenge Roadside. Her effort raised two thousand dollars from an adoring public!

We are not going to subject ourselves (or any spectators) to anything like that, but we are going to throw a few bucks into the trail. If everybody who opens this email put in a few dollars, the trail could be ready the next time you visit!

 

USE IT OR LOSE IT

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You know you had a decent ride on Saturday if you can still feel it in the body as you haul it out of bed on Tuesday morning.

Last Saturday was a vast empty space with decent weather, word of a new trail out back of beyond, and no definite time-constraints except sundown.

The bike was in the bike shop, so the ride started there.

The bike shop: you must have one. If you are lucky, its agood one. The nice thing about this one is that the proprietors are on point. If there is a new thing that might be good for riding off road, they are on it, even if only briefly to work out if it is really good or not. The stuff they figure out trickles down to their customers, and while work will be done on most things that get wheeled in their door, most of the bikes kicking around are versions of what the shop guys ride, with a similar selection of bits and general setup.

Running a single chainring has been the way of life around here for years now, and the industry has caught up by providing eleven speed cogsets out back, finished with a giant sprocket as big as brake disk for climbing steep things. Holdouts on ten speed setups (like me) can have a giant cog shoehorned onto their bike, and that was done some months ago to revisit an expedition into the Whirinaki wilderness that all agreed would probably kill me if attempted without it.

Fitting the XXXL cog dictated removing the 17 cog, a thing we judged to be as much use to me as my appendix. It lived down the little end of the cogset, in a place I thought was never visited by my chain. That assumption turned out to be false. We created a bike that can climb a lamp-post, and can hold its own going down a mineshaft, but it had a speed missing, and that turned out to be the ideal one for cruising along a fire-road at a comfortable spin.

That brings us to the other great thing about this bike shop: one of the owners doesn't drink. That means that when ingrates like me take the opportunity to complain about the missing ratio at a party, he has the mental capacity to nut out a solution, and then even better, to remember it later.

He called midweek to say he had reconfigured some parts with a file, and I could deliver my sled for a rearrangement of cogs that would take 10 minutes and solve my problem. I developed some other problems before I could do that, so the bike overnighted in the shop.

I collected it Saturday morning, and it was exactly as Mike said it would be. Slightly hotrodded and with a smooth complement of ratios that allow a good cadence at every speed likely to be required.

Including incredibly slow, which is what I was doing nearly 5 hours later.

 

Spoke has spoken

A response in Spoke to a newsletter I wrote as a response to an article in Spoke. A response in Spoke to a newsletter I wrote as a response to an article in Spoke.

There are many ways to make your life bicycle powered. Paths to making the love of bicycle related activity into a means of living are as varied as the bicycles we are obsessed with.

You can open a bike shop.

The less deranged can work in one.

Those who would like to muck about with bikes and bike stuff but need to avoid confronting cyclists directly can hide out in ‘the industry’, a loose catch-all covering importers and distributors of this and that.

You can join the earnest souls beavering away in the giant online discount mills, some of whom must have an interest in the bales of bicycle giblets they ship daily.

The toughest way would have to be as a rider. Whether you are a coureur in the Tour or a courier in Manhattan, or anywhere in between, making a buck on a bike is hard yards.

Somewhere between ‘the industry’ and professional bike riders in terms of risk and reward are people who attempt to actually make something to sell to bike riders, hoping the income derived will provide for their retirement or at least keep them in bikes.

Thinking that people will always need information, inspiration and light entertainment, the bravest launch a magazine. Caleb Smith did that an impressively long time ago, and it is still afloat. Spoke is New Zealand mountain biking on a page, and the bound bundles of pages they have produced are now numbered at 57. Starting as a free, square, black & white thing that was so cutting edge in terms of layout it required patience and a theodolite to decipher, it is now a perfect-bound coloured bible of bike stuff that needs reading cover-to-cover and then filing for reference.

Within the latest issue is their first review of Nzo’s Dobies, a product that predates Spoke by some years. Why it has taken this long for anybody in Nzo Towers to get one of their legion into some Dobies does not bear going into. But the review does: “a short that feels light yet substantial, and moves with you….it’s probably the most ‘don’t know it’s there’ short I’ve tried…”. It goes on to say “…an old favourite I wish I’d tried long ago”.

Don’t take our word for it. Get thee to a news vendor, and get a copy. And while you are at it, read page 20. Made us laugh.

 

Limited Edition that is actually Limited Edition

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We spotted an ad the other day for a LIMITED EDITION vehicle, some sort of deluxe four wheel drive behemoth that will likely be used to drop little Tapioca off at ballet.

It was the same as the regular one you can buy except for ‘colour-coded’ interior giblets and some matching stripes on its shiny flanks, featuring the signature of the designer who picked the colour.

The general theme of the message was that there are only one thousand of these things available, so hurry up and get your order in. In the broad scheme of things that is a limited edition, but the idea of the common or garden variety of this vehicle rolling around in herds of tens of thousands is terrifying. The sheer volume of the stuff we make and sell, buy and use, wear and tear and then discard is almost beyond imagining.

We wont divulge how many Dobies have been sent out into the world, but it is a long way short of what constitutes a limited edition in the world of deluxe four wheel drives. In Rotorua you can spot a pair without much trouble. Further afield they are harder to find, beyond Australasia they are rare as hen’s teeth. Internet juggernaut Amazon just invented a phone, with a slew of features designed to help you make phone calls, take 3D selfies, and buy things from Amazon. You can point one of these things at any one of up to 140 million (number I made up for effect) consumer products, and it will facilitate buying one.

You don't even need to be bright enough to remember a brand name, or your own name for that matter, just point and click. bada-bing, go to checkout. Unless that happy looking, comfortable, bike rider you see happens to be wearing Nzo Dobies.

You can point and click like crazy, but they won’t appear on that phone. If you collar the rider and make them divulge the name of the shorts they are wearing, you can search Amazon and get 3300 results (we just did it to make sure), none of which are Nzo shorts.

THAT is Limited Edition, right there.