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August 2014

Eagle vs Shark pays off

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Some weeks back a newsletter featured a semi-naked Lisa Horlor risking hypothermia in a panties run down a frozen trail. You must remember it. It was a fundraising exercise for a new trail.

The fundraising went well, thanks, and the trail is already open and rideable.

They say that investing in cycling infrastructure is one of the best dollars an authority can spend. They were probably thinking about something more useful to society than a couple of kilometres of dirt trail taking cyclists from the middle of nowhere to nowhere else, but we think the formula still adds up.

For a start, this investment was made by the people building the trail, the people who will ride it, and quite a few people who may never ride it, but like the idea of it. Because the benefits of that investment will be reaped by the investors directly, the payback will not be some nebulous figure on a spreadsheet somewhere, it will be in cold hard giggles. No kidding. Go and ride it when you get the chance: try not to giggle.

Harder to measure, but of considerable weight in the discussion, is the fact that Eagle vs Shark (the working title of the crowd-funded trail) makes more people ride uphill more often.

Shaped like half a giant wiggly-sided bowl, Whakarewarewa Forest is generally accessed from the base of the bowl. Riders climb to the rim of the bowl at various points and roll back into it. Some of the shiftless slackers even take a bus to the top.

To ride Eagle vs Shark requires some hill climbing, no matter which way you slice it. It drops down the back side of the bowl, away from the main start points. If you choose to shuttle to the top, then ride Eagle vs Shark, you are going to need to ride back up on the return trip. If you want a quick E vs S fix you still have a couple of hundred metres of elevation to gain from the access point on the back side of the hill.

If, like us last Saturday, you want to incorporate the Eagle in a much longer outing with no buses involved, you have an extra hill that will make you a better person, eventually.

To calculate the benefits to the general wellbeing of society that extra hill will produce is beyond the scope of designers and newsletter writers, we have enough trouble with the phone bill.

But we are pretty sure that even factoring in the inevitable ambulance and emergency room costs, Eagle vs Shark will deliver goodness out of all proportion to its costs.

Already, it has made our riding off-sider and photographer mateGraeme Murray tip over the edge of the ‘how far can energy stored as fat take a man on a given day’ equation. Midway through a fearsome E vs S loop by way of other long climbs and descents he started talking about food. I don't generally carry any, he didn't even have a backpack.

We met Marcello, just by chance, and G said “Got any food?” before other pleasantries.

Just like that!

To my amazement, Marcello had an actual menu, with multiple choices, and was willing to share. G chose the PBJ sandwich, and that got him back to the car.

 

 

Putting the Nzo into Garbanzo

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Here is how it usually goes: a young person starts riding a mountain bike for the sheer devilry of it. The quality of the bike is irrelevant, the safety equipment is optional because the activity is rarely planned. Apparel is whatever is on rotation that day.

Fun is had, injuries are survived, bike parts are replaced.

Some of these youngsters realise that what they like doing is a legitimate sport, and there are events to have a crack at. A very few have talent, and enough determination to end up racing seriously.

The best of them go ‘pro’, which for most means they get some free stuff to use. A small percentage get paid to ride/wear/eat/drink whatever brand they jump in with. The idea is that the general public see the rad dude in the kit with this or that logo, think wow, that stuff must really be good, and go buy it.

Nzo gives practically nothing away to hot riders. We usually say sorry, we would rather support events. Spread the Nzo love around as far as it will stretch.

There are current exceptions.

Anka is one, she was a customer before she became an Nzo ambassador, and it was easy to give her some products to use because she is also a qualified apparel designer and her feedback will improve the product.

And then there is Wyn Masters. He is a pro, racing downhill at the top of the game, but he is also an entertainer. If you don't already watch WynTV you should.

He turned up for a visit on a brief trip home recently, and came looking for some shorts for trail riding. He is covered for downhill by his sponsors, but for general riding he wanted something lighter. We don't in any way sponsor him, but we admit he didn't pay for his Sifters. He has to get some perks in return for Wheelie Wednesday.

We were watching this riveting helmet cam record of Wyn’s run down the ridiculously long and crazy Garbanzo downhill at Crankworx Whistler, and it occurred to us that a long race like that would be improved by a very comfy trail short. An eagle-eyed customer then shared the pic at the top of this email, which we promptly stole and reproduce here. Those shorts are Nzo Sifters, coming out on race day. Stoked.

Two other things to note: we didn't pay to have our brand name grafted into the race title, and we can’t wait for next year, when the world’s biggest mountain bike festival descends on Rotorua. Check it out: Crankworx Rotorua, March 2015.

 

 

 

Opposite ends of the spectrum

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I headed out to the barn with no idea what to write about except the obvious: the hill we look at out the window has now got a gondola-accessed bike park on it.

The full story on how the Skyline Rotorua MTB Gravity Parkcame about is long and circuitous. Suffice to say that if you took the best five ‘park’ trails you have ever ridden, and squeezed all of them on to one hill, you are still a fair way short of how much fun is hidden under those redwoods.

The fairly short runs, coupled with the rapid turnaround of a quick gondola ride back to the top, means the buzz is still there when the second run starts… this attraction is new and unique.

It would be no problem to use the 400 words these newsletters generally contain to expand on the wonders of the Skyline venue, but when I cracked open this morning’s email vault there was a note with pictures, that came from the other end of the mountain biking phenomenon.

An Australian Dobies-wearer wrote to say his shorts performed well on a mission he took with a colleague, into the wilderness of the East Kimberley on fat bikes.

A couple of things about these photos rang our bells: we spent two years driving around Australia in the mid 80s. We drove 50,000kms, camping in our 79 Nissan van. We explored as much as we could, including a lot of missions on our mountain bikes, which except for the tyres and brakes were a lot like the fat bikes in the pictures: simple, rigid hard tails. Back then National Parks were on the menu, we would usually ask first, but rangers were so surprised anybody would attempt to ride their walking trails on a pushbike they would often give us pointers. Good times.

The other thing is that here in Rotorua (and heaps of other places) our young sport has become so popular it has government funding for trails and bike parks, and your non-mountain biker cousin can march into a place like Skyline, hire a full-on downhill bike, and hit up some trails. Which is great, that could even turn her into a mountain biker.

But out there in the wild, people are still doing pretty much exactly what we were doing 30 years ago: seeing how far a simple, self-propelled vehicle will go, off the road and off the map.

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Modern fat bikes in an ancient landscape

WP120814c Our (t)rusty Nissan E20 somewhere in northwest Australia

WP120814d Bike ride on a National Park walking trail, Katherine Gorge, NT

 

 

Endorphrenology

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One of the first benefits of mastering a bicycle for the first time is the increased scope of the master.

The world expands, and what was once a boring footslog to your mate’s place down the block becomes a 30 second warm up. The entire town is now available for plunder, and as expeditions are made in various directions over the years, favourite routes are hard-wired into young brains. Parks that connect streets become shortcuts, bits of track or grassy knolls become highlights, special places with the correct attributes become destinations if they provide the right conditions for learning some new trick using the bicycle that got you there.

The maps that are made of your voyages out into the world get a lot bigger once you have a bike, and they only exist in your head. They are personal, and they are modelled for self-propulsion. Only another bike rider would understand why it is better to go from one side of town to the other by a route twice as long as the direct way, but flatter.

Only a kid would see the sense of going to school via the top of a small grass-covered volcano that is five blocks off course but has a northern face that slopes downwards at 30 degrees, and is punctuated by ancient earthworks that might have been made for launching bikes off.

At least, until mountain bikes were invented.

Since then, almost anybody can be walking around with a virtual map humming under their hat. All day long, while other stuff gets varying degrees of attention, the map is constructed, modified, planned to a ridiculous level of detail, and sometimes adjusted as weather and time of sunset intersect with the hour of departure. What seemed a perfectly good set of options at breakfast becomes likely to be wet and slippery by lunchtime, then afternoon sun fools the planner into forgetting that the wet bit also faces south and won’t get any sun. Then some other thing delays the getaway by a mere 15 minutes, but that is the quarter hour required to get back from wherever it is by dark. So that extra bit in the middle has to be trimmed out so the good bit at the end can stay in.

And on it goes.

Apparently, if you could see inside the cranium, the brain is divided into sections for thinking up stuff, deciding what to eat, and how to tie shoelaces. These areas are discreet and may light up when activated. So thought the Phrenologists. Mountain bikers use the brains mainly for deciding where to ride, and in what order, then they shut their thinking glands down until they get back to the carpark. Or so it seems.

Endorphins are produced, brain feels strangely good, repeat as necessary.

 

 

SPOKE DOBIES REVIEW

I’ve had a pair of Sifters, Nzo’s less famous but still extremely popular short, since 2007 and they don’t look close to giving up just yet. In all that time I never had the inclination to try a pair of Dobies, the flagship model in the Nzo stable, until recently. And I’m glad I did.

Dobies are being made once again right here in New Zealand, and I’m all for local production of anything. This means the build quality can be monitored throughout the whole process, resulting in a tough and well made short. They use a fabric dubbed ‘Nzonium’ for the centre and back panels with ‘NzoFlex’ for the sides. What that means is it’s a short that feels light yet substantial, and moves with you when putting some hip and arse into your riding. It’s probably the most ‘don’t know it’s there’ short I’ve tried.

Teamed with the new Deanolite bib short, it’s a winning combo. Bib shorts are the ultimate for the road, but I’ve never been a fan of using them in the dirt. These however are the go-to undershorts now. With mesh panels to keep things cool, you don’t feel like you’re wearing a bib short at all. And although Gaz encouraged me to wear my Dobies sometimes without any liner at all, they really work best with the Deanolite underneath. But the thin pad sewn into them does a more than admirable job of providing some comfort and support.

There are good reasons why Dobies are a signature piece of Kiwi riding kit: versatility, quality, comfort and toughness. An old favourite I wish I’d tried long ago.

Brett Kennedy