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February 2015

What doesn't kill you...


We are halfway through the Rotorua Bike Festival, a quiet achiever in terms of getting the community around here engaged with bicycles in all their glory.

While it may not have the international profile of Crankworx Rotorua, coming up at the end of March, the Festival has at least 30 events, participants numbered in the thousands, and provides guaranteed entertainment.

Tuesday night was the unauthorised World 16” Dual Championship, held on the magnificent beginnings of the Dodzy Skills Park. Dodzy would have been all over this event: head to head racing down a bermed raceway by big kids on little bikes. I was lucky enough to be showing the winners of our town’s Gunna Gotta Go competition our patch: two riders form Sydney flew in for week of deluxe mountain biking. We thought we would do a lap of the woods then drop in on the 16” title bout.

We had a great outing, lots of trails, lots of flow, perfect temperature and plenty of smiles all around. On a trail I have ridden so many times I thought I could ride it blindfolded, I made a rash decision to go to the left of a tree rather than the right. No reason for this, it isn't any faster, just one of those spur of the moment things. Turns out  there is a low hanging branch, which can snag your helmet, pull it off your head, and inflict a series of bruises and grazes as it rasps your now exposed cheek, eyesocket, and cranium. As your head rotates back and to the side to accommodate the branch, your visor will be torn off and flung into the scrub, and your neck will also be damaged by the helmet strap, by now at full stretch. Well, it will if you do it the way I did it. Still, no serious damage, so a quick wash in the creek and onwards to the World Champs.

Where every second person wants to know what happened to make the face look like it now does, and every fifth takes a photo of it. Kind of wish I had a better story than the sorry truth, snagged a low-hanging branch.

The Festival will culminate, more or less, in an Enduro event that has drawn a stacked field. The organiser has been issuing veiled warnings about how gnarly this event is going to be, how we better wear extra padding, and get our game on. Whatever that means.

For me it meant signing up for a refresher with MTB Skills Clinics. As a certifiable old dog, to learn some new tricks is a rare event. I learned enough things to be safer in the long run, and have more fun on steep trails. I heartily recommend a skills session to everybody. One the downside, a moment’s inattention on an easy bit, not doing what I had just learned, required stitches in the side of my face undamaged by the previous adventure.

What doesn't kill you may make you stronger, but it won’t make you any better looking.



All on for young and old

Last weekend we took part in the annual Nzo Trailblazer, a ride through the amazing Timber Trail in the forested heart of the North Island.

My colleague for the day was Kate, a good all around bike rider who is getting into mountain biking.

We planned to cruise through the trail, not in any mad rush. I went as fast as I could last year and came nowhere as far as results are concerned. This year we would do it at a civilised pace and be able to contribute meaningfully to work on Monday. Spend more of the day looking at stuff, and connecting with people. That turned out to be even more inspiring than the trail or the forest.

We started with the early group, and worked our way to near the front as we got into the singletrack, both Kate and I are ex-trackies and doing that kind of stuff is hard-wired as we start any event. About halfway up the long first climb we saw the error of our ways, and stopped to fiddle around with our phones’ abilities to capture images (a phone is no use for anything else in the depths of the forest). Among the people riding past us was Dave, who was steaming along with positive comments for anybody he came across.

We stopped again at the first of the epic bridges on the trail - no matter how many times the trail is ridden, the view of the first big bridge is breathtaking. We met a group coming the other way. Mum, Dad and two kids. Dad was on an old hardtail, and had a giant tramping pack on his back, so big it extended past his helmet. Mum was on a basic stepthru town bike, and the two little girls had 20 inch bikes. They had ridden out 25kms the day before, camped overnight, and were heading back after what the kids assured us was “a great big breakfast”. The girls were 8 and 9, having a major adventure, and pretty much summed up what is cool about easily rideable trails in such remote and spectacular places.

We caught up with Dave not far up the track, he was faffing around with a CO2 canister. I had my pump, so I topped up his tyre for him. We did that several times in the following five hours, and each time learned a bit more about him.

He was keen to talk about his immediate life plan: sell up his house in Auckland and move the entire operation to Rotorua, “for the bike-riding”. He reckoned it was time to stop thinking about it, and get to a place where he can ride his mountain bike more, do some road riding, and generally kick back a bit. Our friend Lisa calls stuff like this “creating the mint life”.

A mint life.

Turns out Dave is about to turn 70. Still dreaming up the bike rides ahead, and how he is going to do more of them.


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