Archives For Mountain Biking

The Wairau Lagoons Walkway is not normally open for biking but, on 18 January 2015, you can join us for a free guided mountain bike tour.

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Conservation Week was an opportunity to promote mountain biking as an accessible and enjoyable way to ‘discover the world where you live’.

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By Andy Thompson, Technical Advisor Recreation, Christchurch

As a passionate hunter I love exploring our backcountry—so much country, so little time!

Hunting tahr up the mighty Rakaia River.

Hunting tahr up the mighty Rakaia River

The backcountry—its huts and tracks—are our inheritance.

For me, the places where I first took my kids on an overnight tramp, and where they shot their first deer or chamois, are ingrained into my character and our family’s folklore. It’s a legacy I want my grandkids and their grandkids to have.

Andy Thompson's family on the Kepler Track.

A day walk with the family at the bottom on the Kepler Track

I’m also one of the lucky DOC staff working with the New Zealand Outdoor Recreation Consortium, who are keen to look after and maintain New Zealand’s backcountry facilities.

The consortium is a partnership between the Federated Mountain Clubs of New Zealand, New Zealand Deerstalkers’ Association and Trail Fund NZ.

Reischek Hut.

The great wee Reischek Hut in Canterbury

My heroes are the people that go on major missions, who use these places and then choose, in their spare time, to put something back.

Andy Thompson's family on the Hollyford Track.

Whānau and friends on the Hollyford Track

This isn’t about DOC shedding its responsibilities to look after backcountry huts, this is about doing more and looking after the places where many of us spend our holidays and weekends and enrich our lives.

Stanley Vale Hut.

One of my favourite places and backcountry huts—Stanley Vale in the St James Conservation Area

So, if you’re a tramper, hunter, mountain biker, 4WDer, horse rider, caver, kayaker, mountaineer or more, and want to find out what we’re up to come check out the New Zealand Outdoor Recreation Consortium website.

Moss Thompson looks out over the Mt Sommers Walkway.

Moss Thompson looks out over the Mt Sommers Walkway

Hewn through steep hill country 100 years ago as a stock route, the Pakihi Track on the East Coast of New Zealand’s North Island, is now a magnificent wilderness ride. Jim Robinson, Executive Officer for Motu Trails Charitable Trust, writes:

The Pakihi Track is now a magnificent wilderness ride. Photo copyright Motu Trails Cycleway.

The Pakihi Track—a magnificent wilderness ride

My most recent Pakihi escapade came hot on the heels of Easter’s ex-tropical cyclone Ita, which slammed the Eastern Bay of Plenty with an all-night lightning storm, tree-downing gales and, in one terrific downpour, 100 mm of rain in less than two hours.

Two days after that, I was joined in Opotiki by Toni Keeling, who had already finished the GODZone expedition adventure race and the Coast to Coast Longest Day this year.

“I’ve only done one ride since GODZone,” Toni grinned. But, typically, she was dead keen to do the whole 93 km loop of the Motu Trails: out on the Dunes Trail, up the historic Motu Coach Road, down the Pakihi, and back on the tar seal to Opotiki.

Tirohanga section on the Dunes Trail in the Saturday sun. Photo: Mike / Motu Trails Cycleway.

Tirohanga section on the Dunes Trail

The Dunes Trail

The Dunes Trail is a cinch, purpose built to answer New Zealand Cycle Trail (NZCT) standards. But it’s still a great legwarmer, rolling east over tussock-dressed sand dunes, with panoramic views of the Pacific.

Surprisingly, there were no other riders. And the usually common weka must all have been sleeping in.

Dunes Trail. Photo: Project Crimson.

Dunes Trail

The Motu Road Trail

After an hour, the Motu Coach Road clicked up the challenge (a big yellow road sign pulls no punches: “NARROW WINDING ROAD NEXT 48 KM EXTREME CARE”).

Meremere to Toatoa on the Motu Road Trail. Photo courtesy Motu Trails.

Meremere to Toatoa on the Motu Road Trail

With tight corners and precipitous drop-offs, ‘The Motu’ used to be one of the famed stages on the World Rally Championship calendar. It’s still the highlight of the Motu Challenge multisport race — a fave of ex-Whakatane MTB rider and 2011 national XC champ Carl Jones.

Motu Road Trail. Photo copyright: Motu Trails Cycleway.

Motu Road Trail

A few times I could admittedly have done with the horsepower of a Jonesy or a Colin McRae, but we made steady going, and reached the start of the Pakihi by early afternoon.

The Pakihi Track

The day was awesome, though a long way off tropical. So, stopping at the mini trailhead shelter, it was fuel up and jackets on for what Jonathan Kennett rates as “one of the longest most scenic downhill cycle trails in the country. It is virtually impossible to ride the Pakihi without a grin from ear to ear.”

Riding the Pakihi. Photo copyright Motu Trails Cycleway.

“It is virtually impossible to ride the Pakihi without a grin from ear to ear.”

Bringing the Pakihi back to life

Jonathan first rode the Pakihi in about 1996, while researching for Classic New Zealand Mountain Bike Rides.

One of my dog-eared early editions of the biker’s bible rates the track “50% semi-rideable jungle country, 50% sweet single track”. But by 2008, edition seven cautioned with an almost audible sigh: “in 2007, a big storm closed the Pakihi Track … it doesn’t sound like the Pakihi will ever be fully rideable again.”

Fortunately, in 2010 there was an unexpected saviour in the form of the New Zealand Cycle Trail.

The Department of Conservation (DOC) had been aiming for some years to restore the Pakihi for trampers and hunters, and got behind the concept of reopening access to bikers as well.

Rugged! Photos of the Pakihi before restoration

With two work teams, one from each end, DOC brought the Pakihi back to life, better than ever.

Riders on the Pakihi. Photo copyright Motu Trails Cycleway.

The Pakihi—back to life

As soon as we dropped off the Motu Road, Toni and I were into magic riding, below a dense canopy of forest, with punga fronds pushing in.

It’s wide and evenly graded, but a glance down confirms that you’re sidling an extremely steep slope.

Biking the Pakihi

Biking the Pakihi

Time and again, you skirt into a tight gut, cross a short wooden bridge, and return to the bush-clad face of the hill, all without changing more than a few metres in height.

I pedalled the Pakihi a year ago with four keen Australians, and they kept commenting how the scale of track work is unreal.

The 11 km upper section, with a dozen bridges and a total descent of about 300 metres, ends with a short sidetrack to the Pakihi Hut, which was built in 1969 by the New Zealand Forest Service (forerunner to DOC), for hunters.

The hut was originally big enough for 6, but the 2013 addition of an enclosed verandah and benching stretches that capacity.

It’s backcountry basic. But, for a lunch stop, it’s the best place on the trail — and if it’s sunny, there’s a picnic table.

Toni and I rolled straight on down, into the spectacular 10 km lower section, which starts by taking a tight twist into a shady gully with a small crashing waterfall.

One of many trackside waterways on the Pakihi. Photo copyright Motu Trails Cycleway.

One of many trackside waterways on the Pakihi

A few minutes more and we’d reached a 35 metre long suspension bridge, crossing the Pakihi River just above the confluence with Papamoa Stream.

The Pakihi Swingbridge. Photo: Jamie Troughton.

The Pakihi Swingbridge

The bridges keep coming, all numbered: 18, 19, 20, 21…. We paused several times to look left to small waterfalls, the cold hanging in the still air. I love these spots most of all in summer: the lichens and ferns stay fresh, the nikau throw shade, and there’s still ample water to fill a bottle.

Then, around bridge 24, the valley stretches open. The track widens and straightens. The sun warms. Suddenly, you pop out on the road end, and it’s over.

“There’s stunning scenery all the way down, and a great variation,” said Toni, when I asked for her perception as a Pakihi first-timer.

“There aren’t many places that you can easily ride so close to a river without being in a riverbed, or way up high on a cliff. It was amazing to be so close, seeing the sunlight glistening off the river and hearing the water.”

The Pakihi River

The Pakihi River — glimpses of perfection

“From what I’d been told, I was expecting a far narrower track with steep cliffs,” Toni commented. “In reality it was much better than I expected. You need to be cautious at times. But really why would you want to rush!”

Several shuttle providers offer group drop-offs and pick-ups around the Motu Trails. There’s a range of accommodation, including in Opotiki, Ohiwa, Tirohanga, Toatoa, Motu, Pakihi Valley and Te Waiti.

If you’re not keen on riding, the Pakihi Track is also a superb walk. From the Pakihi road end you can walk to the hut and back in about 5-6 hours.

Find out more at or ask in the iSITE at Opotiki or Gisborne. Get news and track updates on the Motu Trails Facebook page.

Abridged from ‘Glorious Pioneering’ in the June/July issue of New Zealand Mountain Biker Magazine

Snow blanketing the Croesus Track is today’s photo of the week.

The Croesus Track crosses the Paparoa Range, between Blackball and Barrytown, on the West Coast of the South Island.

It is a beautiful and easy walk—ideal for people new to tramping.

Croesus Track blanketed in snow. Photo: Jason Blair | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Originally constructed in 1881, the track is an old mining trail and features many historic sites, as well as a variety of vegetation, wildlife and panoramic views.

The track is now the premier mountain biking track in the Greymouth area.

Photo by Jason Blair | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

February is Bike Wise month and to celebrate Fiordland Biodiversity Ranger Chrissy Wickes tells us about her recent trip biking the Roxburgh Gorge and Clutha Gold Trail.

Chrissy Wickes.

Chrissy Wickes

Having biked the Central Otago cycleway with my partner and son we were looking for another great cycle route in the Central Otago area.

We found a real gem, the Roxburgh Gorge and the Clutha Gold Trail and we headed off in January on a three day journey.

As we were doing it as a family we took our time doing 20-25 kilometres a day, and taking all day to do it! Why not!

Clutha river and cycle track between Roxburgh and Alexandra.

Schist country between Roxburgh and Alexandra

Starting at Alexandra we headed off on a fabulous purpose built bike trail. There is something so special about being able to bike free of traffic in an amazing gorge in the remote heartland of Central Otago schist country.

Biking the Roxburgh Gorge.

Following the Clutha/Mata-Au River

After the first 10 kilometres we met up with a jet boat (pre-arranged) that took us about 12 kilometres through the gorge to meet up with the trail again. This was a great luxury and currently the only way to do the trail without doubling back.

Chrissy's son Shannon in front of the jet boat.

Catching the jet boat

There was lots of history to learn about along the way, with old miners cottages made from the local stone. We stayed just out of Roxburgh the first night and headed off to Millers Flat the second day.

Millers flat is a charming settlement on the south side of the river — friendly and peaceful with plenty of history.

The third day got us back to Roxburgh, where the obliging owner of our first night’s accommodation had organised for our car to be relocated to. The people we met were amazingly friendly.

Cycling the Clutha Gold Trail.

Clutha Gold Trail between Millers Flat and Roxburgh

The gorge was our highlight. It was beautiful following the cool blue Clutha/Mata-au River all the way amongst the dry brown rocky landscape. I would choose your weather wisely it can be excessively hot in summer and extremely cold out of summer. It is also remote so you need to be prepared.

Come behind the scenes and into the jobs, the challenges, the highlights, and the personalities of the people who work at the Department of Conservation (DOC).

Today we profile Chantelle Taylor, Communications Advice Manager, Wellington.

At work

Some things I do in my job include… From 2 September I’ll be leading a team of talented Communications Advisors around the country, providing specialist support to help managers and staff communicate effectively about DOC’s work. Our team’s focus is on protecting and building DOC’s reputation, so we maintain the support that’s needed to continue to do the great work DOC people do. That includes ensuring we communicate effectively with New Zealanders, with the news media, with our key stakeholders and with staff. It means telling lots of great stories, as well as helping teams plan and manage communications around sensitive decisions and issues.

Chantelle on the Heaphy Track and biking the Karapoti.

(Left) With one of my biking buddies Robyn on the Heaphy Track last winter—awesome ride! (Right) Nearing the finish of the 20 km “mini” Karapoti in 2011.

This helps achieve DOC’s vision by… making sure New Zealanders know about the great stuff we’re doing, understand why it’s so important, and trust DOC to do a good job. Basically it’s about growing/maintaining support for DOC and the work we do, so you can all get on with achieving our vision. We also have an important role to play in helping engage New Zealanders in conservation, and we help ensure staff understand our strategy and vision.

The awesome-est DOC moment I’ve had so far is… putting on a pair of gumboots and DOC-green polar fleece and heading out with the Murihiku team to ‘rescue’ a baby fur seal from a woman’s garden. I was in town running a workshop and the team jumped on the chance for me to see them in action. The wee seal had made his/her way up a river, through a park, across a couple of streets and into the camellia bushes. It was great to have the chance to get out with our rangers to see what the ‘real work’ is all about.

The best bit about my job is… The people I work with. I’m inspired every day by the people across DOC and the work they do. I’m also lucky to be surrounded by hugely talented, hard working, creative and fun people in the Communications Unit—you are awesome!

Chantelle with some of the people of the DOC Communications Unit.

Some of the fabulous people from the DOC Communications Unit

The DOC (or previous DOC) employee that inspires or enthuses me most is… It was actually former DOC ranger Nicola Toki, who writes the ‘In Our Nature’ blog on Stuff, that inspired me to come and work for DOC. She spoke at a public relations (PR) conference I attended a few years back and I was struck by her passion for conservation, and the potential to really make a difference for our environment by getting the conservation message out more widely. She’s continuing to do a great job speaking up for conservation in a way that people connect with.

Chantelle making orangutan enrichment.

Making orangutan enrichment, volunteering holiday at Matang Wildlife Centre, Borneo in 2011

On a personal note…

Most people don’t know that I… volunteered at Wellington Zoo for two and a half years when I first moved to Wellington. I swept chimpanzee poo, painted fences, built penguin nest boxes and papier mache’d enrichment toys with the best of them. One of the coolest things I did there was help out with measuring the Grand and Otago skinks in their breeding programme. Beautiful squirmy little creatures.

My stomping ground is… The mean streets of Wellington’s Mt Victoria, and the mountain biking trails of Makara Peak Mountain Bike Park.

My greatest sporting moment was when… I crossed the finish line at Grape Ride in April (101 km cycle race in Blenheim). Next stop: Taupo Cycle Challenge. Yikes, not sure what I’m thinking….

George the orangutan, at the Matang Wildlife Centre in Borneo.

George, one of Matang’s hairy, ginger residents

If I could be any New Zealand native species I’d be… a tui. While I love getting out in wild places (particularly on my mountain bike!) I’m definitely most comfortable in the city. It’s wonderful seeing so many tui around Wellington. They are pretty quirky birds and great urban ambassadors for our native wildlife.

Before working at DOC I… worked in the tourism sector, at Tourism New Zealand and then at the sector’s industry training organisation (ATTTO). I was fortunate to be involved in some pretty amazing stuff during my time at Tourism New Zealand—everything from a giant inflatable rugby ball to a visit from a bunch of Top Models and a Bachelor. One of the highlights though was writing the award entry that won New Zealand the overall prize at the international Virgin Responsible Tourism Awards – amazing PR around the enormous value to New Zealand of integrating environmental management into business. Before that I worked in a bunch of marketing communications roles in financial services in Auckland and London.

Chantelle outside the Giant Rugby Ball.

It wasn’t London, Paris or Tokyo, but I finally saw that Giant Rugby Ball (instead of just writing media releases about it!). Auckland 2011

Deep and meaningful…

My favourite quote is… “The best routes are the ones you haven’t ridden. You could pedal the same loops year after year. Many people do, literally or figuratively. But to grow, you need new rides. Risks. Turn down lanes you’ve long seen but never travelled. Get lost once or twice, then double back to where you started and try again. Live like this and you come to see unknown territory not as threatening, but as intriguing.” ~ Mark Remy, Bicycling Magazine 9/01.

The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given is… from a friend very recently. There are no crystal balls in life. Don’t even try to work out where you’re going to end up or what you’re meant to be doing/not doing, you just have to follow your gut, jump on opportunities and see where the path takes you.

In work and life I am motivated by… doing stuff I love and making a difference to things or people I care about.

My conservation advice to New Zealanders is… be more aware of the conservation issues on your back doorstep.

Question of the week

What movie could you watch over and over and still love, and what movie snack would you pick to go with it?

Hmmm… sorry but I’ve got to be honest… It’s probably “The Holiday”—cute and cheesy and everyone lives happily ever after, and I could watch Jude Law all day long! My snack would definitely be pineapple lumps.