Yes, yes, I know this is supposed to be a “community cycling” blog, but I’m a mountainbiker at heart and wanted to share some photos from the weekend. The riding was so good and my camera seemed to be operating on auto-pilot all day.
The wind was howling, the surf was booming and every motorised contraption in West Auckland was thundering up and down the northern end of the beach. Being classed as a national highway they’re perfectly entitled to, but wheelying your motocross bike at 120kph is probably frowned upon in law enforcement circles.
There didn’t appear to be a whole lot of law enforcement going on; dirt bikes, mini bikes, quad bikes and off-roaders of every size and shape were going balls-out in all directions. It was all great fun, if a little scary riding a bicycle in the midst of a petrol-head circus maximus.
Oh, fat-bikes? I’ll explain those in another post. But it goes without saying they’re right at home on the beach.
I drove out to Woodhill Forest this morning after dropping my son at rowing training.
At 6.00am in the morning you’re in that no-man’s-land of “it’s still the middle of the friggin night” but “it’s too late to go back to bed”.
Even after stopping at Kumeu for a coffee and sticky bun I was the first one to arrive at the mountainbike park, I’m never the first at anything!
So early in fact, it was too dark to ride. So I assembled my mojo, got the fat-bike ready to roll and reached for the camera.
I tell ya, getting out in the fresh-air on a mountainbike is one of the best experiences you can have.
Not as good as sex. Not as good as salt & pepper prawns from Chinatown washed down with cold beer. But it’s up there, it’s really up there.
If you’ve been a regular visitor to this blog you may have seen my big purple mountainbike pop-up from time to time. With it’s chunky 3.7 inch tyres (on 65mm rims) it tends to stand-out in a crowd, and with me being 6′ 5″ it’s a huge bike by any measure.
Seven years ago when I put my Pugsley together the category didn’t even have a name, we called them snow-bikes, sand-bikes or adventure bikes. As the genre grew and more manufacturers got onboard “fat-bike” became the standard description. You can’t really argue with that handle, they might not be as heavy as they look, but they certainly are fat, and getting fatter year by year.
I’m going to do a proper post on fat-bikes another time and share why they’re so addictive and so much fun. For now let’s just say most of the allure is in those words above; snow, sand & adventure.
I’ve had such a blast on my purple fatty it amazes me they haven’t taken-off down-under, we are surrounded by beaches and mountains after all. In the USA and Canada, and to some extent Northern Europe the bikes are starting to sell in numbers. That has piqued the interest of the big boys and fat-bikes are no longer the domain of boutique brands and custom frame-builders.
So after four paragraphs of waffle I’m finally getting to the point. If you want to see the latest in next-generation fat-bikes, the ones with even fatter tyres on even fatter rims, get down to Echelon Cyclery in Barrys Point Rd. Echelon are a Specialized dealer, and Specialized are very big bike company indeed.
This is their first entry in the fat-bike market and they’re not mucking around. My Surly Pugsley looked decidedly wimpy propped-up next to it, almost track-bike thin. The FatBoy’s swoopy alloy frame and carbon fibre fork looked great but like most fat-bikes it’s the wheels that grab your attention. Rather than speccing established rims and tyres (some manufactured by competitors), Specialized have developed their own. Usually that would concern me, but the Big S have a long history of tyre development and these chunky 4.6 inch variants of their Ground Control design look the business.
The 90mm single-wall rims are very striking, a filigreed work of art. With a fat-bike you are only running between 6 and 15psi so to save weight you can cut holes between the spokes and the rim-strip only bulges out a few millimeters.
If you’re in anyway interested in these amazing machines get down to Echelon pronto and check it out. There are only four in the country, it won’t be there for long.
Tell them Bike Friendly North Shore sent you. Better yet, why not buy the thing? Then I’ll have some company riding on the beach!
As previously reviewed in Great Rides the grandly named Royal Albany Trail is a legitimate mountainbiking destination right here on the North Shore. Tucked in a pocket of manuka just behind the Massey campus, a lot of fun can be had in a small area thanks to some clever trail building by volunteers. If you sniff-out every track there’s over 20km of riding, enough to keep dirt-junkies busy for a couple of hours or more.
There’s lots of information over on the RAT website, where to park, where to get in, trail-map etc.
Starting at the top of Bush Rd I threw my bike over the gate, clambered across the stile provided and spun my way up the 4WD access road. There’s good views of the university to your right and once a subsequent gate is conquered you find yourself at the corner of the forest with the trails in plain sight. Knowing no better I entered here, but after researching this post and finding the official map I now realise the trailhead is a little further down the road.
This is proper mountainbiking, tighter and more technical than Woodhill but not too difficult, not in the dry anyway. I was riding my cyclocross bike (sort of a road-bike you ride in the dirt) and coped just fine with no suspension and skinny tyres. Some sections were fast and swoopy with good flow but you have to have your wits about you if you don’t know what’s around the next corner. There were a couple of logs I chose to dismount for but I’m sure you could ride them, I’m just a bit chicken when riding solo.
The trails weave in and out of the manuka, zig-zagging back and forth and I had absolutely no idea what direction I was heading or which part of the forest I was in. I thought I had the place to myself but eventually the sound of shredding was detected and before long I was catching glimpses of other riders through the spindly foliage.
Lots of work has been put-in since my last visit. Soft surfaces are pampered with gravel, trail edges reinforced with logs where required and I even encountered a wooden causeway constructed across a section of swamp.
When it was time to leave I realised I was totally lost and everything was looking the same, a tree is a tree after all. I rode along aimlessly and eventually spotted some university buildings in the distance. After chucking the bike over fences and scrambling up a bank I had returned to civilisation at last! Tired but happy I pointed my steed towards the coast and heading for home.
Although you get the feeling you’re trespassing, the land is owned by Massey University and used with their blessing. Let’s look after the place; carry-out what you carry-in and don’t obstruct any gates or park illegally.
I had a great time at Royal Albany, give the trails a go and tell me what you think.
Bike Friendly North Shore must be growing up, we’ve just landed a sponsor! While not a North Shore business (they hail from the Waikato) Evolution Cycles is a name that just keeps cropping-up. A work colleague scored a cool fixie from their online store recently and I’ve run into a couple of bike divas around town looking ever so stylish on their retro Schwinns.
Evolution Cycles offer a full range of bikes including Mountain Bikes, Road Bikes, Kids Bikes, Ladies Bikes, Scooters, Helmets and Accessories. The online operation is run out of the ’Tron and they have bricks & mortar stores in Hamilton, Cambridge and Te Awamutu.
When I can’t find something locally and source it online determining the “shipping” cost always gives me the heebie-jeebies. Sometimes it’s a flat-fee and you can factor that in, sometimes you have to “check-out” to actually find out how much it’s going to be – I hate that. With Evolution the Shipping is Free NZ wide for bikes and accessories, how easy is that?
Cycling in the Waikato is Going Off
With a rower in the family I’ve become intimately familiar with the Waikato, it’s second nature now to load-up the old Toyota and head down to Karapiro. One thing that strikes me about the region is how healthy cycling is down there, on all levels it seems to be flourishing. This metrosexual leaves a city of 1.5 million where cycling is marginalized, drives to the middle of nowhere (sorry, I’m speaking as an Aucklander here) and suddenly I’m surrounded by bikes and bike-infrastructure. They have high-performance covered with rowers cross-training, road-racing is flourishing, the National Cycling Centre of Excellence ( Avantidrome) is near completion and it’s always been a hotbed for BMX talent. I’m going to cover this in other posts but recreational cycling and MTB is thriving too with exciting developments like Te Awa | The Great New Zealand River Ride and The Waikato River Trails.
So welcome aboard Evolution Cycles and thanks for the support.
Working odd hours I’ve invariably got the road to myself, that’s both good and bad. Good in that tin-tops are few and far between, bad in that I’m isolated from fellow riders, a cycle-commuting outcast.
I’m that last unwanted fishfinger, sitting in a smear of ketchup on a stone cold plate. Abandoned overnight on the kitchen counter while the rest of the crockery sleeps warm & snug in the dishwasher.
At 5.30am this morning I was about to have some company, no longer a lonely fish on frozen streets. There they were, fishtailing down Beach Rd towards me at breakneck speed, eyes blazing like headlights, sodium glare reflecting off their shiny skins.
The whir of a well-oiled chain, the buzz of a freewheel, that’s all you hear in the still of the night. And that’s all I heard as the first roadie passed, close enough to touch, close enough to smell last night’s tartare sauce. On his wheel Roadie #2, another mute. Slipstreaming or fighting for the lead he had nothing to say, no greeting, nod or grunt. “What’s wrong with these people?”, I thought to myself, “aren’t we all swimming in the same direction?”
I was visibly bristling when Roadie #3 pulled alongside. “Nice lights” broke the silence. “Thanks”, I hurriedly replied before he careered into the darkness. Then Roadies 4, 5 & 6 said g’day as they glided past and my cold heart warmed, maybe I’m not so alone in this sea of cars after all?