Great Rides: Sanders Reserve Mountainbike Park
Now before we get going, let’s just say it’s not a “Great Ride” yet. In-fact, I’d give the trails a 1-out-of-10 at this point, but the park has potential, huge potential, and it hasn’t even opened yet.
The reserve is on a magnificent headland just South of Auckland Prison. Take a left-turn onto Merewhira Road as you head down Paremoremo Road (from Albany Village) and then left into Sanders Road. The Northern end of Sanders Road is now blocked-off as it approaches the medium security compound and you won’t get through that way.
The park is not officially open and there were signs warning it’s still “under construction”, but the hole in the fence looked well-used and we were not the only people out there that day. Exercise some caution until you know the lay-of-the-land as although it looks 90% complete you might get caught-out by some unexpected earthworks for example.
I rode with my 12-year-old son and had been pre-warned the singletrack was sprinkled with loose lime-chip, steep in places and laid-out in bizarre twists and turns, some hair-pins so tight you’d have trouble getting around them. Guess what? That’s exactly what we found. Another odd feature were large rocks placed randomly at the edge of the trail. These weren’t “rock-gardens” to ride over or “natural-features” to ride around, they seemed to serve no purpose at all. Just something to crack your head on if you came off. Really strange.
Riding back to the car I was thinking how disappointed I was to be writing a negative review of a cycling-facility, and a cycling-destination in my part of town too, a rare beast indeed. But loading-up the car I got chatting with another dad who had been going there for some time and I started to realize the potential of the place and how it can only get better with time. More importantly, what a coup it was to secure such a fantastic piece of land in the first place.
The reserve was once farmland and is mostly grassed with a scattering of established trees on the perimeter. A sealed road leads from the front gate, through a parking-area and eventually to the visitors centre at the highest point. Up here you’re only 43m above sea-level but the 360º views are outstanding.
The visitors centre looks impressive with its geometric pergolas and you get the impression this might have been another of the outgoing council’s “legacy-splurges”. As a rate-payer I’d rather fund something substantial like this than a cheap & nasty alternative. It’s going to be a great spot to meet-up before or after a ride with toilets and what looks like a kitchen-area and changing rooms.
The park is aimed at riders of all abilities with an emphasis on beginners and families. This is where the trails in there current configuration don’t measure-up. For terrain that is not particularly steep there are quite a few uphill slogs that children under ten are going to struggle with. This is made more difficult by the loose surface that can break your traction if you stand-up to pedal.
This situation is fixable however. The topography of the Woodhill Bike Park is just as lumpy but the tracks are designed so gaining elevation is less taxing, it can be done. Some sections with a bit more “flow” will make it more fun to ride and bermed-corners in places would help this also.
I look forward to the official opening (whenever that may be) and thank the people involved with planning such a great asset for future generations. With mountainbiking such a popular recreational-activity, and growing in numbers year-by-year, I’m sure it’s going to get a lot of use.
A newer post on a visit to Sanders two months after this initial one is available here.