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Great Rides: The Royal Albany Mountainbike Trails

March 19, 2011
Royal Albany Singletrack

Tight and twisty singletrack through the Tea tree.

For those of us looking to mountainbike on the North Shore pickings have been pretty slim. Parks and reserves offer some entertaining trails but as most are shared with pedestrians you have to reign in your speed to avoid taking-out a posse of nuns on their Sunday stroll.

So where can you go and get dirty without driving out to Riverhead Forest or the Woodhill Mountain Bike ParkSanders Reserve is an option, or at least it will be if it ever opens. There’s many kilometres of trails at Sanders, but it’s a fair ride from the ’burbs and most visitors will choose to drive.

This is where “The Royal Albany Mountainbike Trails” come in to play. Who would have thought there’s a hidden network of bushland singletrack within easy riding distance of the ’Bays? Those in-the-know have been riding here for some time of course, but until recently I assumed it was on public land and probably illegal. A sniff-around Google Maps suggests the block in question is part of Massey University and according to the Auckland MTB Club website the university is right behind the project. You’ll certainly get the impression you’re trespassing, it just has that feel about it, but it’s well worth a visit to sample the riding on offer.

And how about that for a grand title? Someone has a sense of humour, I didn’t even know Betty Windsor rode a mountainbike!

Royal Albany Trails Access Road Entrance

The very nondescript entrance at the top of Bush Road.

In the last five years a committed trail-builder has been carving singletrack through the manuka south of the campus. The land sits between the open fields behind the university carpark and the scenic reserve that borders Bush Road. You enter at a farm-style gate near the top of Bush Road and ride for a couple of hundred metres until you come to a fenced-off block of trees on your right. Clamber over the wire at the corner and you’re ready to ride, or carry on down the access road and you’ll spot other opportunities to jump the fence and join the trails. There’s no need to go too far down in to the gully as this only provides access to a cellphone tower and it’s a steep ride out.

Back Road Bike

Riding the cellphone-tower access road towards the trails.

The trails weave in and out of the spindly tea tree and with the benefit of some audible cues from construction work I determined that – yes, I was going around in circles! Well maybe not circles, but looping back and forth like spaghetti tossed in a bowl. The singletrack is quite narrow in places and I managed to scrape my knuckles on a couple of trees, but it’s not particularly technical, just a scattering of roots and small stumps to negotiate.

Children in double-digits will cope fine with the terrain but it’s not a footpath through the forest like some of the Woodhill trails. Younger folk with the required skills will get by, but bear in mind you will have to park some distance away from the entrance if you’re not riding from home.

Massey University - Albany Campus

Great views of Massey University riding in.

I didn’t take many photos because once you’re in the bush it all looks much the same, but it’s a pleasant place to be, a fragrant little oasis in the middle of busy Albany. The manuka is also a nice change from the pine forests many of us regularly ride.

If you’re on the Shore and live north of Milford, leave the car at home, grab a banana and a water-bottle and ride out there. I had a good time, let me know what you think of the trails.

Bush-Monster (Cross)

Tranquility in the big city.

A Fruitful Wrong-Turn

On the way to Albany I ended up riding through Rosedale Park where the softball diamonds are. That took me past the poo-ponds and down the back of the pony club. Turning left on to Rosedale Road and then right at the roundabout I pedaled down Clemows Lane and through the housing estate looking to cut the corner to Bush Road. There is a long greenbelt that runs all the way from Tawa Drive to the Albany Highway and most of it is pleasant riding. I thought I would be able to gain access to Bush Road from behind Pinehurst School but unless you’re game to clamber through the bushes and cross the creek it’s a fruitless exercise. What I did find however was apples, tens of thousands of apples!

Tucked away behind the houses on Clemows Lane is a public reserve, now called George Rannill Park. It’s home to the remaining apple trees from the old Clemows Orchard. There must be fifty or more and unless you lived nearby you wouldn’t even know they existed. Stop by if you’re in the area, it’s kind of a surreal place and the apple I sampled was delicious, I’m going back for more.

George Rannill Park - What's left of Clemow’s Orchards

Free apples in George Rannill Park, just around the corner from Bush Rd.

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