A Small Royal Visit
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.