Calamity Cup 2014

It's a little known fact that the only person who reads this page is DP's Dad.  He's a lovely chap who has brought DP up to be the inveterate liar we all know and love him for.  He'll be thrilled to have a mention here - and it's all down to DP that he is.  Whilst there were a number of entrants for the cup this year, RA's facial braking technique, AS's shirt-melting-into-back fixie riding, GiantP's numerous gentle falls to mention just a few, it was DP's 'Badger Dismount' which was the runaway winner.  As well as the dismount DH's comment about 'it was the longest flight I've seen' really sums up the effort DP put into winning the cup just so that his father could get a mention.  As the photo below shows DP was over the moon about winning.  Nothing left to say except 'What a mug'.

Congratulations DP, I don't think any of us expected you to be a winner of this.

The badger was unavailable for comment.   Many thanks to IC's wife for the mug too.

Wather Wet n Windy Welly Weather.

Wellington – Feb 2014
Windy Welly is known for its Wather Wild Wet ‘n’ Windy Weather, it is also very, very hilly. The many hills that are not covered in Urban sprawl are instead covered in thick, dense, near impenetrable forest bush and hiding throughout this dense bush many amazing cycle tracks have been developed, but like most places in NZ, to get to the top, you first have to climb.

Wellington from Christchurch is a 5 hour drive and a 3 hour ferry crossing. With a long holiday weekend ahead of us, we finished work on the Thursday, loaded the Ute with 4 bods and 5 bikes and roared off to backpackers lodge near the ferry terminal for a quick nap before the notoriously rough crossing early next morning.

Day 1. An awesome crossing, the gods had blessed us, off the ferry and a drive by the airport to collect the Boss whom preferred to sleep in his own bed and avoid 5 hours in the Ute. (Works for AirNZ so cheap flights for him)

It’s lunchtime now so with the typical Kiwi Kai in our pukus (traditional NZ food in our tummy’s i.e a meat pie from the bakers) we set straight off to ride the Wainuiomata (Why-Newie-O-Marter) bike park for a few hours before driving off to the motorlodge park where the 5 of us were to stay in a 3m x 5m shed with bunkbeds, cramped, but cheap and our token female was a little unimpressed with the lack of privacy for her.

Day 2. Makara Peak Mountain Bike Park.
So, with the free parking at the start of the bike park, complete with toilets, bike wash down, big track maps, sheltered seating areas, water taps and basic bike tools including track pump on chains. We saddled up Bro and set off for a ‘Mean As’ climb up the hill and get access to over 35km of hillside single track.

Nearly all the height was gained on the relative straight sections, with the hair pin switchbacks pretty much levelled out complete with high banked berms for the rather speedy descents. If you are ever to cycle uphill, on single track, this just had to be the way to do it.

The track building was so well thought-out and built that it made climbing the 400m peak, three times a, dare I say it, rather pleasant experience :-/ The trees and the bush were just so interesting, dense but interesting, with occasional breaks in the canopy to let you glance out over the ranges offering a well earned vantage point and appreciation of just how much height we were gaining so rapidly.
Cruising along in granny gear with the seat post extended to the point where it felt like you were on tip toes to turn a full pedal stroke, the uphills suddenly became enjoyable. With knees pumping hard, the occasion ‘layby’ would appear on the single track, usually with a bench, a log or stump to rest on. Hold on! I was taken aback; Has the Major been to these parts? I questioned myself in a split second of surprise! I was horrified! There, amongst all this fabulous beauty, on the side of a dense bush covered hill, a hill that has seen over 4,500 track building volunteer hours invested upon it, there, within all this Flora and Fauna, some disrespectful dirty hoon has discarded their old tube and left it swinging in the breeze. Then, a tyre, a rusty ole chain, a buckled wheel, WTF is this Bro? Who would do this? Then came my realisation, this is ‘Bike Art’! Sweet As Bro! Suddenly it was cool to dump your used parts in the bush or adorn a dead tree stump with a buckled wheel, a chainring or 20 nailed into a form of bike themed collage…..

At the peak for the first time of 3 visits today, just 18700km from Coed-Y-Brenin, with a magnificent 360 degree view of Wellington and its surrounding hills and a sky full of warm sun, it was time for one of our riding party (Our very own DJP of the Canterbury MTB Club) to fulfil his social media educed ‘Necknomination’ obligation, and skull a cold Corona. Whilst the rest of sat slowly sipping and enjoying the reward of reaching the top. The peak complete with decking platform, picnic benches and bike racks, all just on top of a hill, nothing else but the deck, a bench, a bike rack and the endless view. So much to look at, ferries in the harbour, wind turbines on the peaks, tracks snaking down every hillside.

Would we invest in this sort of thing in the UK? ….. Only if it was privately owned, an entrance fee was paid and a grotty old café was printing money, you’d be battling the crowds to sit down, the air would be filled with ringtones, dodgy rap music screeching out some hoons iPhone and you’d no doubt be hogging in second-hand cigarette smoke from some greasy chap in a shellsuit that had just driven up in his Granada.

Instead, we sat, we ate, we drank, we rested and we watched the tranquillity in silence……Mmmm! Then reminded ourselves, “Hey Bro, we gonna smash these trails Hard As Bro”, saddle up bitches, time to eat dirt, we’re in for a Sick As Day Bro.

Day 3. The weather was a little more Wellington like, Wet and Windy. With the morning back up the hills, tracks a little too soft, but heaps of fun. Spotted a few advisory notices suggesting track damage is caused by over use in the wet so just half a day spent there. Thinking we would just sack the day early and grab a scoop in a bar instead, the city was heaving with crazy costumes as the Rugby 7’s were in full swing. After a beer and a feed we decided we would ride again, an old rail road, the 22km Rimutaka Incline railway line made slightly famous by it’s long dark tunnels and rail disaster back in 1880 when strong winds blew the train off the tracks as it traversed a bridge over a deep gorge killing 3 children.

The tunnels were odd, one of them so long and curved that there was no light at the end of the tunnel and thus pitch black. Advice is for cyclist to walk, Yeah Right, for 600m? Get real! So in we rode, single file, nice and slow with the light fading with every extra metre until it was close to pitch black! The odd sound of someone’s bars scrapping the tunnel walls. Of course, I was lead scout, those behind could vaguely work out a silhouette of the one in front! Nice, but me, I didn’t have that! With no lights, all we could do was keeping going, really slowly, with elbows poking right out so they touched the wall before the bars caught. For some crazy moment, I thought I’d see if I could ride no handed with both arms out stretched ready to feel the walls. It worked for what may have been 4-5m before I chickened out thinking the floor may have a divot that would have me off. I went to grab my bars again and in the total darkness, I fell short and completely missed the bars altogether, instead, in slow motion, thumped onto the damp floor. Oh how we laughed, grown men in the dark tunnel, all twisted together in a heap.

Day 4. Journey home. On the ferry, off the ferry and a short detour from the port to spend 2 hours riding the tail end of the very Famous Queen Charlotte Track. It’s a 70+km track and we basically rode for 1 hour then turned around. One word, Glorious. I’ll say nothing about it now as I will return to complete the whole track.

Sweet Wheels and Roofracks!

(to be read with your best Kiwi accent, Aye Bro? Yeah, Nah!)

Those Thursday nights in Renders were a real taster and provided great training for what was to come. The Port hills tracks, night riding. Far out, Yes, Gnarly downhill tracks in the dark, initially on that vintage 2000 Marin MV with those Orange Manitou (not so) Shocks. Even I started to use phrases like “Jeeez  Bro, that was a sick decent” because at that time, I was of the mis-belief that ‘sick’ meant bad and risky. But really, I was on my limit with some of these Bro’s! Minimal shocks, rim brakes, clipped in, skinny 1.95 tyres, a helmet purchased in 2000 and looking like something that I’d found in the recycle bin. I was thinking I needed to change my kit Bro, I needed to get me some ‘Sweet Wheels’. One more tumble straight over the bars saw the end to my bargain basement helmet, it split open like the husk of a horse chestnut while I, on the other hand was completely unscathed, but it was a wake up call. It wasn’t until I got home and realised the helmet had split open by what seemed like an impact on a sharp pointed rock, right at the base of my skull leaving a perfect pyramid shaped impact indentation, Mmmmm could have been 20mm lower and I may not have got up unassisted. So, down to the hat shop I went and purchased a nice new Urge All Mountain bonnet to protect my noggin. I was keen on the Urge lids as they seemed to give better coverage around the base of the skull. Whilst hat shopping, I was surrounded by some ‘Sweet As Wheels’. 

The Marin Mount Vision XM range had been launched and the girl was looking ‘Tidy As Bro’! A dabble on the keyboard, a bit of internet bike porn and a store just 420 miles North agreed to spin me a ‘Hot As’ deal when I explained the price tag just has to start with a 1. A few days later a fresh cardboard box came knocking on the door. I wasn’t home at the time so she sat and waited in the sun patiently for me all day on the doorstep…………. ( I love NZ)

Well, like a small child locked in the lolly shop, I put her together and discovered I could cycle right around the house…. Inside….. Yep, through the lounge, out the door, up the hall, into the kitchen, back into the lounge, out the door, up the hall, into the kitchen, around the table, back into the lounge, around the sofa, out the door, up the hall, into the kitchen, back into the lounge…. Faster and faster and faster….until Oooohps, Mmmm, that hole in the jib (plasterboard), mmmm! Looks strangely similar to the type of mark that may be left by a brake lever should someone cycle around inside the home….. Arrh, Yeah, Nah, She’ll be Sweet Bro Aye?...... The beauties of living alone, in a rental property that bares all the scars of some recent, violent Earthquake activity. But really, I ask you, cycling around indoors at your age, tut! How foolish. Worked wonders for my bike skills though, if only I could have my primary school days back now, I’m sure I’d beat Tania Buckle in the sports day slow bicycle race now you know!

Saturday came, the weather was dry, I thumped up the Rapaki Track, right across the peaks and down into the beach resort at Sumner. 25ks done and my Sweet ride was ‘Sweet As’ Bro, Aye? Oooo to be on a 5” All Mountain, with real shocks, real working fully functioning shocks…. Sweeeeeeet!

Now! Sunday, the fortnightly CMBC ride. It was an out of town ride, some 50kms out of town. As usual, the club meets at wherever car park and sorts a spot of car pooling. I’m in with 2 chaps, the driver has a new car and has brought and fitted a gleaming new rack on the roof. Nice…. It’s a Thule, top class Aye Bro? So, triples up, we set off down the main highway…… Tap, tap, tap, click, click, click goes the roof! Driver stops to check his load…. “She’s Sweet Bro Aye?” (I should have checked too). Tap, tap, tap, click, click, click goes the roof. Mmmm! I’m sat in the back, in that akward position where you really want to question someone’s processes but you just don’t know them well enough and your worried that you may insult them. 

I know! I’m going to tell the driver the story of the fun my WBS pals just had on the M25 just 4 weeks ago…….. I didn’t get to the punch line before we had an identical experience! Yeah, really, She’s 2 days old with 25kms on the clock and I’m picking bits of her up off the road and trying to prevent her drowning in the stream. Longer story short….a few scars, but she’s sweet! I didn’t get to ride her that day, instead I limped home, bottom lip quivering, off to contact the Major and find out where I could get a new derailleur hanger from.

Just outside the ‘City’ envelope.

Half Day rides within a 2 Hour drive of Christchurch City.
Venturing a little way out the ‘City’ envelope, within a few hours drive along typically empty roads, I’ve managed to ride many of the popular Canterbury tracks.

The Wharfedale Track
Apparently, at around 10Km and rising slowly to a saddle at 750m, it’s one of the best and longest stretches of single track in Canterbury - curving through the beech forests, through streams, drainage gullys and past waterfalls, the track is littered with tree roots and brutal water bars - good fun in the dry but real knarly when wet, it also offers some stunning scenery. The beach trees secrete a type of Honey through the bark, so hugely popular with wasps in the Autumn, bizarrely, the honey is so good, they tend to leave us folk well alone. Having said that, one of our crew did get a sting on his Adams apple of all places! I’ve ridden this track twice now, both in the wet and the dry. The track had suffered, as many have recently, a lot of land slips and fallen trees following a nasty ‘Weather Bomb’ (to make it sound dramatic as the Kiwis love too), yet DOC were soon out clearly and rebuilding, within weeks the tracks were clear and open again. It’s amazing the time, effort and money that is invested on these tracks, yet there is virtually no financial gain by having them open, there’s not even a parking fee charged in the car parks!! 

Craigieburn Forest Park.
Up in the mountains the track offers miles of single track giving a challenging half day ride. After grunting up the Ski Field access road, and I mean up, you are rewarded with the stunning scenery of the southern alps from above the tree line, you ride across narrow tracks carved into scree and shail slopes where at times you just hope today is not the day for the slopes to suffer a landslide. You ride through some fantastic forest land and get a good 30minute brake cooking Down hill decent in the forest back to the car park. You can be up there for half a day, and perhaps see 2 or 3 other people!

Stepping outside the MTB topic for a moment, this skifield has a ski ‘lift’ called the Nutcracker, when I first saw it, it was one of those “Only in New Zealand” moments! The Nutcracker, well… it has the potential to all end in tears and it’s a design that frankly would not be approved for use anywhere near Europe. Using it requires training and the hire of both leather gauntlets (….so you can grab hold of the steel rope of course) and a waist harness with metal clamp, which then hangs around your nether regions all day.

Mount Sommers,
Mt Somers is part of the Canterbury Highcountry and was used as a Lord of the Rings film location. It’s an outdoor recreational paradise for hiking, horse riding, mountain biking, fishing and windsurfing on the lakes. Twice now I have been out to witness the absolute unspoilt beauty and scenery. Big distance and big elevations.

Hamner Forest,
Well one of the favourites, as experienced by our fellow WBSurfer, Downhill Dave, although on that occasion, the weather was attune to Renders in April. Now, when the sun is warm and the tracks are dry, well, all that is missing is the chair lift up. With Tracks named Detox, Tank Track, Dog Stream and Yankee Zephyer there is a track for all moods. Gorgeous, narrow single track zig-zaging through beech forest, short fun down hill runs with good flow, steep challenging climbs and technical descents. Whilst a good 2 hour drive away, I have spent 4 hours in the hills on numerous occasions with the cycle club and it doesn’t matter how hot and sweaty, how muddy or how cold you get, because right at the bottom, in the village, are the  Thermal hot pools. A measly 20 bucks (£10) gets you as long as you like in the steaming pools and hydro spas where you can melt your burning MTB muscles. What a way to finish a ride.

Christchurch City - Local Rides, Bottle Lake Forest.

Local Rides, Bottle Lake Forest.

For my regular Rendlesham/Tunstall fix, I head out to Bottle Lake, just 10km North of Christchurch city and runs adjacent to the East Coastal Beaches of New Brighton.

Like <kiwi>Renders & Tunny</kiwi>, Bottle Lake Forest is a production forest with trees logged in a 30 year rotation. Like home nearly all are pinetrees and covers 800+ hectares of coastal sand dunes. The full MTB loop is around 12km and the best description of this would be…......

Imagine your best 300m metres of Rendlesham wibbly wobbly, add to it your best 300m of Tunstall ups and downs, throw in 200m of the Rendlesham family stunt loop and 100m of the least boring fire track you can think of, remove nearly all the wet bits, dispose of all the litter, prune back all the soft foliage that could hook your bars, add in a few cheeky jumps, a lake with a nice board walk through it, a glimpse of the sand dunes and breaking waves by the surf club, increase the track elevation variations to about 20m, position the odd water tap and free to use electric BBQ, multiply the length of all this to cover 12kms then place a nice Café at the end of the ride and you’ve pictured my local Renders & Tunny Ride. 

When feeling more like getting high....and I do mean gaining height.

The Port Hills are one of the best-loved landscapes of Christchurch. The rocky out-crops contrast the flatness of the Canterbury Plains and provide 100km views to the Southern Alps as well as down into both the City and the shipping harbour.

It’s massively popular with walkers, runners, rock climbers, paragliders, mountain bikers, road bikers and those out for a scenic sightseeing drive. The whole of the ‘Port Hills’ are basically the crater rim of a super volcano, and it’s gorgeous to explore and with over 55km of purpose made tracks, it’s a real asset to have on your doorstep. It takes me just 4 minutes to cycle to the foot of the most popular all weather track, the Rapaki Track, which climbs up to the vast network, including Victoria Down Hill Park. Some of the tracks remain closed however, due to rock fall and continued rock fall hazards following the 2011 Earthquakes, although recently much work has been done to progress reopening the forgotten tracks.

The tracks are constantly and magnificently maintained by both the Dept of Conservation (DOC, a govt agency that basically look after the natural/nature side of the whole country) and local volunteers.

The Woodbridge Surfers extreme division, core athletes sub group's Morzine 7 "Wet and Dirty".

The Woodbridge Surfers extreme division, core athletes sub group's Morzine 7 "Wet and Dirty".
 After collecting the late addition to this year’s lineup for the Alps trip, it soon became apparent that he was not coming along, not up early, but simply just still up. Clark was not coming with us; he just wanted to be in the write up. He was not there to wave us off; he had not finished enjoying himself and could not find his house. After ensuring his safe return home, DP set off with his other sleep deprived passengers towards the tunnel and what could be a very lonely and quiet journey.

Luckily within 16 hours of the last beer at Hooma we were enjoying another, 660 miles South and then straight into another, in our alarmingly clean (luckily wipe clean) alpine chalet.

A break in the forecasted rain saw us flying down the collection of short, tight bermed, top quality runs at Lets Gets. After 3 hours of enjoying the semi dry conditions of these fondly the remembered, with some new and one shockingly altered existing run, some French cuisine was required. With burger and chips ordered, we discussed how forgiving and incredibly capable the bikes were, or was it our returning skills, whichever as we rushed to get out there, to tear it up some more, the rain started and with it came the lightning, which caused the lifts to close. More coffees as we watched the show and then eagerly awaited the sky power to run out so the fun could continue. After sticking mud all over DP's face as he napped, a puncture (causing us to spend 49 Euros on 4 tubes - we still have 3) a few more excellent runs on the slightly trickier surface, enjoying Steve's bridge, which is still there, but like the man himself, missing, as is his jump. Feeling we had done (got away with) enough on day 1 we decided to head home. The trail home from LG is a complete mix of all that is good in MTB, with 2 miles of up to 40mph road, open fields with "if you stand there I will go over you", Ian's catch fence and the fastest fire roads you will ever ride, over Duncan's barbed wire bridge and finally, coast across town to home. Feeling a little smug or rather, stoked that we had shredded the mountain and smashed it with some sick moves, sweet, with only a couple of minor get-offs ( one, I noticed, precariously hanging above me 2 berms back) from the (1st downhill for over 1000 days) Dr, we headed to the nearest and newest establishment in town, which happened to be a micro-brewery, perfect.

After raining for about 18 hours, turning out into continued precipitation in damp clothing and putting more on did not seem that appealing, so everything was worn for the 5 minute walk to the bike shop, two lifts later we were into some higher altitude rain (colder), quick 10 minute pedal up to Maysty's-seat-post-out descent (having been through his one wheel in each gulley and then in to the bushes and out again without even putting a foot down descent, yesterday), we were into the long rocky dh to Lindarets. The rocks and shale dealt well with the water, so it was great to let go and let the trail flow and soon we were above Chatel. The classic and fantastic Panoramic with its up to 45mph sections and huge air was reduced to 30 ish due to the muddy surface, terrible visibility and knowing what was 2 foot beside you. Ian found the biggest puddle he could, to see what it would to his speed and the last few inches of dry clothing he had left. The huge berms in the fairground ride like trails were not spoilt in Chatel and they were amazing even in the wet, riding at 45 degrees+ with your head 8ft a above ground was a bigger buzz as anything we do, over enthusiasm led to a few higher than expected jumps and a little muddy spill for DH. However every coffee shop being closed, forced an early departure back to Lindaret and then a wrong turning caused body temperature to drop further as the now completely drenched clothing and the 5 degrees temperature started to attack the smaller parts of our bodies (and fingers and toes). We weren't lost but the sight of an oasis like restaurant was very, very welcome. We dropped mud and water where ever we went, incredibly they were pleased to see us but not as pleased as we were to eat their soup and cook out gloves on their burner. Position and route sorted we embarked on a little climb followed by an 800 meter full-on descent on fire roads made of boulders, brake too much and the boulders would roll in front of your wheel until it over took you, brake too little and it delays the invertible. A little lay down by DP caused the Dr to do same (or run him over and then who would get us home?) in a rock lined gulley, which was impossible to get out of. Then last bit was on road and slip streaming on a water logged road, following a 2.5 inch tyre would remove the chance of finding any air in your helmet. (All I can think of is 20p coins) Testing the hairpin cornering capabilities of these tires got us swiftly into Morzine for an early and welcome shower on a day when we only saw a dozen or so other bikes and whilst tough in places, the reward s were sweet.

Day 3. Raining, forecast is heavy rain. Decided to head back to Lets Gets as the trails are mainly robust, but as we slipped into the first berm, the rider ahead ground to a halt in 8 inch mud, this was going to be tricky. After a morning of trails, avoiding the exposed roots and rocks, and keeping upright on the berms, we found they could be conquered with some speed. But once again soaked right through we looked for re-charge and some warmth at coffee. We completed a few more trails, avoiding puddles where possible, but we just could not produce enough heat to keep the extremities warm,  so once we decided to tackle the long retour a Morzine trail for a late lunch, at the chalet before we were too cold to hold on properly. Dixie's bar saw us a bit earlier this year. Dave Grohl did not notice us but I am sure he appreciated our extended business, even though Amstel appeared to not be served when we arrived either. Managed to catch up with all the world sport, Tartiflette for dinner and a late night watching the goal fest in Brazil. No falls today!

Once again we choose Lets Gets for our last day and with a change of strategy we split the day in two.
AM, in hope that it was holding up despite the continued rain we hurried off the first lift only to find the second chair lift was under repair, so a change of direction took us up and down the valley to Mont Chery and onto the gentle green through the woods, once again trapped in a gulley, DP slid to a graceful off, but this time not feeling constrained by our personal conditions we pushed on through the conditions, enjoying rather than avoiding in the knowledge of our planned lunchtime pitstop. The slightly relaxed feeling caused DH to get stuck in the wrong gulley but his time with not such a graceful side exit. Heading back to Morzine once again we sped to the chalet, ate, showered and changed into all our last remaining dry clothes.
 PM. Feeling fully charged and warm, we headed out to the favorite from 2013, Super Morzine, with its super-fast berms and huge table tops, all of which whilst intact were almost un-ride able due to deep mud, desperate to finish on a high we tackled the road switch backs to Morzine through the town and up the Plenney lift, to a group of runs which were new and hugely enjoyed a few years ago. The black was out of the question in these conditions so we decided to finish this year on a green, the Family trail is gentle and slightly odd, in and out of the woods, with no berms on the corners making it a challenge on its own and was still quite a handful in places but provided an exciting but relatively relaxing trail to finish MZ7 on a real high.
The cycle shop were so please to see their 16,000 Euros of bikes in one piece, we were greeted with a cold Heineken.Nice…
Morzine 2014 made it through as another great success, we the made the very best of difficult conditions, where most did not even venture out and we were rewarded with some great and exhilaratingly runs, but this year with a real sense of endeavor and achievement. Still the best thing you can do on two wheels. Quick 12 hour Payne free journey, home in time for Ovaltine.
Mor8ine - 2015 – “Drier than last year”.