Category Archives: bikes

Hawkston Rd gravel seeking

For about two years I’ve meant to vary a ride I did soon after moving to Napier. Saturday last, it was finally time to go and explore some different gravel roads up near Patoka. The spring weather was wonderfully warm, sunny and still – and I’d had enough of chores around the house. Also, it’s time to get a bit more distance in the legs as we head towards summer and more bikepacking & mountain-biking trips.

The memories came flooding back, now having ridden up Puketitiri Rd a few times – mostly on overnighters to the Mangatutu Hot Springs, which reminds me it must be about time for the annual trip. I stopped at some of the usual spots as the views were worth it, as they generally are. There was little traffic and the riding was very pleasant – I got to thinking that I don’t really want it to get much hotter; late spring is plenty nice, thank you very much.

The Kawekas in the distance, I wouldn’t be getting quite as close this time.

It’s definitely very green up there this time of year, that’ll last for another month, or two.

Facing a bit more south-west than west – the direction I was headed.

Nearing the three-hour mark I passed through Patoka and turned off the “main” road. There was a long cruise down on a sealed road that, judging by the signs, was nice and wide due to logging traffic.

Finally, gravel! It was very nicely surfaced.

At the furthest point of my loop, there was a little bit of a spur – it seemed a shame not to explore this road too. Dropping to a rather lovely stream the road was to then climb steadily to gain a couple of hundred metres. I was surprised at the number of farmhouses on this short stretch of road – even some dairy farms, which are generally in short supply around these parts (which I am still getting used to having spent so much of my life in dairying regions).

I met two farmers approaching on quad bikes – the second stopping to ask me rather incredulously “you know this is a dead-end road?”. I answered I did, and was helpfully informed that it was all uphill to the end of the road. He was right. But that meant it was all downhill on the return, at least to the stream.

Sure enough, the road ended in a forestry block – lo & behold one Pan Pac’s, it shouldn’t be too hard to arrange permits for further exploration. Time to turn and head for home, with still a few new bits of gravel for me to discover.

Undulating, but trending downhill towards the ocean, it was wonderful riding.

I arrived home well pleased with what I’d seen and found, and pleasantly tired from my longest ride this year – most excellent. Quite looking forward to more such rides, both local and further afield this summer.

Wombling in Wimbledon

With Mum and Dad having come to stay for a ten days or so mid-winter, it was decided that we should go away for a few days together. Often I’d driven the highway south of home and looked east towards the coast and wondered at the long line of big hills and what might be there. This was as good a reason as any to choose north-eastern Manawatu for a quiet few days in the countryside. A house was duly booked on a big sheep farm.

Taking a couple of days off work, my birthday got off to a wonderful start – I even had presents to unwrap, most unusual. A leisurely morning of sorting bikes, strolling in the sun and packing over – we were off south on rural roads I’d not been on before. Lovely countryside, many hills and turns – we arrived at Spring Creek, just past Wimbledon (which seems to be pretty much a pub and little else).

We had this lovely old, spacious farmhouse for a few days.

The house was great to poke around and find all sorts of old things – just the general day-to-day items were interesting enough.

Birthday dinner was down the road at the Wimbledon pub – the seafood basket is huge and delicious. So big, that I found out two days later that a half serving satisfies even my hunger. I’ve long wanted to bikepack along Route 52 (a road that lost its state highway designation) – I may have to make that a priority just so I can have the seafood basket again.

1886 counts for a pretty old pub in NZ.

We were enjoying learning of the pioneering history of the area, how it was cleared of native forest (unfortunate as the hills are so steep, erosion and slips are now quite a problem), supplied from the coast (there was no road to Dannevirke, or anywhere for that matter). Our hosts, Shaun and Sue, were fifth generation farmers – so there were plenty of stories to hear.

With enough bikes for the three of us, we were keen to go for a ride to the coast. With only a couple of small hills and a stunning day on Friday, the thirteen kilometres was achievable for Mum & Dad – who hadn’t done a lot of riding recently.

I had plenty of time to stop for photos, admire the scenery.

Heading for Herbertville – we turned right at the foot of those hills.

I carried on a bit past Herbertville, just because – gravel!

Looking back towards the wonderfully named Cape Turnagain – where Captain Cook decided he’d gone far enough south, and turned back north.

South towards Castle Point – another place I’m yet to make it to.

Back to the house for a late lunch, we were all well pleased with our rides. Sue and Shaun had said we could drive to the top and back of the farm, passing some old buildings on the way. The Corolla somehow made its way up the steep hill and we found a old woolshed and some ruined houses.

Circling the woolshed trying to find a way in.

Mum made it in.

Said disused woolshed.

Carrying on up the hill – a bit of fun for the little car.

South over Manawatu.

Back north over the farm which reaches across the valley to the hills in the middle distance.

We went hunting for old farm houses – instead Dad got dwarfed by old pine trees.

The living room could do with a bit of a touch up.

I was determined to ride around the farm, so dragged the mountain-bike out Saturday morning and was rather chilled riding back up the same steep road we’d driven up the previous afternoon. Crossing a muddy ford opposite the abandoned woolshed, I finally discovered the elusive tumble-down house and laden lemon tree we’d been looking for yesterday.

Most of the remaining structure seemed to be supported by ivy.

Ivy did at least frame the windows nicely.

This may be a part of why we initially struggled to find the ruined house – yes, there is a house in there. Somewhere.

I ground my way to the top, huzzah for single chainrings up steep hills, and was rewarded with clearer views over eastern Manawatu.

The Ruahines in the distance.

I had a blast following rugged farm tracks along the ridge line before a steep, steep plummet back to the house.

The afternoon’s outing was to head back to the beach for a walk to Cape Turnagain, or thereabouts. We drove there this time. Wide, flat and with the cape rising out of the sea it was a very nice walk in the afternoon sun. Two hardy surfers followed and passed us, before heading into the Pacific. There were a few others out on quad bikes, but the crashing of the waves easily drowned out any potentially annoying motors.

We found dozens of seals enjoying the sun at the cape, so turned around and returned with the wind at our backs.

The tiki-touring continued – we drove past where I’d ridden south the day before to see how far the road went. Not much further was the answer. Back to the pub that night for dinner – Dad managed to find somewhere to watch the Bledisloe Cup test. Mum and I had one of our occasional close-fought Scrabble battles, I was particularly average.

I was determined to find some gravel roads and thought I’d planned a good loop around Birch Rd. Dad joined me on the Route 52 section getting up a couple of decent hills. Turning off the tarseal, it got much steeper and I bade farewell to Dad. As expected, it was all very hilly. The land use alternated between sheep pasture and pine forest; forestry dominated. Every section of pasture gave a different view. At times I could look right back across the farm and spy the route I’d ridden around the farm previously.

There was clearly some logging operations going on somewhere up the road. The gravel varied from nice smooth, old road to big chunky gravel that had recently been laid. Areas of perpetual winter shade were quite damp and the surface up the last big climb was hard going – almost muddy gravel that hadn’t packed down. I was keen to get to Weber, mainly just to explore more back roads and see what was in the village. But aware that that would be cutting short even more the time spent with Mum & Dad, I opted for the short loop and hurtled down the hill to Route 52.

I was surprised not to lose even half the altitude that would take me back to the house. The short section of Route 52 that remained really must be steep. Certainly, it was. Mum was also out riding when I returned. The rest of our wonderful break away from it all was spent lunching, packing and loading bikes. What a great stay – so much to do in a place that seems to have little of the trappings one is used to.

With plenty of time up our sleeves, we could stop and read off the longest place name in the world. Yes, it’s quite easily pronounceable – it’s not Welsh after all.

The even-more scenic (roundabout) route was taken as we didn’t have to be at friends of Mum & Dad’s until five-thirty for a very informative walk around their vineyard, sampling of their wine and a fantastic “simple” dinner. A late return home after a very relaxing weekend.

Fab Rotorua Weekend

With the ever-kindness of friends, it was an easy decision to extend a hectic one-day conference trip to Rotorua to include staying at Lake Tarawera, catching up with friends and a little mountain-biking.

An interesting day stuck inside over, I had a bit of time before meeting Roger at a self-billed craft beer pub in Eat Streat. My step count (this corporate challenge thing is good motivation for ensuring a moderate level of daily activity) having suffered from sitting in a conference room all day, this spare time was easily accounted for with a stroll down to, and around a little of, the shore of Lake Rotorua.

Bike tree!

Absolutely years since I’d been to the living Maori village of Ohinemutu, it was a pleasant stroll in the fading light amongst the buildings and geothermal steam.

I retraced my steps through the village and continued around the lake for a while, finding more paths that I can’t remember the last time I walked – probably as a child, having lived forty minutes’ drive away.

Walking back past the museum, I found Roger quite at home at Brew – he’d only been living in Rotorua a matter of weeks. With tasty beer to add to the occasion, it was great catching up once again – a lot of talk about bikes, naturally. Planning the following day’s ride was also high on the agenda.

A stunningly clear evening led to a frosty start as we met Luke (another ex-Pukekohe biking buddy) for an early ride in the forest. I’ve ridden with Luke a bit over the last few years here, but Roger & I could marvel at how great it was to be out for a Rotorua sortie. I’ve since checked, it was over eight years between such rides – well too long! Even with all the riding I’ve done in the forest over twenty-plus years, I’m still being shown new trails. It seems the locals can build fantastic trails faster than I can ride them.

Luke took us off-piste to ride a recently developed/developing trail in a part of the forest I rarely go – and so close to the old parking lot. The first half was mostly rideable for me down the side of a loamy forested slope; but then it got steeper with a narrow ribbon of a rut cut in the dirt – I lost my footing once trying to walk down it. Such fun but.

Follow that ribbon.

Surely I’m somewhere further up the hill treating the roots a bit more circumspectly.

Back out in the open, it was fresh on the skin and crunchy under tyre.

Tumeke was another trail new to me, graded at about my limit it was great fun and rideable for me until the very bottom. His home calling, Luke left us to head further out. With another trail I barely remembered completed, Roger & I opted for the shuttle to enable us to head to the extremity of the forest in a timely manner.

From the drop-off point we charged up (well, it was charging for me) to Tuhoto Ariki – a wonderful piece of rooty singletrack through native forest. Beautiful riding, we had an absolute blast constantly marveling at the trail and its sublime mid-winter condition. My riding diary tells me I last rode this in 2007, when it was quite new – I remember it being muddy and rather hard work. Perhaps I’m a little fitter now, but it surpassed all my expectations – twenty minutes of challenging singletrack bliss.

Further out is Kung Fu Walrus – we tootled out there, I remembered it fondly from May. This time I was hoping that the last hundred metres wasn’t closed for logging – poor trail closure signage (i.e. none) that time necessitating a big push back up the hill.

There may be a lookout over Green Lake just before the trail. I also may have been having a sufficiently good time.

Another fun trail, there is plenty to keep me on my toes – and a few things I can’t quite ride every time. Which is great to keep me coming back to master them. Heading back to the van, there was yet another new trail for me: the much more mellow, but still enjoyable, Taura. Nearing the end of the ride, for old time’s sake, I nipped off for a quick blast around the Dipper (my earliest memories of MTBing are on this trail). Somehow in the few minutes I left him, Roger had managed to talk himself into a job of doing a pre-race sweep (checking signs, tape etc.) of a fifty kilometre course early the next morning. I say “job”, but something so pleasurable can’t really be called so.

I had planned to leave Rotorua that afternoon to return home for the final in the local cyclocross series which I’d been riding in (and much to my surprise, winning the B-grade on my MTB). But all this time with old friends and actually riding trails rather than muddy, grassy laps of a vineyard had me questioning my decision. I popped back to the lake for lunch before heading out again to catch up further with Luke and his family. I eventually ditched my cyclocross plan for riding proper trails, thus staying another night.

It didn’t seem so cold out at the lake early Sunday morning, but as I drove into Rotorua the cloud descended and the mercury dropped. Roger and I met for another frosty ride, hitting the 50 km course about quarter to eight. Snaking around some of the inner trails for quite a while, it was good fun in the trees before heading out into the open. Exposed to the cold, the surface was hard and we found ourselves sliding around a few corners.

1ÂșC is still shorts weather.

Rolling along the Creek trail we found a little bit of barrier tape to reinstate, but that was about it – mostly we just rode bikes and had fun in the excellent dry conditions. About fifteen kilometres in Roger realised he didn’t have the energy after the previous day’s ride and a few weeks of illness. Not to worry, I was happy to ride on, up the only big hills on the course and discover some more new-to-me trails. I thoroughly enjoyed heading out the back of the forest again. Realising I might be caught by some fast racers (they started ninety-odd minutes after us), I barely stopped.

Returning to the western side of the forest, the long-course confusingly rejoined parts I’d already ridden – and plenty of riders just heading out. From here there wasn’t much point in carrying on riding the course as the short-course racers were already there. I zipped down the old exit trail to finish my ride – it was good fun putting in a good three hours of riding with little stopping, and getting a few PBs.

Roger’s bike was waiting with Marlena.

Somehow I ended up with another bike to take home with me – Roger lending me a steel singlespeed to have little bit of a go on before the Worlds in November. Saying goodbye amidst promises to not leave it so long between Rotorua rides, I popped back out to the lake to clean up and pack. What a great weekend with old friends and bikes. Special thanks to Terry and Bronwyn for having me to stay, yet again. I was safely back in Napier before it even got dark – that makes the drive so much easier.

Mt Erin

An unexpected invite came from Brent to ride up Mt Erin with a group. So after a good morning MTB ride in the Waipunga Block, a quick lunch and picking up Brent – we were meeting at the foot of the hill. Southwest of Te Mata Peak, where I ride often, Mt Erin is a little taller and on private land – so not usually accessible, except in the notorious long-running, and long running, Triple Peaks event.

There are no trails as such, but a lot of stock tracks, pasture and a gravel access road to the transmitter tower at the summit. Eleven of us met just off the public road and after a bit of organisation set off up the hill. From the cars, I pulled away and looked upward – the summit was not visible. Across a paddock, climbing steeply – it was just rideable with a lot ofeffort and fair amount of line picking. I resolved to buy a smaller, 32 tooth, chainring. We joined the access road and the surface became more manageable than stock trodden ground.

What had been a pearler of a day, clouded over and became rather overcast – but never so much as threatening to rain. We climbed steadily, averaging close to a ten percent gradient – not the easiest on the assorted surfaces. From a distance, Mt Erin looks to have a satin smoothness about it compared to the jagged ridge line of Te Mata Peak. However when you’re on the hill, this is definitely not the case – large, exposed valleys and gullies had me wondering how we would get to the summit without repeatedly losing altitude.

Looking south, the hill has a few cabbage trees dotted on the exposed slopes.

Pausing for a breather across one of the valleys seemingly cut in the hill.

Great clefts cut in the landscape.

Still, we climbed; stopping to open and close various gates was ample opportunity to regroup.

Lovely folds to appreciate in the landscape. Looking out towards Napier in the weakening light.

Making a sheep-line out of the valley as our approach was noted.

Most of us took a slight detour from the access road to ride fast grass ridge lines, flying over the pasture, before pausing to consider how to get down to the valley floor.

Down that slope, deep into that gully.

Yip, down there.

It was steep, slightly slippery under tyre and with plenty of contour changes to keep one on the ball. Just when you though you had things under control, hard nubs would appear and send one back to the very edge of composure.

Quite bumpy in the middle.

But the fun descent was handled by all and we were left to climb back to the gravel – which required a fine line and some power just before the road.

As we neared the apex of our planned route, I hurried off to the summit – I couldn’t go up there for the first time and not go to the peak. What is it there for, after all?

Te Mata Peak looking a little shorter, and quite different from this perspective, at the left of shot.

Looking south up the Tukituki River.

From the summit it was all downhill; well, except from the traversing and small bits of climbing. This was all done off the road. So much fun blasting down the hillside, just back from the edge of losing it. One had to be careful with all the flat spots worn into the ground by animals walking back and forth. Sometimes things would get a little loose and you’d be sure you could not ride it, or surf it – just wresting back control in time.

With plenty of this fun over, we were at the bottom of one of the valleys, that was suddenly covered in bush. Staying out of the deep stream course, we followed many animal tracks down the ravine; over roots, around rocks, avoiding dung and the onga onga (stinging nettle-esque shrubbery). Mostly rideable and all enjoyable. After almost a mile we emerged suddenly onto the grass again for more fast descending, a final little climb and a steep hill down to the cars. And beer.

What a great little Sunday afternoon outing. Not so little as far as the climbing went and the steep riding, but short in time. So much fun to see the surrounding countryside from a different perspective while having acres of enjoyment on bikes. I hope I get invited back soon.