Adventure Before Monday Arrives: The Heaphy Track, New Zealand

New Zealand is a place begging to be explored and it has some amazing infrastructure in place to help us do just that. For my first bike packing mini adventure we chose one of the ‘Great Walks’, a simple way marked track with brilliant facilities. Click here and check out how we squeezed in some awesome riding before the sound of work called on Monday morning.

Full article over on Enduro Mountainbike Magazine.

 

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The ‘Enduro Line’ – What would you do?

The ‘Enduro Line’ is something we laugh and joke about, usually involving poking fun at the Frenchies and talk of bunny hopping the tape. Riders are looking at creating that fast and furious straight line saving vital seconds in the race to whichever crown they wish to adorn their sweaty helmet haired head.

Round 2 of the UK Enduro Series this weekend and the distinct lack of taping on Stage 7, providing racers with the ultimate ‘enduro line, to which the contrasting opinions were stark. I hope James doesn’t mind me using this but his video on Facebook tells the story brilliantly!

As you can see the tape is sparse leading to the perfect environment for riders to get creative with the line choice. That said though, it didn’t take the cycling Einstein equivalent to stand at the trail head and pick their straight line through the trees and stumps.

Now, I’m pretty competitive and given that I (and many other riders) had a fair amount of time in the queue for this stage I left the bike in line and took a stroll down the trail to see the lie of the land. It didn’t take long to see the massive advantage straight lining this part of the trail would give. Amidst the chatter of the rights and wrongs and the pro’s and con’s I set off out of the gate and down the hill. I’ll admit I went for the straight line from the top, I didn’t make it at the first opportunity due to carrying too much speed but later found myself taking a pre-planned shortcut missing out an entire corner. As I cut across the grass I had a fleeting memory from racing the Trans Savoie and the race organiser drilling us with the importance of not cutting the course for reasons regarding land permissions and conservation of the trails. Did I feel guilty? A little. Did it last for long? No, it didn’t, missing out on that line when others around me chose to take it would have put me on the back foot where times are concerned. A race is no time to take the moral high ground, sticking religiously to the most worn track.

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Thats the tape we were looking out for!

Later I learned of events at the top of the hill after my departure. A group of 20 or so of the more influential riders at the race boycotted the stage and rode in a train to the bottom, seeking out race organiser Neil in order to demand that the stage be cancelled due to cheating. Did I and all my other fellow ‘enduro liners’ cheat? I don’t think we did, I kept my eyes up and took the most direct line in the area I knew to be the stage. There are further peripheral arguments to this debate too surrounding  whether blind racers be allowed to walk the track, whether this also surmounts to cheating as we gain advantage over the competition. I am again firmly in the ‘no camp’ on this score. I have worked hard to get myself to a level of fitness where I can arrive at a stage with enough time to check it out if I feel it necessary. If there is no definitive rule surrounding this then other racers know what to do.

I am more than happy to shred turns and follow the natural line of the trail. If it had been taped out, I would have gladly done so. Finishing the race 5 or 10 seconds off my closest rival knowing I stayed on the main line won’t get me on the podium, there’s not going to be a post script to the results detailing or congratulating me on my line choice. A race is no time to take the moral high ground, sticking religiously to the most worn track. Post race the organisers have admitted the lack of tape was a problem leading to the cancellation of the stage. A disappointment at the end of a brilliant weekends racing but a mistake that the organisers say  will not be repeated in the future. That I do believe as this problem hasn’t reared its head thus far in the series, which has been an awesome mix of great atmosphere and technical, varied trails.

As a further dichotomy to my thoughts and feelings about this topic, I feel rather differently about Strava. On Strava there should be no deviation from the main line, that my friend, is definitely cheating both yourself and your Strava compatriots. I think this makes me a hypocrite so I’m off to take stock of the situation and contemplate this fact!

Photos – Kasia Fiszer Photography

 

Secret Trails – What’s the Score?

What is the score with so called ‘Secret Trails’? You know the type, the ones spoken about with hushed tones, the ones with an ‘invite only’ to ride, you’ve got to know someone worthy to be permitted to touch rubber on trail here. With trail builder’s petrified of traffic akin to something on the M25 and ruts as deep as the Grand Canyon, these trails are being kept under cloak and dagger. I may have been living under a stone but until recently this was a relatively new phenomenon to me and I’m still struggling with the concept.

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In my world before now, every trail was fair game with the creator taking pleasure in seeing more smiles and more miles trodden on the dirt. Recently on spending a short amount of time in Bristol and riding some gems of trails in South Wales I have increasingly heard the word ‘secret’ uttered about various riding spots. Secret by definition is ‘not known or seen or not meant to be known or seen by others’. Secret in the MTB world is fairly similar, yet it seems with an added twist that when deemed worthy by a biking compatriot you may also enjoy the secret but are prevented from sharing the treasure.

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I’ve heard stories of bikers reprimanded whether in person or via modern faceless threat over the email (yes, that happened) for parking in particular spot and flagging the availability of some rad new trails to the passing MTB trade. The particular location in question here happened to be in the back of beyond and the likelihood of a previously uninitiated biker rolling by would be akin to a swine taking flight and recording a new Strava KOM in said woodland. That brings me on nicely, if not a little oddly, to the subject of Strava. It hasn’t escaped my notice that most of these ‘Secret Trails’ are on Strava, taking us disparately from keeping the trails on the down low, to adding flashing, neon signs to the top with ‘Race Me’ emblazoned on them!

Instagram is another one, “No Instragram here” was announced by a local in the group on a recent trip. If someone in my merry band of Instagram followers, recognises the view in my Instabanger, puts that together with some first class Strava interrogation and manages to come up here and enjoy the trails then I think they deserve their reward. What better payment is there than 400m of descending root infested, sinewy singletrack for their efforts?

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When abroad, New Zealand, Germany, France even, I had at every turn had a cyclist keen to show me their trail, their favourite corner, to tell me about the blood sweat and tears that had been poured into its creation and to revel in the delight I took from smashing a shower of loam from said turn. Any trail I deem to be worthy of riding, I’m going to show my mountain biking mates, should they be interested in that pocket of woodland. We will respect the trail, pass time with anyone we meet throughout and if something needs clearing or maintenance then we will gladly lend a hand. I’m not sure I understand or like the possessive atmosphere on the so called secret trails but with more and more tyres rolling round this relatively small part of the world it looks like its here to stay. It appears cyclist round our way are living in fear of their choice trails becoming the next hot spot, drawing numbers of wheels reserved only for the trail centres. Well, fear not, without the cafe, the toilets, the shop and myriad of other amenities found in the much loved trail centre, your few stretches of cleared dirt in the woods, just doesn’t compare according to the mountain biking masses. It’ll just be me, a couple of my mates, a packed lunch and a good attitude coming your way.

From here we could move on to the ‘no dig no ride’ conundrum but there’s another whole can of worms, needless to say I do dig, I may not dig your trails but I dig mine and you are welcome to ride without a shovel or a rake.

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