Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Marlborough Sounds. Best trail riding ever?

Ross shows how to ride the nuggety goodness
Photos D. Blissett

With a solid crew of mates booked in for lodgings at a holiday home in the Queen Charlotte Grove, the stage was set for the ultimate new years break. Combining the beautiful setting and sunshine with the area's notoriously awesome trails Ventana riders Pete and Jo (both El Saltamontes), Michi (El Commandante) and Ollie (El Terremoto) were in store for a week of singletrack delight.
Also along for the ride at various stages were Jordan, Rhys, Big Ross, Mops, Dan, Muriel, Jane and Dom. All up a boisterous crew who were frothing at the bit to shred the regions famed trails before they were smothered again by the blanket of the new year's work/life routines.

Day one - Queen Charlotte (QC) track
Prior to day one, a good portion of the squad had attended a live concert by drum and bass maestro's Shapeshifter. The first day’s ride on the QC had a relaxed afternoon starting time to allow the recovery of assaulted ear drums, sweaty pits and danced-off limbs.
The ride was a suitable tonic, with gradual climbs and flowing descents punctuated by the odd walker, alerted to the presence of bikers by various animal cries including gorillas, eagles and a wookie.

It is a common misconception the the QC is closed for MTB traffic during the summer, but the section from Anakiwa to Camp Bay was open for business, albeit swamped with bi-peds looking to take in the track via a less thrilling transport mode.

Suckers for punishment, Ollie and Michi dropped down to the portage saddle for the grueling 400m climb back to the summit, only catching the crew who had turned around at the summit after Lochmara Bay.

Reformed, the crew cruised back, intercepting Rhys and co. who had opted for an ice cream stop at Mistletoe bay; a particularly delicious proposition on the hot day.

Day two - Wakamarina
Following Dom's recommendation to start the ride from the Onamalutu reserve, we commenced with an hour long forest road climb before hitting the trail itself.
Highlight of the hill-top snack-stop was Pete's daring wall ride, ending in gorse bush facial interface. Pete was doing it tough coming off recent hip surgery, and had only been walking (let alone riding) for two weeks. The latte sipping Aucklander made up for a lack of ride fitness with some scary pace on the downs, hitting drops and nuggety sections with maximum commitment.
Pete's front wheel bore the brunt of his off-track excursions

With prickles removed and pride dusted off, more climbing ensued.

Exotic flora was replaced with much loved native beech. Riders traversed their way up to the first summit with quiet exertion, their dull puffs echoing the cornflake crunch of beech leaves.
Windfall had rendered parts of the track impassable, so in the interests of trail karma efforts were made to clear branches and trees along the way.
Ollie gesticulates the massivenss of the upcoming huck

A final hike-a-bike to the second summit was filled with Fresh-Prince Remixes, the boisterous rapping keeping spirits at threshold.
A quick snack stop (with no wall riding hilarity) and the main course began. Switchback after switchback of flowing corners, interspersed with rooty chutes, break searing straights and a joyful sensation of sliding. All accentuated by the two inch deep beech litter accumulated on the trail.

Out on to the road for Canvastown and bodies began to tire. Fortunately energy levels were quickly replenished on arrival at The Trout. Plentiful helpings of cookies, chips and the devil's drink (Coke). Day two would be hard to top.

Day three – Rest day hanging at Pelorus bridge. Rock jumping and death canoeing. No one died.

Day four - Nydia Bay

A rare respite in technicality leaves Ollie with time for a blue steel pose

Billed as one of the best day rides in NZ, Nydia began with a furious descent from Opouri saddle to Tennyson inlet below. Riding cold with no warm up, the nuggety combination of roots and rocks served as a tasty sample of the treats on offer from the rest of the Nydia.
Onto the track itself, the trail started eased around the bays then ramped up for the climb to Nydia Saddle at 380m. This would have been fairly straightforward were it not for the gnarled roots and rocky slabs that forced riders to keep wits sharp. This kind of riding was a hit with the crew, requiring a delicate balance of aerobic exertion, bike handling and bravado. First ascent knocked off, it was seats down and travel up, Ollie leading the gang in a guns blazing assault on the super techy gnarl.
Less than 100m into the first stretch Pete performed a high speed trail ejection. After untangling him from trailside supplejack he was pulled free, no worse for wear. This would be the first of many spills for this Ruby riding pundit, none of them ending in serious injury to body or bike.

Taken out of context sections of the Nydia descent would be as chillingly technical as anything on offer in NZ. But amped up on the endorphins of cleaned chutes and the hollers of the crew, rock steps and rooty traverses were descended at an ever increasing rate. It takes a ride as nuggety as Nydia for one to realise how fortunate we are to ride modern mountain bikes. With the squish of 7” travel and stopping power of 8” rotors left Ollie giggling with a mixture of fear and delight, flabbergasted as to how he’d managed to blast through some of the gnarlier sections. Post descent ravings confirmed other riders felt the same about their own rigs. Nydia is the very definition of nuggety.
Chillin' on the Nydia wharf

Easing to a flatter gradient, the trail arrived at the Nydia Wharf, where two-sandwich lunch ensued. More than one pundit regretted this indulgence on the exposed climb to Kaiuma Saddle at 387m. After a spot of mustering the climb reached skywards, with only the shelter of tropical native bush providing shelter on the latter portions of the climb.
Jo's mad facials!

With a better understanding of what was in store, riders tackled the second descent with increasing confidence, only now the impact of the deep rock steps began to take its toll with lines beginning to wander in an exhausted but elated haze.
A final climb through exotic forest before a blast to the finish, where Jane and Mops had parked the wagons for quick extraction.
After five hours on the trail it was ice creams all round. A swim at Pelorus and it was home to the Grove, minds and bodies fizzing with the nuggety delight that was Nydia.

Day five - Whites Bay
The crew’s final ride was a short one, a steep climb and a mind blowing descent. Several of the crew had ventured out several months back, with the downpour of that outing replaced by the sweltering heat of a 30+ deg summer day.
Local hard man Glen joined in on the fun, tailing Ollie for the duration of the unrelenting technical climb, forcing him to ride without pause, albeit with all new levels of huffing and puffing.
Climb dispatched and fresh gloves and shirts donned by the more perspirationally profuse, we dived into the swoopy top section, Ollie and Dom exchanging the lead. Cries of ‘off the brakes’ and ‘stick to the track’ were spouted with unnecessary intensity as the pace grew down the hill. Dom’s local knowledge came to the fore on the later sections, entering them with at faster and faster pace. Likening the bar width lower section to the hover-buggy star trooper duel in Star Wars, Dom earned Jo’s description as a geek. But not many geeks can flow a trail like Dom, and it was awesome to witness him and Rex bond first hand.
A final ring clenchingly steep section spat us out on the road, where we rolled back to the cars for a swim and snacks, a short but sweet end to the holiday.

All up the break rates Ollie’s best ever holiday. Great company, nuggety trails and plenty of snacks made a fitting end to 2009 and an exciting start to 2010.

Mountain Pedaler out…

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