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. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CO-CMk_LeWs

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 CafĂ© 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”.