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
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.
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.