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Bike Culture go mad in Whirinaki! Twice...

 

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words: Graeme Simpson

Thanks to Rotorua Daily Post. April 2010...


When we did the Moerangi Trail in the Whirinaki Forest, south of Rotorua, back in the summer, several words came to mind. One was “breathtaking”. Literally - with some long, sustained climbs. 35 kilometres point to point doesn’t sound like much, but there was some serious elevation involved. It was breathtaking, too, in a visual sense – pristine, native forest and terrain that is a rich mix of ancient, magnificent and spiritual.

The one word that best described the ride seemed to be “epic”. That’s doing it one way.

So how do you sum up doing it both ways in a day? Lost for words, in my case.

I’ll hand over to the Santa Cruz crew from Rotorua LBS, Bike Culture - Mike Metz, Rob and Annika Smail, Jason Williams and Fiona McGaffin, who did the double a couple of weekends ago.

Rob: We’ve ridden Moerangi before and loved it. Today, it’s an early start at Jail House Farm Stay above the Whirinaki River. Scott from Jailhouse shuttles us in, with Mike and Annika braving the early morning cold and riding the extra 12-13 kilometres to the trailhead, as a warm up. We’re starting at the River Road end of the track and tackling the 9-kilometre climb up to Moerangi saddle. Jason: Starting with that uphill? You don't realize how steep it is until you begin to climb. Put it this way, you get very intimate with the tip of your saddle - for a long time.

Mike: Rob sets the pace. Not too fast. We have a long way to go.

Annika: It is great riding the trail backwards. It's like riding a new, but at the same time familiar, track - and knowing we will come back the same way means we get to check out downhill lines while groveling up the climbs. The halfway point for us is the actual start of the Moerangi trail and we enjoy a little picnic break in the sun to refuel our engines before part two.

Rob: Homeward bound, Annika is on the front, which, as you might imagine, increases the pace.

Annika: It's undulating and flat, but we all start feeling it by the time we begin the second to last big climb.

Rob: Heading up to the Moerangi saddle, knowing it’s the last major climb of the day, the pace goes on and a little suffering is done. Mike: Rob takes the lead for the long down hill to the end. Huge adrenaline hit all the way down, hearts pumping. Time for the forest road ride back to the Jailhouse - our legs are sore, but the pace is on, anyway. For Annika and me, it was a total of 95 kilometres and 6hr 03min ride time. Great endurance training! This was the ride of the year, so far, with rewarding down hills after honest climbs. Jason: What a ride! I couldn't think of a better way to spend my Sunday than riding 70 kilometres of singletrack in native forest. You’ve go to try it - it’s good for the soul.

• For more on the ride check out - Annika’s blog

• And they did it again a couple of weeks later! With Gaz from NZO: I joined the Bike Culture crew for a double crossing of the Moerangi trail (not on the singlespeed I hasten to add)…

This makes a sublime 35kms of singletrack with a 9km downhill finish into a 70km death march with a huge climb to start. The trail works well both ways, but the climb out of the Minginui end is at the upper end of what I consider rideable. A couple of times I just stopped, kind of ground to a halt to pop the Turkey Timer back in, and the grade was so steep I had to walk a bit to find a slightly flatter metre or so to restart.

My mate Jase kindly waited here and there to make sure I was still moving. Mike and Rob couldn’t go slower than pretty fast because of their perverse belief that having only one chainring on their bikes makes them better. It certainly makes their lowest gears a lot higher than mine. Annika was going even faster due to her perverse belief that the sooner a ride is over the less it will hurt. She has the fortitude to make such a concept workable.

I didn’t keep Rusty in sight long enough to say how fast he was going except for a short period on the return trip when he got stuck behind me on a ten minute granny gear section. On that bit he was going the same speed as me, which he complained later was technically difficult to do without falling over. Whatever. 

• The trail first opened in September, 2009 and the The Rotorua MTB Club celebrated the event with a big day out.

• The Whirinaki Forest Park is about 100 km south east of Rotorua on State Highway 38.

It is within a two hour drive of Rotorua, Taupo and Whakatane. 

 
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Please ride within your limits, and be aware that trails can change with weather and heavy use from race events effecting their difficulty. Ride Rotorua will in no way be liable for any injury or damages arising from riding any of the trails listed on the Ride Rotorua website.

 

 

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