To be blunt, we all want more trails to ride. It’s the evolution of our sport, and growth for us, always striving for something new and looking for that next adventure. It’s in our blood, take a look at your family tree – it’s guaranteed along that line at some point they took an adventure across a continent or an ocean in search of dreams.
Dreams similar to ours, discovering amazing new places and encountering lifestyle choices we aspire to.
When you’re a kid, building a new trail is easy, pickup your shovel after school and head to the woods with your mates to build a sketchy jump, or steep fall line chute. However these illegal trails built without experience or knowledge can be hugely damaging to mountain biking, causing huge clashes with the local community as most recently seen on the North Shore of Vancouver. The importance of sustainable trails, built legally on land acquired or leased is paramount to this sport continuing to succeed. This is an area that New Zealand has been working hard to develop over the past few years. Mountain bike clubs, groups and organisations have been working hard to gain access to areas of land putting in an array of trail networks for us and our children to enjoy – well planned, sustainable and legal trails that will be enjoyed for years to come.
The Department of Conservation (DOC) manage huge areas of land, including native bush lands, forests, and an array of hiking paths among others. They are working with a number of parties to open up more of this magical land to mountain bikers, allowing us a freedom of access by bike that wasn’t attainable 10 years ago. Through trials, DOC are testing out a number of trails that they are keen to make available for mountain bikers – take the Heaphy Track on South Island for example. Opened up for a 3 year trial period, DOC were surveying a number of factors to determine the eligibility and long term effects of allowing mountain bikers on this magnificent multi day hiking trail. It has since been deemed a success and is now open for the foreseeable future in the May-September period, and the trials themselves have expanded to include other classic tracks like Te Iringa.
But DOC don’t only work with big grand mutli day tracks, they also manage and build a number of shorter key tracks in areas like Rotorua and Taupo. In fact a large number of trails on our Native North tours would not be possible to ride without the input from DOC; Te Ranga, Tihi O Tawa, Tuhuto Ariki, Kataore, the Great Lake Trail and the Timber Trail to name but a few. As JustMTB hasn’t got the manpower or time to provide enough track maintenance comparative to the number of riders we expose these tracks to, we give a lump sum directly to DOC calculated off the number of tyres that we’re responsible for rolling through the trail. We’re stoked with the steps DOC has made and it’s so refreshing to be able to work with an organisation so proactive and forward thinking. Over the coming years we’re looking forward to working more with DOC, providing direct trail feedback and updates, and working to open some more of the amazing trails in this country.
Trail linking features like this swing bridge wouldn't be possible without the funding and work from DOC
We hear stories of trail access being removed from riders in Marin, the supposed birthplace of mountain biking and feel a certain sense of sadness. When we’ve been passing through California over the years we try to get a ride in Marin, and have been shocked at the shrinking number of trails we encounter each time. Portland is another area that has been making waves for us recently, with their recent trail conflicts. We feel particularly lucky to be in New Zealand with such proactive trail and land organisations who are working together to nurture and expand our current network of over 1000 legal trails in an area just over half the size of California.
Currently in New Zealand there are a number of high profile, and some undercover projects going on to open up even more areas for mountain bikers. We are soon to see the Old Ghost Road rejuvenated as a mountain bike trail – an old gold prospectors trail abandoned for many years now has seen pretty constant work over the last 3-4year from a dedicated group of volunteers. The result - 80km of ride able backcountry single-track, with 4 huts to overnight in. An amazing feat and something to be proud of! We’re certainly looking forward to riding it and supporting the Old Ghost Road financially.
Thounsands of man hours and dollars have gone into reclaiming this old gold mining trail, meandering through the native backcountry and with with to die for, this is going to be THE trail to ride in 2016!
So to all involved in DOC, and everyone involved in a club or organisation helping to develop the trails in New Zealand, thank you! You are the guys who really make the difference.