Earlier this year our guide Stu took an trip with a few friends visiting some of his favourite New Zealand mountain bike locations in North Island. Here's an exerpt from his blog on the adventure:
Rugged and wild New Zealand at it's best , a place of dreams for explorers and adventurers
By now everyone’s heard about Queenstown, and more recently Rotorua, but you’d be forgiven for thinking those were the only two locations for New Zealand mountain biking. It seems the Kiwis are exceptionally good at keeping secrets about their other trails. It’s debateable what makes these trails so special, the amazing dirt, the perfectly sculpted ribbons of single-track, or the untouched native flora and fauna. All you need to know is that they are up there with some of the best trails in the world.
Dropping a well calculated pin in a map dictated a good starting place to be central North Island. Sitting at the centre of the world’s second largest caldera, Taupo’s landscape is defined by a wild and volcanic theme that gives it a unique feel. In fact there are still five active volcanoes situated in the local area, one of the most impressive being Mount Ngauruhoe, or as you’ll know it Mount Doom from Lord of the Rings.
Mt Doom across the Lake, credit - catspyjamasnz
The wealth of mountain biking in the area is immense, all of differing styles, from the flowing single-track that loops the side of Lake Taupo, to the technical, natural and native trails in the foothills. We ended up on the fast and swoopy single-track that contours around the side of Lake Taupo – one of those sorts of trails that everyone can ride, but ridden fast a whole plethora of new lines, jumps and wall rides being to occur.
Fast flowy singletrack circumnavigating the lake
Yielding some amazing views over the pristine lake, the real gem is the boat shuttle mid ride. On the hottest summer days, a swim in the crystal clear lake, so clean you can drink it, is undeniably wonderful. The boat ride, initially originated as a section of the trail is currently under land negotiations, and is a great way to switch perspective and see New Zealand from the water.
Looking back at the swimming beach at the end of the singletrack
Within 45 minutes drive, the landscape changes from volcanic to dense ancient Jurassic Park like forest. A complete contrast to the flow and speed of K2K, this is a technical and natural wonderland. Large fingers of roots feed across the trail escaping the mother tree, holding together the loamy beech forest soil that provides sought after hero dirt! Although currently an out and back ride, the trail somehow seems completely new on the way back down.
John tweaking it up for the camera
Sections critically assessed for line choice on the climb are all but forgotten as you rip through natural feature after natural feature on what feels like a magic carpet ride back down. Giant ferns, prehistoric trees and colourful plant life whips by as you descend, giving that feeling of Mach 4. But that moment you get too excited, go over bars and find yourself laid flat out on a bank listening to silence all around for what seems hours, you realise this is a true middle of nowhere backcountry gem.
Aaron getting among the ferns and flora that make up the backcountry
Next stop saw a visit to a coastal town and emerging mountain bike paradise. Access is either from the north or south via 40k of the windiest New Zealand roads, and had us wanting a rally car over the Ford Ranger. The forest itself is a working plantation with building rights instated recently to the local club. The trail builders have done exceptionally well over the last couple of years, putting in well over 20 trails, a mix of bike park style jump trails, flow trails and natural technical trails. Although it doesn’t have the ancient forest of Taupo, there is definitely still some amazing backcountry mountain biking to be had. An old track used by miners to access an old gold mine heads out into the hills, winding around old disused mines and waterfalls, finishing up some way outside of the mountain bike park. With roots, hidden rocks and exposure, it’s one of those trails where riding well within your ability is wise as it’s a decent pedal back to civilisation, but certainly worth the effort for the fantastic natural riding. The beauty of this place is the pristine sandy beach located 5 minutes from the trails. A well renowned surf spot, but also good for a swim, beer and BBQ, it is a definite draw to the area and great way to relax post ride!
Part 2 coming next week.