New Zealand’s great new mountain bike ride is off the hook.
Literally, the hook hanging under a helicopter.
Kaimanawa Alpine Adventures is launching an unforgettable new back-country experience from their base off the Desert Road south of Turangi.
Last weekend a dozen lucky riders took the trip, and everybody agreed it was one of the highlights of their mountain biking careers.
The project has been a long time coming: Thomas Orr from Helisika is the Project Manager (and one of the pilots) and he is excited that this new venture opens up some incredible private land to recreational users. Work started on the idea five years ago, with Pete McFarland from Bike Taupo developing the trail through the Beech forest.
Besides the incredible scenery and the excitement of a helicopter uplift, the thing that sets this ride apart is the trail. Richie Caudwell is the man behind my favourite trail in the home patch: Tihi-O-Tawa. He and a team have spent a lot of the last 18 months creating a magic line down the range, half of it on the moonscape above the treeline, and the balance in the forest further down.
The first stop for discussion... the trail can be seen descending the peak in the background
From shattered rock on the tops, to sandy ash on other sections, to the deep cornflakes of the Beech forest below, it all flowed like butter.
Every section required a pause to let what we had just done sink in, and every time somebody said wow, wish I could ride that again, right now!
The expanse of country on display from the tops is mind-boggling. We were very fortunate to get an absolute bluebird day, with huge views of Ruapehu, Tongariro and Ngauruhoe across the desert, Taupo to the north and endless ranges to the east and south.
Even though the ride drops something like 800m over the 22 kilometres of trail, it also climbs 400m so it is a decent ride. The transport of bikes is done with a custom built portage system that can handle 6 bikes, including e-bikes.
The variety of surfaces and terrain is amazing, and after a couple of hours traversing the alpine section we dropped into the forest.
That piece is unbelievable: beautiful and largely untouched mountain Beech trees are a wonder for sure, but the best feature is the deep layer of loamy leaf litter on a trail with what felt like hundreds of corners, every one primed and ready for two-wheel drifts.
It goes on and on, and is the cherry on the top of an amazing day out.
The ride itself is accessible to anybody with intermediate skills - it is a genuine Grade 3 trail all the way. There are some exposed places, but they are well signposted and the design of the trail means you can ride at your own pace.
This experience is unique in the North Island, and must rival any ride, anywhere. I am lucky enough to have ridden in a lot of places, and this is now right at the top of my list of great days on the bike. Epic is a word that gets used a lot, but on this occasion it fits.
I am hanging out to do it again.