Earlier in the year, Wendy Laugesen hired a Specialized Rockhopper from Natural High to compete in the Spring Challenge in Queenstown. Here’s a little bit about her riding life and her verdict of the bike…
When did you start riding and why?
I started mountain biking in Whistler where I lived about ten years ago. There were so many amazing trails that we had to see, so my friends and I bought second hand bikes. Beautiful.
Why did you choose to hire the Specialized Rockhopper?
I think this bike was the one Andy recommended, as I wanted a good quality, fast, 29-inch hardtail that I could ride in the Spring Challenge race in Queenstown. I have a 26-inch at home which is great, but my two team mates were riding 29-inch bikes and I’d had a bit of trouble keeping up on the flatter 4WD trails and roads.
As a first timer on the 29er wheels, what did you think? And were the larger tires an advantage?
The Rockhopper was awesome. Loved riding it. The 29-inch wheel size made such a difference and I had no trouble keeping up – and passing my team mates. I would definitely choose to ride a 29er again in this kind of race.
The Rockhopper features SRAM X5, 2 x 10 gearing. What did you think of the gear ratio and was the highest gear sufficient for climbing?
The Rockhopper was great for climbing. There were a couple of pretty steep climbs in the race to get up to the Rabbit Ranch trails in the Gibbston Valley, but I found the climbs pretty easy on this bike. The highest gear was more than sufficient. I didn’t have much of a chance to ride the Rockhopper before the race, and the gears were quite different to my Giant, but the bike was really easy to adjust to.
Specialized is known for its Body Geometry advancements in grips and seats – how would you rate them?
Very highly. It was comfortable and fast. I will buy a 29er in the near future and am keen for my new bike to be a Specialized Rockhopper.
What’s your favourite ride around New Zealand?
The Queen Charlotte Track is a fun, scenic ride. There’s also an awesome track built by the Mountain Bike Club in Dunedin. It’s a really fun loop riding north from the Bull Pen behind Flagstaff, down a single trail through the forest and then back up to the Bull Pen.
Thanks Wendy for taking the time to answer our questions.
Earlier in the year we introduced you to a few of the Natural High team members. Well, with the onset of summer, things have got a tad busier and we’ve had to hire more staff to keep everything ticking over…
Name: Jeremy aka J-Dogg.
Job title: Head bike mechanic in Christchurch. Home town: Christchurch. Favourite New Zealand ride/trail: Queenstown jump park (any riding in Queenie makes me happy). Best spot for after-biking drinks: Any local car park or outside the nearest bottle shop, if you’re that thirsty! Favourite NZ small town: Twizel – there’s loads of fun stuff to do around the lakes and a funky little skate park. Who would play you in the film of your life: Wesley Snipes. Top tip for better biking: As you’d expect a mechanic to say – a well-tuned bike. It’s not about how much you spend on the bike but how you look after it. Bike you’d most like to own: I have some conceptual sketches but yet to purchase a welder. What do you do when not riding: Work on my car, tinker with things, figure out easier ways of living!
Name: Mike Buttar. Job title: Bike mechanic in Auckland. Home town: Queenstown. Favourite New Zealand ride/trail: Queenstown to Glenorchy – nice scenery, plenty of hills Best spot for after-biking drinks: Glenorchy Tavern. Favourite NZ small town: Arrowtown.
Who would play you in the film of your life: Simon Pegg. Top tip for better biking: Get a bike fit done. Bike you’d most like to own: Colnago C59. What do you do when not riding: Darts, cricket, working.
The West Coast Wilderness Trail currently concludes in Hokitika, a buzzing little community surrounded by dramatic coastline and stunning mountain scenery. It’s Andy’s favourite small town and a great spot to while away a few days. (It’s also the setting for Eleanor Catton’s 2013 Man Booker prize winning novel The Luminaries.)
Play: Pan for gold at the historic goldfields of Ross and Goldsborough. Marvel at the vivid, turquoise waters of the Hokitika Gorge. Discover the area’s rich history at the Hokitika Museum or catch a glimpse of a kiwi at the National Kiwi Centre.
Ride: If the Wilderness Trail has left you wanting more off road action, there are plenty of other trails around the region to keep you entertained. Easier riding can be found near Lake Kaniere and Lake Mahinapua, or head to the Blue Spur area for a tougher challenge. The Westland Mountain Bike Club has ride ideas on their website.
Refuel: ClockTower Café was recently awarded ‘Runner-up Cafe of the Year 2012/13 for the West Coast Region’ by Café Magazine. You’ll find it…next to the Clock Tower!
Tug at the purse strings: Hokitika is home to numerous artists and craftspeople and you’ll find a diverse range of interesting shops and galleries throughout the town.
Admire: The Arahura River is rich in pounamu – also known as greenstone or New Zealand jade. Head to Hokitika beach, where, if you’re lucky, you might just find a piece amongst the pebbles.
By road: three and a half hours from Christchurch via Arthur’s Pass. The Great Coast Road from Westport to Hokitika has been voted one of the top 10 coastal drives in the world by Lonely Planet.
By rail: take the TranzAlpine Rail Journey from Christchurch, considered one of the top six rail journeys in the world.
By air: regular flights from Christchurch.
Ready to ride the West Coast Wilderness Trail and explore Hokitika? We can provide top-of-the-range bike hire, panniers and accommodation recommendations. Get in touch to set your West Coast adventure in motion…
136km of spectacular riding amongst dense rainforest, glacial rivers and historic, gold rush towns…the West Coast Wilderness Trail is not to be missed.
The first three sections from Greymouth to Hokitika are now officially open for riding (hooray!) with the final stage from Hokitika to Ross due to be completed next year.
In September, Natural High helped a group of Year 13 Kaiapoi High School students test out the trail prior to opening. Here’s Rebecca Bailey’s account of their trip…
Sun, sea, adventure and friends…
These are the four things that best describe my first cycle tour on the wonderful West Coast Wilderness Track. Our class left all bright eyed and ready on the 23 September all excited for the tour. Before we all embarked on our amazing journey, preparation was in order. We began by grabbing some of the older bikes and learning to change a tyre, chain, brake cables etc. So you can imagine that we were total “pros” by the time we hit the tracks. Next we had to decide where we were going. Out of the many choices our teacher had, we all decided on the West Coast Wilderness Trail from Greymouth to Hokitika past Kumara and Lake Kaniere. With our trusty Natural High bikes and panniers, we were finally ready.
Leaving school at a crisp 9am on Monday morning we travelled the wonderful scenic road to the Greymouth Information Centre. Here we stopped for lunch, and loaded up our bikes ready to leave. After waving goodbye to the locals, we set off on our journey to the racecourse near Kumara.
Our first stage was flat – only taking us about two hours which provided enough time to get used to the weight on our bikes. Although some of the class managed to clip panniers on some narrow gaps between poles on the trail, the roaring ocean scenery kept our hopes high as we carried on to our destination.
Arriving at the Kumara racecourse, we headed in to the dining room and started to find our places to sleep. But alas we were not sleeping here, the bathroom foyer was the only place with carpet so the class migrated to the toilets, separating into the ‘jockeys’ and ‘lady jockeys’. For us 12 females all trying to squeeze into the smaller of the rooms was not easy, and the only male student in our class got the biggest room to himself. “Whose idea was this?” Nice and warm in this wee room, sleep was the next issue; nonetheless we eventually drifted off ready for the next exciting day of cycling.
Waking to a beautiful cloudless day in Kumara, we downed some porridge and packed for the toughest day of our ride. The ride from Kumara to Lake Kaniere, approximately 8 hours (for our class who were newish to cycling) and a “wonderful” undulating track in the heat of a sunny West Coast day. “At least it isn’t raining” Looking to our left and right we passed weirs, reservoirs and amazing backcountry bush and wildlife. The class carried on up the hills chanting “1 and 1” this was how we survived. Although some of us, especially those with a trailer, couldn’t make it up some of the hills. This led to the formation of a walking group known as the ‘Honga Tribe’.
With a lunch time stop at the top of the final hill, we were all refreshed knowing Lake Kaniere was getting ever closer. Following lunch was the highlight of the day, DOWNHILL!!! Picking up speed, (too much speed) we all whizzed past waterfalls and creeks, with the smell of brake rubber filling our nostrils. An abrupt halt at a closed gate stopped us in our tracks. Working as a true tribe, one by one we lifted everyone’s bikes over the locked gate and carried on our journey.
Finally after some more up hills and downhill’s, walking and the sounding of squeaky horns and bells, we arrived at our next location, A HOUSE! In Lake Kaniere. After a long day and some unpacking, some of us headed off to the lake for a debrief and even a swim. Brrr. We had a slightly more enjoyable dinner that night, knowing that we had a spongy mattresses and a good night sleep ahead. This encouraged plenty of class interaction and even an impromptu dance party. We headed to bed while treated to the pink setting sky over the lake and began to look forward to the last day.
Waking to another glorious day on the West Coast, we left our Lake Kaniere rental home with Hokitika now in our sights. Our last days ride wasn’t very long and this showed in the speed we generated up some of the hills. Some uphills and downhill’s, through the forest, along the road – this really capped the trip off for me and I wish to do it again someday, especially when the track to Ross is finished. After stopping for compulsory ice-cream at the local BP, we headed back to Kaiapoi exhausted but satisfied with our first cycle tour.
For some who may have been infected with this disease I recommend next time, you try not to rush because the sights I saw by taking it nice and slow were truly remarkable. If you plan on taking this track allow plenty of time for breaks and some photography as bikes can go places no car can. Also be prepared for rain. Unless you were lucky like our class… Finally have fun and do enjoy yourselves.
Rebecca Bailey, L3 Kaiapoi High, Outdoor Education Class 2013.
Fancy riding the trail? We can provide top-of-the-range bike hire, panniers and accommodation recommendations. Get in touch to set your West Coast adventure in motion…
‘Tis the season of joy and goodwill! We’ve rounded up a few Christmas gift ideas for the keen cyclist or outdoor explorer in your life. Spread a little cycling love this holiday season!
For the rugged adventurer: BioLite CampStove™
This ingenious portable stove cooks your meals using twigs and leaves…and charges your phone at the same time. Ditch the expensive gas canisters and simply collect your fuel as you need it.
Tech specs: The heat from the fire generates electricity via a thermoelectric generator to power a fan creating airflow for improved combustion. Surplus electricity is sent to the USB port for charging devices.
For the urban cyclist: Hövding “invisible” bicycle helmet
Hövding is an “invisible” bicycle helmet developed in Sweden. It looks like a scarf but in the event of a crash or impact, a small gas canister in the back of the collar inflates an airbag around the wearer’s neck and head.
In tests carried out last year by Swedish insurance company Folksam, Hövding was found to be “more than three times as good as the best conventional cycle helmet.”
The product is becoming increasingly popular in Europe and the company is set to launch sales in Canada and Japan next year. But at Euro399 (around NZ$660) it’s certainly not a cheap safety option. (And once inflated, it can’t be used again).
We’re also not entirely sure if wearing this would constitute a “helmet” in the eyes of the NZ law. Food for thought over the Xmas Day dining table, perhaps?
Not a gift for under the tree but a gift that gets you out into the trees. Set aside a few hours, pack a picnic and jump on your bikes to explore an area, park or trail you haven’t visited before.
A few places you could venture: Christchurch: The Little River Rail Trail. Auckland: Hunua Ranges Regional Park. Tracks, trails and prime picnic spots south of the city. Wellington: Pick a section of the Rimutaka Cycle Trail, which runs from Petone to Ocean Beach.
Stocking filler #1: Journey Magazine
A printed and online magazine guaranteed to spark your lust for bicycling adventures. Pick up a copy from Natural High or head to the Journey website to subscribe.
It’s one of New Zealand’s biggest cycling events, bringing together cyclists of all abilities; from lycra-clad whippets to weekend warriors to the “I’ll give it a crack even though I’ll be sore for the next month” type.
Competing in the Contact Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge has been on my radar since I first took up cycling and even though the stars weren’t really aligning for this year’s event (held on 30 November), I did it anyway!
This year, over 8000 people took up the challenge, competing in solo road races, relays, mountain bike challenges and children’s races. Now, as you’ve probably noticed, my heart lies in the rough back country hills but Logan, my faithful riding companion and Auckland Natural High manager, was adamant that I should start with the classic challenge: the 160km road race that takes you anti-clockwise around the lake. Logan completed this race a couple of years ago and after starting in a slow group, did a tough solo ride of six hours and five minutes. This year he had something to prove.
Logan only started training a month out from the race and had put in a total of six long rides (between 60-80km) plus his regular commute to work and quick spins throughout the day testing out our bike fleet. Perks of the job.
My training consisted of daily bike rides to work and a 10-day cycle tour of Myanmar (Burma) with Red Spokes. Not the speed race training I was hoping for, although constantly having to navigate around ox carts and basket-balancing locals gave my hand signals plenty of practice.
What to carry on the day
Getting the nutrition right on a 160km race is tricky. Although I’ve ridden plenty of long-distance days, they’ve always featured lots of stops along the way to smell the roses and refuel.
Before the race, Logan presented me with a small food bag to attach to the top tube of the bike, which I filled with a small bag of jet planes and nuts, a tube of gel and a power bar. This proved to be perfect. I scoffed between 80 and 120km, guzzled down the gel to stave off cramp and nibbled on the power bar, although I found the dry crumble hard to swallow and a small mouthful from about 40km was the best I could do.
Our game plan was simple
A slow start to ride our legs into a good cadence, then hammer it from Turangi. By the 40km mark Logan and I had starting working in with a couple of others and were making excellent time. But then disaster struck. My right cleat broke while powering up a small incline. Considering I’d had problems with these the week before, I was cursing my lack of preparation and being reduced to three-quarter power while raring to go at race speed proved frustrating and energy sapping.
The straw that broke the camel’s back
Anyone that has cycle toured from Turangi to Taupo will recall the long, taxing incline of Hatepe Hill. It was here while struggling to get my legs going, that an Aussie bloke in the 320km/twice around Lake Taupo category, flew past as if we were standing still. And he wasn’t young! 13km from the finish, a fella from Rotorua nursed me home, drafting me from the windy conditions that had been the bane of the day’s ride. Our time: five hours 22 minutes. We were stoked!
Over the weekend I talked to cyclists from all over the world and heard many inspiring stories. Like our Japanese client who, four years ago, suffered a tyre blowout in this event and has felt compelled to settle the score ever since. A father and son team from the UK and Australia respectively, who share a love of cycling and decided to meet up in New Zealand for this race. And Kristen from Switzerland, who’s currently here on a MTB touring holiday. Last year she travelled around New Zealand by bus and regretted every minute she wasn’t on her bike.
Regardless of our reasons for entering, the challenge is the same for all of us. We ride for passion, the thrill of being a part of something special…and the feeling of satisfaction when we finally cross the finish line.
We’re back with former Olympic skier Mitchey Greig to find out more about the Queenstown MTB scene. This week, she’s sharing stories from Pinewood Lodge, the accommodation spot she runs with her whole family.
How long has Pinewood Lodge been operating?
My brother, sister and I all grew up at Pinewood. My parents have owned it for 25 years now, and the whole family is in there running the place on a day to day basis.
Why should mountain bikers stay with you?
We definitely go out of our way to make sure we look after the mountain bikers. Our location is about 100m away from the Skyline Bike Park – we have a special track built directly to it! We’re central to town, can always help a stranger plan their next epic day’s riding in Queenstown, and can even supply them with a bike if they don’t have one.
We know peoples’ bikes are like their children and worth a small fortune, so we have a 50-bike lockable storage unit, to keep them safe and clean. We can also throw the odd tool in there if you have some basic mechanical issues.
Not only that, we are made up of 28 houses, able to accommodate two to 24 people, so you can rent out a whole house and block yourself off from the rest of the world, or you can get amongst it and share with a bunch of other like-minded people. The option is yours. We’ve got everything from basic dorm beds through to ensuite rooms.
What’s it like working in a family-run business?
It has its moments, but on the whole it’s an awesome environment. If we want to make something happen we don’t need to go very far to ask for permission. And, in general we’re all on the same wavelength and just want our guests to have a great stay. We’re all passionate about what we do : )
What’s the funniest request you’ve received from a guest?
It was quite funny when a guest somehow managed to lock himself out of his room when he went for a shower. His mad dash to reception to ask for another key was entertaining…don’t ask why he didn’t have a towel.
Favourite spot to hang out in Queenstown after a hard day biking?
I think everyone knows the mountain biking bar in Queenstown is Atlas. It’s the only bar you will walk into and be greeted by a healthy rack of great-looking bikes outside and people covered in dirt inside with big grins on their faces. You also can’t go past a swim in the lake on a hot summer’s day after a great ride : )
Thanks to Mitchey for letting us in on her secrets. Queenstown is an awesome spot for biking….if you haven’t made it there yet, put it on your bucket list. And if you need a great place to stay while in town, you really can’t beat Pinewood Lodge. It’s located just two minutes from the Skyline Bike Park and offers a range of accommodation options to suit all budgets.
Queenstown is a hugely popular destination for mountain bikers, so this week we’d thought we’d get the lowdown from someone who knows the local scene well. 2010 Olympic freestyle skier Mitchey Greig grew up in Queenstown, and after many years of chasing the snow is now loving life on her mountain bike. Mitchey and her family run popular accommodation spot Pinewood Lodge, which is just a two-minute ride from the Queenstown Bike Park.
When did you start riding and why?
When I retired from competitive skiing I suddenly had a lot of time…and after 18 straight winters I felt it was finally time for a summer. I quickly discovered biking and the world-class riding we have in Queenstown and found it was a great way to get out and blow off some steam. The riding just keeps getting better, thanks to the Queenstown Mountain Bike Club charging on and creating more and more sweet trails.
What type of riding do you enjoy the most?
I love all types: cross country missions, downhilling at the bike park and a sneaky bit of road riding in between. As long as I’m outside, it’s a great day : )
Globally, the word is out about Queenstown mountain biking. How would you rate the riding compared to Whistler?
I would say we are right up there. A few years back, the Atherton family (the fastest family on two wheels) said it one of the best places they’ve ever ridden. And you definitely can’t beat the scenery – I still can’t get enough of it and I see it everyday. Our bike park may not be as big (as Whistler), but it definitely packs a punch.
What’s your favourite Queenstown ride or trail?
My favorite ride is being dropped off at the car park at Coronet Peak (the local ski area) for a 45-minute grind to the top of the mountain on the Enduro track. At the top you get to turn around and ride the epic trail back down to the base building. From there you join onto another track called Cock Rock, where you pound down flowy, fast singletrack switchbacks. And that’s not all..at the bottom of that you meet up with the Zoot track which is a very poppy, narrow singletrack that takes you to the bottom of the mountain. There’s a lot of downhill and it’s definitely worth a look. I’m also pretty excited about trying the New Skippers link track being built up there as we speak.
Tell us about your most memorable moment on a bike?
My most memorable moment on a bike was riding with a great crew of mates down the Whole Enchilada in MOAB Utah, which hands down, is the most awesome four hours of pure downhill. It definitely opened my eyes to how mountain biking and great company can get you addicted to living… you just can’t beat it.
Next week…Mitchey spills the beans on working with her entire family at Pinewood Lodge.
How to choose the right bike for your New Zealand cycle adventure
Thinking about hiring a bike but not sure which one to choose? Or, maybe you’re planning on buying a bike…Xmas is coming after all…and you haven’t a clue which type to spring for?
To help you out, we’ve put together a handy guide to some our most popular NZ cycling adventures and the bikes that suit them best.
Adventure #1: Cycle Touring
Long hours in the saddle demand a reliable, robust and comfortable bike. You’ve got two options: a touring bike or a hybrid bike.
What’s the difference? Touring bikes are specifically designed to handle heavy loads and long distances. If you’re thinking of heading off on a self-guided cycle tour with panniers, a touring bike is likely to be your best option.
Hybrid bikes can handle a variety of terrain, from smooth road surfaces to gravel roads and non-technical trails. Typically lighter than a mountain bike but studier than a road bike, a hybrid rental could be a good fit for a guided cycle tour. (Our guided tours include luggage transfer, meaning you’ll be travelling without a load).
Our top pick for touring:
The Cannondale Touring T2: A proven and reliable trek bike. Front and rear racks mean you can carry lots of gear and still cover ground fast.
Adventure #2: On-Road Day Trip
Maybe you’re not quite ready to tackle a multi-day cycle tour, but you’d like to hire a bike for shorter trips or to help you explore the city? A lightweight, hybrid bike is a great option for these type of journeys.
Our top pick for day tripping in style:
The Trek 7300 Hybrid Bike: Tough, efficient and comfortable. Big wheels, an upright riding stance and plush seats means you’ll be rollin’ in style.
Adventure #3: New Zealand Cycle Trails
Nga Haerenga /The New Zealand Cycle Trail is a network of rides stretching right across the country. Predominantly encompassing off-road terrain, the trails wind through areas of stunning natural beauty and are a fantastic way to explore some of this country’s lesser-known secrets.
The trails vary in ability level, distance and terrain, so the exact route you choose will determine your bike hire. For more rugged trails, we recommend hiring a mountain bike, while some of the easier trails suit a hybrid bike.
Our top pick for riding the trails:
The Specialized Hardrock Sport 29er: A stable and comfy bike. 29ers roll well, accelerate easily and deliver a smooth ride.
Adventure #4: Mountain Biking
New Zealand offers world class mountain biking opportunities. Popular spots include Rotorua, the Ruapehu region, Woodhill Forest in Auckland and Queenstown. Many of the New Zealand Cycle Trails also offer great mountain biking terrain, suitable for a variety of ability levels.
MTB options: Hardtail mountain bikes offer no rear suspension and are generally lighter. If you’re a beginner or less intense rider, a hardtail could be a good fit. Full-suspension mountain bikes provide more shock absorption but are usually heavier. They’re ideal for backcountry riding, singletrack, drops and jumps.
Our top pick for New Zealand mountain biking:
The Cannondale Rize Full Suspension Mountain Bike: With dual-suspension and an alloy frame, the 130mm Rize is the best of its class. Innovative engineering details help boost bike performance, while plush suspension delivers a balanced, comfortable ride.
What’s included with Natural High bike hire?
Fully-serviced bikes for peace of mind on the open road.
Bike fitting to suit your shape, size and journey – essential for your performance and comfort.
Lock, multi tool, tyre levers, spare tube and repair kit.
We can also supply helmet hire (additional cost) or purchase. (It’s compulsory to wear a helmet while cycling in New Zealand).
We’re stoked that the Runway Mountain Bike Park, located within The District at Auckland Airport, is set to open on Saturday 23 November.
The new park – which will be free to use – is just around the corner from our Natural High Auckland branch and features a fantastic network of tracks suitable for all ability levels, from beginners and children to intermediate riders.
There’s also a fun, 50m Pump Track: a circuit of dirt rollers and berms that can be ridden without pedalling.
Test drive the trails
The grand opening of the park takes place on Saturday 23 November from 10am, and to celebrate we’ll be onsite throughout the day with a great selection of mountain bikes that you can take for a spin in exchange for a gold coin donation.
The gang from Auckland MTB Club will also be on hand to offer riding tips and an energy-boosting sausage sizzle.
So, if you’ve ever fancied giving mountain biking a go – or you’d like to try out a few different mountain bike models – this is your perfect opportunity. In fact, why not bring the whole family along and make a day of it?
When: Saturday 23 November, from 10am. Getting there: The District is located at Auckland International Airport. Look out for signs from George Bolt Memorial Drive, Ansett Place and Leonard Isitt Drive. What’s on:
Gold coin donation mountain bike hire.
Sausage sizzle and drinks.
The District also features food outlets, shops and an outdoor art gallery.