The Inside Track on Queenstown Mountain Biking…Part 2

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.

Queenstown Mountain Biking
The Hub at Pinewood Lodge.

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.

MTB Queenstown
Heading back to the Lodge after a blast on the bike.

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.

Photos: Riley Bathurst.

Andy’s Great Rides of New Zealand: The St James

south island mountain bikingAndy continues his cycling journey around New Zealand. This week he’s headed deep into the southern wilderness to ride the St James, a unique backcountry mountain biking experience in North Canterbury where the tough get going and the adrenalin really kicks in!

Kenichi has a big grin from ear to ear. “This is like Disneyland,” he says.

I look at him in amazement, wondering how he can compare this unique alpine wilderness to a crowded, corporate theme park.

This is our third mountain bike ride in as many days, and three hours into our six-hour ride we’re already hurting. I’m just hoping that Kenichi – my Japanese MTB cycle guide and Aloha Bike Tours Owner – isn’t hallucinating!

The St James is not a ride for the faint hearted; its unforgiving terrain can throw some curve balls and a mechanical breakdown way out here in the wilderness could easily mean a freezing night under the stars.

But when fitness, weather and great mates combine, riding the St James can be pure heaven.

Today we’ve started the ride at the Marling Pass carpark and are heading towards the Homestead. Travelling in this direction gives us more downhill riding and some extra assistance from the predominant wind. On a ride as tough as this, we’ll take any help we can get!

It’s an easygoing start out to Marling Pass, followed by an exhilarating descent through beech forest to the Waiau River Valley. Keep an eye out here for the rabbit-proof fence, seen to the right of the trail. Completed in 1889, it extends 125km from the Main Divide to the coast.

We push onwards, following the well-formed track along the tussock and wildflower valley floor and crossing the crystal-blue waters of the Waiau River at Saddle Spur bridge. Now the riding gets more challenging, with some hard climbs, uneven surfaces and tricky descents.

A sighting of the St James wild horses, framed against the backdrop of the rugged snow capped Southern Alps is a memory worth holding onto. If the uphills don’t take your breath away, then the scenery certainly will.

From Macarthurs Bridge the trail follows an old 4-wheel drive track up a series of terraces to Edwards Valley and then on to Peters Pass – our last major hurdle of the day. (I’ve since been told there are some hot pools just after Scotties Hut at Cow Stream – I’ll be looking out for them on my next trip in October!)

Totally exhausted from our seven-hour ride, we round off our day with a well-earned soak at Hanmer Spring’s natural hot pools.

Stunning high country scenery
Challenging terrain
Definitely not Disneyland, but truly one New Zealand’s great backcountry mountain bike rides.

Grade 4
This is a ride for ADVANCED riders only.

From Hanmer Springs take Jacks Pass Road, before turning right onto the steep, gravel Clarence Valley Road. Turn left onto TopHouse Road at the Y junction. The Marling Pass carpark is about 30km from the turn off.
As you drive out along TopHouse Road, you will pass the old St James homestead on the left after about 3.5km. This is the end of the St James Cycle Trail.

Inspired to hit up the mountain bike trails of New Zealand?

We can hook you up with top-quality, latest-model mountain bike hire and help you sharpen your off-road skills with a half-day of dedicated mountain bike training. We’ve also got a fantastic selection of guided mountain bike tours on offer!