Autumn is closing in – time to park the mountain bike and start shopping for jigsaw puzzles?
Not at all! The Rotorua trails are good to go all year round, and as a Scotsman once said, there is no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing. Gear up the wardrobe a little, fit a mudguard on the front end, pick some smaller volume tyres with tall knobs to cut through the wet stuff, and winter riding can be really great.
Choosing your trails wisely can make a winter outing pretty low maintenance. A few pointers:
- Steering clear of the really steep trails will keep you onside with the people who maintain them.
- If there has been a frost, trails out in the open can be treacherous and a real mess once the sun hits them.
- If it is raining, or has been raining a lot before your ride, get out for a pedal on the forest roads and give the trails a rest. Your drivetrain and other moving parts will thank you for it, too, and you can have a great day on the gravel roads.
Switch things up with a night ride
Winter is also the time for riding at night; with a set of lights and a couple trail buddies you can ride familiar trails that will feel brand new. A good setup is a light on your bars to flood the scene ahead of you, and one on your helmet for spotting detail and making sure there’s light where you’re looking (and hopefully going!).
Up the motivation factor
If the waning light and sinking temperatures are not helping your enthusiasm, setting yourself a goal or two can be the antidote to winter blues. Signing up for a couple great mountain bike events for the other end of winter should get you fizzing about keeping your trail time up and maintaining that summer fitness through the days of early darkness.
First up is the Rotorua Winter Forest Festival which lands on the first weekend of August, just a couple months after autumn winds down. If you can fit in a decent ride each weekend, a couple hours on the home trainer or the spin class during the week, a weekend or two riding the Whaka trails and repairing yourself in a hot pool – then you can be on the start line as the days start to get longer again.
The Winter Festival offers two bike events: a gravel race on Saturday targeting gravel bikers but open to anybody and anything on two wheels, and a race in the trails on Sunday. The gravel race has two distance options, the trail race has three. If you’re keen you could do both!
The race on the Sunday of the festival has a 48km option – a very honest day in the office, but exactly what the doctor would order if your symptoms indicated an entry in the big event, the Emerson’s Whaka 100.
The second race to consider is at the warm end of October, the Whaka 100 is the percent way to blow open the pipes for a great summer. However, the full-length event should not be taken lightly.
With half-distance and even shorter options, the Whaka weekend is a fun way to dust off the cobwebs. If you are up for the 100 then you had better be ready to spend a LOT of time preparing.
In what may be the toughest mountain bike event in New Zealand, the long distance race is crammed with technical singletrack, and a massive helping of climbing. If you’re looking for an excuse to ramp up the riding over winter, rather than turning the wick down a bit, here’s your chance.
*Content supplied by local mountain bike legend Gary “Gaz” Sullivan of NZO.