Itinerary builder

Top 5: MTB events to experience

They make you laugh out loud, sweat, maybe spill blood and still hoot with joy. You do them with your mates and find new friends along the journey. Once in a while you might even make a monumental fool of yourself. You don’t mind – these are the mountain bike experiences that will be embedded in your cortex, forever. Here are just some curated by writer Graeme Simpson ...

1: 20 years of Moonriding

With Jack Shallard, 70-something, MTB veteran

Those nervous times before the green flag drops at the Moonride: Photo: Event Promotions

Those nervous times before the green flag drops at the Moonride: Photo: Event Promotions

For us the Moonride has always been a family business. My sons, Michael and Samuel, raced in the first one in 1994 at Rotorua’s Agrodome, when it was the part of the Mad, Mad Mid-Winter Festival dreamed up by pioneer trail builder and event organiser, Fred Christensen. Back then the race was 8PM to 8AM in the darkest depths of the year. The following year we put a family team in with my other boys, Andrew and Blair – and then for the next 20 years.

The venues changed and so did the format. In 2002 a 24-hour race was added and we stepped up. Every year I vow it’ll be my last, but there’s something about the culture of this event that keeps pulling me back. Our last Moonride we podiumed in the Old Dudes. I was the oldest rider in the race and we had my 14-year-old, granddaughter, Rachel, riding her third Moonride in the team. A third generation.
The real hero of all this? My wife, Libby. Every year she’s prepared food, cooked breakfast, tried to keep the tent tidy, waded around in mud, shivered and somehow tolerated the annual disruption.

Visit the Moonride website here.

2: Undie Runs – what you see is what you get

With Lisa Horlor, DH and enduro pocket rocket, MTB skills coach

Mountainbikes, polka dot undies and -2°C temperatures aren’t things you often associate together. Until July 2014.

There was a good cause at stake – raising funds for a new trail called Eagle vs. Shark in the Whakarewarewa Forest in Rotorua. And the Undie Run was born.

It was a big success and Graeme Murray’s photos of it went viral.

Fast-forward 12 months – another great cause, the rebuild of two iconic trails, Exit and Old Exit. I was injured. However, 4 great locals stepped up in their undies: Jane Roberts, Marcello Ojerio (American Kiwi), James ‘Geeza’ Alexander and Alex Tague (both English Kiwis).

Result: even more money raised by a great community.

2016? Mass Undie Run? Stay tuned.

Visit the Rotorua Mountain Bike Club Facebook page for more info.

3: Sisters are doin’ it for themselves

With Vicki Butterworth, Cycling New Zealand Coach, Club Captain BMShe Women’s Cycling Club, Hawkes Bay

Vicki Butterworth in action. Photo: Duncan Brown

Vicki Butterworth in action. Photo: Duncan Brown

A typical MTB event is something a lot of women won’t have done. Women are so good at putting themselves down, doubting their physical abilities and feeling like they’ll embarrass or hurt themselves. It’s great to change these beliefs. I recently took a group of women to ride W2K in Taupo – an event that won’t be forgotten and will be repeated.

For Laura it was her first time coming over to the dark side of biking and she was really scared.

“No, I’m wearing my big girl pants, I can do this,” she shouted on one of the climbs, bringing us all to tears with laughter.

There were crashes and we all screamed, laughed and howled so much – either in humour or out of relief. Laura scared herself silly while breaking her barriers and absolutely loving the ride. An event has started a new love/hate thing for mountain biking … be brave, wear those big girl pants and who knows what you can achieve, sister.

4: Singlespeeds – one gear to rule them all

With Garth Weinberg, 2010 Singlespeed World Champion, multiple New Zealand champion, legend

Anzac Singlespeed Champs 2015 – barely legal shenanigans. Photo: Alan Ofsoski

Anzac Singlespeed Champs 2015 – barely legal shenanigans. Photo: Alan Ofsoski

They reckon that singlespeeding is hard and painful. Well, it can be hard, but after you get the hang of it, it’s just like riding a bike. And as for the painful part, once you get caught up in the colourful menagerie of singlespeed events nothing seems to hurt (unless you have an inappropriate costume).

To me it’s a combination of a circus, gladiator battle and a 5-year-old's princess birthday party.

Where else can you get so much enjoyment on a bike while doing the things that are normally socially unacceptable in the cycling community, let alone the general public? And get a tattoo if you win?

If you need a bucket list or a must-do event before your body finally collapses due to mountain bike injuries make it a singlespeed event.

Dress up, have a beer or two and enjoy the spectacle – you really won’t regret it.

Visit the www.rotoruasinglespeed.com for more info.

Garth Weinberg on Rock Drop on the way to winning the Singlespeed World Championship. Photo: Alan Ofsoski

Garth Weinberg on Rock Drop on the way to winning the Singlespeed World Championship. Photo: Alan Ofsoski

5: So Enduro right now

With James ‘Geeza’ Alexander, 2W Gravity Enduro, Giant Toa Enduro World Series and as Kiwi as an Englishman can get

I’m not a downhiller, not a cross-country rider – the usual race formats don’t fit me. So, from the moment I discovered enduro – getting timed on flowy, technical singletrack – I was hooked.

It’s what I ride, week in, week out. We all subconsciously compete with our mates when riding – even if it’s just a section of a trail. It brings out the hilarity and banter.

Enduro racing is just like a weekend ride – but with more spontaneity, more edgy with increased flow. It’s uncanny. You ride more intuitively and precisely, tapping into your entire skill set. You find that natural flow we continually search for. That adrenaline high is like nothing else – and all with your best mates along for the ride.

Goddamn, it feels fantastic.

Test your zen state at www.2w.co.nz.

James "Geeza" Alexander gets his zen face on during an enduro event. Photo: Alick Saunders/Rotorua Bike Festival

James "Geeza" Alexander gets his zen face on during an enduro event. Photo: Alick Saunders/Rotorua Bike Festival