Saturday, June 16, 2007

Return to Whakarewarewa

Due to recent events it had been a while since Billy-Bob had mounted his bike and taken off to feel the wind in his hair and the sound of mud peppering his bike. It was thus without hesitation that the Bobster sought to instil into the latest and youngest member ‘the TCA way’ when an opportunity presented itself. Billy-Bob had arranged to meet up with Big Rob, a veteran of previous outings, down at the mighty Whakarewarewa forest - in the thermal wonderland of Rotorua. Rob had, quite literally, yet to venture into this neck of the woods: Billy-Bob had offered to accompany him on this Saturday morning jaunt with the one proviso; that he rented himself a half decent bike instead of using his trusty gun-metal steed, which had no suspension and dubious caliper brakes. In fact Rob’s bike was reminiscent of his own embryonic TCA steed of many years past, renowned for its sickly colour and oversize armchair saddle.

Whak er …dum de dum trail map

The TCA ‘kitting up’ ethos is known to members as a time consuming ritual often in the harshest of atmospheric conditions, but is nevertheless essential to ensure safety and preparedness for the journey ahead. It was thus a whole new experience for Billy-Bob to manage not only his own kit but also that of young Elodie, who was to accompany Stef and learn the ropes as support crew. Elodie was to bring along her own pump, harness, energy food, tyres and full weather attire for the venture, not to mention a rather fetching skull cap and thermal base layer, blanket etc etc….

Rob kitting up pre-ride

After a wonderfully quiet journey south to the town of sulphurous gases, Billy-Bob met up with Rob who had managed to secure a 2 hour rental from Planet Bikes, a local outfit run by various young grease monkeys, who take up position in a converted horse truck at the entrance to the forest. It was to Billy-Bob's surprise that Rob had rented the very same bike as his - a Diamond Back Topanga. This bike was identical to Billy-Bob's with the exception of some bespoke oversize front suspension Manitou forks with massive travel. The SPD’s had been removed and replaced with some Shrek like pedals as Rob had only his white squash trainers.

No time was wasted in kitting up in the car park as there was a rather cold wind lapping the margins of the forest despite it being a bright and characteristically clear blue sky. Thank goodness Billy-Bob had packed his trusty Helly Hanson thermal base layer. He could not wait to find the cover of the giant redwood canopy to escape the penetrating wind but, more importantly, to hide from the unwanted looks they were getting at Robs ghastly lycra and fluorescent yellow ensemble! After a final kit check and, with Elodie giving them a ‘Maggie Simpson’ sign of approval, they arranged to meet back at Stef’s ‘latte’ bar in just under 2 hours.

The Whak-a-whotsit forest is renowned among bikers in the North Island for being a good mountain biking spot, mainly because of the variety and grading of its off road trail network. This ranges from Grade 1. Described as fairly flat, wide and smooth track or gravel road – suitable for first time riders; to Grade 6 described as ‘Trail skills essential to clear many huge obstacles. High risk level, only a handful or riders will enjoy these rides, apart from bike ‘n’ hike enthusiasts!’ It was with these grades in mind that Billy-Bob planned 4 tracks for their morning session. These had been done at night nearly a year ago in the infamous ‘Rotorua Moonride’ and so Billy-Bob was confident in taking Rob on a day outing.

First up was the Repco track (Grade II) which was a largely flat trail with a few ruts, twists and turns, conquered previously by Mrs B.B. The ground conditions were pretty hard and Rob was delighted with his front suspension on the bumpy sections. After almost twenty minutes at a rather fast pace they were both warmed up and Billy-Bob was glad he had opted for just the thermal and wick away T shirt option or ‘Tee’ as they say in NZ. Meanwhile Rob, who had laughed at Billy-Bob’s rather thin clothing selection back at the car park, was now sweating profusely in his thermal, fleece and sweaty yellow anorak... at least that was his excuse.

Next up was the aptly named Diamond Back track (Grade II), which was similar in style and length but had the ‘big dipper’ section which Billy-Bob had omitted to tell Rob about. The big dipper section can best be described to seasoned TCA(UK) participants as a reverse Railway Embankment Challenge but twice the length. Fortunately this can only be tackled in the downhill direction due to the arrangement of the trail network. Once again Rob soon appreciated the necessity of suspension and also mastered, albeit precariously, the art of distributing his weight back over the saddle on a steep descent.

Realising that the trails were being mastered without any major hiccup Billy-Bob decided to up the anti to the Haro trial (Grade III), the trail that allegedly originally spawned mountain biking in Rotorua. This trail starts with a few short hills that are described as easy but in reality are pretty dam steep. This route saw the first dismount of the day on a particularly rutted uphill section and a ‘ near off’ by Billy-Bob on one acute bend, obviously out of form and going a tad too fast in a vein attempt to shake off the heavy breathing of Rob behind.

Billybob taking a rest stop in the sun

The last trail of the day was worth waiting for; it went by the name of Avenir (Grade III), described as having good grades with hills and ruts – nice. One of the good things about ‘W’ forest is that bikers can go for an age without running into another cyclist, even though at the entry to the park one might be forgiven for thinking that there was a woodland rave amongst the trees. It was therefore to their surprise that the duo came across a disheveled, misfit bunch of four spotty youths on full suspension bikes that were apparently lost on the last trail. Billy-Bob, as ever knowledgeable amongst the woods and wilderness, perused his trail map, rotated it deftly in front of the group and with a few confident words of orienteering wisdom sent them off... in the wrong direction.

The final trail presented no real challenge (Grade 4 next time?) to the intrepid duo and managed to take them (to their surprise) quite close to the car park, and by chance straight into the path of Stef and Elodie returning from their woodland walk. After Mrs B.B pointed in the real direction of the car park Rob reluctantly returned his beloved bike back to the grease monkey. Following a bit of bugaboo/bike trauma packing the car they all headed off into town to the renowned Fat Dog, Billy-Bob's favourite café and pastry-product establishment for a well earned feed.

(Posted by: Billy-Bob)

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At 9:15 pm, June 25, 2007, Blogger Maalie said...

That's the best way, stert'em young! And just how do you pronounce 'Whakarewarewa'? I seem to remember it's rather runcible...

At 2:21 am, June 28, 2007, Blogger Ju's little sister said...

Hmmmm... Well I'm from the south Island myself.
More used to screaming:
"It's AORAKI!!!! AORAKI! not Aorangi! Stupid North Islanders..."

Ahem, yes. Ah, good show Billy bob. It doesn't look like I'll be out of the country till next year if you want to come up for some biking this summer?

At 8:55 am, July 02, 2007, Blogger TCA said...

Fecka indeed. Yes I agree a TCA NZ ride with JLS simply must happen, it would be rude not too given that I am just ' down the road'. Also an escape from cow country would be good ....mooooooo


At 4:22 pm, July 04, 2007, Blogger TCA said...


Get thee to a proper cycle outfitter, you're an embarresment!

TCA Committee


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