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Saturday, 28 April 2012

Mangatawhiri Challenge Accepted

Mountain biking prospects in Auckland might seem grim at first, but when you start searching beyond the city walls as we found this weekend, you can stumble on some amazing ride-able (and not so ride-able) mountain bike trails...

Views from the Challenge track over the Upper Mangatawhiri Dam

Anything that mentions "challenge" in the name is just asking for attention. The Mangatawhiri Challenge Track rides a ridge high above the reservoir in the western side of the Hunua Ranges. We were hoping that the last week's rain dump wouldn't overwrite the past few weeks of hot, dry weather - but no luck. The trail was now slick and greasy making for a tough time pushing our bikes up the hills, let alone riding up. On the marginal climbs, it was a tight balancing act keeping enough weight on the back wheel for traction without flipping the bike backwards.

The downhill sections often came with three gouges in the trail - one for back wheel, one for the front wheel, and one for the foot as you skidded down sideways while locking the back wheel for all its worth.

Mangatawhiri Challenge - complete

In the middle of nowhere... relaxing in a barn shed in a typical Hunua meadow
After the 2 hour lap of the Mangatawhiri Challenge track, my thirst for fast flowing rideable trails had not been fully quenched, so I returned to the tried and tested Lower Mangatawhiri River track. Work bees and volunteer days over the summer have kept these trails in great condition. A pleasant contrast to the intense bike tramp on the ridge, I appreciated their work all the more and was on a true MTB high.

Wounded - an old cut oozes open after a fall

Sections of twisty technical track, stream crossings, short uphill grunts and root gardens required alertness and fixed concentration but every so often the trail emerged to a wide untamed meadow. Relaxation... It'd be a rare occasion to see anyone else out here. You feel completely surrounded by the Hunua Hills and get a real taste of wilderness riding. Its a hugely different experience to Woodhill for a change, and the hour long drive from the North Shore was well worth the effort.

Bursting along the River track

Click here for a map of the area and read more about the developments and working bees in Hunua here.

Matthew Neary has made this awesome video about the mountain biking opportunities in the Hunuas: http://vimeo.com/44081310.

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