Monday, February 28, 2011

Palmerston North... Not as bad as it seems if you ride a bike!

A week ago, I made my first trip ever to Palmerston North. To be honest, I didn't expect much... Everyone promised me I would be sufficiently bored by the end of the weekend and vow never to return, but my partner is studying down there and the trip was a necessary evil, so I packed my bike in the van and off I went.

As I approached Palmy, I was quite taken by what I was confronted with... Beautiful rolling hillsides and mountain ranges... I began frothing at the mouth over what riding might be hiding in those hills and even the prospect of a road ride up through the hills just outside the town.

Saturday I took my partner for a drive east to Waipukurau in Hawke's Bay and we checked out Pukeora Mountain Bike Park. This is a 50 hectare block littered with probably about 15km of Rotorua-esque trails... Dips and berms carved into sweet, smooth trails... Man, it was so much fun. This was probably about an hour and a half out of Palmy, so a nice little day trip with some sweet little towns to stop for lunch or a coffee on the way through. Just remember that if you would like to ride here, you need to be a member of Hawkes Bay MTB club, or you need to purchase a temp permit from the cafe just down the road (we were quite surprised at how easy it was to just rock up and grab a permit... Nice!)

The next day, I headed out on a little adventure of my own to tackle Takapari Road. This is a 4WD track that winds up the back of the Ruahines and climbs up to a height of about 1200m. The first 7km climbs 900m to hit the peak of the climb and then it undulates along the ridgeline and you just turn back when you feel like it. The first thing I saw when I threw my bike over the gate was this wall in front of me which was actually the road ascending up the mountains... there were some super steep sections and a lot of these had obviously just had gravel re-layed on them so they were super slippery to climb. I learnt pretty quickly that if I wanted to get anywhere without pushing my bike, I had to ride really smoothly. I stopped a couple of times on the way up for some photos and noticed that as I got higher, it got much colder and the weather at the top of the climb was completely different to at the bottom of the climb. This was less noticeable on the way up than on the way down. When I was bombing back down the hill, I was certain I had passed through four seasons in the space of half an hour. Up along the top ridge line, there was an A-frame hut and beyond here, the road actually got quite rough and technical. I'd be pretty keen to head up here again and go as far as the road does. It was a hard ride up but the views were amazing, and the ride down was good fun.

So from now on, the bike comes with me when I trip down to Palmy for visits. Looking forward to scoping the area out more!

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