Updated: Jul 7, 2022
We all know the rough hand Christchurch has been dealt in recent years. From natural disasters to the horror of March 15 2019 and, more recently, the big C word, we’ve really been thrown a few curve balls. These events have brought with them unexpected change. In particular, the ongoing pandemic has seen us stuck in lockdowns and unable to connect with our friends in person. What remains unchanged, however, is the way bikes bring people together through a common connection. Back in June, my good friends moved back to Christchurch after three years away in the big smoke and we picked up right where we left off – just like the old days when we were growing up. They had ridden Vic Park, but they hadn’t seen some of the other riding areas Christchurch has to offer.
It’s funny how you get stuck in your ways with riding. You frequent the same trails and the same routes. However, when it came time to planning our catch up ride, it dawned on me that Christchurch is a now an incredibly accessible city for mountain biking. We have a huge variety of trails that are all interconnected, with great options for refuelling and hydrating along the way.
Kicking off the day with breakfast and coffee at home, we chatted and made a plan for the day ahead. We’d start out at Christchurch Adventure Park (CAP), which was once just a series of trails in the old Worsley’s Forest. Back then, it was a pretty low-key affair but an important piece of the Christchurch riding scene. When the park was built and opened in 2016, it incorporated some of the original trails, which my Auckland pals were familiar with as the last time they’d ridden in this area was before the park opened.
Unfortunately, In 2017, the park itself suffered a blow from Mother Nature when a large fire ripped through and destroyed the majority of the trails – a mere eight weeks after originally opening. After many hurdles getting back up and running, the park now boasts an excellent array of trails which are all accessible by chairlift, but the reality of the fires – and the challenges faced when rebuilding the trails – are evident. Trees that were badly burnt on the outside still stand, while entire areas have been completely decimated as trees have succumbed to the damage caused by the fires and fallen. It’s a stark reminder of the power of nature – something Christchurch is sadly all too familiar with.
One of the park’s latest offerings is a trail called Wasabi. Weaving through an area of tree fall littered with foxgloves, the trail tightly drops into a traverse with rocky crags towering overhead, before heading into a couple of technical rocky sections and some dusty corners full of once-burnt material. It was refreshing to be able to reintroduce friends back to CAP after a few years away and have them reminisce the old days riding in Worsley’s, after riding the likes of Wasabi.
Having a chairlift in town really opens up the options, so we made the most of it after our lap of Wasabi, by heading back up and pedalling along Christchurch’s iconic Summit Road before dropping down into Lyttelton for lunch at Co-Op. This café has a great view over the harbour and an awesome menu, catering to every taste. We tucked into lunch and enjoyed a coffee before getting back on the rigs and heading out to our next stop of the day.
Riding in Lyttelton is a bit of a ‘phoenix rising from the ashes’ type story. The area always had trails but, following the 2017 fires, the area rose to incredible popularity as riders looked to get their forest riding fix. Recently, more trails have emerged. We pedalled up a few times and dropped down some of their black graded trails, stopping en route to session some of the techy features in the forest. The vegetation is dense and green, making for a unique experience compared to riding in the rest of the Port Hills network. The stoke factor was high – thanks in part to sharing the experience with mates who were riding it for the first time. Short climbs and fun descents mean there is plenty of time to chat about recent happenings and life movements.
After a few hours shredding in Lyttelton, we cruised back through the streets of the port town and winched back up to the Summit Road before dropping down into the city via Rapaki Track. We rolled around the banks of the Heathcote River, eventually pulling up at Moon Under Water to wet the whistle after a solid day of riding. Moon Under Water is a craft beer spot that has gone from strength to strength in the last few years, despite the adversity faced in the hospitality industry. The bar is incredibly popular with the riding fraternity, and it’s not uncommon to see the entire outside of the building lined with bikes after a school night ride. We enjoyed a cheeky burger and fries, happily washed down with a hoppy number. After some more much-needed catching up, we got pedalling – heading west to try and get the best views of the sunset. We eventually found ourselves above the Crocodile MTB Park, ripping the grassy turns as the sun set.
Once the sun had disappeared, we headed back home to debrief on an epic day of riding. We were all in agreement that we’d never thought a day of riding like this would be possible in Christchurch. While change can be hard to adjust to, the results are often worth it. Life moves fast and shit happens, but it all gets put in perspective pretty quickly when you realise three years has flown by. Life is short; look after your mates and live harder.
Words: Will Keay
Photography: Cameron Mackenzie