Updated: May 28
Compared to most other mountain bike centres in NZ, Wellington’s biggest advantage is variety. With a great mix of man-made and natural terrain available, rides can be tailored to different levels of skills, or just to mix it up and keep things fresh for even the most experienced riders. The term 'something for everyone is certainly apt when it comes to riding in the capital.
On any given day of the week, you are certain to find a willing riding partner without really looking. You will probably run into other riders out for a quick spin, or maybe an all-day mission. I’ve met some of my best friends and riding buddies just by being on the trail at the right time and striking up a conversation. With such a large and friendly rider base, the local scene is fantastic for finding just the right people to ride with and to socialise with when the riding is done.
But it’s the quality of riding that led me, and many others, to choose Wellington as the place to be for a mad-keen mountain biker. I love being able to leave my house and be on dirt within five to ten minutes depending on which direction I point my bike. I can link up two or three different riding areas or bike parks without my tyres hitting the tarmac. And those same tyres will have touched an array of trails from smooth and groomed, flowy, fast, to technical, rocky, steep and challenging. My mood dictates how I want to ride, and the trails do the rest. Hard to beat is an understatement.
Probably the most popular trails in the city these days, the easy accessibility of Polhill Reserve makes it a must ride for the visitor. From the CBD you can be on the singletrack within minutes. The Transient climb is another one of those Wellington climbs where you don’t really feel like you’re climbing at all, and before you know it you are at the top of Brooklyn Hill, home to Wellington’s original wind turbine and gateway to a number of options. You can head back down the way you came via Car Parts, a twisty blast through the trees, followed by a choice between the latest additions Roller Coaster for a bit of airtime, or a fast and twisty run down Ikagai and Serendipity, or continue on towards the south coast via Barking Emu. The views along here are just as epic as Makara, but with some different perspectives. I never get sick of looking out over this beautiful city with its rugged hills and bays, harbour and coastline. From the end of Emu, either turn around for a long descent all the way back to where you started or head down to Red Rocks, via high-speed doubletrack with some nice twisty singletrack at the end, spitting you out on the coast for a ride back to civilisation via the road or a pre-arranged lift.
When The Riding Is Done (Or “Aprés Singletrack”)
There are so many great places to ride in NZ that it’s hard to choose the ideal location to base oneself to live a mountain bike lifestyle. Known as one of, if not the arts capital of NZ, Wellington has a plethora of theatres, cinemas, bars, cafés and of course the National Museum, Te Papa. There is a vibrant bar and live music scene, with craft beer not only being served in abundance but brewed right in the city by some of the country’s best and most decorated brewers. And we know that mountain bikers love a good brew after a day of amazing riding, so why skimp on the quality of the beer?
There are countless international renowned restaurants and so many choices of fantastic eateries that I’m still working my way through them all! And if you like coffee, well you’re in heaven here; Wellington has more cafés per capita than New York City. And yes, the coffee is also recognised as the best in the country and also world-beating.
Stay tuned for the second part of this story, dropping on the 20th of May
Words: Brett Kennedy
Images: Caleb Smith