Mondays aren’t known by most as a favourite day of the week – but for the 20-odd Dunedin riders working hard to build and maintain the Whare Flat network of trails, it’s by far their most productive!
“We’ve been digging Monday nights for the past three years,” says Mountainbiking Otago member and committed track builder Gareth Hargreaves, who has been buildings trails in the area for more than a decade. “We started with an uphill track called Fir Trader, then moved onto our newest downhill track Bermageddon, and now we’re starting the rebuild of a local favourite, The Green Mile.”
More than 13 years after he built one of the area’s inaugural tracks, Snakes and Ladders, Gareth is the first to admit that his vision and building skills have come a long way, and he’s looking forward to leading the crew on its new challenge.
“The Green Mile was quite a flowy track with some skill-testing sections, which made it quite popular with a wide range of riders,” says Gareth. “Since the area was felled early last year, Dunedin mountain bikers have been looking forward to its reincarnation and so have we!”
As soon as the crew put down their tools following the last metre of Bermageddon, they were already brainstorming how to rebuild a “bigger and better” version of The Green Mile, with financial support from Trail Fund NZ.
“There’s almost nothing left of the old track, so it’s pretty much a blank canvas, which is both exciting and intimidating,” says Gareth. “Both Fir Trader and Bermegeddon had their routes largely defined by the surrounding bush, so this is quite different.
“At this point we’re busy mapping out the line. We’ve actually found that the biggest challenge of building in a felled area with no existing track is not having direction dictated by the terrain – it’s all up to us.”
Or almost. When City Forests felled the area, Gareth says they kindly did their best to retain features the club has put a lot of time into – including a big bermed wall ride and some rock sections – which will be incorporated into the trail.
The Green Mile will also be extended from its original length of 850m to approximately 1600m, and the plan is to build a similar style track – flowy with some skill-testing sections.
“That’s the general plan, but it’s amazing how everything comes together throughout the build – everyone brings new ideas to the table and the end result is often much better than if one person had built a track on their own.”
Whare Flat has been growing steadily over the past decade and now boasts approximately 15km of tracks. The club’s hand-built uphill track, Fir Trader, was completed in 2015 and is very popular with mountain bikers and runners as an alternative to the steep 4WD track.
Bermegeddon, a hand-built Grade 4 downhill trail which also received support from Trail Fund, has been open to the public for less than a month but is already a local favourite, with more than 400 Strava runs.
“I’m obviously a bit biased but I think it’s a barrel of monkeys to ride,” says Gareth. “We’ve used the natural environment as much as possible and features include berms, rock rolls and steps, table tops and a few gap jumps that you can roll around if necessary.”
Words: Meagan Robertson
Images: Jemma Wells