The engine inside: Redefining the impact of bicycles


Narrated by the legendary voice of cycling, Phill Liggett, The Engine Inside is a captivating feature-length documentary that weaves together the extraordinary stories of six everyday people. Through their experiences, the film unveils the remarkable power of the bicycle to promote profound change in our lives and communities. One of the documentary’s writers, Daisy Maddinson, shares how the film hopes to spark a feel-good revolution on two wheels.

Beyond the traditional portrayal of cycling as a sport or recreational activity, we don’t often give the bicycle much thought. Some might use it to get from A to B or commute to the office, but have you ever seriously considered the deeper impact of swinging a leg over?

The Engine Inside goes deeper, exploring the often-overlooked potential of this 200-year-old machine. Through the stories of six everyday people using the bicycle as a tool, the documentary delves into the significance of cycling in helping solve various global issues, including physical and mental well-being, socioeconomic inequality and climate change.

As writers, we wanted to go beyond the surface of cycling and showcase the true essence of the bicycle and its transformative power. In the development stage, every story we uncovered touched us deeply. We met people who faced daunting personal and systemic challenges head-on—from generational trauma and economic barriers to women’s equity and motor vehicle collisions—who have all found hope in the simple act of riding a bike. Their determination to overcome adversity through cycling left us humbled and even more inspired to use storytelling to spread the “bike gospel”.

By sharing the journeys of these everyday people from all walks of life, the film challenges anyone who watches it to reevaluate their own perspective on the transformative power of the bicycle.

The world can feel big and ugly sometimes. With so many converging social and environmental problems, the weight of the world can be overwhelming. We think, how can we as individuals change anything? And what use is one small action when the problems are so large? After watching The Engine Inside, we wanted the audience to ask themselves: Can an act as ordinary as riding a bike truly unlock strength and resilience within us all?

The documentary urges us to see the bicycle as more than just a means of transportation or a way to enjoy the great outdoors. It shows us how riding can act as a catalyst for change. It shows us that small actions do make a difference.

Our hope is that The Engine Inside will prompt anyone who sees it to change their view of cycling and embrace the transformative power of the bicycle and the engine inside us all. We can build a better world, one pedal stroke at a time.

Film release coming late 2023.

This article is taken from:NZ Mountain Biker, Issue #111

Considering SubscribingPurchase Issue #111

Bike Review: Norco Fluid FS A1

RRP: $5,599

“The Norco Fluid FS A1 was something of a revelation.”

I was looking forward to getting on the bike. Some mates in Australia had almost convinced me to get a Norco a few years back and, while I didn’t follow their advice, I was curious to find out what they were on about – and what I was missing out on.

I spent a month and a half on it – riding every other day, trying to figure out what made it feel so good.

As a representative of today’s mid-price mountain bike, it is a great example. Whether you think a hair over five and a half grand is mid-priced depends on a lot of things, but in a world of five figure builds, some of which start with a two, it seems pretty economical.

The first thing that needs saying is how good the bike looks. Obviously subjective, but a sparkly green paint job with chrome stickers does it for me.

It’s a very nice piece of design and execution. Subtly formed tubes, seamless junctions, and that lustrous paint job look really great.

The rear end finish is industrial by contrast – no effort has been made to smooth out the welds. Again, personal opinion, but I like that.

The Norco fitout has quality where it counts. Suspension is handled by Fox FLOAT components at both ends. The Factory 34 GRIP2 fork gives 140mm travel up front, and the X Performance Elite shock provides 130mm at the back end – pretty much the perfect setup for most trail riding.

The ultra-reliable Shimano XT drivetrain pairs up with a Praxis G2 crankset, with a 30 tooth chainring driving a 10-51 XT cassette. They even spec’d an XT chain.

The less critical parts are not from the big guys, or flashy boutique brands. As you might expect, they are from the more budget oriented end of things.

But that doesn’t mean they are not up to the job.

TRP supplied the brakes and the seat dropper. The brakes are Trail EVO, a four piston design hauling on a 203mm rotor up front and a 180 at the back. They worked really well while I was on the bike. The seat dropper was also well-behaved, and generous in both width at 34.9mm and travel, a handy 170mm on the Medium and Large size bikes.

While we are on that subject, the bike comes in five sizes, S to XXL, with a few tweaks along the size range. The S comes with 170mm cranks, the rest of the line-up have 175s. The seat dropper moves 150mm on the S, and 200mm on the XL and XXL.

The wheel set has Stan’s Flow S1 rims on boost hubs, and come fitted with Vittoria tyres.

So, that is the basic stuff you could find online out of the way. A bit more of a web- crawl would reveal some very positive information from the bike media – the machine is Pinkbike’s Value Bike of the Year, Vital MTB’s Bike of the Year, and Bicycling Magazine’s Best Value Trail Bike.

All good.

The stuff you can’t find online is what I thought of it.

My first ride was out the door and onto a fairly long singletrack climb. The bike is not particularly light, mid 15s in kilograms. It feels light, though. The suspension design and shock combine to make a solid pedalling platform, and the bike goes uphill as well as any bike with the handicap of having me on top of it.

A steep 76.6 degree seat tube put me in the ideal position for climbing a trail that has a lot of little obstacles and tight turns.

Turning directly into a downhill trail at the top of the first climb was a snap decision – this particular trail is a favourite, because it is at the top end of what I consider to be within my comfort zone. Normally I would go somewhere else until I felt at home on a strange new bike, but the Norco felt very familiar from the first few pedal strokes.

As much as climbing on the bike felt better than the weight would have you expect, going downhill was better than the mid-travel suspension promised.

Going down the trail, the bike was surefooted, relaxed, and felt quietly capable. The rear suspension is a very solid feeling platform and the long 480mm reach, (in size large), combined with a fairly slack 65 degree head tube, made everything I came across on the trails I like easy to ride with confidence.

The tyres were new to me, although Vittoria and I go way back – like, almost fifty years – to a couple of pairs of track tubulars I liked in a previous life. I have been very happy with a couple of sets of road tyres from the bicycle-only tyre company, but I had never tried their mountain bike rubber before.

The bike came with a 2.4 Mazza on the front and a 2.35 Martello on the rear. I think part of the sprightly feeling the bike had on the climbs and rolling along cross country trails may be down to them. Like the bike, they are not particularly light, and they are not the fastest rolling tyres around, but they were reliable on the fairly wet trails we encountered during my time aboard the Fluid.

I found the more I rode it, the more I liked it.

The Fluid is a bike that straddles the divide between a cross-country style bike and a more enduro oriented rig. For an all-day ride with a bit of everything, it’s hard to imagine what it could do better.

This article is taken from:NZ Mountain Biker, Issue #111

Considering SubscribingPurchase Issue #111

Pirelli Scorpion Race DH & Enduro Tyres

RRP: $149 (RACE DH), $159 (ENDURO)

“The first day of testing was about as testing for a rider as a tyre…”

‘Pick a tyre brand and be a dick about it.’ This phrase rings true in the MTB world – getting riders to try a new tyre brand is a tough ask. If what you’ve got works, why should you change it?

It’s fair to say the tried and true tyre brands have rested on their rubbery laurels over recent years, with no groundbreaking leaps forward in technology. Recently though, newer brands have entered the fray, and existing brands are innovating hard – in Pirelli’s case, they’re drawing on years of motorsport experience to shortcut the development process and take on the major players.

Pirelli has quietly toiled away for the last couple of years, developing their line of gravity focussed tyres, bringing over 150 years of motorsport prowess and synergising with MTB legend and development specialist – not to mention ex-World DH Champ – Fabian Barel alongside numerous test riders worldwide.

The perfect rubber compound is similar to Goldilocks’s porridge: when it’s not quite right, it’s not right at all. When conditions are prime, traction comes easy; it could roll well but then come unstuck on roots, rock or hardpack, feeling like you’re being “pinged” offline. Too soft and it will sap your speed and likely wear excessively quickly. What we’re after is the best of both worlds. When it comes to tyre carcass, we all want the lightest but most puncture-proof casing possible – again, the best of everything and an impossible task!

Once the Italians at Pirelli’s HQ in Milan finally woke from their afternoon ‘riposo’ (rest) we were shipped out two sets of their newly released ‘Scorpion’ gravity treads; a pair each of the new Enduro M in 29”, DH in 27.5”, and 29” to set up mullet.

Scorpion Race DH

Front: M (Mixed) Dual Wall+, Evo 42a dual compound, 29×2.5”
Rear: T (Traction) Dual Wall+, Evo 42a dual compound 27.5×2.5”

The Scorpion Race DH tyres feature a full 62tpi DualWall+ casing and a rubber insert at the bead to help prevent pinch flats. Designed with a heavy-hitting, all-out gravity focus, these tyres leave no question as to their intended use, with large knobs and huge, loud logos screaming, “Go fast and hit stuff”!

The best constructed tyre can be let down by the rubber attached to it, and it’s no secret most tyre brands fail at this when they enter the gravity market. Fortunately, it’s not Pirelli’s first rubber rodeo and they’ve nailed their compound. The Evo Dual Compound is soft and sticky, with a slow – but not sluggish – rebound characteristic. That sounds very subjective but it’s abundantly obvious when a brand gets the compound just right, and plenty have got it wrong.

Mounting these up on my enduro bike was a pleasant surprise. Comfortably edging them onto the rims by hand, then snapping them into place with a regular track pump – no tyre levers, sweaty brow or sprained thumbs required.

Rolling down the driveway, a few hops up and down the curb then some aggressive turns on the grassy verge gave a few instant impressions. They roll well for an out-and-out downhill race tyre, with no feeling like they’re sapping rolling speed and, while they’re noticeably heavier than the trail tyres I had been running, the weight is in line with their intended use and their competition. The first day of testing was about as testing for a rider as a tyre – a wet, but fortunately not too cold, day in Christchurch’s Port Hills. With slippery chutes and wet rocks aplenty, this was the perfect zone to get a feel for the treads in some challenging conditions. After all, what good is a tyre reviewed in prime conditions?

The first stop was the Christchurch Adventure Park and some sections of ‘The GC’ DH track. A few turns in the trail hooked right and straight across a slick off- camber; as I glided across the face I thought, “OK, these hook up well”. In control and comfortably upright, not something I’d expect to come so easily in these conditions.

You can’t tell a great deal how a tyre will perform by simply looking at the tread pattern, but you can make some assumptions about it will likely ride. The Scorpion ‘M’ tread has aggressive ramping on the lead edge of the centre knobs, helping it roll well and maintain speed. There’s a line of transition knobs to fill the void when tipping over to the side knobs from the centre, helping keep the feel consistent. Siping (small cuts in the knobs) are added to help the knobs conform to firm surfaces, adding extra edges for just that little more grip, as well as helping the designers somewhat tune the feel of a tyre. The M tread is reasonably open and clears mud well even at pretty low speeds, and the side knobs offer plenty of support and a consistent drift once they do break loose.

On the rear, the ‘T’ tread speaks of its motocross heritage. The main feature of the tread is a wide central knob – it’s super effective under brakes, and without the ramps of the ‘M’ tread it offers exceptional power transfer but higher rolling resistance – it’s a downhill focussed tyre after all, so not really a big deal. The central knob is designed to have the centre portion cut out of it to optimise for softer conditions or use as a front tyre. For the uninitiated, tread cutting is a common sight on the World Cup Downhill circuit. The side knobs are nearly identical to those on the ‘M’ series and have a similar consistent feel.

After a couple of days aboard the Scorpion DH tyres, sampling Christchurch’s Port Hills in winter conditions, I’d happily recommend them to those seeking a full-blown DH race or park option, those looking for a heavy-duty Enduro setup riding rocky courses, or aggressive ‘Clydesdales’ aboard e-bikes looking for extra grip and puncture protection.

Scorpion Race Enduro

Front: M (Mixed) Dual Wall, Evo 42a dual compound, 29×2.5”
Rear: M (Mixed) Dual Wall+, Evo 42a dual compound, 29×2.5”

Back on home turf in the Waikato, I unpacked my bike after the Christchurch stint and mounted up the Enduro cased tyres. Just like the DH tyres, these were a cinch to mount up.

Front and rear I had the ‘M’ tread. The same tread and compound as the DH front tyre I’d ridden the week prior, but a more supple ‘Dual Wall’ 120tpi casing and rubber insert like the DH tyres. According to Pirelli’s documentation, these tyres knock around 190g off the DH versions in 29”, so certainly a big difference in weight.

Testing these in the middle of a Waikato winter it’s a sure thing there will be lots of moisture around and with our local trails a mix of hardpack clay, slippery roots and moist leaf rot, there’s plenty of variety to make an assessment – we’re just missing sections of chunky rock. Riding around this area can be sketchy at best of times, in the winter, so any shortcomings in either bike setup or skills will quickly be highlighted.

The lighter weight of the Enduro tyres was welcomed after running the heavier DH versions. The Enduro ‘DualWall’ casing gives more trail feel, and the lighter weight was certainly noticeable when hopping over trail features or accelerating out of slow corners. These things offer confidence in spades, particularly when the going gets fast and rough – after all, that’s precisely what they’re designed for. They allow you to more confidently head for the ideal line, not just the one dictated to you by the conditions or your tyres.

Descending on these is a blast. Charging on familiar trails and headlong into some sketchy root sections, I was thankful for how well the tyres held their line; the soft compound offering confidence on the roots where my normal tyres would let go. Cornering feels very natural, with no discernible gap from being ‘upright’ to leaning in, something I’ve struck on tyres in the past. There’s a positive, almost locked-in feel about them, thanks to the strategically placed, large sticky knobs.

All traction comes to an end at some point, and the Scorpions give a consistent drift rather than a “you’ve just hit ice” sort of surprise once they do let go. I noticed this several times when the tread would let go in a controlled manner and then hook up again, no big sketchy surprises here.

Braking was awesome, largely down to the large knobs, but equally down to the rubber compound and carcass, all damping trail chatter and allowing the tyre to bite and conform without breaking traction.

Climbing was where I found the only chink in the Scorpion ‘M’ armour. With the central knobs so heavily ramped on the leading edge, there’s no square sharp edge to bite in when climbing. ‘Slippery when wet’ surfaces require being conscious of where and when you’re putting the power down to prevent wheel spin. It’s not a big deal on a tyre of this genre, as they’re designed for all-out enduro speed, not taking uphill KOM’s. This trait may be more noticeable on an eBike so opting for the ‘T’ tread could be ideal.

All the acronyms and hyperbole mean nothing if you’re bouncing off roots and can’t hold a line confidently. The combination of tread pattern, rubber compound and casing on these inspire speed and confidence. If you’re an enduro racer or eMTB rider looking for a hard-hitting, but not overly heavy or sluggish set of tyres to use all year round, these should be on your ‘must-buy’ list.

Are the Pirelli Scorpion gravity series a game-changer? It’s hard to say they’re head and shoulders above the established competition, but they’re easily on par or fractionally better and certainly a very worthy opponent. If you’re looking to change things up and try something fresh, these tyres would be a great place to start. You might well find an advantage over what you’ve been used to – I certainly have.

This article is taken from:NZ Mountain Biker, Issue #111

Considering SubscribingPurchase Issue #111

Trek Evoke Clothing

RRP: $239 (SHORTS), $79 (TECH TEE)

“I reach for the same few pieces of kit each time I’m headed out to the trails; the cream rises to the top…”

Even though I have a fair mountain of riding kit in my cupboard, I’m beginning to realise how little of it I actually regularly use. I reach for the same few pieces each time I’m headed out to the trails. The cream rises to the top and, provided I’ve done my laundry, then it’s unlikely I’ll delve too deep into the pile to use anything other than my unintended favourites. Recently, a new set of kit has made its way into my rotation, though: the Trek Evoke tech tee and the Trek Evoke shorts have become some of my regulars for trail riding.


Trek has stepped up its game and featured a lightweight two-way stretch material on the outer short, that’s not only made up of 65% recycled materials but tested for harmful substances through the STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX® test as well. It’s soft to handle and plush against the skin.

There are two main hip pockets up front and a zippered one on the back – ideal for car keys or small Allen keys, but nothing much more considerable. Up front, a domed closure is paired with a zipper to keep things tidy. I’m a pretty strict 32” waist so went for a Medium. I reckon they’re slightly on the larger side but, with a small adjustment of the Velcro adjusters on each side of the waist, they’re spot on. The fit is listed as ‘semi-fitted’, which seems pretty accurate as they’re reasonably roomy through the leg without being baggy.

The leg length is what will probably be the kicker as to whether you like these shorts or not. I’m slightly below average when it comes to leg length for my 176cm height, and the Evoke’s sit a little above my knees with their 11-inch inseam. In the grand scheme of MTB shorts, this is on the shorter side of things; most shorts sitting in excess of 12 inches. I reckon this length hits the nail on the head for their intended use as a trail short though, ideally sans-knee pads. The overall silhouette is equally at home on a trail ride as at the gym or local swimming spot – they’d even be sweet for a drop-bar gravel ride. With subtle branding – just a small woven label above the rear pocket – they don’t scream “I’m a mountain biker!” at all… which makes a nice change.

Wearing liner undershorts has become normal for many riders these days, and we’re seeing fewer and fewer people hiding bib shorts beneath their baggies. There are a heap of liners on the market these days but, from what I’ve experienced, most fall short and are merely ticking a box rather than offering the ideal solution. The fits are off, chamois are bad and the overall experience leaves me wishing I’d just purchased a good pair of bibs instead – then hidden them under baggies, of course!

Trek has knocked it out of the park with this pair of liners though – I’m impressed. Let’s start at the top and work our way down: the waistband is a wide, soft number – think, a comfy boxer-short style – and there’s no narrow elastic cutting into your stomach as you’re doubled over, chewing your stem whilst grunting up a steep climb. A couple of different recycled nylon and spandex blends on the main panels help the shorts form nicely to your body, with no discernible bunching or rubbing. The legs feature a similar band to the waist, but with rubber grippers on the rear – finally, a liner the legs won’t creep up on – and they’re awesome for holding up knee pads too. The liner can be used snapped into place, attached to the shorts, or worn completely independently – i.e. under another pair of shorts. Not by themselves… although we’re not ones to judge.

All the good features of a liner are easily let down by an inferior chamois but, after lots of saddle time, my undercarriage is happy to report that the chamois lives up to the rest of the short. No dramas here.


The Evoke Tech Tee’s main body fabric contains 85% recycled polyester blended with cotton, and passes the same OEKO-TEX® tests the shorts do, so no nasties are hiding in the fabrics.

Wearing a size large (normal for me) the semi-fitted cut is plenty comfy and leaves room for movement. I’m impressed that Trek used some panelling down the sides to help shape the form, not just a standard tee-styled cut. The rear has a slightly dropped tail to help avoid a public builders crack.

The fabric feels reasonably lightweight but not to the point I’d be concerned about tearing it any more than other riding shirts. It breathes well and doesn’t hold on to sweat but helps it evaporate off. Although I’ve been riding this off-white colour over the early winter, the mud seems to clean out of it much easier than some shirts I’ve used.

As with the shorts, this top doesn’t stand out from a casually-dressed crowd and, again, subtle branding helps you stay low-key; just a small chest logo hit proves that you are in fact a cyclist.


Like most of the Trek kit (or, previously, Bontrager) I’ve used over the years, the quality of both the shorts and the shirt appears to be top-notch. So far, it seems these garments will stand the test of both time and trails. If you’re searching for some versatile trail-riding garb with subtle style, and don’t want a baggier style ‘all-mountain’ look then the Evoke shorts and tech tee will likely be right up your alley.

This article is taken from:NZ Mountain Biker, Issue #111

Considering SubscribingPurchase Issue #111

First Impressions: SRAM GX Transmission

RRP: $2,170

“I was eager to pull out the UDH hanger from my battle-scarred frame and slide on a new Transmission…”

After hearing whispers that a more affordable GX groupset may be in the pipeline, I was eager to pull out the UDH hanger from my battle-scarred frame and slide on a new Transmission.

SRAM has launched the GX series – continuing their ‘All Day’ theme with a groupset designed for all-mountain, all-day missions, at a far more affordable price.

What you find on the GX system is largely the same as the higher-end Transmissions released earlier this year. There are some subtle differences which are visually noticeable from those higher-end units. In particular, the battery is hidden away in what I’ll refer to as the “Derailleur Garage” – keeping it out of harm’s way – essentially inside the derailleur. Replaceable, protective skid plates have been added, and a two-piece outer link. It also features a tool-free cage assembly – so it’s both removable and upgradeable, should you want to do so. A steel inner cage replaces the carbon of its higher-end brethren. Like the GX AXS of old, it’s been built for riders of the real world.


A couple of weeks before the launch date, a nice cardboard cube arrived on the courier. I quickly watched an install video, and it was game on. It’s been a long time since I’ve installed anything on my bike that required a proper read of the instructions or, in this case, a video. SRAM does a killer job of stepping through the installation process: whoa-to-go in around 30 minutes. I’d imagine after another couple of goes, a whole Transmission could be installed in about 15 – 20 minutes, maybe even quicker. It really is pretty simple provided you’ve watched the video. My only install hiccup was my inability to pair the system to my phone (no doubt user error, but I’ll figure that out soon) as well as the compatibility of the shifter clamp with my brakes, which aren’t SRAM. It took a bit of jimmying, but I managed to get the two to work together – it did mean that I couldn’t take full advantage of the adjustment that should have been available. Fortunately, the one spot I could get the shifter to sit was just right for me. I see in their documentation a different shifter pod mount is available and this would have completely solved my issue.

Te Miro MTB Park, just out the back of Cambridge, was my first testing ground. For the uninitiated, the trails are reasonably varied but the general theme is clay and native roots, dispersed amongst meandering climbs with the odd pinch or crux move requiring low cadence torque and fast, precise shifting to get the most out of your bike if speed is your aim. Coming off the back of a few days of intermittent rain, I wasn’t expecting much aside from mud and muck – perfect for bedding in a fresh groupset.

Leaving the car park, I snapped through the gears and made sure everything was still as it should be. I shifted through the cassette and took a couple of looks back just to be sure it had shifted, as it was so smooth and quiet, just a small ‘zit’ noise and a rolling increase of resistance at the pedals. I spun my way up the Easy As climb, taking the harder, steeper lines where possible, purposely shifting at the wrong time and under full power. Thoroughly impressed at how positive the shifting feel and accuracy was I pressed on, thinking to myself, ‘sure, it’s good now, but I bet once there’s some mud in the system it will be just like everything else’.

‘Easy As’ caps out and links into the Miro climb; its mellow gradients are broken up with some proper NZ native roots. Regular traffic polishes off the bark and pulls slimy dirt up onto them. You have to have your wits about you to keep the power down and maintain forward momentum, a situation where a mis-shift or slipped gear will likely see you stalled out or on the floor. Again, I was impressed by how accurate the shift was, with no slipping or mis-shifts, regardless of how many shifts under full power, and regardless of cadence.

Climbing to the top of the native bush, Miro finished, and I dropped into ‘Phil’s Gold’ – a test of a rider’s fitness, line choice and cornering ability; no steeps, but lots of corners, and a fair smattering of slimy roots. Eager to make this thing mis-shift, I again banged through gears, up and down the cassette, forcing shifts out of near-dead-stop corners. Nought. Nothing. Nada. I couldn’t get it to fault. I wondered whether I’d be so positive after a few months aboard the groupset – would the crispness remain after riding the second half of winter on it?

Another climb up Miro and a lap down ‘Native DH’ and my time was up for the day. I was only one proper ride in but so far, so good. I found myself shifting way more than I would aboard my previous group, and shifting from dead stops, under full power, and over chunky surfaces. I’d be concerned about heading over the bars and losing teeth on any of my other setups with that sort of carry-on.

SRAM made some pretty bold claims about their remapped Cassette, new X-sync technology (i.e. redesigned shifting ramps) and use of their flat-top chain to make it all work: ‘Creating seamless shifts even during your hardest power output.’ I’ve gotta say, there’s something in this combination of marketing speak and fancy nomenclature that really makes this thing shift impressively under power – something other brands claimed they’d done years ago – but SRAM has taken it up a level. I’ll be very interested if it continues to perform to this level, even after many km’s and battery charges.

So far, I have three main concerns. One, will the shifting with buttons mean I lose my right thumb muscle tone, rendering it useless when I go back to a cable system? Two, will I smash off the low-hanging shifter Pod? And three, will I want to give this groupset back after the next few months of testing is over?

This article is taken from:NZ Mountain Biker, Issue #111

Considering SubscribingPurchase Issue #111

Red tape runs down volunteer enthusiasm

Words: Meagan Robertson
Photography: Cameron Mackenzie & Henry Jaine

As a longtime supporter of volunteer trail builders, Trail Fund NZ increased its focus on advocacy four years ago. The catalyst was when it came to light that the classification of bikes as ‘vehicles’, on public conservation land, was causing significant delays to projects around the country and meant that iconic trails – including several Great Rides – did not comply. Since then, it’s been a slow ride towards resolving the issue, and several passionate volunteers are feeling defeated.

“Old Ghost Road, Great Lake Trail, Paparoa, Timber Trail… these are only a few of the country’s Great Rides that have sections that don’t comply with the local Conservation Management Strategy,” explains Trail Fund Advocacy Manager, Jimmy Young. “It is understood that numerous Great Rides have sections that don’t comply, and dozens of other iconic mountain bike trails are also caught in the crosshairs.”

The knot at the bottom of these cross hairs appears to be the Conservation Act 1987, under which bicycles are considered vehicles. However, most (if not all) of these trails have been built since then, with DOC permission an integral part of the planning and execution processes.

What changed?

At some point around 2018, Department of Conservation (DOC) staff started taking a different approach towards applications for cycle trails on department land. According to DOC, it is due to increased interest in biking around the country, but cycle trail managers and administrators say there appears to have been a complete reinterpretation of the 2005 legislation that overlaid the conservation management strategies.

“The ‘new’ approach was that a region’s Conservation Management Strategy (CMS) needed to identify the locations and use of vehicles (bikes in our case) and other forms of transport on land owned or administered by the department,” explains Jimmy. “However, DOC now wanted the locations of current and proposed cycle trails to be listed in the strategies before an application could be made to build them.”

Basically, bikes can only be used on trails explicitly specified (in a list) in the CMS, as opposed to assessing bikes on trails through an ‘effects–based approach’, which is the approach Trail Fund and other bike organisations are suggesting.

While this might not be an issue if the CMS’ were reviewed every few years, this is far from the case in New Zealand. CMS’ are only meant to be reviewed every 10 years and, in reality, seven of the 16 are current, two are under review, one is under development and six are overdue for review. Some are more than 20 years old.

Taupō trails on trial

Bike Taupō, which has built tracks and provided community representation for all Taupō cyclists since 2002, was one of the first clubs to face DOC’s ‘new’ interpretation of the Act. Chairperson, Pete Masters, and committee member, Rowan Sapsford, reached out to Trail Fund, and Jimmy has been working with them and other groups since then.

“We have more than 200kms of trails that we manage and approximately 160kms of these are on public conservation land,” explains Rowan. “A number of them were purpose–built by Bike Taupo, including the Great Lake Trails and the Rotary Ride, which were developed back in 2003.

“Approximately four years ago we were told that these trails were ultra vires (which means an act that lies beyond the authority of a corporation to perform), as they were not scheduled in the local CMS, despite all trails being developed with signed management agreements with the Department.”

Rowan says this has been extremely problematic for several trails on public conservation land managed by Bike Taupō, as they have not been able to renew management agreements or access funding – despite support from the local DOC office.

This prompted Bike Taupō to start working with Trail Fund and other trail groups around the country to request that DOC move away from the scheduling approach. Four year later, the discussion continues.

“We believe an effects–based approach, where trails are assessed against the values at place rather than just being written off because bikes will be ridden on them, should be adopted,” says Rowan.

The club felt like maybe it was making headway when the Department recently agreed that a new cycle trail within the Taupo Tongariro Conservancy, which is not scheduled in the CMS, will be able to proceed.

“While this is great news for the club and the community on this one trail, it’s not reassuring overall, as we’ve been told by the Department that this will not apply to any other trails in the area,” says Pete. “This makes no sense, and feels like a cop out if the Department planners are going to take a consistent approach.”

With management agreements for some of the club’s trails up for renewal soon, Bike Taupo says it will be a real test of the Department’s approach.

“We have awesome support from the local DOC team, but I guess we will have to wait and see if the Department refuses to renew our management agreements for biking trails which have been in place for 20 years, such as the Rotary Ride between Taupō and Huka falls.”

Kaihu cut short?

On 10 June, 150 local cyclists were thrilled to cross the new Ahikiwi Bridge at the official opening of stage one of the Kaihu Valley Trail, a 30–kilometre route between Dargaville and Kaihu comprising two off–road trail sections currently linked by low–volume roads.

Once complete, the Kaihu Valley Trail in Northland is intended to allow cyclists and walkers to wind their way through forest and farmland, and along the Kaihu River from Dargaville to Donnelly’s Crossing – a distance of some 45km. It will largely follow the historic rail line built in 1896 to service the kauri industry. The top third of this old rail corridor is stewardship land administered by DOC.

However, excitement was muted due to news received just weeks before that the DOC concession for Stage 2 of the trail – which would take riders off the narrow state highway and reduce climbing – was declined.

In late 2022, DOC staff were asked if there were any issues related to the concession. They advised no, then took until May 2023 to decline the application.

Local Steve Gwilliam from the project team says the concession application was made in mid–2021, and the team reached out to Trail Fund for support in early 2023, in desperation.

“They declined our application despite granting a concession a year before, for the bridges and trail in Kaiwaka township (50km away), which specifically states ‘walking and cycling’,” says Steve. “This should have set a precedent or provided exceptional circumstances for consideration.

“It’s disappointing that it took 20 months for DOC to respond to the project team and advise the application for cycling was inconsistent with the General Policy Statement (GPS) and CMS,” says Steve. “Even more disappointing is that the corridor, which has little conservation value, is farmed (stock, vehicles etc) by adjoining farmers ‘without’ any concession, which is in complete breach of the GPS and CMS. In our view, it’s likely a cycle way would offer more protection to the remaining historic rail corridor and features, than the current illegal farming operations.”

Ironically, Northland MP, Willow–Jean Prime, who is also Conservation Minister, joined Kaipara District Council deputy mayor, Jonathan Larsen, in cutting the ribbon at a June 10 ceremony hosted by Ahikiwi Marae in Kaihu.

“This is an investment in the region,” said Prime. “It is good for locals and their wellbeing and also for visitors who come to the region.”

The track will form part of existing and proposed trails traversing the whole Northland region, including the Kauri Coast Cycleway Heartland Ride, which runs southward from Rawene on the Hokianga Harbour – and which itself links to the Twin Coast Cycle Trail from the Bay of Islands to Hokianga, one of the 23 Great Rides of New Zealand.

The trail has received significant investment from various sources, including $4 million from the Infrastructure Reference Group, a $600,000 contribution from Waka Kotahi and funding through the government’s COVID–19 Response and Recovery Fund from MBIE.

Unfortunately, the MBIE funding had a deadline and, due to the delay on DOC’s part, Steve says the opportunity to build the section of trail that had the most benefit to riders – by taking them off the narrow state highway and public roads with 100km/hr traffic and no shoulders, taking away substantial climbs and travelling through some iconic northland topography – has now been missed.

The concession application has been amended to be ‘walking–only’ in hopes it might get traction, but has heard nothing since.

“It’s pretty demoralising to put in so much effort and just feel like you get nowhere, despite everyone being seemingly on board in public,” says Steve.

Under pressure

Despite the frustrations, many bike organisations are loathe to publicly criticise local departments for fear it could make things worse, or because there’s generally a good relationship locally. However, one region’s results suggest public pressure could do the trick.

This is what happened in Otago, where the department – under pressure to consider many new cycle trails, including the Kawarau Gorge link between Queenstown and Cromwell funded by the Government as part of a grand cycleway from Central Otago to Dunedin – was forced to take action.

DOC launched a partial review of the 2016 Otago CMS, which attracted almost 1750 public submissions in 2019, and a decision listing 112 possible cycle trail sites was issued in July 2022.

However, the proposals still needed to go through an assessment process, including engagement with Ngāi Tahu and consultation with the Otago Conservation Board, and organisations spent thousands of hours covering every piece of land where they might want to develop a biking track.

“While it’s great that a partial review means there’s the possibility of new cycle trails that are in line with the CMS, retaining this approach isn’t the answer,” says Jimmy. “What we need is an effective mechanism for assessing tracks on their merits and impacts – not one approach for walking tracks and another for cycling.”

Looking ahead

Despite little progress in three years, Trail Fund and the organisations it’s been working with continue to strive for a solution.

“We really want to work with DOC on this for the cycling stakeholders and provide greater access opportunities for recreation,” says Jimmy. “We are keen to be part of the solution and assist DOC to come up with a pragmatic solution that can solve the issue permanently.

“We all want a result that legitimises the activity of cycling on public conservation land and values the time and resources that committed volunteers put into trails around the country, week after week.”

This article is taken from:NZ Mountain Biker, Issue #111

Considering SubscribingPurchase Issue #111


Words and illustration by Gaz Sullivan

“I hit ‘Buy Now’ and moved into the post-purchase second-guessing period…”

A couple of weeks ago, the stars aligned, and I added two new bikes to the stable at once. By a combination of circumstances that are best left unexplored, I stepped up to a brand new trail bike. Part of that exciting transaction was keeping all of my previous trail bike, except the frame.

As many of you will understand, there are already more bikes in my shed than I really have time to use. Each is suited to a particular purpose, and there is surprisingly little redundancy across the fleet. Some of them get out several times a week, some of them might hang there for months, waiting for the day when what they are useful for is what I am going to have a crack at.

So, with that in mind, a sensible person would turn the pile of pretty nice parts into cash via some sort of online marketplace.

That is what I set out to do. Honest.

My first step was to browse around, trying to establish a value for all this stuff.

There were similar parts with prices ranging from depressingly low to delusionally high.

And there were a lot of things available. I started thinking about the sheer tedium of listing everything, communicating with tyre-kickers, and then trying to send a pair of wheels to Invercargill.

Wondering if anybody would want the entire pile, and because I have a short attention span, I wandered over to the ‘frames’ department on the off chance there might be some path to follow there.

The very first thing I saw was a brand-new hardtail, my size, and completely compatible with everything in my parts trove except the bottom bracket. Plus, it was steel, which made it cool and very desirable.

A short but fierce mental argument followed. I bet you have endured similar battles. One part of my brain was of the opinion that a seat tube diameter matching my functional-but-virtually-worthless dropper post was a sign from heaven, and I should immediately buy the frame before anybody else did. Another part kept chiming in with the various things I could do with my winnings if I carried on with the original plan and ditched the parts. The first part came back with the very sound reasoning that if I acquired the frame, built it up, and then fell on hard times, a complete bike would be easier to sell than a pile of parts, and there would be nothing left over except a rear shock. Which would be left over anyway, and can be sold. It might even pay for the required bottom bracket.

The ‘buy the frame’ faction had the upper hand, but the other side somewhat lamely countered with a comment about the number of bikes already in the shed, pointing out how rarely some of them escape into the wild.

That was fairly easy to ignore – we are well-practiced in doing exactly that.

The final straw was somebody asking a question about the frame while I was looking at it.

I never found out what the question was, and didn’t wait for the answer. I hit ‘Buy Now’ and moved into the post-purchase second-guessing period.

The excitement of the new possession was far more powerful than the slowly fading doubts, and soon enough the frame turned up and the parts were bolted on.

The bike came out even better than Mr Positive Brain imagined, and the naysaying lame-o in the negative has not been heard of much since, except for a brief appearance the first time we took the new beast into the trails.

A sort of ‘see? I told you this was a dumb idea’ popped out on the first bit of fast, choppy trail, as my body tried to adjust to life with no rear suspension. How we rode places like Moab, Utah on a rigid hardtail is beyond my ability to recollect, but we did, and I have doggedly continued to try to do so.

I am not really getting any closer to floating over the ground like I should, and rides on the new dually are certainly much easier on the joints and fillings. But me and my mental go-for-it are still very happy we went for it.

Nothing like a different bike to make a ride fresh and new.

This article is taken from:NZ Mountain Biker, Issue #111

Considering SubscribingPurchase Issue #111

The Royale with Cheese

Words & Images: Jake Hood



That was the quote from Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction that was bouncing through my head while we pedaled the last 20km back to Picton. THE ROYALE WITH CHEESE. It seemed like the perfect name for this adventure – a better name than what we’d had before. As we all know, everything’s better with cheese… and what an adventure it had been!

After the success of last year’s big mission in the Richmond Range – ‘Ferry to Fishy’ – we knew we had to do another one but, this time, it had to be bigger. We hadn’t even made it back to Wellington on the ferry before Scotty, Paul and Tom were throwing ideas around, still high on endorphins from the recent mission. The idea that seemed to stick was Mt. Royal; it sounded like the perfect mountain to conquer. Scotty, Paul, and Tom had ridden it before and told me the riding was insane. It had to be done! The name was set: The Royal Rumble – later changed to the Royale with Cheese.

Originally, the plan was to complete this mission within six months of ‘Ferry to Fishy’, but, well, as we all know, life sometimes gets in the way and adventures have to take a bit of a back seat. It wasn’t until December 2022 that the chat group got fired back up and things started to happen. Scotty and I were keen. Evan was also interested but wouldn’t be able to make it. Paul and Tom were very quiet on the chat, not committing. It got to the point where I just committed and booked my flight up to Wellington. This was the catalyst to get the ball rolling and make it happen.

About a week before the flight up to Wellington, I looked at the long-range forecast and it was terrible. Nothing but heavy rain for the whole time we were going to be on the trip. I messaged the group: “Are you sure you want to do this mission still? You should check out the long-range. It doesn’t look good.” Now, I love a bit of suffering, a bit of a bad time, but the idea of riding 70km in the pouring rain to stay in a small DOC hut, ride Mt. Royal, then ride back into Picton in the pouring rain just seemed too much like a bad idea. It would just be a miserable, cold, gross old time. “I’m not against just coming up to Wellington for a tour de brunch this weekend,” I told the others.

There was chat in the group about sacking it off due to the weather, but we just kept an eye on it all week. We would decide closer to departure time what we were going to do. A couple of days before, we just decided that we were going to do it, come rain or shine. Heck, if it was wet, it was going to be wet. Just get your head down and get on with it.

I flew up to Wellington on Thursday (2nd Feb), landing early afternoon and giving me just enough time to get all my last-minute stuff sorted for the trip. A new jacket and dehydrated meals from Coffee Outdoors, a few bike things from the legends at Get Lost Cycling, and some frame bags from Caleb. Scotty picked me up from Get Lost and we headed back to his house to eat our weight in carbs for this mission, and get an early night for the 12.30am start.

Sleep is something I struggle with, and that evening was no exception. The excitement of what lay ahead kept me up; the not knowing of how it was going to go. I love this stuff.

The energy levels were high and the chat was pretty punishing (in a good way).


At 12.30am, Scotty and I hit the road to the ferry terminal. We met Paul at Penny’s and bombed the road down to Zealandia, where Tom Bradshaw joined us. The energy levels were high, and the chat was pretty punishing (in a good way). We bombed the roads on the way down to the ferry. The quiet streets let you get off the brakes and speed tuck, not worrying about cars. But soon this speed would catch Scotty out.

As we headed towards the university, Scotty was hugging the corner of the roundabout tightly. It’s quite a tight left turn and Scotty tripped on it. In a flash, his back wheel let go, and he hit the deck like a sack of potatoes, with such force that his shoe fell off. What the heck just happened? He got up and hobbled about. “Where is my shoe?” he said, half laughing, half in pain. Everyone was kind of laughing since we couldn’t believe what had happened. We hadn’t even made it 2km into the trip before the first crash. Scotty is a tough bugger. I think that crash was a lot sorer than he let on.

The shoe was recovered, and we got back on the road – this time at a bit of a slower pace – to the Bluebridge terminal. As we got to the terminal, the chat was, “Will Tom Cappleman show up? Will he be here? Is he actually going to bail?” This had been the running joke of the group chat for months. Tom hadn’t ridden his bike all summer. His new business, Coffee Outdoors, had been going gangbusters, which in turn had taken up a lot of his time. Even the day before, when I was buying my jacket, he was like, “Yeah, I’m not coming,” in a joking manner. Well, peer pressure got the better of him, and he rolled up to the terminal ten minutes after we arrived. It was great to see him back on his bike. The adventure was about to begin. The crew was assembled. Let’s go…

We all piled into the back room of the terminal, awaiting the ferry – the small room where they put all the bikes before boarding the ferry. The terminal was a lot busier than normal, full of people from the Ed Sheeran concert that night. We were in the room for about half an hour before finding out the ferry had been delayed. By how long? No one knew. We just had to sit there and hold tight. As time went on, tiredness and delusion started to kick in. We were just lying on the floor laughing about absolutely nothing, trying to even think of at least one Ed Sheeran song we knew. The carpet in the room was that super thick, hardwearing, bristly-like material, and it was so uncomfortable. When you laid down on it, it felt like getting stabbed by a thousand tiny needles. I tried to get some more shut eye, but it wasn’t happening.

What the heck just happened?


A full two and a half hours later, we finally got to board the ferry. Getting up from the floor, I felt like my body had aged 50 years. Every joint hurt. Half my body felt numb but sore at the same time. The walk to the ferry sorted that out. We had done this ferry ride enough to know the drill. Get in early and find a good place to get horizontal for sleep. After quickly getting our bikes loaded up, we sprinted upstairs to claim some big seats. Snooze you lose, people. I got horizontal immediately on a row of seats. I just wanted to try to get some shut eye. It had been a long day ‘til then without sleep. I managed maybe an hour or two, but it wasn’t much.

As the sun came up and illuminated the Sounds, I woke up and went out on the deck to see if there was a golden hour, but it wasn’t meant to be. Grey clouds hung around. In some of the bays of the Sounds, you could see rain, and towards Picton way it was raining heavily. Not a great omen for what lay ahead. As we docked in Picton, the rain lashed down outside the boat but, in Picton centre, there were blue skies. Maybe we would miss it? Just… Well, that wasn’t the case. As we got off the boat, we rode right into the middle of it. The rain pelted us as we disembarked the ferry, the residual water from the road spraying up and completely drenching us. First stop was the bakery in town for breakfast and to grab lunch for later.

As we arrived at the bakery, the rain stopped and the sun came out, which was pretty great timing to let us dry out as we shoveled all the carbs and caffeine into our bodies in preparation for the 70km of road ahead. Spirits were high despite us all looking a bit worse for wear due to the lack of sleep. It was only at this point that I found out Bradshaw wasn’t going to be joining us for the return leg of the trip. Instead, he was off to ride down the length of the South Island afterwards. How flipping cool, and what a start to the trip this was going to be for him.

After a lot of time faffing, eating and drying out, we finally got on our bikes and made a move on the Queen Charlotte Drive, out of Picton toward Havelock. We eased into the climb out of Picton, having learned our lesson from the last time we were in this position: don’t get overexcited and punch it. We didn’t need to treat this like a race. We had heaps of time to get to the hut that night. As we reached the top of the climb out of town, we got a full view of Picton below. The misty, rainy grey sky contrasted with the dark-but-vi- brant green of the trees. It was pretty magical.

We were just lying on the floor laughing about absolutely nothing, trying to even thing of at least one Ed Sheeran song we knew.

Road or singletrack? That was the choice from the viewpoint. We chose the singletrack which… might not have been the best choice. It started off great, a flowing track back down to sea level, then onto a boardwalk around Shakespeare Bay. Moored up in the harbor was a gigantic cruise ship. After the boardwalk, the track started heading uphill. The saturated dirt was sticky to ride through, often causing wheel spins. It weaved its way through the dense trees back up near the road above. Eventually, we got to a point where there was a huge slip on the trail. Work had been done to reroute the path, but the soil was like clay, sticking to the wheels and tires. We had to push our bikes on this slip section as it was so sticky. We took the next turn off back onto the road. “Well, let’s not do that again,” said Scotty.

The road from Picton to Havelock follows the contours of the Sounds before a long, straight section inland, then back to following the edge of the Sounds to Havelock. The windy road sections were stunning. They weaved up and down, with some fast descents followed by pretty mel- low climbs. You could see the extent of the damage caused by the rains in the slips that had happened – huge bits of the hillside had just fallen away. But that didn’t tarnish how beautiful the landscape was. The misty, grey low clouds really added to it, leaving a sort of lazy, moody feel. There were still pockets of rain in some of the bays, from their own little microclimates. We were making good pace, just plodding along. Everyone seemed in good fettle. Knowing that we were going to be in for a big day, we kept the pace chill.

As we hit the big, long straight, the clouds burned off and bright sunshine appeared. It seemed to happen in an instant. Gone were the grey skies, replaced with what was almost a bluebird day. The temperature shifted massively. It became hot and sticky, with humidity at an all-time high. We got into a chain gang, got our heads down to get this straight out of the way. It was a good long slog, just turning the legs and trying to enjoy the surroundings over the humming sound of Maxxis Max Grip tires sticking to the tarmac. In the distance, you could see the heat waves coming off the tarmac. Sweat was dripping off me like water, and a mixture of sun cream and sweat beaded off my head into my eyes, leaving that familiar uncomfortable stinging feeling. “Couple of hours, boys.” With our heads down, we pressed on and eventually hit the windy roads to Havelock again.

It was a welcome sight to see Havelock. In my head, I knew that was a big chunk ticked off today. We stopped for a bite to eat, a water refill, and a bit of chill time. The temperature might have been unpleasant when riding, but boy oh boy, it was great during lunch. After a good feed and some chit-chat, we were ready to get back on the road again. We got back into the chain gang and punched it to Canvas Town. The 9.6km bit of State Highway 6 was busy with trucks and cars. It wasn’t pleasant to be on. Cars fly by you at high speed. We just wanted to get it done and get off it for our own safety.

Road or singletrack?


At Canvas Town, we took the left turn off just after the pub and followed that road down the valley. About 2km down, we stopped to check out Bradshaw’s grandparents’ barn/holiday house, that they had built way back in the day. Bradshaw had described it as a barn, so we were pleasantly surprised to find it was more like a small holiday home/batch. It had plenty of beds for us and power. Our plan was to stay there the second night. What a result. “I was not expecting this,” said Scotty. “Yeah, it’s pretty great,” said Bradshaw.

The next 15 kilometres… well, they sucked. We followed the Wakamarina road into the mountains. Paul and Scotty had warned us about this bit, telling us it was just boring and, well, it was. You just grind your way along this road until the surrounding hills gradually get bigger and bigger and turn into mountains. The farmland narrows and becomes native bush while the road changes from tarmac to gravel. You could hear the native birds and flowing river over the rumbling of the tires on dirt.

Finally, we made it to the DOC sign for Devils Creek hut. What a relief. By that point, we were all pretty over riding on the road. Everyone was starting to look worse for wear. I think the heat and the 60km of riding we’d done so far had taken a lot out of us. My saddle sores were starting to hurt, legs were feeling heavy. The sign said seven kilometres to the hut – it was all off-road from here. We dropped 50psi out of the tires, making them a more reasonable pressure. From here, my memory gets a bit foggy about the trail… I remember it being a slog. Pitchy climbs with very wet, slippery soil below the layer of leaves that had fallen on the trail. We had to hike a few sections of it. It was technical, narrow, and pretty steep. At one point, there was a downhill before the bridge crossing. It was fast, rocky, and loose. The rocks were slick, with big compression into rock gardens. But, it was great. We stopped at the bridge to regroup. Chappleman had fallen behind. “I’m in the box, guys,” he laughed. “Not far to go, though.” He’d done amazingly well to get this far considering he hadn’t ridden his bike for about five months. We pushed on and finally made it to the hut – and boy oh boy, what a hut it was.

Before us, the clearing lay ahead. Off to the left was this beautiful red hut, like something you would see in a picture book of Iceland. Just a perfect little red hut. What a sight. We had made it. We parked our bikes up, took the bags off, and moved our stuff into the hut. There were six bunks to sleep on, and a nice kitchen area; the smell of the old wood and musk permeated the building. This was a well-used hut.

You could hear the native birds and flowing river over the rumbling of the tires on dirt.

Cappleman was bonked, he had no energy left – so he stayed back at the hut while Scotty, Paul, Bradshaw and I started hiking up the Wakama-Rina. Our original plan was to get to the top and ride back down to the hut, but we were all pretty tired and kind of teetering on the edge of bonking, so we figured we would just push up as far as we could before bonking completely. From the get-go, the push was pretty hard. Early on, the trail was slick, making finding traction for walking even harder. It was going to be a fun, slippery ride down. As we pushed up, we kept checking out sections, wondering if certain gaps would be possible. Well, the gaps would have been possible, but it was more a question of whether we would be able to slow down afterwards in these conditions. We all pushed up picturing in our heads what we might do. “I’m just going to carve off this/float off that/drift round here.” It’s great thinking that way, and in reality you may be able to make just one of those things happen, but it makes the pushing up easier.

The trail looked fantastic, with some long sweeping turns, a couple of tech sections, fast straights, and some tight, technical switchbacks – nothing too technical, just a nice little warm-up for tomorrow, giving us an idea of what the dirt would be like. After about an hour and a half, we made it to a flatter section and decided to call it a day on pushing up. Everyone was looking pretty tired, and our legs were feeling heavy. We had a big day planned for the next day, so felt it was best to save ourselves for that. We turned around and dropped in.

Straight out of the gate, we hit this awesome tight switchback that you could really lean into and rail. Paul was out front leading, and he skidded around, throwing leaves up everywhere. Scotty did the same. Bradshaw was behind, shouting and yelling. Our back wheels were fishtailing left and right on the straights. As we tipped into steeper bits, a little bit of caution was applied, and we were right to. Braking traction wasn’t great, and when it started getting away on you, it really started to get away. In saying that, though, it wasn’t slowing Paul or Scotty down. They were flying. There were a few slick roots hidden under the leaves, and our bikes danced left and right as we held out through the line. I could hear Bradshaw having some wild moments behind me, on his hardtail, with the occasional “woooow!” or “oh shit!” moment. The forest we were riding through was amazing – and dense.

As predicted, I only managed about one of the twelve things I thought I was going to do on this trail. Everything just came up faster than I’d predicted it would – and you have to ride on instinct versus what you had imagined. We got back to the hut with huge smiles on our faces. It was a great little bit of trail we had just ridden, making the 60km worth it to get there. But, the following day was going to be something different again. Less of a ‘trail’; steeper, techier, longer, gnarlier. We were fired up. Everyone was grinning ear to ear.

As we pushed up, we kept checking out sections, wondering if vertain gaps would be possible.


Back at the hut, Cappleman had perked up again. The downtime and some food had pushed him past the bonk and he looked full of life again. At this point, Bradshaw decided to drop it on us that he wasn’t coming up Mt. Royal with us but, instead, was going to hit the road to Nelson and start clocking off kilometres on his South Island trip. “Woah, woah, woah! Hang on, you can’t do that,” Scotty said, shocked. “Yeah, man, you can’t dog the boys,” from Paul. Cappleman just went straight for the heavy blow: “Didn’t realise you were a coward.” “You’re coming up that hill tomorrow whether you like it or not,” – Scotty. Bradshaw came back with some bullshit about how he had to be at some dinner or something. It was a weak excuse. Over dinner, and a dip in the river, we bullied, peer-pressured, and guilt-tripped Bradshaw to come up Royal with us. We couldn’t tell if he was joking or not. I mean, why would you just bail on this? Eventually, Capple-man said he would give Bradshaw his Crocs if he came up, and that was what sealed the deal. Honestly, some bullshit that was – but hilarious at the same time.

And so, night one came to a close – the perfect preface to what laid ahead of us.

They were flying. There were a few slick roots hidden under the leaves, and our bikes danced left and right as we held out through the line.”


Honestly, some bullshit that was - but hilarious at the same time.

Over dinner, and a dip in the river, we bullied, peer-pressured, and guilt-tripped Bradshaw to come up Royal with us.

Stay tuned for Part Two of Jake Hood’s ̒The Royale With Cheese’ in the next issue of NZ Mountain Biker ...

This article is taken from:NZ Mountain Biker, Issue #111

Considering SubscribingPurchase Issue #111

Matthew Fairbrother's race commutes

Words: Lance Plibrow
Photography: Nick Waygood, Piper Albrecht and Clancy Kelly

It’s every keen young mountain biker’s fantasy: to be at the pinnacle of their sport, spending their days racing around the world; riding in exotic locations on tracks they’ve only experienced via YouTube; to have sponsors showering them with free equipment; and to be rubbing shoulders with the world’s best each weekend as they race between the tape and then celebrate their highs or lows at a local pub, drinking strange foreign beer.

But, for every kid with a dream, there are few that have the tenacity required to push through the challenges it takes to achieve this goal. Hard work beats talent, as they say, but it takes both to break into the professional ranks.

But if there is an example to look to for how hard work can indeed turn this dream into a reality, Matthew Fairbrother must be the example. With a dream to be riding in the Enduro World Series, Matthew stumbled, somewhat inadvertently, on a way to make this happen.


At just 17, Matthew decided he wanted to race in the EWS. A common enough dream. Already an outstanding rider by local standards, Matthew took the typical route: worked hard, saved money, and tried to get onto the circuit. Securing the necessary qualification to be able to ride at an EWS event through local qualification rounds, the first hurdle was complete. From then, it was a question of how to get to the first race in Tweed Valley, Scotland. He knew he would need a pile of money for flights and daily expenses so, as soon as he finished Year 12, it was straight to work. “I was 17, I just worked as much as I could over summer, seven days a week,” explains Matt. “But I still didn’t have enough money.”

Now, the next big decision had to be made. What about the school year that was starting? It wasn’t a hard decision in Matt’s mind: “When it came time to go back to school… I just kept working. Still working six or seven days a week, sixty hours a week, trying to squeeze in biking and going to the gym around that. I was fully committed, I bought plane tickets, I was just heading over by myself. I didn’t know anyone at that point.”

Matt had been raised in a family that accepted this level of independence, and his parents didn’t stand in the way of his plans. “To be honest, I didn’t tell them much about what my plan was, because I didn’t really know myself what was going to happen. I just had a plan to get to the first race and see what happened. But I was confident in myself, and I’m naturally a pretty independent, self-reliant person, and I think they know that about me.”

The first EWS event in Scotland proved to be a fortuitous starting point. Already having some grass-roots level sponsorship through Scottish company, Deviate Bikes, he was able to foster his small connection to the company and lean on them as he landed at his first race. So, what was the plan in his head for the rest of the six month season across Europe and North America at this point? Loose. “Honestly, I just did not have a plan at all, I guess I was probably thinking there would be so many people there at Tweed Valley that would be going to the next race in Slovenia, so I was bound to be able to hook in with someone.”

But, that plan didn’t work out – for relatively human reasons. He landed in Scotland and struggled to make connections; the reality of what he was doing started to sink in. “I got to Scotland and, other than going to Australia, this was really my first time overseas on my own, and I just felt like a really small fish in a really big pond,” explains Matt. “I was actually just really overwhelmed and scared, and I didn’t seem to be able to pluck up the courage to just go up to other people around the race and talk to them.”

His plan for six months of racing was facing a reality check. But, fortune favours the brave and that’s when he had a fortunate encounter – meeting long time EWS veteran and New Zealand racer, Wyn Masters. “I bumped into Wyn Masters a few days before the race in Scotland, and he’d never heard of me but we yarned and I said, ‘I don’t know how I’m going to get to the next EWS’ and he said, ‘Why don’t you just bike there?’ He was actually joking but I was like, ‘actually yeah, that’s it, I’ll just bike there’ – totally serious. And after that I was committed, I guess.”

At this point, Matt had no idea how long the distance was between each race and how many kilo-metres he would end up riding (about 5000 by the end of the season). He didn’t even know how far it was to the next race in Slovenia, or have any idea how to get there. “I didn’t think it would be that far… but as it turns out it is, in fact, quite far. But I was committed to it and it solved my issue of transportation. For some reason it just seemed to make sense. I’m not sure how it made sense, but it just did.”

There was of course the slight problem of not being at all set up for riding across Europe. Only deciding to do this five days before he would need to begin riding, he had no bikepacking bags, so quickly jumped online to order some that would theoretically arrive in time for him to make the ride to Slovenia. However, a Queen’s Birthday long weekend meant that when they hadn’t arrived by the Friday his schedule was already in trouble. He had the Tweed Valley race that weekend to focus on as well. Fortunately, the owner of Deviate came to the rescue, driving down to Glasgow, buying some bags for him and bringing them back up. Fortunately, when he left New Zealand he had packed light. “I didn’t leave with much of a plan, but I knew that it would be harder if I had a lot of stuff. So I just brought as little gear as possible with me. I didn’t even have any non-biking shoes.” He finished the race in Tweed Valley; the owner of Deviate met him at the finish line with his bags; Wyn managed to scavenge some slick tyres off another team’s warm up bike; a quick tyre change and less than an hour after finishing his first EWS race he was pedalling to the ferryto get to the Netherlands.

Eventually arriving at the ferry, he encountered his next problem: children under 18 had to be accompanied by a parent or guardian, and they wouldn’t allow him to board the boat. “It was two in the morning in New Zealand, and the people from the boat said I needed a photo of my par- ent’s passport and to sign something saying I had permission to board the vessel. So I was calling my mum at 2:00am and I was just lucky she actually woke up.” Eventually, he was on the boat and looking forward to two things: refuelling, and relaxing in the sleeping cabin he had paid for. The boat had a buffet, so it was time to get his mon- ey’s worth and load up on calories for the ride to Slovenia. “I went to the buffet for dinner, and I just ate so, so much, as I was basically pedalling for a week after that.” But, he didn’t count on one thing – sea sickness. “After I had literally eaten as much as I could, I went up to my cabin and I was just so sea sick, I puked up all the food I had eaten. Eventually I got off the boat, feeling terrible, but I had to keep moving. So, I just started pedalling until I made it to Slovenia.”

It took six days of riding to get to Slovenia and he enjoyed two days off watching the World Cup in Leogang, but all the riding was beginning to take its toll. “At the Slovenia race…I just got demolished. I was so tired. But I was also just so stoked to be competing,” says Matt.

But the tiredness took its toll; fatigue on his body meant he was crashing more than he should have been: “I actually ended up dislocating my pinky finger in one crash – I looked down and it was just dangling out to the side. I got to a medic, and they wanted me to pull out, but I wanted to carry on, so they decided the only thing they could do was zip tie it to my other finger.” From Slovenia it was on to Italy and the round at Val Di Fassa and, if sea sickness, fatigue, and dislocating a finger were bad, here things got worse. Rain riding to the event took its toll. What might be an otherwise difficult physical task to get to the next round became mentally challenging. Too little funds to stay at camp- grounds meant that he was sleeping rough each night, using whatever he could find for shelter, to make his meagre pot of funds stretch that little bit further. He eventually arrived in Val Di Fassa and was not in a good state. He also hadn’t factored in the challenge of riding at higher altitude. “I was just shattered. And as it turns out I had COVID at the same time. I thought I was just tired from riding, but I actually had COVID. I wasn’t having much fun at the race, and I think I came 36th or something.

But, eventually, he found his groove and things got easier. Building a bit of a reputation around the pits meant people were engaging with him more. Teams would offer him food and other support. “If I ever had any issues with my bike, I would be able to go to a team and there was always someone who would help me out. I was alone, but I actually felt like I had quite a bit of support.”

And then, he bumped into Wyn again and everything changed… again. “Wyn included me in his WynTV episode, and I started getting some followers from that,” explains Matt. “Then Pinkbike picked up on me and ran a story.” Pinkbike – easily the world’s biggest mountain bike media website approached him for a story, and he was cautiously optimistic that this might help his profile. “I thought I might gain a few followers on Instagram, but didn’t think too much more about it… but then when their story came out, I gained like 10,000 followers almost literally overnight.

It just blew up. Within an hour I had 5000 followers. I had to turn off my phone for two days because it wouldn’t stop dinging.” But, amidst all this, he still had to just get on with his daily grind: getting to the next race. Fortunately, the Pinkbike exposure had boosted his marketability substantially. Deviate couldn’t have been happier, and they paid for his flights to the U.S so he could race those rounds – rounds he had previously thought would be beyond his ability to fund himself to get to.

Landing in Vancouver, he rode up the Sea to Sky highway – a reality check from the riding in Europe. “It wasn’t that far, but it was just gnarly. You’re literally fenced in, with lots of really fast highway traffic and trucks.” By this point, he was getting plenty of offers for rides from other teams – and of course there is public transport that he could have been utilising – but, by now, he had realised he’d stumbled onto his point of difference “Even with these other offers of rides, it had kind of turned into ‘I’m just biking the whole thing.’”

Arriving in Whistler, Deviate had been working in the background with SRAM to give him an unexpected surprise: Deviate were launching their new bike, the Claymore, and they had a brand new bike – decked out with all the top-end AXS and Rockshox equipment – to give to Matt, as well as a cash top-up for his riding fund. “I was absolutely blown away. Deviate had paid for my flights to Canada, and then I got given a new bike. It actually felt kinda fake. I still don’t know what to say. I couldn’t believe this was actually happening to me. It just didn’t seem real. I felt like I totally didn’t deserve it, but I was also so stoked.”

Here, he reluctantly had to jump on a plane. The 5000km from the west coast of Canada to the east coast of America was just too far. Landing in Quebec and crossing into the U.S.A proved problematic too. “They didn’t understand why I was bikepacking and why I was away for so long. They wanted to see bank statements to prove what I was doing, but I didn’t have any and I didn’t have any internet on my phone at that point and they wouldn’t let me use their internet. They were certain I was working illegally. They held me for ages, and I was a bit scared I was going to end up in jail but, after a while, they just seemed to get bored with me and let me go.”

Eventually the season came to an end. Did he enjoy himself? Absolutely. But he is also realistic about the difficulties of the experience too. “There were just massive waves of up and down. The lows are low, they really suck, and you question why you are even doing this. But the highs are so high.” At the end of the season, he had to make a decision – was he going to go do it all again? If he was, now was the time to be trying to engage more sponsors and hopefully make life that little bit easier. “I think I got on to the idea that this could actually be something. I started talking to a few companies and tried to get some sponsorship, and lots of them seemed stoked on the idea,” says Matt. “They wanted to see me do it again. I managed to get some actual funding which means I guess I’ve actually turned it into my job now, which is amazing – that was my big childhood goal.”

This season, he’s a bit smarter about the whole idea too. He’s discovered the mapping power of Komoot which takes him on much better routes than he rode the first time. “Komoot is amazing over here. It’s like Google Maps but focused on bikepacking. It takes you off the highways and takes you the scenic way. I’m off the highway as much as possible and usually in the middle of nowhere.” Which is really good because at least when he’s fatigued he’s not riding next to a highway. “Being in the middle of nowhere and tired is fine. Being fatigued and next to a highway is terrifying. I worry I’m going to lose concentration and swerve into a truck or something. Now I’m actually enjoying the riding way more. When I wake up on the morning after a race I’m looking forward to it now, when I wasn’t really before.”

He’s tweaked his system as well, securing obvious sponsorship from Tailfin backpacking equipment. “The biggest change I’ve made is going to the Tailfin bikepacking setup. Honestly I’m so stoked on it. I was so sick of the bikepacking bags sagging and wagging around. The Tailfin has this cool pannier system so I can take so much, and it is so much more secure. I’m sponsored by them, but it is genuinely awesome stuff. I’d buy it even if I wasn’t sponsored by them.”

However, despite knowing what he was in for, securing some sponsorship and feeling more pre- pared his second year hasn’t been totally problem free. In Tasmania, he suffered the results of maybe packing too light – a few extra quick links would have solved an unfortunate broken chain affair. “At the Maydena race I snapped my chain. I had used my spare quicklink in the race, but the chain must have got a bit bent. It was 10pm and I was riding to the next event in Derby, and I stood up on the pedals and the chain snapped again – and I only had that one quicklink that I’d used earlier. I had to be at Derby the next day to sign in by 4pm, and I still had seven hours of pedalling to go. The nearest bike shop was 45km away, so I had to jog my 45kg bike 45km through the night to the bike shop – in bike shoes, of course.” A marathon in bike shoes, pushing a fully laden enduro bike? Of course.


He also entered the Highland 550 bikepacking event in Scotland, just to mix things up from the enduros he had been riding. Here, he encountered freezing weather that took its toll. “I got caught between two passes in a storm. I couldn’t set up a shelter, so I had to get to a bothy (a basic Scottish highland hut) otherwise that would be it. I was just pushing so hard against the wind to get to this hut, I ended up getting mild hypothermia and I was hallucinating. It was really quite bad.” In the end, he was on the bike for 50 hours non-stop, and with cold wet feet for a lot of it. “At that event I did some damage to my body, some days I still can’t feel my feet and my hands get pins and needles. Even now when I’m riding in the EWS, I can’t work out how hard I’m holding on to the bars, so I hold on too tight, which means I then get arm pump, then my hands blow off the bars and it all happens before I know it. So, yeah, this year I’ve been falling off a lot.” Between races he has been trying to manage the nerve damage in his hands by riding with his arms spread across the bars, so he is steering more by leaning on his forearms rather than holding with his hands. Even with Deviate offering him rides in their team van now, he is still intent on riding between each race. “I guess I just like to have a point of difference, so I’ll just keep riding this wave and see where it takes me.

I ask him if maybe he should take some time off and sort out his nerve damage which can have long lasting effects, but he doesn’t seem too bothered by it yet. And, for now, he’s still enjoying himself. There’s too much going on to worry about the challenges.

“I’m just always in the moment. There is always so much going on. It is tough, but the highs definitely outweigh the lows and there isn’t anything else I’d rather be doing right now.”

This article is taken from:NZ Mountain Biker, Issue #111

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Erice van Leuven: From Wellington to the world


Standing atop the podium at the Lenzerheide World Cup 2023 opener, I wonder if Erice looks out over the crowd and thinks to herself: “This is just the beginning”. Is she viewing the win as just a stepping stone towards the future, or maybe wondering; “What the heck just happened, and how did I get here?”

What began as a simple obsession on a balance bike, following her brothers around, grew into a viral video of 10-year-old Erice proving the best mountain bike is whatever bike is beneath you. She tore up Rotorua’s trails aboard her coaster-brake-equipped 16-inch wheeled kids’ bike. The video spread like wildfire, reaching such lofty heights as being included in the now defunct Dirt Magazine’s 2017 Advent Calendar. Day 14 features Erice and the caption: “this could be the raddest video we’ve seen all year.” Other notable outlets picked up the video and, overnight, Erice was on the radar of every talent scout in the industry, promptly receiving several sponsorship requests.

Commencal was early to the party and ended up being the lucky suitor. Welcoming her to their global roster, their new 20” bike suited her perfectly. A few more years of growth; roll on the launch of their 24” MTB and Erice played the lead role in their launch campaign video, again tearing up the trails to international acclaim.

Fast forward through a couple of pandem- ic-tainted years and Erice is finally old enough to race Junior UCI World Cups, and ready to step onto the bottom rung of the Junior category. In early 2023, she was announced as joining the COMMENCAL LES ORRES Team and it was game on for the season.

Under the wing of Cécile Ravanel, no one doubted Erice would soon grace a world-level podium, but it was a surprise for it to come so soon. Erice’s 2023 season kicked off with a pair of EDR (Enduro) World Series rounds in Tasmania. First up was Maydena, where perfect conditions and varied terrain greeted riders. A tight battle ensued between Erice and Canada’s Emmy Lan. After Erice led through race day, Emmy stamped her authority on the last stage, bumping Erice into second place. Both riders were well over a minute ahead of Elly Hoskin, who rounded out the podium in third. Erice left Maydena surprised and stoked; she was at the EDR rounds as a test to gauge where she was at and was using the race as some training for the upcoming DH season.

“Erice’s bike skills, and her ability to just ride fast, are pretty impressive. The tracks don’t scare or worry her, and she just gets on with it. She’s not intimidated by much, it seems. So maybe with age that will change, but right now she’s just super impressive on gnarly tracks with gnarly features and just super confident on the jumps and everything.



I guess it’s a bike skills thing, but maybe she’s also just riding the bike to get the best out of it. I think bikes have changed quite a lot and you can trust them so much more nowadays. So maybe there’s something in that as well.” – Cameron Cole, Former World Junior DH Champ and GT Factory Racing team manager.

Round 2 of the EDR took in the now-famous Derby trails, some old, some new. Practice day was wet, and by all accounts just getting through the course that day was a task in itself. Race day was hot and humid, and the trails were still wet from the previous day’s rain.

“On race day I was thinking, I’m actually kinda up there so why not go for it!” explains Erice. After putting in a huge effort across the first five stages, she experienced painful leg cramps on the liaison to stage 6, which saw her stop multiple times to stretch out.

“I was a bit scared then that I wouldn’t be able to finish the race, because of the pain.” Fortunately, Erice pushed on, continuing her domination, topping every stage and obliterating her U21 competition. Her overall time would have placed her 16th in the Pro Women’s class!

Finishing her Tassie time on a high, she set her sights on the main goal of her season: the World Cup Downhill series. Six weeks after her win in Derby, she lined up at the opening round of the French DH Series; another race, another win! With momentum building over the last few races, she was back in action a month later – this time at the World Cup season opener in Lenzerheide, Switzerland.

“The track in Lenzerheide was so sick, the sections just linked up real good,” says Erice. “It’s obviously a difficult track but it allows you to push quite hard for speed, which is cool. The top section on the off-camber grass and then onto the famous off-camber corner were the most difficult for me, it was still fun though. I just enjoyed the track heaps and that’s when you ride your best.”

For the first time in history, the Junior races were broadcast live and free on YouTube, allowing friends, family and fans from across the world to see the future stars of the sport laying the foundations for their careers. Watching the action unfold over the week, clips of Erice practising surfaced. What we saw was a confident, solid riding style which piqued onlookers’ interest and had com- mentators picking her as one to watch.

A crash in qualifying put her in second place. But, harnessing her nerves, she headed for the start hut to take on her final run, confident her pace was there. Minimising outside distractions, she visualised the track, focussed on the present and task at hand, rolled forward and broke the timing beam.

“As I was injured at Lenzerheide, I spent a fair chunk of time trackside and that included watching the always entertaining junior practice. I’d followed Erice online but hadn’t really seen or met her in real life, and from run one in Lenzerheide it was fairly obvious that she had something special going on.

NZ DH with Erice at the helm is in safe hands both on and off the track. Her skills are something else, but so is her infectious stoke for both the riding and the other girls she was racing against. Big grins and big wins seem to be the ticket here.” – Eddie Masters, Pivot Factory Racing pro.

Five sectors made up the track. Erice started slow, building across the first three splits, then demolished the final two to put her just over four seconds in the green. She’d just secured her first junior World Cup win!

“When I won my first World Cup, the feeling was insane!” explains Erice. “I was totally over the moon. Having my dad and one of my brothers there, and some family friends, made it extra special! Another highlight was getting to see family after two and a half months. It’s so, so cool being over in Europe racing, but it is hard not seeing the fam for a while.”

Riding the high of her win, everything was looking positive as the World Cup circus headed to Leogang, Austria. A win in the qualifier put her as the fastest seed coming into the finals.

“In Leogang, I was feeling really mentally strong in my warmup at the top and on the rollers, but once I got into the start gate, the nerves hit me and I lost that composure, and that obviously didn’t work out great for me.”

Only a couple of corners into the track, Erice took a huge crash – over the bars, down a bank and onto a gravel road. A dead-stop hit that even the hardiest of rugby players wouldn’t have bounced up from.

“It was the scariest crash I’ve ever had,” recalls Erice. “I just fully body-slammed the ground and didn’t roll or anything to break my fall. Just hit it and stopped. I winded the crap out of myself so that was pretty scary because I couldn’t breathe for a bit. I can’t believe that I got away with two sore wrists and a sore torso! Nothing was broken, but I couldn’t finish the race. Looking on the positive side though, I’ve learned a lot of lessons. So, I’ll take that.”

A short two-week break between Leogang and the following round in Val Di Sole left minimal time to get her body back in shape after her crash; no downhill riding and just light road riding and gym work saw Erice nervous coming into round three. Getting back on the bike and straight into one of the most challenging tracks on the cir- cuit took all the resilience and determination she could muster.

Fellow Kiwi, Sacha Earnest, was also returning from injury at Val Di Sole, ready to take on the Junior Women’s field. Qualifying saw tight time splits between Erice and Sacha, the latter taking the number one points on the day. In finals, the cards stacked the same way, Sacha taking her first World Cup win, and Erice in second. Erice left the venue happy with her performance, and proud of how she’d bounced back after the crash in Leogang. Second was almost as good as a win!

Next up for the young star is the Downhill World Championships in Fort William, Scotland. But first, some training at team sponsor Les Orres’ bike park and a test event in Loudenvielle in the lead-up to the World Cup event there at the start of September. Erice’s calendar is chocka!

The World Cup continues throughout the year, culminating with the final round in Mont-Sainte-Anne, Canada, in early October. We’ll be watching Erice and compatriot Sacha closely as the rounds tick off. Fingers crossed we’ll have two Kiwis atop the overall World Cup podium come the end of the season – which order they’ll be in is anyone’s guess.

This article is taken from:NZ Mountain Biker, Issue #111

Considering SubscribingPurchase Issue #111