Mountain Biking New Zealand
In February, I jumped at the opportunity to join 7 other women on the inaugural Yeti Beti International Tribe Gathering in New Zealand. It was to be a 13 day tour of some of the best mountain biking the South Island has to offer.
The trip was organized by Sarah Rawley, pro enduro MTB racer and founder of the Vida MTB Series, which is a mountain bike skills clinic program designed specifically for women. I had the pleasure of meeting Sarah at the Sedona Mountain Bike Festival last winter, where I attended a Vida Clinic. Our logistics & van shuttles were provided by H&I Mountain Bike Worldwide, a Scotland based outfit that staffs local guides from each of its tour destinations, so riders experience only the best singletrack in the region. They also coordinate great dining, lodging, luggage transport and must-do off the bike activities. I showed up ready to ride, and they took care of the rest.
Our itinerary was pretty ambitious, taking us to a new region of the South Island nearly every day of our trip, and allowing us to explore the immensely diverse terrain. Our rides ranged from 10 miler loops through pine needle forests, to epic all day back country treks nearing 40 miles and climbing over several mountain passes. We whooped and yipped on some flowy berms in Lake Wanaka and got some air on the downhill trails in Queenstown (but only after riding up Skyline Drive, the steepest dirt road ever). The unpredictable weather, and varied terrain makes New Zealand a really fun and challenging place to ride - no two trails were the same, and each will test your skill and endurance. Every person had a chance to shine, and lots of chances to SUFFER. Ha! Check out some fun on-board GoPro footage from a few of our rides on the Yeti Beti FB page.
Every ride was spectacular in its own way, but if I were to pick a favorite, it would be Old Ghost Road. Okay, I guess it's technically two rides: one day to ascend and one day to descend the mountain. This former gold mining track, originally built in the 1870s, spans 85km over and across a mountain ridge. Restored primarily by volunteer efforts, it's now an incredible hiking and mountain biking trail that starts off in a native rain forest, climbs up and along a ridge with teeth chattering exposure, and then back down through open tussock tops, river flats and valleys. We spent the night in a rustic hut, only accessible by foot, bike or helicopter. The pro-looking photos from the Old Ghost Road gallery below were taken by the incomparable Digby Shaw, courtesy of Shredly.
New Zealand's natural beauty is a given, of course, but it was the group of women I spent almost 2 weeks with, who really made the trip a memorable one. All of the participants were badass mountain bikers (yeah #ladyshred!) from Colorado, so they were all super fit, and many of them were VIDA MTB coaches and racers. While I could keep up on the uphills, I could barely keep the group in sight on the downs! I was so impressed with every single one of my companions, both on and off the bike. Among our group, we had a co-founder of Noosa Yoghurt and the founder of Shredly (the first MTB apparel company designed for women)! Our kiwi guide, Erin Greene, also a badass pro MTB and adventure racer when not leading tours, was excellent at herding us and keeping us on schedule! So many laughs, some tears (of pain and joy), a couple of oh shit! moments, and an overarching sense of accomplishment and mutual support were had throughout the trip. Not really knowing anyone before arriving, I was a bit unsure of what to expect, and whether or not I'd get "good training" before road racing season. As it turns out, I had absolutely nothing to worry about. This trip was 90% focused on the spectacular riding, and when not riding, hard core recovery: hello hot springs, pastries & pies and NZ wine!
I really could not recommend doing a mountain biking tour enough. Go have an adventure, even if you don't know anybody! Take some clinics before hand if you're unsure about skills. Make friends with the amazing mountain bike community, especially the lady shredders - you will have sisters for life! I cannot wait for my next adventure... Check out our routes via Strava below (including an oddly shaped loop just outside Queenstown on our last day).