I can still recall the days that when you looked outside and it was pissing down like date night in Moscow, then it was genuinely considered an excellent idea to gear up and go for a shred. Not that we called it a ‘shred’ in 1994 or so, and not that we had front suspension either… Holy FUCK that is starting to make me sound a lot older than I behave and feel. But for a long time the principal remained solid: Riding in the pissing rain and getting muddy as fuck was EXCELLENT.

For many Real mountain bikers, this premise holds as true in 2017 as it did back then. By ‘real’ I mean the breed of rider that only owns a Mountain Bike and when you say ‘road bike’ to them, they instantly think of a Ducati, or perhaps a Yamaha. That’s right, cunts still love getting out amongst the shit no matter what mother nature has lined up.

I wish I could still proclaim to be as robust. Perhaps its #cHub life, perhaps its a general weariness of the clean up taking longer than the ride, perhaps I’ve been hanging with the wrong roadie crowd? Either option you choose, its been a while since I wore out a set of pads from too much mud/rain.

But every now and again my disdain for getting weather fingered and the associated memories are dulled just long enough to allow me to make bad decisions.

And so this brings us to the story of how I ended up riding in Eskdale in the absolute pissing rain, which as the locals will tell you, probably isn’t worth the bother given A) how infrequently it rains in the Bay and B) It can be a bit cunty in the wet surface wise. However, a strong combination of wanting to get the first ride of 2017 in the books, being high on Hightower froth & love and getting mildly egged on by my local guide for the day and I soon found myself soaked like Ivanka at the mere whiff of power and grinning like a filthy idiot:

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Wet, like Beaver

The last and only time I had been in Eskdale (Holy fuck, 3 years ago, when 26 inch wheels were healthy and alive) I was solo, in the wrong block and it was kind of weird. Lucky for me then that first of all, Jeff Carter and his crew of trail wizards had been in here the last few years carving sweet new trail and then critically, I had the all important local knowledge to show me what the fuck was up:

Eskdale

Banking the first fisting of Twenty Seventeen… May there be many more to come

So its a weird hybrid story & video mash up today, mainly as I was short on material for both, so I’ve tried to make a Dirty cake scrapping together shit left lying around in the fridge. I haven’t done this before, mainly as it makes any story telling partially redundant… But, if like Orange Hitler you can’t be fucked or just can’t read, then its your lucky day! Roll rainy tape:

Yes, I just subjected you to a video that had fluid all over the Go PRO, but on the bright side at least you know how a Russian mattress feels now (No – these jokes don’t get old and are valid for the next 4 years/until inevitable impeachment). What the video doesn’t correctly portray is how slithery and slippery Eskdale appears to get when it goes from drought like conditions to having the sprinkler on.

If you’re going to ride it blind with a very knowledgable and fast local, might I suggest waiting until its dry? Which in the Hawkes Bay is like, hmmm, 95% of the time? Wine country and all of course. You may save yourself the inevitable filth as well, even though these two loved it:

 

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Contemporary AF

I’m not going to put lipstick on a muddy pig and try to pretend this is a comprehensive low down on Eskdale by any means, especially given we only hit 3 or 4 trails, but what was sampled added further weight to the business case of relocating to the Hawkes Bay post #cHublyfe.

As you’d expect, the signature trails that have been carved into the hill sides by the Southstar Adventure crew are excellent and appreciated… I didn’t get the chance to sample their work on Te Mata Peak unfortunately, but if you’re passing through on your NZ road trip then perhaps take the time to relish both in between getting fuckfaced in the Wineries.

One of the things to like about Eskdale is the climbing never seems to be that epic, mainly as the Mill block seems to have a lower overall elevation if I’m not mistaken, and all the climbs that connect to the DH trails are agreeable switchback set ups that allow you to meander along on your ENDURO machine. No doubt Bandits love to roam these parts armed with nothing more than 100mm’s of travel and a single water bottle. Trail wise make sure you check out Cannonball, mint and Grand Traverse as a starter, I’m looking forward to a whole day or 2 in there next time in the DRY to scope the whole buffet. I’ve heard Oliver’s Twist and Minefield should also be hunted out.

Some practicalities here for those wanting to pass through the stunning Hawkes Bay and partake in an afternoon of good times:

  • You need a permit to ride in any of the blocks, best obtained by seeing the absolutely rad dudes at The Hub Bike shop in Hastings, $10 scores you 3 weeks of good times
  • There’s plenty of info on the Hawkes Bay MTB club site, so have a perusal of that first… I’m not great with maps, but the ones on there didn’t seem like the greatest, so grab one from the Hub when you get your permit
  • We parked in the Mill Block, which seemed like the best option currently by all accounts, located on SH2 not past the SH5 turn off. Aim for Whirinaki (yes that’s spelt right) and its on your left heading north.
  • Strava file is here if you’re that way inclined… Not much of a strata file, but its the only one I got…

A massive thanks to Dean from the Hub for the tour guiding, it was a significant upgrade on my original ill fated raid 3 years prior, and for not minding when we realised that we were completely unprepared for getting back into his truck looking like this:

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Officially no longer ‘new’

And yes, I have received my solid annual reminder of why after 25 years of Mountain Biking I tend to shrivel up like a base jumping cat when the rain starts to tumble… Admittedly its fun at the time, its just the moment you arrive back at the car park the reality that you’re about to sit around in your lycra inners and a SWAT vest, hoping to not be mistakenly arrested, you start to remember why these days are best left for bacon and coffee… Until next time then!

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