So finally a bit of a post that isn’t a race report… But with that upside there is a hidden trap, as this isn’t exactly new material either, BUT, its a slightly different angle on a place that should be rather well known by now if you’ve tuned in before. Famous for not only it’s insane set-up and trails, but also for it’s ability to reduce me to a rambling mess which vaguely resembles a beginner trying to ride down Dirt Merchant on their first ever bike ride.
Yes, we’re heading back to Wairoa Gorge, and yes, it’s with a fairly well known crew of the Usual Dirty Suspects, and yes, it rained again, so there’s nothing there that your eyes haven’t been accosted with already. However, no cycling mission is quite the same as the last, and if I can convince you of two things in this post, it’s hopefully going to be:
- The Rodfather is essentially a one man reenactment of Pulp Fiction – Yes, stand back as I use the stunningly unoriginal tactic of ramming this post full of Pulp Fiction references
- Wairoa Gorge is another one of my many mental MTB achilles heels
To preface this tale, I decided to make this mission as logistically painful and expensive as I possibly could by sandwiching it in-between a trip to Singapore and a trip to Melbourne, which turned out was about as useful as filling a government full of reality TV stars.
Not only did this result in me fucking up what was supposed to be a 5 day extravaganza of Nelson Gnar, but it also inconvenienced the fuck out of everyone else in the process. Chief among those who had to divert their plans because I was a Dirt Diva was the Rodfather, who showed his Good Cuntishness credentials early by playing Airport chauffeur and Soigneur when he fronted up in the Rodmobile upon my fanfare arrival.
But something wasn’t right with the Rodfather… He was jittery and scratching at himself like a nervous Gnar junkie, eventually he confessed that the prospect of 4 to 5 days of no brakes riding with the likes of Jeff ‘This podium champagne is stinging my eyes‘ Carter, Professor A-Badd, Scott with no Surname and Kevin Is-my-Insta-Stan-Bro, just to name a few, was creating a a shit storm in his mind that was as niche as it was precise:
I’m not sure where the need for a last minute emergency fork oil change sprung from, but in my world the only people that can change fork oil is Jordi from Fox and Jono from Bike Culture, and I couldn’t see either of them kicking about in our exceedingly functional Nelson Motor lodge accomodation. However, proving he is essentially Mr Wolf from Pulp Fiction, the Rodfather calmly assessed the scene, and in laying out his plan he assured me that all he needed was Sowing machine oil mixed with Alpaca semen* (patent pending) to make this DIY shit happen. My face was a scene of horror.
Debate still rages as to what was the greater challenge between finding a suitable male Alpaca in Nelson on a Friday night, or obtaining the required ingredients, but in a sequence of events that would make even Jordi proud, the Rodfather completed the ultimate privateer maintenance and in doing so, transformed psychologically from a Mountain Biking mouse into a muthafucken Lion ready to dominate the Gorge and his friends. The shit you can achieve when your credit card isn’t being held for the Motel deposit:
*No Alpacas were manually harmed in the making of this post.
Whilst this Anniversary reboot trip was my third time visiting the legendary Gorge, it was my first time gracing it not only on 27.5 wheels, but also when it wasn’t wetter than a KGB Kompromat operation, yes, still golden, but for totally different reasons. I was intrigued that I would finally get a day (In April too) in the dry. The Rodfather had also anticipated the switch to the Nomad 4 for this trip, so ensuring that we would look like Jules & Vincent, he went matching as absolute fuck on his set up:
And based on what was fronting up before me as the group composed itself, I was going to need all the shredding weaponry I could get my Dirty mitts on. This was a more hard hitting crew than anything Marsellus Wallace could ever hope to call on, consisting primarily of those hard hitting homies from the hallowed pumice grounds of R-Vegas. I also got the distinct impression that these bad hombres had been secretly fantasising about a return to the Gorge since our last momentous meeting.
Not that I would accuse them of training as such, but the Vegas crew were fizzing at the bunghole so profoundly, you could almost taste it settling on the tongue, not unlike a rim job that’s gone horribly wrong – Yes, the intent to shred everything into oblivion hung in the air like a Rodfather shuttle fart. It was great to be back rolling with Mofo’s that look you in the eye when they fist you:
But that was ok, because in spite of my epic logistical cuntery, I was arriving at the Gorge at the peak of my powers, coming off the back of a relatively storming 2W event, armed with the most capable bike I’ve ever owned and with a decent intel briefing on what was in store. In summary, whilst there were no excuses for anything other than prodigious shredding, there was a high volume of Good, trending to Great, Cunts ready to roll. Here we can see this playing out as The Creator goes to his placid rabbit faced happy place while trying to avoid Rodfather detailing how big his balls were when he sets foot in the gorge:
Or perhaps The Creator was just lost in the thought of “Why the fuck did I bring the new Enve M7 wheels to these rock infested killing fields?” it only took one run to confirm that once again, Enve remains the ultimately cycling triumph of marketing over common sense. Whilst Enve fans turn into head exploding (or should that be rim?) emoji’s, to answer your obvious question – Yes, the rubber strip was installed. Oh, did I mention how heavy these things are as well?
Yes, yes, I know very well that Haters are gonna hate (such is their job description), but there’s a special sort of Lord of the Flies glee that spreads through any cycling group when a high cost, or aggressively marketed, piece of equipment fails. Call it gear tall poppy syndrome if you like, but no one bats an eyelid if a Stans rim flat spots… But grenade an Enve and people’s shorts start to expand fuelled by a Schadenfreude rush of blood that’s contagious within the group as people start to point and bay wildly like jackals, throw in some classic dentist jokes and the mob was happy at its first confirmed kill. The Mountain Biking equivalent to ‘The Purge’ was off to a solid start. To be mildly fair, JC did keep riding the wheels without issue, so it wasn’t quite the gladiator demise we had hoped for, but still, WTF.
But life had to move on, and in this group, at an extremely rapid pace. And holy FUCK, an even more mind bending pace than the 2017 edition at that. Putting aside the notion that this was a bigger group, it was also rammed with rad cunts who have forgotten more about how to ride the fuck out of a bike than I will ever remember. Exhibit A in this hard hitting crew? None other than New Zealand’s first ever LEGIT PRO mountain biker and 90’s hero, Darryn Henderson. Given my penchant for PRO stalking started with staring at Hendi at National rounds and whispering to Spanky “Bro, bro, shhh man, look, it’s Hendi!!!!“, this was a big moment. Hendi’s eyes can hardly contain his pleasure at be shakka stalked while trying to enjoy some riding:
A dry Gorge was an all new experience, one I was frothing for. I was quickly reminded how fast, sometimes brutal and all encompassing riding here is. This is NOT your local trail network and I was quickly being assaulted by the visceral nature of the high-speed Gorge runs… You just don’t usually get to ride trails this fast and this long, nor with this type of surface, or this type of crew.
Aside from the usual Jedi Masters you’ve become accustomed to such as the Rodfather and The Creator, this crew was absolutely rammed with GC’s who ride a mountain bike in such a manner that merely watching them slay trail sets off an immediate panic of competing inadequacies: Dirt status anxiety and that nagging feeling of “Why can’t I ride a bike like that?” Not only was the riding off the fucking hook, the humour was naturally trending towards outstanding:
Chief amongst these Dirt Wizard protagonists was Richie Goldsbury atop his Zerode Taniwha. Ultimately I couldn’t work out which aspect of Richie made me feel more MTB insecure, his endless enthusiasm & energy or his silky smooth riding style and skills. Grab a bucket to puke in for a moment here, but for absolute fucks sake, it’s very rare to see someone ride an MTB where they make it look like them and the bike are actually one organism (based on how good it looks, perhaps that should be orgasim?)… I mean seriously, it looks like he’s fucking floating. Watching Richie effortlessly do things on a bike that didn’t even occur to you is as entertaining as it is perplexing and you’d be hard pressed to find someone having as much fun doing it at the same time.
Just to round out this gushy man crush a little more, you haven’t really Mountain Biked unless you’ve had Richie Goldsbury snap a pic of you on the trail… I’ve longingly scrolled through my Gram feed in the hope that one day I would appear as a target for his legendary snapping. At long last this glorious moment arrived, and I took it with both hands and with very little effort ensured that I would make a total cunt of myself and the corner that Richie had selected to be the canvas:
But the above pic does serve a narrative purpose here, as this is where the Gorge 2.0 story deviates from the usual and expected “Fuck yeah man, that was an epic run of shredding gnar” frothing & fisting and morphs into a bizarre descent into being an outcast who’s washed up on an Island of Fuckwittery.
After the first run of the day I had noticed that there was something a little… Off. No drama’s, lots of runs to come, so always play it in smoothly at the Gorge isn’t a bad call. However, halfway through lap 2, several alarms were ringing out on the control panel and by the time I was halfway through run 3, the master caution alarm was blasting so loudly that it made the Chernobyl klaxon sound like lift music. Or perhaps that was just the sound of K Rex schlapping the absolute fuck out of every berm in sight?
What was causing this mysterious melt down? Something that I had never encountered before… My left T Rex arm had decided to channel epic pain through my wrist and into my hand, to the point that holding onto the handlebar and trying to brake (something I’m prolific at) was now more painful than watching Agent Orange fellate his Russian boss at a press conference. Not only was I having to ride slower than a first timer, but I was having to stop so much that I was starting to attract those kinds of looks from others, you know the one: “Cunt, if you go any slower we’re going to miss the next uplift” Try as I might, this scenario was only going from bad to worse and I was officially moving into a new town:
Ok, so this wasn’t a race clearly, but here I was, theoretically at the peak of my powers and armed with the greatest weaponry I’ve ever brought to the Gorge and I was getting dropped faster than the soap in the Ex-Trump Administration employee prison wing, surrendering the comfort of my mid-pack status to instead seeing this view with embarrassing regularity:
In equivalent terms this is like being a passive aggressive Corporate middle manager with a highly tuned sense of entitlement and suddenly being asked to take minutes in a meeting – The horror of such a scenario strikes the face like being hit with a rolled up 75 slide PowerPoint presentation whilst someone screams at you that you’re “Not collaborating!” with zombie muppet fuckbags who have been trying to poison your mind with meaningless jargon and ideas that wouldn’t stack up in a kindergarten. Or in normal terms: Shit was really bad.
I will take a moment from incessant moaning however to shoot some ENDURO load about how fucking excellent ‘Creamed Rice’ is at the Gorge, it’s clearly not lost on me why it got this name… Yes, I realise it’s one of the tamer trails on the hill side, but what an absolute masterpiece and purveyor of outrageous FUN. I suspect I like it because its a rare moment where you don’t have bench on the left and exposure on the right, yes, ignoring the fact those are replaced by trees, and not to make me sound old and fucked, but this is definitely a Gorge favourite in my books:
I was now not only a firm occupant on struggle street with my left arm, but I was also caught in between not wanting to sound like a fluffy puss puss, but also feeling the need to explain why by all intents and purposes I appeared to be riding like it was my first day ever on a bike. The group was on a charge and I was in more disarray than Australian politics as the carve mode was set to full gas in gloriously dry Gorge conditions:
I would like to talk about how everyone else rode other than Kev, but I didn’t see a single other rad MuthaFucka all day based on how I was rolling.
You can see the moment where JC realises that I have the mental fortitude of Lewis Road butter that’s been left in the sun, and while his concerned rabbit face is listening to my tale of wrist & hand pain woe, he’s also mentally calculating if he remembered to bring a body bag in my size:
But it was finally a run down my old nemesis, Bloody (fucking) Priest which eventually did me in. Some may recall from last time I lost my shit completely down here in the wet, but this time the gnar was dry, angry and patiently waiting. When you’re having difficulty holding onto a handlebar, this is probably not the best place to visit just quietly.
Eventually I was proved right, unable to brake properly or muster up a grip that would even be useful for pleasuring oneself, it was inevitable that at some point my handlebars would part ways with my feebleness and a dirt nap would ensue. Some times being right is a total cunt.
So in a move I thought almost as unthinkable as it was impossible, I had to pull the pin after 3 runs… Not even 3 quality runs either, call it more 0.5 ok, then 2.5 which oscillated between seriously painful and terrifying. As people looked at me like I had Ebola when I departed with a fully functional bike and without broken bones, I was left to ponder what the utter fuck was going on. Aside from breaking my neck, I’d never really had to stop riding because of any form of injury – Other than the occasional mental collapse.
Luckily for me, Kate, Rotorua’s resident S&M dominatrix and Osteopath to stars such as JC ‘No, it’s not my cologne, its the sweet aroma of podium champagne‘ Superstar and Kevin Stan-is-my-bro, was on scene to unleash the great elbow massacre on my feeble T Rex set up, taking great delight in making me squeal like a little bearded piggy:
More painful than what was happening to my wounded T Rex arm was the Wifi outage in the Lodge… Once this sunk in, much like a scene from Deliverance the horror dawned on everyone that we were isolated many miles from civilisation and ignoring the obvious safety aspects, that we would actually have to talk to one another all night whilst maintaining some form of eye contact. Did it even count as a riding day if we couldn’t Gram it?! Suddenly it was 1998 all over again.
Given we had planned to just Gram story each other and stay in our rooms talking exclusively via the group chat, it was alarming that we now had to dig deep for 5 hours of conversational topics. In desperation, Professor A-Badd went straight to the elephant in the room topic without hesitation – Did I really need to wear matching hat and hoodie?
As it turned out, an hour of maintaining eye contact and talking to one another in structured conversations that haven’t been seen since 2008 turned out to be quite exhausting. To many it felt like 11pm, but it turned out to be only 7, and most shockingly we couldn’t even send each other the horrified emoji to display our horror. Not all of us were exhausted however and the human energiser bunny on crack decided that 6 runs at warp speed wasn’t enough for the day, so busted out an impromptu Yoga session, which had mixed results:
I went to bed utterly and foolishly convinced that this alarming gimp like scenario was a random one off as opposed to a systemic melt down of the core system and that I would arise on Day 2 to smash gnar and retrieve this blog post from the depths of whining like that person you can’t stand at work – Look at them NOW for dramatic effect.
This Phoenix won’t fly
As you can see here, I’m mainly wincing in agony that I was letting someone in socks and jandals do this to me, but the desire to get into that shuttle and redeem myself on Day 2 was strong enough to let Kate get her terminator like talons into my tendons for breakfast:
As you can imagine, I had reasons to have misguided confidence in Day 2: Not only had I had my T Rex arm attacked by a dominatrix pretending to be an Osteo, but I had also loaded up on so much voltairn that I was basically a walking opioid crisis. In more good news, the Gorge experience was about to return to normal for me with the arrival of the rain for day 2, just so we didn’t feel like we were missing out on business as usual for this crew.
If Rodfather was another character from Pulp Fiction, he would clearly be ‘Lance’, as he had an impressive array of drugs readily available to try and deal to my feebleness (no ‘Armstrong’ pun intended there either). Somewhat unsurprisingly he was generally vague about the origins of what he was offering… His laughing dismissal that he “didn’t know what ruffies were” doing little to dampen down my scepticism… But it did serve as a reminder as to why his whole life from 1991 to 1999 has been heavily redacted:
Given the colour of the pills and that he couldn’t guarantee that his offerings wouldn’t turn me into an eBike rider, I politely declined and mused that all he needs is a sifty white panel van and he’d be set as the Kapiti Coast’s Heisenberg. Speaking of being set, in an experience that made me want to reach for “27.5 Ain’t Dead” stickers with a panicked despair, I got to start the day following/riding at race pace to try and follow JC down the traditional warm up run. By ‘warm up’, I mean race pace:
But let us turn our attention to the Rodfather playing another Pulp Fiction character, this time giving zero fucks about the weather and proving that he’s also Butch, boxing well above his weight and below his age as he lands a killer knock-out blow on my ego by oozing style out of every orifice as he sends it on something I didn’t even know was a jump, all while resplendent in the Dirtiest of Gilet’s. Technically as this is Mountain Biking however, its just a fucken Vest cunt:
Some time later I arrived on the scene to soar like the wounded turkey I had selected as my spirit animal. Perhaps the most surprising thing here is that Richie even bothered to use storage space on his camera to capture this moment after Butch/Rodfather had set the bar so high that no one dared try and fuck with that shit… I mean seriously, a fucking bar turn? Who the fuck are these people?! For some strange reason, ‘Comanche’ was playing when I rode through… Not even my 2011 Troy Lee DH shorts purchased from Whistler at 4000% retail mark up could save me from mediocrity:
So yes, my Day 2 optimism turned into a ball sac kicking nightmare halfway through the first run… I burned through the sedatives faster than that pissed off T Rex in Jurassic Park 5 and then undid $800 worth of retail value Osteo treatment to return to my feeble and utterly cunted state. If you can’t hold yourself up on the bike going down ‘Bermed As’, it may be an indicator that for safety reasons it’s time to scurry back to the lodge.
It was so bad now that there were murmurings that people would rather partake in a Dutch rudder with Chris Froome than I based on my complete lack of grip strength. So then, why does one push on in such a state and conditions? I believe that’s Pride, fucking with you… Pride and the fact you’ve done the mental arithmetic and worked out that so far each run has cost you about $500, so you’d better keep the fuck going muthafucka…
Pissing cash down the MTB drain at an exponential rate aside, no one ever wants to be the weakest member of the herd that gets separated and eaten by our hungry sport. As I capitulated first physically and then mentally, I had time to hide from the rain and reflect on not only the fact that I seem to love the Gorge more than it loves me (by a considerable factor), but also goddammit how come JC has such an epic wet weather riding outfit – I mean seriously, it’s like some sort of Goretex onesie for fucks sake.
If there is one advantage of folding your tail between your legs and scurrying away from the shuttle pick up zone back to the lodge before anyone can see you its that you get first pick of the showers… Not something the wet Tranny’s were concerned with when they finally arrived back at the end of the day with their antics and frothing stoke pulsing right off the charts… Filthy.
So another departure from the Gorge where I had that understanding that it’s awesome, but also perplexed why I can’t seem to ever get on terms with it in the way I either want to, or everyone else seems to. It’s unlike anywhere else in NZ, I just wish I could figure out the key to unlocking its epicness so I sounded like everyone else who want to go back all the time.
As I sat in the airport lounge alone leaving the others to continue on shredding Nelson into the next dimension, I was interrupted from consulting all the Kings Horses and all the Kings men about whether or not my Dirt Ego could be put back together again by Ash. You may remember Ash from such excellent summer adventures as Te Iringa, and she enquired as to why I was looking on-line for Marathon XC races to enter.
I attempted to explain my woeful self and complain about my series of unfortunate events, when I noted she was sporting a moon boot set-up replete with crutches, arranged for her not from a riding incident, but from walking of all cuntish things. I quickly decided to not only shut the fuck up, but be grateful that I was still relatively in one piece. She did however proceed to look at me like I was a Trump voter when I outlined who I had been in the Gorge with and why I was self flagellating over how it panned out – She took the time to correctly point out that I had proceeded into the lions den with some of the hardest hitting homies available and to keep shit in perspective, which definitely registered as sound advice.
Final conclusions – Yes, Rodfather is basically the Quentin Tarantino of MTB, Yes, the Gorge remains awesome but also extremely demanding and Yes, the Dirt puzzle still remains unsolved as I spend winter scratching my head and getting some rehab sorted. Thanks to the awesome crew of GC’s who provided an awesome time when things went Full-Gimp and for more Lodge Laughs than a Dave Chappelle show. Kudos if you have made it through a rather long post that doesn’t really say anything other than me complaining – Not exactly vintage material.
Gimp arm update – So it’s taken me 4 months to actually get this post out, which is pathetic as my overuse syndrome, which is apparently what triggered my issues. Before you make the usual reference to epic wanking etc, I’m right handed… As such, it was Doctor Das Wolf who remotely diagnosed my issue correctly: Its the BABY! In a shameful wrap up to this post, yes, apparently the carrying of Baby Nomad in my left arm while using my right has fucked up some tendons etc. Further evidence that perhaps a gym membership wouldn’t go amiss.