Isn’t it funny how some of the best experiences you’ve ever had have been the ones where they either happened spontaneously, or you didn’t really know what you were getting yourself into. No, not talking about a swingers party, but I’ve got no doubt that you can all nod in agreement as you recall a night out where you said “Ok, just a quick drink” and found yourself some hours/days later in a harness with lifetime memories banked.
Yes, there’s something to be said for just saying “Fuck yeah, I’m in” without really knowing what’s going down. This is exactly the position I found myself in recently when I got a Dirty sniff that the Rodfather was heading back down to the holiest of all grails for a full noise weekend of shred: Wairoa Gorge.
“Hold on greedy cunt, didn’t you just indulge in this exclusive location and experience?!” I hear you mutter with the taste of mild disgust in your mouth… And you’d be well within your rights to express such horror at this level of gluttony, after all, its been a mere 6 weeks since I had my Gorge cherry popped by the PRO Pain train in rather moist conditions… Plus it was raining.
To be honest, my “Fuck yeah, I’m in” was more of a statement as opposed to being invited… I pride myself on not being a self inviter, but the mere aroma of a long weekend of Wairoa Gorge radness does strange things to a man and after all, what better place on the planet can you be in to build up for EWS Madeira? Pass me the Evoc Jeeves.
Given that I’d gone with the whole gatecrashing help yourself vibe, I really had no idea what the agenda was or who was going to be rocking up… But my navigation OCD got a stiffy when I saw the newly installed signs on the way out to the promised land. Heavily accented tourists and Aucklanders, breath easy, its now impossible to get lost and end up on pig squealing detail:
If 2017 has taught us anything its that idiots are immune to facts and that if you put the Rodfather and I in the same vicinity of mountain bike trails at the same time, you’re going to get pissed on quicker than you can learn to say “Yes, yes, more please!” in Russian. FYI its “Da da yeshche pozhaluysta” in case you ever find yourself in that position. Gram intel indicated the days leading up to the long weekend was highly incongruent with what was waiting in store for us…
But as I was soon to find out, the motherfucking GC Crew that was assembling itself didn’t pack any fucks in their ruck sacks about the weather, whilst I was worried about getting mud in my highly preened tail again, they were simply here to get it fucken done.
Act 1 – The Crew
If you’ve been coming back here to partake in the rants with the same alarming regularity you find yourself perusing soft porn on the Gram (“Nah man, its totally not the same thing eh, its heaps more tasteful”), then you’ve hopefully been left with the impression that WHO you ride with is right at the top of the Dirty Hierarchy of needs, putting its nose ahead of WHERE you ride as being almost important as free wifi.
I’ve then doubled down on that penchant in 2017 by finding myself becoming slightly obsessed with what I refer to as ‘Real Riders’, or in this case, real mountain bikers. Commonly referred to as Shredders, Pinners, or just Rad Cunts, its the breed of rider where people knowingly nod their heads to indicate respect and whisper “Yeah, cunt can ride can’t he?”
I didn’t realise it at the time when I was busy self inviting myself, but the weekend was already going to be legendary on account of the fact there was 9 of us… Those in the know will realise that whilst that’s not enough for a Platoon, its about the sweet spot for a gang bang, an alarming thought when you consider both the experience levels involved and the fact that we all had knee pads:
And not a millennial hipster in sight either… Much to the delight of the Rodfather and JC superstar, there was a disproportionate volume of Wairoa virgins amongst this highly experienced and seasoned crew of rad cunts… As we stood around talking about how to do stuff with winches on Utes (I added very little value there), the stench of anticipation in the morning air was beginning to finger our nostrils… It was time for Gorge fever… The Rodfather was ready to go:
Whilst there’s an outside
200% chance that there may have been some ‘Lockroom talk’ occasionally, the whole weekend was more like an extended Reservoir Dogs, except with better dialogue, less pink and more laughter. It quickly occurred to me that this wasn’t going to be your normal long weekend of riding…
And for those that wanted to know, the bike composition of this Ream Team worked out like this:
- 4 Santa Cruz – 2 Hightowers & 2 Nomads
- 2 Transitions – 1 carbon & 1 Alu Patrol
- 2 Yeti – Both SB6c
- 1 Scott something or other
Act 2 – The Lodge
Given we were rolling with some serious Gorge aficionados, it only made sense that we would base ourself in the epicentre of Radness. I’m the sort of cunt that loves the word ‘Lodge’ as it appeals to my non-bus snobbery and inner globalisation elitist, and I wasn’t disappointed when we rocked up to find this well appointed set up smack in the middle of Gnar heaven:
What slaps you about the face with this structure is the sheer remoteness of it, there is seriously nothing else out here and then BANG, a giant fuck off Lodge of radness pops out of a bowl of Salt & Vinegar Kettlefries and invites you inside to kick the fuck back and prepare to hit the park all over again. No hour drive back to Nelson here, thus affording you additional time to sit silently ignoring your buddies as you Gram up a storm. And for those that prefer the backdoor, here’s the view you’d be after:
As if Wairoa wasn’t sensational enough already, then this set up really puts it over the top into full ENDUROgasim territory. It does have some intricacies about it though (including being actually locked in), but as we learned over the 3 days when we were kicking back post ride and drinking home made craft beer and eating 48 bags of chups, its well worth locking in to get the FULL wGorge experience. How the fuck is that serenity?
If this concept gets you fully engorged then scope it out here and then get busy rounding up your crew to hit this action – My strong advice is that you have a Rodfather equivalent in the group (Catering manager, Mechanic, dude who appears to never sleep), which may be hard as there can be only ONE!
Act 3 – The Shred
Holy fuck its taken me half a rant to get to the whole point of this set up, the actual shred experience. I had foolishly let my balls get tingly that I may get to experience a dry Gorge mission and I got as tantalisingly close as you possibly can here, it didn’t start pissing down properly until we were halfway up the first shuttle uplift…
So, with virgin starfish’s freshly waxed and aggressively lubricated, it was time to froth forth and gorge on the Gorge’s finest. In a rather distinctive sign that this wasn’t simply a normal weekend of riding, we were rolling with one of the masterminds behind this whole set up, JC Superstar, who spent his opening briefing denying accusations that from some angles he looked mildly like Nigel Page:
You may remember JC Superstar, or as we quickly referred to him, ‘The Creator’, from such adventures as the #bestdayever2016 and EWS Round 1 2017. To have a running history and background lesson of everything we were riding only enhanced the experience and rammed it further and further into “Fuck, next level bro” status.
Ahhhhh, and then its time for some riding… Before this moment it had been a sustained build up of planning, booking, anticipation, packing, travel, more anticipation, asking the Rodfather 2,456 annoying questions about food, stressing if the Lodge had Wifi, cleaning kit, deftly flirting with the Air NZ check in staff to get around the over limit luggage fees, planes, ferries, utes, plentiful shit talking, Gorge war stories, one excellent bakery and then suddenly there was just the buzz of high quality free hubs, the sweet sound of Maxxis tires eating gnar and then the whoops of extreme fun getting underway in earnest…
The moment had arrived… And it was rad to see a number of the first timers finishing the initial runs with that born again ‘is this place actually for real cunts?’ look on their face… Not unlike seeing a unicorn while having a sponge bath with Kate Upton. I’m hardly a Gorge connoisseur like the Rodfather or JC Superstar, but there was something uplifting by seeing the new stoke electrifying the group, with zero fucks about the water that was now finding its way expertly through the canopy of natives. All it did was spur everyone on to maximise and very soon we found ourselves like nine little ENDURO piggy’s balls deep in the good shit:
Once this rad train left the station, it started to inhale everything that the Gorge had to offer, I’m usually the first to poke the bottom lip out and get my spoilt cunt on when the weather turns, but the team spirit here was as infectious as the Rodfather in the 90’s (and/or 80’s?), so there was nothing holding this crew back… Like a killer AI robot, the more they learned, the more they wanted to dominate.
If you’ve never got the chance to experience a train of hard hitting motherfuckers who can pretty much all ride at a similar pace on rad terrain, then you’ve been missing out… There are trails at Wairoa that really lend themselves to high-speed precision group low level flying, ‘Bermed as’ being a good example.
The intensity of chasing the wheel in front of you while you can hear another demon behind you, all while you catch a glimpse of someone carving out of a berm a few riders ahead of you is as hectic as it is intoxicating. When done properly, everyone is pushing each other along in a symphony of shred that is almost impossible to recreate solo… Yes, like an orgy:
Maxxis side knobs were being brutalised, brake fluid was being flame grilled, Carbon everything was being stress tested… “MORE” they cried. Suddenly we were like fat politicians at an all you can eat buffet, eagerly looking for the next dish to devour as JC Superstar and the Rodfather expertly constructed routes down the hill that always brought our froth to the boiling point. Much to my delight, fisting quickly became mandatory…
Nothing was off limits either, with a wet Dirty Deeds into DMT even being thrown into the mix for this insatiable pack of trail wolves to tear to pieces with gusto that has to be seen to be appreciated.
By now we were sorting ourselves into that most familiar of MTB Group ride aspects – The pecking order… Once you work out who’s who in the zoo, the self seeding action is essential for getting maximum radness out.
When done properly, everyone pulls each other along, not so much in a dutch rudder way, more in a “Holy FUCK that was fast cunt!” type style. But who were these protagonists? This group of highly experienced shred warriors, this faction of frothers, this band of gnar brothers… Well, allow me to elaborate as we enter that critical moment of character development:
- JC Superstar – You don’t come 4th in Masters at an EWS round without know what the fuck you’re doing, plus given this trail network was JC’s Sistine Chapel level masterpiece, he knew a thing or two about how to slay these runs. The only time I saw Jeff all weekend was at the top and the bottom of the runs, and when he was cooking a rad motherfucking breakfast, he did indeed cook us some fucken eggs
- The Rodfather – The rFather has been shredding it full gas all the way back to a time when the hookers paid him and the blow was always complimentary, plus Aluminium bikes were actually a thing. I’m pretty sure he was the only one who has competed at the MTB World Champs? I got to see him when he was on the side of the trail taking photos, clearly his squid commitment to capturing blogging material outdid mine. Also happens to make a mean sandwich and looks great in an apron #bromance
- Kev – If you’ve ever been continually led on and subsequently fucked over by someone, then riding behind Kev would probably give you PTSD. If you did manage to reel him in, nek minute he’s dropped the hammer like Thor and left you so far behind you start to wonder if you’ve taken the wrong turn. Kev’s other specialities include being good at rescuing you when you’re down a bank and generally smashing the fuck out of a bike like its just called him a cunt. Word up Bike companies, if you need real world reliability testing, send your shit to Kev direct!
- Daddy Fras – Amazingly Fraser arrived with broken rib injuries, a hang over from EWS Rots… The fact that he was pinned all weekend whilst also having the best work stories (no, not a cop) was nothing short of amazing. Whereas I would still be crying until I got a sponge bath (“you missed a spot”), he was taking to Wairoa’s finest gnar like a terminator crossed with a greyhound, who’s your daddy now gnar? Impressive
- Aaron – Aside from being too smart for the Gram, riding behind Aaron was both electrifying and depressing, mainly as he spent more time airborne or launching of things I didn’t even see, which constantly left me wonder how the fuck he managed it and why couldn’t I ride like that? Half a pedal stroke of a mistake and he was gone as well… Bike snobs globally still at a loss how he manages to go so fast on a Scott
- Bruce – AKA the Human swiss army knife, AKA the outcome of what would happen if Bear Grills and MacGyver made weird sweet love, Bruce is the dude you want to have with you when you fuck yourself in the bush and either need to be gutted to be fed to the rest of the group, or hopefully saved by chopper. Bruce and his Nomad pretty much spent the long weekend bossing the fuck out of the Gorge in full Gnar plow mode – Impressive to witness, assuming you could keep up
- Flipping Tom – There was widespread joy when the group discovered Tom’s age began with a ‘2’, as it meant a weekend of imparting some wildly dubious ‘knowledge’ directly into his grill on any topic the beer decided was critical. Tom impressively not only threw himself into everything the Gorge offered, but also managed to literally bounce back up from some diggers which would have hospitalised the more distinguished members of the group… His ability to bruise up resulting in him looking like a Guantanamo Bay fashion model by the end of the weekend
- Andy – So chilled out, he made a Hindu Monk looked stressed as fuck. Andy’s super power was an ability to pretty much ride everything with no fuss. Whilst I spent some time rolling around in the mud explaining to myself what a cunt I was, Andy would calmly negotiate with the rock garden/slippery root section in question and tame that shit like a boss.
6 runs in a day doesn’t sound like a lot, but if you’ve never been the the Gorge before, let me know how you feel on Run #5… Loading and unloading was becoming slower and at times felt like a high complex mathematical equation, but common sense was being overruled by frothing bung holes and the rabid desire for MORE Gorge:
My tip from the last froth about Wairoa was more relevant than ever – Bring plenty of food! The runs here demand significantly more from your legs and soul than any other location I can think of riding in NZ, both in terms of the length of the runs, but also the terrain itself. This time I had worked out that for a lot of the day you’re riding with a dirt bank to one side of you and then some form of exposure on the other side… Translation? Low margin of error territory. Fuelling up before the 5th run is my latest wisdom, especially when you’re in pursuit of rad cunts who are pinned 24/7…
It didn’t take long on day 1 to reach the conclusion that this is how I wanted my riding lyfe to be, which may sound somewhat obvious, but this was like a case study in how fucking awesome mountain biking is when conducted in A) An awesome location and B) with a rad GC Crew. A crescendo of radness that resulted in much goofy grinning, even if there was quiet alarm about feeling flogged like a cunt on day 1:
Act 4 – The Carnage
At The Gorge the carnage is multi faceted and with almost unlimited scope… Please abandon any ideas that this is your normal weekend ride at the gate and proceed accordingly. Remember in Aliens how much those Marines regretted descending into the basement of head eating doom after giving up their ammo? You’ll get to experience the same feeling here if you rock up unprepared and under gunned. Speaking of rocks, let’s start the body count with the hardware:
We ended up with more rim jobs than an early 2000’s Corporate Christmas party, with one Derby rim and a Nextie surrendering to the Gorge Gnar Gods, plus an Alu rim that shall never be the same again… Tires didn’t fare much better and it quickly felt like a case study in how badly wheels & tires are being left behind in the ENDURO bike technology arms race. As frames and suspension continues to get radder, the gap is only going to be exaggerated, order your Huck Norris kit now.
I learnt the hard way on day 1 that just because Aaron can ride across a slippery off camber rock slab at high speed, didn’t mean that I could… As I said above, when you make a mistake here, there’s a relatively good chance you’ll get to experience sliding down a bang, usually racing your bike…
This is another case study in why you need your own Rodfather on a mission like this, another human Swiss Army knife, there is no sweeter relief than hearing him say “Fuck cunt, give it here, I can fix that“, your reward for being a mechanical inept meat popsicle is that he will hand you back a perfectly functional bicycle so you can continue indulging in the destruction.
So, no one here was lacking for equipment as such, but The Gorge gives zero fucks about what brand you happened to have paid too much money for and will happily annihilate whatever you offer it. Unsurprisingly it has a particular appetite and penchant for carbon, as we found out on day 1 when Kev slayed his Derby rear rim. Cue the Rodfather accepting that challenge with an alarming rubber gloved gusto…
Holy fuck, its only part one and I feel both exhausted and frothed up all at the same time. If I’m not conveying to you what a privilege it is to ride in the Gorge, then please vigorously slap me about the face immediately. Hopefully I have inspired at least ONE of you to get busy booking in a future mission there…
If not, stay tuned for Part 2 and 3, which I triple down on the stoke and unleash some moving pictures of the antics that were had by the Ream Team.