Two days prior to Neckgate
I tried to squint through the darkness of the shroud over my head, in a vain attempt and hope that being able to see the approaching vehicle would shed light on my situation. Ignoring instinct I closed my eyes and listened instead… Yes, it was the whirring purr of a turbo diesel vehicle. Its squeaking suspension giving away that it was also a ute, or some form of Urban Utility vehicle/Soccer Mom wagon. This fact allowed me a wry grin, not something that most people in my position would consider doing at that moment, but I knew that these Rebel shredders had an agenda. Their plan was obvious:
It was a shuttle
I tried to remain calm, but the telltale sound of Thule fastening points being tightened and the standard muttering of “Jeeze this thing is a cunt” as the customary battle with the clamping arm was undertaken was enough to lift my heart rate and make me curse softly that I hadn’t brought my ENDURO goggles with me, what a reckless fool. Thank fuck I had my overpriced POC gloves to obscure my sweaty palms.
Before I knew it I was bundled into the back of what could have been an ex-Taliban pick up and covered in a blanket of Evoc packs and ENDURO half-shell helmets. I didn’t know where we were, or more importantly where we were going, but I knew it was all about going UP.
As they joked among themselves in conversation laden with tales of urban shredding and generally being pinned, I finally managed to sweep together the courage to stammer out my first enquiry: “Where are you taking me?“, which came out more meekly than I wanted it to. Following a round of mocking laughter the one in charge simply said “Its better if you don’t know… For your own sake…“.
You may ask if a snooker ball was in my mouth at this point, but the only thing passing my lips was the sweet smoothness of a moist camelbak nipple and the taste of anticipation of what was to come. No, I was in a far more precarious situation than waiting for Zed to arrive to play Eeny, meeny, miny, moe.
That’s right, today I was a guest/sacrifice of the Wellington Insurgent Shredding Experts, or as they’re known on the WCC Most wanted list, The WISE Guys.
When I knew I was coming to my old hometown, I reached out to a representative of the WISE guys to arrange a clandestine meeting and tour of their mythical world. It may seem like a straightforward midweek ride, but we’re talking about trails ninjas that exist in the shadows of the country’s capital. Some may even have normal lives and jobs, but no matter their situation, they all lead a secretive double life in the illicit hills around Welly.
As the shroud was lifted from my head as we arrived at our first classified drop point, it was clear that these dudes had a distinct Raditutde to riding. Even the elder of the group had impeccable kit colour coordination skills that were hard not to respect. They were comfortable with a pre-ride group photo, with some obvious caveats to protect their identities…
I may have been an ex-local, but I had no idea what we were getting into when we dropped in for the first run. Usual protocol on arriving in Welly is to head to Makara Peak and wade through an ocean of Specialized Epic’s or Giant Trances, but the WISE Guys had brought me to what appeared to be the greatest little bike park to never have had a chairlift installed in it.
This rebel alliance wasn’t about to waste anyone’s time with the usual tourist spots, instead it was all about savouring what are best described as Private trails… If you’re uptight you may describe them as ‘unsanctioned’, but I think the best way to reference them is that they’re niche. Oh, and ENDUROgasmicaly fun…
But it wasn’t just awesome features, jumps, drops, carving turns and general radness that was making me froth all over my ENDURO specific life from the first few runs, it was the excellent combo of bone dry and steep technical trails which I am an utter fiend for. Carving down the hill as steep as fuck hanging out the back riding blind? Fuck YES:
Sure, I was finding the terrifying limitations of a 125mm dropper post, but I was spending more time marvelling at how utterly rad and fun these trails were. Much like the first time you enquire if ‘rear parking’ is available, was part of the goodness the knowledge that perhaps I was possibly in unsanctioned territory? Can I get a fisting for that YO!
I didn’t ask questions, mine was not to concern myself with details, I was there to keep sight of back wheels and soak up trails that made me unleash involuntary ‘fuck yeah’s’ on each shuttle run that we did. My tour guides speaking in a coded language on what we were to do next that verged on sounding like Russian, except without the invading part or massive state organised performance enhancing drug taking.
It was like I was in a hazy shredding dream… A pink Commencal with 26 inch wheels disappearing around hair pin turns like it had been shot out of a cannon? Was I having flash backs to Day Zero at Trans Provence? Or was I mesmerised by that distinctive corner slaying style of a man that surveyed Menton from the top step of a podium? It was so blurry and rapid one could be forgiven for thinking they were drunk on gnar and radness:
What am I always bitching about in terms of holding back my riding progression? What are the missing elements that mean I keep turning up with ENDURO World Series combat with a blunt plastic spoon in my hand, tiny raisin sized balls in my Fox shorts and the concentration span of prize winning Pug stud dog that hasn’t got a shot away for a month? These two things of course:
- No rad cunts to shred with
- No terrain hard enough to challenge the skills and take you outside your comfort zone
Well, I was suddenly wanting for nothing in this session, instead inundated with both ingredients and struggling to keep this rabid band of Ronin in sight. Beautiful technical terrain such as this should be worshipped, encouraged and applauded in my un-humble as fuck opinion. I know that wider society wants us to surrender to a world of grade 3 flow trails, and while this may sound ironic coming from the guy with the broken neck, we need difficult and scary trails like these to test the limits, raise the heart rate and/or bar and allow us to use cliche words like ‘progression’. Not everyone wants to get a trail vasectomy just because we’ve soiled our ENDURO shorts a few times.
Talking of progression, it seemed at times the colour co-ordinated one they called the ‘Radfather’ was defying physics and logic faster than the Go PRO could document it:
I was starting to question why I had moved away from here to a place filled with cunts who ride in the worlds most terrible kit and without any elevation. As if this wasn’t enough, even though we had done what most would consider more than a solid days ride, the WISE Guys decided that more was required.
And no, not just more of the same excellent zone that had been flooding us with variety and stoke factor in equal part, but instead a move across town to another one of their hidden hot spots. I got so fucking excited that I wanted to ride into a tree, right before a massive steep drop in… Check out the dude gagging for a visit to the Emergency Department:
Believe it or not, sort of rode that shit out. By rode it out, I mean with my balls resting on that 50mm stem and my legs doing what resembled one of my bad ass yoga moves on the handlebar. When I wasn’t busy practicing my human Tri-pod regime, I was treated to a display in how to ride steep awesome stuff with style. Forget 26 being dead or mostly out of stock in your local shop, I was being shown it presented no limitations in getting involved in the serious stuff:
My insurgent hosts had cherry picked only the best and in doing so, had somehow managed to put together a day that not only took a golden shower on comfort levels and limits, but the entire day was on trails I didn’t even know existed. This meant two things possibly 1) I have been a giant pussy when riding at home in the last 6 years or 2) I have been away for too long. Either way, it was sweet as fuck to be rolling with the right dudes now, I mean, if someone can make an ENDURO bum bag look good, the sky is the limit:
Did I think that was it? Before I had the chance to consider if it was time for a coke and to evade authorities, I was bundled into what appeared to be some sort of Pussywagon from the late 1990’s and whilst I narrowly avoided hitting my head on its roof mounted disco ball, we blasted across town for our final ripping trail of the day. Was it worth driving around for another trail? Fuck YES:
As per the rules of the Trail Witness Protection programme, this track shall remain nameless, but suffice to say that this thing was savage and hectic, in the most awesome way. Super steep chutes into berms, drops that had to be hucked (or, for transparency purposes, pussy lines for visitors/Asian tourists) and just general excellence made this final trail a total banger.
I’m about as good at grading trails as I am setting up my suspension, but I suspect this is a Grade 6, put it this way, if you lose momentum or hesitate, you’re staring down the barrel of some downhill portage. Good thing then that my shit iPhone photos made it look a whole lot tamer than it really was. Cock.
Footnote – This golden beast was massive in the dry… But trying it two days later in the wet and it was pure terror, almost to the point where I reenacted Dutch sliding into the lake whilst trying to escape the Predator/Ma Nonu. Fair to say this was a ‘summer only’ trail, unless you’re PRO as fuck.
The only disappointment I had at the end was a combination that the ride was over, mixed in with the fact that I seemed to have moved away from a place which contains trails that make the perfect EWS training grounds, complete with world class good cunts to smash them with.
Excuse my gushiness for a moment, but even if I had known this was my last ride before ending up in hospital it wouldn’t have added to how awesome a day it was. Have you ever been out for a night on the piss, expecting it to only be a few quiet Majito’s and perhaps an amateur lap dance from an out of town Air Hostess and instead its turned into a legendary night that makes the Hang Over III look like a PTA meeting? Well, that pretty much sums up this ride.
I knew I was rolling with rad dudes, but the trails we rode, the good times had and the banter throughout reminded me why I had missed home base. Thanks to the WISE guys for a memorable day out and some high quality shredding.
Speaking of high quality, if you’re Mountain Biking in NZ’s capital and need a shop to hook you up, then head to Dirt Merchants in Aro Valley. Wellington is rammed with excellent bike shops, but I’m giving this one a shout out as A) They’re mint dudes, B) They sell Santa Cruz #fuckyeah and C) This place is MTB only.
Yup, not a single skinny road part or thought in the whole place, including that Grinduro shit which happens to be the latest gimmick dished up to justify yet another product line. Pure Mountain Bike love only up in this joint, refreshing:
So my first ENDURO shred back on home soil was an off the chart occasion, a great way to kick off the mini mission and I was already salivating for more. Little did I know that destiny had other plans for me. Stay tuned for the Dirty video as I do this weird flashback action from the convalescing couch.