Monster post alert – The first ride report of 2017 is, big, rad and exceedingly frothy. So much so it may make you gag on either its girth or gushiness, its definitely a lazy holiday read. Consider yourself warned.
I’ve often wanked on that to have a rad time Mountain Biking, or to progress one’s mastering of the art of shredding there are two key ingredients required to create the magical recipe of Dirt goodness:
The right people and the right trails
With two days left in 2016, I was proved both very right, but also reminded that I’ve been remiss with my recipe, which as it turns out needed some additional ingredients to help achieve the kind of radness that one always dreams of, but seldom attains.
When I rolled into Rots Vegas for a couple of days of pumice shred action, little did I know that I was about to be on the receiving end of two of the raddest Dirt days of the year… A big claim? You’d think so given time spent in dreamy Italian locations fuelled by red wine and Gelato in 2016, not to mention some of the South Island’s finest in Trans NZ. But real talk, what was to unleash itself were the kind of days you dream of, but don’t often get to savour.
How did such radness transpire? What do you need to create such an atmosphere of froth? Well fuck, I’m glad you’ve asked! Allow me to rave like a sweaty mosh pit about the key ingredients required to blow your mind out your ears and/or make your shorts sticky whilst in the mecca of pumice & berms.
“Bring my shuttle”
I’m going to start with the greatest enabler to awesomeness you can get your ass on whilst in the Whaka forest – The Southstar Adventures Land rover private shuttle:
Sure, you can queue for the public bus, a noble gesture, but if like me you’re allergic to buses and queues, then popping smoke and calling in the Landy shuttle extraction is absolutely the way to go. If you get a group of 6 rad cunts together its also extremely cost effective and it can’t be beat for ramming in maximum laps of the forest.
Thanks to the Landy power, we managed a muscle weakening 20 runs in 2 days, which yes, fingered me more than an EWS practice weekend, but I left with that post coital bliss knowing that not a dirty drop more could be squeezed out. Oh, did I mention there was a queue:
Not only do you get to avoid the holiday period queue, but you can feed your inner elitist as a thousand eyes from the line up bore into the back of your ENDURO helmet, all screaming “cuuuuunt” as you majestically mount your forest tank with your best General Patton impersonation. Not to mention, riding packless for a full day is a golden luxury.
The other upside? Its ex-Military, so you feel Special Forces as fuck, especially if you keep your goggles on during the uplift. Don’t fuck about, if you’re in town with your crew and want to maximise, hit up Southstar Adventure shuttles to lock in your Landy experience.
You need a Jeff… With an equal portion of Rodfather
I’m not sure Jeff wants PR as a tour guide, so I won’t attempt to pimp him out here, but whatever he doesn’t know about riding in Rots clearly isn’t worth knowing… A regular on the 2W Enduro podium as well means that when he drops in you’ll find yourself not only going race speed trying to keep up, but also being led down perhaps one of the best trails you can remember riding.
As a result, you’ll spend a lot of time like this with Jeff, whilst saying “Fuck yeah man” in an alarmingly high pitched voice that makes for embarrassing Go PRO footage:
If that wasn’t enough, we decided to double down and unleash the Rodfather into the mix, because you can never have enough NZ MTB Royalty/Mafia (its open to interpretation). You may remember the Rodfather from such adventures as me breaking my neck and then it taking forever to get off Mt Vic because the paramedic spent more time flirting with him than she did getting me prepped for evac. But how can anyone say no to matching helmets, wheels and bikes?
The Rain curse is broken
The last 378 times I’ve been in Rots it’s rained like a moFuck, even in drought conditions, the moment I arrive it starts pissing like a niche porn site. Even if it wasn’t raining, the soil still had a distinct moisture level to it (not to mention: Wet roots), so much so that I can’t recall the last time I got to indulge in sweet dustiness on this hallowed turf. But finally the planets aligned and another key ingredient was dished up in unlimited supply… Perfect riding conditions for 2 days straight:
The greatest bike in the history of man?
And finally as we start to stir all these ingredients of radness into a souffle of shredding, there is one final element that took things next level… The greatest bike I have ever ridden. No, not just the greatest mountain bike I have ever ridden, but the best bike EVER of ANY discipline:
Aggressively zero amounts of bull shit there too, the Santa Cruz Hightower is mind blowing in terms of what it will do, how it does it and what it made me do. Case study: I felt so good on it on only its second proper ride that I rode the drops on ‘unrideable’ that I didn’t have the anatomy to ride during EWS Rotorua in 2015:
I’m not going to spray man froth all over this post about the big wheeled ins and outs of why the Santa Cruz Hightower is the best thing since the invention of Rob Roskopp, that needs its own post, but I shall try and weave in some hints as we watch the mixture come together to create a symphony of shredding.
Back to the main ingredients
Did I mention we had a Swiss Missile in the house? Yes, I had bent his rubbery, impact surviving arms into coming down from the cHub to sample some real trails under the guise of a “2017 Training camp”, which is really just an elaborate ruse to indulge ones single track fetish in unlimited fashion. With a crew like this, indulgence was the only option…
Rad cunts, rad bikes, rad weather, rad shuttle – With everything in place it was time to unleash the Rad as fuck trails and holy shit, I was about to have my expectations violently and deliciously reset. I thought I sort of knew Rotorua… Nope, not in the slightest. Clip in, hold on and follow the Jeff & Radfather show, it was about to deliver a masterclass:
Usually the pace would shred my nerves faster than the berms that were being vaporised under our wheels, but oddly I felt in some of the best form I can remember having, some of the gains from Finale combining with the superlative Hightower magic coming to fruition as I scampered after the Rodfather like I was one of his Coastal groupies.
Laps were being banked faster than you can fill a swamp you promised to drain, with just enough recovery time being afforded to us on the trip back up the hill in Landy radness so that we could fully commit to another full gas run. In between hitting the reset button the Rodfather preached his Plus sized sermon to a captive audience:
As we smiled politely, pretended we couldn’t hear over the throaty roar of the Landy and worked out which Insta Banger to upload, my mind wandered to the next run and what would be dished up next for us to endurogasim on. Perhaps next time it would be something so insanely steep you’d get a 29er ass massage?
On we went – run after run, I can’t ever remember dropping into laps with so much confidence and stoke factor, the Hightower and its freak show magical geometry goading me into dropping into and over everything that Jeff could throw at us, all as I squealed like a freshly serviced SRAM brake.
And the froth was spreading like a zombie apocalypse, fisting’s were flowing, cunts were getting radder and Maxxis rubber was gorging itself on hero dirt like your drunk Uncle Kevin at the Christmas buffet (“Fucken Ham is great isn’t it cunts?!”) I was mildly mesmerised by the Rodfather’s penchant for hitting any gap that was presented to him, allegedly he’s been doing this since the 90’s too:
Now usually on two days of riding like this there is some faffing, some stoppage time, some general fucking about as you can appreciate. But the tempo of this set up was different, with a crew like this and prime as fuck conditions, there was no chilling, hell, there wasn’t even a fucking lunch break… Everyone craved more shred and we were lobbed back down the hill like ENDURO hand grenades. The pace of this froth fest made Khe Sanh look like a holiday camp.
This is where the wanking on about riding with the right people comes into play, much like doing intervals, to get the most out of oneself, it helps to be dragged along with people who are fully pinned. I was fortunate enough to be able to just hold onto the coat tails of the Jeff & Rodfather show, spurred on by the prodigious momentum the Hightower loves to hold. I got to see things I shouldn’t have seen…
Hitting everything blind with people who could ride it blind folded did present it’s challenges of course, but with conditions this good, there was so much grip you’d have to be a complete basket case not to have confidence in hitting everything dished up by the tour guides. Still, Jeff found some time to squeeze in some yoga moves mid run at one point.
Picking up that competitive yoga moves vibe that was being thrown down, the Rodfather couldn’t resist a roll in the soft native undergrowth… To be fair, this makes much better video than it does a screen grab, so stay tuned for the shredit to come of this prolific day.
When we weren’t involuntarily hollering as we endurogasimed our way down Grade 6 steep chutes and drops or any number of technically awesome trails, we were blasting through berms in a choreographed fashion that will probably earn us a call from Mariah Carey. Unlike a President Elect, I won’t lie, on some runs I felt fingered and had to resort to fuelling like it was a race day, ramming in bars and gels on the way up the hill to ensure this party would never end. I was drunk on its awesomeness and didn’t want to get off the pumice dirt dance floor.
Fucken look at these shots! You can almost smell how fast the trails off the top were running. I didn’t even have time to admire the Rodfathers exceedingly functional bumbag:
I always have expectations of riding in Rotorua and they’re usually so high that the reality never manages to match up… Not this time however, this time reality was pushing expectations’ face into the pillow massively.
Every time I jumped off the Landy and pulled on my new Smith Squad goggles (fucking awesome piece of kit just quietly), I thought perhaps it couldn’t get any better than the last run we had just blazed our way down, laced with high fives, fuck yeahs and more riding that made me feel like I was having an out of body experience. And then, it would just get better again – Another new trail, another seriously rad series of sections and more examples of the big wheels dominating terrain that is simply sensational to ride on:
Meanwhile, seeing the carnage being wrought by the pair of big wheeled Hightowers, the Swiss Missile had started the #275aintdead club, whilst revelling in conditions that were far friendlier than the March 2015 EWS scenario, and on trails which we unanimously agreed were better than pretty much everything we raced on. “Bring on March 17” was the message from the Swiss train.
Of course, its not #preriding when you don’t have a race entry yet, so we were able to safely navigate the most current controversial hot topic in the ENDURO world. In doing so we freed up time for other contemporary lines of conversation, a classic example here where the Rodfather outlines what happens to the size of his testes when he straps on his wide RIM plus size set-up:
I was still floating about in a state of disbelief at how good the trails were and how good I felt riding them blind at a speed that I wish I could find in most races I do. The trails, form and Hightower big wheeled epiphany was a potent mix that had me buzzing in a manner that’s hard to find… This wasn’t just another 2 days of normal riding. This was the brutal assassination of expectations and the over delivering of plans and concepts in a manner that blew me away as much as the blast of a run down a dry Riff Raff did.
2 days, 20 runs, 6,700m of descending (which is almost more than 4 days of EWS in Finale, on a smaller hill too), and some smashed bodies all added up to an awesome way to close out 2016 in spectacular fashion. Yes, actually the best Dirt days of 2016… Yeah, I said it…
As much as you’d like to try, days like this don’t just happen all the time and even now I’m still savouring how awesome it was to experience riding such excellent trails with the right people, absolutely world class action. A massive Dirty thanks to the GC Crew and Southstar shuttles for turning two days riding into a Dirty classic:
A reminder that 2017 should all be about getting your crew together and going to work on some rad adventures in awesome locations to bank some more unforgettable experiences. Go forth and plan!! These bikes won’t ride themselves…