I’m always slightly sceptical when a new bike park appears on the scene, promising big things, rad new trails and magical experiences. Bike parks are popping up all over the show in the Southern Hemisphere at the moment, all wanting to grab a big juicy slice of your annual bike trip cake and shove it in their face.
It just so happens that I was recently in Queenstown with a crew of Mofos that know a lot about eating peoples cake, which coincided nicely with me wanting to scratch a major new bike park itch that was almost becoming a rash for me. I’m talking about Bike Glendhu, a short drive from Wanaka, and a new star in the NZ bike park universe.
But in the case of Bike Glendhu, the hype and stunning images assaulting my eyes on the Gram were backed up by a real human endorsement, and a rad one at that. My old buddy, the Doonbuggy, sent me a raft of abusive messages about both the style of my beard and the fact that Bike Glendhu was the real deal. Ha, that’s what all the locals say though, right? Given the surrounding landscape, could this hobbit be trusted?
More than that, she suggested that if I didn’t make the pilgrimage down to check it out, then perhaps I wasn’t really that into mountain biking. Insane fighting words indeed. It was time to round up some old school soldiers and see what all the fuss was about.
The only thing that stopped me in my tracks was the Doonbuggy’s assertion that the park was extremely eBike friendly, which sounded more like a voodoo spell to ward me off than offer encouragement given how my acoustic bike echo chamber operates. With an eyebrow firmly fixed upwards fuelled by scepticism, it was time to see what was up.
The back story
Allegedly, when a farm gets too big to be a farm any more, you have to call it a station. Glendhu station was so Yuuuge that the only thing missing was the shred. The particularly rad farmer recognised this, consulted with the animals and locals and then decreed that there would indeed be shred – Setting in motion what appears to be a shit load of hard work, passion and no doubt a lot of paper work to suddenly pop a bike park out of a sack of Merino wool.
My city person summary isn’t as polished as their real back story, but all you really need to know is that Bike Glendhu needs to be somewhere in your top 3 places to ride ASAP, and for my locked down Northern Hemisphere readers, hopefully one of the first places you can jet to when the planet isn’t losing it’s shit.
The first rule of Glendhu – Take your crew… For us, this meant assembling a bunch of hard hitting middle aged shred kings to descend on Wanaka with some firm intent to blow rental bikes to pieces. If ever there was a man for such a job, you know who you need to call:
Glendhu cheat tips – Assuming this is your first time here, some items to lubricate your process for getting through the fancy electronic gate and into the promised land:
- Sign the waiver on line before you arrive
- If you’re renting a bike, bring your own pedals
- Again, if you’re renting, turn up with plenty of time to faff about getting the rig sorted, suspension dialled and for general banter abusing your mates/family members for choosing the wrong size bike.
I was forced by senior members of the TalEban to submit to a motorbike for the day, but with the deal being sweetened by the presence of a Fox 40 on the front of said machine, I quickly sacrificed my principles and prepared for an afternoon of being both intoxicated by that big beautiful orange fork, and abused by my eCult friEnds.
Do you need to have a robot bike to ride here? I’ll come back around to semi-definitively answer that later, but as we headed out into an incredibly stunning Wanaka day the rolling beauty of the initial climb up towards radness felt extremely reasonable. So much so, I alternated turning off my cyborg machine so I could embrace some sweet sweet suffering. And no, I’m not just referring to following too closely to the Rodfather.
Glendhu Semi Pro tip – Don’t embarrass yourself like I did as a Glendhu virgin by relentlessly taking photos all the way up the hill.
Yes, you will feel compelled to, but you’ll note the more experienced locals shaking their head at you as you click away, racking up about a terrabyte of images before you’ve even reached the mid point. Cue 500 LOTR references as well…
Yes, they know that the real gold here lies at the top of the hill and it’s best to keep your social media powder dry until then. I clearly lost my battle with that anxiety, almost riding myself off the track multiple times as I fumbled in a total Banger fever state, much to the amusement of the Professor.
As you can probably discern, we’d picked a banger (just to flog that word a bit more) of a day for it, with a total lack of moisture or wind to contend with. Switch back after switch back the anticipation grew for what lay ahead.
Ranger’s hand gestures and smile a solid give away that good times were queuing up and waiting for us to get this initial commute out of the way:
The (first world) problem with getting the climb out of the way is twofold. First, it’s got reasonable girth to it, a good 14km’s climbing around 500m, so be prepared to settle in getting from base camp to the Falcons Nest at the summit of the park.
The second issue? You need to factor in time to regularly stop so you can have your eyeballs assaulted by the grandness of your surroundings whilst also talking some solid shit with your crew. Luckily I had some experts in this department.
One thing that will strike you as you either meander or hammer through those 14km’s to the summit is the effort and work that has gone into building the outer loop trail. Like seriously, some hero or hero’s spent some heavy hours out here carving and crafting so you can either save your legs or, shudder, battery, as you seek out the summer. Bravo builders!
Your first taste of descending will come on the way up thanks to ‘Monsoon Hoon’, which provides some respite as well as a delicious hors d’oeuvre of what is to come later. It was enough to get the Rodfather to throw some uphill eShapes on the way up:
This may be the most I have ever blogged about a Mountain Bike climb, but I have to admit I was enthralled by the vistas surrounding us, not to mention the quality of the trail. I may have even been slightly intoxEcated as we made easy work of the final sections to close in on the summit.
Luckily we had The Creator lurking around to grab some more mad shots for us which confirm there is no bad view in this place.
Upon reaching the Falcons Nest, you will quickly surrender to your cliche inner social media monkey and embark on an aggressive spate of staged picture taking.
Don’t hate yourself, it’s perfectly acceptable to surrender to the strong narcissistic urges to bag as many bangers as possible. And more than likely, your crew will be stoking your froth to bursting point. Unless you’re The Creator, who really had to bank his mid arvo nap:
To be fair, the view out over Glendhu Bay and Lake Wanaka is utterly sensational to the point of ridiculous. You’re topping out at around 740m in elevation, so while it’s not the highest peak around these parts, it absolutely gets the job done from a vistagasim perspective.
I let my eyes get drunk on the scenery while my ears took in the solid hum of the Rodfather repeating over and over his usual chant when he’s frothing: “I’m fucking moving here“, hard to fault that thinking. No wonder people get instant PTSD when you ask them about house prices here:
Ok, so it’s been the most ridiculous stage setting ever, and I know you’re only here for the shred, so let’s get to it. Mounted atop of Ken like a hairy barbie doll, it was time to block out my machinery horror and focus on exactly what that beautiful orange Fox fork would do on the way down.
As it turned out, luckily I was well armed, because the whole crew treated the flow trail off the top like a race run (which pretty much describes the whole trip TBH). If you’re going to be piling into blind trail full gas on a bike you’ve never ridden before, why not have a stunning backdrop to go with it?
It became clear pretty quickly that ‘Upper Baywatch’ was an absolute ripper of a trail, and we took to it like a group of hooligans on E, with that Fox 40 fork saving me on multiple occasions as I forgot I was back on 27.5 kids wheels, whilst throwing all caution vigorously out the window trying to chase the Professor, who was experimenting with full gas efforts on a small rental bike.
There was no trying before buying here… An approach fully supported and encouraged by the excellent trail vaporising beneath our tires.
A quick regroup before piling into ‘Lower Baywatch’, where somehow the pace was even hotter as berms were slapped, hairpins shredded and beautiful roller jumps sent.
These are beautifully built trails, flicking you in and out of turns, allowing you to carry speed but with the confidence to go all in even though we were riding it blind. Someone put a lot of love, thought and experience into shaping these runs, and we were all savouring the benefits of that hard work.
With the Professor going full gas and my black robot death machine egging me on, it was like an out of body experience as we went mental carving down to the midpoint, giggling as the perfectly shaped berms were gobbled up and dispatched. I can confirm that there was a mosh pit of fisting as we re-grouped, with more than a few shredgasims also being unleashed.
Sure, it’s not the gnarliest or steepest runs you’ve ever dropped into, but it does make a nice change to have your crew fisting because they’re pumped up on some high speed formation flying antics as opposed to a “Holy fuck, we actually survived that” vibe, a good reminder that variety is the winner.
Glendhu semi pro tip – As the pics outline, not a lot to zero tree cover on hand, so take the time at the mid point to stock up on water and sunscreen, both of which were available when we were there. It’s quite a commute back out to the base HQ, so you really want to stay up in the park to finish off all the trails.
But where is the Tech Noir?
Good question… Yes, you can gorge on flow, pump and pop here, but what about those of you that like scary gnar in your life? Well, currently you’ll only be catered for by two shorter trails, such as ‘Dark Matter’, which also brings a rare moment of tree cover. Perfect terrain for The Creator to set up for some sniper shots in the undergrowth while we embraced the change in terrain and trail style.
I loved the change in pace of ‘Dark Matter’, with it’s trees, rock drops and tighter lines, it would be great to have more of that available in the future.
The park has around another 14km’s or so to build under it’s current concession, so hopefully Tech fiends will get some more coming their way. Meanwhile, the Rodfather wanted to hit everything else, plus move down here:
From the mid point we worked away at all the trails on offer, ticking off ‘Methane Train’ before working on ‘Jairolla’ and ‘Hare time’, all trails that reinforce the notion that this was all built by people who A) knew what was UP, B) like to have fun and C) clearly can shred.
Their toil and vision was now our ticket to radness, and the crew was not going to look that beautiful shred horse in the mouth, rental bikes or not:
How to carve up this Glendhu goodie
First up, and a predictably obvious point here from the start of this frothy rant, but bring your crew… Like, all of them:
With that key ingredient prepped, you really have three riding options based on how Glendhu is laid out:
- Shuttling – I think the Can-Am shuttle with acoustic bikes would be the way to go here, 3 hours would allow you to smoke everything going and then perhaps some follow ups on favourites. This would be at the top of my list for the return visit
- eBike – So this will sound crazier than a Qanon Facebook post, but I actually had… fun… (mouth vomit) on the E here. Which was good, as I got to stock up on self loathing. Doonbuggy was right, given the lay out of the park it does lend itself to this form of riding. Watch as some of my loyal readers google “How to send an effective death threat“, but I can’t deny that it was a pretty fucking sweet session. I won’t dwell on this whole pride swallowing aspect, but if you’re really into your E then bring your own
- Acoustic love – I commented on the way up that this place would be a Bandito paradise, and for the whippet 100-120mm crowd reading this, you can indeed come here and indulge your inner lactate monkey with unlimited boundaries. I suspect the Endurophiles would likely only make one trip up to the Falcons Nest, but there were plenty of rad locals on big bikes making the rounds whilst giving me a sideways glance for having a Fox 40 on an eBike. You could put some serious miles in here acoustically, but plan your fuel stops accordingly!
I think we cut out most trails in around 3 hours total, which naturally included mucho shit talking, casual abuse of one another and a lot of race pace type antics. It was time to chase the Rodfather one last time back to base for a well earned artisanal beer.
Is it the gnarliest park you’ll ever ride? No, not currently. If you’re used to the steepness and gnar of Queenstown Bike Park for instance, Glendhu will be a change of pace. But that’s not really a bad thing, it’s just a different vibe and gradient. It’s more spread out, but it also offers you some scenery and overall experience that felt unique for a bike park. If you’re burnt out by all these words, then I dropped a video on the Gram which gives a solid snap shot of the gang maximising on Glendhu.
It’s almost like being on a back country mission at times, but all within the supported amenities of a bike park. If it wasn’t already obvious, I loved the place, which surprised me to be honest given my initial scepticism.
I’m a sucker for big mountain scenery, so that box with ticked and then being able to go full gas on beautifully designed & built trails totally blind with a premier GC Crew finished me off. I already can’t wait for a second date:
Given it’s relative isolation, we were both stoked and surprised to find such an excellent base camp set up at the park. Key amongst this is naturally the artisanal cafe scenario that awaits you in Velo cafe, which we piled into like wild animals who will consume anything with the word ‘craft’ in it. A strong vote for the Nachos, which our group assaulted like some of the berms earlier in the day.
Chill in the bean bags, soak in the late arvo sun, refuel and abuse friends or family members about the shared shred before hitting the lake to cool off – The real deal.
Massive Dirty thanks to Ranger, Ash and the Doonbuggy for tour guiding and to Hot Rod, Annabel, The Creator, Professor A Bad and the Rodfather for ripping it all afternoon.
Big ups to the Bike Glendhu crew, it’s some hard yards opening a bike park just before a global pandemic and then winter, so respect to the perseverance and hard work which will hopefully see the park become a regular pilgrimage for those coming to the area. We salute you!
If you’re looking for a short list of places to hit in what’s left of summer 2021, make sure Glendhu and it’s surroundings are near the top of the list.