Good news – Wellington has defied the weather reports that were issued last week and today turned on some late winter goodness that meant only one thing (for a change):
It was time to ride
I had a hankering for something different today, so whilst I should have been out doing something structured pre Road Race Nationals on Sunday, I instead decided to mix it up and grab my old friend the Heckler and head to Makara Peak Mountain Bike park.
I have been massively light on sweet MTB action recently, so was stoked to pick up my trusty Santa Cruz Heckler from Angus last night for a reunion spin through Makara today, here it is getting all dirty on it:
Sure, this bike is a massive Single Pivot throw back, Aluminium, no 142 x 12, 32 Forks and no dropper post… It was going to feel shit right? My riding experience was going to be degraded right? I was going to struggle and be left wanting more surely?
Before I elaborate, its probably best to share some of the awesomeness of Makara Peak MTB Park. Wellington is extremely fortunate to have this gem so close to its CBD and massive respect needs to go to the local MTB community and some of its feverish zealots for making this place so awesome. I suspect that the only thing that would ever make me move to Karori would be if they put a chair lift in at Makara… I would quite happily buy a V10c and spend my days smashing the world class single track on this little hill.
But today I was earning the turns, so it was the usual pattern of up Koru, Sally Alley, missing link, Arahiti and to the peak. This is where its mandatory to bust out the camera, with some pleasing results:
I had started to think on the way up to the peak that the old Heckler was feeling pretty good… Smooth, everything worked perfectly, it shifted well and it felt nimble and fun. By the time I got to the summit, I was already back in love with it, and the best was yet to come.
There are a number of ways down from the summit, but as per the last few times I have been lucky enough to get some laps in here I have been loving the Northface trail to Swigg/Starfish. I rolled into it relaxed and the fun began. The Heckler started to rip and rock, halfway down I was even confused as to why it felt so good… After all, there had only been two changes since last time. This is where the little things come in. Here are the two changes:
- Wider handlebar – Going from a 700mm bar to 760mm
- Slower rebound – Yip, Just like in Whistler I slowed down the suspension to stop it impersonating a kangaroo on meth and once again, the results were awesome
Yes, these two subtle changes had dramatically increased the Heckler’s fun factor and shredability, and I got to appreciate that all the way down the hill to the carpark… So, its you’re a mountain biker there are two things you need to really do ASAP.
Firstly, head to the bike shop, bust in SWAT style and hit bike shop man with the following “I need a mother trucking carbon 760mm handlebar, stat”. Secondly, spend a reasonable amount of your time setting up your suspension properly. Yes, you may think that it is, but its an evolving process and what happens if you’re operating off a flawed principle, as I was (look, it should be bouncy!). If you suck at that sort of stuff, then call this man:
Of course, if you’re Scottishporean then no amount of my advice can save you, but these two tips are a good starting point if you want to increase MTB fun levels.
Today was also a reminder that we don’t always have to fall in love with the greatest sparkly product that the industry wants us to buy (650B I am looking at you with hateful eyes) and the revelation for me: The more you ride, the simpler you want things to be and the more fun you can have on any bike.
So, in short – Stop looking at what to buy next and get out there and ride (yes, I know I am a massive hypocrite with my 6 bikes). You may find that with a few tweaks and attention to detail, you can transform your ride. Riding 15 to 20 hours a week in 5 different countries also helps, but that’s a bit more pricey and harder to arrange than a 760mm carbon handlebar.