I bitch a lot about not getting the chance to do a ‘Real’ ride on ‘Real’ trails, or simply to experience ‘Real’ mountain biking. Most Dirty Missions allow for that, but not so much when I’m back in the cHub counting my endless list of first world problems. So, given it was Chrissy time back in NZ, there was no excuses for fake news, fake endurogasims or anything that didn’t resemble riding of the highest quality.

Prior to unwittingly being exposed to the raddest dirt days of twenty sixteen in Rots, I was gagging to unleash the Hightower on some Real terrain to get its first ‘Real’ ride on the board. The Kapiti Coast isn’t historically known as a hot bed of shredding, but I knew there was one man I could call on to show me the ways and get the holiday radness off to the right start… Deploy the Rodfather:

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If that finger could tell stories…

However when the Rodfather mentioned that we would be going into the “Aka’s” (local slang for the Akatarawa’s), my pampered Euro uplift ass was congested with a horde of PTSD flash backs and 4 horsemen like thoughts. Having been traumatised as a teenager in the back blocks of Upper Hutt thanks to the Karapoti and the weekly Lizard rectal exam on the road bike, I got all clammy at the thought of what this invitation may have actually entailed:

  • Big fuck off 4WD climbs
  • MUD, usually the kind that forms an Alien stomach scenario like bond with your bike
  • Slippery root infested descents that want to fingerbang you

Still, I wanted to get Real as fuck, so it was time to subject a gleaming new Hightower to a good, hard Rodding. Dreams of a Bromantic spin through groomed singletrack were quickly vaporised however when it became abruptly obvious that this was actually the Rodfather’s Boxing Day mafia spin. Car after van pulled into the Whareroa Farm carpark, all hauling state of the art ENDURO weaponry that reinforced the point to any bystander that this wasn’t just your normal trail ride.

The assembled posse had it all – A Marathon XC winning legend, ENDURO warriors, A dude with the word ‘Danger’ actually in his name, some of Wellington’s finest shredders and a 90’s XC legend turn wheel building extraordinaire. Holy fuck, shit was getting real… Well, like a Russian golden shower, I’d asked for it, so now it was time to face the music.

Its not often these days to feel that slight pang of nervousness before an MTB group ride and part of me savoured it, whilst also reminding me what I have been missing out on in the last few years, the radness of a solid crew. I mean, how often do you get to ride with the dude that built your wheels? And not to mention, pretty much everyone’s wheels:

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The whole Flite orgy scenario

Indeed there was so much Santa Cruz and Flite carbon porn on display that the Rodfather had to contort himself to hide a totally valid bike stiffy from the group. Always better to be proud and own that shit, it can happen to any of us dude, we salute your affections:

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“Oh, no, its just the pleats on my Royal shorts guys, honest, its an optical illusion”

When the Rodfather said we had about “an hour an a arf” climb to the top, I sort of thought he was mistaken, I mean, outside of an EWS event, did people in the real world still climb for that long on Mountain Bikes? Didn’t they just shuttle all that shit now? 1.5 hours is a decent Col in the Pyrenees FFS. But, oh, fucking, YES, he really did mean it. Real mountain bikers, Real climbing…

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As we all know, attaching a banana to your body is living dangerously

Mind you, on the way up it did give me the chance to fall in love with my new XT cassette and its 46T first gear. All while I appreciated that real mountain bikers actually love this sort of climbing… And based on the jihad I had declared on Christmas associated food, I needed a shit load more of it. But eventually, it was time to savour what everyone had slogged it out for…

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The whole column is brought to a stop when I mentioned a “Road bike”. Rodfather patiently waits for me to apologise. “Don’t even look at him boys”

Oh my… Suddenly we weren’t in the 90’s any more. Contemporary Aka’s riding appeared to be flowy, fast, steep, loamy and a whole shit load of FUN. I wasn’t sure what was astounding me more: The trails we were riding or the insane capability of the new Hightower. Its the Aka’s Jim, but not as we know it…

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A man that knows a thing or two about going bush… Or should that be jungle?

I felt galvanised by both as I did my best to keep on the back wheel of our host with the most, the stoke factor increasing the deeper we disappeared into what is best described as jungle, led by the Predator (I mean that in a completely complementary way of course). We still managed to find the time to build our mutual Hightower appreciation club. Real talk:

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Another one for the fisting mega montage: “I’ve been doing this since before it was invented”

As if things didn’t already have a Predator vibe to them (FYI, possibly the greatest movie of all time turns 30 this year just quietly), the scenery just kept on getting not only more unique, but rather ‘real’, I had zero issues lapping this up. Holy fuck, there was even a river and shit:

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Up the creek… Check the clarity

I’m not sure you can call this a ‘back country adventure mission’, we were never in risk of being eaten by an animal, or shot by cannabis farmers, nor did we need any maps, after all, who the fuck needs a map when you have a Rodfather. But, it did feel like that kind of ride for my pampered and allegedly “mid life crisis” ass… Upon conferring with the Rodfather on such an inside joke we came to the same conclusion:

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“Eat us, slowly, cunts”

Crazy blue sky, revelling in the performance of a new bike, talking shit with rad cunts and getting to explore some loose and sketchy trails through native bush, unless you’re a public bus loving hater (such people do exist I have recently learned) its hard to not call that a fucking quality Boxing Day.

I was somewhat enthralled by the old school nature of a ride like this, like I had forgotten a part of me that used to be regularly indulged in this manner before overseas life, road riding and cuntery took over. I loved the groups ability to park up and talk about essentially anything and everything that relates to bikes or the art of mountain biking.

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The think tank working through the big issues: 32 x 42 or 34 x 46?

I’d love to pepper this post with more on board riding shots of the lovely steep and techy trails that we rode to do them justice, alas the new Go PRO Hero 5 Session is an absolute piece of shit that seems to have come to market with a fatal battery drain flaw which requires the reinstallation of Firmware… More on that in a future post. To try and make up for the lack of riding shots, here’s one of the Rodfather keeping in Real AF with some mandatory Aka’s portage as we hauled out of one gully in search of more radness.

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Trans Provence 2018 training starts here

I didn’t really have a clue where we were or what we were riding trail wise, I was too busy soaking up the reality, so it was a surprise to be told we were riding up Big Ring Boulevard, a legendary piece of dirt road that once upon a time, and still is, a full gas pedalling downhill where I used to smash the fuck out of it as an exceedingly misinformed teenager, on something we called a ‘Hardtail’ no less.

However, not to dip into the cliche stash here, but some of the best was saved till last – A high speed roller coaster rip down the new DH exit still under final construction by the local crew. Fast, sweeping, dipping and diving – It felt like the classic Wellington region trail which are hard not to love. Filthy kudos to the trail builders, its a seriously fun way to get down the hill, especially when you’re following a local and ripping it as hard as you want to on a brand new bike, force feeding the bonding process.

A Dirty thanks to the Rodfather and the boys for dishing up the buffet of real riding and good times, stand back as I flog the fuck out of my usual campaign slogan, but once again its always about the people you get to ride with and the places you get to ride. Its always a good day when you get to put a big vivid tick in both boxes. More of the same in 17 please!

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