On Sunday 20 March 2016 a portly group of us hit the AKAs for some biking, starting at the unearthly time of 7.45am.
The Akatarawa’s or the AKAs as they’re affectionately known is a beaucoup forest in the Tararua Range. Home to the legendary Karapoti Classic bike race, the forest sports some of Wellington’s best riding – if you can find your way around them.
As we all locked and loaded in the car park a great sense of adventure came across me: you are literally going into the heart of darkness. The AKAs are a maze of old roads, logging tracks, gravel roads and unmarked trails. One wrong turn and you could be lost, perhaps for ever.
Our guides carefully navigated us through valleys, over rivers, up step escarpments and down some of the best single track I have ever experienced.
It’s no coincidence that one of the tracks is called Ho-Chi-min. On occasion, walking and riding through this forest you could mistakenly believe your in the middle of Vietnam, traipsing through the jungle: it’s enchanting.
And of course in the Vietnam war there were untold casualties from the harsh terrain and the guerilla fighting tactics of the Vietnamese. Just like then, on Sunday there were casualties too.
Causalities, a necessary evil of any war…
20 kicks (maybe more) later, after some hard hitting riding we were back out from the wilderness. The finishing straight is the ‘Yet to be named Whareroa down trail’, which is a flowy, yet to be sanctioned trail which traverses what can only be described as a cliff face. As we were told from those involved in earlier mishaps, falling off the edge is a death defying experience.
Get to the top of your favorite track, on your favorite hill, pull up your knee pads, unwind the lock out on your suspension, lower your seat post, makes sure Strava is set to record, stick your favorite tune on…
…and then fvcking hit it, hard.
There is nothing like it, and that’s why we ride, it makes us feel special and warm inside.
Which brings me onto my top 5 tracks for shredding the trails (in no particular order):
Yesterday my daughter, who is just under 5, had her first ride on her bike without stabilisers.
I’m telling you this, not just because I am the proudest dad in the world, but so that you may reflect on where it all starts.
As you get better at riding, and your bike becomes an extension of your body, you often forget that it all started: usually with your parents, brother/sister, friend pushing you along on your bike, wiling you to take that first pedal.
I can remember the first time I rode a bike without stabilisers as clear as if it was yesterday.
I lived in Papua New Guinea and I must have been about five. My father had bought my sister an I red and white BMXs (my sister could already ride, so hers was bigger).
We were in the back garden of our house, which was on stilts. The garden, as I remember it was huge, and falling off had its own dangers with poisonous snakes and spiders lying around!
My dad pushed me several times and shouted pedal and before long after a few tries I could go on my own.
I vividly remember that feeling of being on two wheels without stabilisers. The freedom and sense of accomplishment, I still get it today, but of course from different achievements.
So, well done Sienna and let that ride be the first of many.