Bikes, Bikes and More Bikes

Well, I've been a little absent, but I blame my absence on the title. And by blame, I mean celebrate. Nelson has been treating me well. The team at Gravity Nelson are fun mates to be around, the work environment bubbles with growth and support. My coaching delivery has gotten better with each lesson, as are my riding abilities. I am diving into opportunity after opportunity and although I still have the occasional mental battle, I have such a greater understanding of the positives of these challenges. 

All the smiles from MTBing stoke. Photo by Digby Shaw during a staff photoshoot on local Nelson trail, 629

All the smiles from MTBing stoke.
Photo by Digby Shaw during a staff photoshoot on local Nelson trail, 629

It's now less than two months before my daddio makes the journey South from Vancouver Island to meet me in New Zealand. Our adventure on the Tour Atearoa will be one for the books. I'm so excited and nervous. Each week I dig through more information, make more plans and wrap my brain around more logistics to try and make our trip smooth, stress-free and easy. There's a lot more than you think to just getting on your bike and riding across an entire country...

My boss at Gravity Nelson, has lent me his son's bike to use for the TA. It is a 2014 Santa Cruz High Ball - a hard tail, low travel, 29er. It's a little small for me, but I'm used to riding slightly small bikes and it weighs about as much as a feather. I recently bought a bunch of BlackBurn bike packing gear: a top tube bag, a small frame bag, a handle bar bag and a seat post bag (picture in next post). I have been toying with ideas of what to bring and how to pack. I don't need much to be happy and comfortable to be honest, but some of the gear I have is not ideal for sticking on my bike. For one, my sleeping bag is a half down/half synthetic, good to -14 degrees celsius beast. I was always proud of how small I could squash it into the compression sac...but it's too big for this trip. It takes up my whole handle bar bag - not good. So I'm on the hunt for a smaller sleeping bag. I know I won't need that kind of insulation, especially since I'll most-likely also be in a bivvy when we camp since I'm even ditching my one-person tent. I'll be tarping and bivvy-ing it, and I think my dad will do the same. We only plan on camping for maybe a third of the trip so it'll fine. It's crazy how much less you can bring if you don't have a pack. I still might bring a small pack but try to strap it to the seat post bag when not using it. 

I've been exploring strategies to pick up potential sponsorships to make the trip easier and more affordable, along with building some sort of repertoire for my adventuring and travels. I know I have the right personality to be sponsored - I care a lot and I can work damn hard. I struggle with it because, although I thoroughly enjoy blogging and using social media as a way to inspire, motivate, showcase, and connect to family and friends back home (and those I meet along the way), I don't want social media to be my life and to be forced, and fake, and egotistical and promote brands and companies that I don't truly support. Also my audience isn't that big, and it kind of scares me to think that one day I might have 1 million people reading my blog, or looking at my pictures, or watching my videos, but then again, maybe that's what I'm supposed to do. Just thoughts, anyway. 

Nelson is abundant in adventures. The trail accessibility, great riding/outdoor conditions, welcoming and supportive community, and so much information about where to go, and how to plan for adventuring. I've enjoyed being part of the mountain bike community and helping riders learn how to be safe and have more fun out on the trails. There are safe progression options for all levels of riders and I'm expanding my knowledge of the trails bit by bit. The mountains are Nelson's back yard.

A couple weeks ago I rode a popular 45km loop that follows an old railroad track and mine in the mountains behind Nelson. It's called the Coppermine Loop, which follows the Dun Mountain Trail. About 15km in, you reach a hut called Third House. This is a place to fill water, use the loo and take a breather. This hut is not for over night camping, just a check point and rest area. There's no view being deep in the native forest, but it's nice and quiet. 


The next 10-15km continues to wind along the mountain sides through thick native bush, jagged boulders then opens up to nippy alpine winds. Rightfully named "Windy Point" is an open area with a big warning sign saying the track narrows, gets exposed and is windy and cold. The views are stunning. Unfortunately you can't look at them much while riding along the bumpy, rocky terrain of loose bowling balls on the track. Not long after Windy Point, comes the Coppermine Saddle. There's a small track that leads up to Rocks Hut, an overnight hut with bunks, (also rightfully named since the mountain top is scattered with rocks of every shape and size. After getting some 'summit' pictures by a friendly family of kiwis, the downhill was on. As I rounded the corner into the valley, sun beams made each ripple of native bush glow down into the Maitai Valley. The rocks got sparser, and a bright orange clay shone through. The downhill side of the Coppermine loop was meant for cruising - the corners weren't built up well, but it was still a blast. 

I never want to leave the mountains. They just keep calling. It's so cool to have that semi-alpine access only a couple hours pedal from town. 

I encourage everyone to find the thing that makes them tick. Find the thing that makes you smile, not just on the surface. But that kind of smile where you just feel stupid and can't help but have this big cheeky, grin smeared across your face. And there's no stopping that smile. It just shines. As you should always shine.  Find the thing that makes you grow, challenges you, shows you hard work and success and fear and joy. Right now, for me, that thing is bikes, more specifically, MOUNTAIN BIKES, because mountains have always been my thing too.


Here's why I ride:

(in no particular order)

- It takes me home: Nature, Mountains, Forest. It's where we belong. When I'm there, my heart and the mountains beat as one, breath as one. 

- Fitness. Our bodies are made to move. From the long spins to the short bursts of power. The climb is work, but the descent is also work. I enjoy the difference, and the variety. 

- Mental toughness. So many factors come out to play - I have to stay in control of my thoughts and confidence.

 - It demands respect and attention (Meditation/Breathe are vital).

 - Being at Mother Nature's mercy; weather, trail conditions, seasons. 

- Community. Like-minded (crazy-awesome) people with mutual understanding of the reasons, the risks, the drive and the desire. 

- Using the bike as a tool to cover longer distances than on foot, to help carry load, to experience different challenges and feelings.

- Connection. To inner self, to others, to nature.

- PLAY. Inner child gets to giggle, smile, scream, holler, and swear all the way down the mountain. 

Disappearing into the NZ native forest on 629. Photo by Digby Shaw

Disappearing into the NZ native forest on 629. Photo by Digby Shaw

Skye IrwinComment