Now with the kids we all still get out on the mountian bikes everyweek, Te Aroha also has a nice collection of mountian bike tracks so if you're in town pop into "Outdoor Adventure Cycles" or "Kaimai Cycles" in Morrinsville and get the lay of the land and some local knowledge. Or you could hook up with Danielle or myself for a spin. Both my kids are now out there riding and loving it. We have great Rail Trail cycleways linking us with Paeroa, the K Gorge or Thames. Only 1hr 1/2 away from the famous Rotorua trails so we are very spoilt. Heres a wee background into my biking fetish.

 

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Pictured here at tree trunk gorge, National Park, NZ

This is my other hobby. Cycling, cycle touring and mountain biking. My first ride on a mountain bike was in Sardis, British Columbia with a friend. A Canadian called Allan with his partner Marion whom I met while playing in a bar in Queenstown NZ. In 1985 Allan and I took these Mountain bikes for a spin. Growing up on a farm I had numerous motorbikes so I was instantly hooked.I didn't really get into it full on however until I was living in Austria in 1992, I grabbed an old mtb off a rubbish pile and rode it everywhere. Then later in Holland (the land of the bikes) with Jan Paul I rode constantly while playing music at night. When I moved to London I really got into mountain biking in Epping Forest while living in Chingford.

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I worked part time for Top Banana Bike shop and started guiding groups, organising trips away and rode everyday I could. I even ended up as a cycle mechanic at Action Cycles in London. My first real mtb was a Marin Palisades Trail and it cost 500quid.During this break from music period I rode to Holland several times, rode around the Cotswolds, rode every mtb destination in England and rode to Prague with Jan Paul. I went Mtbing in Greece, Spain, France and finally came home again to NZ in 1996.

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On coming home I got a job at Mountain Action Cycles in Dominion Rd, I was soon in with the gang, Oliver Jensen, Ian Batchelor, Tony Emm, Richie Goldsbury, Gyro, Sean Keaney, Jayboy, Paul Nairn and many others, organising bike trips, running riding training sessions and mechanical workshops and eventually President of Auckland Mtb Club for one year. I met Danielle Gemmell in 1998 on one of my "Wednesday Night Rides" when sometimes I would have 50 riders following thru the trials with my good friend Tony Emm at the rear. We took part in everything, Karipoti, Round Taupo, the famous 12hr Rotorua night rides (our Rocky Mountain Team photo above with Tony far right) and group rides around NZ using Tonys Van and My van. When I met Danielle out on the trails in Riverhead on her old GT I was impressed to see her bikes hanging in her flat (pictured below). Together with the Auckland gang we all constantly rode any chance we could. I was working for Bike Barn Takapuna then and decided to do another MTB trip overseas.

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All the guys got together and we did a sunday ride with a BBQ back at Tonys when Tony and I took the last ride before heading to Nepal for 6 months in 1999 to work for Himilayan Mountain bike Tours. Pictured below is a night ride at Riverhead at Richie's ramp, below that is BBQ back at Tony's.

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Night Riding had become a very busy in the forest. Since Rob Searle (Mtn Action Cycles)began with 6 riders with home made lights in the early 90's there was now a 100 or more out in Riverhead or Woodhill on a wednesday night (today there would be 1000's everywhere). Lights were now affordable and excellent. Here's Tony in the sand at Woodhill and me rolling over a jump.

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Danielle and I have since ridin loads and loads of fantastic NZ locations. I have many great stories and friends thru mountian biking. Now living in Te Aroha we are surrounded by mountain bike trails and the awesome Rotorua is only 1hr away. We both have Santa Cruz bikes and ride every week, kids and all. I have listed some of my cycle adventures below if you want to schroll down and have a read. Biking is just so good for the soul. Now our cycling has changed to accommodate the kids.

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Luca and the bike trailer Xmas 2007 above and Danielle with Lyla Jan 2009

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Luca on the front seat above and luca on his wooden police bike Rotorua trails Jan 2009. Already luca is saying more more more when out in the trails.

Below is Luca now on his new Mtb June 2011 and Lyla on the Pearoa BMX track

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Mountain Biking in Te Aroha
Te Aroha has a purpose built track just for mountain bike riders. The track itself is approximately 10km long, taking you into the thick of the bush but never really heading too far out of town. Lacing the foothills of Mt Te Aroha, it can be quite steep in areas, making the overall distance seem a lot further.You will find easy/hard options en route with plenty to challenge more daring riders! Plenty of stream crossings, open grasslands and forest views make the track varied and exciting. As you ride, it's not uncommon to see wildlife from the track such as kereru, tui, quail and pheasants. Track conditions are excellent and well defined making for good year-round riding.If you're a more conservative rider and enjoy taking your time - fear not, this ride is also for you. As you negotiate this awesome ride, you are treated to some real eye openers; the outstretched Hauraki Plains, pretty waterfalls and the Mokena Geyser. If you time it right, you may see the geyser in action. It's the only hot water soda geyser in the world and well worth a look!The trail starts uphill as you head into the bush; quite challenging in places, as it weaves its way up and down the face of the ranges. The surface is mainly gravel or rock with some concrete. Matting covers various wooden bridges, as well as the steep ascents and descents to give grip and prevent track slippage.The track takes on a different feel at night. Sensational views of Te Aroha below (and surrounding countryside) all lit up, attract riders from all over the country. Also occasionally visible - if you look carefully enough, you can find glow worms and nocturnal wildlife.The trail starts and finishes at the top of the Te Aroha Domain with picnic tables, barbeque, hot soda spas and leisure pools. What a perfect way to finish a mountain bike ride - Pop into i-SITE Te Aroha office in the main street and pick up a map.


Holland 1993

While living near Amsterdam playing music and riding everyday with Jan Paul we travelled up and down the beach villages on the cycle networks. This is where I built up my first real fitness.

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This photo is Jan Paul and I riding along the beach pathways. Holland is amazing for cycling. Cars actually give way to you. People are friendly. Whole families are out enjoying the outdoors winter or summer.

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Jan Paul Van der Meij with Ranjan in the trailer


London Mountain Biking 1993 - 1996

While living in Chingford Northeast London I mountain biked every chance I had in the near by Epping forest. Most of our bikes now had suspension frt forts and one rider I knew had a full suspension Proflex.

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I rode mostly with Rick, Lee, Gary and a bunch of others, we always did the wednesday night rides with fairly amature head lamps. The Epping trails were smooth single tracks with not too many hills. It was always cold, so cold the mud was often frozen. The tea hut was a regular stop for cyclist's, the best fruit cake in London.

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We hired a van now and then and rode Box Hill, Leigh and even went over to Wales. This photo is of a private bike park south of London. Lee a I camped over. We weren't too hard core compared with riders today end even having front Pace forks was very special.

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I started helping out at Top Banana Mtb shop as a guide for weekend rides and generally hung out there. A really great shop in Woodford. They offered a regular wednesday night ride with (with ligts in the winter) and organised trips away. I worked with one of the owners Lloyd at Swift Call Couriers. I eventually got a job as mechanic at Action Cycles in Ludgate Circus. The Owner Tony was a real card, great to work for. Full suspension bikes were just arriving, lots of fruity Hope and Pace gear. The Middleburn cranks are still on my bike today purchased there. I loved the bike industry and would end up working in bike shops here and back in NZ for the next 5 years.

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London to Oxford

Lee and I rode in the fun ride and I had my "START NUCLEAR TESTING IN PARIS" sign on my bike the whole way. I got lots of support for the idea instead of testing down under near us. The French had only recently bombed the Rainbow Warrior in NZ.

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France Mtb Trip 1995

10 of us organised by Top Banana Cycle shop went to the Pirinees in France for a 10 day Mtb Holiday. We were met by a French guide named Patrick and each day he drove us up 1500m or so then we climbed a further 500m to then cycle down on a single track. Most of the decents started at 2000m or more. Narrow rocky trails. Patrick also gave out amazing tips, weight back, outside pedal weight etc. We all rode hard tails. What a blast. On the first steep downhill I remember we all went other the bars, Patrick had this great broken english and would casually say things like "riding too much front" and "you must not fall here" when we were on the edge of a 100m drop. The style of mountain biking was quickly changing. You should no longer just sit on the saddle. Patrick had this cool old van where he strapped a small motorbike on a front rack, he left it at the bottom of each road and once we finished riding he would ride it up and get the van.

lkgThe trails were very stoney and took a bit of dialing in but once you did they were awesome. Many started at a small prayer chapell at the extreme top all the way down into a village. People were very friendly (just don't ride on sundays) and the food was great. Did I mention the bread. I had to seperate myself from my london mates as they always wanted to eat fries with steak, fries with anything, fries with fries and drink so much beer they didn't rise in the morning or make the climb. However a few of us did and we loved it.

We were there in September, up top it was bloody cold but 1/2 way down and it was HOT so the least you started with wearring the less you had to tie onto yourself. We landed at Loudres and stayed at Bartres at the bottom of the midi climb. We started and finished at Bartres each day.

 


Wijk aan zee to Prague 1996   

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Writin by Jan Paul Van der Meij
Translated from Dutch with Google and then adjusted by Shane.
A full Dutch version is on Jan Paul's web site.
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I started my long trips away from Wijk aan Zee in 1995 with several cycling trips. The person who sent me on this track has been Shane Taylor, a singing and song-writing Kiwi who for a while lived in Wijk aan Zee. In'96 we cycled from the Netherlands to the Czech capital Prague.
With our camping equipment attached to the bike and my dog Ranja in a wicker basket we left behind from Wijk aan Zee. Every day we cycled about a hundred miles and then we turn down the tents in one camp or another or just somewhere in the forest or field. The first day we travelled through landmarks as ferry Velsen, Amsterdam forest, Soestdijk Pala. After day two we were in our tents near Oldenzaal.
For the route I had a pile of maps at 1:200,000 bought "Pied a Terre" in Amsterdam.
By Denekamp / Nordhorn we went across the border and followed for a few days a narrow road maintenance along the German Mittellandkanal: right to the east, easy to follow and without traffic.

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Shane was living in London and purchased a large quantity of pasta for the trip. "Goedkoop en het geeft veel energie" zei hij. "Cheap and it gives a lot of energy" he said. Every night we ate pasta and after four or five days pasta-a-la-burner camp we agreed we needed a change so we found a restuarant. In a quiet restaurant in the small village where we were we ate fresh asparagus soup where your fingers in on at. The rest of the meal and the beers afterwards, it already tasted divine. Was it really so incredibly good to eat or it was the huge appetite that you get after a days under the stars. The leftovers were for Ranja. We sliepen die nacht als ossen. We slept that night again under the stars.

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The next day we were again away in the early morning hour and within an hour we were in the city of Minden with stores for food and other bits and pieces. At a square in the center was a festive happening: There could certainly be tasting of good wine and there was also a kind rummage sale. We were, cycling on, just look at a stage of the German Cyclists. " Hey boys, how's the trip? I'd like to do an interview with you. One of the organizers spoke to us in English: "Hey boys, how's the trip? I'd like to do an interview with you on the stage about long distance cycling." I am known for not being able to say no. Shane with his New Zealand accent, however, had no trouble with them on behalf of us two doing our great trip together.

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One day we passed the former Iron Curtain. At this place we saw the walls, watchtowers, barbed wire and other obstacles iron burden as a museum stand. A sharp contrast with our free-biking and feeling good to just to stand there and be free. We both took a photo for that reason.

 

Route Nederland Praag Route Netherlands Prague
In former East Germany I remember how bad the roads were in former east Germany. It was mostly very nice weather but there was a period of 3 days where it was raining very heavy and there was lots of thick mud. With elastic plastic shopping bags I tried to keep my feet dry. Shane had feet of professional protectors but even they gave up after 3 days rain.

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We were in the tent and everything was no longer dry and were looking for a hotel one night. We did seem to be quite lost on looking at our maps as if the maps were drawn incorrect. We probably added 100 miles to our trip and rode in a large circle. When we did find a village we could not get a room initially because we were refused everywhere. In our muddy clothes and wild hair wet because we looked like tramps.When we explained that we do this trip for fun on the bike from Holland to Czech Republic they seemed to trust us more. The cycling tourist showed a still relatively unknown appearance in former East Germany. It started to get dark now and I was feeling like Joseph and Mary looking for a stable. Eight denials and five villages further, we found a hospitable hotel where we could dry our stuff and equipment ready for an early morning start, we were awakened by the sound of screaming cattle. Even the weather had changed to bright sunshine. At the breakfast, we heard that in a barn just behind the hotel a slaughterhouse man in a bloody apron would hose down our muddy bikes to make them sparkle like new.
The weather was now perfect as we travelled through fields filled with yellow flowers.

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We camped that night and visited the town of Colditz Castle, where Allied officers in World War 2 prisoners were held. Shane had used our maps to navigate a shortcut using back roads. There is a small "escape museum" where you can see what clever ways the prisoners tried to escape, which occasionally have succeeded too. The ancient castle is now in use as an elderly home.

On day 11 of the trip we camped in the deepest part of this forest because it was a game camp. We put our tents up in a small clearing, the mosquitoes were too good to be riding our bikes with our juicy muscular legs. Just before going to sleep there sounded all sorts of strange sounds from the forest. Sometimes creaking branches, very close. Wild deer, Ranger, Poachers or even worse. Ranja answered every sound from the forest with growling and barking. " I said to the dog: "I do not know what we all hear but now we go to sleep because we need a good rest for tomorrow. With nothing left to draw from we crept in our sleeping bags, and we fell in quiet sleep.

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We cycled some very big hills of 1/7 grade and to avoid more mountains we cycled through Dresden and Pirna along the river Elbe in the Czech Republic.
We decided instead of cooking and eating once again we found a cozy but noisy eat and drinking local bar. It was full of working class men. It became less comfortable from the moment Shane took a photo of the inside of the bar. A thick guy jumped apon us screaming to take the camera from Shane's hand and tried to open the unit to remove the film. Nobody spoke German or English word, and we did not understand what was going on. There were more people getting involved and the atmosphere was quite threatening. We were very lucky to this day that one very large man told everybody to settle down and for us to leave.
We saw this as an instance to leave quickly with broken camera but our lives intact. We flew away on our mountain bikes cycling 20km in probably 20minutes riding even too fast for the prostitutes on the road side to slow us down. Retrospect, we heard that Decin known as a not so sophisticated city of miners, whores and gambled and illegal workers.

There seem quite a few Ukrainians to work as guest workers. Then maybe the guy had not wanted his picture takin. After a long day of cycling and the photo incident, it was now too late to a restaurant or store to find. That meant to bed without food. Lucky I had a big apple, a small bottle of whiskey and a couple good earplugs to still be able to sleep through the noise of trains ran range 5 meters next to our campsite.

Back to Prague

The next day we put the remaining 130 km to Slow in the burning sun. En route we have swim in a lake to cool. I also remember a surprisingly good vegetarian meal in a restaurant at the historic square of a small town.

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At night the dark just before we rolled off the hills in the city. After 12 days we were cycling on a bench in the Tjechiese capital. We looked at the operetta-like setting of elegant buildings around us and sat on the bridge to thank ourselves for a great trip for two friends from each side of the world.
We shook hands and spent a few days in beautiful Prague before loading the bikes in a bus back to Holland.

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Nadri Mtb Holiday in Greece 1996

Lee and I went on a 10 day Mtb holiday with Shockwave who offer a complete Mtb Holiday. They even supply a good bike. Beautiful food, stunning scenery and 2000m climbs each day before rocky down hills to start again after lunch. The weather was HOT. A few snakes on the trails and a few crashes. About 12 of us grouped together.

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A picnic lunch was provided up in the mountains before we headed back down to the coast. Meals were amazing from the waterside cafes. The ground was stoney and hard to really let go on. New friends were made. Lee got terribly sunburnt but didn't care

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This is the group. 

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Nepal 1999. Himalayan Mountain Bike Tours (6 Months)

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I met a guy named Peter Stewart at Mountain Action Cycles in Auckland. He owned a tour operation in Katmandu (pictured here with the crew) and needed a few spares. We got talking and I thought why not head on over there. A year later and by now I was working at Bike Barn in Takapuna so I needed a break. I sourced 100kg of supplies along with my Rocky Mountain and a second Marin Wolf Ridge and Boarded the plane for Nepal. I had just met Danielle so she came over for 2 months at the end.

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Nepal is a great experience, maybe more for the adventurer cyclist than the hardened mountian biker. Many of the upper trails are busy with trekkers and the lower trails busy with all forms of transport. The guides at HMB Tours were amazing, great riders with tons of energy, in monsoon it rains everyday at 4pm so be prepared for mud. I met people who had done amazing rides across to Tibet, up to 4700m with vehicle support. The highest I got was 4750m trekking.

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We left the bikes at about 3200m. Nepal is a must for the adventurer. The food is a bit blan, people always in ya face but hey its there country, we were the visiters. I worked in the office organising tours and riding myself everyday, local rides and the odd epic. When the clouds part and you first get a glimspe of the high peaks you are floored, how can they be so high. I truely admire anyone who can indure those mountain climbs. Up in the mountains the Tibetan people are just lovely and the food is basic but really yummy. We did have a few problems with teenage kids throwing rocks at us while biking. It seemed a bit of a game to them and the rocks are big and be sooooo careful of dogs that chase you and try and bit your moving legs or feet. Don't ever ride into a small village at night, the dogs are very territorial and some can be very sick. Rabbies is common and with the amont of rubbish around a dogs mouth is very dangerous. Biking is still a little foriegn to most villages so you will get plenty of strange looks. The whole experience of 6 months over there was very rewarding. It really made me appreciate a lot of things I take for granted. Go to Nepal.

 


The kids are growing fast.

Both the kids love the riding, they do BMX, we have our own track at home and we go mountian biking in Rotorua every 2nd weekend or so. Danielle and I both still love Mtbing so lets hope we can stay doing it as a family for a long time yet. Luca is now nearly 7 and lyla 5 (Dec 2012)

 

Lyla and Luca (and Bella) End of year 2012 BMX Ribbon Night

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