Twilight Biking in WellingtonBy Reuben Williams
Picture this, Courtenay Place at 5pm on a Friday evening, most people are finishing work and looking for a place to have a drink. Enter Mr. Mountain Biker, heading down Courtenay Place on what appears to be a nice 5-6 travel enduro style mountain bike. He is muddy, and he has a massive smile on his face. I double checked, what was the deal here? We’re in the middle of Wellington.
After a brief survey of the surrounding bush and hills I realise that Mt. Victoria must be a great spot for some tracks, and right on the leafy edge of the CBD. The tracks are so close to town that many Wellington bikers use these fun, rooty single tracks as part of their daily commute.
The Wellington mountain biking scene is indeed very active and there are numerous tracks all around the city and beyond, with some of the best riding being among the suburbs. If you head up the Brooklyn Hill, right up to the wind turbine, you’re at the start of a few bike tracks. Starting from the wind turbine car park, Car Parts track runs for about 1km along the side of the road back down into Brooklyn and twists and turns on some very fun bermed single track. As you come out of Car Parts, head across the road to connect to the start of Transient and this will take you through some zig-zag single track all the way down to Aro Street, and just like that, you’re in town. You won’t leave the ground much but this descent won’t disappoint if you’re looking for some fast flowing fun.
Heading the other way from the wind turbine at the top of Brooklyn, you can bike around the fenceline 4wd track to Karori, which is the home of Makara Peak Mountain Bike Park.
Makara Peak is a very well established mountain bike park with enough tracks to have you come back wanting to explore more. If you’re like me and like to get your bearings by heading straight to the top, then the Koru track and subsequent ascending tracks are a very gentle gradient climb up to the peak. There you can get a 360 degree view, that is if you’re lucky enough to get a clear day. From the peak, several options are available for all ranges of skills and experience. I found myself going back again and again to the North Face track, which is packed with berms, little jumps and hairpin corners tight enough to keep you honest. The park also has a great skills area where you can play on various height drop offs, a small pump track and narrow see-saw and log type structures.
The park is maintained by a community of volunteers, which, like many community/volunteer organisations in Wellington, is very well organised. The tracks are very well maintained and the Makara Peak website encourages participation, with regular communication about the club including upcoming dig days and ways to donate even if your time is not available to give. Who would have thought that rotten eggs actually make a great gift for the right sort of people, the stoat trapping volunteers!
A little further out of town, near the tip of the Miramar Peninsula is a deliciously fun winding descent called Jail Brake. If you are more gravity inclined and have only limited time to get a taste Wellington Mountain Biking then my recommendation would be to go ride Jail Brake, which ideally fills the gap between a life threatening downhill track and a featureless, winding cross-country track. It begins near the entrance to an abandoned car park up near the Wellington prison, and is probably intentionally not all that easy to find.
My first thoughts, upon catching my breath and allowing my fizzing brain to settle down a little after riding it for the first time, was that it’s a bikers version of a half-pipe. The track zig-zags its way down a valley and almost every corner maximises the natural steep sided walls with berms which will see you getting horizontal with very little effort. Just like a half-pipe, the berms run into a down section allowing you to gather speed for the next one, or link with a table-top. The track is packed with bermed walls, step-up jumps and drop offs, all very well designed and built, allowing you to keep as much speed as you can handle. You will leave the ground on this track, but consequences are minimal for holding back if you’re not so comfortable with downhill style riding. The neighbouring track Conviction is the rideable uphill to get you back to the top of the track again.
Armed with this new appreciation for biking in Wellington, I’d now happily give-up an afternoon of Latte sipping for some suburban mountain biking adventures in Wellington.