As most of our readers will attest to, New Zealand is home to some pretty special mountain biking. From the redwoods singletrack of Rotorua, to the lift-assisted action of Queenstown, NZ is becoming just as well known for its epic singletrack as it is for its epic scenery. One place that’s a little further off the international tourist’s radar is a small town called Nelson, located at the top of the South Island. It’s home to the likes of Sven & Anka Martin, and it’s also where Chipps flew into earlier this year during the Santa Cruz Stigmata & Highball launch. The mountain biking there is unreal, and it has a very strong following, with a local MTB club that has over 1500 members.
Not far from Nelson, you’ll find a private mountain bike park called Wairoa Gorge. Over the past few years, a team of full-time trail builders have been masterfully crafting over 70km of purpose-built singletrack, which ranges from fast and flowy through to uber-technical black diamond stuff. The only problem? The bike park has been entirely off limits to the public. The park is owned by a billionaire who builds similar bikeparks around the world, which are largely for his own riding pleasure. The only exception is for an annual event called the Dodzy Enduro, where an extremely limited number of places are allocated to enthusiastic enduro racers who are granted access to the park for just two days. Otherwise, you can’t ride there unless you’re one of the full-time trail builders.
However, in a press release from the Nelson Mountain Bike Club that you can read in full below, this pristine mountain bike park is soon to be opened up for club members to ride as part of a 12 month lease agreement with RHL NZ, the owners of the park. That’s got a lot of riders in Nelson excited, and it’s also got a lot of people further afield excited about what prospects that might offer in the future. Read on to hear the full scoop…
Nelson Mountain Bike Club (NMTBC) has entered into a rent free lease agreement with RHL NZ Limited (RHL) that sees the club gain access to RHL’s 841-hectare property just outside Nelson, and the 70km of hand built mountain bike trails that have been created there.
The lease agreement is for 12 months and gives the club’s 1500 members the opportunity to ride what have been described as some of the world’s best mountain bike trails. This increases the total amount of mountain bike trails managed by the Nelson Mountain Bike Club to well over 100km.
Situated deep in the Wairoa Valley, ‘The Gorge’ is home to an amazing variety of hand-built mountain bike trails that run through a lush native and beech forest environment from a maximum elevation of 1200m. For the past four years, the facility has hosted the annual Dodzy Memorial Enduro race, which is open to the public and has typically sold out in under two minutes.
This agreement between the owners and NMTBC will see year-round access for NMTBC members that wish to take part in vehicle assisted shuttle days at The Gorge. Access will be strictly controlled by NMTBC to ensure the quality of the rider experience and that all H&S and access requirements are adhered to.
“This is quite simply the biggest thing to ever happen to mountain biking in the Nelson region, if not New Zealand, and if we weren’t on the global mountain biking map before, we certainly are now. The trails in The Gorge are sublime, and have to be experienced to be fully appreciated. One of the key features of the facility is the pristine native forest that the trails run through, which is a magical place to be. The trails themselves have been painstakingly created over several years by the best trail builders in New Zealand. NMTBC is delighted that RHL has chosen us to be the lease holder for this facility and we can’t wait to introduce our members to a whole new level of mountain biking enjoyment”, said NMTBC spokesperson Paul Jennings.
“RHL was looking for a way to make the park available to the mountain biking community at virtually no cost to the community, and enhance the conservation of the land, the native bush and habitat. After consideration we approached NMTBC who have the experience and membership base to safely manage the park, and we are very pleased that those discussions have led to a positive outcome for the club’s members and the wider mountain biking community in NZ. This will help RHL to realise its plans to develop the land into a world-class mountain bike park and to open it up to local passionate mountain bikers to benefit New Zealand. RHL NZ Limited is known and applauded for its environmental efforts in regenerating native bush and species, wilding conifer control, protecting waterways and the natural environment. It values its close working relationship with local and central Government which govern New Zealand’s precious back country spaces,” said Paul Dorrance Director of RHL.
Nick Crocker is the organiser of the Dodzy Memorial Event. He was a large part of the Wairoa Gorge build and has spent several years of his life up there. This is a post he put up on the DME site in relation to the news:
“Some pretty amazing news coming out of Nelson today. Well done to all those involved in getting the park open, awesome vision, this really will be a bit of a big deal…A big Chur to the vision and work of Dodzy and Jeff to establish and manage the project and a massive Chur to the trailcrew who built the park…It’s unreal to think your works are finally going to be shared for the world (/NMTBC members) to enjoy!”
To be eligible to ride at The Gorge NMTBC club members will purchase a Gorge Top-Up, which will include two shuttle days per year. Additional days can be purchased as and when availability allows. NMTBC will also run a limited number of events at the facility each year that the general public can enter. More information, and membership information, can be found at www.nelsonmtb.club/ride/wairoa.
The lease agreement commences on 1 November 2016.