The team behind the Trans Savoie and Enduro2 events has been working on the far side of the globe to pull together the NZ MTB Rally, a multi-day enduro that ticks all the ‘dream trip’ boxes. Let’s just drop a gallery in here to whet the appetite:
And how about a tempting piece of marketing blurb?
NZ MTB Rally is a 6-Day enduro-format adventure, traversing NZ’s as-yet-undiscovered ‘Top-of-the- South’ region. As you’d expect, it features world-class trails in a pristine backcountry environment but with a refreshing new take on the familiar ‘trans-enduro’ format by including some properly rad logistics: Multiple Heli-Drops, a Boat-Access Day, and numerous 4×4 uplifts.
The Rally’s circular itinerary comprises a completely original route; sandwiched between 3 National Parks, taking in a blend of historic backcountry tracks and purpose built MTB trails.
In simple terms, it’s an uplift-assisted enduro race. With 4 to 6 gravity-biased race stages per day, connected by scenic backcountry liaisons and shuttled uplifts using 4×4, helicopter and boat. Visiting a notably different ride-spot each day, from three different basecamp locations. It’s a route that gives the impression of going on a coherent journey, with a purpose, rather than simply cruising from one bike park to the next on a coach tour.
Whilst it’s a race, our expectations are that at least half of the 120-rider start list will be here for the adventure, awesome trails, beautiful scenery, and party vibes; not necessarily keeping a close eye on their finishing times. And likely showing only the vaguest of interest in the heroic fight for the podium going on at the top of the field.
We can’t pretend we’re not conflicted: it looks incredible, and who doesn’t want to visit New Zealand at least once in their lifetime, especially if it’s to ride bikes down mountains? But… it is a very, very, long way away, and in this day and age hopping on an aeroplane in order to hop into a couple of helicopters feels… uncomfortable. We asked Ali Jamieson, trailAddiction’s Director, a bit more about the plans.
Firstly, Ali explains that to run the event they must go through a rigorous consent / licensing application for each individual trail they want to use, and especially for each heli-drop. This includes an expert evaluation of environmental issues by an independent auditor from the Department of Conservation (DoC). He notes that helicopters are much more commonplace in New Zealand because it’s the only practical means to access a lot of the backcountry there. The Dept of Conservation (DoC) themselves regularly fly rangers and equipment about all over the place, in helicopters. They also hunt, trap, and cull invasive species by air.
Regarding concerns of carbon emissions – prepare to be surprised, because it’s not what you might assume. A typical turbine helicopter such as the one we will use burns around 85 L/km. But of course, it flies in a straight line, bottom to top. On any given hill, if you drive up it in a shuttle vehicle, because any road will zig-zag all the way up, you end up driving 4 or 5 times further than if you’d travelled in a directly straight line. Since a typical vehicle, fully loaded with bikes driving up a steep incline burns around 15 to 20 litres per 100km, actually, the helicopter works out as approximately the same as taking a regular shuttle.Ali Jamieson, trailAddiction’s Director
In our chat, it emerges that Ali is actually an officially qualified nerd when it come to this stuff – he’s a Chartered Mechanical Engineer and in a previous life worked on real world engine performance (ie, not just the lab stuff where car companies gives you numbers that your then can’t replicate when you’re out on the road, unless you drive in your socks with a tailwind in a straight line). So, he probably knows what he’s talking about.
And regarding our 4×4 shuttles: We’ve got a fleet of 12-seater and 22-seater off road vehicles. Whilst these kind of vehicle are obviously not the most economical, the C02 per passenger is actually below that of a regular minibus driving up a road (since an EU minibus can only carry 8 passengers, max).Ali Jamieson, trailAddiction’s Director
The environmental impact of uplift trucks is certainly something we’ve heard raised before, particularly in the context of objections to chairlifts on the grounds of environmental impact. Dan Atherton has previously talked with us about how keen he’d be to have a chairlift instead of trucks at Dyfi. Of course, this New Zealand event will be using helicopters, and trucks, and a boat – plus you’ve got to get out there in the first place.
Aware of these concerns, before the registration page goes live the NZ MTB Rally team plans to add information to the website about carbon offset – they’re currently working with a NZ company to bring this to the event. Interestingly, they had originally hoped to plan a shuttle-free event using ebikes, and eventually hope that will be possible. Currently however, restrictions on battery transport make this impossible:
Obviously the more environmentally friendly option would be to take no shuttles at all. We actually started this project with the aim of making it an e-bike only race. Not only does it keep the environmental (and financial) costs down but it makes the logistical organisation a whole lot easier for us too! However unfortunately, having looked into it in a lot of detail, there is at present no viable option to transport e-bike batteries by air (even if we freighted them). It’s something we would love to do in future, and remain hopeful that the aviation authorities will find a way to allow transport of ebikes by air, as soon as possible.
I’ve run an uplift-biased MTB holiday operation in the French Alps for more than 20 years and I honestly cannot wait until E-bikes are fully mainstream such that there is no longer any need or justification to be running uplift shuttles any more.Ali Jamieson, trailAddiction’s Director
If you’ve overcome your climate anxiety and are now left with lost luggage worries, Ali has a plan to make sure you don’t find yourself on the start line without a bike.
We’re working closely with AirNZ on this one, it’s not our first rodeo and we are well aware that this is a big problem for this kind of event having seen it first hand every year in our European events. The issue is nearly always on a connecting flight. In our case we have two solutions.
1) We’re offering free accommodation and catering for one extra day before the event – to mitigate the issue (not to mention allow people time to get over jet lag and travel).
2) We’re going to recommend that people fly into Christchurch. We’ll arrange a road transfer for all bikes between Christchurch and Nelson that don’t make the connection, such that they will arrive only a few hours after the riders land.
If all that answers your ‘butwhatabout…’ questions, then here’s the official line on what the event is about:
Standing out from the crowd
Multi-day enduro races such as Trans Maderia, Trans BC and The Stone King Rally offer a difficult but ever-expanding choice for the discerning amateur enduro racer. Especially such a one that has a week in-hand away from family and work responsibilities, and about €/$2000 burning a hole in the pocket of their riding baggies.
For the rest of us less-fortunate, these events still offer the perfect opportunity to soak up inspirational media content from behind our office desks and mobile phones, whilst dreaming of pulling out the stops to finally make it happen for ourselves, some day.
The NZ MTB Rally aims to stand out with its own unique approach to the multi-day format. Most notable of all, is the impressive combination of transport logistics that our team have lined up. 2 backcountry heli-drop days over the week will probably be the stand-out feature for many. But we’re not just a one trick (flying) pony: our coastal location allows an opportunity for a picturesque boat-access day mid-week, taking off from pristine beaches bordering the Abel Tasman Marine National Park. That means seals, dolphins and stingrays are likely to come as part of the package. Completing our logistical trifecta is our fleet of 12-seater 4×4 Land Cruisers that will be put to full use for multiple shuttles each day.
The finished ensemble is a party-to-pedal ratio of well over 2 to 1: our typical day averages 800 – 1300m climb and 2300 to 3000m descent. For those who don’t relish shouldering their bike, fear not: we’re not into it either. “Hike-a-bike? Hell Nah, Bro! Why walk, when you can take The Heli?” (preferably quipped whilst wearing aviator sunglasses and singlet, mullet shimmering in the breeze. Then casually popping the cap on a cold kiwi beer you just pulled from the overflowing cool box full of bevvies that you’ve stashed in the trunk of your pickup; conveniently there all along…almost as if
waiting for this very moment of manly glory).
Over the week, we average about 70% backcountry and 30% bike-park stages, although when the park stuff is hand-cut beech forest goodness, we’ll forgive you if you struggle to notice the difference. We’ll throw in a groomer most days, but if you’re here for a proper Kiwi adventure… you’ve come to the right place.
The NZ MTB Rally is pitched at experienced amateur riders with a strong intermediate skill level as a minimum. Alpine or backcountry experience; even skiing, hiking and tramping – will be a particular bonus and can go a long way to make up for your ability to pop a manual or flick a euro-style ‘endo’ in a switchback. Everything is raced ‘blind’ and on-sight. Technical grading is especially inconsistent on backcountry trails that were not originally ‘purpose built’ for MTB, and these kind of trails are our bread and butter. You can expect some exposure or narrow trails at times, and if it’s wet, plenty of slippery roots to keep you honest. If you really want to put a rating on it, expect 40% blue, 40% single-black-diamond, and 10% double-black. But know this: there are no egos here and we’re certainly not judging your skills or the number of brand-sponsors on your helmet. Besides, if you come here with that attitude (even as a pro) your ass is likely to get handed to you in an instant by some unassuming, local kiwi on a battered old hard tail, sporting her finest hi-vis vest and paint- splattered safety boots after another regular day on the Tradesman’s tools. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Introducing Nelson, New Zealand
The best NZ ride spot you’ve probably never heard of. New Zealand is already a dream destination for many, but The Rally introduces a region that has surprisingly managed to stay under the radar in spite of its quality reputation amongst Kiwis in-the-know. The start and finish point for this circular route is Nelson, at the tip of the South Island. It’s roughly halfway between Rotorua in the North, and Queenstown way down South. Somewhat off the trodden path, on a small island, itself at the very edge of the world? We figured it’s the perfect spot for an epic new take on multi-day enduro. We’ve got surprisingly easy travel connections, considering the significant travel distance for the many who’ll be reading this and immediately reaching for their travel-planner. We’ve worked out travel options and costs from various outbound locations over on our event website. Get your head around it, and you might be surprised that it’s not as difficult or expensive as you might have assumed at first.
Our area is better-known for its beautiful beaches, rugged coastline, wild mountains, national parks, golden sand, wineries and craft breweries which are typically filled with regular tourists during the NZ summer. Our region’s warm, settled climate regularly tops NZ’s sunshine-hours charts. We’ll bet you didn’t know that Nelson is an IMBA certified gold-level ride centre; one of only six, worldwide. Another fact you probably missed: Nelson was confirmed to host the EWS in 2021 and we were all ready to go; until COVID travel restrictions forced a last-minute cancellation. We were gutted. The NZ MTB Rally steps up to fill that gap, yet with something refreshingly original and that is directly accessible to any keen rider or racer, not only the pro-elites. We can barely wait to show you what you’ve been missing.
Ride Spots on the 6-day Itinerary
The itinerary takes in 6 different ride spots over the week, and the tasting notes are certainly enough to get your sealant frothing. For one, take The Wairoa Gorge. A deep, rugged valley purchased back in the 90’s by a secretive billionaire, in order to create his own rider’s Disneyland for his exclusive, private, personal use. It was hand-built over several years by a trail crew picked-out from amongst world’s best. Destiny would have it that the entire site was recently gifted to NZ’s Department of Conservation who in turn handed it over to Nelson MTB Club for operational management. (Sweet as, billionaire bro!) This is no fairy-tale, just 72 km of exquisitely crafted beech-forested goodness, accessed all day long
by a fleet of 4×4 shuttles.
Not your kinda gig? Then how about Golden Bay? A place of historic pack-tracks filled with giant ferns, inquisitive birdlife and warp-speed singletrack. We’ll ride through to the beach, tyres in the sand and beer in hand (ready for our sea-shuttle departure the next morning).
Still not feeling it? The Coppermine and Bryant Ranges might be more your thing. Mineral mining here in the 1800s has left a uniquely bare, red-stained, rugged moonscape. Multiple pack-trails run through it that have since been perfectly adapted by a dedicated professional trail crew, just for your riding pleasure. It’s a terrain that feels strangely Alpine yet is barely 1000m above sea level. From the top, you can almost see and taste that cold beer on the beach waiting for you, far below. 1 km of vert to bottom, then more shuttles? That’ll do nicely. And perhaps most smugly of all, we’ll be getting up there from base to peak in under ten minutes, courtesy of our helicopter fleet.
Beds, Not Tents
Entries are offered as an all-inclusive package, including all catering and logistics, and accommodation. We learned over 10 years of running the Trans-Savoie that tented-camps are wonderful on a fine day; not so much if its pouring down. The novelty of sleeping under canvas combined with intense days on the bike tends to wear off around day 4, by which point you’re usually longing for a proper mattress and the ability to put-on your bib-shorts whilst actually standing up. With that in mind, we’ve worked out comfortable bunk-style accommodation at each location with 3 or 4 riders sharing per room. All other logistics such as airport transfers, luggage transport and mechanic backup are all taken care of
Make a Trip of It
If you’re in for a trip to NZ, you may as well go the whole-hog, right? We thought you’d say that. That’s why we’ve found a date-window that fits just perfect with a potential NZ road trip. NZ MTB Rally is fixed for 9-16 March 2024. This comes right after the NZ National Enduro Champs (Nelson) on 2-3 March, and finishes just in time to head straight up to Crankworx in Rotorua (16-24 March).
How to Register
Generous seed-funding from the regional council has enabled us to deliver a price-point that is strongly competitive with other multi-day enduros, despite our obvious additional operating expenses such as helicopters, boats, and 4x4s, and beds (not tents). If you are considering jumping in on this adventure, 2024 is the time to do it if you want to avoid probable price hikes for subsequent editions. We’re also offering a self-supported option in limited numbers, for those on a tighter budget, or perhaps want to bring non-competing family or partners that don’t want to pitch in with a load of
Full details are available on the website with details about registration (opening soon). Entries are welcomed from E-bikers as well as unassisted/Analogue.
Yeah, we’ve had a peek… looks like return flights from the UK start at about £1,300. Plus the Rally at around €2k-ish (GBP prices to be confirmed)… trip of a lifetime, anyone?
While you’re here…
Have yourself some extra NZ riding inspiration…