There’s nothing like a challenging weekend in the Whirinaki Forest Park near Napier or another coming up in Taupo to make you feel like a local, reckons Merren Tait.
Merren, who moved to Raglan from Wellington 18 months ago, is the riding force behind Raglan’s new mountain bike club and says the camaraderie of weekend biking excursions down the central North Island has helped turn her into a real member of the Raglan community.
The 33-year-old — who’d been a secondary school teacher for 10 years and an avid cyclist on and off for nearly 20 years — found she couldn’t get enough mountain biking, or community interaction, to keep her happy and sane away from her day job at the local library.
That, even though twice each week she bikes the long way to work via Maungatawhiri Road from her Lorenzen Bay home.
So Merren set about creating her own club in the quest for like-minded souls to share a sense of adventure and camaraderie. “I got a good response straight away,” she says of the first meeting at the Harbour View Hotel in November last year. Of the 40-odd on her emailing list, there’s now a core group of six or seven bikers, she says, and it sure beats riding alone.
The club’s first weekend away recently in Whirinaki was a good test of both endurance and group spirit, she says, and “we came out winning”.
It was a scenic 16km through beautiful podocarp forest, she explains, the last 5km of it all downhill. A fast and furious downhill ride — this time of about 10km — followed at the end of the next day’s ride too, adds Merren, which made up for the gruelling 36km, seven-hour-long Moerangi track in a southern part of the Ureweras. The ride did not finish until after dark when the glow-worms were alight, and she concedes it was definitely not an adventure for “the faint-hearted”.
Next month there’s a weekend trip to Taupo, where on the Saturday they’ll ride the W2K track that stretches from Kinloch to Whakaipo Bay, and on the Sunday break into ability groups to ride Craters of the Moon and Wairakei.
And as a reward there’ll be a free hot soak in an accessible Spa Road pool. “You’ve gotta go to the hot pools afterwards,” says Merren. Recent day trips by the new club to Rotorua and Te Aroha have also included the almost obligatory hot pools, she adds.
Merren’s keen for the local club to car pool and also to hook up fortnightly with Hamilton Mountain Bike Club, which does night rides of between one and one-and-a-half hours at its MTB park in Pukete.
But at the end of the day, she says, the new club’s about exercise and good fun for cyclists at all levels of ability, rather than competitive riding. There are also increasing mountain biking opportunities locally, through not only the likes of the new off road circuit on the Rangitahi peninsula across the Raglan West causeway but also proposed mountain bike tracks in Wainui Reserve and around the east side of Mt Karioi.
Then there’s the public walkway and cycle track soon to be opened at Te Uku wind farm. In fact there’s paper roads all over the place, says Merren. “The potential to have a really good cycle network (in Raglan) is there.”
Her advice for anyone interested is simply to “come along for a ride and see how much fun it is”.
*Raglan Mountain Bike Club is on Facebook, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.