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Mon, 06 Feb 2006

Taupo and Kawakawa Bay rides - 20:18
Jim had lined up Gary Sullivan from N-ZO to show us some trails today and there is a plan for more tour guide stuff on Wednesday sometime. Today the plan was to head down to Taupo where Gaz planned to show us around some of the great Craters of the Moon tracks then after lunch maybe some other place near the lake.

Getting a local or a group of locals to show you trails is always going to be a good idea if it can be arranged as you get to see the best riding terrain and trails that way, this definitely turned out to be the case here. Alan Vogt and Garrett Macdonald who had also flown across from Canberra for the race joined us for the morning riding. Gaz had a friend along named Jonno from Planet Cycles bike shop in Auckland, riding a rather sweet looking Santa Cruz Nomad (according to Jim, quite rare in Australia still) and we met up with Mike Metz out there who was riding a stupidly light (9.5 KG) Turner Duallie (tricked out to the max with light parts).

We parked at the sports centre in Taupo where the 100 KM Rotorua to Taupo road ride finishes and headed for the trail out past Huka Falls. There has been a lot of work on this trail in the last 6 months according to Gaz and it was pretty damn good. Fun techy riding all the way out to the mountain bike park in the forest. Some impressive bench cutting and supports to keep the trail there in both directions and safe next to the river and other fun things such as a tunnel under the highway.

Once we got to the lower trails in the park, with Gaz in the lead we really started hooking in. I stayed on Jonno's wheel and with Gaz in the lead, Gaz, Mike, Jonno and I tended to drop the others fairly regularly. I have to say, one of the resounding points in favour of N-ZO clothing I think is that the owner and designer rides a lot and is also a damn good rider, out there testing his product all the time and he rides with a lot of people who give him good feedback from a lot of riding in the gear. I was having to work to keep up which for me was a heap of fun, it is really good to ride with people who can ride faster than you as it helps your skills a lot.

During all my laps of the 24 hour race on the weekend I noticed my middle chain ring skipping and when I looked at it I found it was indeed worn almost smooth, it is almost surprising anything was able to grab the chain at all. By this point in the ride today I was slipping on every pedal stroke, so I had to stop using the middle chain ring, and use only granny or large chain ring. Due to this when we headed into town for lunch, we found a bike shop open (it was a public holiday today) who were able to provide and fit a new middle chain ring to my bike. Fortunately it was not the Corner Store who I had such a negative experience with last time I was in Taupo, if you wish to go to a bike shop in Taupo do not go to "The Corner Store" they are no good.

After lunch we drove around to the town of Kinloch about 20 KM around the lake shore from Taupo to ride to a place called Kawakawa Bay. The Queen Charlotte Track is a 76 KM single track maintained for both walkers and mountain bikers by the Department of Conservation, this track is a 6 KM out (and 6KM return) in the same manner, for use by mountain bikers and walkers, and it is similar in nature, however it is a hell of a lot more fun. This is saying something considering the Queen Charlotte track is one of the most enjoyable mountain bike rides around. This 6 KM of tight twisty climbing, descending, ridgelines, rain forest, beech style forest and all manner of terrain and obstacles is a must ride if you are in the area I suggest. I am amazed the Kennett brothers book (Classic New Zealand Mountain Bike Rides) only mentions it as another ride in the area and does not dedicate a full entry to it, this is an incredible single track, some amazing views, a lovely campsite by sparkling clear fresh water at one end of it, all in all a fantastic place.

Unfortunately for Jim he had come down with a virus and though he got through the 24 hour race he was not feeling too good so decided to give the afternoon ride a miss in favour of returning to Rotorua and collapsing into bed. The rest of us loved it, Jonno had never ridden the track before and really hooked in on some of the descents. Thanks to Gary for a fantastic day of riding and I am really looking forward to some of the treasures he says he will show us in Rotorua on the bike on Wednesday.

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