There's nothing like a road trip to a world class riding destination with a bunch of mates. Last weekend a few of us left work on Thursday night and headed up to Rotorua for three days of some of the best singletrack in the world and a bit of Skyline Gondola action to take the adrenaline levels through the roof. We booked a very comfy house near the Redwoods and planned to ride as much as we could for as long as possible. We did OK.

DAY ONE. Friday morning at Skyline

After arriving at the house at midnight with a brief moment of panic as I couldn't find the email with instructions on how to get in, we had about 6 hours of sleep before we loaded up the cars and headed over to Skyline to reacquaint ourselves with huge gaps, drops and tables. The trails were running perfectly and we had a lot of fun running trains down the trails and egging each other on to go bigger and faster. Mr Black and its infamous road gap were spotted and conquered which always settles the nerves and we fooled around and put a lot of pressure on Melvin whose determination has no peers.

Melvin conquers last years demons and finally owns the ladder drop on Sprint Warrior

Aaron leading Leif into the Surgeons Table step up

Yours truly leading Leif into the Ten Fifty step-down gap.

Chris will ride anything anytime at any speed. Ladder drop Sprint Warrior.

Friday afternoon.

Singletrack nirvana was calling by early afternoon so we shot across town to the Whakarewarewa forest to sample the best trail conditions I have enjoyed for a long while...until the heavens opened.

The best way to crash is to choose the most impossible line as Melvin discovered. Everytime I got my camera out Melvin ate dirt.(Obviously I took all the blame).

Melv pretends to fix his pump while Leif fixes Melv's burped tyre

Aaron showing Chris a random trail in the jungle.

Aaron showing Chris a random trail in the jungle.

Aaron kept getting us lost in random jungle singletrack. Awesome.

And then it rained. Time to head home to the McKenzie House for hot showers, bike washing and beer drinking.

We got pretty wet on our last run and we took great pleasure knowing we were heading back to a large comfortable house with a big garage (instead of a tiny bunk cabin or motel room) to clean up and get ready for dinner. If you are considering booking a mountainbike friendly house in Rotorua then this place in McKenzie road is definitely worth a look

DAY TWO. Saturday.

It had rained pretty consistently all afternoon and night but we woke to blueish skies and a weather forecast to die rain and 17 degrees max. Perfect. You'd think we'd be annoyed at the rain but Rotorua soil drains faster than my swimming pool in the 2011 earthquake, so by the time we hit the trails, it was pretty dry with lumpy loam and only a few small puddles to throw you off your game. 

McKenzie road has a lovely back lawn for bike fettling and BBQ's.

Also a workbench with clamp, a few handy tools, a bike rack and tabletennis table.

It's always great to ride with the locals, even if they do make you feel a little inferior at times with their local knowledge keeping them way up the front of the pack. Jeff Carter and his gammy arm (I think he was mid wave...or finger?) 

Like this young show boater Kevin Stanbra on Frank 'n Furter. Aaron Baddiley out back. 

Chris rides in blind and lands the 3 metre drop in Unrideable without even blinking...and he's still grinning.

Aaron boosting the step down on Billy T.

Leif on the step-up just after.

Melv came very close to going over the bars on the first drop on Dammit Janet and in my scramble to get out of the way I only caught his final slide down the second drop.

Melvin nails it. He crashed twice but kept pushing up for another crack. Melvin has big balls.

Melvins big balls soon got squashed when he realised he was about to die after landing the massive 18 inch drop you see behind him. I was in shock as this spectacular event unfolded so I forgot to keep shooting through the massive digger he took down the bank. I was reaching for my SARDymanics Personal Locator Beacon before he had even stopped tumbling, but after his screams had faded to whimpers, Melv slid down the trail, got back on his bike and pedalled himself to the medical centre.Tough?... He used to play rugby. The rest of us kept riding...great mates huh?

This is the recommended descending technique when you have lost your bike and wrenched your knee and ankle really badly.

Aaron over one of the many rocks on Rocky Horror.

Yours truly fooling about while Melvin crawls out of the woods.

Leif initially helped Melvin to safety but then decided on some fun as well.

Leif on one of the many corners of the new Split Enz.

DAY THREE. Skyline in the morning and Rainbow mountain in the afternoon.

After a big day in the saddle and on the Southstar Shuttles bus riding from 9:30am until dusk we took beer and Burger Fuel back to McKenzie road to lounge about until I embarrassed myself by falling asleep multiple times on the sofa to be woken by my own snoring. So after an early night and another early morning of coffee and banging pots and flushing the toilet to waken everyone else we hatched a plan to return to Skyline for more DH runs and then bust a move back home to Wellington stopping to ride the incredible Rainbow mountain. After a few laps of Skyline (too much fun to stop and take more pics sorry) with some great guiding from Mike Robertson we tore ourselves away to meet another Mike at Rainbow mountain. Mike Spanbroek, one of the countries highest milk yield farmers and ultra fast enduro and road (cough) racer was to chaperone us up the very steep ascent and clear the trail for one of the most exhilarating descending trails in the country. Tight technical rutted off-camber hand built singletrack into fast swooping digger built turns and floating poppers at some serious speed. There was some whooping and hollering as we dragged our handlebars through the encroaching bush. So. Much. Fun.

Mike left us to head back to the farm no doubt to play with cows udders (can I say that?) while we drove a few kilometres down the road to soak in the Waiotapu stream where a hot and a cold stream collide. I should have taken some photos of this idyllic episode but a fifty year old half naked man with a beer belly, hairy back and tight stubbies taking pictures of boys and girls in a river may have ended badly in the eyes of the law (everyone's so PC when their clothes are off) so I left the camera in the van. 


Local guide and cow farmer Mike Spanbroek (far right) begrudgingly lets us divert 30 metres to view the green lake on Rainbow mountain interrupting his training ride. Mike is arguably the fastest 50+ enduro racer in the country and wants to stay that way (I aim to push him off that perch and I'm prepared to get dirty).

Rainbow is steep and it's always a relief to get to the top and the awesome views.

The fire tower at the top would make a great BookaBach.

Chris chasing Leif back down.

With Melvin out of her way Nine was shredding and got closer to us with each run of the day.

Thanks Rotorua. You were a blast. Old friends, new friends, bikes, beer, good food, crazy stories and only one broken rider....not for long though huh Melv?