FIELD TEST : SPRING, 2015
We Are Not Lucky
Photography by Sven Martin & John Watson
The South Island of New Zealand is remote and mostly undeveloped and offers endless varieties of trails, from high Alpine passes with rocky descents to rooty jungle walking tracks. It's a place where the time spent riding is most accurately measured in the amount of sandwiches in your pack. Many routes will typically include at least one night staying in a trail hut along the way or camping out under the stars.
Like most places, the locals know best. Unlike anywhere else, the local guides at HouseMartin are Sven and Anka Martin. Typically found at mountain bike and other cycling industry events all summer long, the pair retreats to the southern hemisphere for a second dose of summer. Finally off the circuit, they not only get a chance to ride for themselves and decompress but also share the best of it with others. In their off-season, they run a tour company where they control the schedule of the day, the trails considered, and the stoke delivered. Essentially restoring balance with the chaos that is the rest of their year.
Below is a glance into the terrain and summer days in the sun, while most of us were hunkered down for the winter.
VISITORS: Ranging from industry-insiders to world-class racers to the dedicated MTB tourists head to New Zealand for a bit of its lush terrain and other-worldly environment. Above Ross Measures leading a few of the crew from SRAM on what could be called a "work-related" ride. However, the look on Tyler Morland's face two photos below speaks to this not exactly being the worst part of their job.
TRANSPORT: Getting from trail to trail can be difficult, sometimes alternatives to the company van are needed. So when needed, the Martin's shuttle everyone by water or air. Unlike most places, helicopters and water taxi's are common and considered more like a bus then a luxurious mode of travel. That being said, the experience still impresses every time.
TRAIL HUTS: Every continent has its own version, but whether you call it a hut, bothe, or shelter, it serves the same purpose — a small, minimally-appointed place to set-down for the night or take cover from the weather. New Zealand has trail huts along many of its remote dual-use bike and hiking tracks, of which HouseMartin utilizes for many of its tours. Admittedly, Sven and Anka bring along camping gear as well just in case someone has already taken up residence for the night. The more the merrier however, and with more around the campfire the better and more plentiful the stories will be.
NEW TRAILS: Many of the trails now used for recreation were once used for industry. Charming Creek trail, just outside of Westport, on the west coast of the south island is far from a rocky downhill decent, but instead is a perfect MTB or even tricky cyclocross route made from tracks once used for mining. Like many places today, New Zealand has small armies of volunteers creating mile after mile of trails for everyone to enjoy.
LONG TRAILS: Old Ghost Road, is the largest continuous expanse of single-track in New Zealand at 85Km long; with only 4 kilometers still in development before it's completed. You also have the option to be Brought to the Ghost lake hut in the middle at the high point by helicopter, a crew of riders wound their way down the mountain through both technical bits and zen-like flow in healthy rations. Something for every type of rider.
TAKE AWAY: After days of riding with HouseMartin, John Watson summed it up as the trip that “kickstarted his stoke” for the year ahead. Which many a rider leaving NZ after such an experience may feel. The Martins hope you leave not only with some fine memories and maybe some new friends, but also some new skill to make that home-town singletrack all the more fun.