The Promise of Dirt Under Our Tyres
Our second day of riding was shorter, with less elevation gain and a healthy dose of a part of the New Zealand Cycle Trail network - the Pakihi Track.
As interesting as the back-country Motu Road Trail is, we were looking forward to getting onto a dirt trail. The Pakihi Track harks from 1906, when it was cut into the dense forest as a horse track linking Motu to Opotiki. A massive restoration project including the construction of 25 bridges saw the Pakihi Track re-opened as part of the Motu Trails in 2012.
This Isn’t Normal. Is It?
Before getting to the Pakihi Track trailhead though, our ride out of Motu started with an immediate climb with over 300m of vertical gain. Chatting the whole way without thinking about it, we realized halfway up how high we had climbed in a short distance. E-bikes change the dynamic of a ride, and it was a pleasant change from my usual glacier-like climbing speed to be able to comfortably roll alongside my riding mates and hold a conversation.
With a shorter day than yesterday, more overall descending and a shorter distance we were liberal with our selection of power mode on the bikes. Although we switched back and forth between the three modes we largely used the middle ‘trail’ mode on the climbs, with frequent short burst of ‘turbo’. The new Levo’s subtle handlebar mounted remote makes it as easy as changing gears to flip through the different power modes on the motor. It’s so much fun to crank up the power assist when wanted, especially the frankly ridiculously turbo mode
Oh Yeah, It’s Not All About the Hills.
As soon as we turned onto the Pakihi Track the tone was set for the next section of the ride. The singletrack follows the contour of the hills with a constant, albeit slight descent. Long straights are interspersed with blind corners, most of them
At around the half way mark is the Pakihi Hut, a DOC administered hut which is available for overnight stays, but for us made a perfect lunch spot.
The short, steep climb out of the hut to rejoin the trail would be a non-event on a regular bike (I would have been pushing my bike up it, that much is certain). On our Levos we dialed up Turbo mode yet again, and had at it. Gales of laughter were the result as we easily rode up what should have been borderline rideable steep straights, then tried (poorly) to modulate our speed in order to make it around the tight uphill switchbacks. It sounds trivial, but the E-bikes made a short, tough section of trail into a fun-filled event.
The second part of the track from the hut to the trail end is a mellower grade, but still slightly downhill so is fairly easy – says the guy riding an E-bike. Running alongside the river, the trail is cut into the rock face of the valley walls, in many places with no room for error as it would result in a tumble straight down a sheer rock face into the river. Although the trail itself is still fairly sedate, riders need to keep their wits about them as losing concentration or clipping a handlebar on the inside of a turn around a rock wall could have considerable consequences.
At the trail end many people ride the 20 odd kilometres of quiet gravel and sealed roads back into Opotiki, but we had our mate Jim looking after us. We had a little time before our pick up and Jim had called ahead and let the owners of Weka Wilds know we’d possibly be calling by. We crossed the shallow ford of the river rode for ten minutes to an iconic piece of Kiwi folklore – Barry Crump’s A-frame hut, relocated from further down the valley and completely restored. Although there are more modern accommodation facilities available on-site, it’s Crumpy’s hut which can accommodate four people which offers the most intrigue for its storied history
At the time, we were riding in the moment - enjoying what was on offer at any given time.
The more expected highlights are the visual snapshots banked away - from epic vistas to surreal scenes of chasing goats for photo opportunities, or having unexpected dining experiences in the most unlikely of homely rural settings.
I really can’t say enough about that plum pie. Boris didn’t get any leftovers from that.
Words & Images: Nick Lambert & Cameron Mackenzie
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