Who is Tommy? And what’s the adventure? Read on to find out…
We often get emails from people saying they reckon they’ve got a great idea for an article, but then it almost always falls flat for some reason. But, when the email below landed from a random guy called Tom Wilkinson we just knew that this was one of those rare gems…
“I’ll cut to the chase. Basically I’ve gone to live in New Zealand for the winter. It’s mint.
I’m making dodgy little videos that are hopefully fun to watch.
I’ve just moved into a flat about 2 minutes ride from Dream track. Hopefully I can pluck up the gonads to try it next week, I’ll film that too so if nothing else it’ll make for a good crash video.
Can I write about it for you on the Dirt website? For free of course ( Maybe I should be paying you? ) . Quick disclaimer – I can’t be held responsible if your readership drops if you decide to say yes.
So….It’s the usual living the dream angle. Just I’m 25 now and I’m having my first mini young life crisis. I haven’t ridden much for the last four years due to hand injuries then when I got those sorted I almost lost my leg in a mild bout of something called acute compartment syndrome. But it’s all good now. Sort of. I’ll be racing the NZ series. Maybe I can crack a top ten in senior if I’m lucky. No idea if I’m of a reasonable pace or not. Probably not.
I’m going to be hooking up with Kelly Mcgarry this week, ( When I get round to calling him ) and I’ve got a new found scary acquaintance called Jimmy the BMx’er, who is some kind of self proclaimed guardian of the trails, and when he’s not throwing fire bombs out of his hands at unsuspecting kids who hang up, he’s a rad rider and decent guy. He peer pressured me into buying a shovel. Some would say that’s a minor revelation. So all of this should ensure some okay footage, if I can get some med’s for my shaky-cam issues.
What do you reckon? I’m trying to do edits on each town. I have one finished for Wanaka. It’s nothing ballistic, more a fun video with okay-ish riding.
I’ll do words too. ( May need grammar help )
Thanks, Tommy Wilkinson”
I don’t know about you lot, but just from this short email we could Tell Tommy had a bit of natural talent for writing, and we loved his straight talking honesty. So, we got Tommy to tell us more about his excellent adventure, and here’s the first part in all its video, written and photographed glory. Enjoy…
It’s a funny old thing. We get a lot of Kiwis in the high places of Northumberland’s National Park really. They come here to farm. Plenty of Black Faced ewes and the odd Texel you see. It’s no bad thing to know your sheep breeds.
Me, well, I used to be an ok racer, top five / ten expert NPS on my day, went to race a few World Cups. Never set the world on fire. Bit lazy, bit not as good as others. Went through that deluded stage that seems to infect towns like Whistler, where you think you’re awesome, but really you know that’s just bar talk for the girls, which doesn’t even impress them anyway.
Anyway, I’m now in New Zealand for the winter, riding my bike with my mate Nathan. If it sounds good, that’s because, so far, it is. Fantastic geography and topography, no nonsense folk, and friendly to boot. I’ve met more new people in a week than I did in a year in Northumberland and the Borders. Although that wouldn’t be the greatest of feats.
Anyway, once you’ve made the factually awesome decision to come to New Zealand, pick up a car. It’s vital. Make sure it’s big. Legacy’s are ten a penny and big enough to sleep in. Every car seems to have some kind of skiing or snowboard sticker on. It’s all quite scene-ey. Good if you’re into flat peaks and drinking monster energy whilst driving one handed listening to DJ Judge Jules. I’m being facetious. It’s actually very cool.
Christchurch…you’ll have to wait until part two when my DH arrives to find out more about this place.
So far, minor adventures aside, there seems to be a huge amount of riding going on. Christchurch has DH runs built by the council up in Victoria Park overlooking the city – they are pretty sweet-looking and if you’ve got a vehicle, very easy to uplift. Much like old school Innerleithen tracks, the kind that old dog Rob Warner used to surpass himself on. Remember when he dated Jet from Gladiators? What a bloke. Alex Holowko and Sam Dale are up in Nelson, and apparently that’s got a fair bit going on.
One thing I would say – bring as many bikes as you can. The xc, enduro – whatever it’s called these days – riding looks fantastic and I think you’ll be missing out if you don’t bring that and a DH bike. You don’t want to become a park rat, a situation I am currently finding myself in. I did buy a Specialized P1 for $190 dollars from a kid called Connor who makes mighty fine Pastas for the New World Supermarket Deli in Wanaka ( If you go just before closing you can buy a wholesome dinner for $1.50 in the discount section ) He gave me a lump of brie and a bike, I gave him some notes. How business should be done.
Auckland; the home of possibly the most anal customs office in the world.
On that bike subject, if you’re bringing your bike, don’t courier it. You’ll end up visiting the not so renowned sites of Auckland Customs Office, and if you’re unlucky, Christchurch Customs Office to. These guys do have a job to do, but I’m sure they must sit there stroking each other’s mildly erect members when a poor bloke like me walks in with no knowledge of section 23a of NZ customs laws.
After going via those two historic landmarks we got to Wanaka. I bought the aforementioned bike and really just rode Dirt Jumps for 5 days.
They have this place called Lismore Park, which again is council funded but from what I can see is largely maintained by a guy called Jimmy. Don’t get on the wrong side of Jimmy. When he’s not throwing fire bombs at the kids who hook up on the doubles, he’s a pretty radical rider and a nice guy. Don’t know his last name. Jimmy will do for now I think. He peer-pressured me into buying a shovel, which is unheard of, and yes I did use it. So he must be okay.
They aren’t huge trails at Lismore, and although on first sight they look biggish, they are all pretty easy when it’s not windy. Unbelievable that it’s a council funded spot. I think there are about 8 sets, with one big set of about 9 jumps, which is downhill between levels and hard to go slow enough for. Boosty lips. Always a lot of youngsters riding there which is good to see even if it does create green eyed envy of their jovial, youthful life. Little Twats. Also, being from a former Colonial Super Power it would only be right to have one little pop. It’s our God given right I believe. I’m no fasionista but I’m just not sure you should be riding dirt jumps in short shorts and sambas. I really am quite a liberal guy but it makes your riding look less good and gives everyone else a form of nausea. Plus on hip jumps your testicles may dangle within public view. I would say Balls of Steel for riding is what you want, but having seen the evidence mid table top that wouldn’t be appropriate.
You’ve also got a council backed “flow track” ( translating to bike track ) which is maybe 35 seconds long, no pedaling, just berms, rollers, doubles, all very tight. Everyone seems to like this one, from the cool kids to the guys on 29’rs. It’s good to see and after 5 pm it’s a great vibe. Being a primadonna won’t get you too far in Wanaka – everyone chips in and rides.
There are some good XC loops too – a place called Sticky Forest is one for the xc bike and is great for making your own laps up. It’s got lots of little cool DH sections and easy rides up that you can make as intense as you want. We’ve yet to check out Snow Farm (opposite Cardrona Ski Resort – about 20 minutes out of Wanaka) which has a very good downhill course by all accounts. That’ll be getting done though.
Generally Wanaka is very laid back. It’s visually stunning. And of course there are a few good watering holes. It definitely gets a Blue Peter badge (Universally recognised rating system)
In terms of comparables? It’s no BC. No bears. Not as many people doing fist pumps. But not as much riding either. It’s not trying to be BC though. Kiwi’s are Kiwis and nothing else (that’s a positive) However it’s certainly got a lot more riding than old Blighty I would say – or maybe more easily accessible riding if you will.
The Magna has served me well…kind of.
Accommodation is a pain but thankfully we’ve been crashing in our 1994 Mitsubishi Magner until now. We’ve affectionately named her Bessy, and she’s got an inkling for getting some air into the clutch fluid. So I’ve been bleeding that a fair bit. Need to take the master cylinder off and have a look but it’s a cheap car that runs and a clutch isn’t crucial anyway. I’m a seasoned pro at the old heel and toe and double de clutch. Only 3 crunches going up the box, and 4 coming down. Ari Vatanen would be proud.
Oh yes, buy a tool kit, make sure you know how to change a head gasket to, and convince a farmer to let you borrow his shed for a couple hours. See what I mean about knowing your sheep breeds – great conversation starter.
There are loads of places to freedom camp around Wanaka, and if you don’t mind roughing it, some of the spots are beautiful. Do not shit outside though. Just saying. Not sure if they have dedicated Shit Police here but they have something along those lines. I hate to think what the punishment is. ( Yet also curiously intrigued ). Shitting in the bushes is a serious violation of the law.
We managed a couple of nights with an old friend, Paddy Vero, who has been living in Wanaka with his girlfriend and performing acts of surgery on trees. He also has a great shower. He’s been here a year and hasn’t got round to sampling all the riding yet – so that gives you an idea of how much there is.
Rent wise – Wanaka is a bit cheaper than QT and not too far away really so it’s a viable alternative for a season long expedition.
We are into Queenstown now and the next little novel should be a bit more hardcore. They have Gorge Road Dirt jumps which look just rather splendid, we’ve been and checked out Dream Track and hit the Gondola a few times. I even surprised my old mucka Paul Angus from the brilliant Vertigo Bikes with my ability to wreck machinery so easily. Being 14 stone and not born with finesse does that to bikes.
This place has it going on. Till next time…