Jimmy Carling brings us the weekly gossip from New Zealand which this month includes the news that the Queenstown gondola is open for bikes.
Thanks to James Allan for the photos.
On Sunday 23rd January 2010, shortly after 10am, local mountain bike history was made. For some it was a day that they never thought they would see – it’s been a long road, let there be no doubt. It has taken a huge amount of co-operation, negotiation, understanding and compromise, but as Mayor Vanessa Van Uden cut the ribbon at the gondola base building, the efforts so many people were finally rewarded with the cheers and applause of hundreds of riders from around the world. Skyline Enterprises has now officially opened its doors and bubble lifts to the mountain biking community, and there is an air of change about the town.
Speaking with Nathan Greenwood in the queue whilst we waited for our first gondola ride, he spoke of his mind-set many months ago as he commenced building the new perimeter track. He spoke of how far off this day seemed, almost as if it were so distant it was never actually going to come to fruition. He spoke of the increasing excitement as the 23rd January loomed ever closer, to the point where as he was talking, you needed only to look into his eyes to see the sheer content that lied within him. He and his team of trail builders have done everybody proud, treading a fine line and managing to satisfy both experts and beginners alike with their work on new and existing trails. Fair play to Skyline too, I had heard there was going to be a ribbon cutting before the first riders were allowed up, but I was little prepared for the efforts they had gone to, to make the opening a memorable day.
Firstly some speeches were given by representatives of Skyline, followed by a classic speech from the Mayor. She made no attempt to glaze over why it had taken so long to get to this day, naming and shaming those who had hindered progress over the years and thanking those who had not allowed themselves to become jaded and give up hope.
At the top, riders were treated to a free buffet and barbeque. Sausages, cakes, savouries and bottled beverages were all beautifully presented as dusty, sweaty; knuckle dragging downhillers dived in to fill their bellies. Vertigo Bikes also have themselves a bit of a hang-pad at the top; an old shipping container has been turned into a service centre and basic shop. So whether you smash your helmet up and need a new one, have a mechanical or just need a new tube, Tim Ceci and the boys will be there to make sure people’s days aren’t spoiled by faulty equipment.
Personally, I’m already loving the fact that when time isn’t on my side, or if I have had a long and arduous day at work, I can enjoy one of my favourite hills with a new-found ease. On Monday of this week I returned home feeling worked from having spent the day pruning some big willows, yet I managed to squeeze in two runs with Mat Weir and still had enough energy to go canyoning afterwards. Normally the climb up would have sealed the deal on my fatigue and thus enthusiasm, but this was not the case on this glorious Central Otago evening. One thing that I would like to make clear, however, is that I make no attempt to hide the fact that I greeted the initial news of the gondola opening with some trepidation. Unlike the majority I still love the half hour cycle up to the top. It has produced some very funny stories and good memories, especially when I’ve ridden up with Mat and Pete Weir… I suppose I feared it would remove a certain unique quality from the scene, and I know there are many others who feared the same. But I believe as long as local riders don’t become lazy and rely solely on the lift for their two wheeled pleasures then the opening of the gondola is a fantastic addition to an already strong and thriving mountain bike community. Remember that there is still plenty of awesome riding around that isn’t lift accessed, where the downhills have to be earned, such as Coronet Peak or Skippers Canyon. Let’s not forget these little gems. Skyline have got things off to a great start; let’s hope this continues in the following months.
Also last week was another round of Seb Kemp’s League of Gentleman Un Race series. This time was the R and R sponsored Really Railing Rally Race, combined with another favourite event, Pin It To Swim It, out at Seven Mile. Standard two dollar entry, self-timing devices and beers were all present. We even had a LoG virgin in the form of my girlfriend Victoria Macdonald… She was all over having her little cherry popped… Hubba hubba. Anyway, the Really Railing Rally Race consists of a series of timed descents on a selection of trails, with the final descent ending in the lake, as part of the Pin it to Swim it. Amusingly nobody could be arsed to time themselves, so it was really just an excuse to come to seven mile, do some chain gangs, laugh at Gingey’s new girl’s bike and get towed behind some boats in a rubber ring afterwards. It was a beautiful evening. Cheers to R and R for the barbeque, and cheers to all the huckmen and women who attended.
Finally in this week’s episode, I took the time to catch up with and interview a local legend. The term “legend” is hideously overused these days, and I make an effort to be selective about whom I apply the term to, but the following gentleman IS a legend. If you live here or are planning to come here, you need to know about him. He is to Queenstown MTB what gravy is to a roast dinner. He’s been around for some time – he’s seen shit change alright. His passion for bikes just pours out of him in a way that I simply haven’t seen in anyone else. He’s a deep thinker, a wise man – but is at the same time completely mad and full of life. There’s never a dull moment around this guy, he’s a character alright – one of my favourite characters. Ladies and Gentlemen, without further ado, I give you T Man.
Tony “T Man” Moore.
Settling into my forties nicely.
Been in QT for how long?:
How did you end up here and what makes the places so special to you?
I chose to be here because it was a special playground with a lot of likeminded people. Good place to bring up kids whilst remaining one myself. Same still applies I think.
Appalache Real with Fox each end and reliable bits. Specialized Enduro, coiled each end. Yeti Big Top SS (because it appeals to my sense of humour) and some “almost” bikes in the shed.
History of your involvement with MTB?
Wow… This isn’t a novel is it? Ummm… Got a bike in about ’87 because I lost my license for too much speeding. Took the bike off road and loved it and it was a good distraction from other vices at the time. Met cool people, rode amazing places, did a bunch of racing, won some titles and met more cool people. Rode epic trails, both here and abroad, did coaching, retailing, digging, racing, film work, consulting, event management, banged my head with bureaucracy and generally worked, ate, slept and breathed mountain bikes for many years. Met even more cool like-minded people, even met a partner with an amazing daughter who both liked that I was passionate about bikes and knew that bike obsession was a part of the package and still encourage me 15 years later. Been continuing to fake it as a bike bum ever since that first ride. There’s a lot missing in there too, including about how my young Lexi came along to put bikes into perspective. But you get the idea… Moving on…
Favourite place to ride in NZ?
Native single track, or somewhere new and fun with my crew and/or the locals. But strictly only on days ending in the letter “Y”. NZ has too many “best rides”. Truly, ask around!
You will have no doubt seen some changes in your time here, what have been the biggest changes and has anything changed for the worse?
So much change. Don’t know that any of it is for the worse. Moments may seem like a step backward only to reveal a better way forward. The seeds that many good bikers have planted are now bearing succulent fruit. A steady stream of passionate, switched on riders are drawn to our town to share their flavour with us and keep us moving in the right direction, stop us getting “stuck in our ways”. The bike community is more cohesive now, a little disjointed, but that’s also a strength is that we are a diverse group that will always challenge each other’s ideas to make sure the greater good is often re-assessed. We don’t have all the answers, but we do a good job of being a bike friendly town with what we have to work with at this time. A mountain bike club full of doers that ride lots and put lots back into the playground. Better co-operation between corporate, governance, community etc. We as a bike community are so broad that it’s getting hard to put us into a demographic or box. We have infiltrated all sectors of the wider community so that it’s hard to deny us now. We’re not the fringe group in the corner. Then of course there’s the stuff like bikes are more accessible and fun than ever before, the critical mass that the global bike world is generating through its growth is rippling away down here too.
Your thoughts on the opening of the gondola and the package that has been presented this year?
A fantastic start, if not a “little late to class”. Always room for improvement of course, but they’ve hit the ground running. Good example of corporate, council and community (in particular a solid MTB Club), working well together. Let’s not talk about the topic of the locals trying to get it happening for the last 14+ years though! The hill is based in a bike friendly town with a nice culture, wicked variety of trails; the uplift is reliable and won’t trash your bike. There’s art, music, food, coffee, activities, talent and eye candy for all tastes at the base of the hill. Would we be greedy to want too much more?
The current scene in QT is a very close knit, dirt jump and freeride orientated one. Do you think the gondola access to the Ben Lomond Forest (aka Skyline) is going to change this?
Yes it will. My belief is that change can be good though, provided it’s well directed and well nurtured. While it’s close knit there’s enough foreign accents and unique styles around to remind us that it’s very inclusive and not exclusive. If you’re a good sort who shows respect, then you’ll be embraced. There’s also xc, backcountry, ss, cyclocross, adventure race, family ride types and even roadies too. It’s a broad range of close knit groups who all cross pollinate and interbreed quite freely with little judgement or “clique”. It’s all bikes around here mate.
How do you spend the off season? Or is there such a thing as an “off season” for you?
All the seasons are the on season. Winter is more like telemark ski’n on twin tip semi fats or snowboarding, then its multi sport days where I hit the snow before my biking in the afternoon. Work tries to get in the way, but most things in moderation… Including moderation itself.
It’s no secret that given its small population NZ has and still is producing a wealth of extremely talented riders. What is it about this fine land that makes kiwis so quick?
Dunno… Some possibilities: Being humble enough to know you’re not actually quick, so pick it up a bit anyway and knowing you can always improve. Kiwis love being the underdog. You get that with an overachieving, talk it up-type neighbour (humour me Australia), so we’re familiar with having to punch above our weight. The outdoors is really accessible here. Good parenting. Good work ethic, although it’s such a fine line between being lazy and being efficient. A young country with a young pioneering people that are used to being told they can’t do something, then go and do it anyway… maybe. Or maybe we are actually just freaks.
When you look into your crystal ball, where do you see the scene in ten years’ time?
As not a scene, but an all-encompassing culture of fun finders who place bike lifestyle and respect for likeminded bike nuts, in high regard as a measure of one’s success. And of course no punctures, no derailleurs, no “one” bike for everything, because it’s nice to have special tools for special jobs too… Substance overriding hype.
Any amusing riding stories?
Only a few thousand… The good ones won’t make family entertainment for this publication though…
Why are humans here?
To prove the ability for impossible flukes to all align with improbable timing and make us possible. To find pure communication with others. To express potential. And to kid ourselves we are the most important thing on this infinitely more supreme planet.
Tea or coffee?
Herb tea, strong black espresso.
If T Man could have one superpower, any superpower, he would choose:
Ability to heal. Self and others.
Family and friends, they let me be, faults and all. The bike community for supporting me and embracing me on so many levels, from the crew at Outside Sports looking after me no questions asked, through to the grommets and old timers inspiring me daily, the global bike crew for elevating their local culture which in turn lifts and affects me. We’re all linked through cycles…