Riders Retreat NZ Diaries – First impressions

Somehow it’s February and I find myself basking in sunshine and warmth at the Antipodes. The plan was loosely hatched last summer in Morzine after a few people had mentioned to me that they had been to NZ before and it was pretty good. Having spent the previous winter in the UK (following several winter ski seasons) I decided that I couldn’t do that again and heading to Queenstown in New Zealand for three months seemed as good a plan as any.

Lakeside view
Sun and lake views on the ride out to 7Mile

The trip was almost called off following a nasty motocross accident which involved me ripping ligaments and breaking bones in my thumb, requiring surgery and extensive physiotherapy (still ongoing). It was on again then off again several times before being decided that I could go in February rather than January as originally planned.

The 30 hour (!) flight was booked and trying to squeeze everything I needed for a three month trip into a holdall and bike bag weighting no more than 46kg between them ensued.

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Queenstown Hill Sculpture
Random sculpture with views out over the lake and mountains

I’m travelling on my own. Something I find myself doing quite often and something I really quite dislike. When you’ve got a partner in crime somehow things happen easier, you’ve got more motivation and things are generally more fun. But I find that if you’re wait for someone to come along, you could be waiting a long time. So on my own it is.

I’m riding the Saracen Ariel 140mm bike out here. I couldn’t bring two bikes with me, so something that was suitable for all occasions was needed. The new Ariel 160 would be ideal for here, but that’s not available yet. So, I put on bigger forks, Hope brakes, Reverb seatpost and a few other bits and pieces to make the 140 a bit more versatile.

Ariel 140
The Ariel 143 with new components to make it a bit more 'hardcore'

I’ve only been here a week so far, so you’ll have to wait until later for a more in depth opinion, but so far the riding has been loads of fun. It’s so arid over here and I don’t think I’ve ridden through a puddle once.

The people are very friendly and what’s very apparent is the enthusiasm for mountain biking. Everyone’s talking about what’s going to happen in the next year or so and getting really excited about the future. It’s great seeing a place in it’s infancy. The gondola has only been open one half season before and this full season and there’s definitely a whole lot of potential.


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