Tall Tales is a collection of our favourite crazy bike-related stories from our favourite riders, racers and industry legends.
Everyone has that story that they wait until the end of the night to pull out when the anecdotal oneupmanship starts to get into the final round. Tall Tales is a collection of our favourite bike-related stories from the best in the business.
Tall Tales comes to you via an inaugural trip to New Zealand through Ines Thoma’s eyes which involves old buses and penguin rescues.
Photos by Max Schumann.
My favorite bike story? That is a difficult question. Spontaneously this trip from 2015 came into my mind. Maybe because I just thought about painting my own old caravan this weekend.
We set aside a few weeks for my first New Zealand Road Trip in 2015. All with the best company and definitely the best vehicle you can ever imagine, unconventional, extraordinary and a little bit crazy. Motivated by this trip and by his friends to come over from Europe, Jamie Nicoll started to work on his old school bus, a Bedford J4, to get his “house” back on the road.
We flew into Christchurch, checked out the local trails and started the drive up into the beautiful and lonely hills of Craigieburn, the Christchurch backcountry. The flowy riding in middle of beech trees here is definitely one of the best in New Zealand and probably the whole world.
The journey went South along the turquoise Lake Tekapo on long and lonely country roads towards Queenstown. At Lake Tekapo the sky was even clearer than the water. A dark sky reserve from the UNESCO World heritage. Can you imagine a better camp spot than under the bright stars? The drive in the old-timer was slow and relaxing, pure deceleration with photo and coffee stops all along the way. But not all stops were planned.
Suddenly we heard a loud sound from somewhere under the bus and had to stop immediately. But with a relaxed shrug the McGyver of the MTB world would just lay under his Bedford for a couple of hours, on the side of the country road, to fix his big baby again. In the classic Kiwi manner, fix the problem with the options you have and keep on rocking. In many parts of NZ the walk to the next garage would be a long one.
The bike park in Queenstown was great but the surrounding trail network even better andutterly endless. Queenstown itself maybe a bit too loud, expensive and touristy but just for the pure riding, definitely a must. Beside riding our bikes, Jamie took us on an off-road car adventure along the gold rush heritage Skipper Valley. For sure an eye opener for me, what cars can do off the road, through rivers and down steep chutes. One time we crossed a river, that was as deep as the bonnet and I opened my side window to be ready to jump out. I could see the grin in Jamie’s eyes and felt like a roadie who saw mountain biking for the first time.
After spending two weeks in the “Whistler of NZ”, we took the coast road along the wild west coast up, passing Wanaka and Haast Pass. Jamie, and this is a true story, saved a penguin. What a man.
A penguin had become stuck stuck in an old fishing net at the beach. We had just visited the Department of Conservation, Jamie’s former work mates, when they got the call to rescue the little penguin. As nobody was available they just re-recruited Jamie and we drove to the spot. The penguin must have been there for hours, super thirsty and weak. After we cut it free, it jumped into the water straight away for the first sip.
The last days on the South island we spend in the Malborough Sounds, in the very of the South Island, to take part at the NZ Enduro. Luckily this race with its great people, camping vibe and heli shuttle matched our adventure spirit just as good. But every experience has its end we had to say goodbye to the Bedford. Not for long. We would return in 2017 and 2019 for more bus adventures.
Looking back I can not even say what I liked the most: the extraordinary riding on every spot, the welcoming and warm-hearted Kiwis or the adventure to live and drive in the Bedford.
You will be able to track down all of the crazy stories in the Tall Tales series head here.
Why not check out our Wise Words interview with the same Ines Thoma here?
Read all our other unique content on our Features page here.