Moun­tain bik­ing for be­gin­ners

Marlborough Express - The Saturday Express, Marlborough - - CLASSIFIED INDEX - ME­GAN SIN­GLE­TON

I amex­cit­edly sit­ting in the van with my moun­tain bike loaded in the back, the guide and my hus­band are chat­ting away in the front seats.

We drive out of pic­turesque Pic­ton where hun­dreds of kilo­me­tres of bik­ing and hik­ing trails hide among the na­tive bush of Queen Charlotte Sounds and pull over seem­ingly in the mid­dle of nowhere.

There is a lit­tle track en­trance. The Link Track. Four kilo­me­tres which will some day link Pic­ton to Have­lock. I’ve never tried moun­tain bik­ing be­fore, but I know how to ride a bike so, duh, how hard can it be? An hour later.

I think I might die. I’m so ter­ri­fied. They said it was a be­gin­ners track. The first 200 me­tres is a steep climb up which I walk my bike as no low gear is low enough to keep these thighs ped­alling.

My breath­ing labours in great heaves from my lower back to my shoul­ders. I stop to ad­mire the view, but re­ally just to re­cover my hy­per­sonic heart rate. I get off and push my bike on the in­clines. And the de­clines. I get off to go across the damp bits. And the leafy bits. And blind cor­ners. I get on only to ride straight flat bits. The views are amaz­ing. Nearly 180 de­grees over the sounds draped in deep dark green­ery that rolls down to the sea. My fear is pal­pa­ble. Or is that my pulse I hear in my ears.

I hop on and have an­other go. My left hand is squeez­ing the brake (be­cause I quickly learned the front wheel brake is touchy after nearly fly­ing into the abyss). I make my way down the hill.

My eyes are round, my mouth even rounder. Much like a cat’s bum, I imag­ine, as I breathe in short bursts imag­in­ing rolling arse over kite through the bush into the sea be­low.

I send my hus­band ahead of me. He stops ev­ery now and then and waits for me to catch up. I take ages.

There are tears. I know there’s no turn­ing back so I tell him to keep go­ing and in­ter­cept our guide whose plan was to drive the van to the end and cy­cle up to meet us. Peter Black­more. He’s 60-plus and so fit he can cy­cle up hill and talk at the same time. Turns out he’s a pro­fes­sional wa­ter skier and is off to com­pete in the States this sum­mer.

The plan didn’t work. Peter hoons up to meet me about half way through and finds me in a walk­ing phase. I’m sure he’s never met any­one quite so use­less. He tells me a story about the hon­ey­moon cou­ple from Amer­ica. The young sec­re­tary­look­ing wife kit­ted out in all the gear with her own ped­als who had never rid­den a bike be­fore and fell off a gazil­lion times. I’m not ter­ri­bly en­cour­aged. She sounds like more of a trouper than me.

I get my cam­era out and take more pho­tos. Well it makes my stop­ping time pro­duc­tive. I pho­to­graph the views and take a drama queen selfie, then things look up. Peter has stopped at a wooden seat, with quite pos­si­bly the best view in the world, and is on the phone. I cy­cle past. I CY­CLE PAST.

He doesn’t see me. With his words ring­ing in my ears that I should fo­cus on where I want to go rather than right in front of me, I gain a smidgeon of courage. I take my hand off the brake, look fur­ther ahead and lean into the cor­ners. I start­ing whoop­ing! My hus­band has reached the road and he hears me com­ing. I make it. I’m alive. We high five and hug. I vow never to moun­tain bike again.

Marl­bor­ough has moun­tain bik­ing tracks for all lev­els (even nump­ties). Join Wilder­ness Ad­ven­tures to hire a bike and head out for a few hours or a few days on some of New Zealand’s most re­mark­able and stun­ning trails. See wilder­ness­guidesnz.com

Me­gan is a lead­ing travel blog­gers. She was as­sisted by Des­ti­na­tion Marl­bor­ough.

PHOTO: ME­GAN SIN­GLE­TON

Tak­ing a quick break on the Link Track in Marl­bor­ough.

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