On the right track

One of the world’s top moun­tain­bik­ing pho­tog­ra­phers and his world-class-racer wife have cho­sen Nel­son as their home base. re­ports.

The Press - Escape - - MOUNTAINBIKING -

Sven and Anka Martin didn’t even need to see the won­ders of down­town Nel­son dur­ing a re­con­nais­sance visit three years ago. Look­ing for a new home, the Cape Town-born cou­ple de­cided to move here based on just a few fac­tors – the moun­tain­bik­ing, the beer at the Mil­ton St Sprig and Fern, and a feed from the Fish and Chip Cafe next door.

‘‘We knew the peo­ple were good, we knew the rid­ing was good, and the com­bi­na­tion of that was enough,’’ Sven says.

Now theylive in­Hira, in a snug A-frame house with 360-de­gree ru­ral views. Anka proudly points out the re­cently in­stalled 3G cell­phone tower on the hill across the val­ley. They’re very grate­ful for it; it’s one of the rea­sons the cou­ple can run their in­ter­na­tional busi­nesses from a re­mote house in one of the most iso­lated coun­tries in the world.

‘‘We knew that ev­ery­one wants to live in Nel­son but you kind of have to bring your own work, un­less you’re get­ting into a job,’’ Sven says.

‘‘As long as we have an air­port and the in­ter­net we can ba­si­cally live any­where.’’

They hap­pily chose Nel­son over New Zealand’s other moun­tain­bik­ing hot spots of Ro­torua and Queen­stown.

‘‘Ev­ery­one knows about those, but when we came here look­ing for a place to live, what we fell in love with was the wild­ness and na­tive for­est of New Zealand,’’ Sven says. ‘‘It’s just more rugged and ad­ven­tur­ous, re­ally. The other places are like re­sorts, cater­ing for bike park-type trails where peo­ple come and just leave.’’

Anka Martin, 36, is a pro­fes­sional moun­tain­biker and yogi, and Sven Martin, 40, is one of the world’s best moun­tain­bik­ing pho­tog­ra­phers, as well as a lover of ex­treme sports – he’s been both a pro skate­boarder and a World Cup pro moun­tain­biker.

They run an ad­ven­ture bike guid­ing busi­ness in the re­gion’s re­mote forests through their com­pany RideHouseMartin, which takes small groups of clients on rides from Whites Bay to Golden Bay and well into the in­te­rior.

As well as a play on their sur­name, the com­pany is named af­ter the house martin, a mi­gra­tory bird that trav­els south for the warmer weather, just as they’ve done.

‘‘New Zealand is per­fect be­cause of the op­po­site sea­sons,’’ Sven says. ‘‘So while North Amer­ica or Europe is get­ting snowed in, you’ve ei­ther got peo­ple com­ing here as tourists or we’ve got pro­fes­sion­als com­ing here to train.’’

Their busi­ness isn’t quite the rail trail, wine, and grape tours of other Nel­son cy­cle adventures. The Martins like to guide groups of up to six clients to places that they’d never find on their own – back­coun­try jour­neys with com­pli­cated lo­gis­tics, four meals a day, wa­ter taxis, heli drops, eco B&Bs, and masseuses sent to the huts if re­quired.

They of­fer trips from half a day to seven days, in­clud­ing photography and coach­ing pack­ages too.

Ul­ti­mately, they’d like to spend more time in New Zealand – but the trou­ble is, Anka just keeps im­prov­ing her rid­ing.

She is de­voted to en­duro, a mul­ti­stage type of moun­tain­bike rac­ing. A few years ago, she quit rac­ing pure down­hill in favour of new events and new places, but had so much fun do­ing that her rid­ing im­proved. She has found that en­duro favours her long ex­pe­ri­ence and men­tal strength.

Most re­cently, she won the epic mul­ti­day moun­tain bike stage race, Trans Provence, a point-to­point tra­verse from the Alps to the Cote D’Azur – six days of gor­geous scenery and hard slogs through mud, up steep climbs and down crazy tracks to the Mediter­ranean. Sven took first place in the mas­ters in that race too.

‘‘Things are hap­pen­ing now that I was want­ing to hap­pen 10 years ago,’’ she says.

‘‘It’s quite a gig­gle ’cos I re­ally want to stop do­ing that now, but it would be silly not to do it.

‘‘I’m still en­joy­ing it, and that’s my motto.’’

They keep re­peat­ing: ‘‘Just one more year.’’

Mean­while, they’re part of Nel­son’s large moun­tain­bik­ing fra­ter­nity; the Nel­son Moun­tain­bike Club is one of the big­gest in the coun­try.

‘‘It’s also one of the most ac­tive ones I’ve been in­volved with in re­gards to peo­ple vol­un­teer­ing their time and ef­fort in trail main­te­nance, new trail de­vel­op­ment and events,’’ Anka says.

And there are plenty of trails they still want to con­quer.

Photo: SVEN MARTIN

Wild ride: Anka Martin leads a RideHouseMartin trip on the Kill Devil Track in Golden Bay. The Kahu­rangi Na­tional Park is in the back­ground.

Photo: FAIR­FAX NZ

Happy at home: Sven Martin and Anka Martin at their Hira prop­erty.

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