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.
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.
Wild ride: Anka Martin leads a RideHouseMartin trip on the Kill Devil Track in Golden Bay. The Kahurangi National Park is in the background.
Happy at home: Sven Martin and Anka Martin at their Hira property.