1) Participation in bold, exciting, hazardous, undertakings or enterprises with uncertain outcome: “the spirit of adventure”. 2) Depending on how you view it a) peril; danger; risk or b) chance; fortune; luck. 3) Something that is most likely a very, very bad idea, but sounds like it would be exciting, so you try it anyway: “Let’s go to North Korea! It would be an adventure!”
That much anticipated reset button was pushed back in the last November issue, so I’ve had the past three months “to shut down; re-start”. This would all make sense if you read my last column, but if you didn’t, to sum it up, it was time for me to reset, relax and take a break after another hectic race season. And that my friends, is exactly what I did. My reset button works a little differently to most normal people out there who prefer to take time out and recharge at some resort, lounging under a beach cabana drinking pina coladas (or whatever it is they drink at those places). My reset time, off-season, recharge or whatever you’d like to call it, means only one thing for me, and that is adventure time. Yes please. This is what got me into riding and what now keeps my passion fired up to keep riding and racing my bike. It’s what I daydream, plot, plan and scheme about when I’m huddling under a ski-lift somewhere in the Alps, trying to stay warm while it’s sleeting on us, waiting for our next race run. Of course those moments and memories are massive adventures by themselves, but they are not as fun when you don’t have a choice in the matter. You can’t come back later when you’re warm or wait out the weather, or tackle the track in the dry. It’s still an adventure, just a different kind of adventure to the one’s you undertake during the off-season.
One thing that I absolutely love about New Zealand is the vast amount of adventure options there are to be had. I’m not referring to the usual Queenstown; jet boat, bungy jumping and zorbing adrenalin rush “adventures” or tackling the Ferg Burger waiting line for hours like the Lonely Planet tells you to do. No way, I’m talking about the amount of hidden trail treasures, the real unpolished gems lying out there, waiting to be discovered by those willing to venture off the beaten track. The type of experiences you only share with your closest like-minded friends, one where the actual journey outweighs the destination. The best part of this is that there are usually plenty of these nuggets waiting in everyone’s backyard. You don’t have to go too far away or drive days on end to seek out a new adventure, you just have to look at a map with an open mind or be willing to do things a little differently. It may not always just involve being able to ride your bike the whole way.
It might go like this: “You can only get there by crossing this river, at that time when the moon is just right, the tide low, in the right 4X4 vehicle, with a snorkel, but just don’t bodge it, or you’ll be screwed. Once you make that river and the next four and don’t go crazy from the sand flies and gale force winds with accompanying scouring sand and you manage to make it past the wasps and bees without anaphylactic shock then just maybe you will be able to ride your bike into an isolated, but idyllic rustic hut already exhausted from the mostly bike free adrenalin spiked journey”. On the rare chance you encounter others this deep in, you are able to give each other that mutually respectful all knowing nod and smile the “yeah I know what you just went through” greeting. It’s like a geeky club of limited membership for those willing to go just a little bit further for less crowded places or new terrain. More often than not, the trips will not result in World Class mountain biking trails, but that’s not what you end up cherishing or the end goal but when it does…
I’ve managed to go on a few new adventures in our backyard during this reset period, and they have been magic. The completion of every trip just reaffirms that we made the right choice, escaping the snowy Oregon winters to move back to the southern hemisphere for the extended riding. I’ll be able to keep doing this until I’m 100 years old if I choose to and we have just scratched the surface.
Of course the fact that New Zealand doesn’t have too many potentially harmful animals makes a huge difference. There isn’t much to fear out in the bush – unlike Australia or South Africa – so you always feel like a really brave, really cocky adventurer, bush bashing your way through the fronds and the gorse with your cactus pants, sawing through branches on the trail with your little silky saw, but that is what I love about it. It can feel real or you can pretend to be a badass adventurer without all the risks, and that in turn allows you to undertake more trips. Sleeping under the stars, crossing those big rivers, bush bashing in jandals, no need to worry about lions, snakes, crocodiles, deadly spiders or whatever it may be that scares you. Call it fake, I don’t really care, I call it a sense of adventure and New Zealand is an adventure friendly country.
It’s already been a month since I started “training” or riding more I should say. I’m already starting to think about the season ahead, planning and preparing myself as best as possible. It’s been a great month, I’m loving my bike, loving the riding, enjoying the tracks and I feel strong, but most importantly, my mind feels refreshed thanks to that reset button. The next two months are going to be properly full on, with visitors, bike launches, media camps, guided trips, training, local races and of course the much anticipated first round of the EWS and Crankworx in Rotorua in March. Phew, I feel exhausted just thinking about it, but at the same time, I cannot wait to get it all started. That only leaves April to get all our paperwork, flights, bookings and errands in order, maybe do a few intervals and sadly say good-bye to flat whites and NZ again for another six months – but no point worrying about the future.
For the moment I’ve got some maps to check out, some route plotting to do for groups of visiting friends making their way here and maybe a motorbike or 4X4 with a snorkel to purchase to get to all those places that I’ve heard about. The great thing is, you don’t need any of those toys, you can reach most of these places by bicycle. So get out there and never stop exploring – crap, isn’t that the North Face’s slogan? Oops!
Namaste, for you readers wondering what the heck this means, it means, “The light in me shines and recognizes the light in you.” Probably way too arty farty hippy for the biking community.