Riding the Charming Creek Trail on the New Santa Cruz Stigmata

After settling in New Zealand, just outside of Nelson, we awoke to one of Mother Nature’s most memorable spectacles of the year in the form of a full-nuke sunrise. Skies were scorched, clouds were obliterated and as it began to mellow out, I put down my camera and began to grind my coffee beans in preparation for my morning ritual.

When I was first contacted for this media launch, I heard four words: Santa Cruz New Zealand. During what I call the slow and sleepy first of the year, news like this is exactly what I needed to kickstart my stoke for 2015. All I could think of were the sick trails that photographer Sven Martin had been sharing on his Instagram and what HouseMartin seems to be best known for: trekking into insane singletrack and ending rides at the beach.

Rise and shine!

The morning after arriving into New Zealand, we all awoke from our huts and slowly made our way down for brekkie. Once there, all the preconceived notions of what riding would be like in Kiwiland were cast aside, for as we quickly learned upon our arrival – ok, ok, I knew why we were going to New Zealand – we’d be riding the new Santa Cruz Stigmata cyclocross bike and two new XC mtbs.

That means no shredding steep descents, over beechwood roots and around tightly turning switchbacks. Instead, and probably for the better with a media launch, HouseMartin planned out a chill, yet scenic day along the Charming Creek Trail, just outside of Westport, on the west coast of the south island, where we’d literally break in our brand new Stigmata Cyclocross Bikes.

... a rails to trails path that still had much of the rails left.

It was interesting hearing Sven and Anka describe their rationale for selecting our ride for the day, citing the Radavist’s Instagram as precedent for literally “what you can do on these bikes.” Coming from professional mountain bike racing, namely downhill and enduro, this power couple is most at home on 27.5 trail bikes, not dainty carbon frames with skinny tires and drop bars, yet, at least I’d say, they pulled together a really incredible ride on an island best known for its technical trail networks.

These little railroad timbers made the ride interesting on a cross bike.

Anyway, we began in Westport, New Zealand, after driving for a few hours to reach our starting point and pedaled along a strangely-familiar coastal highway 67 for barely a click before turning off onto an old mining trail, now retrofit as a rails to trails park. As Anka began to describe the terrain, it evoked memories of the Oregon Outback’s first 60 miles – which was also on a rails to trails line, yet far less manicured.

Soon, however, after the first few miles, my apprehension subsided and the shutter bug in me began to soak in the lush, green environment.

Because we had to drive that morning and because Sven wanted ample time to shoot photos, we had a fairly easy day on the bikes. A whopping 15 miles and 1,000′ of climbing was a piece of cake, even if it took us over three hours to finish with all the stop and go that often accompanies media launches.

Rolling hills

We’d finish the day at the Rough and Tumble lodge, right near the start of the Old Ghost Road, New Zealand’s largest expanse of singletrack, where we’d be spending the next two days on the new Santa Cruz Highball carbon mountain bikes and a lot more riding… Meanwhile, all I wanted to do was shred more singletrack on the Stigmata.