Deane Parker recently took on a 250km bikepacking trip in the Canterbury high country of New Zealand and has a nice video short showcasing the tour.
The South Island of New Zealand is such a beautiful place. This video highlights a gravel tour of the West Coast Wilderness Trail.
Fluid Trails follows a group of friends as they navigate New Zealand’s Kahurangi National Park, via mountain bikes and packrafts. The landscape is one of immense awe and inspiration with a rich history and a rich cache of biodiversity.
Join Anita and Caro Gehrig as they ride the trails of Whakarewarewa Forest in Rotorua, New Zealand, in prep for the 2019 Enduro World Series.
The top of the South Island of New Zealand has rapidly become a destination for backcountry cyclists. Like all good ideas, this one, to ride the Old Ghost Road and Heaphy Track in one grand loop, was thrown about over a few beers in a bike shop in Richmond, Nelson. Two riders, Damian Stones and Erik Hall completed this 6-day adventure in mid-winter on gravel bikes. Recent snowfalls and a first bike packing trip for Erik, made this journey all the more challenging.
Keegan Wright takes on New Zealand’s Te Tihi o Tawa via a mini jet boat shuttle. Wow.
Old Ghost Road & Heaphy Track
Words and photos by Tom Clayton
I said to my friend Jesse one day I’d love to do a weeks riding in either New Zealand or Tasmania. Straight away he rolled off a heap of trails he’s got pilling up, as he’s got an encyclopedic brain for good riding and always keen to head out. After no persuasion at all there was myself, Jesse, Teef and Joan at the airport in Melbourne boarding the red-eye for Nelson, South Island New Zealand.
The route we’d planned was a seven day, 600km loop around the Kahuranghi National park—taking in The Old Ghost Road at the south and The Heaphy Track at the North. Fuelled mainly by fish and chips, stout beers and more single track than you could shake a stick at, we saw the best of nature, the friendliest people and an amazing network of eco-tourism.
I’d also get the daily distance wrong by at least an hour, Joan would look handsome in every photograph and we’d get rained on for the last 10km. And probably more fish and chips. A big thank you to The Cycle Shop in Nelson for graciously looking after our stuff while we pedalled around, Curve Cycling for making very fun bikes and our friends at Rapha Australia.
See our route at Ride With GPS.
Tristan Rawlence’s Loaded Santa Cruz Highball for the 2018 Tour Aotearoa Brevet
Photos and Audio captured by Sven Martin, intro by John Watson
The preparation for ultra-endurance bikepacking events is of mind, body, and bicycle. The latter of which there is no shortage of interest in, both in terms of this website’s audience and my own curiosity. I’ve seen a lot of various gear setups over the years, from Trans America winners taking on 1000 mile road rides, Baja Divide rigs, Stagecoach hardtails, Tour Divide and everything in between. There’s something magical about a fully loaded bike, especially when the owner has put so much thought into every detail, specifically, gear selection.
Photographer and all-around badass Sven Martin caught up with Tristan Rawlence, prior to his departure for the 2018 Tour Aotearoa Brevet, a 3000km brevet which traverses from Cape Reinga at the Northern tip, to the Bluff at the Southern tip in New Zealand. Not only did Sven bring a camera to document Tristan’s setup, but some great audio equipment, which makes for an extremely interactive experience and quite frankly, something entirely new and exciting for the Radavist.
Most people wouldn’t consider road cycling as “adventurous” yet this one man rode the entire length of New Zealand in the middle of winter. That’s 2,336km over 13 days through rain, hail, snow, ice and New Zealand’s stunning scenery. Also, check out this ride’s charity, CanTeen.
Three riders set off on a bikepacking journey in New Zealand using their packrafts. What will they encounter?
“The maximum is not the optimum.” My buddy Chip likes to quote this Fabien Barel interview where the French downhill world champ waxes poetic about racing and life. Of course it’s all over my head, I mean this guy is a world champion, but it got me thinking and wanting to explore how optimum applies to bike touring.
Mal and I have been drooling at the thought of a New Zealand trip for years. With winter approaching and knowing that we weren’t getting any younger (we totally are though), we started saving our vacation days and our pennies to make it happen.
Waking up to unfamiliar sounds, namely from animals, is highly underrated. Like an alarm clock going off full tilt, your brain processes new audio notes with a different intensity. Maybe that’s why I sprung from my bunk in our hut at 6am that morning. Scratching my head, semisomna, asking myself “what the hell was that?”
We’re too far south for it to be a Bunyip – the Australian Yeti – and too high in elevation for it to be a chicken. There it is again, now multiple times, surrounding the cabin. I grabbed my coffee kit and headed out to the porch to see what the commotion was all about. Immediately, I began to witness these wingless birds chasing each other around, making this unique call.
The Weka had welcomed us to the Old Ghost Road. A flightless bird, a bit bigger than a kiwi, diurnal, and very vocal. At a certain point, the need for coffee and a few sunrise photos overtook the interestingness of a damn bird.
Pardon the brief nature geek moment, we’re here to talk about bikes.
Sometimes, it’s the unexpected that delivers the most fun. Wheel size, when it comes to mountain biking, is a polarizing topic. People will swear allegiance to the 29r platform, without a blink of an eye and admittedly, I’m one that errs on that side. Being tall with long legs, I’ve kind of sworn off 27.5 hardtails.
They’ve either felt too squirrely for me to coerce or not big enough to roll out of hairbrained situations I often find myself in. If my riding ability were to be described in a word, it certainly wouldn’t be “finesse.” I need something that offers a larger diameter to correct little nuances in my riding habits. 29rs seem to deliver that.
Like a bucking bronco, those small wheels ain’t for this limestone cowboy. Or so I thought.
As previously stated in the Highball 29r post, Santa Cruz put a lot of work into developing their new 27.5 wheelsize option. While the general look and feel of the 27.5 version is almost identical to the 29r, all it takes is a few moments on this bike, particularly while descending, to tell that it is indeed, a different beast from its larger-wheeled sibling.
Ok, maybe it’s not all that different, but there are a noticeable points.
For one, the headset. While it’s a small detail, the bottom cup is a standard, press-in on the 29r and integrated on the 27.5. Because of the smaller wheel size, the chainstays could be shortened, thus the wheelbase loses some length, as well as steepening the seat tube angle to a 72.5º. But what I noticed, almost immediately, was the slacker head tube angle.
It seems like 69º is the magic number for hardtails (I should add that the Chameleon is also a very fun bike with a 67.3º head tube). It takes them from the category of XC race-specificity and dangles them over the all-rounder, “stunt” zone.
A 69º head tube angle is just right: not too slack to drop it into the AM range, or to make climbing a battle fought with a wandering wheel, nope. It’s just slack enough to make descents a complete blast. Even with the lower stack height (604mm versus 633mm on the 29r) frame, I never felt like I was going to fly off the bike descending. For reference, I rode the XL model.
Whereas I felt a lot of apprehension to fall in love with the Highball 29r, the 27.5 was love at first flight… It just whipped around so well.
The Highball 27.5 has all the technical advancements as the 29r, it’s just in a different realm in terms of handling on descents but we’ve already discussed that. Let’s look at the frame.
With the new layup, the lines are cleaner than ever and without the external routing, you can really focus in on the body language this bike is throwing around. Even sitting still, posing for a photo, it appears to have a meaner stance than its sibling.
Granted, having ridden the rather stealth-like black and red bike with XX1, this blue frame with XTR looks a bit flashy. Although, with a price. Take note: with the ENVE wheel upgrade, suddenly you’re in the $8,799 water… Thankfully, the XT package without ENVE is only $4,299 with the CC-grade carbon.
Another great detail on the Santa Cruz Highball is the new disc caliper design and placement. This new position eliminates the need for a chainstay / seatstay bridge. Although it does make it a slight pain in the ass to adjust on the trail with a compact tool.
Now onto what seems to be the deal breaker for a lot of people, just based on internet chatter and commentary over the 29r. The 27.2 seat post. Since there are so few options for a 27.2 dropper and no cable guides or internal routing for a stealth post, you’re pretty much stuck with a Thomson dropper post and some zip ties, which is what almost everyone did on the media launch.
Personally, I can ride a 100mm hardtail just fine without a dropper, although it does add a certain amount of versatility to the bike, especially if you throw a 120mm fork on the front end.
Before to write off Santa Cruz’s decision to go with a 27.2, attempt to understand their rationale. Ever ride a standard 30.9 post for hours on end during a marathon on a hard tail? Yea, it ain’t comfy. The 27.2 diameter does allow the seat tube to be elegantly reduced, resulting in a lot more compliance, which is a good thing for your butt.
That’s really the only initial concern I felt the need to address.
With a rowdy, confident stance like that, the new and improved Santa Cruz Highball CC 27.5 drew me right in. After an afternoon descending singletrack, I was sold. Maybe XC-oriented 27.5 hardtails aren’t that bad afterall? Or maybe the Highball is just that good.
Photo by Sven Martin
If I were to chose between the two, based on ride quality alone, I’d lean more towards the 27.5, without discrediting the 29r’s confidence-aspiring ride characteristics. The stability and shredability of the 27.5 platform translates so well to the Highball and all I needed was one, 10-mile descent to change my opinion.
The Santa Cruz Highball CC XX1 starts at $6,299 ($500 cheaper than the previous model)
The Santa Cruz Highball CC XTR starts at $6,799
The Santa Cruz Highball CC XT starts at $4,299
The Santa Cruz Highball C S starts at $3,199
The Santa Cruz Highball C R starts at $2,799
The Santa Cruz Highball CC frameset is available in black or blue for $1,899.
One thing to note is the 27.5 Highball has a size small, while the 29r does not. In return, the 29r has an XXL, while the 27.5 does not.
…and for or those seeking a weight comparison…
CC carbon size M matte black w/XX1 kit: 19.61lbs / 8.89 kg
CC carbon size M matte black frame only: 2.58 lbs / 1172 g
Specs and other information can be found at Santa Cruz. You can also compare my notes to the 29r version at Shredding the All New Santa Cruz Highball CC 29r MTB.
Europe is blessed with ripping trails, from the seas to the tops of the alps. Many of these trails began as footpaths, or cattle trails, or even military roads, traversing mountains, connecting towns or other trade routes. New Zealand, however, had very little need for such intricate trail networking. Being an island, it was easier to go around the mountains, than over them, even in colonial times.
However, if anything can motivate man, it’s gold.
Which is why and how some of the first mountain trails were made in this country. The path we rode on the Stigmata the day before, the Charming Creek Trail, was the beginning of a network of mining rail lines, which stopped just before our home base for the remainder of the trip, the Rough and Tumble Bush Lodge.
Contrary to popular belief, you can shred a 29r – even a XC race-ready 29r. Those big wheels have a bit of a stigma attached to them and while they may not be as flickable as popular opinion would suggest, there’s a lot to be said about a lightweight rig being just as happy on flat as it is with a bit of rubber side up action.
Santa Cruz has kind of neglected their Highball over the years, not intentionally, but with the popularity of their Nomad, Bronson and even the Tallboy, they’ve been busy working on their all-mountain and trail bikes, while leaving the Highball sitting in the corner – void of dunce hat at least.
While the main silhouette of this bike reads the same – hey, it’s a hardtail, how different can it really be? – the Highball got a revamp from the ground up, including a new 27.5 wheelsize – more on that to come. For now, let’s just look at the 29r…
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.
The original Stigmata marked its territory inside the well stacked lineup of Santa Cruz mountain bikes in 2008. Made in the USA from Easton EA6X tubing, these ultra light race machines were quite the hit. Although, at the time and into the near future, ‘cross was and would be going through some changes. Disc brakes, through axles, pressfit 30, tapered head tubes and other technological advancements were on the horizon, many of which being already implemented by various companies.
This constant evolution and the crossing over of Easton’s tubing no longer being available in smaller batches made the guys at Santa Cruz a bit weary. They decided to sit out from a few cross seasons…
… on a Santa Cruz bike launch. It’s been wild and unfortunately, our wifi signal is choked out here in the woods, so I won’t be able to update until later today. For now, check out a few samplers of what we’ve been coping with.
Follow @TheRadavist on Instagram for more frequent updates.