Queenstown, Ben Lomond, Injuries and Boredom….
“Was I bored? No, I wasn’t fuckin’ bored. I’m never bored. That’s the trouble with everybody – you’re all so bored. You’ve had nature explained to you and you’re bored with it, you’ve had the living body explained to you and you’re bored with it, you’ve had the universe explained to you and you’re bored with it, so now you want cheap thrills and, like, plenty of them, and it doesn’t matter how tawdry or vacuous they are as long as it’s new as long as it’s new as long as it flashes and fuckin’ bleeps in forty fuckin’ different colors. So whatever else you can say about me, I’m not fuckin’ bored.” – Johnny, Naked, 1993.
I am sure that there is a relationship between boredom and psyche, when riding becomes boring we stop riding, we lose our psyche…..but is it really boring? Perhaps we lose our psyche because we have failed to apply ourselves, and failed to ask ourselves some fundamental questions about why we do the things we do? Personally speaking I can’t remember the last time I was bored riding a bike when I made a choice to ride not out of obligation but because I desired to do so…..this desire keeps me refreshed, keeps me psyched.
We are so lucky in Sheffield; in fact, any place we can ride our bike out of choice is very lucky…..I cherish having that in my life as much as other fundamental things; the roof over my head and the beautiful woman I love to wake up with each morning. I wonder how it is even possible to become bored of riding when so many possibilities have yet to be reached, there is always something new to learn: the way the bike feels round a turn, the way in which you finally see ‘the line’, the way you realise you don’t actually have to brake for that section. Our brain is intrinsic to our body….inseparable, and as human beings we are capable of conceptual thought, we can apply those thoughts, we can envisage and project ourselves into the future….maybe this is this is all it takes in order to get the psyche back?
Pushing up one glorious mid-summers day I was chewing the fat with another rider. I knew he was from Sheffield but hadn’t seen him ride in the trees before, even though he spoke with confidence about what riding there was in Wharny. I asked him why he didn’t ride that often, and his simple response was ‘I get bored riding here, it doesn’t feel new anymore’. Maybe this was the first hurdle, he openly admitted that he was bored? I tried to reason and find out why he felt like this, but all he kept referring to was how ‘fast’ he used to be. The more we contemplate the past the more likely we are to stay there…..but by applying ourselves in the here and now, and working out the joys we gain from riding bikes, we can overcome the staleness that can find its way into our rides and lives.
I have had the good fortune to discover some great riding, and riders over in New Zealand. My first stay was for 12 months between 2009 and 2010 when I brought along my Intense M6 to ride downhill….my first ride was on the National DH track in Whakarewarewa forest near Rotorua….I misjudged a gap, and promptly ended up in hospital with a suspected Thorasic vertebrae fracture – not big and not clever, but luckily it was just tissue and ligament damage. After 3 months off the bike I slowly got myself back to health, and worked on the psychological effect it had had on my riding. In Christmas 2009 I ventured down to Queenstown in the South Island and promptly hooked up with the legend that is Jimmy Carling (Midweek Enzed Diaries) and the League of Gentlemen crew. Riding within a strong social group promoted feeling good on a bike again, as did the riding. A few months later I returned to Queenstown and packed in as much riding as possible, we did everything you see on Anthill’s ‘Follow Me’, and all the riding on Skyline hill…..
- I wanted to experience more of NZ’s trail and all mountain riding than I could do on the Intense. I took the long trip from Heathrow to Los Angeles, Auckland, and then finally Queenstown. Jetlag hit me hard, but not enough to stop me attending the League of Gentlemen pump track party soon after I landed…..sunshine, dust, tunes and BBQ. A small contest of timed laps, head to head, best huck to flat, and the fastest lap on a Rotec RL-9 ensured huge amounts of smiles and laughs.
Over the course of the last week I have ridden at Seven Mile Reserve, Skyline Hill, Arrow River and Ben Lomond.
Ben Lomond on Christmas Day was surely the highlight of the trip. I got up at 4am and began pedalling up Skyline Hill at 5am, no sun just yet, only the light of the moon. It wasn’t just me on the hill, there were approximately 30 other riders sharing the dawn light and adding to the camaraderie. Ben Lomond sits above Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu at around 1700 meters in altitude…..If you had more that 9 or 10 gears I think it would be possible to ride 80% of the track to the summit, but as it stood it was around 50% ridable, the rest was a hike-a-bike.
At around 6.30am we all met at the saddle of the mountain, took pictures, and after a few people got dressed up in various festive outfits, around eight of us carried on up the hill.
60 minutes later we were on the summit looking across the Divide to the epic snowy mountains of the Southern Alps. After a brew and feed we made the descent down. It was amazing. Grippy bouncy soil allowed for fast turns, and the changes in width and angle gave it that added edge we all know and love.
Once we got into the trees we mixed the descent with sections of the Fern Hill Loop, and a new highly groomed track which curves it’s way around the lower part of Skyline hill….by the end my hands could only just hold the bars, and my forearms felt like someone had poured concrete into them. This ride has to be one of the best things I have ever done on a bike.
Boredom? Psyche? Desire? I know for me, as long as there are new experiences in riding – different challenges, fresh terrain, and good companions along the way…Whatever else you can say about me, I’m not fuckin’ bored!!
Thanks to Jen for the edit, proofread, and patience; Toby and Mat @RNR for bike stand use and bike box; Jimmy C for being most accommodating and his friendship, Sven for the generosity of using his photos, all the Vertigo boys, the QT riders and the late Baron Karl von Drais, without you none of this would’ve been possible…