Having legged it the length of NZ many times, touching down at Invercargill airport after just a few hours of traveling made for a nice change. Then, to make me feel even more like a rockstar, a modern Mazda ute and CRF450R were put at my disposal thanks to the kindness of Simon Tutty, before being welcomed into his family home.
His bike and ute were put to good use that following day, with what they call a “Freeride” at the venue of the Farm Jam, NZ’s premier Freestyle event. With Dan Frew leading the way, Brendon Gow and I took turns trying to out-do each other on some fairly massive jumps. Our CRF450R steeds proved to be ideal for the job, and we kept at it until dark. This was my first ride on this side of the farm, and it made my desire to do the Farm Jam next year burn even stronger.
In the morning we were into Bootcamp mode. Liam, Ryan, Matt and Lewy had my full attention as we got their jumping sorted on the river silt of the Balclutha Reserve. Rather than powering off of every upramp to keep the front high, one thing we worked on was being able to get their bum back without their arms going straight, just as the rear wheel was leaving the ground. It took some doing, as the movement needs to happen very late in the piece. But once done, they were then able to safely get back over the front again in time to power away from the landing.
Kruz joined us for our second day which we held at the same track. Fast cornering was the agenda for this day, helping them use their front brake to pull the leading wheel into ruts. When combined with a higher gear and patient powering, they were starting to lean themselves and the bike further through the turns by the end of day two, Kruz leading the way in this skill with chin held high.
Thrills and Spills
Overnight rain cleared for primo conditions at Invercargill’s Sandpit the next morning. Soft soil meant that the boys didn’t need to be scared of leaning too far into the turns. We hammered commitment and wide entry lines until they were flying through the turns, Ryan leading the way when it came to aggression.
This led to a celebratory GoCart race that afternoon, one which ended in near disaster for me when he was brutally shunted underneath a tyre wall. The culprit, who happened to be my host, wiping the tears of laughter from his eyes before they could be seen.
Hitting the Bush
Sunday was spent with the Brock family where I was able to hunt some true bush country and have my chance at a few deer. Despite seeing nothing but fresh tracks departing my location for the first few hunts, it all came to fruition when I finally had my chance. Unfortunately a sneaky tree got in the way of the shot I did take, so I was to head to my next destination of Dipton empty handed, but happy.
Organized by a very generous sister, seven cross country riders met for the birthday bash of Josh Brown. It so happened they were all Christian dairy farmers, arriving just as the misty rain dried off. Great timing for us to start burning up the stubble paddock at our disposal.
Imagine riding a field of plasticine, sown with hay-like stalks that held it all together perfectly. It turns out I hit the jackpot with the very first lesson, showing how the effort of getting your weight off the front wheel would help balance out the effects of hard braking and turning, which was the complete opposite of what some of them had been trying to do.
From there we changed paddocks to nail the essence of gripping the seat with their knees, rather than the tank. This helped some of the other riders handle the bumps and holes better than they expected, before we carried that on to jumping in our final paddock. And what better way to finish it all off with one more blast in the stubble paddock, turning the track around so the acceleration berms they had formed were now encouraging them to turn harder in the first half of the corner. An excellent day and a huge thanks to all the family for their hospitality.
Aggression Where It Counts
You may remember Cade from our Summer Academys. We met at Balclutha for one last session before his attempt at a top five at this years Junior MX Nationals where he impressed me bigtime. Over our whole summer he had never been this aggressive entering his ruts. Better late than never! Instead of pushing the limits on the dangerous stuff, he was scraping his footpeg the whole way through three different ruts by the end of our day. We also got some sweet starts going on, so lets just hope he can ride like that on the big weekend.