Central Otago is a safe bet if you want to avoid sliding around, especially Cromwell with its sand and fast flowing layout. But be warned, there are dangers hidden in the least likely places and we aren’t talking about the Red Backed Spiders lurking amongst the scattered piles of used tyres.
Lined up to join me for a week of adventures on the coaching loop, young Jacob was playing with his sisters on an innocent enough kids playground when disaster struck at the foot of its plastic slide, in the form of a nasty foot injury. He was gutted, of course, but left the decision as to whether to still come with me or not until the last minute where he had to decide between putting up with the pain or spending a week in the car with the family. Not surprisingly he opted for the option that included bikes.
Off the Ball
Todd Keown joined me in my sprint sections training the next day, proving he could lay ruts as consistently as anyone but lacking in one thing- he couldn’t change gears while standing up. The reason wasn’t obvious at first but after some investigation, it became clear. His way was to stand with the ball of his foot on the pegs with heels pointed down which made gear changes impossible without some serious foot shuffling, something that only standing on his arches could fix. It proved to be one tough cookie to crack. Eventually he made progress but only after countless loops on the starting straights and even more gear changes, many times with his right foot off the peg to make sure he couldn’t cheat. And back on the track he was looking more solid than ever, and what had been his unused fifth gear was now back in the mix.
Back from the Edge
After a drive by of Kyle Hartleys place in Winton to check out our venue for the next day, Jacob and I eventually made our way to the house of a back brace bound Fergus Brock, only weeks out of a very serious spinal operation. Apart from the brace you would not have known that less than two months before he had been lying on the grass of his front paddock while the dark and cold set in, able only to scream for help. He had broken two vertebrae in his neck and smashed one but somehow came out of it relatively ok, and it is one of my most sobering thoughts when it comes to my job. For anyone reading this, I would strongly suggest looking in to a neck brace either for yourself or your young ones that ride bikes, providing that it gives room to move enough to keep avoiding a straight armed riding style and ideally without forcing any possible load spine-wards. Atlas bringing out their kids range honestly can’t come soon enough, and there is no doubt that Fergus’ guardian angel was hard at work, God isn’t finished with him yet.
A last minute addition saw another Jacob join Blake, James, Tom and eventually Leigh Proctor, all of whom worked hard at their ruts as the track dried out, index finger front braking and throttle control, working over time. This session was helped by the Southland MCC with yet another generous aid to their young guns. They held themselves together for an impressive display of control and grit, even our injured Jacob able to guts it out and have a great time. The day was far from over yet though, joining young Scammell at Invercargill’s sandy point track for a few motos with his dad Brent who was trying out the 2013 CRF450R for the first time before heading to Tuatapere and a very good place to stay. One warning we learnt from that ride- bring your bike pump for bikes with the new air forks- they don’t work very well when down on PSI’s!
Chillin’ with the Gill’s
Day three was chocca block with real country kids, and we had 300 acres to play with. While their location may be in the far corner of the country, the Gill family are not worried one bit. We found our way there along an old railway track and where it finished is where our fun started.
The Hill had three main lines with a near vertical section up the middle just for fun. Then there was the terraced hill up the fence line, just beside that was a hill with a legend. And beside the abandoned railway, some nice little natural tabletops we finished up with at the end. That is without counting the cultivated paddocks and endless bogs to tear up. All of the riders except the youngest group cleaned at least one of the three lines on the first hill including almost first timer Iain. Tom got further up the terraced hill than he expected thanks to some smooth clutch work, while I failed on the legend hill, but will be back for more. Even little Kate was loving the rolling tabletops and George had a ball getting stuck up to his seat in one bog after another, then getting unstuck again. Rediculous fun and true southern hospitality to boot, and Jacob managed to replicate my wheelie stunt to get over the vertical bit with no air time, but not before some serious air and one decent superman air.
Back to Awesome
We were two tired tackers that made our way to Jacobs home in Clinton for the night before arriving at a newly renovated Balclutha track the next morning, smooth and running the opposite way to normal that really works.
Brady did the hard work on the mini track before big rewards on the grown ups track. Ryan Dodds joined Caleb Warren in a perfect match where they could help each others weaknesses. Rett was joined by a friend of ours and his, Josh Bradford. It turns out they needed the same repair work as Todd had needed- getting on to the arch. In some hard hitting style fixing we got Josh shifting and getting his weight much further than ever before, with Rett launching out of corners.
Our final day was spent at Pleasant Point where Hoani and Cade made some serious speed on the Intermediate track with a race to finish up what was another top trip down low. And in case you were wondering, that foot he injured in the kids playground did turn out to be broken.