Photography & Words: Jay French
Prior to 2011, Christchurch was known as ‘The Garden City’ – renowned for its Cathedral, the Avon River, the tram and this interesting character known as “The Wizard”. Now, the city is better known for geological reasons. The earthquakes in September 2010 and February 2011 gave the city a real shake-up, both literally and metaphorically. With the massive destruction was the chance for a fresh start, a new identity. Most of the traditional tourist stops were lost or cut off after the earthquakes. In their place emerged a host of new places and activities, showcasing the resourcefulness of the city and the people that reside there. Mountain biking is one of the activities that has really shone in the aftermath. Riders from all over the world are taking notice of something Cantabrians have been aware of for some time.
Christchurch is predominantly flat, flanked by hills and mountains to the North and South. The South Pacific Ocean meets the city to the East. It’s easy to navigate, with the central city being the place to go to eat and drink, while the hills, which are just about visible from anywhere, are the place to go when you’re looking to ride. Christchurch is the gateway to the South Island since it's an easy drive to the equally excellent riding of Queenstown or Nelson. The world-class Craigieburn trails are only an hour away, with other stunning locations close by. Christchurch Airport
is geared up to receive riders as they start their adventure, only 15 minutes away from Christchurch Adventure Park. With international flights landing from everywhere either directly or through domestic connections via Auckland or even Australia, it serves as the perfect place to start the ride.
The riding in Christchurch is varied in type, and thanks to Christchurch Adventure Park
, is now more easily accessible. The Port Hills are home to the park, and to the majority of the riding in Christchurch. There are a few places to ride on the flat and Mcleans Island and Bottle Lake Forest are home to XC trail centers, but for most riders, the hills are where the action is. We arranged for a couple of Christchurch’s finest riders, Sam Blenkinsop and Billy Meaclem, to guide us around the trails and show us what can be achieved in a day’s riding. All the areas that we visited were easily accessible by bike and all within a 10km radius from the heart of the city. With all the riding we had to discover, it was going to be a long day.
Port Hills East and Victoria Park
We started before dawn, at the very top of ‘Greenwoods’ track for a stunning sunrise lap down towards Godley Head. With the coast being so close, you could link this trail up to the ‘Anaconda’ trail, ending up in Taylors Mistake for a pre-breakfast surf. This trail is typical Canterbury, tight and rocky, with amazing views over to Lyttleton, out to the sea and back over Christchurch.
Instead of dropping down to the sea, we used the Summit Road as a connection to head to our next zone, where we started above the Adventure Park and rode the ‘Gnarly Nun’, down to where it meets Christchurch staple, ‘The Flying Nun’, and pedalled across to Christchurch’s original home of riding, Victoria Park, where you find a diverse selection of trails. Pine forest, dark jungle, blue gums, dust, rocks, mud, and jumps, it’s all in there.
Out of the dust and into the pine forest.
City of Christchurch
After the early start, the energy levels were on the decline so we decided to head into town for a recharge. Christchurch is exploding with new places to eat and drink. There are so many great options it’s becoming hard to decide where to start. We decided to head to C1 Espresso. They’re based in a heritage building in the center of town which pre-dates the earthquakes and they serve some of their fare through a pneumatic tube system. Iced coffees, some fancy lattes, and a giant muffin later, we were ready to explore the city center while it was far too hot for serious riding.
We cruised around the streets, checking out the new pump track near the Margaret Mahy playground, where you’ll find slacklines to try and big grassy areas to chill on, or to try a tuck no-hander if that’s your thing. Billy amused the tram passengers by manualling alongside it as it rattled down the terrace, and Sam took in an impromptu performance by a busker on New Regent Street. We cruised along the new city promenade, past the iconic bridge of remembrance before making our way to our next spot.
Some people might think of this area as a good place for a picnic, or potentially a place to walk the dog? Not these guys.
Christchurch Adventure Park
It was time for us to check out the Christchurch Adventure Park
. This is the place that really put Christchurch on the riding map with its year-round lift assisted riding. It’s your first port of call if you’re new to the city and looking to ride. They can sort you out with a bike and gear, or lessons and guiding if you fancy, even sightseeing or a zipline tour if you’re not here to ride. The village at the Adventure Park is perfectly situated to grab a bite and a cold one when you get off the hill, with a full café and Cassels and Son on tap.
There was no time for indulging though, we were here to ride. We started off with the newly opened 3rd Base trail, a dusty and feature-laden black trail, before bumping back up the lift for a Christchurch staple - ‘Throw the Goat’ into ‘Yoda’ and finally ‘Handle the Jandal’. Steep rock faces and singletrack into flowy jumps back to base. Lastly, we headed up to the top for a last sunset lap, the flagship jump trail ‘Airtearoa’. Not before a quick breather and biscuit of course. With the trail heading west it’s perfect for catching that last light before you call it a night.
We were out all day from dawn until dusk, but we still barely scratched the surface of what’s on offer here in Christchurch. For us, it was time to relax and get something to eat. Maybe we’d head to Little High, where you can get a little bit of everything, or local favourite Smash Palace, where you can ride right in. Christchurch is on the up and up right now, there’s so much going on and the riding just gets better and better. With the riding so close to the city, and epic locations all around, it truly is the gateway to riding in the South Island.Christchurch Adventure Park mountain biking trails
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Pinkbike would like to thank:Christchurch Adventure ParkChristchurch International AirportChristchurch and Canterbury Tourism