Photo Story: Building and Riding Big Freeride Lines in 'Venturing New Zealand Highlands'

Jun 21, 2020
by Josh Birkenhake  

If you had questioned me at the start of the year as to what I would be doing on this day, I probably wouldn't have answered with taking photos of the lads on bikes, It would've been something along the lines of laps in Whistler and wrenching on bikes.

Its been a short summer for me, well on the bike that is. After breaking both my collar bones this summer I've managed to ride my bike for about 7 weeks. With all this spare time not being able to ride I thought it would be a good idea to get back behind the lens.

Being back in New Zealand with the BlazeTech crew is unique and 100% rad. Everyone has the same desire to ride a bike and build new features, whether its something new or just the same old Vale, it never gets old and the stoke is always there!

On my way back from the overseas season in Europe and Canada last year, Andrew and Jonny had started creating a new jump in the Alps of Canterbury. This stepdown to right-hand hip jump got me fizzing the first time I saw it, and after riding it was happy to try spin it. With a somewhat natural landing and big sized kicker for a downhill bike, I was pumped on what was created.

The new Alpine Vale Hip created by Blazetech Trail Solutions.

7 Months later after a sick summer down in Queenstown... I find myself back again. This time with a bigger crew and for a few days. Our idea of this journey was to go create features that we could have some fun building and riding afterwards, which happens to be in some of the most scenic high lands of New Zealand.

Before we get into the journey let me introduce you to who we've got!

Andrew Costain

Costain has been out here digging from the start, he and Jonny were the originals ones to rebuild Aggyz hip from his New Zealand Adventure, creating "Alpine Vale". He's also the brains behind BlazeTech and all the media that is created under the name.

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Jonny Eden & Billy Meaclem


After both of them, had been out here before there was no doubt they were keen again.

Jonny would be one of the more underrated riders we have in Christchurch, his riding style often looks totally effortless.

Billy keeps pushing out the determination to have fun on a bike with his unique style. You'll always see him riding a bike but I'd be surprised if you saw him pedaling up a hill.

Nils Heiniger & Finn Haweksby-Browne

Finn H.B.

Nils has always been a stylish speed dealer on a bike. After last season getting a few good EWS results and coming back with a rainbow jersey, he's now got the downtime to keep at the other disciplines of mountain biking.

Finn, an up and coming downhill racer! Always younger than you'd think, He was meant to be overseas competing in the Downhill World Cup series to pursue his second year as a junior this year but instead stuck with us building jumps!

Hunter Paul & Matt Begg


Sick to have these two come along after creating some sick content together in the past.

Hunter has been creating media visuals since I've known him. After seeing some of his latest videos and some in the making the future is looking rad.

Matt has been working hard lately. From what I have seen, he keeps wanting to progress and always strives to be better than the last run. Which is enjoyable to watch.

The hunt for potential.
Scoping out the terrain to find a spot for a new feature was a bigger job than expected. This would be when most of our adventuring occurred.

Finn spending a lot of time trying to master walking on Atlas shovels.

We spent a good morning walking up and down and driving around in search of a spot. Some hikes were more successful than others.

And some steeper than others.

The number of different ideas on what we could build kept getting bigger for the short time frame we had.
So we got to work!

Matt and Billy both cleaning up landings. This drop to Right-hand hip has been in here for a bit. Every time we go out, there is always more work to be done.

Atlas Tools & Machinery

We would like to send out a huge thank you to Atlas Trade for supporting BlazeTech trail solutions with Tools. It's been a massive help for all our projects and the maintenance of the local trails at home!

Atlas tools scattering the place after being well used.

After we had done a few hours of digging and roaming about that day, the boys treated themselves to a ride before we lost daylight. It would've been rude not too!

Always good to look where you are going before you send it!

Nils being one of the first to drop in.

Matt adapting well to his new bike during his first outing on it.

Finn looking comfy first laps in.

Billy all tucked up in it.

Jonny always trying to get the wheels above the landings ridge.

Once the sun hides behind the mountains surrounding it's like someone turned on the freezer. The minute you stopped working and stood still; you started to freeze. Being one of the reasons we decided not to camp, instead had a small warm place with a log burner for the night.
That night especially was one of the coldest!

The clouds must have definitely left us that night. I wasn't expecting to be taking these photos. It was about bedtime after a few beers when we were standing outside looking up at the sky. It was one of my first times trying this Astrophotography stuff, with long exposure times, there was a lot of waiting inside for the camera to capture the light while the temperature was at negative two degrees outside.

Well, it's clear to say the next morning was a cold start before getting into some fresh turns.

The day started off with a decent hike up to one of the zones where we had cut in a short track.

Early mornings can be hard sometimes.

The dirt up there is indescribable. It falls apart a treat and stacks a dream, On top of that, it has this amazing golden colour.

Billy making his mark in the turn.

Nils trying to rail the turn hard enough without going over the bars.

Coming into winter the days were getting shorter which made the few we had, go past quicker than expected.

Rocking up to the new spot was nice and easy compared to the others, pretty much drove the whole way in!

Prepping the step up for a solid ride!

Finding a somewhat natural landing made for easier work. But the jump was still full of rocks.

Nils cutting in the lip, while the other boys enjoying their smoko. I guess someone has to be the trail supervisor.

Matt eyeing down the jump in some fresh looking kit.

Its always the first couple hits which normally get your nerves going. Two runs in and the boys were just straight into it!

Couple kick-outs. Always trying to get the bars facing backward.

Looks like Jonny's limbs were getting tired of staying on the bike,

Billy's too...

Matt searching for more speed for one of these...

Costain showing billy the vid!
It's not a Blaze Tech trip without the BlazeCam.

Couple behind the scenes.

The boys checking in before finishing up at this zone.

It had been a solid day riding but there was still energy and vibes to ride, we decided it would be fun to finish the day back on the Alpine Vale Hip for another session before the sun went down. We had a couple of hours left to ride before the journey back home into the city.

Due to the work that was done earlier, it was only a quick preparation before the boys could get into it.

Billy dropping straight in with the hands-off!

Finn finding the smooth spot in the landing.

You could tell Nils was thoroughly enjoying getting under the bike as much as possible.

Jonny cruising hard near the end of the journey.

Sometimes you just want to put the camera aside and watch.

Sadly this brings our journey to an end. This wasn't the first and definitely won't be the last. The potential out there is endless and can't wait for what's to come in the future!

Must be getting close to Christchurch with all these road cones.


  • 10 0
 #backcountrydiggingisthenewnewnewenduro (from before gravel bikes became popular) great effort team!
  • 2 0
 So sick guys. Met Johnny earlier this year at Mgazzafest, was shredding hard. Those hips look so fun, location in epic. Awesome video as per usual Blazetech!
  • 3 0
 This is biking, keep biking cool
  • 2 0
 Thoroughly enjoyed that! 11/10 epic read
  • 1 0
 Big Ups to all the lads involved was a sick time. Round 2.... Lets get it
  • 2 0
 Good couple days in the office
  • 2 0
 how good!
  • 2 0
  • 2 0
 Top work Trevs.
  • 1 0
 Cheers Captin

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