A new bike track geared at novice riders has boosted the total length of trails in Waitangi Mountain Bike Park to 50km.
The park’s latest attraction comes just in time for a post-Covid resurgence in cycling with bike shops around Northland reporting they can’t keep up with demand.
The 3.2km loop trail Ngaawarinui (“The Big Easy”) opened at Queen’s Birthday weekend. It’s the second-longest track in the park and one of only a few to be surfaced for its entire length.
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The gravel surface – plus the absence of rocks, mud and other obstacles – made it ideal for beginners, park project manager Tiffany Holland said.
The mostly flat track was an easy grade 2 but had some “rollers” so new riders could build up confidence and balance.
“It’s primarily aimed at beginners but it’s also a good training ground for fitness riders.
“Because it’s surfaced you can ride it in any weather and there’s no mud, so there’s less of a clean-up afterwards and no chance of slipping,” Holland said.
The new trail passed through basalt rock gardens left by a volcanic eruption and pine forest ranging from saplings to mature trees.
Ngaawarinui was about 3km from the park hub on Bayly Rd, Waitangi, but reached via a flat forest road. Two new track extensions had been built to link it to existing trails and make access easier.
Holland said the new track was ideal for people who wanted to give mountain biking a go but were intimidated by the idea of bumps, jumps and downhills.
“Since Covid I think people have been remembering how much fun it is to ride. We’re seeing lots of new faces and lots of locals we haven’t seen here before who are picking up the challenge, so Ngaawarinui is perfect for them.”
Despite poor weather on Sunday and Monday 410 people visited the park during Queen’s Birthday weekend, double last year’s tally.
The park had 16,000 users in its first year of operation. That number increased to 19,000 in the second year and 23,000 last year, Holland said.
With 90 per cent of riders from New Zealand she hoped the park would help Bay of Islands businesses get through the coming months without international visitors.
Ngaawarinui had used up the last of the park’s capital funding so it was likely to be the last new track for a while. Track building was also dependent on rotation of trees in the plantation forest.
The trail had been paid for by the government’s Provincial Growth Fund and had been assisted by local businesses, including a contracting firm which had donated $20,000 worth of metal for track surfacing.