Thursday, 21 April 2011

New Zealand Hanmer Springs

Sorry It has been a while, Getting on the Internet and writing this blog has taken the back seat as we have been so busy over the last three weeks. What a journey it has been, We picked up the camper van from Christchurch and headed out for Hanmer Springs around 130 km "down the road". We followed the mountainous highways leading to Hanmer Springs through a desolate Mountain road in the pitch black and arrived at a campsite. We had arrived at our first destination a freezing cold dark campsite in the middle of no where. It was only then I was able to understand just why our "Camper van" was so cheap to hire. The converted people Carrier had couple of butchered planks of ply board Roughly imitating a fold out bed, a sink and some shelving probably put together by a trigger happy nail gun wielding kiwi. We then headed out looking for food and found apsolutely nothing going to bed empty stomached.

The next day was better, early awoken by our grumbling stomachs we hopped in the converted people carrier and drove to the supermarket to find it would be another half an hour before it opened It was painful wait. Once we had bought our food suplies we drove back to the campsite and plugged in our cheap kettle and cheap toaster which both took about half an hour to do their jobs. After a much deserved brekfast we decided to go for a walk to see the view over the surrounding area. It was a very pleasant walk up a pine wooded forest trail to a high point where we took some pictures of the mountains that we had battled with the previous evening. Later on that day we visited the main attraction of Hanmer springs the geothermal hot pools where we relaxed for the rest of the day.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Avanti Torrent 2 trail bike review

Avanti originally started in New Zealand and have released over 80 models since they began back in 1985. The brand currently offer full suspension xc and trail, xc hard tails 26' and 29', road and time trial, kids and women's specific, and a separate BMX brand ABD (Avanti Bmx Dept).

As far as I am aware, Avanti are a relatively unheard of brand in the UK and I was so impressed with the bike I rode I thought it deserved a write up.

My initial opinion of Avanti as a brand was perhaps hindered by a fleet of budget hire bikes which the park has to offer. The park has around 150 hire bikes that have always been ridden by gear crunching, chain snapping beginners; the bikes tell a story of torture and relentless abuse. I assumed that the brand was a relatively unheard of budget bicycle company and I therefore took little notice.
 Tim one of the managers at Woohill mountain bike park bike later introduced me to his bike which he called a Torrent. I assumed that Torrent was the brand as I completly missed that it was an Avanti. As I stood there in my gormless bicycle perving gaze I looked over the bike, the components, the frame quality and most importantly the suspension linkage. The bike was kitted out with an Easton wheel set, Fox suspension, Avid brakes and sram drivetrain setup as a 2 x 10 and chain retension system. Tim Has replaced the stem for a shorter one and he is also trying out a prototype hydraulic seat post.

One of the most interesting features of the Torrent is the suspension link, It is exactly the same as Specialized's patented Horst link pivot (take a look at the Specialized pitch). The patent obiously restricts bicycle manufacturers from utilising the pivot on their suspension designs and has only been licenced to a very few companies. The few companies that have been licenced have been obliged to include Specialized FSR suspension technology written by their borrowed patent. Avanti call their link a Tru 4 with no such mention of the horst link! The characteristics of a four bar horst link is a great linear response, it combats brake jack, pedal suck and axle curvature. The defining pivot lies about an inch in behind the rear drop outs on the chain stay, while the main pivot sits just above the BB. The way in which this converts on the trail is by effectively decoupling braking and chain loads from the suspension allowing for maximum efficiency power transfer and maintaining traction more effectively. 

Tim kindly lent me his pride and joy to get around the park on a rather miserable Saturday afternoon and when I say miserable I mean it rained all day. After watching Tim Ride the day before I realised how amateur my riding really is, I watched him repetitively hurl himself off big north shore ladders and then climb to the top of the park with no sweat. I should mention that Tim is a ABD sponsored rider and rides almost every day. By the time I was riding It had rained all night and there was huge puddles and slippery roots everywhere. Retrospectively concluding this was perhaps the best weather to fully realise the potential of the bike.

The Torrent climbed with absolute traction in the wet and was very compliant with small bumps. The Fox RP2 rear shock with custom Avanti tuning worked a treat, a factory set medium pro pedal really tightened the rear end up to the extent that it was too hard for the trails I was climbing. I found that the slight give aided the traction greatly. It decended in true FSR style, tracking over wet roots, rocks and sucking up all the drops I was able to throw at it. The bikes feel in terms of geometry is a tad longer than what you may expect from a trail bike but it seems to feel tight once you drop the seat. The head tube angle has a fair compromise making it super nippy around trees. In terms of componentry with my slightly biased opinion I didn't quite get on with the sram 2x10 set up I found shifting while climbing to be a bit slower than what I am used to. between  For me the bike really is one of the those bikes that I just can't ride fast enough. I belive this bike to be the best compromise between a Trek remedy and a Specialized Stumpjumper, it would easily find a place at the Mega avalanche competition.
 Avanti torrent 2
"Feel the flow of the trail through the 4-bar independent (AKA stolen horst link) suspension system matched with Fox shock and fork as you push yourself to tackle new terrain aboard the Torrent 2."

The Avanti Torrent 2 (The upgraded better version of the Stumpjumper)

The suspension that Avanti have stolen and made better.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Woodhill mountain bike park 26/03

Woodhill forest lies on the north west coast of Auckland, its 12,500 hectares of land is home to a number of recreational activities including horse riding, 4x4 adventures, motocross, mountain biking and tree climbing adventures to name a few. Woodhill is a sand based pine forest which has been cultivated for its timber for a number of years. Part of the forest joins nicely with Muriwai beach which provides a nice contrast of terrain on the horse rides that we have been on.

Woodhill bike park boast that they have over 130km of purpose built mountain bike trails and over 250 man made structures within the trail network. I managed to wangle myself a couple of days work at the mountain bike park fixing trails, northshore structures and repairing hire bikes. I got to drive an emergency response 4x4 through the bush play with chainsaws, nail guns and par-take in other such manly jobs. In return I got a Woodhill bike park jumper and a free pass to the park for a day kitted out with an awesome bike and gear.

The first days work I was sent into what they call the airfield to clean up after some recently felled eucalyptus trees. Me and Tim one of the parks managers moved logs and raked the pump track. I was then asked to repair some of the ladders on the beginners course further into the forest. Tim foolishly made the assumption that I was in possession of a driving licence and handed me the keys to a Mitsubishi challenger. The truck was an emergency response vehicle with after market suspension, a lift kit and a very tuned 3.5 litre v6 engine. The truck was rather fast and went very sideways around corners. I then settled into the job which involved a wrecking bar, a nail gun and lots of sweat. The second day we made a ladder drop I serviced some bikes I didn't do an awful lot it was not as fun.

Saturday I got to ride, it rained all day but I still had an awesome time riding all the different trails. Here is a picture of me and Tim's bike which he kindly lent me for the day. For all of you who are interested in the bike side of things I will be reviewing this bike as I thought it was quite a ride, unfortunately we do not stock them in the UK.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Muriwai regional park.

Katie in Albert park.

The pain.
Two red heads.
Serious pain.
The Colony.
The truck we are borrowing!

Monday, 7 March 2011

07/03 Whenuapai with the Kiwi cowboys

We left our hostel in the city centre early Friday morning. Over the next three weeks we will be staying with katie's friend Julie who operates a fantastic horse riding school called Kiwi cowboys. Julie owns a farm in a suburb called Whenuapai in the Western Waitakere area of Auckland city. Whenuapai is home to the Royal New Zealand Air force base but Despite this Julie's farm is very calm and quiet. The farm holds ten horses a barn and quite a few padocks it is very peaceful and has a bit of a funny ranch/tropical feel to it. Julie is an amazing person to be around, she has made us feel very welcome and is such a nice person to be around. Already I have absolute trust in her. When I arrived I had done little more than look at horses in fields, Within two days I have overcome a mild intimidation and instinctive fear of horses, I have been bullied to feed, groom, and sit on a horse which is a big deal! Katie already with previous expirience seemed to quite happy with all these chores and is doing a fair bit better than me.

Me in Auckland harbour.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

06/03 Auckland

After what felt like an eternity we left Auckland international airport our finnal destination. We got the bus to our hostel just off Queens street in the city centre. Our hostel Nomads was the cheapest accommodation we could find at $22 a night which works out as 11 pounds a night in real money. The hostel was a five miunte walk from the harbour and really wasn't that bad. We slept in a 12 dorm room and had access to a kitchen, internet cafe and a nice bar. I will admit it, sleeping in a room with strangers is a bit strange, especially when one of your room mates is a fat 6'7" brute sporting huge nipple rings and tattoos. Apart from our murderous room mate who came and went at very perculiar hours of the morning everyone else seemed to be very normal and pleasant. The The first night we spent around five pounds each on dinner it was the best five pounds I have ever spent! I got a huge burger called the hangover cure with free chips!

The next day we took a wonder around Albert park which lies on one of many volcanic rocks in the Auckland area. We eat lunch in the park and had great day looking around the city centre, we also visited the Sky tower to find that our budget did not facilitate a visit to the sky deck.

Friday we were on a mission to find gum boots, what you and I would know as wellington boots. We needed to get the boots as the next day we were due to go horse riding. We searched high and low in the city centre for the boots and we resorted to walking five kilometers to a Westfield out of town. We asked for directions on a couple of occasions shortly followed by "Your walking all the way there?" (Aparently kiwi's don't walk far.) We did get there in the end though. That night we used more food coupons and visited the bar next door to the hostel. We spent around fourteen dollars and got a great pizza and glass of wine each. That pretty much finnished us off for the day and we were in bed by seven. Later that night one of our room mates returned from her night out with her drunk friends and woke the whole room up. This was the second time this happened and everyone was completely fed up with her. As we left the previous day we noticed she really wasn't wearing a lot in her hungover state. This night was no exception. While up for an early morning toilet visit this was what we found!

Slutty naked sleeping girl... HUMILIATION!!!