Page 84

“Just massage them,” she said. “Think of it as if you’re squeezing a tube of toothpaste. You don’t squeeze it too hard or it goes everywhere. “And only put one or two fingers on the brakes. The other fingers need to be on the handlebars for maximum control.” We then practised a range of basic techniques on a series of bumps leading into what for me was a tight corner. These included keeping the pedals level to give safe ground clearance and avoid clipping obstacles, and keeping the chin over the stem of the bike so that the body is over the centre.

Good advice “This gives you safe ground clearance and even weight distribution between the feet. It also makes it easier to make adjustments,” she said. We covered getting the body into the ‘attack position’ and then going up and down with the bumps built into the track while pushing into the manoeuvre with the arms and legs. We also covered what was termed ‘pumping’ as a way to keep the tyres in contact with the ground and not lose control on the downhills. I struggle taking tight corners but discovered through Skye there was one major reason for this. Instead of looking at where I wanted to go I was staring at the tight bank ahead of me. “Look where you want to go and the bike will follow,” she said. And it did! Just like on a surfboard or snowboard! Canadian-born Skye has a genuine passion for the sport and her job as a coach and guide. She started mountain biking through her brother who has competed for Canada in downhill events. In the 18 months she has been in New Zealand she has done several of the major trails including riding the Old Ghost Rd and Heaphy tracks alone, partially in the dark and in the snow. Then in October she completed the 3000km Tour Aotearoa Trail from Cape Reinga to Bluff with her 64-year-old father. “We took 33 days to do it and took just one day off. That was in Nelson so we could get our bikes serviced and repaired.” She says she loves the lifestyle. “All mountain bikers tend to be similar in terms of their values and lifestyle.”

“Look where you want to go and the bike will follow.” S K Y E I RW I N

Death road Her boss, Alistair, has an even more colourful background. Before returning to New Zealand two years ago he spent nearly 20 years in Bolivia. He founded the first mountain bike company to start taking people down Bolivia’s world famous camino de la muerte, known as ‘death road’ in English. The road starts high up in the Andes at 4950 metres and descends to the tropical jungle. Alistair estimates he has biked down it at least 1200 times. Several impressive videos can be viewed on the company’s website including television features on Australia’s ABC and 10 News networks showing him guiding thrillseeking tourists down the windy narrow road with massive drops over the edge and no safety barriers. Skye and Alistair say the Nelson/Marlborough area has so many top-class mountain trails that it is a pity more people are not using them. As a way to encourage more people into the sport, Gravity offers coaching for either groups or individuals covering such skills as cornering, jumping, drops and pumping. It also hires out bikes, provides a shuttle service to the trails, does bike repairs and guides riding trips on many of the region’s tracks. I undoubtedly picked up some useful riding tips and will certainly feel more confident riding in the hills in the future. Above: Clockwise - Coach Skye Irwin guides Phil down one of the Codgers tracks on Tantragee Saddle; gaining confidence 84

Other options for hitting the trails


he Top of the South has several other businesses that offer mountain bike coaching, including some specialising in women’s coaching and children’s coaching. Tasman-based Wheel Woman offers beginner, intermediate and advanced mountain bike coaching with workshops for women looking to improve their mountain biking skills and confidence in a supportive all woman environment. Krankin’ Kids offers a youth coaching programme for after school and holidays for 7-15 year-olds. Visit

Other websites to check out include: • • • •

Profile for WildTomato

WildTomato June 2019  

Local Distilleries | New Hospice | Hanmer Springs | Marlborough Book Festival | Mountain Bike Club | Arts Festival Trust | Fashion Finery |...

WildTomato June 2019  

Local Distilleries | New Hospice | Hanmer Springs | Marlborough Book Festival | Mountain Bike Club | Arts Festival Trust | Fashion Finery |...