By Cam Bisset
Situated just off State Highway 72, just south of the Rakaia Gorge at the base of the Mount Hutt Skifield Access road and close to the busy wee town of Methven, lies the Mount Hutt Bike Park.
The trails have been in existence since 1997 but without formal agreement with the land owners, so in 2009 Bike Methven was formed as a way of legitimately being able to develop the trails and run regular shuttle days. The original group of riders were mostly downhillers and freeriders and that was reflected in the style of trails built. As the club members diversified so did the trails, with more and more XC and trail bike oriented trails appearing each year.
As Bike Methven grew it started to host events starting with a grassroots DH race, and also the (quickly growing in popularity) 679 XC race. The Club regularly holds DH rounds of the Gravity Canterbury summer series, and also the Enduro series.
Bike Methven and Gravity Canterbury work well together. They have also jointly hosted two of the largest Nationals DH rounds and, more recently, the Oceania MTB championships, where the Bike Park proved to be a great success. It is one of the only venues in the country that can simultaneously host a DH and an XC race to an international standard from the same pit area. With the ski town of Methven close by as well, there were ample facilities to cope with the influx of people brought in by the events.
With growing demand on the trails and the desire to keep riding in the area progressing, Bike Methven approached the Department of Conservation (DOC) about opening up a piece of the original Skifield Access Road from the top of Scotts Saddle down to the top of the bike park. The trail passes through some pretty steep and challenging terrain, and the view is magic. A management agreement was put in place and the work commenced.
At that time also Trail Fund NZ was holding a round of funding. An application was lodged and the funding was gratefully received, and with the help of the skilful team at D&E Track and Trail, construction started on the 1.5km and 300 vertical metre descent trail. Over the start of winter the entire trail was cleared, benched and shaped with the Track and Trail digger, which then left the final fluffing and grooming to the Bike Methven club members. Since its opening in the spring of 2014, it has welcomed many hundreds of tyres onto its tracks. Anyone of a confident intermediate riding level will have no problem negotiating the trail, but the expert riders can still appreciate its high speed, bermed meandering nature.
As with any bike trails built in forestry, at some stage there will be routine logging of the trees. This summer it is Bike Methven’s turn, so a number of trails will be lost but more trails are in the pipeline to make better use of the hill and reduce the need to climb on the access road.
The BMX track in Methven is also another feature built by Bike Methven and is popular with the young riders.
There are a number of popular loops for all the different levels of riders. For novice riders the Swamp Donkey Loop is a family friendly 4km loop with a few options to shorten it up if wee legs find the going too hard. For intermediate riders, continue up Swamp Donkey to Over the Edge then up Treeverse, Fuzzys then down to Toll Call and back onto the Swamp Donkey Loop — this makes for a good loop with a nice amount of climbing in it. For advanced riders an extended version of the intermediate loop up to the start of the Scotts Saddle Express track will get you almost 1,000 vertical metres of climbing and about 15km in length. For the downhillers, the Nationals or Oceanias tracks are a must with the famous cliff drop, creek gap combo at the finish line.