Dun Mountain TrailBy Reuben Williams
I headed up to Nelson for Easter weekend to catch up with family and tick another well-known bike track off my list, the Coppermine Saddle, a one day trail ride on the doorstep of Nelson City.
I snuck into Hanmer Springs on Good Friday for a few laps of Red Rock, Detox and Mach#1. It didn’t take long to realise that with the combination of a new bike, Yeti 575, and a few years riding behind me that perhaps Hanmer is the family dream resort we all know it to be, family being the key word here. Hanmer is fun but reasonably easy riding, especially if you’ve done the rounds in Canterbury such as Craigieburn, Wharfedale and the Port Hills tracks (though I’m not claiming to have pinned down all of them). However, a few laps were a nice way to break up the drive from Christchurch to Nelson.
After downloading the Coppermine GPS path and setting up the trail on my phone using Locus Pro, I set off about 8:30am, on my own, up Brook Street to give myself plenty of time to ride the Dun Mountain trail, which is a government funded, New Zealand Cycletrail. Like a true chump I saw the signage and drove my car up the gravel road expecting to find a car park but only found the road began to narrow into a single track. After backing down the gravel with my tail between my legs as a few awfully unhappy locals gave me the stare I quickly got myself on the trail up through the Codgers bike park and up to Tantragee Saddle. The track up is a very shallow gradient and incredibly constant the whole way up. Not being much of a fan of, nor having much stamina, I found it quite hard to deal with a non-stop lack of change of pressure on my muscles. I got sore legs and a sore ass. It just keeps on truckin’, slowly up the hill. I stopped to read a few of the tourist information signs and had a look at the Third House shelter but pretty much just wanted to get up to Coppermine Saddle and be done with the climbing.
Still on the climb, emerging out of the bush and into the sub-alpine environment at about 830m gave me plenty of motivation to keep going. The view turned from a pleasant damp bush into expansive coastal hill, very nice. After a few panorama photos at Windy Point, it was a quick few minutes to the Saddle. Met by a fierce looking group of R&R Sport labelled bikers with hard-tails and tight clothing, I wondered if people just come up here because they love the climb, yuk. I enjoyed a pear and some white chocolate before sliding on my knee pads and putting my seat down ready for the much talked about ever-lasting downhill. Now maybe all my energy had been taken from me, or I’m getting too old, but the downhill didn’t really get my brain fizzing as much as anticipated. It seemed it was over before it began. There were some tight hairpins, a lot of loose material from plenty of skidding and a few drains which could pass as wee jumps, but just over so fast. Down through the forest was much more flowing and I could open up a lot, but again, over and out before you know it. Gravity is to blame, I guess. Past the dam the track follows a water pipe down a very shallow, almost flat gradient (more pedalling) to the Matai camp which is where I should have parked and started from. I wolfed down some salami then made my way over some farmland, spotted a nice table top but was too tired and sore to bother with it, got back to Tantragee Saddle and cruised down back to the car in Brook Street.
It was fun and I’ll do it again, but the downhill wasn’t quite what I was expecting. Also, next time I’ll perhaps take it a little easier on the uphill to save my legs and ass, and park the car at Matai Camp to save some vertical metres.
Here’s a few more handy details:
Loop track about 38km, 3.5 to 6 hours.
Dual use, 80% Single track 20% Road.
Suitable for fit intermediate riders.
Starts on Brook St which heads up Brook Valley from central Nelson.
The ride is in mountains. Be prepared! Check the forecast and take bikes spares, food, water and warm clothing. If raining the South Maitai River crossing may be in flood.
Extra for Experts: If you like the challenge of technical trails you will love the beech forest single track turning off after Third House and descending via Sunshine ridge and then Peaking ridge.
Coppermine Epic - Mountain Bike Race
This event offers a chance for you to ride some of Nelsons best trails and traverses the spectacular Coppermine mineral belt. There are three courses to cater for different riding abilities. Race the best 3 sections of the Epic course. Fastest combined time wins. Over 1000m of downhill.