Lake Wānaka Tourism caught up with Russ Paver from Bike Wānaka to take a deep dive into how Wānaka is shaping up to be the next mountain biking hotspot. We get to the bottom of why Wānaka is making its way onto the map as one of the best mountain biking destinations – not only in New Zealand but globally. And we get an insight into the work that Bike Wānaka are doing to build community stoke and connection.
RUSS: Biking in Wānaka is seriously hot right now for a number of reasons, Wānaka has a great selection of trails that covers every discipline, all of which are easily accessible from the centre of town. You can finish work and within minutes find a labyrinth of trails. There’s Sticky forest, Lismore park and Deans Bank to name a few. All are part of a free network of trails that are only growing in number and getting better thanks to a network of amazing volunteers. Although we don’t have the biggest, longest or gnarliest trails, the biking scene here is going from strength to strength.
For weekend missions Wānaka is perfectly located to access a huge selection of some of the worlds best bikeparks. From Cardrona, Bike Glendhu over this side and then Skyline & Coronet in Queenstown, while also boasting a huge selection of gravel & road riding right here on our doorstep.
RUSS: Bike Wānaka (BW) is a non-for-profit volunteer group that is behind most of the great riding in Wānaka. Made up of an eclectic mix of riders from downhill racers, endurance XC nuts, road riders, dirt jumpers, parents, councillors and everything in between. BW is responsible for a huge aspect of riding bikes in Wānaka, from looking after and maintaining the infamous Sticky Forest with the help of our local legend volunteers, to ensuring active transport is maintained and improved around town, negotiating with the council around preserving our precious recreational areas.
This town is full of keen bikers of all disciplines, but without an official club it’s almost impossible to get anything done as individuals. We’re here to raise the all-important funds to build epic new trails and have a say for biking at those important conversations with the council, DOC and various land owners. So if you haven’t already, join the club and help make Wānaka better for bikes!
RUSS: Thankfully there is a solid crew of local volunteer trail builders that work closely with Bike Wānaka are happy to get stuck in and put their shovels to work. A lot of people don’t realise the amount of work that goes into building and maintaining trails, especially with lack of tree protection and wild weather we get down south.
Everytime you notice a berm/puddle/hole has been fixed on a trail, just remember that someone has dedicated their free time to fixing that for you, so always respect your local trail builders! Beers and chocolate goes a long way but a thank you will suffice!
RUSS: The biking scene in Wanaka seems to have a lot of momentum behind it at the moment, which is really cool. It’s great to see more and more people on bikes around town, whether it’s simply to get to work/school or on the trails on any given evening. For something that has been a male dominated sport for so long it’s been great to see a wide range of genders, ages & backgrounds getting around the joys of biking.
It seems like just about everyone in town has a mountain bike these days and places like Sticky forest and the new Kirimoko trails are absolutely humming on a nice summer evening with a really friendly, social vibe. You can’t head into Sticky forest without bumping into 50+ other riders of all types which is epic to see!
Currently we’re working hard behind the scenes to improve, maintain and expand our network of trails and active transport links. There’s a lot of changes coming to Wānaka over the next few years and we hope to see these recreational spaces treated like the community assets they are and protected at all costs!
It’s been a lot of volunteer hours for everyone at Bike Wānaka, and we’re stoked to have raised $100,000 from Bike Wanaka, QLDC, Otago Community Trust & Lions Foundation to turn this currently underused and neglected area into an absolutely epic community bikepark for the whole of Wānaka, from toddlers on balance bikes, bmxers, e-bikes and the world’s best MTB’ers. One of our biggest issues as a club is actually finding land that we can build trails on and Lismore is one of the few areas that BW have an understanding with the council to use & develop for biking. It’s in the perfect location in the middle of town and right by the school, so we’re confident it’s going to be hugely popular. After well over a year of volunteer work, Lismore is going to be our biggest and best project yet and as a club we couldn’t be more excited to get things underway.
Bike Wānaka has got some great momentum behind it at the moment and plenty of really exciting developments in the works including Gunn road kids bike park getting a much needed rebuild, we’re hoping to work with the council to get some trails on Mt.Iron and improve our relationship with D.o.C to look at building other trails in the amazing terrain around Wānaka. It’s an exciting time to be a mountain biker in Wānaka!
Our goal is to build a bikepark that everyone on 2 wheels can enjoy, regardless of your bike type, skill level, age or any other factor. The main bikepark will consist of a number of skills/jumps lines from Grade 2 (mellow rollers, berms & small table tops) to Grade 6 (large gap jumps & drops), as well as 2 tar sealed pump tracks, a freestyle area with a mulch jump & airbag. Further down the line we plan to build a flow trail and XC loop around the park, as well as adding toilets, bbq area, seating, kids area, parking and plant the area out with native forest. Our plan is to do everything once and do it properly, we’ve also set aside a continuing maintenance budget to make sure this World class facility stays that way.
Using biking as a medium we want to turn this area into a real community hub for the whole of Wānaka, encouraging our youth to get outside, providing an easy, safe place for them to progress their skills and have fun, to which we hope to see benefits for generations to come. You can find out more information on our plans on the Bike Wanaka website.
We’re still looking for help funding various stages of this project so if you or anyone you know can provide financial support, services or volunteer hours then please do get in touch!
Encouraging our community to get outside, off their devices and connect with the outdoors is by far the best thing we can do as a club in my opinion. Riding your bike outside in this beautiful environment we get to call home makes you realise just how lucky we are to be here and has endless benefits; there’s nothing that will clear your head and wash off a stressful day quiet like a long bike ride followed by a dip in the lake.
On top of this riding your bike makes you fitter, healthier and stronger. It’s a great way to release endorphins and help with your mental health. Plus, it’s far better for the environment than driving and not to mention you escape the traffic. There really aren’t any downsides!
Getting involved in the club and our events provides a great social outing and an opportunity to connect with the community and make new friends. Biking can provide a lifelong passion and even a career, a lot of MTB talent has come from Wanaka including Kalani Muirhead & Nico Arnold and many others who are currently representing Wānaka on the World circuit . I could go on forever about the benefits of riding on two wheels, but long story short, if you’re simply riding to the shop or cutting laps in sticky, get out and ride your bike!