I have always been one of the people who like to minimize risk. I am not the person to try a new trick just for the laughs. I’m not the person who will put their hand up to be the guinea pig. I am not the person who can confidently throw myself off a jump knowing full well it might break me.
I’m most comfortable when I have my feet on the ground maintaining some sort of control so it’s no surprise then I was not thrilled on the idea of mountain biking. Flying through rough terrain at high speeds on two wheels? No, thanks.
I tried for years to get excited about mountain biking but even the most beautiful Wānaka scenery couldn’t tempt me enough to fully dive in. That is until I visited Bike Glendhu.
I was so reluctant to visit Bike Glendhu because I was convinced that if it was a bike park, it wasn’t built for people like me. It was built for the mountain bikers who frothed on the sport, who craved the adrenaline. It took some convincing but after a lot of pestering from my friends, I finally promised to give it a shot.
I’m not too proud to admit that everything I thought I knew about mountain biking was wrong. My first visit to Bike Glendhu changed everything and it was the first time I thought I might actually be able to enjoy a day on the bike. Here’s everything I wish I knew about Bike Glendhu before I visited.
1. The green trails are green. Like, actually green.
As a beginner mountain biker, it’s hard to make sense of the trail directories. What does a green run really feel like? Is it actually mellow or is it mellow in the eyes of a hardcore enduro athlete? I didn’t know what to expect but I was doing my best to keep an open mind.
The trail out to the park is lovely. It winds its way along the Fern Bern creek before starting a gentle climb up to Jack’s Spot. And when I say gentle, I mean it. A modestly fit person can easily conquer this climb. The climb does take some time but that’s just the way trade-off for a low-grade climb. Once you’ve reached Jack’s Spot, you’ll have a handful of trails to choose some and for absolute beginners like myself, the Kākāriki down is a fantastic warm-up to gauge how you’re feeling.
The descent is flowy and fun with nice wide berms and a low overall gradient. I was surprised to find myself actually relaxed enough to enjoy the stunning views over Lake Wānaka. What was happening? Was I actually enjoying mountain biking?!
2. The trails were built by professionals so they are the perfect balance between exciting and safe
Here’s the thing: when you’re a beginner mountain biker, everything is scary. Ever pine cone. Every loose corner. Every threatening tree. Far too often trails don’t make sense. You can’t get into a flow and you never really seem to get the hang of it.
Bike Glendhu trails were built by some of the best trail builders in the world, Elevate Trail Builders, and local crew Dirt Dynamics.. Elevate has an impressive portfolio showcasing amazing trails that most mountain bikers would be impressed by (but again, not a mountain biker so this didn’t mean much to me). Even so, it didn’t take me long to realize that these guys know their stuff. Every turn, every feature, every piece of terrain has been meticulously crafted to create perfectly flowy trails that feel safe.
3. The trails are built for progression.
Just because Bike Glendhu has trail options for beginner mountain bikers doesn’t mean that it’s a total snooze fest for those seeking bigger thrills. As long as I stick to my pace and comfort zone, I can happily go out for an afternoon with more skilled riders because the trails can be as intense or hard as you want them to be.
Once you’ve mastered the green Kākāriki run, you’ll be in a good position to tackle some of faster blue trails like Matt and Gary and Jairolla and once you’ve got the hang of that, you’ll be straight into the new blue tech Rocky Borrow Show. Each level of trail leads nicely into the next level meaning it’s a fantastic place for a beginner to progress once their skills develop over time. If you’re looking to build confidence on the trails, Bike Glendhu is the best place to be.
4. With over 35km of trails, you never feel too crowded
The trails at Bike Glendhu span over 35km and wind their way all over the mountain. There is only one trail up from the Base to Jack’s so you will likely encounter other riders on the up trail, however, there are heaps of down trails so you never feel like you’re waiting for your turn or rushing to get out of someone’s way. As a beginner, I always get paranoid when someone is on my tail. It makes me lose concentration and stresses me out but I haven’t really had that problem with Bike Glendhu.
5. Bike Glendhu has all of the amenities to make for a great day out
I’ll be honest, I’m not (yet) the type of rider who is happy in the saddle all day long. I like to take breaks. I like to enjoy the scenery. I like to refuel in the sunshine on my own time. Bike Glendhu makes it easy to go at your own pace and helps you break up the ride with an epic Base area that’s perfect for lounging in the sun. Plus your day pass lets you in and out as many times as you like within the day (which in summer is 8 am-8 pm!) The onsite cafe Velo serves up tons of tasty (and healthy) meals, treats & beverages. It’s honestly a place I would visit just to hang out at the Base. For families, it has a sandpit and a mini pump track for the wee ones so you can let them self- entertain while you enjoy your flat white.
Bike Glendhu is also just a short walk from the beautiful Glendhu Bay so, on a hot summers day, a mid-ride dip in the lake is the perfect way to refresh. The park is open until 8 pm during the peak hours so you can ride in the morning, lounge by the lake during the afternoon heat and the get a few more laps in before the sun goes down. And if you’re after just one more run down from Jacks but your legs are a bit cooked, jump on their van shuttle for just $8 a seat. The park really has it all.