Planted at the top of Makara Peak is a signpost pointing to mountain bike meccas at all corners of the planet: 18,700 km to original Welsh trail centre Coed-y-Brenin and even further to the seminal nineties downhill course at Château-d’oex. It’s a reminder of how distant NZ is geographically, but also that Wellington is amongst these coveted spots in the two-wheeled universe.
The summit is over 400m above the suburb of Karori, about 20 minutes’ drive from central Wellington.The winch to the top can be done entirely on singletrack, and once you’ve popped out at the top of Aratihi you’re rewarded with a stunning vista across the city and harbour on one side and West Wind Farm on the other. You’re pretty exposed to Welly’s wild wind up there, and when it’s blowing at the summit the clouds track across the sky on fast forward.
From the top it seems to be all about the newly opened Peak Flow at the moment – a rapid rollercoaster of pumping and jumping. Ridgeline is its techy, rocky neighbour, a bit remiss on the grip front in the wet. For my money the classic North Face still delivers the best value descent for your climbing efforts. It’s a mellower traverse in parts, so it’s all about holding your speed through the loose turns. To finish, the combination of Big Tom’s Wheelie, SWIGG and Starfish is a belter.
If tight and tricky roots and rocks are your thing, head across the road to Wright’s Hill for Salvation (up) and Deliverance (down). I first rode the latter completely blind at the Underground Super D last November and that day marked the first of many crashes and big grins. It has one of Welly’s only proper rock gardens at the top, rooty drops lower down, and stream splashes to finish. If it’s not hard enough already, you can add some vertiginous switchbacks in to the mix by using the Mr X entrance to start.
A spin at Makara can be built into bigger rides, perhaps heading up from the city via Polhill, Brooklyn Windmill and Wright’s Hill or via the Skyline track from Johnsonville, a classic ride that definitely deserves its own post.
Bike shop: the ever-friendly Mud Cycles, just up the road from the main car park. Hire bikes, repairs and coffee.
Trail nose: minimum sniffing. Fancy signposts have been added recently and there’s a good map.
Trail snack of choice: Whittaker’s Hokey Pokey.
Strava: Peak Flow and Deliverance sketchfest.