Backyard Bonanza – Urumau MTB park Lyttelton
By Sam Masters
Christchurch – a pretty shitty city or one of the best located mini-metropolises on the planet? Perspective is important. Some people think Christchurch is just a milk-powder-based rural supply town and nothing more than a convenient starting point for their ‘Lord of the Rings’ film location tour. Others see Christchurch as she truly is: the ultimate recreation sports park with the city infrastructure carefully entwined around surf beaches, sports grounds, tramping tracks and, of course, MTB trails.
I’m told Paris, Beijing and New York have their attraction. Any mystery these major destinations have is somewhat lessened by the effects of death by Instagram. By most metrics Christchurch isn’t in their league. Except for recreational pursuits within a reasonable radius of an expertly-driven espresso machine. Christchurch has a legit claim to world’s best accessibility for action sports.
If you live in Christchurch then why leave? The joys of a staycation are well known. There’s no flight shame for a start and you escape the uncompromising glare of Greta Thunberg. Money saved can be spent on of the needs of your spouse and family. Who am I kidding? Go ahead and buy yourself a new bike and get amongst Christchurch’s epic trail network.
Which is the best MTB trail in Christchurch? It’s steel horses for courses – your favourite trail will always depend on your risk appetite, ability and how many millimetres of travel in your shocks. The Port Hills are well laced with a pleasing variety of MTB trails. Some are road-gap gnarly. Others you’ll be overtaken by a Baby Boomer on an ebike (“Ok boomer!”). Baby Boomers used to wind me up when I was 21, but now that I’m 47 I find them to be universally full of vim, vigour and wisdom.
If I had been to journalism school then the first thing they would have taught me is don’t stoop to tedious cliché. But how else am I going to describe the bike trails of the Urumau Recreation Reserve in Lyttelton as anything but a hidden gem? The best things in life often reshape a cliché to the point where nothing else is really apt. Forrested single-track riding is limited in Christchurch so riding deep within the conifers is like a little taste of the best of British Columbia, just without the poutine, beaver tails and lashings of maple syrup.
The spectacular views of Whakaraupo (Lyttelton Harbour) demand attention. It can be a dangerous case of retinal overload: whether a cheeky snippet between the trees or the commanding vista toward the harbour mouth. Slap a stamp on it and send it home to mum – cause it doesn’t get much better than this…
The looper trail is the best place to start for intermediates. There is a tidy matrix of trails sneaking off in every direction from the peak; so many options all within an area you could throw a blanket over. If you were Hagrid on a picnic. Then an easy traverse track back to the fire trail. Maximize your laps. Minimize the commute. Access from the steps at the end of Foster Terrace Lyttelton or the end of Gilmour Terrace. Limited parking at either site – better to park in Lyttelton and ride up.
The trails are the work of volunteers from the Lyttelton Mountain Bike club. I won’t bore you with the details but the blood, sweat and tears required to build these tracks makes the character arc of your average Russian novel look like Disney on Ice. Help assuage your guilt at having this much fun on the back of other people’s hard yakka by joining the Lyttelton Mountain bike club here: