Tomarata is home. My house is 1.5 hours north of New Zealand’s largest city —Auckland. At our place we have 6 acres of Native bush, a couple more acres for a motocross track and a 90 metre waterslide called Te Ara o Tumatauenga (The pathway of the god of war). Tomarata hasn’t got a streetlight yet, but we’re working on it! I am a river person by genetics but a mountain person by experience.. That is, I was born by the mighty Waikato river but grew up in the mountains in central Otago. I have a PhD in sport and exercise psychology and contract to the New Zealand government on health and physical activity policy. In this role I am a visible supporter of the potential of mountain biking to deliver a whole range of lifeskills development opportunities derived from being in alpine environments.
I used to think that riding was about the challenge between myself and mountain in the pursuit of physical fitness. Now I prefer to think of it as celebrating the mountain via the medium that is mountain biking. What I found was that it was the mountain that kept calling me back to its side because it caused such a strong response in my regard for that place. I used to think it was me that initiated that change but I found out many years later that it was the mountain that asked questions of whether I was really ready to be there.
Mountain biking continues to be about the location. Being in a mountain environment allows me to learn more about what I am capable of achieving. Each time I am able to ride a more advanced mountain bike, I can get further, ride higher more easily, attack corners faster, jump further. All of these attributes allow me to test commitment by understanding the personality traits of the mountain.
The other unique part about mountain biking in New Zealand is the number of indigenous mountain bikers taking part each year. Maori, the indigenous people of New Zealand, traditionally thought of mountain biking as a non-indigenous process. Over the last five years the number of Maori riding has increased 10 fold as Maori realize that mountain biking is about the mountain and not the rider. This has freed us from the ‘must have’ nature of elite cycling and replaced it with the mountain not caring what ‘year’ your bike is as long as you engage.
March of this year saw a mountain bike initiative that traveled from one end of New Zealand to the other engaging with indigenous Maori across the 3000km journey. January 2017 will see a return from the South to the North using an outrigger canoe with the mountain bike being used to portage the outrigger between rivers, lakes and the sea.