Shitty Jobs.

What have you sacrificed to follow your passion?

Life has a way of moving so damn fast sometimes that we rarely take the time to sit back and think about everything that we’ve done. It’s just go go go in today’s society where it’s almost frowned upon to stop and just take is e-a-s-y and I for one am so very guilty of this myself. Already planning the next thing before you’ve even finished the present thing.

Recently I took the time to sit down and type up a resume. That was quite the feat - I haven’t made one of these for probably 10 years or so. In hindsight it was great, as it forced me to sit down and think about the past. To write down and remember what I’ve done for the past few years. As the details slowly started trickling back to me, one thing triggering the next, and before you knew it, I was on a roll, all the memories came flooding back and it reminded me of how much I loved racing my bike and how many things I sacrificed over the years to follow my passion. It made me giggle - A LOT as it reminded me of all the absolutely crap jobs I’ve had over the years, all for the love of traveling to race my bicycle. On a side note, it’s only the past 3 years of racing bikes out of almost 15, that I’ve been able to sort of make a living from it. Perseverance pays off ;)

To give you a bit of a background, I had a completely different life before bikes. Armed with two degrees (Fashion and Advertising) i was heavily immersed in those industries which i loved and was quite good at. I was living in Southern California - probably one of the most expensive places on the planet to live, at the time when I discovered (stumbled upon) mountain biking and it pretty much consumed my life. Wanting and needing more than the 10 annual days leave you get in the real work place I had to put my fashion and advertising career on hold to go race bikes around the world. This meant finding any job for the other six months.

The random jobs below are a few examples of what I put up with to save up as much as I could and fund the next seasons racing (or more realistically pay off last seasons credit card debt).

Working at an old aged home coffee shop was rather entertaining, serving the oldies caffeine instead of decaf they asked for - don’t get me wrong, I have a real soft spot for oldies, but man were they grumpy &

tight with the tips. I screen printed T-shirts & made deconstructed hoodies which I sold at local weekend markets, I worked in a library for $5 an hour, we lived on two minute noodles and tuna (we were slightly skinnier back then), and kept our fast food cups to keep refilling our soda’s for free. Buying a coffee wasn’t even a thing, it just wasn’t an option. Sven & I had to apply for travel visas back then being South African, which required to show your bank balance (a non existing feature) so my parents would transfer chunks of money into my account to make it seem like we had money, then once we got our visa’s, we’d have to transfer it back again. Fun and games to make things happen.

Of course I did my bike shop stint which was a huge help in getting parts at cost price and free wrenching and wheel builds on the bikes. They were awesome and encouraged and supported me at the races, needless to say I worked there for a few years. Thanks to the Bike Co for those good years!

Too many catering companies to count. Strutting around rich folks homes at private parties balancing tuna canapés on a silver tray dressed like a quasi French maid - don’t ask! This paid much better than the old age home coffee shop and got me to a few more races ;)

Working retail killed me. Long hours, on my feet all day long, tending to people buying $300 designer jeans for their tweens while I have to babysit their french poodle type oxygen thieving pets. Answering their “Does this make my butt look big” questions with complete false conviction - “OMG, they look amazing!” Cha ching, another sale for me meant more commission dollars in my pocket which = to more races!

Gym wasn’t really something I needed to add to my training program back then, as one year I helped to build a house. Yes, a massive, big, wooden log home in Oregon and I hand sanded planks from 9 to 5 for a few weeks straight. I sanded so many planks that I had to alternate arms every other day, so I can confidently say that I’m completely ambidextrous when it comes to sanding planks. Once all the planks were smooth as butter, I learnt how to install underfloor heating and did the whole house. I often think of that family and the beautiful home I helped to build. Hard graft, but great memories not to mention the character building - maybe that was where my Type 2 fun evil streak developed?

After a few years we moved into a “hippy” type commune/area in Laguna Canyon, and that was when I noticed heaps of bike type stuff in our neighbours garage, went for a nosey and turned out that it was Crankbrothers, which was running the business from the owners house. I strolled in and asked for a job. I struck gold. Being able to walk over to work with your coffee in one hand and porridge in the other, was pretty convenient. I started off by rebuilding pedals. Everyone started in the garage rebuilding pedals and then you moved in and up and helped with a bit of everything. It was my dream job with included plenty lunch and post work rides and I’ll forever be grateful to Crankbrothers for giving me the opportunity that I needed. Transitioning from the workshop into the office, working trade shows, testing, development, customer service, moving into fancy new premises, then merging with a big group and triple the amount of employees than what I started with. We were a family. When we decided to make a move out of California into Oregon, where life was a bit more affordable and realistic i was able to keep working for them remotely, this allowed me to keep travelling racing and working all at the same time which was refreshing for a change. We played the difficult but entertaining game of searching remote tiny villages for internet access for logging on to work for nearly five years.

I had been a Santa Cruz sponsored rider for many years, so when the womens division of Juliana Bicycles was formed and they asked me to come on board and help with the launch, I said, “HELL YES!” This was the first time in all my years of racing that I could purely focus on racing and training all year long. Ironically, it came at a time when i was ready to call it quits, the years of shitty random jobs and eternal debt were taking their toll but now a new door was opening, Enduro was growing so i jumped at this opportunity with a new brand who was already a family. This is what I’d been dreaming of for the past 10 years! Fast forward to the present, looking back, It’s been the best 4 and a half years ever and I will forever be grateful to Juliana Bicycles for this opportunity.

These were just a few of the jobs that stand out in my memory. I couldn’t have made it through these years without my sense of humour - they still make me giggle to this day. I am so thankful for all of these experiences. I learnt A LOT, worked with all sorts of people from all walks of life. It taught me how to be patient, to try anything and everything, to never turn down any possible opportunities and that you are never too good for any job. It seems these days a lot of younger up

and coming riders and aspiring racers are not willing to make the sacrifice to follow their dreams if it is not handed to them on a silver platter. I wouldn’t change one single thing. Absolutely no regrets - only one big smile, heaps of memories, as long as you are headed towards your goal or funding your life desires, keep at it. Life has a funny old way of always working out in your favour when you’ve worked really hard at something.

Cheers Anka 

Sven Martin Photo.

Sven Martin Photo.

Behind the Scenes - Strega Video.

Strega /ˈstreɪɡə/

What does Strega mean? Strega means witch in Italian.

A witch is a woman who is believed to have magic powers, especially evil ones.

Why the whole witch theme? We were on a riding trip in Molini Di Triora, Italy, which is a tiny little town tucked away in the Argentine Valley which happens to have some of THE best mountain biking in the world. This little town was one of the last towns in Europe where they still burnt witches. This whole story intrigued & fascinated us so much, we were surrounded by this dark eerie history & amazing trail network, so the name Strega seemed pretty fitting for the new women’s Nomad that was launching, as this bike, aimed at the non conventional woman, the outsider, the one’s willing to take risks, it just seemed a perfect fit.

“People fear what they don’t understand. A 170mm travel trail bike aimed purely at women? Are they mad? Burn them! Drown it!!!”

Where was it filmed? We filmed mainly just outside of Glasgow in Scotland, as we had to find a location where bikes & horses were allowed to ride together on shared trails. We also needed to head somewhere that still looked pretty cold & wintery; for once we didn’t want happy, cheery blue sky & sunshine, we were seeking dark moody skies and eerie forests. Some of the riding scenes were also filmed in Molini Di Triora, Italy & in Sospel, France.

“The Strega is for those who fly in the face of the naysayers. The riders who blaze a trail that others will follow. Mountain biking is their means to get far from the masses, and the Strega is as far out as it gets.”

How long did all of this take? We had a whopping 4 days to nail the filming scenes, but the costumes, planning, permissions & music took months of preparation ahead of the time. We had one afternoon to film the mob scene with all the extra’s and the flaming torches. It was a long, but really amazing 4 days! Working with live animals proved to be a real challenge (and really scary), as you cannot push them, when they’ve had enough, they’ve had enough. The guys from Cut Media were amazing & to see it all come together in the end made all the hard work seem so worthwhile.

Believe in magic believe in lore legend and myth
And the hand that guides in the cunning if hope in the weaving of dreams And the lady of the lake takes my hand and leads me
To the holy isle and the fairy rings and the circles of stone Forever and again

When was the last time you felt really out of your comfort zone? A quote that I really like and try to live by is the one that says you should do something that scares you every single day....well I can tell you, I had no idea what I was in for when I headed off to shoot the video. Sweet, I’m off to shoot a video in Scotland, I’m going to dress up as a witch and try to ride my bike really fast, easy right?! I’ve only ever done a few short video type things, so just assumed it would be similar. Boy, was I in for a surprise and a solid week of pushing my comfort zone to the next level. Once there I quickly realised that this was WAY more than a shredit edit. I was in for a full on proper movie like production piece and I was going to act way more than just ride my bike. With no previous acting experience, I was literally thrown into the deep end, so I had two options here; 1) keep feeling stupid & awkward and re-do takes over and over or 2) Let go of all my inhibitions & learn not to give a shit about a bunch of people watching me trying to act and look stupid so I didn’t have to do a million takes. As soon as I completely embraced the latter, I fully emerged myself into character & kind of loved it.

Give me, give me, give me, deliverance Brother, sister, give me, give me Deliverance, deliver me

Costume: First up was the outfit. No riding gear needed for this one. My kneepads and shorts were replaced by skintight black faux leather stretch pants (no room for knee pads), my merino wool riding shirt replaced by a fishnet long sleeved top, a snood hood thing over that to give me a medieval look, some faux woolie leg warmers wrapped around my legs and to top it all off a big old hooded cape to make me look evil and cover my helmet (and my eyesight). Modern, medieval, bike riding badass bitch, I mean witch was the look we were going for. With the costume all done, I had to now actually try to ride my bike with all this garb. Thank God for the cold temperatures in Scotland, because I was dressed for a bloody snow storm! Everything ended up working well on the bike, I actually grew really fond of riding in leather pants. The cape was a little tricky, it needed to be long enough to move & flow graciously in the wind but at the same time not get wrapped up in my rear wheel. That worked as long as I kept moving fast! Ok, sorted. Next step was figuring out how to actually ride & look semi aggressive with the cape, which was ok, but then we had to figure out how to get the cape ripped off my back (quite violently) by the horse rider chasing me, without ripping me off the bike or choking me! Good old heavy duty velcro & safety pins to the rescue. The force of ripping this cape off my back by the horse rider was so strong, it ripped holes in my shirt where the safety pins were.

Surrender to the wisdom of age and the spirits of time Remember our souls entwined for eternity
And the healing hand of the fairy queen will come to all who have faith in her And the apple tree will bear it's fruit in the gardens of Avalon Forever and again

Make Up: Then came the make up. Black, black, black and then more black. Everywhere. Now if you know me, I don’t ever wear make up and I don’t own any, so this was sort of exciting, sort of scary when that eyeliner pencil tip headed straight to my eyeball for some colouring in. Getting the shit on my face was one thing, and a whole other struggle to get the black stuff off again. (Hotel towels & bed linen will never be white again). After the first night, I gave up trying to clean my face and just rocked the full make up, smudged, rockstar (druggie) look, to dinner for the rest of the week. Hair was next. I’ve always wanted dreadlocks, so this was my chance! Recipe to F- up your hair really quickly: Don’t wash it for a week, take a fine comb and brush back your hair until it looks like a rat’s nest. Spray some very potent non ozone friendly hairspray everywhere (great for working with fire), add some talcum powder and keep repeating all day long and voila, instant, rats nest witch dreads for the week. Perfect. I’m still trying to get rid of some knots...

Give me, give me, give me deliverance Brother, sister, give me, give me Deliverance, deliver me
Give me, give me, give me, deliverance Brother, sister, give me, give me Deliverance, deliver me

Horses: Time to add some live animals. Yep, two of them. Stallion stunt horses to be precise. These ginormous live animals had a mind of their own. I’m terrified of horses. I tried to pretend to like them, but they picked up on my non horse vibes right off the bat and I couldn’t fool them. They were buck wild and they made me pedal so damn fast. Try getting clipped into your pedals, while at a standstill watching them charging full speed towards you, but having to wait until they get close enough before you get going. Unnerving to say the least. In one scene I was getting sandwiched between these two massive beasts, closing in on me, and all I could hear was snorting, breathing and their hooves smashing around me...definitely not in my comfort zone.

Let me sleep for awhile and dream of Avalon and the Beltane fires And a silent kiss steals away into the mist and out to the lake Where the sword will rise again from the water into the Hands of the chosen one the righteous one
Forever and again

Pyrotechnics: Fire. My witch house for the shoot was a yurt hidden in the woods covered in loose flowing fabrics and surrounded by all sorts of Pagan like symbols. We had a real white witch as who styled the whole scene to make sure that everything was legit and proper witch like. Inside the yurt we had a million lit candles creating the dark, moody, spellbound ambiance with Myrrh & Frankincense creating a blurry fog around us. A perfect fire hazard set up.. I only caught on fire once, thanks to my very synthetic faux furry leg warmers. Good thing I was also covered in hairspray. Doh. I did smell something burning, but the camera’s were rolling, so I just carried on with the scene. Cheers Gary Perkin for waiting extra long, and being extra cool & collected before giving me the heads up that my entire leg was on fire. My furry leg warmers were slightly less furry after this. We also had about twenty plus mob extra’s running through a dense, dry forest, violently chasing me down with flaming torches - a fireman’s nightmare. Needless to say we had more than a few scorched eyebrows & arm hair after filming those scenes. Everything was so spot on though, that once you let yourself go and immersed yourself into this whole “culture” it was incredibly powerful and the few of us who were filming inside the yurt that day could actually feel the power of the witch craft. Something happened in there, we all felt it...

Give me, give me, give me, deliverance Brother, sister, give me, give me Deliverance, deliver me
Give me, give me, give me, deliverance Brother, sister, give me, give me Deliverance, deliver me

Video Music: Deliverance by The Mission

Strega video: https://youtu.be/2zGEtQgrmTs

Gary Perkin

Gary Perkin

Anka's snaps.

Anka's snaps.

Gary Perkin

Gary Perkin

Gary Perkin

Gary Perkin

Gary Perkin

Gary Perkin

My 7th Trans Provence rally - 2017.

Will I be back for my 7th Trans Provence next year? Gosh, I’m not sure just yet, but never say never… 

These were the last words from my blog after the 2016 Trans Provence, and yes, I did end up going back for more! What can I say, I’m a sucker for blind racing, camping & suffering with other likeminded folks. It’s been a few weeks now since I finished up the 2017 adventure. The week was insane, hard, amazing & scorching hot. Everything I like. I had a blast riding with new & old friends, deliriously laughing & singing our way through the stages. I felt really good on my bike, and felt stronger than last year, finishing 2nd behind Ines the machine and 29th overall. I loved my Strega out there, I knew it would eat those Mediterranean rocks for breakfast, but I was most impressed by how well my steed climbed. It was so good to race again, to push myself against the clock and to have so many of those “o shit, how did I make that” moments throughout the week. 

I realised once again, that these are the type of “enduro” events that I love. This is what I fell in love with all those years ago, and I am so thankful that blind racing is alive and kicking. At the end of the day, it’s the people who make these events memorable, the friends & bonds which develop during the week and the main reason that I keep coming back for more. Cheers Ash & Melissa and everyone else involved for putting on another epic riding adventure.

So what about next year then? Will I be back for round number 8. Well, I’ve got something on my radar, something I’ve been wanting to tackle for years, so next year I’ll tell you all about that...

Cheers
Anka
x

Good times all the time. Sven Martin photo's.

Good times all the time. Sven Martin photo's.

Gary Perkin

Gary Perkin

Sven Martin

Sven Martin

Sven Martin

Sven Martin

Sven Martin

Sven Martin

Nomadic Rhythms in New Zealand.

Life on the road as a racer from New Zealand is pretty full on for six to seven months of the year, you are too far from home to go back between events so you slip into a nomadic rhythm, one event after the other, living out of a bag, switching between vans, rentals, planes and trains, crossing borders and sampling cultures. This wanderlust is what got me hooked on racing but by the end of the season i yearn for stillness, dream of routine and sleeping in the same bed for awhile. Finding the light switch at night. The Saturday market, the Wednesday night ride, the weekly yoga classes with your favourite teacher. Waking up to hearing the same sounds, waving at familiar people, getting to know the check out lady at the supermarket. Silly, small things right? These are the things I miss out on while living a life on the road so when I catch the first glimpse flying into Nelson, from the window of the small prop plane with the beautiful landscape laid out below me, I feel so relieved, so happy, excited and content. It marks the end of another racing season (and this was my final one) but it also marks the beginning of the New Zealand summer, ideal for a few mini road trips, micro adventures exploring new nooks and crannies of our relatively new adopted homeland. 

After way too many flights and long drives the past six months the rules were simple; South Island only, no flights or mammoth drives just a few short overnight trips made possible by bike. New locations or some favourites done differently or with a new group of friends. 

Wild West Coast New Years Escape

This was more of an escape with a group of friends, away from town, away from civilisation away from everything during the hectic tourist season. You can’t get more remote than a six hour 4x4 mission headed south from the last town and road on the West Coast. Along the way we parked the trucks and detoured along the old Haast-Paringa cattle track, basically an old road built back in 1883. This was overgrown jungle riding at its best. We were exploring by bike not mountain biking as you know it. You could hardly see, never-mind find the trail. After the usual sketchy suspension bridge and some boggy riding with multiple river crossings we arrived at our destination for the night, Blowfly hut built in 1905, pretty old for NZ history. The next three nights were spent in Barn Bay about as remote as you can get in NZ. Bush bashing our way in and then hiking down a river for a few clicks before taking a step back in time. Perfect way to see in the new year. 

Old Ghost Road big day out.

A relatively new trail for New Zealand but an old one for us. It is the countries longest continuous singletrack trail, stretching for 85 glorious kilometres from Lyell in the Buller to the mouth of the mighty Mokihinui river on the West Coast. A gold mining boom in the 19th century where miners dreamt of connecting the road from both ends, was rather ambitious and it remained a dream until volunteers decided that it was time to connect these roads and 8 years later they’ve created a mountain bikers dream trail giving us access to untouched backcountry native bush.

We have literally done it every which way, out an back from either end, a helidrop and multiple through rides staying over at Ghost Lake hut. The word must definitely be out because the huts on this must do ride have been booked solid most of the summer, not wanting to miss out we decided to tackle the full ride all in one go. With no sleeping bags, extra clothes and three meals to pack it meant the bikes were light and efficient. It was still very much about the terrain and views but with no gear to weigh us down it was fast and exhilarating too and the cold beer and outdoor shower at the Rough And Tumble lodge at the trail end wrapped up an amazing long day. 

Island Escape

Most of the time you feel the need to go far away from home, to get away, but how often do you literally head out on an adventure only a few kilometres from your house? We headed a whopping 8km from home for an overnighter on an island. Pepin Island is a private island next to our local beach of Cable Bay. You can stay and explore if you rent one of their cabins. It felt like we were a million miles away, hearing new sounds and seeing new sights. A highlight was watching all the fishermen launching their boats before sunrise and hearing the gentle put put purring of their engines as they glided out of the estuary on a calm and beautiful morning. The sunrise looked different than from our house. The light was different. We saw a whole new side to our own neighbourhood, and fell in love all over again. How cool is that?

Bikes and Boats

The beauty of heading to ride one of your favourite tracks each year is the fact that it is different every time. The trail constantly changes, the weather creates the mood, the group shapes the dynamic, your state of mind determines your enjoyment of the trip. Many factors are responsible for creating memories and how you cherish them. While we were avoiding planes this summer we never ruled out boats We’ve taken the water taxi out after riding Nydia Track many times over the years, this time though, we were lucky enough to be entertained by a pod of bottlenose dolphins, a rare sight, and probably my most memorable experience of being out here on the Sounds and a perfect example of how “old” favourites are never the same.

Hopefully this gets you all out there planning and scheming. You dont need an international or exotic destination for your own adventures, look a little closer, explore a little deeper. 

Kia Ora. 

Anka

Why the EWS series is tops in my books.

After discovering the French & Italian “enduro" races in Europe years before the EWS was conceived, I became instantly hooked; they reignited my passion for bike racing & riding. I had just finished up racing Downhill; I didn’t want to keep going back to the same venues year after year, and frankly I just wanted to actually ride my bike more. These Euro enduro races got me stoked again. It was all new, very exciting and a whole new discipline that you had to figure out and try to master. I loved the raw-ness of it all, the sort of no rules and lack of seriousness that went along with these events. The feed stations and relaxed atmosphere, the fact that there were hundreds of people racing these events for the past 10 years but hardly anyone had any idea that “enduro” even existed outside of Europe. No one spoke English, you just showed up and figured shit out. Threw yourself down a bloody glacier, or rode virgin tracks across freshly taped French pistes - no problems! I loved it, and it turned out that I was kind of good at it too. 

After racing these crazy events for a few years, I was ready to move on from this whole racing business, I wasn’t quite sure to what at that time, but I felt like my racing days were wrapping up & I felt more than content with my cycling achievements (no World Champ’s in this accolade, that was never my goal, but traveling the world, riding my bike & making friends for life, that was my goal).

A few “Enduro" races began popping up here and there in the US, and people started talking about this “new” discipline, but honestly, most people had the wrong idea about what they thought Enduro racing was. It usually ended up being much like a Super D with the top XC whippets taking the win in their skin suits and light bikes- don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against those athlete’s, in fact I have the biggest respect for the XC guys & gals, but proper Enduro races should not be won without knee pads. 

Along came Mr Chris Ball and together with some of the Euro Enduro pioneers Fred Glo and Enrico Guala, announced that they were starting a new series; The Enduro World Series. Mmmm, I thought, interesting, very interesting. I liked this sound of WORLD series, I could potentially travel to even more exotic places to ride my bike with other likeminded people…now this caught my attention & stoked my excitement levels yet again. So much for me moving on from racing! 

Right about this time Santa Cruz, who had been supporting me for many years, asked me to be a part of the new brand they were creating for women - Juliana. They wanted me to become their Juliana Bicycles ambassador and to continue doing what I usually do. WOW. Oh Chris, where were you and the EWS 5 years ago my friend? Of course an opportunity like this was a no brainer, it’s what you work for your whole career - especially in the cycling industry, so yeah, I went for it and the rest is history.

Four amazing, hectic and whirlwind years later, I’ve decided to stop racing this EWS series. Not easy, I can promise you that, as these past four years of racing has been the best (and hardest mentally & physically) of my life. My riding & skill set is better than it’s ever been, thanks to racing on some of the most demanding and technical trails out there, way harder and more varied than any World Cup DH track I've experienced. I’m also fitter & stronger than ever; you have to be and mentally, nothing can get to me anymore. Throw anything at me & I will get through it with a smile, ok, sometimes it’s a grimace. My sense of humour has been turned up a notch or two and waking up feeling like a bus has hit you every morning has become the norm. My passport has a million stamps & some extension pages added, my friendships, memories & the camaraderie have become my everything & most cherished keepsakes of all. I could potentially keep doing these, but one has to draw the line somewhere. 

I want to personally perform and do the best that I can at these events, but these days that often means walking the tracks before practise, followed up by three full days of training on the tracks, then each day foregoing exploring a new town, sampling new cultures instead to go study lines and tracks on your Go Pro footage in your hotel room and rest up and recover. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this scenario, I am pleased that this series has risen to such great heights and professionalism that people can make a decent living from, but it is just not where I am at this stage of my life and what I am willing to sacrifice. 

This doesn’t mean that I’ve retired, I’ve just retired from racing THIS series.  I’m a bit of a sucker for punishment & I’m always itching for new adventures - always, scheming & planning & pushing my own personal limits. There are so many other events out there and places to explore and I cannot wait to start ticking them off my to do list.

Some interesting stats for you from my last four years racing the EWS series. 

  • I raced 25 out of 30 races from the start of the EWS series in 2013 to the end of 2016. Torn ankle ligaments in 2014 saw me miss the Scottish round and then a broken hand sustainedin Chile during the Andes Pacifico race was responsible for me missing the first four rounds of this years season. 
  • 9 different countries.
  • 5 top 10 results.
  • 1 top 10 series overall result. 
  • My race times have added up to a whopping 24h of racing in total. 

Some of my personal feelings about the series: 

  • Hardest: without a doubt was Whistler’s Crankzilla in 2015. 
  • Tightest transition times: Whistler’s Crankzilla 2015 & Rotorua in 2016. 
  • All time favourite venues were: Finale Ligure Italy, Ainsa Spain, Rotorua NZ & Chile 2014.
  • Least favourite venue: WinterPark CO. 
  • Craziest fans ever: Ireland 2015
  • Least amount of oxygen: Crested Butte, CO 2015
  • The worst weather: Val D’Isere, France where you couldn’t see your front tyre due to mist & snow, half the field got lost but then again, there has been too many rounds to remember that went down in horrendous weather. I end up wearing WAY more rain gear during the Euro summer and getting caught in A LOT of rain, hail, sleet, thunder & sometimes snow storms - but that just makes these events more memorable hey?  

So if you are a budding racer looking to broaden your horizons and take up new challenges or want to set new goals and haven’t raced an EWS race yet, get out there and do it, it will teach you things about yourself that you never knew existed! 

2013 EWS Season:  Punta Ala Italy, Val D’Allos France, Les Deux Alpes France, Val D'Isere France, Winter Park CO, Whistler Canada, Finale Ligure, Italy.

2013 EWS Season: 

Punta Ala Italy, Val D’Allos France, Les Deux Alpes France, Val D'Isere France, Winter Park CO, Whistler Canada, Finale Ligure, Italy.

2014 EWS Season:  Chile South America, Valloir France, La Thuile Italy, Winter Park CO, Whistler Canada, Finale Ligure, Italy.

2014 EWS Season: 

Chile South America, Valloir France, La Thuile Italy, Winter Park CO, Whistler Canada, Finale Ligure, Italy.

2015 EWS Season: Rotorua New Zealand, Wicklow Ireland, Peebles Scotland, Samoens France, Crested Butte CO, Whistler Canada, Ainsa Spain, Finale Ligure Italy.

2015 EWS Season:

Rotorua New Zealand, Wicklow Ireland, Peebles Scotland, Samoens France, Crested Butte CO, Whistler Canada, Ainsa Spain, Finale Ligure Italy.

2016 EWS Season:  Snowmass CO, Whistler Canada, Valberg France, Finale Ligure Italy.

2016 EWS Season: 

Snowmass CO, Whistler Canada, Valberg France, Finale Ligure Italy.

Soul Trails Adventures - bikes & yoga.

I had this idea of putting together trips for women who already knew how to ride their bikes, catering to those who were ready to start exploring further afield, to travel & ride in new places and tackle new terrain. Then combining these trips with an introduction to yoga & how it can benefit and add to your biking. This was how the name Soul Trails came about. 

There are many skills camps and clinics out there and they are valuable and an amazing platform to start from, but during my travels & trips abroad I’ve really noticed that there is a lack of women getting together and booking a trip somewhere “exotic” to just go riding with their mates on tough and challenging trails. You always see heaps of guys on a guys riding trip, with the token female tagging along (I’m usually one of these). 

This (exploring new cool places with my bike) is my absolute favourite thing in the world to do, so I thought that starting a women's specific adventure trip and teaming up with some of the best guiding outfitters around the globe could bring about a change and act as a platform for adventurous women to take the plunge and book a riding trip of their own, then someday we’ll see groups of women out shredding with the token male tagging along :-)

These trips are about riding sick varied trails, about pushing your own personal limits, trying new, possibly scary things, meeting new people, but are also about discovering new countries and learning about their cultures and of course sampling their food. We session obstacles & work on techniques, in real world situations- on the trail; so no parking lot lessons. Along with the riding, I introduce yoga to these biking ladies, to balance out the masculine side of biking with the softer side of yoga and show them how yoga can benefit your biking. Don’t be fooled though, the yoga is aimed to get you stronger for the bike to absorb all those hits better, so we work up a sweat before breakfast.

The trips are focussed more on women, but we don’t exclude the guys completely, as they can be an important part of the trips and I feel that we can learn from them. I just want to create an environment which encourages more women to travel with their bikes and go riding new trails and sometimes alongside guys that are super supportive and encouraging.

Soul Trails Scotland

Our inaugural trip this year was in Bonney Scotland with Go-Where Scotland and the infectious duo of Aneela & Andy McKenna. We were based in the beautiful Scottish Highlands in the Cairngorm mountains at The Bunkhouse, which was just magical. We had our own private yoga studio, and hairy Highland coows to greet us every morning. Fresh, healthy meals were prepared daily by the lovely ladies; Shirley & Elisa, who would join in on the rides everyday, cutting out earlier to prepare our meals and welcome us back with delightful G&T’s. Janey, our lead guide made sure we didn’t get lost in the heather clad hills and Aneela & Andy taking care of all the laughs & banter along the way. Never a dull moment with those two! We even had a guest appearance from Andrea - the tech & suspension guru from Juliana Bicycles who popped in for a few days of riding, hanging, tech talk & helping all the ladies with a proper bike set up for their steeds.

We rode too many trails to name (or remember their Gaelic names), but some highlights were Laggan Wolftrax, Devil’s Staircase in Glencoe down into Kinlochleven, lunch in the Culra Bothy, Dalwhinnie, the Grey Mares, conquering the water bars on the Chalamain Gap Trail, bone-dry Burnside, Dunkeld, Ben Alder and plenty of other. We barely scratched the surface of what Scotland has to offer but that is the beauty of these trips they leave you with a thirst for going out and doing your own exploring.

A huge shout out goes to Lululemon who supported us by giving each girl a yoga mat & to Juliana Bicycles swagging out the ladies making sure we all look good on & off our bikes :)

Thank you to this first group of women who had the guts to book a trip with Soul Trails and all the other people who were involved with this rad week - you guys ROCK!

Sandra Williams, Agnes Arnold, Emily Trill, Sarah Bedford, Sue Walker, Shirley Clark, Elisa Smith, Janey Kennedy, Andrea Turner & “Handy” Andy & Aneela owners of the Go-Where Scotland mtb guiding company.

My love affair with the Trans Provence & why YOU should sign up for a multi day adventure race at least once in your life.

I’ve just finished up the Trans Provence adventure about a week ago. This was my sixth time going on this journey, so as you can see, it is obviously my all time favourite event and the highlight of my season every year for sure. People often ask me why on earth would you keep going back every year? My answer to them is that first of all, I love the challenge, I love the adventure and I love riding sick new tracks. The Trans Provence is a hard race, it is no walk in the park and that is why I am so attracted to this event and other similar multi day races like the Andes Pacifico in Chile and other “like minded” events.

The challenge is to keep your bike & body intact for a week of pretty insane, technical and very exposed trail riding. You have to be so focused and really on it for 6 - 7 days, so you can’t just race like a crazy lady from the start, as you’ll never make it through the week. It’s not just about going as fast as you can whenever you can, there is so much more to it, so many variables that will affect your week, and you cannot go to one of these events with the mindset of, o yeah, I’m going to win this race. O no, this race is not over until the last stage of the last day, as there are just so many things that can go wrong. There are different elements that can affect you than at a normal race, for example things like dogs on the tracks, possible hikers, getting lost, signs that may be down, tummy issues, fatigue, crashes and massive mechanicals far from anything, so you really need to be wearing your sensible cap at all times and have fun with it. These are adventure weeks, not race weeks. You give your everything of course, but you just have to wait and see how it all ends up after 6 days. This was my first race back after breaking my hand, so I was pretty happy to be able to hang on and get on to the 5th step with these fast ladies.

When people ask me why I love these multi day stage races so much & why they should try one, I usually start babbling on about the points I jotted down below:

  • A multi day event is completely different to the usual one or two day bike races that we attend. They are WAY more relaxed, way more fun, people actually drink a beer or two (or more) and you have so much more time to enjoy and appreciate everything around you, including WAY more bike time.
  • You get to know the people so much better, as you spend A LOT of time riding together, eating, camping, laughing and competing together, usually leaving as good old friends after a week on the bike. You get to meet & ride with people from all walks of life, not just the usual bike racers like at the majority of other events. I love this part, where you meet so many interesting, different people. After a few days of riding with someone, you may find out that he or she is a rocket scientist, or a multi millionaire or a rally car driver - whatever it may be, it is usually pretty interesting and refreshing to meet all sorts of people. Jeff Calam in the photo below has done 5 Trans Provence adventures with me, we’ve become great friends over the years, always having a mini battle amongst ourselves - it’s always been pretty close, but this year he beat me - think it was his new 29er wheels ;) He’s also waited for me on the low days, fixed my bike, talked my ears off, forced me to eat and we’ve high five-d way more than what you’re allowed to due to very high stoked factors!
  • You have to learn to rough it. Camping during these events are the best, but I love to camp, and that is not the case for a lot of people. Sometimes it can be some people's first time ever camping! Even a small thing like camping can make a significant impact on your whole week and affect your results, as people can’t sleep as well as they are used to, the snoring keeps them awake, it might be pouring it down, everything is always damp and the roughing it part can get them down after a week of tent life. This is what I love and what usually makes me feel a wee bit stronger towards the end of every week compared to most others.
  • You have to keep your bike & body in one piece. You’re only allowed one big bag at most of these events, and that includes your spares, so you only bring the basics, whatever you can fit into your bag. That is the whole point of these adventures. If you get to wash your bike and lube the chain after every big day, you should be stoked. These events are not meant to be all professional, where bikes get stripped down after every day and rebuilt, the bikes should be roughing it like we are. Why? This is where we learn to help each other. Share parts, figure out a plan to fix a broken frame, camaraderie and basic tools is what gets your bike (and yourself) through these weeks and trust me, your bike will never ever get as thrashed and beat up as during a week like the TP. Your riding will also improve like crazy as you just get thrown into the deep end and you learn to react, race blind, navigate and pretty much just hang on to survive the week! My trusty Roubion survived the week, a little battered and bruised just like the owner, but man, what a bike ;)
  • You get to see the most amazing places and ride the most amazing, varied singletrack. The scenery, the trails and the culture we get to explore during these weeks are one of the big draws for me. You go to a new area or country, you don’t have to rent a guide and you’re not having to stop at every intersection to double check the map and the route. All you have to do, is sign up to one of these events, and follow the route and the maps that you’re given - genius. What a way to explore an entire region or area. Take the time to look around, take photo’s, stop in the little villages to eat an ice cream or drink a coffee or beer or both. Soak up the atmosphere, the local food, the language and embrace the culture. That is what I love about these adventures.
  • You learn a lot about yourself during events like these. They are not easy and you’re not always going to feel great and have amazing race runs. It just doesn’t work like that, so you adapt, you learn and you accept it for what it is. Suffering makes you stronger to handle everything in your life in a better manner and suffering with other people really creates a bond between you that will in turn develop into great friendships. Below was Day 1 of this years race. A completely unexpected storm hit us the night before the start of the race, it poured the entire evening and this is what we woke up to. It was a tough, long, hard day, but one I will never ever forget. These hard days are the one’s that become the most memorable one’s - and the blue butt cheek I still have from a massive crash on stage zero!
  • You can eat, eat, eat and then eat some more, and us girls like to do that. Everything tastes better after a big day on the bike, you get to have dessert every night, you stop for ice cream, beer, pizza, chips, pastries and the occasional coke along the way, mmmmm, that’s why we ride bikes after all? Right ladies? Just remember to reign in the “bad habits” after the week ends and you stop pedaling for 8 hours a day ;)
  • You get to disconnect from the real world for a whole week. Usually these events are pretty remote, with very minimal WIFI and cell phone signals. Most of us are pretty antsy at first, but after a few days, you feel so liberated and free to not have to check your phone. Only pulling out the phone to take a picture of something beautiful or of a friend that is actually with you - real life, imagine that! Who cares what the rest of the Facebook or Instagram world is getting up to when you’re busy having the time of your life - or hanging on for dear life like I am in the photo below. Red earth day was WILD.

DO IT NOW. Find an event that may suit you near your home or that is in some foreign country that you’ve always wanted to visit, convince some of your friends to do the same and signup! It will be the best experience of your life and you will never regret it. 

My apologies if you get hooked on signing up for these adventures and become a total multi day event addict like I have become & it will leave you grinning like I am above ;)

Will I be back for my 7th Trans Provence next year? Gosh, I’m not sure just yet, but never say never...

Cheers Ash & Melissa for another wicked event! Huge shoutout to Sven Martin & Duncan Philpott for all the hard work out there getting all these bangers :)

Cheers Ash & Melissa for another wicked event! Huge shoutout to Sven Martin & Duncan Philpott for all the hard work out there getting all these bangers :)

Peace out, 

Anka

# do you even do bike yoga bro?

Don’t let me scare you away with the word YOGA in the subject line my fellow mountain bikers! Yes, the word yoga seems to have popped up everywhere lately, it almost seems as overused as the word “enduro” or “adventure” these days, or as trendy as coconut yogurt and paleo bread rolls (almost just as expensive too), but there is good reason why more & more people have become aware of this thing called Yoga, and that is the simple reason that people have started to realise that you need to do more of it to keep doing the things that you’re most passionate about. Yes. To improve your riding or racing you need to invest the time into doing these additional things to help with your main focus, or main sport - whatever that may be. In this case, I’ll be focusing on mountain bikers and trying to help them understand just how beneficial a few simple “asanas” poses can be.

I’m not going to try and impress you with crazy sounding Sanskrit words like Urdhva Mukha Paschimottanasana when I can just say up dog yo! I want to keep this simple and straight forward, no airy fairy business, just a plain and simple aid to help your body to cope with all the stresses related to biking, racing, traveling and of course those darned things we all know far too well called injuries. This is not to say that I dislike all the other yogic elements, but I’ll leave that up to you to explore & discover for yourself.

I’ve started with a few super basic warm up, stretching poses for pre and post rides. You can do these anywhere, even in your bike gear with your knee pads & helmet still in place. No need to go out and buy a new tight fitting, crazy patterned, neon coloured yoga outfit that will most likely break the bank for these moves (although it is pretty awesome that you can wear bold, crazy printed tights in a yoga class; but beware when you step outside the studio, you might get a few funny looks). 

Please do read the instructions and don’t just follow my drawings - I tried, but they’re far from perfect ;)

1) Childs pose (Balasana):

How to: Bring the knees to your mat & sit on top of your heels. Either have your knees wide open or touching. Let the torso drop down, and your forehead touch the mat.

Either extend your arms forward or take your hands back and grab your ankles.

Benefits: Gently relaxes the hips, the thighs & ankles. Relieves back & neck pain.

For how long: As long as you like & whenever you like.

2) Thread the Needle - shoulders:

Thread the Needle opens up the shoulders and chest, and relieves tension that builds up in the upper back and neck.

How to: Begin on your hands and knees, and bring your right arm across your body under your chest. Rest your hand on the floor with the palm facing up. Lower your upper body, resting your head and neck on the floor, keeping your left arm outstretched in line with your body. Keep your head facing to the left (towards the hand that is stretched beneath your torso). You can now either hold this pose as is, or lift your left arm off the ground and reach towards the sky, finding the position that offers the deepest stretch without being painful. Release and switch arms.

3) Downward facing dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana):

How to: Press your hands flat on your mat, especially the space between the index & thumb.

Bring your feet hip width apart.

Rotate your shoulder blades away from each other - hollow your armpits, lift your sits bone up & lengthen the spine, especially the lower back.

Benefits: Strengthens upper body

Relieves stiffness in the shoulder blade area.

Strengthens the ankles & opens the back of the legs - hamstrings & calves.

Energizes the body.

Rejuvenates the brain & heart with fresh flow of blood due to the lowered trunk.

For how long: Really feel into this one, walk your feet out, bend your knees, stretch those shoulders, move around, but then find stillness in the pose for at least 10 solid breaths. No point rushing any of these.

4) Pigeon (Kapotasana):

How to: From down dog, inhale & lift your right leg up, exhale & bring your right shin & knee down to the front of your mat.

If you can, move your shin to make it as parallel as possible to the top of your mat.

Extend your left leg back. If your right hip is very far away from the mat, you can place a block or a towel under it to help keep your hips in line/square to the floor.

Place your hands either side of your hips.

Inhale, look up, open your heart.

Exhale as you slowly lower your torso towards the mat on top of your front shin.

Extend your arms forward & rest your forehead on the mat, on your arms or on top of a block.

Benefits: Deep hip stretch.

Stretches the thighs, groin, psoas & the buttock muscles.

Relaxes the shoulders.

For how long: To really receive & feel the benefits of this pose, hold between 3 - 5 minutes, so do make sure that you’re in a comfortable position & use props, they’re your friends!

5) Squat:

This yoga pose opens up the hips and stretches the groin, ankles, thighs, and torso. It also helps with balance, concentration, and focus, which is always useful on the bike.

How to: To begin, squat with your feet as close together as possible, then spread your thighs and lean forward, fitting your body between your legs with your elbows forward. Press your elbows against your inner knees, pushing outward as you bring your palms together. Hold as long as you can.

6) Rag doll - forward fold (Uttanasana):

Another pose that I’ve found is excellent for easing back pain is the Forward fold. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, and bend forward, letting your head, neck, and arms dangle. Relax and allow gravity to do the work. You can then ease into a forward bend and grab your feet with your hands for an even deeper stretch of the back and legs.

Forward bends stretches & strengthens the back, especially the lumbar spine, it stretches the front of the hips & hamstrings. It tends to slow the body down, and helps one to move inward. They are calming, soothing & unwinding.

7) Tree Pose (Vrksasana):  

How to: Find your balance, shift your weight into left leg, slowly bend your right knee, turn it out away from you (but keep those hips squared to the front) and place your foot either above or below your knee - never push into your knee. Find your balance, focus on one spot in front of you, and then lift your arms up to the sky. If you want more of a challenge, close your eyes or sway your arms in the breeze.

Benefits: Increases balance, focus,concentrations and strengthens the knees & ankles. Be mindful not to push onto your knee - place your foot either above or below your knee.

8) Reverse Pigeon - hamstring stretch:

This one is currently my favourite. Lying down on the floor and stretching out the hamstrings and opening up the hips after a hard ride feels so good!

How to: Lie flat on your back, legs outstretched towards the sky. Place your right ankle just above your left knee and grab the back of your left leg, pulling it towards your chest. You can keep your left leg straight, or you can bend it at the knee, letting your lower leg dangle. Allow your right hip to open up more and more as you draw the left leg towards you. Hold this pose for a minute or two, gradually deepening the stretch. Release and switch legs.

9) Seated Twist:

There are many variations of this pose, but regardless of how you choose to execute it, the benefits remain the same–stretching and strengthening the hips, spine, and shoulders. It reduces neck and back pain and helps build flexibility through the spine.

Twists increase flexibility to the spine & hips, helps to release tension around the spine, tone abdominal organs, aids in digestion, detoxifies & helps to quiet the mind. Helps to move every inward. They are integrating, balancing & uplifting

10) Corpse pose (Savasana):

How to: Lie on your mat & extend your legs forward. Open the legs as wide or wider than your mat. (You can place a bolster or rolled up blanket under the knees when in a studio). 

Rest your arms by your side & turn your palms to face up.

Relax your shoulders, arms, abdomen, hips & legs.

Slightly tuck your chin to lengthen your spine.

Relax & slow down your breathing.

Benefits: Calms the brain & releases stress.

Relaxes the body.

Relieves mild depression.

Reduces fatigue, headaches & insomnia.

Savasana lengthens & strengthens the spine, creating maximum space between the vertebrae. It integrates spinal curves and allows for deep rest & relaxation. It helps integration of the benefits produced during the yoga practice. Grounding, stabilising & expanding. It teaches us to surrender & trust, and is also a great place to practice visualisation of what you need to be doing, whether it is going through the race course in your head, motivational messages or just focusing on the task ahead.

For how long: In a class situation we allocate 5 mins of Savasana for a 60min class and a 10min Savasana after a 90min class. Really do make time for this. It is one of the most vital poses in yoga & gives your body the time to absorb everything you’ve done for it.

Next time I’ll give you a few strengthening poses that will help with your mountain biking antics.

Peace out,

Anka x

My complete Tour Aotearoa packing & gear list.

Ok, you guys, here it is, my complete packing list of what I took with me on the Tour Aotearoa. As a bike packing newbie, or rookie, whatever you want to call it, I really looked for these sorts of posts to see what people took with them, what worked and what didn’t work, as I had no idea where to begin, so I thought I’d post about my experience and hopefully I can help or assist with the packing dilemma of such a massive undertaking and adventure when you decide to go on your trip of a lifetime.

My life essentials for 18 days.

My life essentials for 18 days.

Bike Setup: Juliana Nevis carbon hardtail, 27.5 size wheels. This was my first time riding a hardtail - ever! I would have like to take a 29er with some suspension, but my final decision came down to the fact that I needed as much space as possible for my frame bags, so hardtail it was with a Rockshox RS-1 suspension fork (to give my broken hand a bit of relief). A lot of people had rigid forks, but I would highly recommend a bit of suspension if you plan to go off-road a lot like we did. I also added two things that I’ve never used before, the first one was Cane Creek bar ends, which I grew to LOVE. Except that you hook onto things that you never would have hooked onto before, so beware of getting high sided off cliffs. After I broke my hand, I also decided to add some Aero bars onto my already strange cockpit. A wee bit wobbly at first, but after 90 mile beach, I seemed ok. I used these a lot and it was great to be able to change up positions, although I did get quite sleepy leaning onto these at times. I would highly recommend these. Also great to dry out towels, clothing and as my helmet hanger. I went with SRAM 1X11 setup with a 30T chainring and it worked flawlessly. Crankbrothers Candy pedals, SRAM ROAM wheels (I’m not a carbon fan), Maxxis ICON tyres, SDG saddle.

Bike Bags: AlpKit bike bags from the UK. My initial decision to go with them, were the colours that they offered, not too many companies offer bright flouro orange bags, and I wanted to be very visible on the roads (I’m pretty nervous on the road). They were also quite a bit lighter than most other bags out there, and I just loved their whole vibe - all the bags worked like a charm. Highly recommended :)

1 x Custom Stingray frame bag.

1 x Koala saddle bag that I left on my bike the whole time and just re-packed every morning.

1 x Front 20L Airlock Xtra Drybag for my tent & sleeping that I just strapped straight onto my handlebars. To keep the roll nice and small, I wrapped my sleeping bag around my tent, wrapped my thermarest around my sleeping bag and synched them all tightly together to fit in the drybag. AlpKit do offer a stiff Kanga harness for the front, but I didn’t have the need for it, and I preferred the simplicity of just having the dry bag tie straight onto the bars.

1 x Roo pouch on the front of my drybag where I kept my headlamp, chain lube, bike tool and rag. 

1 x Big Stemcell on the front of my top tube where I kept my phone, snacks, little bike lock, spork, trail directions & more snacks. With my frame being a size small, I found this bag to be too big and floppy when filled to the brim and it would touch my knee’s when pedaling, so I mounted it on top of my stem, fitting perfectly between my aero bars. I glued some velcro to the top of this pouch for my Garmin, as the mount didn’t quite make it to me in time before the Tour. 

1 x Fuel pod pouch where I kept my water bottle, sunblock & it fitted a nice medium sized banana too. 

The bags were all really waterproof, except for the time that I slipped crossing a massive river and completely submerged my bike and myself under water. I also just ended up wrapping all my things in good old plastic bags before packing up as we had some crazy wet weather and rain storms on the South Island. I kept all my soft goods, like clothing in my saddle bag and then all my heavier things and food in my frame bag. 

Clothing & other gear:

2 x different brands of chamois shorts to change up the “tread” every day. I loved my Juliana Capo shorts and my Ground Effect Siren shorts. Make sure to wash my chamois everyday, I was riding with both of them everyday :)

1 x long sleeved hiking type shirt with mesh and ventilation. I loved this shirt and wore it pretty much every day. It dried quickly, didn’t really smell that bad and I didn’t have to worry about sunblock on my arms. It’s crazy how this shirt faded to the shape of my hydration pack. This ended up being my only shirt as I lost my other riding shirt somewhere along the way.

1 x short sleeved Mons Royal wool riding T shirt. You HAVE to take wool, it does not smell, trust me. Although I ended up losing this one, and I had to worry about sunburn with the short sleeves, this ended up being my chill shirt after riding.

2 x sports bra’s. One Lululemon and one woollen Mons Royal bra. In hindsight one would have been enough, as the days were so long, that once you were done, you never really bothered to wear a bra. Again, wool is the way to go. Never mind this section guys!

1 x pair of woollen Icebreaker underpants. They were great, but again, not really needed as you just end up going commando.

1 x comfy, loose Lululemon casual pants. These were my best. I dreamed of slipping into these during the day and when I finally did at night, they were just fabulous. I suggest loose, baggy pants to give your bum a bit of a breather. The last thing you feel like doing is putting on some super tight compression tights.

2 x pairs of woollen socks. One pair to ride in and one pair to put on at night. I could wear these for days without washing them, because they were wool.

1 x medium weight woollen long sleeved thermal. This was great for after rides, but could also be worn when riding in the cold.

1 x small, lightweight puffy with no hood. To keep it smaller & more compact.

1 x wool buff for those chilly days and also my beanie at night.

1 x orange hi-vis vest - Castelli- which I wore when riding on the road, but it also worked really well as a small windbreaker either over my shirt or under my rain jacket.

1 x proper rain jacket - no cutting corners here. I used an Acre jacket which was super lightweight and simple, but very waterproof, with pit zips to breathe. I also took the hood off this jacket as I was wearing my helmet, but took it with me just in case.

1 x pair of Endura rain shorts. I used these A LOT. In the end, your lycra would get wet, but it did give you a good few hours before you were soaked through.

1 x glove - I was wearing a cast on my right hand, so just took one of my Giro long fingered gloves, chopped off the fingers and had a short fingered glove for my left hand. I only wore this for sun protection.

1 x set of Leg Warmers which I bought on the South Island as I was freezing in the chilly mornings & evenings. I even wore them during the day at times (not shown in photo).

1 x Giro Montaro MTB helmet. Love this lid. Probably the only one on the Tour with a MTB helmet. Sven modified my helmet a bit to add a very dorky touch, but it was probably the thing that I LOVED most about my gear and so many people asked me where I got it from. He put three bits of velcro on the back of the helmet to attach a neck and ear fabric cover attachment thingy that I could take on and off, but left on for the most part of the ride.

1 x Oakley Radar sunglasses.

1 x Evoc CC Race 3L hydration pack for my water. Most people went with no pack to keep the weight off your bum, but I didn’t have room for bottles and I don’t mind carrying a pack. This one was great, it had a 2 litre bladder and enough room for a jacket and some snacks. It also had two small zip pockets on the waist band where I kept my lip block, chamois cream and snacks. I also attached my Spot tracker onto the back of the pack.

1 x pair of riding shoes. I started off with sneaker type, comfortable shoes, which I usually ride & race in, but due to them being too soft for the distances I was riding, and me almost having to withdraw from the ride due to strained achilles and those in turn causing major knee issues, I had to go to the nearest bike shop and invest in a super duper expensive pair of carbon soled xc shoes. They saved my ride. No shit. Lesson learnt. They were not so great on the off road bits where we had to hike a bike, but hey. I do however still have tingling numb toes from spending such long days in these hard shoes, so I would suggest an insert of some sort. I do still highly recommend my comfy sneaker type shoes for riding - just not when you're riding 12 - 15 hours a day!

1 x XS travel towel. 

2 x super lightweight dry bags. A small one for my toiletries and a bigger one for my soft goods I wasn’t wearing.

1 x Big Agnes Pitchpine UL45 sleeping bag - AMAZING bag.

1 x Big Agnes Fly Creek 1 Platinum super duper lightweight tent.

1 x Therm-A-rest NeoAir Xlight Small with a repair kit.

1 x Inflatable Pillow - probably could have left this behind, but it was so small.

1 x SnowPeak LiteMax stove with a Trek 700 Ti cooker & a Snowpeak TI spork - the long one, as the short one would leave your entire hand covered in food when you’re trying to eat out of your dehydrated packet. I carried this on the North Island, and ditched it for the South Island. Should have done it the other way around, but I found buying food was easier than cooking when I was knackered and finding dehydrated meals.

1 x Water bottle 

2 x Electrolyte tablet tubes. Restocking these whenever I could.

1 x Black Diamond ReVolt headlamp - I used this with normal batteries as it was one less thing to try and charge at night.

1 x Lezyne rechargeable front light - amazing. I ended up using all my lights A LOT and really fell in love with my sunrise and sunset riding hours. 

1 x Lezyne Zecto drive rechargeable rear LED light. Sadly lost this guy on the last day, but I used this ALL the time.

1 x Anker PowerCore 20100 battery pack. It is quite a weighty charger, but it lasts for days and could charge my phone and both lights at the same time.

1 x iphone & charging cable.

1 x Spot Tracker - which was great for people to find you & it made me feel a bit more at ease when I was riding by myself at night, as it had an emergency button if you needed to use it for some or other reason.

1 x Garmin Etrex 20 - once I figured it out, it was amazing. Long battery life and I’d just replace batteries along the way. Helped me from getting lost many a times and staying on our designated route. It also held up in the pouring rain.

1 x Kiwi bungee/strap thingy for anything and everything.

Tools: 1 x set of brake pads, multi tool with long enough tool bits, stand alone chain breaker, electric tape, pump, duct tape, spare valve, valve remover, 2 x lightweight tubes, spare cable, tire boot, puncture kit, plug kit, chain link, derailleur hanger, zip ties, chain lube, rag, small Leatherman Squirt tool, small PacSafe bike lock (used a lot on grocery runs) and spare batteries for headlamp & spot tracker. 

First Aid kit: Small packet of wet wipes for those days you don’t get to shower, plasters of all shapes and sizes, alcohol wipes, Compeed blister plasters - loads of these, as they are the only plasters that work on your bum. Yep, bleeding saddle sores, no problem with these guys. Just don’t try to peel them off, it is very painful! Strapping tape, Charcoal tablets & Immodium for upset tummies, lots of pain killers and Blistex for burnt lips.

Toiletries: small chopped off toothbrush, small toothpaste, talcum powder in small container, Paw Paw cream, small wash all soap for laundry and a small Dr Bronners peppermint body wash, lip sunblock and normal sunblock and sandfly repellant - a MUST have in NZ.

Food: I always had a can or packet of Tuna in my bag, a few nutty bars of some sort, a chocolate bar, a cookie, an apple or banana or two and then I would buy food and stock up whenever I had the opportunity to. Stores and towns were few and far between, so when I got to a cafe I would just buy whatever, chocolate milk, double thick milkshakes, iced coffee’s, chips, pies, avocado’s, nuts, chocolate, triangle sandwiches - which fits nicely into frame bags by the way. When I got to a place that made toasted sandwiches, I’d stock up, one to eat right away, and two to go please. I had cold toasties with a tuna packet many evenings for dinner. Lucky for me it was near Easter, so I ate A LOT of hot cross buns. When I got to a gourmet cafe, I’d really stock up on little quiches, pies, samosas and banana loaf. Yumm. I ate A LOT, but we needed it, riding between 12-15 hours a day. My fear was running out of food & my favourite was finding a cafe who served iced coffee’s with the ice cream and whipped cream - the works - those would give me an extra boost.

Things I started off with, but ditched along the way:

  • Casual shoes. I just rocked bare feet or walked around like a penguin in my bike shoes.
  • Short sleeved shirt - well I lost that one.
  • My cooker - I would just end up buying food instead whenever I could and stash it for later. It was easier and quicker.
  • Baggy shorts. I started off with these on day one, and even though they were super light, it was just not necessary to have with me.

I think I just about covered everything. It may bore most to death, but it was so helpful for me when I came across people’s packing lists when I was preparing for this trip. Remember, Less is BEST.

Get out there, go on an adventure & try something new!

peace out, Anka

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Races don't always go quite like planned - Andes Pacifico, Chile 2016.

I was so excited to be back for the 2016 Andes Pacifico race, as these are the events that I truly LOVE. It is more about the whole adventure, the exotic location, the people you get to spend a whole week with and all the crazy things that tend to happen over a whole week of this kind of “blind” racing format. It’s a pretty nutty format that I really enjoy and seem to thrive at, but it does come with a hell of a lot more risks and dangers than your usual practised racing format. We have a little “dark cloud crew” of friends that usually reunite at these sorts of events, and usually one of them or us gets hurt, and this time it was my turn. I took one for the team you guys. Nonetheless, I still loved being in Chile, I loved hanging with all the staff and organisers, drivers, doctors & nurses who looked after me, all the wives and kiddies that kept me entertained and fed, thank you guys for making an injury such an “enjoyable” experience ;)

My little house. Everything you really need under one roof. Getting settled in, full of excitement & anxiety for the week of adventures ahead. Never thought I wouldn't finish out the week off the bike. My little "sunshine" house wasn't quite as cosy after surgery though.

My little house. Everything you really need under one roof. Getting settled in, full of excitement & anxiety for the week of adventures ahead. Never thought I wouldn't finish out the week off the bike. My little "sunshine" house wasn't quite as cosy after surgery though.

My hood for the week. I was so stoked to be back in Chile for this event. I was there only ten days before for the Rally of Aysen in Patagonia, so this part of the world was becoming like my second home. The place is pretty special, but it's the people are just amazing.

My hood for the week. I was so stoked to be back in Chile for this event. I was there only ten days before for the Rally of Aysen in Patagonia, so this part of the world was becoming like my second home. The place is pretty special, but it's the people are just amazing.

The reason I love these multi day adventures so much are the people you get to share these experiences with. It's also a great way to catch up with everyone after the couple months of off-season shenanigans. The liaison stages are where all the girls chit chat, have a laugh and eat yummy snacks of course. This was Day one, all smiles and loving it out in the hot, dry Andes Mountains just outside of Santiago, Chile.

The reason I love these multi day adventures so much are the people you get to share these experiences with. It's also a great way to catch up with everyone after the couple months of off-season shenanigans. The liaison stages are where all the girls chit chat, have a laugh and eat yummy snacks of course. This was Day one, all smiles and loving it out in the hot, dry Andes Mountains just outside of Santiago, Chile.

On top of the world. Andes Pacifico 2016. Been so looking forward to get back to this start line, so it was great to get up here & take in the spectacular scenery & enjoy the thin air. What a place. Ready to start the week.

On top of the world. Andes Pacifico 2016. Been so looking forward to get back to this start line, so it was great to get up here & take in the spectacular scenery & enjoy the thin air. What a place. Ready to start the week.

Day one was full on from the start. Gnarly, rowdy, downhill tracks that were hard work, but o, so much fun. The "anti-grip" dirt was rough as and it took a while to get used to riding on this surface again - or as close to used to as you're going to get.

Day one was full on from the start. Gnarly, rowdy, downhill tracks that were hard work, but o, so much fun. The "anti-grip" dirt was rough as and it took a while to get used to riding on this surface again - or as close to used to as you're going to get.

Day two started off really well & I was loving the tracks. Racing is full on though and you switch into this outer body mode, so when I went to make a pass while I couldn't see a thing, somehow I thought that that would be ok - alas, I clipped a rock and flew over the bars which resulted in a broken hand. I knew right away as I heard it go "click". The silver lining was that it wasn't my wrist - phew! The hardest part was making my way to the bottom of the track - I thought riding on this Anti-grip was tough, try walking on it - even worse.  I was right, I broke my 4th Metacarpal, and I had to get surgery & three pins inserted right away. Long story short, THE BEST HOSPITAL experience of my life, the best, most AMAZING doctors, surgeons & nurses that I have ever had to deal with (and it's been a lot with all Sven's crashes all over the world), all of this with pretty much zero communication between my non existent Spanish and very broken English from the Chileans. I will never, ever forget this experience, and how much everyone looked after me and cared for me. Phenomenal.  Once back at home, the Hand Therapy clinic made me a really cool little custom cast so I could continue with the Tour Aotearoa that started only 10 days after I had surgery. Yep, mmmm, not ideal, but I was adamant that I was going to do this ride from the top of the North Island to the very bottom of the South Island - 3046km later - with or without a working hand.  Thank you to everyone for your support during this time and for all the non stop encouragement once I started this crazy Tour. Hats off to Sven, who had to put up with me during this time of not knowing if I'd even be able to ride a bike, never mind do the biggest ride of my life. There were lots of tears, fears and many uncertainties, but he never once stopped supporting & encouraging me. Thank you babes! Yeah, so racing doesn't always go as planned, but I have been very lucky so far and feel fortunate that it was a pretty minor injury as far as injuries go. It teaches you to roll with it, look ahead, focus on other things and to just be in the moment. Take it day by day and take the time to get to know the people you've known for a long time, but never really got to know - if that makes any sense. O and next time you break your hand, just go on a bike packing adventure that stretches the length of New Zealand - it'll be sweet as bro.

Day two started off really well & I was loving the tracks. Racing is full on though and you switch into this outer body mode, so when I went to make a pass while I couldn't see a thing, somehow I thought that that would be ok - alas, I clipped a rock and flew over the bars which resulted in a broken hand. I knew right away as I heard it go "click". The silver lining was that it wasn't my wrist - phew! The hardest part was making my way to the bottom of the track - I thought riding on this Anti-grip was tough, try walking on it - even worse. 

I was right, I broke my 4th Metacarpal, and I had to get surgery & three pins inserted right away. Long story short, THE BEST HOSPITAL experience of my life, the best, most AMAZING doctors, surgeons & nurses that I have ever had to deal with (and it's been a lot with all Sven's crashes all over the world), all of this with pretty much zero communication between my non existent Spanish and very broken English from the Chileans. I will never, ever forget this experience, and how much everyone looked after me and cared for me. Phenomenal. 

Once back at home, the Hand Therapy clinic made me a really cool little custom cast so I could continue with the Tour Aotearoa that started only 10 days after I had surgery. Yep, mmmm, not ideal, but I was adamant that I was going to do this ride from the top of the North Island to the very bottom of the South Island - 3046km later - with or without a working hand. 

Thank you to everyone for your support during this time and for all the non stop encouragement once I started this crazy Tour. Hats off to Sven, who had to put up with me during this time of not knowing if I'd even be able to ride a bike, never mind do the biggest ride of my life. There were lots of tears, fears and many uncertainties, but he never once stopped supporting & encouraging me. Thank you babes!

Yeah, so racing doesn't always go as planned, but I have been very lucky so far and feel fortunate that it was a pretty minor injury as far as injuries go. It teaches you to roll with it, look ahead, focus on other things and to just be in the moment. Take it day by day and take the time to get to know the people you've known for a long time, but never really got to know - if that makes any sense. O and next time you break your hand, just go on a bike packing adventure that stretches the length of New Zealand - it'll be sweet as bro.

Rally of Aysen Patagonia.

A week of coaching a new generation of Chilean women when they got thrown in the deep end.

The majority of women, I’ve noticed, usually start riding mountain bikes much later in life. For the most part we didn't grow up rallying around on bikes, or hanging out at the local BMX track pulling wheelies, skids and manuals. Of course there is the small percentage of lucky one’s who do start early, but most of the women that I have met through riding bikes all seem to have started later. Not late as in too late, but much later than most of the guys.

It’s usually picked up after university or collage, or even after spending a few years dedicated to a career.  It’s usually after the party phase, the boy chasing phases, the very awkward “is it cool” phase or often after a break up; with all of those silly things out of the way, women reach a stage in their lives where they actually start doing what they want to do and not what they think society wants them to do. We stop caring about what the guys might be thinking, or what’s cool or ladylike enough. This means we have some catching up to do with the boys, but that’s ok, because we’re not trying to compete with the boys, we just want to ride bikes and have fun and explore this new form of independence and freedom and the challenges that go along with it. 

Maria conquering the first big climb and timed stage of the week that ended high above the tree line with breathtaking views. 

Maria conquering the first big climb and timed stage of the week that ended high above the tree line with breathtaking views. 

I have been thinking about the above since returning from an amazing trip to Patagonia, Chile for the Rally Aysen Patagonia. A group of us were literally thrown in the deep end to test out a new race concept and route. One part endurance another part enduro mixed with full time adventure. The group or guinea pigs assembled was large and diverse, from all corners of the globe with varying degrees of experience and skill levels. From bike-a-holic lifers to the freshly converted. This is where Bernie and Maria enter the picture. Two very capable girls from Santiago, who were to be be my riding companions for the week. 

Feeling right at home in this Beech Forest.

Feeling right at home in this Beech Forest.

I’ve been fortunate enough to do this sort of thing for many years now, yet I still get those jitters; all the unknowns of a new destination, new tracks, new challenges, unknown food, weather, itineraries, challenges and risks. Part nerves and part wonder and excitement. The only difference between myself & these girls, was that I knew this feeling, I’ve been through it many times over the past few years, but Bernie & Maria have only been riding mountain bikes for the past four months. This week was going to be a challenge for them in every way. It would entail their biggest climbs, longest days, most miles and hardest downhills they had ever attempted all in four back to back hot and intensive days riding with a bigger group but also at times soldiering on alone against the clock a couple of times each day. I was there to help them along, offer some tips, a bit of skills and technique advice, encouragement & of course lots of laughs. 

We wanted to show that even if you’re new to the sport, a good attitude, willingness to learn, to push yourself, to be outside of your comfort zone & to have fun with something new is something very attainable for all women out there if you set your mind to it. You don't need years of riding or coaching under your belt, you can bravely dive right into the deep end and the results may surprise you. I personally believe that getting thrown into the deep end is a good thing at some point and that there is no better way to improve your skills than during an event like this one where you just have to simply get on with it. This rally covered all the elements that really teaches you how to get out there and ride your bike under every condition in both a social and solo environment.

Chile doesn’t have a huge women’s cycling population, it’s just not really in their culture to go out and do these sort of macho things, that is why this was so important for Maria & Bernie, to show the women and young girls in Chile, that yes, they can do this sort of thing and that it’s RAD. They are the next generation of women that will inspire & encourage other girls to ride bikes and explore the nature & diverse beauty and varied landscapes that Chile is famous for. 

Here’s a few things i have learnt from starting in the deep end like Bernie and Maria did that week. 

  • Ignorance is bliss. I learnt on the steep near vertical trails of Laguna Beach, steep up and even steeper down, there was no trail grading system to tell me what i could or should and should not ride. Same for the girls here. New trails and blind riding in sometimes virgin native beech forest littered with natural obstacles. There is nothing wrong with walking short sections and i don't encourage foolishly riding over your head but by completing the entire route with us their preconceived ideas of their skill ceiling was raised significantly and they left better riders because of this.
  • Hike a bike opens new doors and destinations. The riding scene in Patagonia is still in its early days, so without a big network of climbing tracks to reach the best descents meant slogging with your bike on the back of your shoulders through forests and up scree slopes. The payoffs descending nearly always outweigh the effort, not to mention its a great excuse for some snacks and refreshments when you summit. 
Bernie launching logs and feeling very comfortable after being taken outside of her comfort zone the past four days. 

Bernie launching logs and feeling very comfortable after being taken outside of her comfort zone the past four days. 

  • Timed riding is not only for experts. While we were in Chile for the experience rather than just racing it did allow Bernie and Maria to be on their own, to focus on the task at hand and put all the advice given and tips to use. They learnt to read and interpret the terrain by looking ahead and making quick decisions, maybe try something new and slightly scary.  Whether you’re railing it, getting off, running, tipping over, nailing a section, unclipping, spazzing out or whatever you’re doing, you’re learning something every single time. At the end of the stage you get to share all the adrenaline and excitement with your fellow riders and there is a buzz in that too.
  • Nerves are good. They are a powerful tool that you learn to both control and take note of. You learn to cope with situations under pressure and that translates back to every day life at work and at home and school. It will make you stronger and more confident. 
  • Theres nothing wrong with being at the back in a big group ride. This is how i learnt to ride - trying not to get lost or left behind. You push yourself that little bit harder and you get to mimic the boys or other stronger riders in front of you, see their lines, emulate their body position, style and technique. So never fret when you are the slower rider at the back of a group, as that will turn you into a better rider in time.
  • Overcoming and persevering when it gets tough is hugely rewarding. Maria and Bernie killed it. Their biggest days on a bike yet and back to back for four days without giving up ever. Their positive attitudes and big smiles were contagious and rubbed off on a lot of people. It will make or brake you. A trip like this will either make you fall head over heels in love with riding, or it can make you absolutely hate it either way you will find out pretty quickly if this sport is for you. If you embrace all the elements of such an adventure, you will without a doubt as proved in the girls case become better riders for it and leave the week with a whole new big group of friends and friendships. 
That adrenaline buzz you only get after a race. Story time.

That adrenaline buzz you only get after a race. Story time.

I sure do hope that this experience will be the start of their passion for bike adventures and exploring and that they can pass this new found love on to other women in Chile & abroad. 

Cheers Chile, muchas gracias. Nos vemos mas tarde! 

Anka

Home for the holidays & happy 2016 yo!

After quite a big break off the bike, it was time to pack away the gardening & DIY tools, and throw my leg back over my steed and get back to riding. I couldn't think of a better way to kickstart my summer riding than by jumping into the deep end and heading out on a big heli ride mission up Starveall mountain. An all time favorite of mine, in our backyard, which also just happens to be the very first heli drop we ever did when we looked at moving out to New Zealand, so it's quite special to me & always reminds me of why we moved out here in the first place.

The Starveall heli ride starts off on beautiful open tussock fields, with spectacular never ending views, and as you start dropping down, you ride through scree fields, massive rocky sections and eventually get to the tree line where you enter into the most beautiful, ancient, root cladded Beech forest that keeps you on your toes for the next few hours until you reach the river far, far below. To me, nothing quite compares to riding through a cornflakes cladded native beech forest with it's musty almost apple cider like smell.

Now that I was back on the bike, it was time to head to Nydia Track, one of my all time favorite places & tracks to ride for an overnighter with some visiting family who tramped in, while we biked. Nothing beats riding this track on a beautiful summer's day, catching glimpses of the turquoise water and the bobbing boats peeping through the podocarp forests, along the route. The best part of course is reaching On The Track Lodge, having a cold beer, amazing home cooked meals & settling into your cabin or yurt for the evening - not to mention the hot tub under the stars...

This photo above from Nydia Track, is what made me fall in love with New Zealand. The lush native forests & bush fascinates me & I'm in utter awe of it every time I set foot amongst these old, magical giants and to be able to ride my bike through these forests never gets old. They make me feel alive.

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Not that Sven & I ever need an excuse to head out on a road trip, but with my sister & her husband visiting us, we loaded up the trusty van and headed out on a roadie starting off on the beautiful East Coast to show them our new home country. We had a little evil plan to show them all our favorites, hoping to entice them to move out here. It's not hard to convince anyone of anything when the beauty of all these magical places, speaks for itself. The joy of having visitors, is that you become a tourist again and end up doing loads of things that we'd never do or have always wanted to do. It makes you see & appreciate so many other things and it forces you to slow down, something that we don't do often enough.

Our next stop was Craigieburn, for some more riding, hiking & cave exploring. The scenery out there is just breathtaking, and completely different to the East Coast. We hiked around and up and over some beautiful rock formations at Castle Hill, watched the sun setting and waded waist deep up and through a cave system with head lights. The riding is always phenomenal, the weather was great & we got to do a few bonus shuttles down cocaine Alley - the upside of having family who don't ride bikes, they can shuttle!

Early summers in New Zealand is not quite as warm as it's other Southern Hemisphere friends, but we got pretty lucky and kept dodging the rain. If anything, the low clouds adds to the mood & the beautiful lush rainforest really come to life in these conditions. I don't mind carrying gear with me to cater to the four seasons that we can experience in one day. It's exciting & ever changing. Theres no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing :-)

A highlight for me this summer has been the completion of the 85km long Old Ghost Road track. After 9 long, hard years of work and red tape, they connected the track for everyone to play on. We jumped at the opportunity to do our first ride through and immediately booked our bunks at the Ghost Lake Hut to go and experience this longest single track trail in New Zealand. We opted to do this over two days and one night which makes the riding a bit more enjoyable as you don't need to take quite as much gear and food along with you. What they have created up there in those mountains is just mind blowing, and I salute and thank each and every person that was part of this massive project. Bloody well done!

Of course riding with photographers, Sven & Duncan on such a perfect day, meant that it took us a wee while. They were like two kids in a candy store and just couldn't get enough of the spectacular vista's. I would recommend putting this one on your bucket list of absolute must do trails to experience. In my opinion, the West Coast is the best coast. It is just stunning, the riding is amazing, hardly any people live out there (it may be due to the huge sandfly population), but every single time we head out West, we are in awe of this place & what it has to offer, I literally have to pinch myself.

We've just decided to head further south, this time to Queenstown. Catch up with some friends, ride some new trails & to ring in the new year. Summer has finally decided to kick in on Christmas day, so it's time to pull out the vests, slap on the sunblock and head out (and drink some beers of course)! 

It's been great to be back at home, to have a bit of a break from the bike but it's been just as amazing to get back on the bike. I'm super excited about the new year and I've got some mega adventures waiting for me (I mean MASSIVE). It all kicks off around mid January, which is a bit bittersweet for me, as it feels like we've just got home, but time waits for no one and you need to just get on with it, make the most of every single day & be grateful for this wonderful life we get to live.

Peace out & happy new year to everyone!

Anka

x

Scuffers, Burners & good folk, it's not just about the shorts. NZO Active.

It’s funny how things work out sometimes, but then again it was probably meant to be…

On my very first visit to New Zealand in 2006 for the DH World Champs in Rotorua, I bought a bike T-shirt from a very “home grown” type vendor/stall. This doesn’t happen often, as I’ve never been a real fan of most of the bike apparel out there. This was different, the designs were clever, it was fresh and fun and funnily enough, I still own this T-shirt.

Fast forward a few years on and we find ourselves living in New Zealand (a dream come true) and on a road trip to the North Island to the bike mecca of Rotorua. Ever since I had bought one of Nzo’s T-shirts back in 2006, this company has intrigued me and I wanted to learn more about the people behind this brand. To me, it’s about the people, their products, how they run their business and what they give back to the community. When you’re new to a country, you feel this immense sense of pride and this loyalty to promote it and everything that it has to offer and I was on a mission to live & breathe everything kiwi, but I digress… Once in Rotorua, I stopped off at the bike shop to buy my first pair of Nzo shorts. It was love at first fit and I’ve never looked back since. I wanted to represent this kiwi company and have them along for all my adventures, journeys and races. A quick call to introduce myself & say hello to Gary Sullivan or Gaz as he is so well known and Glen, and they insisted I head over to Mount Ngongotaha for a cup of tea and a tour of their home workshop where they have been selling their shorts straight to the customers from their barn. Perfect.

I’m not too sure how many of you in the bike industry knows this, but in my previous life, I submerged myself in the fashion industry. I studied in Los Angeles, sewed, screen printed, bought, merchandised, designed, the whole lot, so clothing is in my blood and a passion of mine that has been put aside for many years to make room for bikes. To be able to visit a company like Nzo, who runs everything from their house, was a dream come true & something that I aspire to one day. After meeting the dynamic duo of Gary & Glen, I was even more excited about these shorts and everything else. They were the coolest couple, making the coolest shorts and they just got on board as one of my new sponsors.

Heading into the 2014 season, the Scuffers were my shorts of choice, combined with one of their many funky T-shirts and raglans, Gary also printed up some custom Kowai designs (along with other sponsors logos) for me onto merino raglans, so I had sweet “race” kits too. With this combo, I suffered through all the Enduro World Series races, survived the grueling Andes Pacifico race in Chile, the Trans Provence multiday stage race, loads of filming & photo trips, product and bike launches, clinics, adventures, missions, wet as a dog conditions, slipping, sliding, snow, crashing & burning and of course lazy days just lounging. I was covered, literally, for anything.

It was a no brainer that I wasn’t going to let go of these guys (or my shorts) with the formation of the Juliana SRAM pro team going into the 2015 season. I was pretty adamant that my kiwi Scuffers, my new kiwi identity was coming along for the ride, and of course my team mates; Sarah Leishman, Kelli Emmet & Juliana brand manager Katie Zaffke was just as excited to get a pair fitted to their derrieres to find out what my raving has been all about.

I don’t think there are too many companies, never mind “smaller” companies out there that will do what these guys have done for our team. The timing was impeccable, as they were just getting ready to launch their new ultra lightweight Burner trail shorts and Gary & Glen offered to match our shorts with our three different colored race jerseys. We now had red, purple and green to choose from, to match our jerseys. We could pick whatever color we were in the mood to wear on that given day and we could all rock a different color on different days to mix it all up and keep our new women’s team looking fresh and funky out on the tracks. Something different & unique to what everyone else is doing & wearing.

Besides their amazing shorts, they write up a fabulous blog, support endless events, are heavily involved in the biking community, participate in races, festivals and all the fun stuff that goes along with bikes. Every few months they release a funny new T-shirt that pops up on their site and they have also collaborated with the good people over at Ride Central in Rotorua for those of you who are more visually inclined. It is one freaking cool bikers destination store.

I don’t plan to change my shorts anytime soon, they’re stuck with me for many more adventures & races to come, and they’re made so darn well, that they will last for many more years to come. Trust me ladies, these shorts are keepers!

I’m getting ready to put my Scuffers to their biggest test yet, spending the Month of March 2016 in these shorts, pedaling 3000km from the tiptop of NZ to the very bottom along with the main man Gaz himself in the Tour Aotearoa.

Cheers to Nzo Active, Gaz & Glen for all your support.

www.nzoactive.co.nz

Whistler EWS #6 Roots, rocks & slippery moss.

The EWS tracks were riddled with roots, hundreds and thousands of them, surrounded by the most amazing, loamy, hero dirt one can imagine, whilst winding it’s way through some spectacular forests. Old man’s beard blowing in the breeze, with very thoughtful hand carved wooden signs naming the trails and low clouds that move slowly caressing the mountain tops and hillsides surrounding this spectacular valley we‘ve all grown to love so much. Oh, Whistler you are so gorgeous and so scary at the same time.

After the very demanding “Crankzilla” round we endured last year, of course we were all pretty scared coming into this round, wondering whether or not it would be a repeat of last years suffering or if the organizers would be kind to us… Turns out, they do have a gentler side and they wanted everyone to have a fun weekend of riding and racing. It was quite a relief to see all the lift access that we were allowed to use to access the trails, with very minimal climbing and very relaxed liaison times. Everyone seemed a bit relieved, but that didn’t mean that race day was going to be an easy day. Easy days don’t really exist in Whistler. Even though we didn’t have to climb much, it still took most of us the entire day to fit one run in on most of the stages. They were all amazing, they offered everything, they were super technical, steep, rooty, rocky, pedally, physical, long and demanding – a pretty perfect combination for an enduro race track and everyone seemed to love them. Again, none of them were easy, but practice day was a big, rad day out on the bikes soaking up the sunshine and the big blue skies.

Gary Perkin photo.

Gary Perkin photo.

We were all pretty relieved about this round, and then the rain came. It rained all day and all night and those relieved feelings turned into anxious worries & nightmares about how we were going to get down those root riddled tracks come race morning. All the practice went out the window, along with my confidence. Race day turned into a day of somehow getting down the tracks and surviving them. It wasn’t pretty, but of course we all did it. You just switch into this mode and get on with the task at hand. I felt stiff and scared and not too confident in these conditions, but we slowly checked the stages off, one at a time and every run improved slightly. By the time we got to stage three, I felt like I knew how to ride my bike again, stage four was actually fun for me and stage five was just a blast through the bike park and by the time we rode this stage, everything was bone dry & trustworthy again. Of course. Bloody Murphy!

Gary Perkin photo.

Gary Perkin photo.

I felt so ready and confident on all the race tracks during practice, but waiting my turn come race morning, I definitely felt a tad bit timid after the rain and I knew that I was in for quite a challenging day. Maybe it was a combination of the changed, wet conditions that we couldn’t practice on, but also maybe a bit of what happened at the last round in Colorado. Either way, I just wanted to get through this round safe & sound. These races are never easy, even when the stats look a bit easier, some other unforeseen element will jump in there to make it hard for us in some other way. It ended up being such an enjoyable day out. The girls all had such a laugh and such a great time cheering each other on, listening to all the war stories, the mishaps and the funny maneuvers that were pulled off to get down these slippery tracks. Falling off bridges, losing gloves mid race run, stuck upside down clipped in, it goes on and on, and those are the things that I remember, that makes these hard days enjoyable, and what makes me chuckle for weeks down the line. There were so many Juliana riders out racing at this round and every single one of them represented so well, racing and riding their hearts out. Kelli ended up in 12th place, myself in 16th and Sarah in 17th spot. It was great to have the whole team back together and out there representing again. Huge thanks to Allan, Mary & Tom for getting our bikes dialed and our bellies full all week.

Gary Perkin photo.

Gary Perkin photo.

The organizers were spot on with the ratio, the trail combo’s, the lift access and the liaison times. We had amazing feed stations with the most delicious mouth watering watermelon and a great atmosphere for everyone to enjoy. Cheers to everyone who worked so hard to avoid turning this round into “Crankzilla” two, you guys killed it!

Loving this chill day today, catching up with life and looking forward to a week filled with yoga, adventure rides, some laps in the park, women’s clinics and chilling at the lake of course.

Peace out,

Anka

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Crested Butte, Colorado Round #5 Wildflowers, never ending single track & sadness.

I’m sitting on the plane, heading to Vancouver for the next round of the EWS stop in Whistler, and I’m a bit stumped as to what to write about from this last round. There are no words fitting enough to express my sadness after the tragic death of a fellow rider. Will was a really good rider, he knew the track, he was going fast, and he was racing. He was doing exactly what we all do pretty much every weekend, what we all do for our day jobs. We all know that mountain biking has it’s risks; injuries and broken bones are part of the job description, but somehow we always seem to put that word – death - out of our minds, we know the possibilities are there every time we synch down those number plates onto our handlebars, or scribble down our emergency contact details, but we keep those thoughts tucked far away to focus on the task ahead.

Amongst all this sadness and shock, emerges a great sense of pride, to belong to and be a part of such a wonderful community. We’re a small traveling family who loves riding and racing our bikes in really beautiful places. We look out for each other, we encourage each other, we laugh and cry together, we celebrate the highs and the low’s and this weekend was a great reminder of how lucky I, we are to be a part of this wonderful community. When something like this happens, it hits home hard. It puts everything into perspective, it throws the results and the points right out the window, and nothing else matters other than riding bikes and sharing moments with loved one’s. It is a reminder for us to slow down, appreciate the views, stop to smell the wildflowers, take a picture, savor the moment – I know we don’t always have time to do this during the races, but make time before, after and during if you can. Life is too short not to. Be nice to people, smile, be passionate, look at the stars, laugh, skinny dip, share, make love & appreciate everything, because life works in a funny old way and we never know when our turn will come around, but lucky for us, we’re living a life that we love, we’re following our dreams and we get to share this with our mates. How freaking cool is that.

Crested Butte is a special place; I will remember it for it’s never-ending, fast & flowy singletrack trails, the stunning Aspen groves, and the wildflowers that were just mind blowing. The place has character, it has soul, amazing pizza, tamales & so many cute cottages, o, and it had no air, but that’s a whole other topic that I struggled with last week. The tracks were beautiful, they were physically hard to race, but that just makes us stronger right? I don’t think this round will end up counting towards the overall series, and it doesn’t really matter. Who cares. What matters is that we got to travel to a really amazing place to ride our bikes and to experience another culture. I’m happy that we’re just moving straight into the next round, as what happened this weekend hasn’t really had time to sink in or has it? Will this affect me more than I think it will? I don’t know, we’re all so good at compartmentalizing things instead of dealing with them. The tears that keep streaming down my cheeks when I think about Will, may be an indicator that it has had a huge effect on me.

Right now, I just want to get back on my bike, go for a pedal and feel the wind in my face to clear my head.

Rest in peace Will. May you find that never-ending singletrack trail out there and rip it up.

Anka

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