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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

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

ColoRADo EWS # 5 - 39'00 N 105'30 W

Colorado views never disappoint. Sven Martin Photo. We used to live in the US for 12 years, until 2011, when we decided to pack up everything and move to the other side of the world, or hemisphere to New Zealand, so whenever we do return to the US these days (which doesn't happen very often), it is truly a treat to catch up with all our old friends and race team mates from back in the day when we used to race all the NORBA races across the country. Somehow, we're all still racing bikes of some sort and still involved in the bike industry. It is such a small industry compared to others, but it is filled with so many genuinely good people, and we'll forever have this connection, these bike memories and this like minded passion that keeps taking us into the mountains and connecting us in far away places, and that is what racing is all about to me. Results from Colorado - does it really matter? I didn't win or top 5, or even top 10, but I rode my best, better than last year, got my jump back on, pushed my riding abilities and loved it, saw some old friends, met their children & made some new friends.

There were a lot of negative things going on at this event, but I'm too sick of bike politics to go into it, so instead of harping on bullshit, have a wee look at some of the bangers that Sven captured over the weekend. :)

Some of the race tracks for Day 1.

Stage 1 was down the Trestle DH track. Sven Martin caught me in the air.

The usual American laws & stuff. Oops. Just remember to wind down the window when you return the rental.

This was probably the shortest stage ever raced in the EWS, it was super sweet though, but over before it began.

Sven Martin Photo.

Stage 3 - Sven Martin photo.

Post race indulgence. We were in America after all.

Catching up with old friends & getting to know their kids is pretty awesome :) Thanks CG for giving Ryder your gloves - you have a fan for life.

Wiping the CO dust off the old girl, prepping her for the next day's race. Pretty tough keeping your bike, body & mind together for 3 days of racing & training.

Got this message whilst walking around the pedestrian mall in Denver on Monday after the race. A first for me. Luckily no one seemed too perturbed by it, either that or they were all just too crazy to care on 16th street.

I've been up in Whistler for a week now, waiting for the next round of the EWS to kick off over here. It's been wonderful to have some downtime. I've gone stand up paddle boarding at date night with Hannah Barnes, Seb & family, riding around Lost lake with Seb & his kids, meeting up with friends over chai tea latte's, more chic flicks & wine with Hannah, watching some amazing music under the moon, exploring some new trails, swimming in the lake, soaking up the hot summer sun and the highlight has been my month yoga pass that I bought. I've yet to skip one day of practice, I'm in heaven, this is exactly what I needed this time of the season to prevent bike burnout, especially in this crazy world called Whistler. Our 4 day practice starts tomorrow, look forward to a whole lot of riding coming up.

A highlight has been going on a 3 hour adventure ride and treasure hunt with Seb Kemp and some of the kids that he coaches. Amazing kids!

Peace out,

Anka

doyouevenrideinsnowbro? EWS round #4 La Thuile, Italy

These tracks had it all - loamy hero dirt, slippery, wet rocks, grass, roots, steeps, ups - perfect all rounder.

Peaceful prayer flags in the forest.

Love this shot that Sven got of me. Had no idea he was hovering high up in the tree when I rode past.

We had our fair share of pedaling over the practice days & race days. Climbing up towards the snowy peaks.

Stunning views, big mountains, this is Euro enduro.

Cheers to Matt Delorme for capturing this banger.

It was survival as we set off on stage 1 & 4 from the snowy, sleety, misty, freezing top of the mountain.

pretty flowers & sunshine were also aplenty.

Heading out on stage 2 on the other side of the valley.

Ciao Italy! Off to ride Verbier next with the darkcloudcrew.

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PS: cheers to Sven Martin for all the stunning shots & thanks to all the other hard working media dudes out there during the races - they are working and riding twice as hard as us lot and not getting any sleep while delivering the goods!

peace out,

Anka x

Back on the bike: 20000m down, painkillers galore, epic scenery, semi functional ankle = one happy girl.

EWS round 3 Valloire, France. Pretty spectacular mountain views.

It was time to head into the Northern Alps for round 3 of the Enduro World Series in Valloire, France. A town nestled at the base of the Galibier Pass in the Savoie region. A destination steeped in “Enduro” history, but a new destination for us, which is always exciting. Surrounded by big mountains wherever you turned was stunning, but I also felt a bit anxious, as this was my first weekend back on the dirt and racing since I messed up my ankle 5 weeks ago. By the looks of it, this wasn’t going to be a walk in the park.

My Roubion

It turned out to be one brutal weekend of racing. It was amazing to be back on the dirt though. The format of the French enduro races are awesome. You show up on Friday, get registered and then go straight into racing on Saturday. First run down the mountain is a practice run, then you head straight back up and race it. Move on to the next track, practice run, then race run. Usually I love this format, but it took me a while to warm up and feel comfortable on my bike again, so there was really no time to get back into it before racing. Because I missed the Scotland round, I had a pretty crappy seeding number, which meant loads of traffic during my race runs, but what made it even tougher was the fact that they decided to run the women in the reverse order for this round – slowest girls first, which caused big headaches for everyone (The fast girls, the mid pack and the slower girls were all equally affected). Everyone was trying to get by everyone, which ended up being pretty chaotic. I had 7 girls that I had to pass and pull over for on every run, so Saturday was a bit of a write off for me and I just saw it as a day of getting back into it. Feeling very race rusty, hesitant and then all the traffic from both ends was so frustrating, but hey, that’s racing and you just have to get on with it. The upside of it all: there were 45 women racing! How amazing is that?

Dramatic mountain views wherever you look with lichen rocks to match my gloves.

We had another big day ahead of us on Sunday, and after realizing that running the women’s order they way they did on Saturday didn’t work, they let the fastest girls go first and that was brilliant. The tracks were amazing on Sunday, more technical, steep and flowy and I loved them. I felt so much better on my bike, hardly had any traffic and I felt like I was finishing in the mix with the girls that I usually race with. It felt great. I wish that we had another day of racing, as I was just getting back into it again.

Typical French tracks; taking fresh tracks to a whole new level. Trying to find and make tracks here!

Absolutely knackered from racing 20000 + meters of brutal downhills (and of course some punchy uphills) thrown in there over the two days. My arms were done and my ankle had had enough. All in all a great weekend of riding, racing, suffering and catching up with everyone again. Cheers to the crew for putting on another amazing round of bike racing & fun times.

Time to go for a swim in the med and some much needed time back on the bike - but first some rest for this old, weary body of mine. Huge congrats to everyone that managed to survive the weekend and to all the Kiwi girls killing it out there!

Kiwi girls representing! Gabby, Rosara, Meggie & myself having fun in the Alps.

Also, cheers to Sven for all the rad shots!

Peace out,

Anka

Fire, Salad, Dog. Juliana does Nelson.

Fire Salad Dog. Juliana does Nelson. Cable Bay campfire.

It’s been a while since I’ve had the time or the energy to actually sit down and type down some thoughts. It’s been hectic to say the least. My off-season has not been “off” or slow by any means. I’m finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel as February is nearing its end, which means I’ll get a few weeks of actual off-season downtime, I mean training. It sounds like I’m winging – don’t get me wrong, I’m most definitely not. I wouldn’t want to change anything about my life. I’ve loved, absolutely loved every minute of every day – well the 6am wake up’s got a bit old, but that is so ingrained in my body clock right now, that I find myself enjoying all the early mornings and waking up with the birds and the beautiful morning light.

Let’s start at the beginning; it will be short and sweet, I promise.

The best lounge ever.

The Juliana Bicycles product launch happened over here in Nelson – very exciting stuff. Gary Perkin flew out here a few days earlier to shoot the entire Juliana bike line up. We took each bike to a well suited, different looking location to best portray each bikes characters and chose a different theme/story line & outfit for each bike. That was full on to say the least, as there were 6 bikes and myself which meant early mornings & late nights, but we got it done in 3 days and we had a blast. There were 2 firsts in that weekend for me; first time on a 29er (which I surprisingly loved, shhhh) and a first time on a hard tail (which I also enjoyed). Never too old to try something new – like they say; do something that scares you everyday (that would include hard tails & 29ers in my books). Even though I tried & enjoyed them, I won’t be trading in my trusty suspension bikes any time soon though, but I can appreciate and see the need and the right place for all the different models that I rode.

Summer days.

Katie Zaffke – the new Juliana Brand manager joined us later along with the Anthill film crew to capture our women’s backcountry adventure that we were heading out on for the next 4 days. We had an awesome crew of girls, all of them from such amazing, varied backgrounds and all of them Santa Cruz riders/racers & adventurers for many years, so it was just fitting to have them all join me on our new Juliana Bicycles adventure – promoting strong, interesting, badass women who can ride bikes properly. I mean were talking ER doctors, bird researchers & hydrologists that also smashes any sort of bike ride and race for fun on their weekends – how awesome is that.

Nydia Track lunch spot with the girls.

So this is heading for a longer piece than I anticipated, so summing up the amazing 8 days of the Juliana video & photoshoot, here goes:

Not a bad view.

Awesome bikes, amazing friends, a lot of riding, pushing, repeating and waiting. Many early mornings, lots of driving, late fish n chips dinners, too many flat whites, camp fires, bird watching, tree deciphering, learning, watching, laughing & vajazzling – don’t ask! Banter, shredding, Go-Pro’ing, crashing, laughing, bonding and showing the boys how to ride little bikes – Juliana Bikes. I no longer feel sad to not ride a Santa Cruz branded bike – I love my Juliana Bicycle and feel really proud and special to be able to represent the finer side of the best bike brand in the world.

Riding bikes.

Thank you to everyone that made this happen, to all the boys that had to put up with us and to all the girls that gave up their time to make this video shoot a reality. Hoping we all look really fast & that all the women go forth & buy Juliana bicycles!

Cheers Harriet, Anja, Katie & Bob & also CJ, Matty, Mike, Boyd, Sven, Gary & everyone else who made this happen.

diary of my Trans Provence week

The Trans Provence is always the highlight of my season. It is a week filled with amazing, unknown, wild & crazy trails, where we trek up and over many big, vast mountain ranges, starting near Sisteron, making our way all the way to the beach in Menton. I love this point to point style adventure, where you are actually moving, pedaling & pushing yourself across mountain ranges and valley's and that sense of satisfaction that you feel when you get your first glimpse of the sea shimmering in the distance. It's pretty exciting stuff & that is what keeps me coming back every year for more adventures. Last year we had some bad luck with Sven getting heli vacced off on the last day and then Jon Cancellier getting carried out 200 meters from the finish line with torn ankle ligaments - not ideal. Mix in there some crazy rain, thunder, flash floods & hail storms on exposed mountain tops with not a tree in sight, then you start understanding how a small group of riders started calling ourselves Team Dark Cloud. Not satisfied with unfinished business, Team Dark Cloud had to come back this year to make sure that everyone finishes up, get's to plonk into the med, look at Smail's speedo du jour & to give a puff on the old cigar.

Base camp Day 0: Clamensane

Home for the next week

So here we are, Trans Provence 2013 Day 1: Clamensane - Digne

The day started off sunny & cheery, only to turn to shit as soon as we got to the top of the mountain of stage 1. This was dejavu - exactly like last year and how we came up with Team Dark Cloud to begin with. We had to laugh & just get on with it - was this to set the precedent of the week to follow? I set of on my first special stage on day 1 in a hail storm - this was going to be a long, tough week, and Team Dark Cloud already lived up to it's name. This day was the biggest day yet - we fought, slogged & dragged our bikes through clay & mud the entire day. I was knackered.

Day 1 - happy girl.

Day 2: Digne - Colmars

The sun was shining as we set off under blue skies on day 2. We had a big old hike a bike to tackle first thing in the morning - just what we needed to loosen up our sore, aching bodies & awaken blisters from the day before. It was going to be a good day as the sunny skies lifted everyone's spirits and filled it with banter, laughter and lots of war stories.

Day 3: Col de Champs - Guillaumes

This is a morning of big views & big mountains, as we get dropped off on top of the Col De Champs - it is a sight that will take your breath away and the gateway to the Maritime Alps - a sign that we're heading in the right direction. The first special stage of the morning was a write off for myself and many others too - starting off with getting lost, falling into a hole & then slipping & getting stuck in my bike on the wooden bridge right at the finish while the clock ticks away. To end it off I gave the bridge a good punch with my knuckles as I slammed into it - ouch. All of this before a proper coffee.

Day 4: Guillaumes - St Sauveur sur Tinee

Once day 3 rolls around, your body has sort of got used to the shock of everything and you actually start to feel good and get into the swing of things. We had surprise today, we got to ride a chair lift for two of the stages in the Roubion bike park. It was fun to change it up, but these were my worst two stages of the day - way too groomed and perfect I reckon, I didn't know how to ride normal stuff! It was a good way to mix it up with all the other riders and hang out a bit. At this stage, we had no idea what Ash had in mind for us for the last stage of the day. I have no words to describe this last stage. It was wild, very sparsely marked, super exposed, almost 30minutes long and at the end of the day when you're mentally & physically already a write off. Most of us got lost somewhere along the way, crashed a few times, almost died a few times, but we all lived to share the stories at a local pub on the side of the road. It was awesome. Thanks Ash for keeping it real.

Day 5:   Valdeblore - Sospel

So day 4 was supposed to be our easy day, to rest up for the biggest day of the week, but it sure didn't feel easy to any of us and day 5 was looming ahead of us. It was a long slog heading out in the moon glow from the camp site and silently pedaling on through the morning fog. The fog never lifted and just got thicker as we made our way up into the mountains, creating quite a sullen atmosphere, as you didn't hear much laughter or chatter this morning. It took us about 3 hours before we reached the start of the first special stage that morning and we still had a long way to go. My goal was to hold back and get through these next 2 days without doing anything silly - I was in the lead and I wanted to keep it that way. All I had to do, was not crash, flat or have a mechanical - easy huh? Holding back is not easy when you're loving the tracks and you just want to pinn it, but this is what had to be done. After the first 2 special stages, we had a bitch of a road climb to get to the 3rd stage - 20km on the road with super tacky tires & 6" trail bikes are not that enjoyable. We got on with it, as that's what you do in this race, but we all cheered up when we were welcomed by local hero Nico Vouilloz at the start of the 3rd stage. How sick is that. I think we all tried to pinn it even harder after seeing Nico, but unfortunately Olly our South African friend was a bit too inspired and pinned it into some rocks, smashing his face and dislocating his shoulder pretty badly. Our day was about to get a whole lot longer & Olly just inducted himself into the Team Dark Cloud crew. He got heli vacced out of there, but Team Dark Cloud had another stage to finish up for the day. Not the nicest thing to have to do after seeing your friend off in a heli, but we grabbed a headlamp from one of the shuttle vehicles, turned up the volume to some Irie reggae tunes, mellowed out and smashed out the final run of the day - which happened to be my fastest run of the day after we all decided to go steady - oops. Having too much fun.

Day 6: Sospel - Menton - The final countdown!

Yes, the last day has arrived and we're all jonesing to get our tired assess into the Med, but we have to get there first. It was an amazing day exploring a whole new Sospel valley, even making a quick jaunt into Italy for a quick cappuccino after one special stage. The stages were very physical today, with uphill running, boulder clambering, challenging navigation and some long ass sprints, or maybe we're all just tired from the whole week, but it was no rest day today, we had to work hard to dive into that sea in Menton. On my last stage, I kept messing up, doubting myself that I was lost and that I was throwing the whole week away - even turning back at one point to double check a sign - amazing how my mind was playing tricks on me. Anyhow, I got down, I made it, I kept my lead and I took the win. I was very, very happy, as this event is a very special event to me. This is what riding mountain bikes is all about. It is the adventure, the camaraderie and all the experiences that makes this event so special. It is wild, raw, dangerous & everything that I love about racing little bikes as fast as you can down crazy technical blind tracks. Ash, thank you - you nailed it man. This is and will always be what everyone keeps harping on about these days - "the spirit of enduro", or as I prefer to refer to it, riding our bikes in sick places.

Mary-Anne & I enjoying some Italian coffee in Olivetta during a liaison stage on the last day.

Cheers to Team Dark Cloud and every single person that completed the week - you guys & girls are awesome (especially the girls, as this is not an easy week). Heal up to all the injured riders too.

All the lads - I mean girls! (Missing Fay with her broken hand & Kat that went on the first wave)

Our crew grew stronger this year, we were planning on being a bit more cautious this year, to make sure we all got to the damn beach, but when you clock into that balise, it is not in any of our gene's to hold back. We all freaking pinned it and we all lived to tell the tales. We took care of Ollie, we encouraged Todd, we rode for Michael Bonney. This week was way more than a bloody bike race, it was filled with many emotions, reasons, passions, decisions and friendships and that is what makes this week a standout week. Times are forgotten (well maybe not the 1sec that separated Nico & Jerome after a week of racing!), but these memories we create on our bikes will be shared & remembered for many more years to come.

One more TDC shout out - we didn't do too shabby either taking the win in a few classes & the fastest TDC awards goes to Jerome Clementz, who had to go and loose by 1 sec, but killed all of us!

Anka Martin 1st Pro Women's (32nd overall)

Sven Martin 1st Masters (also 2nd Am & 15th overall)

Chris Ball 1st Amateur (9th overall)

Team Dark Cloud

Paul Smail never disappoints.

Cheers Team Dark Cloud - until we meet again in February to explore Chile!

Peace out,

Anka x

time to reflect.

Where have the weeks gone to? They have been flying by in my world with so many things happening all the time, that you just keep moving on from one thing to the next, with no time to stop and think about the amazing thing that you did yesterday, or the day before yesterday, or last week, you just pack your bags, catch the next shuttle, drop off the next rental car and fly to the next destination, unpack, deal with jet lag and carry on. To me this is my way of trying to live a normal life, to just pick up and carry on, looking ahead at the next event, venue, country, language and or food and putting the past whatever it was behind and moving right along to the next thing.

So, I'm going to keep this update short & sweet, because it's way past due and it's time for me to look ahead and move on.

I'll start back in Canada at the crankworx festival in Whistler.

1) Enduro World Series round #5 - enduro race of epic proportions. One solid, big day of adventuring on our bikes, mostly outside of the bike park on some sick, scary, pretty awkward, tecky new trails - it was incredibly awesome & I ended up 9th overall. The organizers definitely stepped up their game and put on one hell of an enduro race.

crankworx enduro

A big old day out.

2) All day Sombrio photo shoot the day after the all day enduro race - I wasn't tired at all! It was such a fun day though & I got to see some new bits of Whistler. Any day spent with Lindsey Voreis & Aaron is bound to be a fun, entertaining day!

Sombrio photo shoot

3) Escape the madness that is Whistler village - YOGA, YOGA, YOGA! yessss please.

4) An all day filming day on top of the world in the rain for the new SRAM Pike ad - and no, I was not going downhill all day, I was actually climbing uphill a hell of a lot - I was AIR. Pretty exciting stuff and a first for me to do some filming work. Quite excited & nervous to see the final product.

SRAM pop up store - so sick!

5) Free ladies XC & DH riding clinics offered by SRAM and a part of Rebecca Rusch's Gold Rusch tour. Unbelievable turnout from all the ladies and we loved helping them get more confident on their bikes. Although a pump track session in the rain was a bit sketchy.

Free SRAM ladies clinics & free swag from Aaron at Sombrio.

6) Headed up to 100 mile house in the middle of Canada somewhere for Rob & Shanna Parkin's wedding by the lake. It was such an awesome wedding, but we were zooming back to Vancouver at first light as we had a 6 hour drive to tackle to catch our next plane back to Europe for the next race.

Rob & Shanna's wedding.

Arrive in Lyon, France - bonjour good coffee & croissants  - and cheap food!

1) Met up with Jon Cancellier in Lyon, loaded up our trusty old van who waited in parking lot 5 patiently for the past 5 weeks & headed straight to La Thuile, Italy to meet with Enrico and his crew for some filming.

Grande Mont Blanc

2) Up early for an all day filming affair with Sven & myself featured as the couple who like to adventure on our bikes. They are making this to promote & showcase this relatively unknown riding area & also because it will be the Enduro Des Nations venue for 2014.

3) Up even earlier and heading over to Val D'Isere, France for the 6th round of the Enduro World Series.

4) Pretty knackered from jet lag - I opt to nap whenever I could.

5) Up even earlier than before - like 7 am early and on the lift for Saturday race day. Massive over the bars to wake up to. Sunshine & dust to begin with. Massive hike-a-bikes to the top of the start, then turning into massive storms, fog and no visibility with most of the girls getting lost somewhere on course, it made for a vary exciting, very varied day of racing.

6) Yep, you guessed it, on the lift at 7am again, this time the surrounding mountains were covered in snow. Yes, snow. No practice, straight into racing, holy shit, locked out shock - dammit, sick mud, long tracks, freezing cold, awesome. Super physical stages, so much pedaling, so much concentration, so cold, so happy to survive & end up in 7th overall.

7) Another early morning rise, this time to eat amazing French pastries and copious amounts of cafe creme's at the most amazing bakery in the morning sun. Bliss, but not for long. Rush, rush, rush, pack, pack, squeeze and Sven, Jon & myself are on the road again, back to Lyon airport so they can catch the next plane to South Africa and the World Championships.

8) Thank F#@K I'm not going anywhere. After dropping them off, I had a leisurely 2 hour drive into the "a la campagne" - the quiet French countryside back to the little village with 60 people where my parents & my sister lives. Where the pace is a tad slower, the streets are quiet, the food is fresh & where I can go to find some peace & quiet and just sit down to reflect and think about all the amazing happenings of the last few weeks. I can think about all the high's and all the low's that go hand in hand with racing & traveling. All the should have's, could have's and would have's. All the fun times, the nervous times, the scary times and the o my God I almost died times. I can think about all the money I spent on coffee, pastries & food in Whistler - but I choose to eliminate those thoughts & marvel in all the good memories with good old friends & bikes.

Good times with good friends.

Time for some mellow country road rides, yoga, yard chores, drinking red wine with dad and cooking with mum. Happy girl.

Thank you Sven for the AMAZING shots!

Peace out, Anka

MegAvalancheeee - ALARMAAAAAAA!!!!!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=01YULr02Kn8] It's been a few days now since I finished racing the Mega and I'm finally starting to loosen up and feel less sore & tired from that crazy race I got sucked into racing again last weekend. It's one of those addictive races that you just cannot say no to. After finishing in 3rd place last year behind Anne & Tracy, I swore I was done. It was the biggest battle & the hardest hour of racing ever, and I had had my mega quota and achieved what I wanted to achieve with this gamble of a race. Anyhow, another year later, another fun day of practice and boom - Mega number 6 in the books. I couldn't help myself.

Mega tracks.

Qualies:

The qualie track was pretty fun, it started up at the same start, even though there was so much snow, it just meant some more rut, snow scooting. The track also had a river flowing down the whole top part of the track, so mud galore and visibility issues right out of the start gate made for some interesting line choices & passes. My plan was to try and slot in behind Anne Caro and try to stick as close to her as possible to the finish. Well turns out Anne never practiced the top rocky, snow sections and managed to get us both lost. We had to get off and run back up to the right lines to carry on, and by that stage a handful of girls had passed us. It turned into a chase the leader game then, trying to make sketchy inside line passes, turning doubles into triples & hucking off weird, unpracticed obstacles to try and get by and just generally some sketchy riding to try and gain a few places. The bottom part of this track is a one line, bike park type track and pretty impossible to pass, so you keep trying, but in the end, you just roll down to the finish in the order that you entered that bottom section into and be happy with that. I ended up 6th. Lesson learned: Don't follow the leader. Be confident with your own lines.

Race day:

The girls don't get much time to recover or think about the main race, as we finish qualies pretty late, wash bikes, eat, sleep & get in line for the gondola to the top of the world at 6am that next morning. I prefer this, as we have no time to think about what we're getting ourselves into and what the glacier may be like this morning. The lift ride to the top is spectacular, watching the sunlight hit the massive snowy mountain peaks all around us. There is so much tension in those gondolas on race morning, but somehow seeing the sun rise, makes it all better, brings a smile to my face and reminds me of how lucky we are to be doing what we do.

Thawing out in the morning sun - on top of the world,  about to race down a glacier! Happy chica's representing from all over the world.

Beautiful morning, doing what we love.

Start line for the girls. Pretty scary lining up on a steep as block of ice.

And the girl's are off!

Views to die for - literally!

We get up to the top about 2 and a half hours before we race, so there is a lot of waiting around, nervous banter, ice kicking and speculating how much softer it could get within 20 minutes or so. It is terrifying from up there. The ice was frozen solid, and it just dropped away right out of the start gate into the steepest, slipperiest glacier ever with a massive right hander at the bottom...The race was delayed by 20min's to hopefully get a bit softer, so that was great news. I started towards the left side, and the plan was to get out fast, cut to the right and avoid the pile up off everyone starting on the right side and slipping to the left off the off camber startline. Well, I started fast, pedalled a lot and picked up so much speed, so quickly, I didn't know what to do with it. I couldn't brake, I couldn't dare put my foot down, and I kept picking up speed as the right hander was approaching faster than I could deal with. I was out front again with Anne and two other girls, with most of the other girls creeping down the glacier - smart choice. Anyhow, I ended up having a massive crash and cartwheeled my way into the safety nets. As thankful as I was for those nets from stopping me from sliding down the mountain, my frustration & disbelief kicked in when I realized that my bike was so tangled up in the netting, that I couldn't get it loose. Sven was up at the top and he timed this whole ordeal - almost 3 minutes later I got my bike free and managed to get going on the glacier again.

My plan was to get away from everyone, quickly, but we picked up A LOT of speed very quickly and the right hander claimed 3 of us... with Anne making it through & taking the win.

Unfortunately, my bike & body got super tangled up in the catch net and it took me about 3 minutes to get unstuck & back on the ice.

Check out some pretty spectacular glacier crashing footage that John & Rob Parkin got with their freaking cool helicopter camera - thanks for that guys!

http://dirt.mpora.com/news/dirttv-megavalanche-2013.html

I was gutted. I almost gave up. I was angry. Why did I pedal so hard out of the start gate? I thought everyone would. I didn't need to. Why did I get tangled up? I guess it saved my life, but the other girls didn't get tangled. Urgh! Racing = Frustrating. It's happened now, what are you going to do? I decided to carry on sliding down the glacier, head first on my back clasping my bike on my chest at one stage (not by choice), and decided to just finish and enjoy the whole experience as I thought I was pretty much last after my start ordeal. I started picking my way back past loads of girls (I managed to ride over Hannah Barnes' foot - sorry Hannah!), slowly getting back into a good rhythm and enjoying myself. I pushed hard, rode the downhills fast, solid on the uphills and just felt great on my bike. Once I crossed the finish line, I realized I managed to finish in 7th place - not too shabby. I couldn't believe it, I was happy to at least make the top 10, but at the same time, it was bittersweet as I started thinking about all the what if scenarios. That's racing though & everyone's got to get their turn. Well done to all the girls who race this scary race. Better luck next time.

A girl's best friend!

Sven sadly decided to skip the main race after qualifying really well, due to his arm being really swollen and sore after a few crashes the day before. The men raced an amazing race. Jerome is an animal. We cheered hard & ran alongside our mates to cheer them on up the hills. It was awesome. Well done to all the brave boys!

Cheering on Sunday was super exciting! Here I'm shouting at my good friend Jey to pedal faster dammit!

Will I be back? I swore never, but never is a long time...

Now it's time to rest up and recover from the past 3 weeks of adrenaline overdose and racing and get ready for the next month of racing and adventuring in Colorado & Canada.

Peace out, Anka xxx

Round 3 & other bike shenanigans at Les2Alps.

Round three of the Enduro World Series was held in the bizarre ski town/resort of Les 2 Alps, France. A visually spectacular place when you look at the mountains and surrounding scenery, but quite a strange 80's style architecture clad ski town with a million kids roaming about that get shipped out here to ski and snowboard camp for a summer filled glacier action. Soooo many amazing mountains, spectacular scenery.

The tracks here are very downhill bike oriented as it's situated in-between two really steep valleys, so I've never been a huge fan of this mountain for trail bike riding, because of all the brake bumps except for their two amazing tracks that they use for the Mountain of Hell race every year. Due to loads of snow, most of the upper, good trails were still closed to us for this race, so they had to make use of the two very steep slopes on either side of the valley. Nothing was marked out until Friday (I love that), then we had all day Saturday to practice and figure out the 4 different race tracks - which turned into a pretty epic day of riding bikes as most of us did all the tracks twice which ended up taking all day, resulting in a pretty battered body on Sunday morning for race day.

Beautiful single track trails makes for one happy girl.

More pretty mountains.

Stage one:

Long, pedally, fast, dusty, raw, brand new, steep pinches, many traverses, more pedaling, fresh grassy off camber, heater buses, fire road, bike park berms, a mother F*&$@r of a tar road & gravel climb that never ended, followed by more uphill traversing and finally a fast as all hell, straightline downhill down to the next villiage. Did I mention all the climbing? It was brutal. Noodle legs, arm pump, passing, shouting, frustration & elation. The amount of emotions that happen within those 15 or whatever the stage time was, is pretty unreal. This shit is so mental and if you know how to deal with that, then you'll do well at these races. I ended up in 9th place, felt surprisingly good on the climb, then got stuck trying to pass 3 girls on the narrow single-track descent. Frustrating. That's racing.

Steep, off camber, fresh tracks on number 1. Primo.

Stage Two:

This was a strange one. Flat out fire road sprint into a gnarly rock garden section and back onto another long ass fire road sprint, spin out & tuck section around to the front side of the mountain and then into some super narrow singletrack trails to the finish line. It seemed so much more pedaly during the race, but it was good, just couldn't get into this stage, it felt a bit disjointed to me. 9th place on this stage.

Steep, technical rock sections on track number 2.

Stage Three:

After a long break we headed up for race number three. The best description would be awkward. Everything about this track was just awkward. Fine to ride, but a bit strange to race. It would definitely have been beneficial to be able to do nose wheelies on this track. I fumbled out of the start gate, all the way to the finish line. Just making every mistake in the book. O well, I had to settle with an 11th place here. On to the next one, and my favourite, number 4.

Les2Alps racing.

Stage Four:

This was my favourite track from the start. It was full pinned high speed down the mountain, off camber, grassy knolls, scary fast blind rises, brake bumps galore and then into this narrow singletrack section that wound all the way down to the valley floor. It was a proper trail. Steep & tricky and I loved it. I guess it helps when you enjoy a track as I got a 7th place on that stage behind a few World Champs - so that made my day & I was a happy girl.

High speed grassy racing.

These days the level is so high, that when you nail one or two stages and are happy with them, then you've managed to do well and you should be stoked. There is no such thing as a perfect run, they just don't happen, there are way too many variables involved for that to be possible. Tracy managed to take the win again which was so exciting & Jerome took the men's win. I couldn't be happier for these guys as they are both truly amazing bike riders and genuinely  passionate about riding their bikes and not just racing them. I managed to finish up in 9th place at the end of the day. Pretty happy with a top 10 these days, as the level out here is truly remarkable.

Happy happy birthday Jon! Fondue's & Raclette's are the best.

Cheers to another great weekend of racing & to everyone that managed to pull this off. It was different, not good or bad, just different which was great and it was hard, and that is how it should be and will hopefully remain to be. Next up - MegAvalanche & glaciers - ALARMA!!!!!!!!!

P5290336

I'm back in rural France at my sisters house now, knackered, battered & bruised after the Mega, but excited to see my dad, celebrate my sister's 40th birthday & to catch up with internet, life, laundry & loads of amazing vegetarian cooking from me mum (much needed after raclette & tartiflette overdose). Keep posted for some Mega updates coming soon!

peace out, Anka xxx

Out & about in-between races.

Our European migrations every year does involve a shit load of work, mostly at races & other events, with loads of driving, late night editing, lots of internet cafe time, laundry sessions, packing & re-packing, washing & sorting bikes & gear, getting the trusty (rusty) old van fixed and so on, but we do try to do something fun in-between the long drives from one country to the next and from event to event. These little side trips are usually the one's that we end up enjoying the most and that we end up sharing with our good friends. None of us really have much time at the races & events to actually catch up properly and hang out, everyone is so busy with their own thing, but when we do these little mini trips in-between, that is when we actually get to spend some quality time with our mates on the road & we get to play and ride bikes. The sign says it all.

Pretty patterns.

I am intrigued by all the shrines you come across on the rides in Europe.

Italian colours.

Tracks & trails.

I got to explore the Valley of the Sun in Italy while the DH World Cup action was going on a few weeks ago (pics above).

We got to go to one of our favourite places to ride, swim, eat way too much gelato & drink loads of red wine & lemoncello - Lake Garda in Italy. We had a big old crew this year which is always fun to do one of our all time favourite rides from Malcesine back to the lake. We also got to catch up with our good friends from California, Megan & Andy that just happened to be in Italy for work at the same time. Perfect!

High above Lake Garda, heading to the lake for lunch & a swim.

Exchanging bikes for scooters for some lake cruising with Rach.

Soaking up the sunshine.

Calm before the storm in Santa Barbara, exploring secret tracks with Victor & Sven.

Beautiful Torbole, Lago di Garda, Italy.

Sven & Andy lounging in the  lake.

Megan & I catching up on the last two years of life.

A big shuttling day from Col De Champs before the Val D Allos enduro race was pretty epic.

Another big shuttling day after the Val D Allos race was another pretty amazing day of riding before heading out of this beautiful valley.

Col D Allos for some apres race fun riding with friends.

Exploring the Val D Allos valleys & chapels.

After Val D Allos we made our way to the hidden gem of Moustiers St Marie tucked away in the Gorges Du Verdon for some swimming & kayaking adventures with Jon C & Christine and Tracy & James.

Our vanie, loaded up to the max, heading to the next destination (not all our shit though).

Moustiers St Marie, France

More shrines & holy stuff.

Plotting our next adventure with JC & Christine over croissants & coffee.

Cool restaurants.

Loving the food in France  - is it possible to overdose on chèvre?

Lavender fields - we must be in Provence.

Moustiers St Marie.

Typical villiage signs.

The good life is a simple life.

In awe of the scenery we stumble upon. Checking out the gorges with JC & Christine.

It's summertime. Swimming, kayaking, beers & good times with JC, Christine, T-Mo, James & Sven.

Stunning turquoise waters of the Gorges Du Verdon - France's best kept secret.

Peaceful places. I love you Tar xx

There are a few (lots) places that I've always wanted to go to, that we just never end up getting to, so hopefully we'll be able to go on a few more mini trips this summer and experience some new countries, places, trails & cultures. Isn't that the whole reason we got into riding bikes in the first place?

Happy girl.

Anyhow, I'll keep you updated here on our mini adventures in-between all the important stuff.

peace out, Anka xxx

Riding bikes, van life & shit.

We just wrapped up the second round of the Enduro World Series race in Val D Allos, France this past weekend & what a great weekend of riding and racing it was. The setting was spectacular, surrounded by majestic mountains, pretty much in the middle of nowhere, in a tiny little ski town and only two hours from bustling Nice. With the French format not allowing any practice before the race, we had plenty of time to explore some of the other tracks and trails in the area, which was good fun to go and ride bikes with your mates and not even bother to give the race a thought until race day, which I love.

We stayed in our van and created a nice pikey site with fellow van-ier (and photographer), Victor Lucas who took brewing up the morning coffee to a whole other level using his big track pump to get the frothy crema on the top of the brew, a sure way to get your morning started off on a good note.

The racing was absolutely amazing. The tracks were really fun, scenic, exposed, fast, sketchy, unpredictable, with shale rock, loamy dirt, dry loose bike park dirt, roots, rocks, cliffs, switchbacks, I mean, it had absolutely all the elements that a good trail needs to have to call it epic. They were super fun to ride, but to race, they were hard. Hard in a good way, as it should be. It tested your everything. On Saturday the tracks were a bit more DH oriented, but still quite pedaly if you wanted to do well, and on Sunday, they were still technical and tricky, but the pedaling sections were just too long for me to make use of my downhill skills to get a good result. I just didn't have the legs to stand up and sprint on all the traversing and uphill sections, but I still had a blast and loved the tracks. Proper enduro riding. Raw, unpredictable & hard. I just need to find my legs now :) We managed to descend 10 000 meters over the two days of racing, so I'd say you definitely get your money's worth at these events. Don't even get me started on the food station and how incredibly delicious it was. I have Haribo sweets stocked up for the rest of the summer!

I was happy with a 6th & a 7th place on two of the race runs, then a bit of bad luck on one of the runs cost me a lot of time, but it was the long pedaly one's on Sunday that killed me and put me into 11th place for the overall results.. All in all a magnificent weekend of racing. Hats off to all the girls that raced - 30 of us, which is pretty amazing to see a start list with so many girls ready to race. The level of the racing for the men & women was really high, everyone killed it & I look forward to this coming weekend to see how Les Deux Alpes will format their racing for the weekend, and hopefully I can have a good weekend and get into the top 10...but there are plenty of trails to go exploring this week and adventures to be had before the race, so I'll worry about that later.

One of my highlights this weekend was meeting up with my good old friend Sabrina Jonnier & catching up with her about life in general and just seeing her glow in the sunshine with her baby belly. I cannot wait to meet Stella soon!

Cheers to everyone for all their support & to Sven for the stunning photographs. It was such a treat to race and ride with all my new Sombrio kit - I LOVE all my new goodies, and they look good! THANK YOU!!!!!

Peace out, Anka xxx

Bawbags, burns & bothies in Ballater.

Ballater
Ballater is a burgh in Aberdeenshire, Scotland on the River Dee, immediately east of the Cairngorm Mountains. Situated at a height of 213 m in elevation, Ballater is a centre for hikers and known for its spring water, once said to cure scrofula.

Man, Scotland is RAD.

I've just returned from one amazing week in Scotland. The sun was shining the entire week, there were no midgies in sight, the trails were mint, the whiskey tasting was endless and the crew was the best. We were out in Ballater with the Santa Cruz Bicycles boys & girls for the new Solo bike & Women's specific Juliana bike launch & we had such a fun week of everything. I finally got to meet & ride with Andy McKenna & his lovely wife Aneela - been wanting to meet these guys that run the www.go-where.co.uk Scottish guided company for so long now - always drooling over their instagram pics, so this was perfect. I got to experience a little bit of their daily instagram-ed lives & I'll never forget Aneela's amazing laugh! We just had a blast riding with the girls, ripping up the heather clad Scottish hills - cheers Mary -Anne, Aneela & Zea!

I also learnt a whole bunch of new Scottish words, don't think they're all good one's, but here are a few - thanks to Aneela: Bawbags, Burns, Fannybawbags, Fannybaws, bothies, Royal Deeside tweed, man, the list goes on and on...and I had a lesson in Whiskey making, smelling, sniffing, tasting & finally drinking. Turns out I'm not too keen on heavy peat flavored whiskey, made my tongue go all numb & tingly.

As for the first WC of the season - it was insane! Such a great venue, i have forgotten how good this venue was and how amazing all the Scottish fans are. I was bummed that the porridge cart wasn't there, but I did sample some delicious Haggis & tatties (the veggie version) and it was YUM. Our Juliana Bicycles booth got a lot of attention & the gals (and guys) loved the bikes! I got to catch up with some members of Team Dark Cloud, reminiscing about the trials & tribulations of the Trans Provence & I cannot wait to ride with this crew once again in September - Team Dark Cloud strikes again! Great to see & catch up with all the Ball's, and got to eat at one of my favorite restaurants ever - The Ben Nevis Inn.

The trails were sick, the scenery mind blowing, the riding crew - super fun. Cheers to everyone who made this week super special. Visiting new places are the best, riding new tracks are insane, making new friends - priceless (no, this is not a visa add). Now I'm back in Italy, in the Valley of the sun for some more world cup action & trail exploration this weekend.

Thank you to Sven for the stunning shots!

Peace out.

Anka

x

heather clad mountains

Fort William WC - Juliana Bicycles booth

hike-a-bike with Sven

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

spectacular vistas

Lusciousnessssss

waterfall pose

Baller & I getting techy

whiskey time at Lochnagar

babes in the bothie

more lochs

Lochs & lassies

Ballater

Ballater

at the 2013 UCI MTB World Cup. Ft William, Scotland.

views & bogs

sunshine & heather

bbq time