No Direction Home

So things got a bit mixed up and somehow I ended up in Canada. No big deal, it’s pretty sweet over here. It has kinda fucked up the name of my photo blog though, which is definitely a quandary that fits firmly in the ‘first world problems’ category. But anyway, in between fine tuning my forest casual aesthetic and learning how to get the wheels of a bicycle more than 3″ off the ground, I’ve been taking a few photos.

As you know, we here at Bottles and Chains have a tendency towards the analog. Call us old school, luddites, stuck in our ways, or hipsters if you will. Liam has a beard, Ben gets confused by anything with more than two sprockets, and I still refuse to buy a real digital camera. Ok, so it’s more that I can’t afford one. And admittedly, Liam shoots far more film (with far more skill) than me, but now he’s gone all fancy with digital video, so that puts him out of the picture.

Anyway, I’ve taken some photos of bicycle riding, and you can see a few here or you can go over to the completely inappropriately named Roll South and see some more. The choice is yours, and choice can be a luxury at times, so make up your mind already.

Riding Dirty

jimmy race

Nothing feels quite like finishing a 100km race…I’d imagine. I’ve never done more than 50km, but I’m notoriously lazy and strictly non-competitive unless I’m guaranteed to win with minimal effort. The good doctor Jimmy ticked off a century today and he’s got the grit-filled grin to show it. Nice work ol’ boy.

michelle neil

As for me, I took to the hills after too many days riding the gondola and forgetting what it feels like to actually pedal up a hill for longer than three minutes. Within 30 seconds of leaving the house I’d been attacked by a bee, we’d lost Michelle, and Neil couldn’t figure out how to use the gears on his borrowed bike with its big, silly wheels. After moments of chaos we regrouped at the supermarket to meet up with our guide Nick, who was still drunk from many hours of debauchery the night before. Things were off to a good start.

A few KM of tarmac had me quietly cursing my tacky 2.4″ tyres and feeling less than confident about the backcountry mission ahead. Luckily it wasn’t too long before we hit dirt, and Nick seemed to be vaguely aware of where we were heading. Many rides with Ben Storer has left me eternally wary of the words “I’m pretty sure it’s this way…”, which are inevitably followed by a long, steep descent towards a dead end and a sentence starting with “Oh, actually…”.  We hit singletrack in good time, and from there things were looking up…literally.

Moonlight Track winds its way above the Shotover River behind Queenstown, with some pretty steep drops off to the side and a narrow path that would be little more than a goat track if it weren’t for all the mountain bike tyres that roll over it. It kinda goes without saying that the mountain biking in Queenstown is pretty epic, and the views are best described the same. When you duck around the side of the hill and find yourself away from the main roads, the mountains open up before you and it’s hard not to drop your jaw. The trail dipped into an awesome descent, with the only real line becoming a narrow rut intersected by jutting rocks and covered in a good dose of sheep shit. Guaranteed that whenever the line did open up, your chosen path would have been neatly defecated on by the local farm animals. Just roll on through, it’s the only real option. We hooked down and back up again, before a brief stop for photos and jelly beans (any excuse to rest is good by me). Naturally things were going to smoothly, so Neil decided that a spontaneous puncture would liven things up a little. I promptly planted myself in the shade under a bush and didn’t complain a bit.

We carried on along more narrow, technical trail before hitting 4WD road and beginning to loop back towards Moke Lake. A few steep climbs in the hot sun had me swearing and whinging inside my head. If there’s one thing I hate whilst mountain biking, it’s riding up long, dusty fire trails in the hot sun. Luckily the ride was far too good and the scenery too amazing for it to have any impact on the good times. Plenty of pedalling and a relaxing lunch under the trees lead us on to Moke Lake, where more gravel road carried us on to the top of Gold Digger trail. Queenstown Mountain Bike Club do a lot of amazing trail work, and Gold Digger is one of their newer projects. A rad 2.5km descent back towards town, winding its way through a variety of terrain and flora. Plenty of tight corners (in a good way), sections of fast, pumpy trail and some awesome surrounds make it a damn fine trail that I’m super keen to ride again.

From there it was back to town along the Sunshine Bay track, before booking in for a bloody huge stone grill steak at Pog Mahones. Safe to say there was a fair amount of red meat ingested at that table. A decent cow somewhere gave its life for a damn good cause.

The question now it, where to next?

(I totally stole Jimmy and Michelle’s photos for this post.)

Doin’ Skids

I was wandering around on Tumblr this evening when this picture cropped up. Featuring the pretty much instantly recognisable Remarkables it can only be Queenstown. There was no link to the source, so I have no idea who took it, or where it’s from, or anything at all really. I don’t even have much reason for posting it, except that it’s someone busting out a skid in a sweet location…which is reason enough really! Queenstown’s a bloody good spot. I’d better find a new front tyre for my fixie so I can hang with the cool kids again.


The Coppermine loop in Nelson was definitely one of the best rides I’ve done, even if I was plagued with punctures on the descent. The trail climbs an old tramway into the hills behind Nelson, and curves around Dun Mountain into alpine territory. On the way up it passes through some of the most jaw-dropping beautiful beech forest, with trees clinging to craggy cliffs covered in deep green moss. It’s like something out of a fairytale, and I had to constantly remind myself to watch where I was riding, rather than gazing open-mouthed at the surroundings.

After breaking through into the scrubby alpine zone the trail reverses gradient and the real fun begins. Awesome switchbacks wind their way down the side of the mountain, hooking into each other in a way that keeps seems to beg you to go faster and faster, at your own peril. the surface is rocky, but not too loose and it’s no surprise that the trail is known as Blur country. The VPP loves it, and I became a victim after getting a little lost in the moment and managing to put a hole in my tubeless tyre that Stan’s just wouldn’t seal. A quick(-ish) tube insertion got me about 5m down the trail before I copped the biggest snakebite pinch flat I’ve seen and had to go begging for another tube. Apparently the trail was smooth as silk when it was first built, and rode like an endless pump track. The alpine weather has definitely taken its toll, but not in a negative way. The flow’s still there, but you know for sure that you’re mountain biking.

The lower section of the track flies above a small river and it barely feels like your wheels touch dirt. It’s a little scary to think how fast you could ride some of the sections once you knew the trail.

From the bottom of the trail you can ride singletrack all the way back to Nelson city centre, or haul yourself up into the hills again and ride any of the trails in the MTB park. After that the only option is to go to the Sprig & Fern for a Three Berry Cider and a burger. It’s a tough life.


Everyone talks about good natured Kiwi hospitality and there’s definitely no shortage of it on the Whakarewarewa trails. I rolled into MTB Rotorua last week with a Manky in my hand and a confused look on my face. Brad and Tu were quick to drop what they were doing (living the dream, by all appearances) and direct me gently towards their big map board. In the space of five minutes I’d been hooked up with a ride plan and a list of trails, highlighted for convenience and been given a run down on the best was to tackle the forest.  Slightly better than the confused wanderings that had started the day. Rotorua has got what’s probably the best condensed trail network in the world (judging by the responses from those who’ve ridden further afield than me), and that map is covered in a shitload of little squiggly lines, tiny arrows and weird trail names. A few days in the forest though, and it all starts making a little more sense.

I’ve  been here ten days, been riding seven of those, and already I’m starting to find my favourite loops. The joy of this place is that in comparison to Tasmania, even the hardest climbs are fairly mellow, and usually quite short. That, and all the amazing trails of course. Anyway, with the whole debate about whether or not marriage is between a man and a woman, I’m going to throw my hat in the ring and say I’d like to marry Split Enz. Not the band, but the ridiculously good, swooping, whooping, rolling, bermed piece of heaven that descends the back of the forest and leaves you with that feeling of pure bliss and euphoria. I think we might adopt Billy T and Pondy DH/New as our children, and invite Be Rude Not 2 and Mad If U Don’t to come live in the spare room. We can invite Dragon’s Tail and Rollercoaster over for dinner every night, and Huckleberry Hound, Little Red Riding Huck and Corners can spend sunny afternoons playing the the backyard. So long as we’re all together, everything will be alright.

But anyway, back to the friendly locals (no Tongan bride yet sorry Ben). The next day I rocked up back at MTB Rotorua and got hailed by name. Those guys spend all day talking to (temporary) strangers and still remembered the guy with the funny name and stupid face. That kinda stuff goes a hell of a long way towards turning a place from a network of great trails into a great trail community. It’s a good reminder of why this “sport” is so awesome.

That arvo I trusted my bike to a spidery looking trailer latched to the back of an old bus and promptly felt my rider’s guilt jump through the roof. I’ve become a fast convert to the joy of shuttles and repeated runs down awesome trails, but it still feels a little wrong. Luckily the best trails start a bit beyond the drop-off point, so at least the legs get a tender workout. It’s still not quite the same as grinding half way up Mt Wellington, but it’ll just have to do.

More talkative locals meant the evening ended with a twilight run, following (another) Brad and his dog Maxxis down trails in the gloaming, squinting into shadowed corners trying to figure out whether that dark patch was a rut, a stick or a pile of bloody pine cones (trail grenades). Chasing a local on a Santa Cruz V10 Carbon DH bike down trails in the dark is probably not the safest way to finish a day, but a few moments of “oh shit!’ and a couple of minutes to extract my balls from my throat and things worked out pretty damn fine.  I even got a lift back to the hostel, which swept away any doubts I had about the decency of the human race (well, the ones who ride bikes at least).

So Rotorua’s undoubtedly been living up to the high expectations that were heaped upon it, given the mad ravings of many a BnC member (and pretty much anyone else who’s been within sniffing distance of the place).

Life on a MTB ain’t nothin’ but good times and tired legs.

Check out more photos and random travel stuff here:

What Goes on Tour…

The Tour of Tasmania came South to Hobart today, for the first time in a bloody long time. The shin-dig kicked off with a team time trial up Mt Wellington this arvo, which would have been lovely for about 300m of vertical gain before entering the thick cloud that covered the mountain. BnC was well represented by Hunners, whose mid-morning quest for a working megaphone was seemingly fruitless. I didn’t make it up the hill due to work, but here’s a snap that’s surfaced. Dunno who the poor bastard is on the bike, but I’m sure you can use your imagination when it comes to the audio. At least he’s got his pants on…

Tales From The Crypt

People of the world, greetings from the vast expanses of the universe…or something like that.

Those amongst you with greater powers of observation may have noticed that this bumfuck of a site has been fairly quiet of late.  Apart from a few posts with content, it’s mostly been talk of things that were coming up or rumoured to be happening, and then very little follow up. This is due in (most) part to the fact that I am an incredibly lazy person who speaks often of doing things like updates, or making phone calls, or organising bike rides, and yet end up doing very little of any of that. Those of you who are regular readers (small in number and the subject of much pity, no doubt) would realise that this is a repeated theme around here. So let’s make an attempt to remedy that, shall we?

Firstly, go tell all the people you hate that the BnC website might start getting some more content a little more frequently. Also, let them know that I have been approached with offers of cold, hard cash in exchange for advertising ugg boots on this “fashion blog”. I shit you not. I want you all to know that I could have quite easily been sitting here in a brand new pair of delicious sheep feet whilst unashamedly linking to some random muppet’s skin boots. But no! The faint odour of integrity that sometimes wafts up from the BnC bed sheets is thickening to a musty stench once again, and damned if we’re gonna clean it out any time soon.

So anyway… late last year we once again held the annual BnC Grass Track Slalom event in Hobart. Boxing day saw a fine selection of old men and young children loitering around a tree in a park, supping on beverages and tittering nervously. After some friendly banter things eventually got under way. As per usual, the afternoon consisted of large numbers of people on bicycles kooking it on various levels and inevitably ending up on the ground in a pile of hurt and metal. Fun for all.

I honestly can’t say I remember who won, if anyone. I’m fairly sure that Kiwi retained the previous year’s Croc Cup simply by default, and probably because no one else wanted some aged plastic kid’s shoe strapped to their bike. As with most of these events, things got rather interesting after everyone packed up and headed to the pub. Memories are fairly hazy, and those of you so inclined can no doubt track down various photos involving inebriated BnC members out and about later that evening, usually making complete fools of themselves. I myself ended up awaking on a strange couch in a house filled with people I didn’t know, at 7:30am the next morning. Safe to say I made a swift exit.

For those who missed it, here are some photos. For those who made it, maybe this will bring back some memories. For those who we may have crossed paths with…sorry.

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