Come for the surf, stay for the dirt

Come for the surf, stay for the dirt

Raglan Mountain Bike Club says the town will likely always be known for its surf, but thanks to hard work and persistence from a small group of locals, its growing trail network is a great back up for surfers and a haven for locals

With the Rotorua redwoods and Taupo’s trails only a short drive away, Raglan local Merren Tait decided the town should start its own club to make the most of the nearby trails. Fourteen years later, club members still organize the odd trip to Rotorua or Taupo, but they also have a network of their own – Te Ara Kakariki.

According to club secretary Dirk De Ruysscher, who helped Merren found the club and owns local bike shop Cyclery Raglan, it’s been a long process, but a worthwhile one.

Owning the process

“We started out just running casual rides to Taupo and Rotorua, but soon after decided to try and build trails of our own. It took about four years to get the project going, but in 2014 trail building company Empire of Dirt finally broke ground, building our four initial trails at Te Ara Kakariki.”

According to Dirk, the lengthy process was partly due to having multiple stakeholders, including local iwi and the council. For anyone dealing with hesitant stakeholders, Dirk recommends patience, persistence, and meeting in person.

“Especially with our local iwi, it was really important for them to learn who we were and what we were trying to achieve. If people aren’t familiar with mountain biking, they often think you’re going to rip the whole place up, so we went to a lot of meetings to reassure them that definitely wasn’t the case.

“It means a lot to show up in person – if you want to get things done, you need to show your face.”

Dirk says building the Raglan trails – even just the initial four – inspired a lot more locals to join the club and, since then, the club has been slowly expanding them.

“We now have 14 trails, ranging from grade 2 to 5, with the newer ones built by volunteers. Te ara Kakariki isn’t a huge area, but if offers at least an hour of fun riding, and it’s in our own back yard, which you can’t beat.”

Attracting the tourists

Dirk says most Raglan tourists still come for the surf, but there’s a definite increase in the number of surfers bringing their bikes for back up.

“If the surf’s not on, surfers more than happy to tryout the local trails,” says Dirk. “We actually raise a bit of money that way, as we have signs with QR codes on them where people can easily donate if they’ve enjoyed the trails. Even if it’s $5 here and there, it all adds up.”

Dirk says if the trails are really wet, they’re not much fun for anyone, because they’re mostly clay. But even so, because there’s also sand in the mix, they dry out quicker than the neighboring Te Miro trails, which sees a few Hamilton locals heading to Raglan after some rain, and donating or even becoming Raglan Mountain Bike Club members.

Two-time Trail Fund support recipient

The Raglan Mountain Bike Club funds all of its work through memberships, donations and grants, and Trail Fund is pleased to have supported the club on two occasions – with funding in 2018 and, earlier this year, with a Trail Fund ebarrow.

“We are thrilled to have had the help of Trail Fund,” says Dirk. “And the ebarrow has been incredibly useful already, as we received it right after the cyclone came through and used it to clear all the fallen trees.”

With limited space, Dirk says there’s not heaps of room for more trails, but it’s not about expansion and attracting riders from afar – it’s about having trails to call their own.

“We’re stoked to have our own network, and for now our goal is to increase awareness and participation from those in the community and maintain the trails to a high standard.”

Want to give Raglan trails a go? If you’re in the area, check them out on Trail Forks!


Photo by Ken Hansen

Words by Meagan Robertson