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Specialized Healthy Catch Ups back for Summer 16/17

Specialized Healthy Catch Ups at Rabbit Ridge

Specialized healthy catch ups is a program for 2016 that aims to promote healthy living for females. The program asks leading Specialized retailers around the world to organise social cycling experiences for women that are about friendship, fitness and fun. The initiative aims to inspire people to get out there, discover new experiences with friends –and have lots of fun along the way!

Healthy Catch Ups Rabbit Ridge Outside Sports NZ

Outside Sports hosted social ladies rides in January, February and March 2016 which turned out to be so popular we decided to make an annual event. The first ladies ride of this summer was to go ahead at Rabbit Ridge Bike Park on the last Sunday of November, within a couple of days from the event announcement the ride was fully booked.

Rabbit Ridge Bike Park is located next to Gibbston Valley Winery and features more than 40kms of trails suitable for all levels of riders. A perfect place for anyone getting into mountain biking that wants something a bit less intimidating than a lot of the riding in Queenstown.

Healthy Catch Ups Rabbit Ridge Outside Sports NZ

As the weekend approached the forecast wasn’t looking great and early Sunday morning the rain was pouring down. Between the clouds we saw that there had been a big snowfall on the surrounding mountains –

and it’s supposed to be the start of summer!?

We decided to go with the optimistic approach and head out to meet at Gibbston Valley Winery hoping that the sun would come out and the trails would be dry. On meeting at Gibbston valley Winery, Sean from Rabbit Ride had just got back from test riding the trails with a bike caked in mud.

It was not looking promising.......

We were expecting a small turnout due to poor conditions but nearly everyone that booked showed up excited to ride– great effort! The enthusiasm from the group seemed to pay off as the sun started to peek through the clouds and the rain stopped - a ride was definitely in order.

Healthy Catch Ups Rabbit Ridge Outside Sports NZ

The call was made that Rabbit Ridge was too slippery and the Queenstown trail across the road would be a good option. The group set off to ride the loop down by the river with the possibility of coming back to the Ridge if it dried out. The trail took the group on a loop down towards the river for a cruisy ride looking out over the Kawarau. As the group rode, the sun seemed to fight its way through the clouds making for a pretty nice day! The snow on the hills made for some great scenery and everyone seemed stoked to be out riding.

There was a mix of skill levels but everyone rode as a group and the more skilled riders gave riding tips and encouragement, making for a really great environment for all. Ronan the mechanic from Outside Sports rode along at the back to fix anything that went wrong and had with him the Specialized Levo pedal assisted mountain bike which several of the ladies had a turn on which made the ride a LOT easier.

Healthy Catch Ups Rabbit Ridge Outside Sports NZ

After the river loop we got a call from Sean who had been keeping an eye on the trail conditions at Rabbit Ridge and he had good news. The lower trails had soaked up all the water and it was looking good to ride!

As we had already done a decent amount of pedalling and food and wine was on the mind, we decided some shuttle runs would be more enjoyable then riding to the top of the park. With the Outside Sports truck and the Rabbit Ridge van, the riders were taken to the top of the park for a couple of descending trails to finish the ride.

Everyone arrived back at Gibbston Valley Winery where some complimentary bottles of wine and juice were waiting for the thirsty riders. After a post ride catch up over some food and drink, the riders left with new friends and have hopefully been inspired to get out there and do more healthy social catch ups.

Healthy Catch Ups Rabbit Ridge Outside Sports NZ

Thank you to Rabbit Ridge for free access to the trails, Gibbston Valley Winery for hosting us, and all the riders who came along with such great attitudes!

Keep an eye on the Healthy Catch Ups Facebook page for information on the next ride, and feel free to use the page to organise your own healthy catch up!

Thanks to:

Specialized Healthy Catch Ups programme

Rabbit Ridge Bike Park

Gibbston Valley Winery

Cookies Coaching


Photo Credit: Meagan Lee Wilken

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A love/fear relationship with biking.

Specialized Healthy catch-ups at Cardrona

One bright Sunday morning, 60 or so women from around Queenstown and Wanaka gathered in Cardrona’s clock tower square armed with mountain bikes. These women were of all ages and abilities; on bikes old and new, Cross-country, enduro and downhill alike. Some came with friends, others began the day as strangers, but the one thing we all had in common was a love of biking.

Or, in my case, a love/fear relationship with biking.

Specialized Healthy Catch Ups Outside Sports NZ

Upon arrival, we were offered a pre-ride check with one of Outside Sports’ top notch bike mechanics, Bryn.

It’s always reassuring to know that your brakes will stop you, and your wheels aren’t about to fall off before you set out!

There was also an array of shiny new Specialized bikes on hand as demos for those in the market for a new bike, or just interested to see how a newer model compared with their own. Then our generous hosts, Cardrona, handed out complimentary lift passes to one and all. Legends!

Under the cloudless, Otago blue sky we were given the outline of the day and the option to join one of three groups, under the instruction of a collaboration of Cardrona bike instructors and Outside Sports guides: Group 1- aimed more towards beginners, were to focus on body position; Group 2- intermediate, on cornering; Group 3- advanced, on line selection and being generally extra rad.

I knew for sure my issue was with cornering, so I joined Group 2 led by Andrea, Ali and Tony (one of a couple of token male guides) and we started off down the meandering green-rated trail “morning glory” to the Whitestar express.

Specialized Healthy Catch Ups Outside Sports NZ

I have skied Cardrona many times in winter, but this was my first experience riding it on a bike and I was impressed with the transition from a wide, straight ski slope to a flowing course of bermed corners and undulating straights, peppered with small rock features. This was also my first time riding a chairlift with a bike, and my visions of hugging it tightly across my lap for fear of dropping it on someone’s head were quickly assuaged with the realization that there are lovely lift operators on hand to hook the bikes onto the chair in front; all I had to do was sit down, enjoy the view, and have a nice chat with my new chairlift buddies. Top tip: it can get a bit chilly on the lifts so take an extra layer!

Specialized Healthy Catch Ups Outside Sports NZ

At the top, more lifties handed us back our bikes and we got down to business. Our coaches, who unbeknownst to us had carefully eyed our warm-up run, explained (with a rather comical reenactment) how we were currently steering the bike in a very awkward fashion. Instead, they expertly demonstrated how to move the bike under you, turn with your body, and look ahead round corners. After a short trial on the flat we moved on to an easy blue run “afternoon delight“- the perfect practice run as it gently snakes its way round corner after corner all the way back down to the base building. During this run, we were each afforded the opportunity to ride in front of one of the coaches for a section and receive individual feedback on our progress.

As we headed down to the bottom of the chairlift for the second time, I was far from alone in noticing an instant improvement in how cornering felt.

Empowered, we decided to take our new skills on to the harder blue runs.

Specialized Healthy Catch Ups Outside Sports NZ

“Grasshopper” cuts a narrower trail through the tussocks. With its ruts, rocks, and rugged steeper sections I felt as though I was challenged to the highest point of my abilities. Where before I might have hopped off and walked a stretch I didn’t like the look of, there is something about the company of like-minded women of a similar ability that encouraged me to keep hanging on to my bike for dear life, brakes screaming, scraping my bottom on my back tyre, and I rode that whole trail like a boss. Well, except for a tiny moment where Ali yelled “keep left” at me, which my brain interpreted as,

“Stop! You’re going to die!”

With ear-to-ear smiles and adrenaline coursing through our veins, we decided to stop for lunch. In accordance with the “healthy” part of Healthy Catch Ups, Cardrona had put on a special dish of falafels on a bed of a variety of salads with a juice. While I don’t normally order vegetarian meals on purpose, it was absolutely delicious and fueled us for the afternoon of riding ahead.

Specialized Healthy Catch Ups Outside Sports NZ

The afternoon session was a more informal affair, with the option to carry on with the instructors or go off with some friends. I chose to stick with my group, and as we looked back down on Grasshopper from the chairlift we wondered where the tricky rocks and ruts were now that had so troubled us before. The steeps looked like nothing from a birds eye view. We were much braver going in to it this time, and cheered on as others who had walked parts the first time now rode the whole thing. Andrea showed us around a nice selection of challenging blue runs that afternoon, stopping occasionally to tell us what the next stretch held in store for us, or sometimes not telling us and just enjoying watching us ride over things we never expected we would manage.

Many went on to finish the day with the 7km ride down the grassy mountainside all the way to the Cardrona Hotel in the valley below, but after a fantastic day of riding I was happy to enjoy a leisurely drive down the winding gravel road.

I went up the mountain that day with the aim of having a fun bike ride. I came down encouraged, emboldened, and equipped with new skills which I can’t wait to try out on those tricky sections where I’ve got off and walked before on my usual rides, and with some new friends to ride them with too.

Specialized Healthy Catch Ups Outside Sports NZ

Specialized Healthy Catch ups take place on the last Sunday of each month at different locations. Follow the facebook page: www.facebook.com/HealthyCatchUps, and head into Outside Sports for more info.

See you at the next one!

By Christy Brennan

#HealthyCatchUps #WhereAdventuresBegin

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