Mountain biking terror on the Port Hills

18:12, Nov 21 2013

The first time my fiance Nick dragged me mountain biking in Christchurch, I swore I would never go again.

I had just arrived in New Zealand and he was eager to showcase the local outdoors.

At the time, all my energy went into journalism training, and having just moved to the other side of the world seemed like enough adventuring for a while.

But we weren't going to spend our weekends gazing into each other's eyes.

I suggested a French-themed weekend of cheese, wine and shrugging.

Nick suggested a Kiwi-style action weekend involving a 10 hour ascent on a steep mountain, sleeping in a tent in sub-zero temperatures and eating cold food.


We compromised on a mountain bike ride on the Port Hills.

The view was amazing.

To my left, green hillsides sloping down to the city, dusted with tussocks glowing gold in the afternoon sun. To my right, the sun-faded blue of Lyttelton harbour, still as a lake.

Bellbirds were singing and sheep were bleating reassuringly.

Conditions were perfect... for a picnic. But we weren't here for a picnic. We were here to pedal and sweat.

The track Nick had described as ''easy as'' was barely wide enough to accommodate a bike.

Its borders were a steep ravine on one side, and spiky bush on the other. Fearless bikers were speeding up both ways, unaware that death was waiting to snatch them at each turn.

''I don't think I can do it,'' I said.

'Stop whining. You'll be right.''

I followed him. My body tensed at each stone, hole, and down hill section. I wondered what would feel worse, breaking an arm or a leg. I gripped the brakes so hard my knuckles went translucent, and tears welled up in my eyes.

After 10 minutes, I hated mountain biking, I hated the Port Hills, and I hated Nick.

''Mountain biking is not for me,'' I declared.

Never again would I let Nick trick me into deadly endeavours.

Two weeks later, I was back on my bike.

Nick had convinced me to try again at Bottle Lake, promising a flat, easy trail and a picnic by the ocean. He knows I'll do anything for a picnic.

This time, he hadn't underestimated the track. Toddlers could manage it, and many were.

I spent more time enjoying the dark forest and the ocean breeze than thinking of how painful it would be to break both my arms.

Mountain biking became fun and something I looked forward to. Six months later, I was ready to try the Port Hills again.

I was still too tense to enjoy the ocean and the hills and the sheep, but I told myself: ''You'll be right''.

Slowly, with my hands holding the brakes tightly I completed the track I had first written off as completely out of my reach.

Moral of the story: If at first you don't succeed, try the toddler's route and add a picnic.

The Press