*Editor’s note: JustMTB has been a Trail Fund NZ sponsor since 2014. This article is one in a regular series we’re doing on the awesome organisations that support Trail Fund NZ.
Don’t panic! It’s not what you think … Scott Kuegler is an ex pro-elite downhiller and (for his sins) New Zealand roadie – in his words he reckons he has literally spent his life behind bars.
He runs JustMTB, which offers small guided tours on New Zealand’s sweetest single track, showing off hidden gems and making the most of its guides’ local knowledge. Well aware that his business concept wouldn’t be possible without the country’s impressive network of trails, Scott is committed to supporting the infrastructure that draws his clients by partnering with Trail Fund as a 1% sponsor (hyperlink to 1% sponsor page).
No hassle, no planning… Just MTBing
Scott says all the guides are ex-racers and now, rather than racing, they love sharing the joy of riding New Zealand's epic trails with visitors.
Most of JustMTB’s clients come from the US and Australia, though Scott says Kiwis would love the tours as well, as it takes all the hassle out of planning days of epic riding – you just turn up and ride.
NZ-famous mountain biker, mechanic and instafamous Rod Bardsley, more commonly known as The Rodfather, is one of the company’s guides. He’d just touched down in Christchurch and was about to head off on a 7-day tour when Trail Fund caught up with his plans.
The crew kicked off the trip with an early supermarket run, then spent the afternoon in Christchurch Adventure Park before loading up and heading to Hamner Springs for two nights, a whip through the Old Ghost Road, then two nights at Flock Hill Station to finish off at Craigeburn.
The main event of the trip is the Old Ghost Road, which the group starts after lunch on day three, and with Daylight Savings over it means making sure to keep the pace up so they get to Ghost Lake Hut before dark.
Rod says the Old Ghost Road is a big drawcard for international visitors.
"I think it’s the whole package thing, they just love the concept, they’re in the bush, they’re in the middle of nowhere and there’s nowhere to buy any food – it’s a bit freaky.”
But there can be some aspects of the trails that are a bit of a shock for the North Americans.
“The problem is that a grade 3 trail in New Zealand is pretty much a grade 4 or 5 in America, so almost everyone has had the shock of their lives on those switchbacks down from Ghost Lake Hut.
“Our grading is different so, while the trails themselves can be similar, there are drop offs and the trails are not groomed as such, so there are big psychological differences.
“They do come prepared though; they are fit and reasonably capable, and no one has really struggled or had a tantrum.”
Scott Kuegler says what sets New Zealand’s trails apart is that they are more raw and down-to-earth.
“Visitors can ride the bike park stuff if they want, but if they go on the private shuttle with Rod in Rotorua they’d be riding on trails which are so different to the rest of the world and there are no B options.
“If you’re riding a grade 5 trail there are no choices, so if you can't ride something you have to get off and carry your bike down. This comes as a surprise to many because, for example, if you ride A Line at Whistler there are all these options and detours that you can ride around – but we don't roll that way.”
Scott says he knows mountain bikers need people to lead work on the trails and says Trail Fund has been awesome at supporting volunteers to develop the network across the country.
“Without the clubs and volunteers there would be very few places to ride, and it’s good to remember the networks are not just for people like me and my business, they are for my kids and thousands of other kids and Kiwis around the country.”
Photo credit - Rod Bardsley (aka The RodFather).