Trail Stories: Mystic Portal

The Wellington Mountain Bike Club received $500 from Trail Fund NZ in support of purchasing materials to enable the rebuild of jumps and structures on “The Portal”. You can learn more about the track and when work is happening (so you can join in!) here on their Facebook group. To quote “If breaking both wrists sounds like a fun Saturday then this track is for you”.

Trail name: The “Mystic Portal” or more commonly now just “The Portal”. It’s located in Prince of Wales Park, Wellington Town Belt.

Why is it called that? Not sure of the original reasons but for me it’s the perfect name for a trail that takes you from atop a residential hill overlooking the city and dives into bush and pine trees throwing you fast flowing corners and flying over a variety of natural and man-made features. So it sucks you in and spits you out breathless and full of adrenaline back into the middle of civilization, feeling like only a moment ago you were somewhere completely different.

When was it built? I believe it started back in the late 1990’s but the most recent work has been over the past couple of years

Who built it? Well it wasn’t legit at the time so we will just call them Mark and Derek to protect their identities. Over the years it developed a loyal following of the more daring mountain bikers in the city and a number of people have done their bit to keep it running and added new features, but it was beginning to show its age.

Most recently the work to develop it has been being led by myself on behalf of the Wellington Mountain Bike Club along with Jourdan Lethbridge and Thomas Sheridan plus a growing crew regular Wellington diggers.

Why was this trail built?/What was the inspiration?/ What sort of rider is it designed for?

It’s probably best described as a grade 5 / 6 depending on how many of the features you do. It’s definitely aimed at the DH or freeride mountain biker but all the features have nana lines which means that anyone who can ride a grade 4 trail can get down the track without hitting the features.

Hardest parts to build?

Getting enough dirt for the jumps on the flatter sections, big jumps take big amounts of dirt. Also we’ve had to contend with trees coming down during the recent storms, having to re-route the track as a result.

Best bits/who loves it?

The technical features for sure.  That’s been our focus from a building perspective, finding ways to improve the already technical and gnarly trail to suit our desires as downhill riders. We started with rebuilding an old line towards the top of the track by putting in two berms, a hip jump and step down. From here it became a full blown obsession and we soon found ourselves up there several evenings a week after lectures, often into the dark of winter nights sculpting the track exactly how we wanted it.

The trail is somewhat unique in Wellington as it is aimed at advanced trail and downhill riders, as it offers a combination of steepness, speed and bigger jumps than most other trails in the city offer. It is hard to nail down what we all like most about the trail, as it all flows together so well. The turns at the top which we reshaped flow well and get you pumped for the run, but for me the highlight of the run would hitting the Catch 22 (7m long gap jump) and then flying into the steep off camber section that feeds into the bottom section.

Lessons learned during the build?

If I’ve learned anything from the hours spent up there it’s that there is no such thing as a perfect berm. If something is worth riding, it’s worth rebuilding until it’s exactly how you want it. That and you can’t please everyone so stop trying!

The best advice I’ve ever been given is to listen to what people want but if you’re the one putting in all the hours building it, build it how you want it.

Future plans for similar trails?

Plans for the future involve an overhaul of the Rollercoaster track in Brooklyn, Wellington in the theme of A Line or Crab Apple hits (Whistler, BC). With the use of an earthmover we plan to reshape the trail with a range of features to suit all riders. We are also on the hunt for a new venue for Downhill Nationals racing in Wellington, so watch this space!

This article appeared originally in New Zealand Mountainbiker Magazine. Thanks to Carl and the team for the continued support.