Dune Trail On The Motu Trails Cycleway

This was at the 9km turn around point, just past the Tirohanga Campground.

This was at the 9km turn around point, just past the Tirohanga Campground.

17/01/2018  |  Biking with Richard Hamer on the Dune Trails  |  Opotiki, New Zealand

Richard and I go way back to mid-2000s, where he was already doing a lot of youth work in our community. Over the years, I would run into him through my graphic design work and teaching dance. He was already a cycling advocate back then, but it’s only recently that I finally took him up on getting me back on a bike. I haven’t been on a bike since 2007 - maybe somewhere in the back streets of Vietnam.

The dune trail of the Motu Trail Cycleway is in the township of Opotiki, about 40 minutes drive from Whakatane. Now, when he told me that we would be biking 9km, I thought he meant in total, not one way! He did give me the option to turn around at various points, but I figured I wouldn’t be this way for awhile, so decided to make the most of it.

The dune trail begins in the carpark near the township of Opotiki.

The dune trail begins in the carpark near the township of Opotiki.

We started in the carpark with a five point safety check. Richard takes a lot of youth through this trail often, so this talk must be second nature to him. I was nervous getting back on the bike, and the first few minutes riding around in the carpark felt wobbly. As we set off, I could feel the tension in my hands as I gripped the handlebars, and throughout the ride I would catch myself trying to squeeze the life out of that poor grip.

Our first stop and to admire the coastal views.

Our first stop and to admire the coastal views.

All smiles - feeling fresh!

All smiles - feeling fresh!

It took me a few up and downhill moments to master changing gears. By the middle of the ride, I felt comfortable enough to bring myself off the seat and actually start to enjoy the ride. I could even see why people do this every weekend! Richard said that the dune trail is about a Grade 2, which for this newbie was challenging, especially uphill, even for someone with relatively good fitness. The dune trail have numbered marker posts to tell you how many kilometres you’ve ridden (or to go depending on how far you planned to ride).

As we rode towards Tirohanga, Richard would tell me which sections and bridges were relatively new. Like the bridge by the river mouth crossing that links up to the boardwalk. Before they had permission from the land owner, they had to carry their bikes across the stream, where the deepest was at his chest height. That’s commitment alright! Or just crazy!

Past this point, you can continue on to the Motu Road Trail.

Past this point, you can continue on to the Motu Road Trail.

The 9km turn around point is just past the Tirohanga Campground and Store, where we stopped for an ice cream.

Heading home with a tailwind should have been easy, right? It turned out our ice cream stop made all that lactic acid in my legs turn into full blown cramps. The stubborn in me was what kept me going, but I’m not going to lie, the ride back was tough. Richard was pretty good about it all, and super patient!

I did fall over once, and what was funny about it was that as soon I saw the track the wheel took, I knew I would be going down. Luckily I had the presence of mind not to grip the front brakes. I almost managed to get off the bike before I fell on my side (not over the handlebars thank goodness!), but I wasn’t quick enough. No scrapes, no blood, except some bruising on my left knee. You did good little Asian!

By the end of it we had biked just under 20km, a great effort I thought! It’s been a couple of days and I have three golf ball sized bruises on my left thigh and it’s still a bit tender to sit down. I really enjoyed the challenge of getting back on the bike, and to be doing it alongside a beautiful coastline - that’s winning in my books.

The boardwalk, a popular photo spot.

The boardwalk, a popular photo spot.