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Dunedin is blessed with some excellent mountain bike tracks, built by Mountain Bike Otago. Today, in the final part of a two-part series, John Fridd explores the new Wakari bike park and revisits an old favourite trail at the top of North East Valley.
3. Wakari MTB Park
This park is Dunedin's newest ''mountain bike heaven'', consisting of several purpose-built tracks formed on City Forests land which are one-directional, meaning the climbing tracks are designed differently to the downhills. The climbs are ridable by most because the gradients are not too steep, but the downhill roller-coaster trails are exhilarating if ridden at speed. The park is at the north end of Wakari Rd, near the intersection with Polwarth Rd. Park in the large car park and study the map showing the various tracks. The best for beginners is the Redwood Loop, which heads down to Wakari Creek through a pine forest.
Once at the creek it dives into an interesting native bush section before emerging to climb towards Flagstaff through a forest of towering redwoods. The track is designed to be rideable by most bikers and is suitable for younger riders, too. When I rode this track recently I was surrounded by native birds in full song as I grafted up the hill. At the top of the Redwood climbing track you'll reach the Top Hub, where several tracks meet. Here you have the option of riding up the hill further to McGouns Rd then turning left to ride to the start of the downhill Skid Track, which features jumps and other obstacles for the more adventurous.
Or you could opt to take the Redwood Loop ''down track''. It features some cambered corners which make cornering fast and thrilling. Once you cross Wakari Creek again you'll face a short climb back to your start point. Have another look at the map and decide where you want to go now. The more challenging Slytherin Track downhill is a cracker you'll want to tackle more than once. It starts at the Redwood downhill track creek crossing. Ride Slytherin down towards Ross Creek and climb back to your start point on the uphill Slytherin trail. There's also the Weir 2 track, a climbing track which leads you to McGouns Rd, where you can jump on to a fast downhill track to return.
4. Bethunes Gully/ForresterPark
The Forrester Park MTB track has been popular for years and the addition of a more challenging track above adjacent Bethunes Gully has produced an excellent longer circuit.
Drive or ride up North East Valley Rd and take Norwood St at the top (before the main road goes up the hill by the pub). At the top of Norwood St you'll find Forrester Park on the right and Bethunes Gully to your left. Drive into Bethunes Gully and park in the car park beside the barbecue area. Ride your bike up the gully walking track and after a short distance you will see a trail on the right heading up into the pine forest. The trail entrance is at the bottom of the clearing below the Bethunes Gully walkway bridge. Start climbing the MTB trail into the forest. It's a steady graft up the hill and in some places there's a reasonable drop over the side, so it's not a good place for someone with vertigo.
There are also some tree roots to negotiate as you climb, so it's reasonably technical. Before too long you'll be at the top and the trail starts heading back towards Forrester Park. When you reach a fork in the track, you can go either way, although the left track is more advanced. It emerges on a narrow sealed road - cross this and look for the MTB trail heading down the hill on your left; it takes you down to the Forrester Park circuit. If you took the right fork in the trees, you'll emerge from the forest at the Bethunes Gully entrance. Ride down the sealed road for a short distance and watch for a gravel track on the left - this is where the Forester Park circuit starts. The circuit takes you around the Forrester Park perimeter, behind the big pavilion, and up beside the top field. Here's where the fun starts. The track dives into the Spooky Forest and spirals down the hill, with a series of steeply banked corners making cornering fast and furious.
After the downhill the track winds through the forest and eventually climbs up and out of the trees, emerging in the car park above the BMX track. From here you can reconnect with your inner kid and go for a blast around the BMX track or wimp out and take the sealed road back to your starting point by the Bethunes barbecue area.
The Dunedin i-SITE in Princes St has two helpful leaflets for MTB riders. One covers the Jubilee Park and Forrester Park tracks and the other is the Dunedin City Cycle Map, which contains details of cycle paths and mountain bike tracks across the city. Detailed track information can also be found on this website: www.mountainbikingotago.co.nz