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I’ve just been out the back door, leapt on my bike and rode up the street onto one of Taupo’s best mountain bike tracks – The Rotary Ride. As I pedalled my merry way through suburban Taupo, I marvelled at how close the start of the track is to town and how lucky we are to have such easy access to some really top-notch riding. Not only is the scenery beautiful, but this ride that follows the course of the Waikato River up to Huka Falls is also well thought out and well built. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, credit has to go once again to the marvellous chaps of Bike Taupo who really are very handy at getting all those berms, corners and the camber just right.
The track starts in Spa Park, off County Ave. It’s literally only a 5-10 minute ride up the road from the middle of town. From the carpark at the bottom of County Ave, ride down the grassy gully to your right (tempting as it might be, don’t follow the tourists in their swim gear on the main path down to the river. This is a walkers-only track). The hot pools could be a good stop off on the way back though! At the bottom of the grassy gully you’ll see a short track that zig-zags down to a dirt road. You should be able to see the blue Rotary Ride sign from here.
As I headed over the wooden bridge I felt like I was entering the ethereal world of a goblin forest. The combination of lush pongas, dark old pines and pumicy volcanic valleys lends itself to a scene from a fantasy fiction movie. With this in mind, I embraced my inner elf and darted my way between trees, up easy climbs and down swooping, flowing downhills.
While it’s a cruisy track, I had to remind myself that parts of Rotary are two-way so I pinned it back a bit on the downhills to avoid ending up impaled on someone else’s handlebars! There are signs telling you where the track becomes two-way though, so it’s easy to work out when you’re safe to gun it and when you need to be wary.
Once you’re up above the Waikato River there are magnificent views to be had of the clear green water. I always stop at one particular vantage point that has glimpses of the exclusive Huka Lodge, favoured amongst the celebrity set as a peaceful getaway retreat. I’m sure one day, as I stop for a breather in my usual spot, I’ll glance across and see the Queen or Brad and Angelina soaking up the atmosphere on the famed lawns.
The other view worth stopping to admire is of ‘the drop’ into Huka Falls. You’ll get a good view of the rapid leading into the Falls, and if you’re lucky there might even be some daredevil kayakers about to risk all and take the plunge.
Once you reach Huka Falls you can either head back on the return track to Spa Park (but make sure you ride the short downhill to the bridge first and check out the incredible Falls close up), or you can go down over the Falls bridge, squeeze carefully through the throngs of tourists and take Kev’s Track or the Café Track up to Craters MTB park. I opted for Kev’s Track, a short, sharp uphill that will pop you out of the pines on the side of the main highway. There are a few turn-offs on the way up but they’re all brilliantly signposted so it’s easy to find your way.
Once I got to Craters via Kev’s Track and recovered from the climbing (OK you fast and fit people, you’ll probably hardly raise your heart rate going up there!) I did a quick loop of SH Fun before heading back home on the Rotary Ride.
I really have to rate Rotary Ride as one of the best grade 2’s about. The changing scenery is fabulous and there’s a good variety of riding. It’s pretty much all single track and is challenging enough to keep the seasoned rider entertained, but equally it’s an achievable ride for a novice rider with a reasonable level of fitness. I love that it’s so easy to get to and that someone back in 2003 had the foresight to create an off-road route out to Craters MTB park.
So get out there and enjoy this glorious, goblin-infused ride and make some revolutions on Rotary!