When we make the effort and take the time to go for a ride at a fun destination, like Hamner Forest Park with kids, we want it to be an enjoyable experience. To have a ‘great day’ on the bike with kids there are simple things to think about, plan and do.
In this story I am going to introduce you to the idea of spending a ‘great day’ mountain biking with kids. In this particular case at the Hamner Forest Park, Hamner Springs, South Island , New Zealand.
Hamner Forest Park for Mountain Biking – Where is it?
The main entry into the Hamner Forest Park is located 1km from the town of Hamner Springs on Jollies Pass Road.
There is parking options at the forest entrance though with its close location to town and the village many choose to ride along Jollies Pass road to the Forest Park. There are a couple of small tracks the run along the road side so the 1 km journey to the Park is a combination of off road and on road.
If you need to hire bikes they are available at Hamner Springs Adventure Centre
The ride needs to be doable for you and any riders (kids) you are biking with.
The length of this ride is entirely at your discretion you have a few kilometers of, easy, intermediate, advanced and expert grade single track trails to choose from. With a larger proportion of the tracks being easy or intermediate it makes the Hamner Forest Park a great playground for families with kids of all ages. If they can ride a bike there is something here for them.
The Park is located on both sides of Jollies pass Road. If heading out of town the tracks on the right are relatively flat and where you will find the easy graded trails and the tracks on the left other than the ones close to the entrance are primarily intermediate and advanced trails.
EASY SUGGESTED ROUTES
From the forest entrance, on the right there is the 6.5km Easy Rider loop best ridden anticlockwise. This is a relatively flat ride,with some small pitches, trees and tree roots to negotiate. The ‘Easy Rider’ is a perfect introduction to off road riding. You can vary the distance if 6.5km is too long. Ride a certain distance (maybe to the pump track) turn around and ride back or create a shorter loop with Alligator Alley. If they are have not mountain biked before they may not be able to negotiate everything on the track.. let them know it is OK to walk a section that is all part of the fun of mountain biking … is it doable?
If they enjoyed the easy rider and were comfortable with the skills needed to do the trail you could try Camp and Base Camp (this is a new track and currently not shown on the Mountain Bike Map at time of writing) located on the left and both graded easy…is it doable?
MODERATE SUGGESTED ROUTE
To enter onto any of the other tracks in the park you will need some mountain biking skills. Just be aware that the tracks will be narrower, have more challenging undulations, climbing sections and tighter corners so your kids should be riding a bike with gears and good brakes . The biking surface in the park is varied but mainly compact dirt, pine needle sections, tree roots and rocks to contend with….is it doable?
1.Dog Stream(1.65km) / Mach 1(1.85km) and finish with Base Camp (1.6km). To make it a little longer at the top of Dog Stream add in The Fir Trail circuit (860m). We found this to be the easy of the 2 intermediate loops. This ride is not too much of a step up from the easy graded rides. Mach 1 does offer more undulation, tighter corners and tree roots to negotiate. Hollie (9 year old girl) enjoyed following me down as she grew in confidence riding over tree roots and around some tight corners.
Where you ride is totally dependant on your families or your skill level. Choose your ride by understanding and being able interrupt the signs/terminology on the maps. See online map here. The Hamner Forest Park is coded (yellow tracks = beginner/easy, blue tracks = intermediate, red tracks = advanced, black tracks= expert)… is it doable?
Remember the weather on the day will effect your ride. Most of this ride is in a covered forest but there are some exposed climbing sections so sun screen is recommended on hot days, jackets in rain/wind – has recent rain made the surface more slippery is it doable?
It doesn’t matter what ride you are doing or where you are going, you want to feel comfortable. Check out the goRide guide How to have a “great day” on the bike for general information on how to make sure you are comfortable on the bike.
Water – you will need enough to last the ride. There are toilets and obviously water at the Forest entrance on the left at the main park entrance.
Protection – As you or the kids learn to mountain bike there is a chance for accidents – bike gloves, covered arms, covered legs, good helmets are some protection options. Please make them wear shoes. Comfort on the seat can be a big factor so consider padded bike underwear – goUnders for Kids, see photo to right. Worn under their shorts or leggings these ‘undies’ protect soft tissue & prevent chaffing.
Food – we always carry food no matter the distance or the trail, you can be out there longer than you expect. Doing things for the first time can take up lots of energy. A museli bar or a bit of chocolate can be a great motivator or reward at the top of a hill. If you have traveled to Hamner for the day there are lots of picnic spot options and eating out in the Hamner township .
It doesn’t matter what ride you are doing or where you are going, you want to feel safe. Check out the goRide guide How to have a “great day” on the bike for general information on how to make sure you are safe on the bike.
Maps – There is a map board at the main entrance but it’s always a good idea to carry a map the first few times you ride in a new environment. Paper maps are available at the Hamner Information Centre. Click here for the online version of this map. Forests can be confusing to ride through and if there are lots of junctions you will soon get lost. The trails are generally well signposted however I was thankful for my map given it was the first time I had ridden these trails.
Carry a basic biking first aid kit in your bag or on your bike. Have a more comprehensive kit in the car or a refill pack incase serious patch ups are required. Grazed knees, elbows and irrigation for eyes are the most common minor biking accidents. We had one grazed knee and one brambling bush shoot in the eye.
You – Am I safe to goRide? A checklist to complete that ensures YOU are safe to goRide.
Bike – goRide pre-ride bike safety check – is it safe? A simple checklist to complete pre-ride so that you know your bike is in working order.
If you have worked through the points above then you will be more likely to enjoy and have fun on your ride.
There is so much fun to be had on a bike.
Some things you could plan to discover at Hamner Forest Park – Biking with kids
- Pump Track at picnic area located 1.5 – 2 km from the start of Easy Rider if riding in an anti-clockwise direction. Pump tracks with changes in terrain offers a good introduction to balance and bike skills . Located at the pump track is a skills board showing you how to get the best out of a pump track and you could learn more about building your skills on these great safe tracks in our story – The Ups of Pump Tracks. The kids rode over and off things that initially looked scary to them – what a great confidence boost. These types of bike skill obstacles create great learning environments – testing balance and decision making skills. The whole idea is to play around and get used to the feel of your bike and body moving together. Also to try things several times and watch what other people do.
- Let the kids read the map. Let them find the beginner tracks and work out what signs and names they should look for along the way. The signs in this mountain bike park are really well done so are perfect for those new to map reading and navigating through a forest. Forests can be very disorientating – every tree looks the same and the tracks twist and turn on themselves!
- Relax under the shaded picnic table next to the skills area. Munch on some well earned food and watch the kids go around the pump track one more time…
- There is no better way than to end some time exercising than enjoying the hot pools, either on the day or maybe if you are enjoying the area on another day. It works as a great bribe as well. As we passed many other families during our riding can report I wasn’t the only Mum handing out that bribe.
Don’t just ‘do’ the ride, ‘be’ in the ride and I wonder what you will discover (see Chi Riding – Tip 3 – Engaging the Senses).
Does the ride ‘fit’ with what you want to achieve? Mountain Biking in a safe, well maintained, purpose built area with many kilometres of trail of varying degrees of diffuclty. The park has excellent entry level and intermediate tracks aimed at introducing some of the elements that make up mountain biking as well as a pump track. You will find steeper undulations, simple switchbacks, flowing downhill sections if this is what your kids enjoy and ready to be challenged by. We had a really great day on our bikes as the kids enjoyed the ‘mountain biking’ challenges that they were presented with.
We planned a holiday to enjoy the environment of Hamner Springs – mountains, easy access to biking, walking, hot pools, ice creams and eateries. There are a wide variety of accommodation choices for families with many holiday homes available for hire. Does this fit with a holiday that you would like to enjoy.
Have you ridden at The Hamner Forest Park with kids? Did you have a ‘great day’ on the bike?
What went well, what could you work on for next time? We would love to hear about your ‘great day’ on the bike so tell us where you went and why it was fun.
Thanks for reading. Used together our stories, resources & products support you to achieve and develop as a rider.
Craters of the Moon – Taupo
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