Your Cart is Empty

The Rebel Ride

21 February 2023

Words & Photos: Cati Pearson

Day 1 – Hamilton to Epworth 56 km

The idea of riding The Rebel Ride women's bikepacking event was floated with the Mud Maidens months before. With 11 of us keen, we were all excited to get some training rides in and smash the 215 km from Hamilton to Taupō. But in typical Cati fashion, training didn’t happen. The night before I was still fumbling over what to bring and what to leave (the crackers and tea bags hidden in the camellia bush at the side of my house were greatly missed). 

What’s yours is mine in the Mud Maidens.

On Friday morning we loaded the bikes and rolled into Kirikiriroa for a coffee, croissant and to grab the shuttle to the event start. Nothing in our world was well planned and we ended up missing the group start by over an hour. But that was ok, it meant we had a lovely chilled time rolling along the mighty Waikato towards Cambridge. The new cycle paths around Hamilton are cool with big boardwalks and sculptures dotted along the way. We had to get off and walk a few older narrow sections which gave plenty of time for shit talking and laughter.

We paused at the velodrome for coffee and more cake while the heavens opened (an omen for what was to come). With lucky timing we were able to miss most of the rain and continue cruising through Cambridge and out past Karapiro. Then the Waikato farm roads kicked in. 'Rolling' hills and large pinches sucked the chilliness from our legs. While the day only claimed 633 m vert, it felt like a lot more.

The late starters.

Epworth Camp, our home for the night, was down a wickedly steep descent which was fun at the time but we knew would hurt on the return in the morning. 56 km done. We pitched our tents and celebrated a good day with a swim in the pool (including handstand & bomb comps). Girls continued to cruise in over the afternoon, met with cheers and snacks from the rest of us. Once everyone was home for the night we settled in with cheese and crackers plus hot chocolate or honey whiskey. The weather forecast for the next day wasn’t too flash so we took the opportunity to book an Airbnb for all 11 of us in Mangakino. One night in the tents was good enough.

The Epworth Campground Olympics.

Day 2 – Epworth to Mangakino 72 km

Alarms sounded early and we quickly packed our tent and mats. It was still dark outside. I couldn’t work out why - perhaps it was on account of the threatening rain cloud. Turns out it was because our alarm went off at 5am… not 6! That’s ok, plenty more time for coffee. 

We rolled out of camp while it was still dry – but it didn’t last. Despite the rain it was still super muggy and remained t-shirt weather all day. We did a team Time Trial all the way to Arapuni Dam, singing Lion King songs and pointing at all the cows we passed along the way (or perhaps that was just me). I had never been to the Arapuni Suspension Bridge and with my fear of heights I wasn’t too sure I would be able to ride across it. But the fear of being humiliated by mates was worse than that of heights so I slowly made my way across. 

Slowly crossing the Arapuni Swingbring.

Back on the roads we continued south towards the Waipapa Dam. This next section of the Waikato River Trails was the hardest  tight switchbacks, rocky slippery sections, soft boggy ground and some bloody steep pinches that seemed to go on forever. Thankfully there was extra water, lollies and Cookie Time left by organiser Katie to bribe us. One of the girl's husbands had also put out super encouraging signs along the way like:

  • Free anesthetic (along with an empty wine bottle)
  • Don't forget pushing bikes uphill gives you tight buns
  • What could be worse? a) another hill  b) diarrhoea c) UTI
  • But wait there's more.

    Encouraging words in a tough section.

    We hit Mangakino early afternoon (in a patch of sunshine) for a lake swim and pizza at the Bus Stop Café. Our girls rolled into the Airbnb over the rest of the day, greeted with chips & beer, hot showers and comfy couches for dozing. Our mate Charlotte was even there washing and drying our riding kit for the next day. Family fun night concluded with fish & chips, Netflix and chill.

    Kylie enjoying some side of the track goodies.

    Day 3 – Mangakino to Taupō 86 km

    While there was another dry break in the weather our large group set out from our lovely home towards the next compulsory photo stop. Once the hills started up again on our final section of the Waikato River Trails we slowly broke off into smaller groups. From Whakamaru we hit the backcountry farm roads, hills and rain (just to mix it up). I complained at about 40 km that I hate farmland, it all looks the same and I don’t understand why there was so much elevation.

    The full team kicking off day 3.

    We finally pulled up at the O2K section of the Great Lake Trails, closing in on Taupō. This section was a highlight, fast flowy singletrack that kept us hooting the whole way down. I was glad to be on a mountain bike so I had more grip on the damp corners. This section had the most people we had seen all weekend, and everyone seemed to be loving it. The amazing thing about The Rebel Ride was the variety or riders (150 of us women!) all sharing the highs and lows of the event.

    Lots of smiling faces at the O2K lookout.

    At Kinloch we celebrated being nearly home with coffees and hot chips, before peeling back off onto the Great Lake Trail W2K section. This descent was a love/hate thing. Hannah and I loved it  me on mtb tyres boosting around the wet greasy leaf litter and flat corners; Hannah with just shit tonnes of skill holding my rear wheel by mere centimetres. And… others loved it not so much. There was some walking involved – especially for those on tiny gravel bike tyres. We finally had arrived in the outskirts of Taupō. Hannah took the lead on the flats back from Acacia Bay, dropping me straight away.

    The loop into town was fantastic, cheering from people at the bars. The girls who had finished earlier were waiting at Pub & Grub to share the love. We were stoked. Such a motivating and inspiring ride seeing ladies from all walks of life, all ages, on all different types of bikes enjoying an amazing week (even if the weather didn’t play ball). Huge thanks to Katie who organised the event and made it even better with her smiles and enthusiasm.

    The best finishline shot.