This Human-Powered Monorail is the Coolest Contraption Ever


As a longtime cyclist, I can tell you that there is nothing dorkier than a recumbent bicycle. But stuff a recumbent bike into a metal-and-plastic pod, hang it from a bunch of steel beams and all of a sudden you’ve got yourself a human-powered suspended monorail.

Or a Schweeb, as it’s known down in Rotorua, at the stupidly fabulous patch of land known as Agroventures.

schweeb
Two Schweebs duke it out on the course.

This was my second visit to Agroventures: The first was back in 2010, and I’d been kicking myself since then over my failure to just pay another $35 US or whatever to pedal the Schweeb (instead, I picked a trip down a hill inside a Zorb sphere, which was also pretty awesome). This time, I came to Agroventures specifically for the Schweeb.

And holy balls, it was one minute of heart-pounding, banked-turn goodness that left my quads twitching. If I lived anywhere near Rotorua, I’d be like "My dearest Agroventures friends, can we set up a payroll deduction system so I can feed my Schweeb addiction, please?"

If there was one here in my hometown, I would organize a Schweeb racing league (unfortunately, nobody was around to race me, which would’ve added to the fun).

Schweeb
It’s unthinkable to go to New Zealand and not try the Schweeb … trust me, I neglected it during my first visit and regreted it for years.

The Agroventures people slap a GoPro outside the Schweeb for each person and will sell you footage of your circuits on a convenient thumb drive. It would be even better if they’d let you use your own POV camera in addition to theirs because multiple camera angles and good editing make for better videos than static shorts – and yes, I would pay a few extra bucks for it because I’m goofy like that. Other than that, the Schweeb is perfection based on the dweebiness of the lowly recumbent bike. Who would’ve ever thought it possible?!

Rogue Trailbuilders at Work in Papago Park?


In the summer of 2016, the city of Phoenix caused an uproar by destroying an important mountain bike trail at Papago Park and turning most of the really fun spots into a 5k running path.

Look, this wasn’t the world’s greatest trail. But Papago Park is where many Phoenix area riders got hooked on riding. It’s where we took friends to show them the ropes. It’s where we hold silly-ass races for quick after-work fun. And it’s right in the middle of a major city – it’s hard to find an amenity like the Papago trails anywhere else -- just minutes from an international airport.

A bunch of mountain bikers want the city of Phoenix to destroy the 5k trail and restore it to singletrack. They come up with excuses about sustainability and public input and whatever. And I get it. But they’re also just pissed, and they’re more than a bit self-centered. Those associated with the Operation: Saving Papago are also way too pleased with themselves for forcing the issue onto a city meeting agenda (hint: City entities move really slowly, and you need to ride Papago That Is before deciding you really, really want Papago The Was). In their self-righteous fury, the group overlooks other solutions to the situation.

I’m glad that my former East Valley Tribune colleague Ray Stern dug into this and unraveled a pretty crappy situation. And I hope the city learns from its error.

On the plus side, it appears that someone with time and know-how built some new singletrack. And it’s flippin’ sweet if a bit rough around the edges. We’re talking about steep chutes, lots of twists and some opportunities to catch air.

I hadn’t ridden here since I first encountered the 5K trail that replaces the original Papago Park trail. It was absolutely pointless to do so. It’s just not fun riding. But I was pressed for time and determined to get some mileage. And I hoped against all reason that someone had been at work doing something to rectify the situation.

And these trails I found? I’m diggin’ them, as was every single other rider I talked to this weekend. I now like riding Papago better than I ever have before. The new trails remind me just a bit of Fantasy Island, minus all the silly decorations. Much of the new trails are part of the Strava info you see above, where it’s known collectively as “1/2 Vigilante.” It continues west, though, and it seems those bits aren’t on Strava.

You know what? I’m even more convinced that the best course is to let the other users have their trail. Adopt the new singletrack, and maybe even add more of it. Find the trailbuilders, and allow us to take them out for beer. Hell, name the trails after them!

Something tells me this is not the trails the city would’ve designed at Papago Park. They’re a little too fun and just don’t have that bureaucratic municipal stank. So get out there, ride these and make sure the city doesn’t feel comfortable trashing them like they did the old trails, OK?

Mountain Biking in Nelson, New Zealand

The very same day I mountain biked in the Whakarewarewa Forest, I started to wonder where else in New Zealand I could ride. Our itinerary would take us to a sheep farm, Wellington and then on to Nelson. So I googled Mountain Biking Nelson, New Zealand -- and found out that none other than the International Mountain Bike Association give the Nelson trails one of its very few Gold ratings.

Oh, boy. This could escalate quickly.

When we finally got to Nelson, I spent a day poking around the bike shops to see who had the good stuff. There were plenty of fine bikes to be had, with one pop-up rental operation sending people out on Santa Cruz Bronsons. Fine bikes, but the KTM Lycan at Crank House Nelson caught my eye (I can demo all the Bronsons I want here in the US, but I didn’t think KTM made anything that didn’t have a throttle on it).

So the Crank House KTM it was -- I pedaled out toward Codgers Mountain Bike Park, which is apparently the closest place to ride. Other places would require driving and a bike rack, which wouldn’t exactly work for my situation.

My wife was nice enough to hang with the little person while I rode, and I wanted to be considerate and not disappear for a huge chunk of the day. I really wanted to cap my ride at not much more than three hours – time for riding and faffing off with my GoPro.

Mountain Biking in Nelson new Zealand
Me with my friendly KTM Lycan during a cruise at Codgers MTB Park in Nelson, NZ.

Get Ready to Work Hard

My first five miles included about 1,000 feet of climbing. Most of it was grinding up a jeep road. The trail signage wasn’t exactly helpful, and I didn’t do myself any favors by not knowing the full capabilities of the awesome Trailforks app just yet. It could’ve helped me navigate quite a bit better than just blundering around on my own.

Singletrack trails branch off of the main jeep road. They’re full of switchbacks, and pretty steep in places. There’s also a good amount erosion. Those of you who identify as more downhill-inclined will particularly love the Codgers trail network.

As more of a cross-country guy who loves some good flow, I simply didn’t love the Codgers trails. The scenery wasn’t much, either. Next to riding in Rotorua, Nelson seemed kind of blah. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t covered in massive groves of redwood trees. And the trail contours were a bit predictable -- a bunch of switchbacks all headed pretty much the same way.

Mountain Biking in Nelson new Zealand
Some of the Codgers MTB Park are pretty overgrown.

There Might be Better Riding than Codgers MTB Park

Still, I can’t shake the feeling that I simply missed something. I’d bet a local could’ve pointed me to the best bits. After my ride, a guy at Crank House Nelson clued me in that the trails that have more my style of flow would be at Richmond Hills MTB Park or SIlvan Forest MTB Park. Those areas seem a bit -- compact, shall we say, if you want to get in 20-plus miles.

Mountain Biking in Nelson new Zealand
A nice view of the town of Nelson.

Of course, that would’ve required some driving and a rack for the car. I could’ve also rented a bike in Richmond (New Zealand), but I really liked the Crank House crew, so I wasn’t into that option. Certain shops just have a good vibe, you know?

About That Bike

So about this KTM Lycan bike -- look, I don’t obsess over linkages and spring rates. That sort of stuff makes my eyeballs shrivel (and possibly other balls, as well). Let me ride the thing, and I’ll tell ya if it works, OK?

And the KTM Lycan works. I love my simple, single-pivot Santa Cruz Superlight. I know there are better suspension systems out there. But I also know that the improvements are by and large incremental, and the added weight and maintenance simply doesn’t justify the difference.
The KTM Lycan forces me to re-think my position. Late in my ride, my legs were hammered -- but I wanted to check out another bit of trail. All of a sudden. The trail shot straight up, and it didn’t look like I was going to get much traction. I’d also lost all my momentum. I had no choice but to shift into the lowest gear and stand up – not a best practice for climbing on a full-suspension bike.

Mountain Biking in Nelson new Zealand
A closer look at the KTM Lycan.

Well, wouldn’t you know, that rear wheel crunched right into the ground and gave me everything I needed to get up that steep, crappy climb with energy to spare. Awesome. I am certain that I could not have pulled this off on my Santa Cruz.

The Lycan also had 650B wheels and a 2X10 drivetrain. Both were absolutely spot on for maneuvering and shifting. The Rock Shox (Recon Silver, I believe) came in well behind the forks I’m used to -- a Recon Gold, Fox Vanilla Float and X-Fusion Slide 29RL. But that’s a Rock Shox issue, nothing to do with KTM.

Wrapping It Up

I was super-excited to ride in Nelson, and I’m glad I did it. Next time, I’ll likely head to Richmond instead of Codgers, though. Your mileage may vary – if you have more time than I did and really like some rutted switchback action, give it a go!