Each year a crew of bicycle enthusiasts from around New Zealand’s North Island leave their regular lives behind and make a pilgrimage to the ‘Republic of Whangamomona’ for the Dirty Detours gravel cycling event. Our New Zealand distributor EVO rolled along to support the event and see what all the fuss was about.
“Where’s Whangamomona?” you ask. Whangamomona sits on highway 43, dubbed ‘The Forgotten World Highway’. The Republic is 65 km North of Stratford and is about 5.5 hours south of Auckland. Day to day, things are pretty sleepy in the area, farmers tend their flocks of sheep, tourists drift through, pausing at the iconic Whangamomona Hotel for a meal between sightseeing stops, and leather-clad touring motor bikers lounge on the sun-drenched benches outside the hotel entrance, sinking cold pints before continuing their journey. It’s fair to say there’s usually not a great deal going on in Whangamomona, but that’s the attraction of this little blip on the map.
Dirty Detours (DD), now in its second year drew 70 odd riders from around the North Island. From the outside it appears to be some sort of fun ride, but the reality is, it’s so much more than just a bike ride. DD is a weekend of good times disguised as a bike event. This untimed event (notice we haven’t called it a Race) pits teams of 2 against the course, that’s it. There’s no winner, no prize giving, and the only timing that exists with the event is that it’s time for a good time, all the time!
Things kicked off on Saturday afternoon with a majority of the riders travelling into town over the day, some opted for a quiet afternoon chilling in the sunshine, some a pre-ride of the course and others, well they kicked a ball around in the middle of the main street, such is the advantage of being in a sleepy town.
After the shears were put away and the Hazy Pale Ale had dried up, it was off to the Whangamomona Hotel for dinner. Who would have thought a hotel in the centre of nowhere would be humming on a Sunday night, not us that’s for sure! Burgers and chips polished off, the day wrapped up with oversized ice cream sundaes and it was done. Back to our accommodation for an early night after an exhausting day.
Dirty Detours was a real ‘bike culture’ experience that left everyone with one burning question: When’s the next one?!
Words: Lester Perry
Images: NZ Cycling Journal, Cameron Mackenzie, Ralph Cabman , Ray Tiddy & Lester Perry.