Dirt bikes, forest tracks and just enough twists, turns, bumps and logs to make it interesting .... that's the second annual Husqvarna Hard X in just five weeks' time.
The Husqvarna Hard X on March 30 could be New Zealand's ultimate of extreme cross-country races, but don't be frightened off by the event's daunting title, because, although it could indeed push riders to their limit, it should still appeal to individuals of all skill levels.
Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
The Husqvarna Hard X event in the Kinleith Forest, near Atiamuri, is a four-hour cross-country race that will "feature all the great trails and hard bits of a Husqvarna Hard Adventure Enduro, but on a compact course, with hard sections deemed suitable for the grade that the rider enters".
Organiser Sean Clarke said the event, which will run from 11am until about 3pm, would have mass appeal.
"This is the second time we have held a Hard X event," said Clarke, who has also previously run the difficult Husqvarna Hard Adventure Enduro Events in the same area of the country, about 30 kilometres south of Tokoroa.
"This Hard X event is to show riders what a three-day hard enduro is like but in a compact way," he explained. "It will be a lot easier to enter and ride. Riders don't need a GPS device on their bikes, they don't need head lights or tail lights and they don't need to be concerned with the thought of six hours of gruelling riding, like what they might encounter at a hard enduro."
Riders classify themselves as either Gold, Silver or Bronze grade competitors and the course they'll face will hopefully reflect that level of proficiency.
"Everyone is probably thinking it's going to be a psycho-hard event, but it's not," said Clarke.
Clarke said the Bronze class would be about the same level as a hard section at a trail ride, with the Silver and Gold class courses will be just a little bit harder than that.
One of the elite Gold level riders will be Wainuiomata's Jake Whitaker, a record eight-time national moto trials champion, and it will be his fine balance attributes and his skill with precise throttle control from that parallel motorcycling code that may give him the unbeatable edge, although he missed out on the main prize at the inaugural event last season.
The outright winner last year was Helensville's Tom Buxton and this is one rider in particular who Whitaker will most be keeping a close eye on this time around too.
"Last year I finished second after leading half to three-quarters of the race," recalls the 27-year-old father-of-one.
"It was a technical course, but perhaps not as hard as I would have liked it. I think Tommy (Buxton) would be favoured again this year, but we'll see what happens eh?
"This year I am focussing on national enduro and cross-country events and not so much riding trials bikes at all really. The fact that I have ridden a lot of moto trials events in the past gives me an edge at events like the Husky Hard X, especially when the course gets steep, with killer up-hills and down-hills and then creek crossings too.
"That's where I make up ground over the other riders. Speed is involved, but it's not so vital and I've been getting better with my speed anyway," he said.
The following day, the Husqvarna Hard X Trail Ride will be held at the same venue (on March 31) and this is more of a social ride. For this follow-up event, parents are invited to ride with their children, as long as they accompany them the entire time.
The venue for these two events will be signposted on State Highway 1, 30 kilometres south of Tokoroa.
The Husqvarna Hard X Hard Enduro and Husqvarna Hard X Trail Ride events are supported by Husqvarna New Zealand, Satco NZ Ltd, Michelin Tyres, Kiwi Rider magazine and Forest Trail Events.