Hiring a Fully Suspended Mountain Bike for the Coppermine Loop
I had not even heard of the Coppermine Loop or even the City of Nelson until I was on the north island of New Zealand. While zip lining one of our guides recommended I stop in Nelson on our way down the west coast of New Zealand.
So, I emailed a few shops in Nelson to find a bike I could “Hire.” One fella said they only rented street bikes but recommended I get a hold of Steve from Helibike Nelson. He said Steve usually had some good bikes he rented to people along with a helicopter trip to the top of a mountain or some other trailhead.
Steve did indeed have a bike and had me come to his house to pick it up. He had the bike all tuned and had me sit on the bike to properly setup the shock pressures. Steve also supplied me with a book highlighting several trails in Nelson, and recommended his favorites. After much discussion he finally pointed me in the direction of the Coppermine Loop.
Steve told me the beginning part of the Coppermine Loop was called the Dunn Trail.
Brooks Street Trailhead
Finally I found the sign for the trailhead and a wide dirt road leading up the hill. “Where do I park?” I asked myself. For there wasn’t quite enough space for one car by the sign and the street was already lined with parked cars.
INTERACTIVE MAP FOR COPPERMINE LOOP
- Click the big blue car for driving directions to the trailhead.
- Click Tracks or Icons for More Specific Information.
“Should I drive up this dirt road? Will I find the parking up there? But, if this is the start of the trail I don’t want to be driving up it in a car!”
So, I just stopped in front of the sign, picked up my phone (which I had used to navigate to Brooks Road) and zoomed in.
I saw no obvious parking on the satellite view so I backed out of the spot in front of the sign and eased my way up Brooks Street.
About 50 yards up the road I found the parking … a grassy area with a couple of other parked cars with bike racks. I pulled alongside and parked … even though I saw a sign which read, “No Parking on Grass.
The climb turned out to be just what Steve had promised … steady but gradual. He had told me the trail was the roadbed of an old train which used to haul copper from the mines up in the mountains down to Nelson. The Railroad had been built by the Dunn Company, the owners of the mine.
I began to sweat as I worked my way up the grade in the morning sun. But soon the entire trail was engulfed in trees, a canopy so thick no sky was visible. As I climbed higher a slight breeze began to blow and I found myself sweating inside my jersey yet chilled on all parts of my exposed skin (arms, legs, and face). As I climbed I was also treated to views of the Tasman Sea and the town of Nelson.
About seven miles up the grade I came to a clearing on the right with a sign saying, “Thirdd House.” At first I noticed a fellow bike rider seated at a picnic table in the sun. He appeared to reading something and looking hard at his phone. I said, “Hello,” as I rode by him toward the structure I figured to be Third House. The fellow grunted a “Hi,” but never took his eyes off the phone. I was thinking about stopping and eating one of my snacks with him but thought better. I did not want to interrupt whatever was so important. Maybe he was at the end of a good book. Maybe he had received an important note from his girlfriend. Maybe he was studying a map to figure out where he was … or where he was going.
Third House proved to be a structure built for people stuck on the side of the mountain during extremely cold weather. A huge chimney lay at one end with benches against the back wall. The opening for entry was at least 8 feet tall and ten feet wide. I did not notice a door to fill the entryway so I am not sure how they would keep the heat inside.
I left the structure and the biker alone and continued along the Coppermine Loop. My next stop was to take a photo of the sign warning people about how cold and windy the trail would become up ahead. This struck me as ironic since the breeze I had felt earlier on the climb had dissipated and my extremities had begun to thaw.
However, I soon learned I should have gotten out my windbreaker after taking the picture. Just another forty yards up the trail I came upon the Windy Pass sign and felt a bone chilling 30 mph gust. But I remembered reading how the trail dipped down shortly after clearing the pass … offering a break from the biting wind. So I snapped a quick photo of the sign and the scenery and sped off in search of a reprieve.
By the time I reached Coppermine Saddle my body was like a giant popsicle. After exactly a mile of booking it I had not noticed much of a relief from the wind.
I parked my bike against a sign, ripped off my pack, pulled out the jacket and zipped it. I quickly took a couple of photos, then took my pack over to the picnic table where I had earlier noticed a middle aged couple.
Grant and Louise
“Dang, I am freezing. Do you mind if I join you?” I managed to say despite my shivering. They had been eating a snack but had stopped and were smiling at me. “Yes, it is quite cold. Have a seat,” the man said. Grant and Louise told me this was their first attempt at mountain biking. Louise said she had walked her bike most of the way up the hill, and she wondered if her bottom was ever going to feel normal again.
I asked them if they were going to go back down the way they had come but they said they wanted to complete the loop. “The second part of this loop is supposed to be pretty rocky and rough,” I said, repeating what Steve had told me they night before. “You are going to have to be real careful.”
Grant told me they had rented the bikes at a place next to the Visitor Center in town. I ate a couple of nut bars and an apple while we talked on various subjects. They said they were from Auckland and were on a “Holiday.” I told them I was from Southern California and they immediately told me something they had learned about Donald Trump. As a matter of fact, almost every person I had met in Australia and New Zealand asked me about Trump when they found I was from the United States. I guess the whole world must be talking about him.
I was also surprised to find Grant and Louise had passed through my home city of San Diego about four months prior to our meeting.
Getting Ready to Leave
When we got ready to leave they told me I had better go first since I was an experienced rider. I said goodbye and started down the trail. But when I went to lower my seat for the downhill I thought about Grant and Louise’s bikes. Would they know to lower their seats?
I turned around and hurried back up to where they were just getting ready. “Did they tell you anything about lowering your seats for the downhill?” I inquired.
“No, they told us to change these shock settings though,” as Grant was trying to adjust Louise’s front shock. When we had the shock set at the softest setting Louise got on her bike … and then I knew why she had had to walk up the grade. Her seat was already in the lowest position. “Didn’t they adjust the seat before you left the rental place,” I asked.
“No, they didn’t say anything about the seat,” Louise answered.
“Look at your leg,” I said while pointing to the one resting on the pedal at the bottom. “Your leg should be almost straight.” Her leg was bent at a ninety degree angle. “No wonder you had such a tough time climbing the grade. Most of the power from our legs comes when our legs are almost fully extended,” I explained.
“Anyway, I was going to tell you to lower your seat for the downhill but your seat already is.” Then I added, “Did they tell you this next stretch was supposed to be pretty rocky?” They said they did not remember.
I tried to help by saying, “When you get to the rough stuff you should lift your bottom off the seat. That will give you better control of the bike and help with the soreness.”
As I passed down the loose, rocky switchbacks I could not take my mind off of how Grant and Louise must be doing up behind me. I can’t believe the rental place would send them out on a 20+ mile ride up over Coppermine Pass, and not even make sure the seats had been properly adjusted.
Not a Bike Trail
My thoughts changed when I reached a sign for the Maitai Cave. My brother George and I go out looking for caves to climb into on our summer vacations in the Sierra Nevada. There was no way I was going to do this ride without checking out this cave.
Shortly after taking the junction I started to realize the path to Maitai Cave was not built for mountain biking. I hoisted my bike over fallen logs and streams and finally gave up when I came to a spot where the trail passed over a large log then plunged a good 8 feet down to the streambed. So I stashed my bike in the thick foliage to continue on foot.
Just as I was coming back out of the brush a young lady dressed like an old lady came down the trail from the cave. I figured I probably looked ridiculous in all my bike gear but with not bike. “I don’t think this trail was built for bikes,” I tried to explain.
“Nope, and it only gets worse,” she informed me.
“How much farther is the cave, “I asked.
She looked skyward, thinking … then looked at her watch. “Twenty minutes …” she finally said with her voice trailing off. Then added more confidently, “Yup, twenty minutes.” Then she said, “You will know when you are there when you can’t find any more trail markers.”
“You mean there is no sign for the cave?” I asked.
She said, “I hiked right by the cave. When I realized I couldn’t find the trail I turned around … and there it was off to left of the trail.”
So, the cave will be to my right as I go up?” I quizzed.
“No, it will be on your left.”
I thanked her and started down the trail after checking my watch.
The trail was difficult to follow at some points due to the dense foliage. But I could always find the white rectangular or orange triangular markers, sometimes too many markers!
My worries of passing by the cave were for not. For as I walked up the trail I spotted the metal sign attached to a rock not more than two feet off to my left. When I checked my GPS I noticed Maitai Cave was just about exactly one mile from the Coppermine Loop Trail.
I removed my helmet and backpack in order to squeeze into the cave opening.
The cave floor alternated between some patches of rock and some type of slick clay. I had no flashlight so I used the one on my phone.
Just 3-4 feet in the cave dropped off over a ledge. I could hear a stream running at the bottom but I could not see any water. I had to be careful, especially since my riding shoes did not have the best traction for hiking.
Turn up your volume for the video below.
Looking up and out I was surprised at the volume of the cave. I took a few photos with the flash. In a couple of the photos I caught a white, wispy image. I figured this showed the cave was haunted!
The hike back down to the bike seemed to take no time at all. I was glad to find the bike right where I had placed it.
Most of the remainder of the Coppermine Loop took place on dirt roads. At one point I saw the bottom of Maitai Dam and rode down a path alongside a huge water pipe.
I got lost a few different times after passing an RV park and golf course, but eventually figured it out.
When I cruised into town looking for Brooks Street I was befuddled. Not until I asked a young lady strolling along did it make sense. In the middle of town Brooks Street is called Tasman Street.
During most visits I take many more photos than I can place on a page. To view every image I captured on these Coppermine Loop Trail … 86 photos in all, please visit my Photo Gallery Site.
The following link can give you all the stats for my Coppermine Loop Trail … just click on the box below.