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14 Blokes, 14 Bikes: The Old Ghost Road

Each year there’s at least  one keen Marleen staff member who makes the 5hr car ride to the wild West Coast of the South Island to complete one of the more technical and scenic rides here in New Zealand – the Old Ghost Road.

Known for its amazing vistas, rocky, steep sections and beautiful, lush wild greenery – The Old Ghost Road is definitely one to add to your bucket list if you are ever in the area.

But it's not for the faint hearted (read on for a first account) – this ride will push your skill with its technical steep sections yet reward you with some of the most breathtakingly expansive views across the wild mountain ranges and deep jaggad gulleys.

This year, Bevan (operations manager), Hayden (product manager) and Adam (Sales and Product) went with a large group to take on the challenge and enjoy the close company of each other - snoring, sweat and beers included. There's no doubt that working for a bike parts & accessories wholesale company comes with its perks - so the boys were indeed sorted with all the gear required for such mission.

Here's a breakdown from Hayden;

"14 blokes, 14 bikes"

Wow what a trip, can’t believe I waited this long to knock the Old Ghost Road off the bucket list.

Bevan, Adam and I repped the Marleen crew a couple of weeks ago, it was Bevan’s 4th time, Adam's 2nd and I was a virgin. We had a big crew of 14 start the adventure and what an adventure. There was a real mix of crew and bikes along for the journey, we had 3 eBikers and the rest on a real mix of bikes from old school 26” to 27.5” XC to trail/enduro. We decided to do it over 2 nights, staying in Ghost Lake Hut and Specimen Point Hut which gave us a nice cruise out at the other end and no need to rush home... or so we thought.  

Day 1 – 29km, 1330m Ascending:

After a night in Murchison staying at The Lazy Cow and carb-loading on pizza and beer we headed off to Lyall where we were instantly introduced to a few of the local wildlife, the persistent Weka and the pesky sandflies. The 3 eBikers decided to spend an extra night on the trail staying at Lyall Hut so they were already on the trail. First hour or so was relatively smooth, no issues (other than a bit more panting than might’ve been expected), until one of the guys had a bit of an off crossing a waterfall/stream. He managed to carry on for a while longer but ultimately it had taken its toll and the call was made to pull the pin and head back out. 13 blokes, 13 bikes.

We regathered at Lyall Hut, had some lunch and carried on towards Ghost Lake, just as the clouds gathered and some moisture started coming down. This next section was brutal, long and could only be described as a sufferfest. I managed to cruise out into the misty clouds at the top and get absolutely no view at all, a few of the other stragglers (Adam and Bevan) came out a bit later when the cloud had cleared and had the opportunity to grab a few snaps along the way. Met up with the eBikers, one had snapped his derailleur, someone forgot to bring a spare (fingers might have pointed my way), plenty of ideas floated around how to move forward, or if to move forward, eventually manged to wrangle a dish brush taped to the frame and try to single speed his way out, time will tell.

We all struggled through our steaks, beer, wine and rum for dinner. Day one, done! 13 blokes, 12.5 bikes


Day 2 – 36km, 576m Ascending: 

Woke up to the same misty cloud and it was a bit cooler than day 1. Not great visibility so not a lot of shots of the scenery taken for the first hour or so. Made it through to and clambered our way down the steps and back into the lush bush for an epic descent. One of the now famous eBike crew managed to twist his ankle halfway down the steps so a couple of the guys helped him and his bike down and he was pumped full of almost any pain relief you could buy, some of the guys came well prepared. More tinkering with the derailleur-less eBike. 12.5 blokes, 12.5 bikes.

The descent from here was a blast, long and windy through the native bush and finally starting to feel like the ascent the previous day was worth the hassle. We regrouped at Stern Valley hut for lunch only to find someone was missing ¾ of a brake lever. While most of us enjoyed a bit of tucker and a cuppa coffee, the eBiker with no derailleur and dish brush in palce (yes he was somehow still riding through) was joined by the analogue biker with 1 ¼ brake levers in figuring out how to make their bikes useable. 12.5 blokes, 12.15 bikes. 


After unsuccessfully trying a spoon, a peeler handle, and a few other random bits in place of a brake lever - we set off towards Specimen Point Hut - becuase, who needs brakes anyway.

The trail to Specimen Point consisted of a solid wee climb up the valley through Boneyard followed by a fast-flowing descent before a long fast XC style trail at the end. In the middle of this section is one of the OG huts along the route, Goat Creek Hut, not really the type of hut you would want to spend the night in but one that we decided to stop at for a look and bite to eat (yes more food) until we noticed Adam hadn’t arrived! 11.5 blokes, 11.15 bikes.

I shot off down the trail to see if he had missed the memo or potentially gone overboard on one of the corners on the descent, it was 50/50 as to which event had occurred, anyone that knows Adam would likely have gone back up the trail looking for a bruised and bloodied body. We found him dordelling along the trail towards Specimen point with no idea we were about to call in a search party. Lesson learnt, communicate to everyone!

No steak this night, but one hell of a view form the hut up and down the river. Day 2 done. 12.5 blokes, 12.15 bikes


Day 3 – 17km, 236m Ascending:

Another mixed bag in terms of weather but a relatively nice cruise through the valley and out with a few scenic stops along the way. Nothing major to report back about the ride, until we reached the end and learnt one of the guys was struggling with some health problems. He managed to ride out but was swiftly sent to get some checks done and ended up spending a couple of nights in hospital, by the time he got out of hospital the eBiker with the twisted ankle was in a cast having learnt he’d broken the bloody thing!

So 14 blokes started with 14 bikes, 13 finished with barely 12 working bikes, 2 hospital visits and a heap of smiles, laughs and banter along the way. An absolute must-do trail for anyone that hasn’t done it, battle through the first 30k and the rest is epic flowy trails with unbeatable views, photo opportunities and some pesky local “wildlife”.


Gear Setup: 

Adam used a 30L Evoc FR Tour Backpack with all his gear and a top tube bag for some sneaky snacks along the way

Bevan used a BBB handlebar bag, seat bag and Evoc Backpack

Hayden used a 28L Evoc Mission Pro along with a dry bag strapped to the front, not the classiest bike packing setup but had absolutely no issues.

Food Options:

Vacuum-packed steak, couscous, wraps, various freeze-dried food options from Radix, Back Country Cuisine and Real Meals, plenty of sweet snacks to get through the tough moments.

Garage Project Beers, some form of Red wine sack thing and a few drops of Kraken Spiced Rum.

Pre-Trip PREP:

Adam did bugger all, Hayden had relatively ok fitness and Bevan was full on running so was super fit, not heavy in the bike fitness department.

Adam's RECAP:

Highlights - Day 2 Ghost lake to Specimen Point. I was rewarded with long descents and the best variation of scenery on the trip.

Best Meal - After a day of climbing I was rewarded with a good ole steak medium/rare and Cous Cous made with a sachet of Vege Soup for added flavour (A lightweight meal solution). Much tastier than day 2 freeze dry!

Beers - Garage Project, Party & BullsH*t and Pernicious Weed.

Gear - TRP EVO 12 Drivetrain with Race Face ERA Cranks didn’t skip a beat – no mechanicals or punctures, only adjustment made to the bike was added air pressure in the shock before the start of the trip to allow for the extra weight of a loaded backpack.

Hardest part of the trip was on Day 1 post lunch climbing out of Lyell Saddle Hut to the ridge it was drizzling, the track was a bit rougher and steeper than earlier in the day and my legs had started to give in after the morning climb so there ended up being some walking involved.

Pre-Trip Training Regime - N/A rode very little leading up to the trip as life was busy.