News is not supposed to be reported in the first person. But I'm going to tell you this news with heavy use of 'me' and 'I.'
Despite the fact (or perhaps because of the fact) that I've never made it to Queenstown, New Zealand to ride the Gorge Road dirt jumps myself, I feel like I am going to suffer right along with the locals as they prepare to say ‘see ya’ later’ to their masterpiece, likely sometime this coming January.
I learned the news like so many of us learn our news, through social media. Instagram, specifically. Anthony Napolitan (@anthonynapo) is an X-Games medalist, a Dew Tour dirt champion and a fellow Southern California BMXer. We've only shared a couple sessions together, but I ride his spot sometimes, and he rides my spot sometimes. So naturally, I follow his account to see familiar lips and familiar faces. But I don't follow him for the news he posted the morning of Thursday, April 5th.
Anthony has close ties to the Queenstown, New Zealand paradise, and was forwarded a piece of news that ran in the Mountain Scene newspaper of Queenstown. The land beneath the Gorge Road jumps is public, leased to the Queenstown Mountain Bike Club. That lease is up this coming January, and according to a Mountain Scene interview with the head of the QMBC, Adam Carlson, the town council is facing demands to use the land to serve other public needs. According to a Queenstown public official, there's no definite word on exactly what the land will end up being used for.
The council is committed to helping the QMBC and the rest of the builders find a new public location, and reports seem to indicate that the news is being received with as much optimism as possible. Cooperation from local government is a luxury we dirt jumpers don't normally enjoy. It is a renegade sport, and most of its participants know they are on borrowed time. So even those with public spots have learned to deal with the threat of destruction.
It certainly will be destructive when Gorge Road is flattened. In a word, Gorge Road is perfect. The parcel is long and narrow, but not too narrow. The topography is just right for proper speed and drainage, and the surrounding steep mountains mean you're never riding with the sun in your eyes in the evening. It will be a hard thing to replicate. The jumps themselves will be impossible to replicate.
I tend to have a three-to-five-year run with most of the spots I have been a part of, and over those years, there is a natural evolution toward perfection. But it takes time. Rarely does a setup as intricate as Gorge Road spring up from the ground fully formed, and the new spot will mean starting from scratch.
But not entirely. There is another complicated truth about the inescapable cycle of a dirt jump's death and rebirth. In a way, that cycle is responsible for the evolution of dirt jumping itself. Every time I lose a spot, the first line I build at my new spot is inspired by the very best line of that last spot. The lines that fill in around it are better yet and, when they get plowed three to five years later, the cycle continues. Destruction is a chance to make improvements that would be too disruptive to do in a functioning spot. Within a year of starting a rebuild, I often find myself being grateful for the relocation.
I call Gorge Road perfect but, again, I've never been there. The locals might want the third lip on the far left line to have a longer pit into it, or to have a roller before the last one in the warm-up line, or maybe they want the shark fin to throw you further off to the right. It's easy for me to say, but I expect their new spot to raise the bar even higher. That said, I'll be pricing flights to New Zealand so maybe I can finally ride with my tires something I’ve been riding with my eyes for nearly a decade.