Bike riders brace for another exciting series

New Plymouth’s Josh Houghton (Husqvarna TE250), one of the senior grade frontrunners in the Forestland Cross-country Series last season and likely to be among the favourites this time around too. Photo by Andy McGechan,

Brace yourselves for another exciting motorcycle competition, up and down hills, across tree roots and under the shade of branches, when the 2024 edition of the popular Forestland Cross-country Series kicks into life near Tokoroa on Saturday.

The contest opens with racing at Tar Hill, on forestry land about 12 kilometres south of Tokoroa, and the three round-series will also incorporate more-relaxed and social trail rides at the same venues the following day, meaning competitors may get more bang for their buck at the end of their tripping into South Waikato from all corners of the country.

This series has a long and proud history.

The series was first staged 16 years ago, although the series underwent a re-branding two years ago (in 2022) when the extremely popular competition was renamed – formerly called the Dirt Guide Cross-country Series, it is now respected as the Forestland Cross-country Series – so riders should feel entirely at home on the forestry environment for round one this year on the familiar trails at Tar Hill.

All the big names have committed to being there, although riders of all abilities should be able to cope with and enjoy the challenge. High-revving excitement is practically guaranteed.

Many of the riders who will be heading off-shore to contest this year’s annual International Six Days Enduro, in Spain in October, have indicated that they will be racing at Tar Hill on Saturday, and possibly entering the trail ride that's planned for the following day too, to maximise their preparations for racing in Europe.

The series, originally formed by husband and wife partnership Sean and Adele Clarke back in 2008, has grown to become one of the biggest cross-country motorcycling events in New Zealand, with riders travelling from over all over the North Island to attend, so a large turn-out is therefore expected again this weekend.

"There's no sugar-coating it though ... it will be challenging,” warns Sean Clarke.

The novice girls, mini bike and junior riders will have a 90-minute race, starting at 9.30am, followed by a two-hour race for the seniors, veterans and women, set to start at around midday.

“Don't forget, it's dirt bike riding in winter conditions and it might be a little bit damp under the wheels, so riders should come prepared for that with nice and new Metzeler tyres," he laughed.

After this weekend's event at Tar Hill, which revisits a popular venue from previous years and sends riders along many of the same leafy forest pathways they have enjoyed in the past, the series will take riders to a similarly tricky forest course at Ohakuri, about halfway between Tokoroa and Taupo, for rounds two and three, on June 15 and July 13 respectively (again with separate trail rides planned for the Sunday in each case).

The Forestland Cross-country Series is supported by Forbes and Davies, Kiwi Rider magazine, Forest Trail Events, Satco Logging Equipment, O'Neal apparel, Ogio bags, Arai helmets, Metzeler tyres, Muc-Off by Motomuck, USWE, Maxi Grip, Maxima Oils, Blur and Husqvarna motorcycles.

2024 Forestland Cross-country Series calendar:

Round 1, Tar Hill, 12km south of Tokoroa, Saturday, May 25 (followed by a vinduro – a vintage bike enduro – and trail ride on May 26);

Round 2, Ohakuri, between Taupo and Tokoroa, Saturday, June 15 (followed by trail ride on June 16);

Round 3, Ohakuri, Saturday, July 13 (followed by trail ride on July 14).

Additional trail ride set for Ohakuri on August 18.

-Andy McGechan,


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