Good people abound out there. Cycle Aware Wellington wants you to know another one.
Cool Bike Person #6: Mathew Wright
Sometimes, you just stumble on these cool bike people. I was at Floyd’s Café in Island Bay to chat with a cool bike couple (that story is forthcoming) when the conversation was politely crashed by Floyd’s co-owner: Mathew Wright. I couldn’t very well turn away a man aching to talk bike culture, especially not a man who’s livened up his café by hanging a day-glow Yeti frame from the ceiling. Here’s what I learned about Mat.
A native of Wellington, Mat was that kid who rode a cruiser at the BMX track and destroyed his dad’s flash 10-speed by taking it off-road. When he clamored for a 10-speed of his own, his dad opted to save another poor bike from tragedy. Mat got a mountain bike instead. It was the old days; Mat had to explain to his friends what a mountain bike was supposed to do. Or just show them.
Since the old days, Mat’s never really ditched the bike—the mountain bike, that is, and the dirt tracks that lace through most of Wellington’s green bits. It’s the bike that gets him outside and the bike that keeps him sane, especially these days, with a new café to nurture and two kids to boot. “The bike is my fastest route to fresh air,” he says. Sometimes, he acknowledges, this means hopping in the car to get to a trailhead. “I used to bike to all my rides but with family and business, things changed a bit. I like to maximize my riding time.” For Mat, that means time on trails where he doesn’t have to worry about traffic or stoplights or car doors.
That doesn’t necessarily mean he isn’t getting anywhere. Mat figures that he could almost commute on the network of trails around Wellington, if he had to. But he doesn’t. He lives and works in Island Bay and whether he rides or drives to a trailhead, it’s never a far slog.
He reckons there’s over 350 kilometers of bike trails around town, and I’m pretty sure he’s rolled up and down them all. He thinks Makara is the best all-around. “It’s graded and well marked, good for riders with a variety of skill sets.” He’s a fan of Wainui and Transient as well. “If you can ride Wellington trails well, you can ride anywhere,” he says. When asked for his favorite spots, he hesitated. “I was going to say Wellington. Then I was going to say Mont Sainte Anne in Quebec but Canada has so much dirt separating everything. It’s all so far. New Zealand is just as great but compact. Then again, Jasper in Alberta is beautiful. You’re in the Rockies. You start at 1800 meters and climb to 2500 and there’s animals all around you. It’s outstanding.” Then again, there’s Wanaka. “That’s like our playground, isn’t it? You can ride for hours and hours and there’s a gondola.”
Though not a huge fan of cycling on the roads—he’ll give abuse to drivers who deserve it—he’s prepped his kids for a life on bikes. His oldest rode the trails with him from the time he was eight months old. His daughter was bombing hills on her scoot by age 4. When the kids were small, Mat hauled them in a trailer—dubbed ‘the anesthetizer’ for its soothing results. “They were asleep as soon as we started and I was asleep as soon as I got home.”
Aside from the air and sights, the thing that keeps Mat riding is the evolution of the gear. “These days, it’s not the bikes that limit our abilities. The bikes are better than I am.” He likes to see the ways that improved technology has changed the ways that trails are built. “Trail building has become more dramatic, more thoughtful. It isn’t just about building any old trail but building specific trails that might not have been possible before. You can cross crazy terrain now. There’s great flow on new trails because the bikes can handle it.”
For anyone looking to know more about the flow, stop by Floyd’s and chat up Mat yourself. He’ll explain it way better than I can and soon he’ll have some nice, new bike racks out front courtesy of Council. And while you’re there, try the croque monsieur. It’s yummy.
Everyone, say hi to Mat.