Simon Morton might just be the most famous mountain biker you've never heard of. The host of Radio NZ National's weekly This Way Up program, you may also have spotted him on your tv screen a while back presenting Why We Buy. His latest radio doco is Broken River, which was a finalist in the 2012 NZ Radio Awards and is a finalist in the 2012 New York Audio Festival. Broken River looks at the days after the city of Christchurch was devastated by a 6.3 magnitude earthquake. Simon traversed the city by bike using the Avon River as his route. You can check it out here... http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/documentaries/brokenriver If you don't catch him on the airwaves, you'll no doubt find him riding singletrack or dining out in Northland, the pizza capital of Wellington.
Who is Simon Morton?
Immigrant resident of Wellington, funded by the tax payer to be curious and ask questions as host of This Way Up. Love my bikes and my family, and have far too many tyres and gloves in my shed.
When did you get into mountain biking?
It all started long, long ago in Queenstown 1988 with a dirty Sovereign Mountain Supreme. I couldn't afford a Healing Wildcat or the very exotic and flashy Kona Lava Dome.
What would you rather be doing, riding or tv/radio? I would always rather be on a bike. Although riding to work in a wet southerly can be a pain in the ass, the face and the knees.
What is the strangest or most interesting thing you’ve done in your career?
I went to Mumbai and had a go at getting into the Bollywood film scene working as an actor. I recorded the whole thing and made a documentary about the experience. After dance lessons and a few pool parties, ultimately it ended up being a story about failure! I’m a pretty good dancer mind!
What are your latest media projects?
This Way Up is a 2 hour radio show which keeps me busy week to week. I’m currently working on a book with Te Papa based on the TVNZ7 Tales from Te Papa series, and I'm planning a really big bike ride for early 2014.
I hear you just sold your Stumpy FSR and are back on a hardtail... how's that working out?
Great for the bank account, as I have a holiday to pay for. The biggest impact though has been feeling the inside of my thighs - they’ve taken a pounding from my seat (the FSR was armed with a seat-dropper as well). My new ride has bigger wheels and I’m running tubeless so the tyres are way softer, so I’m not missing the travel, or the weight! There will definitely be quite a few new bikes in the future so the chances are pretty damn good of getting fully shocked up again. 29 on the front and 650B on the back just to be a real twat. I might get some body armour too... But seriously, big wheels for me, I’m a big boy.
Favourite trail/riding spot?
Close to home: My Welly commute home up Transient and then across Highbury Fling is a great way to end the day (with the optional Car Parts/Barking Emu/Wrights Hill/Northland loop), but I love to nip up the back of the Karori cemetery onto the tops and then up Zac’s and into the Makara playground... so many options.
Over the water: Craigieburn Forest Park and for those luxury ‘fear and loathing’ trips then the Queen Charlotte’s hard to beat.
Far, Far Away: La Saulire (2738m) at the top of Merbel to the valley floor, Bride les Bains (590m) in the Savoie, France.
What's wrong with mountain biking?
There's a danger that some tracks are being overworked and sanitised. I feel sorry for bike shops trying to compete with online, while local brand importers try and maintain margins, making stuff here in NZ really expensive. White lycra is so wrong...
What's right with mountain biking?
Niner, Revolution Bicycles and Wellington tracks. The number of tracks opening up around the country is very cool, and Queenstown's downhill course is a world class development. It’s great to see we’re building infrastructure to attract cyclists to New Zealand, that’s cool. The other really neat thing happening is that people want to build tracks, volunteers from all walks of life, legends.
Is hype/marketing driving the sport more than technology/innovation?
Shit yes, but there’s some cool stuff out there, you just have to do your research and be able to afford to try the gear. About every 5 years there’s a major step change in technology, but year to year I think not.
How do you see the future for NZ mountain biking?
Pretty damn good as more tracks open up, ‘joint use’ is no longer a dirty phrase, and councils (government) are realising that making their towns and cities more cycle friendly is a no-brainer when it comes to return on investment and quality of life.
And for you?
Faster, fitter, harder, healthier, happier and more Tuatara beers.