All things start somewhere and many grow out of something else. Whether an idea sparks action, or circumstances lead you down a certain path, however something starts, the fact remains that sometime, somewhere, someone will have to do the hard graft to get it off the ground.
Rick Henderson is one of those guys who’s lived a varied life—and by his own admission, not always in the best way—and he’s put in lots of hard graft along the way. From the early days of his bike park ‘Krankin Park’ in Ngaruawahia, where he and his friends dug for endless hours shaping what was to become the first jump park in the country, to the launch of High Speed Cycles, Krankin Park’s on-site bike shop, and all the work that involves. I think it’s fair to say that Rick has carved himself a well earned place in New Zealand’s MTB history with lots of hard work and determination.
For any rider who’s been in New Zealand’s DH or jump scene for more than six years or so, Krankin Park will probably be familiar to you, and like myself it may well have played a big part in your riding. From the winter rides where you had to wait for the fog to lift before being able to hit the ‘pit jump’, to the infamous Krankin Parties which drew riders from around the North Island on bikes of all shapes and sizes for two reasons: riding and good times.
Krankin Park has provided many people with a platform for their riding, and it definitely helped shape dirtjumping in New Zealand as we now know it. Sitting in the background, toiling behind a spade or simply making sure everything kept going forward was Rick Henderson.
How old are you?
My birth certificate indicates 50 but I have my doubts.
Where do you live?
Krankin. 106 Old Taupiri Road, Ngaruawahia; the capital of New Zealand.
What do you like best about living where you do?
The dirt’s good, I work from home, I’m out in the country and workshop is surrounded by my various trail routes. Sometimes it’s difficult to decipher work, or is it foreplay ?
What do you dislike about living where you do?
Local bodies who ignore the need for recreational facilities.
Who makes your riding possible?
The same person who can make it impossible; myself. Apart from that I don’t need an excuse, company or a trail head; when you get the urge, you go out and ride.
First bike was a Raleigh which in short time was stuffed into the rear end of car coming home from school. My first real bike was a Burton, a French road racing bicycle which my folks scored for me when I was 13. Competitive cycling started there.
How did you first pick up a MTB and get into it from there?
I owned various road bikes up until my first MTB. From memory, a rigid beastie until suspension arrived on the scene; MTB took on a whole new dimension after that! And yeah, I’ve never been on a road bike since.
Best thing about owning Krankin Park?
The people I have met for sure. Also as a test track (for want of a better word ) it’s perfect for my line of work. Between Krankin and the hills above I have all the resources for test riding bikes, components and suspension.
Worst thing about owing Krankin Park?
The balance between my obsession and dealing with an increasing number of riders that assumed Krankin was a public facility. Like it or not I was responsible for every rider on the park; over the years that amounts to hundreds, and believe me I felt every off you guys had, from rushing injured riders to A&E, visiting worse case scenarios in hospital, having to deal with distraught parents, threats of court action, theft of property, abuse (although I can give as good as I receive) and the list goes on. Besides that, the many hours spent constructing new jumps and the endless task of maintenance, and often it was same (few) loyal bods that helped out. Enthusiasm has its limits and eventually mine ran out.
What was the largest challenge getting Krankin Park off the ground?
There was no challenge at the time, I was too excited. It wasn’t until years later that I realised we had shifted tonnes of dirt and constructed some reasonable sized jumps, and all of it was achieved by hand, wheelbarrows and shovels and a whole pile of enthusiasm. I doubt if I could muster that sort of energy again in my lifetime, so yeah from an outsider;s point of view, simply
How many years has Krankin been going now (as a park)?
Krankin’s 15 years old and looking a little shabby. If there’s any local people interested in operating Krankin the bike park, please get in touch. I don’t have the time these days but would welcome anyone with a proposition.
Who were the key people at the park back in the day?
I guess first on the list is my wife at the time (thank you Karen), my family was very supportive, bike riders and mates including Tony Moore, Jason Moore, Greg Larson, Wayne Richardson, Nigel Tipene, Mike and Rob Metz, Nick Lambert, Fluff and his crew from the ‘Naki were always making the trip, Vanessa Quin was a regular female rider and so too the increasing number of interested supporters wanting in on this new concept. No particular key people but all had influence one way or the other.
In your opinion how has the ‘jump’ scene in New Zealand changed since it began for Krankin park?
Commercialism; you pay to ride. Increase in size of both obstacles and courage. The discipline is still present and the bikers themselves are incredibly skilled both on MTB and BMX; you young guys rock!
Who do you think was the most legendary MTB rider in New Zealand in the last 15 years and why?
That would have to be Fluff (Glen Sisarich). At the time the guy was insanely fast on a pushie, he was motivated, a hellishly good guy, modest, humorous and an inspiration to all when you saw him on a pushie. Fluff was ahead of our time, he unwittingly indicated the things to come. Apart from the growing friendship I bled Fluff’s brain whenever I could, from trail
obstacles, dirt jumps, DH trails and even the early suspension components. His perception from a rider’s point of view was a wealth of knowledge for me and anyone else with a vision.
Favourite party that went down at Krankin?
Hahaa…I have to say they were all favourites. Winter solstice, bomb fires, dare devils, human skyrockets ( you’d remember that Coxy! ) two and three day affairs of biking, chewing the fat and of course alcohol and vitamins. Krankin’s parties were successful social gatherings, fuelled by enthusiastic people amped up on having fun on a push bike.
What’s wrong with mountain biking?
Absolutely nothing from a biker’s point of view. I have opinions concerning the business side of it, but I’ll keep those to myself.
What’s right with mountain biking?
Your health, your mental awareness, the opportunity to be adventurous or competitive and to be amongst people who share the same passion. MTB is versatile; for mum and the kids or hard out thrashing with your mates, mixed cultures, and there’s no probs if your English isn’t good, we are all on the same buzz.
What websites do you hit daily?
There’s a number of bike related sites, and I occasionally troll through Vorb and still drop by the Kennet’s site. Trade Me, and Facebook is becoming a regular haunt, the idea behind ‘Krankin Aotearoa’ on Facebook is bring customers and friends together for a bit of clowning around or just general contact.
Who do you look up to?
No one; I admire certain people, riders, associates and friends, but there’s no one on a pedestal in my life. We are all on a level playing field.
Favourite piece of bike kit?
That would have to be my TLD D2 carbon.
What are your vices?
I have a few—some not so flash—so best I keep them to myself.
Got any dirt / story from a MTBer that you’d like to share?
I’ll take that as a compliment, but as far as pro goes I’m far from it. Experienced, yes, and although I could recall several stories my thrills are just as amped as yours.
Okay, a bit of word association:
– Dirt jump – aerial acrobatics
– Downhill – technically courageous
– Huck to flat – defies momentum
– Tricks – style
– Style – passion
– Glen Sisarich – all of the above
– John Kirkaldie – the thread that stitched the New Zealand pro scene together, both locally and internationally.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you who support Krankin and HSC; it’s a successful project because of you, thanks and happy trails, Rick.”
Check out Rick’s shop, High Speed Cycles, on site at Krankin Park, details on his WEBSITE. Or hit ‘Krankin Aotearoa’ on Facebook to check out his extensive collection of old-school MTB pics.