By The Kennett Brothers, Kennett Brothers Limited, ninth edition, 2014. Softcover, 184 & 200 pages, $29.90 each.
The Kennett Brothers rarely get enough credit. This is perhaps because of their collective moniker which tends to, perhaps deliberately, shade the contributions of the unassuming yet fervent individuals inside it and contributes to general confusion over which is whom, and who does what. But let’s be clear, no troika has ever done as much to increase participation in outdoor recreation in New Zealand. They have been, and are, the heralds of the mountain biking revolution.
With one exception the Kennett Brothers are still in their 40s, but incredibly, one or another of them has been producing guidebooks for nearly a quarter of a century. Classic New Zealand Adventures (1992), was a fun and quirky guide still recommended to accompany a road trip around Aotearoa, but even this was preceded by the first edition of Classic New Zealand Mountain Bike Rides (1991), now into its ninth edition and the unquestioned bible of New Zealand mountain biking.
This latest edition has been separated into North and South Island volumes. They begin with some startling statistics about mountain bike trail development in New Zealand. During the last three years 236 new tracks have been built in New Zealand, including 25 new mountain bike parks! This edition is no simple rehash of old material. Indeed, comparing the latest edition with earlier editions it’s clear that the Kennett brothers have learned and perfected guidebook craft. The maps and photos in particular have improved, the text seldom lets you down and the profile chart for each ride is very useful in assessing the fitness required. The choice of rides is impeccable with a good selection for riders spanning all abilities.
If there is one small criticism, it seems the star grading system does not provide well for the more ‘boutique’ mountain bike parks. Appropriate trail networks in small areas serve an important purpose to local riders, with the highly regarded Miramar Trail Project one such example that perhaps deserves better. It would also add to the Kennett Brothers formidable environmental achievements, if mountain bike parks and tracks could earn say a ‘green star’ in their book helping riders choose where to ride. Factors might include environmentally sensitive track construction, ecological restoration or visitor management practices.
To their credit, the Kennett brothers challenge riders to consider their carbon budget but park managers can contribute to this challenge as well. Lastly, the ingredient that ensures the success of these books is the wide and willing contribution from the New Zealand mountain bike community, which is prominently acknowledged. This web of relationships and information is a testament to the esteem in which the Kennett Brothers are quite rightly held.