12 Apr 2024

Rural Riders spins farmers' wheels - 'I smile a lot here'

From Country Life, 7:28 pm on 12 April 2024
Rural Riders aims to get people in the rural community off farm, on the bike and having fun

Rural Riders aims to get people in the rural community off farm, on the bike and having fun Photo: Supplied

Focusing on the bike track instead of the cows for a change is great for wellbeing, according to members of the mountain biking group Rural Riders.

And you don't need anything fancy to ride on to enjoy it, they say.

Dairy farmer Brendan Cairns borrowed his daughter's bike when he first started going out with the New Plymouth branch. 

Now with his own bike, he tries to get out as much as he can.

"If you don't have an appointment then you won't get off farm. Because we have to be here at 6 o'clock you have to get your jobs done."

He's one of a bunch coming off the trails at Lake Mangamahoe and standing over a chilly bin of cold beers, chatting to Country Life.

The first Rural Riders group was set up in Taupo in 2019 and now there are a dozen groups around New Zealand.

Following the model of Surfing for Farmers, on bikes rather than boards, the activity is about promoting health and wellbeing in the agriculture industry.

The groups range in size from 10 to 30-plus and the rides take place weekly or fortnightly.
Supported by the Rural Support Trust and several commercial sponsors, Rural Riders is winding up another season on the trails.

From physical to mental health, the New Plymouth riders say the biking all helps.

"Dairy farming's not as physical as it used to be," farmer Neil Ryan told Country Life

"You sit in a tractor and you walk up and down the pit in the cow shed but you don't break into a sweat digging post holes like you used to."

From banter to the serious stuff, they cover many topics while out on the trails.

"You just get stuck in your own little rut and you just keep going so it's good to get out and socialise," Stephen Hancock said.

He hadn't hopped on a bike for 20 years until he was persuaded to come along.

The social aspect is what has Dwayne Hill looking forward to Thursday evenings.

"I smile a lot here."

He works in an office these days in biosecurity for bees but also sees the benefits the rides give to those on farm.

"There's been a week when we've talked about the hardship of some of the things people were going through and helped each other out.

"I don't think everyone gets that output or that comfortable space ... especially working on a farm (when) you're with your worker and you maybe don't want to open up to them as much as you do some random person that you go riding with once a week."