Rural Riders, a mountain biking initiative aimed at getting farmers off-farm, is entering its second year and is set to kick off again for summer with Ashburton sessions beginning October 30.
Rural Riders chairperson Hamish Clausen says the initiative is gaining traction, complementing Surfing for Farmers, which operates in coastal regions nationwide.
“A lot of people don’t have surfboards or access to the beach, but they do have bikes,” Clausen says.
Originating in Taupo in 2021, Rural Riders now has groups with facilitators across the country, including three South Island locations – Ashburton, Naseby and Alexandra.
All that is required is a bike and a helmet, and if you don’t have access to a bike, Rural Riders can often hire one for you.
Riders of all ages and levels of experience are welcome to attend, with weekly sessions running over summer.
“We have people showing up with their whole family; our youngest kids would be six, seven or eight years old.”
Riders can follow the main group or choose another track more suited to their experience level.
Riders then meet up at the end of the session for a BBQ and a chance to connect.
While the initiative is not directly aimed at improving mental health and wellbeing, the benefits are obvious.
“It’s promoting good health and wellbeing in the rural community.
“Just being out there and being able to vent and talk to like-minded people does so much for the brain,” Clausen said.
Alexandra facilitator Latoya Grant said the turnout at last year’s rides was good considering the initiative was in its first year and expects numbers to continue to grow.
Grant became involved with Rural Riders after seeing the pressure farmers were under daily in her role as a fertiliser rep.
The concentration required for physical activity provides people with a healthy distraction from the stress they may be facing on their farm or in their home life.
“Getting people off the farm changes their perspective, especially if they are doing something completely different and not thinking or talking about farming.
“Biking and surfing are a classic example.
“You have to focus on what you are doing in that moment, or it can end badly.”
Where to find Rural Riders
The Rural Riders Facebook page
Contact: Caitlin Adam 0274661049
Meeting Day: Mondays
Venue: The Mountain Bike Park
By Claire Inkson