On a BMX track, a rider's bike is the bridge that closes the gaps between ages, gender and ability. Tauranga BMX Club's riders - Peter Roden, 61, and Mike Ngatai, 50, may be older than some of their club members but that doesn't stop them winning titles and riding alongside their younger clubmates. Adyn Ogle reports.
Having a mate 55 years his junior is at the core of what keeps BMX rider Pete Roden going.
Roden is one of two Tauranga BMX Club members, along with Mike Ngatai, who are beyond their 50th birthdays and still winning championships in their sport. Their latest were North Island crowns - Roden claiming the 50+ Male title and Ngatai claiming the 50+ Male Cruiser title - won during the Tauranga BMX Club-hosted North Island event during Labour Weekend.
Admittedly Roden, 61, says it took him about a week to recover from the event.
"I signed up for North Island Champs, once you get a goal you tend to get off the couch. It took me a week to recover from the North Island champs, but now I feel great," Roden says.
But if you consider the number of years they've been riding, it would be fair to say both Roden and Ngatai are still relatively young.
Roden started BMX riding 11 years ago, armed with a lot of experience as a mountainbiker.
"I was spending a lot of time mountain biking at the weekend, but my wife was looking after the children. We started BMX from that conversation and all three children did it," Roden says.
"I roll out on the bike and still get a smile. There are two reasons I do BMX – one is camaraderie and that is not only the adults but the relationships with the young kids.
"There is a kid at the club who is 6, Caleb White, and he is a mate because we both have a bike. This would never happen if we didn't have the bike as the bridge between our ages."
Roden is also on the Cycling New Zealand board of directors, which he says is a way to give back to a sport he has spent 30 years in. He is a former professional mountainbiker and also coached a 9-year-old Sarah Walker.
"I am still learning. Because of level of intensity required, I will never have the skill base as someone who learned as a kid. There are a bunch of guys who have kids in the sport and we help each other.
"I have a little thing on my board in my office that says, 'to inspire one person every day to be more active'. There is no excuse, I was 50 when I started BMX."
Ngatai also championed the camaraderie of the sport as a reason for his motivation and continued involvement.
"As a family we have been doing it for 11 years, the kids got me into it. I went out fishing one day and heard all this noise at the old BMX track and being a curious fella, I went and checked it out and thought I could get my kids out into it.
"I was on the sideline, one of those parents yelling at their kids to pedal, and someone told me 'you should get on the bike'. For me it was just about being a part of it, you look at the guys that win multiple national championships and I am not near that skill level. But it would be nice to go to nationals, that and to stay healthy and injury-free."
Growing up on Matakana Island, Ngatai was familiar with being on two wheels, having spent many hours on farm bikes. That led to motocross and cross-country riding and then eventually cross training with BMX.
"BMX is a challenge to pick up. I wish I had started as a kid, but it is the camaraderie with like-minded guys my age and seeing the young ones develop through the stages that makes it great.
"When you get back into sport, it is the conditioning and getting your body into shape for the demand. I have always been sporty, with this sport the challenge is everything is on you. I like that, I can't pass the buck if I don't get the results."
Roden and Ngatai were two of more than 600 riders competing at last month's North Island Titles BMX event last month.
Other Tauranga BMX Club riders to claim titles include Bruno Nemedi winning the 10yr Boys and the 8-10yr Male Cruiser races, Jaydah-Lilly Lees securing the 13yr Girls title and Jakub Bourke taking home the 17-24 Male title.
Tauranga had 41 riders making the most of home track advantage, with 18 podium finishes.
Tauranga BMX spokesman Manawa Mason said it was great for the club to host such an iconic event.
"There were a significant number of riders who made it into their respective finals across the age groups and many who got on the podium," Mason said.
"All round, the effort that our local riders put into it, all the training, has paid off. There's obviously that home track advantage and I guess that's one of the advantages of hosting an event. You know the different jumps and corners which certainly helps but also our club has put a lot of investment in terms in training in recent months and that certainly came through as well.
"It was fantastic, there was some hard-fought racing right across all the age groups. The weather was good, the track was hard and fast, we couldn't have wished for a better facility to be honest."
As well as the North Island titles up for grabs, New Zealand's best 11-year-old riders took on their Australian counterparts in the Mighty 11 feature event.
Bay of Plenty's Kate Hastings, from Rotorua BMX Club, helped the New Zealand girls' team successfully defended their title. The New Zealand boys' tried to wrestle the Mighty 11 title from Australia's grasp but missed out.
"The Mighty 11 racing was action-packed, there's a good rivalry between those two teams."
Mason said the Mighty 11s had been the start of many international racing careers, including Olympians Walker, of New Zealand, and Caroline Buchanan, of Australia.
"That's where you start to see the future talent coming through ... There are many names on there who have gone on to represent New Zealand in other cycling disciplines as well."
Rotorua BMX Club had 22 riders make the short trip to Tauranga. They had 10 finalists, five podium finishes, four of whom were title winners, and also had Hastings' Mighty 11 victory to celebrate.
Rotorua BMX Club president Aimee McGregor said the club was happy to send a good number of ridersto compete and for the younger ones it provided some great racing experience.
"Kate was the third of three Hastings children to make the Mighty 11 test team. Jenna, Ryan and Kate have all gone through and done it now. For that girls team they also do who had the best results from the eight girls throughout the weekend and Kate got third in that.
- Additional reporting David Beck
Bay of Plenty's North Island title winners
Tauranga BMX Club:
Bruno Nemedi (10yr Boys), Bruno Nemedi (8-10yr Male Cruiser), Jaydah-Lilly Lees (13yr Girls), Jakub Bourke (17-24 Male), Pete Roden (50+ Male), Mike Ngatai (50+ Male Cruiser).