My name is Rod Lakelin, my partner Rochelle and I have 2 children. Kelby 20 and Misty 17. I am 48 this year and I started mountainbiking about 10 years ago. I had ridden and raced dirtbikes for 20 years prior and was looking for the same adrenaline fix that was a little easier on the body. At the same time my son who was about 10 at the time wanted to ride mtb. It was also at about this time that I met Pete, who would soon become a good mate. Pete was having a bit of a hard time with life, I needed some way to connect with my son and get my adrenaline fix at the same time. Not long after this the three of us started riding in the bush and that progressed into making trails. And Middle Earth was born!
How did you start in adventure sports?
I have always loved the mental and physical challenge of riding and racing. I am competitive by nature. As a teen I always dreamed of racing Motorcycle Enduros. In my early twenties I got to fulfil that dream when I moved from New South Wales to Western Australia. I raced for 8 years and started competing at state events in 1995. In 1996 I bought a brand new Honda XR400, with the thought that I would not be competitive but have a more reliable machine. That year I was 4th in the state in the fourstroke class. The next year I won the state fourstroke enduro title on that bike and the two years after that. The sport was becoming very expensive and with a young family sacrifices had to be made and so I gave up competitive racing after the 1999 season and my third State Fourstroke Enduro Title.
In 2003 I had a car accident coming home from work one day that put me off work for 2 ½ years. I had a young family, no income and sank into a deep depression. I didn’t think I would be able to ride again let alone function from day to day. I was lucky to have an amazing Wife, Dr and Physio as well as Psychologist. I gradually started riding again but it took its toll on my already battered body. I had to retrain and started a new career as far from anything I had done previously as could be. I started my own business, but my passion was still on two wheels and the adrenaline hit.
In 2010 I hit a kangaroo on my motorbike at 80k and ended up breaking my collarbone, a rib and giving myself concussion. I continued to ride motorbikes for a couple of years after, but the thrill had gone. It was around this time I bought one of many mountainbikes. I discovered a whole new world where I could talk to the person I was riding with. We discovered night riding and different trail types. This was just like dirtbiking but a lot slower. It was fun and I didn’t feel like I had been bashed by Mike Tyson after a ride. The skills I had gained on the dirtbike were directly transferrable to the mtb. I felt like a hero again. I was riding with my son, and my friends and meeting new people.
In 2013 Middle Earth was really starting to gain traction and had an underground cult following. Out of the blue, I was asked by a friend to take out a couple of random dudes and show them the trails. These two guys happened to be the organisers of the Cape to Cape mtb race. This event really put Middle Earth on the map and showcased our trail to a very wide audience. All of a sudden I was taking regular group rides with people from all over the world, that wanted to ride this Middle Earth they had heard so much about. I continue to be involved in the event and the trail has taken on a greater role, becoming the focus of one whole day.
In 2015 I had signed up to do the Karri Cup. The event that year was subsequently cancelled due to bushfire. I knew that the township relied on this event to fund the Tourist Centre. I decided to organise a fun charity ride and try and raise some money for Northcliffe. We had 45 riders sign up and we rode out to Canebrake Pool and back. We had no approvals and soon ran into dramas, but we still raised $650 for Northcliffe. So The Middle Earth Epic OrcHunt was born. 2016 saw 95 riders attend the event and we raised $2000 for the Cowaramup Mens Shed. 2017 saw 115 riders attend and we raised $2000 for the Margaret River Offroad Cycling Association. 2018 saw 140 riders and we will be donating some money for a conservation project and tools to help with Middle Earths trail maintenance.
What Inspires me?
My family and the amazing people around me inspire me. The Mtb and indeed Cycling community is filled with the most incredible human beings. Getting on a bike and pedalling through the bush has taken me to places and given me moments I would never have otherwise experienced.
Did you get help along the way?
My family have been amazing. My wife has been a trail widow while I ride, build and maintain trails. I have had incredible support from the Mountain Bike Community not only for Middle Earth but for my own personal journey, which leads to the next chapter.
What is the Craziest thing you've ever done?
In 2017 on the 16th of April I was riding Middle Earth with my Son, a good mate and a guy I had just met that day. I crashed heavily on my favourite piece of trail. Little did I know the impact that event would have on my life. I had broken C3 in my neck. It was a compression fracture. I got up and walked around after the crash but my head felt too heavy to hold up. My son and my mate rode home and grabbed my car and drove me in to the hospital, where I walked into Accident and Emergency holding my head to take the pressure off it. It was here they found the fracture and I was airlifted to Perth the next day. I was in a halo for 11 weeks. The Mountain Bike community rallied and a Go Fund Me page was set up. This raised $12,000 to aide with my recovery. We had amazing help and support from everybody. Close friends to people I had shown around Middle Earth. I was fully aware I had to fight The Black Dog through this time and previous experience gave me the tools to fight off depression. I was back on the bike 4 ½ months after my accident. I set myself a goal of riding at least one day of the 2017 Cape to Cape. 6 Months after breaking my neck I rode two days of the event and was awarded the Johnny Waddell perpetual trophy. I have since ridden in Rotorua (10 months after the Accident).
My goal is to see Middle Earth become an officially sanctioned Mountain Biking park. I want to continue to share this passion with other riders and indeed try to foster new blood into the sport. I want to develop more events that can help achieve this goal. And ride.
Mtbing is not all about racing and I think we all need to be reminded of this at times. At the end of the day why do we love this sport? Is it the thrill of pushing your body? The places you can see and the natural beauty we get to witness? Or is it the social aspect of connecting with other likeminded human beings? One thing we all have in common is our passion for the sport. This passion can only have a positive effect on your life.
Sometimes I have doubted this road I am on. My journey has been different to the norm. That doesn’t make it wrong, just different. I have been lucky with circumstance and events that have happened in my life. If you have a passion for what you do, develop it. Nurture it. Help it grow.
Why did you join adventurefreak.com?
A friend explained about Adventure Freak and the ethos and goal of the group. This just happened to line up with my ethos and goals. Lyndon drove down to meet me and ride Middle Earth on a recommendation from mutual friends. We recognised each others passion for the sport and indeed the importance of having your own identity. Your identity doesn’t have to be your job. This does not define you unless you want it to. We are defined by our actions and the way we treat our fellow human beings. I also wanted to give back to the sport that has given so much to me.
(Editors Note: Rod took time out to show me around Middle Earth. It felt amazing being shown all the hot lines by one of the guys that built the track. I appreciate this guy for all he has done and the gracious way he shares his passion. I encourage you guys to support trail builders in their tireless work. Without them, we would have nothing. Thanks Rod and Pete)