Three Most Scenic Roads In New Zealand

Three Most Scenic Roads In New Zealand: west coast of the South IslandWondering which of New Zealand’s many scenic roads to bike or drive? Here are our three top picks.

The Lost World Highway
New Zealand’s oldest touring route stretches for 155km from the North Island’s Central Plateau to Taranaki on the west coast. Built on colonial bridle paths formed in the late 19th century, the road features four mountain saddles, one spooky tunnel, and one snaking river gorge. Stop to pick up a passport in Whangamomona – this small village declared itself a republic in 1989.

West Coast of the South Island
Named one of the top ten coastal drives in the world by Lonely Planet, this is a wild, rugged, and totally unforgettable landscape. The route wriggles its way along the surf-pounded coast, throwing up endless snapshots of lush, green rainforest, glacial rivers and intriguing geological features. With numerous walks, towns, beaches and history to explore along the way, this is a route well worth taking slowly.

Queenstown to Glenorchy
With Lake Wakatipu on one side, the Remarkables to your rear, and Paradise ahead (literally – there is a town called Paradise), this short, 45 minute drive packs a mighty scenic punch. You might recognise the surroundings: scenes from all three of the Lord of the Rings movies were shot in the area, as was the 2013 TV series Top of the Lake.

Fancy putting one (or all) of these routes on your New Zealand itinerary? We can help you arrange bike hire, campervan hire, or combined camper and bike hire. Many of our guided cycle tours also travel along the west coast of the South Island. Get in touch if you have any questions.

Have a great week,
Steve

P.S. If you’re contemplating a campervan tour this summer, please note that vans sell out quickly over the warmer months. We recommend booking early to avoid disappointment! Check out your options on the website, and then get in touch today.


Meet Natural High’s New Bike Mechanic

natural high bike mechanic leonNatural High’s newest team member is mechanic Leon Desgagnes, who hails from Montreal in Quebec. Read on to learn about his biking background.

Tell us how you got into biking?
I’ve been racing on the road and taking part in cyclocross since I was 12 years old. It all started when I stopped playing football and was looking for a new sport. I decided to try cycling because I’d seen my dad doing it my whole childhood, and I had a friend who was into it. At the age of 15, my dad enrolled me in a bike mechanic school and this is how I learned the basics. Following that, I worked in a bike shop where I was able to improve my abilities. I also helped out at events such as stage races, one-day races and charity rides. Last year, I decided to stop racing to concentrate on my studies, and I started mountain biking with my co-workers just for fun.

What’s your favourite ride (either in New Zealand or overseas) and why?
The ascent of Mount Mitchell in North Carolina, USA. It is a 45 km climb, really challenging with a lot of scenery and scenic views. Bonus: it’s the highest peak in the east of North America.

What’s your favourite spot for after-biking drinks?
Anywhere, as long as there is good beer, and the whole crew is there.

What do you like to do when you’re not riding?
Hang out with my friends, watch sports (football, hockey, American football, basketball or baseball), or listen to music

What made you want to work for Natural High?
The fact that Natural High offers a convenient opportunity for people who want to discover New Zealand on a bike. Indeed, cycling is my favourite way to discover a new place and I think everybody should have the chance to try it.

Do you have any “must-do” rides or destinations?
I’ve ridden in France, Spain and Italy and I have to say these countries offer a really nice playground, and have a magnificent cycling culture!

What’s your top tip for keeping your bike in perfect riding condition?
Always keep the components clean and check it periodically to take care of any small problems before they get worse.

Leon is planning to travel across New Zealand during his time in the country. If you have any must-do spots, let him know via our Facebook page.

Have a great week,
Steve

P.S. For more advice on keeping your bike in great working condition, check out this blog post: Extend the Life Expectancy of Your Bike with this Quick and Easy Bike Service. And, if you’d like Leon or one of our other mechanics to cast an expert eye over your bike, book in for a service. Give us a call on 03 982 2966 (Christchurch) or 09 257 4673 (Auckland) to organise a time.


Bush Bashing, Mud and Map-Reading Mishaps: Spring Challenge 2017 Recap

Spring Challenge 2017 RecapHi all, Cecileah here. Well, we made it to the finish line of Spring Challenge South in Geraldine! Here’s a recap of our race.

My team and I took part in the six-hour race. Like all the competitors, we started with a fast raft along the Rangitata River. From there, we travelled into the hills around Little Mount Peel. The route involved some bush bashing and a very muddy descent.

The bike through the Peel Forest was a mixed bag, and involved a course change due to high water levels in the Orari River. Finally, we had to tackle the orienteering stage, which proved something of a struggle for our tired minds and bodies!

My teammates were carrying ongoing training injuries so we were pretty slow on the day. I felt fine after the event and was pleased with my quick recovery (obviously didn’t go hard enough)! And I thoroughly enjoyed every mouthful I ate 24 hours post-race!

The 2018 Spring Challenge South will be held in Westport and I’m already contemplating entering the nine-hour event. I just need to find some teammates silly enough to join me – preferably that includes someone with good navigation skills! – and stop doubting and back myself. Fingers crossed I can get a team together when registration opens on 1 April 2018.

If reading this has got you inspired to tackle an adventure or cycle event of your own, entries are still open for New Zealand’s largest cycle race, the Lake Taupo Challenge, which takes place on Saturday 25 November. Or how about tackling the Motatapu on 10 March 2018? Set against the stunning backdrop of the the Wanaka to Queenstown high country, this is one of New Zealand’s favourite off-road sporting events and offers five different categories, including a 47km mountain bike race.

If you’re coming from overseas for a cycle or adventure event, we have top-quality mountain, road and performance bikes available to hire. Take a look at your options on the website, or drop us an email

Have a great week,
Cecileah

P.S. 1800 women took part in this year’s Spring Challenge. Remarkably, only one second separated the top two nine-hour category teams at the finish line, with the Pak n Save team just claiming the victory from Torpedo 7.


Time to Start Planning Your Summer Cycle Tour of New Zealand?

Time to Start Planning Your Summer Cycle Tour of New Zealand?The long, light-filled days of summer are coming! If you’re dreaming about a New Zealand odyssey (and maybe escaping a northern hemisphere winter), now’s the perfect time to start planning.

Whether you fancy an all-inclusive guided tour, a go-at-your-own-pace self-guided tour, or a combined campervan and cycle road trip, we’re sure to have an adventure to suit.

Want an in-depth New Zealand cycle experience? Then take a look at our 15 Day Christchurch to Christchurch Guided Road Tour. You’ll get up close and personal with some of the South Island’s most memorable scenery, spend a night on a working sheep farm, and immerse yourself in the thrills of Queenstown.

Prefer to roam free? Our 6 Day Self Guided Road Tour from Christchurch to Queenstown takes you through the heart of the South Island via the vast Canterbury Plains and the Lindis Pass.

Looking to cover more ground? Then hire a campervan and clock up the kilometres in comfort. Add in bike hire and you’ll get to experience New Zealand’s many off-road delights, as well.

This summer, we’re also offering e-bike hire on selected guided cycle tours. If you’ve always thought you aren’t fit enough to attempt a multi-day cycle tour, riding an electric bike could be just the confidence-boost you need.

Our e-bike models (the Avanti Montari E and the Avanti Discovery Low E) handle just like a regular bike, but give you extra power to fly up hills, combat headwinds, and cover longer distances.

If you think you’d like to include e-bike hire as part of a guided cycle tour, get in touch today. Some tours aren’t suitable for e-bikes and availability is limited. Send us an email with your requirements.

And if you have a question about any of our tours, campervans, or cycle hire options, don’t hesitate to get in touch. We’re here to make planning your summer cycle tour of New Zealand as easy and stress-free as possible.

Have a great week,
Steve

P.S. Cecileah is heading to Geraldine this weekend for Spring Challenge! She’ll tell you all about it in the next newsletter.


Three Places to Spy The Famously Cheeky New Zealand Kea

Three Places to Spy The Famously Cheeky New Zealand KeaExplorer Charlie Douglas wrote of New Zealand kea, “For curiosity and impudence the kea takes the record among all the feathered creation…”

These smart, playful and frequently fiendish alpine parrots are a popular sighting amongst the mountains of the South Island…despite their destructive tendencies.

Kea often supplement their traditional diet of bugs and berries with windscreen rubber, loose clothing and brightly-coloured objects. When it comes to food, kea are fiercely determined, and stealing from bags and vehicles is well within their capabilities.

Unfortunately, kea aren’t popular with everyone. Kea attacks on sheep led to the initiation of a legal government bounty in the late 1860s, and up until the early 1970s around 150,000 kea were killed. Today, kea are a protected species and while exact numbers are unknown, estimates suggest that fewer than 5,000 exist across an area of 3.5 million hectares.

Kea only live in the South Island, most commonly in and around alpine areas. They are frequently sighted at the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers, and in Arthur’s Pass National Park. When kea are around, keep a close eye on your belongings, and don’t be tempted to feed them.

Our upcoming 15 Day Southern Alps Road Tour offers numerous opportunities to watch kea in action, with stops in Arthur’s Pass National Park, and the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers. Other highlights include cycling the scenic west coast road, a night on a working merino sheep station, and a day in vibrant Queenstown. This tour gets underway on 13 December in Christchurch. Read more here, or get in touch to reserve your place.

Have a good week,
Steve

P.S. While you’re searching for kea, you might also want to keep an eye out for the South Island Kōkako. This ancient bird was listed as extinct until 2013, when credible sightings prompted it to be reclassified. A $10,000 reward is on offer for anyone who can confirm the bird is still alive. Find out more here.

Image: Andrea Schaffer


Stepping Up the Spring Challenge Training in Hanmer Springs

Stepping Up the Spring Challenge Training in Hanmer SpringsHi all, Cecileah here. I spent last weekend in scenic Hanmer Springs (right), training for the fast-upcoming Spring Challenge (29 September – 1 October in Geraldine).

Hanmer is a brilliant destination for a spot of outdoor adventure. It’s only a 90 minute drive from Christchurch, has lots of great riding options, and offers a good variety of accommodation, cafés and restaurants. We stayed at the fantastic Village Lake Apartments, which are conveniently located right next to town.

My Spring Challenge team were one of four groups (two from Christchurch and two from Nelson), who joined Coach Ray from Qwik Kiwi for two days of mountain biking and navigation skills training. Spring Challenge is a multisport event that involves mountain biking, hiking and rafting, as well as mapping and navigation skills. You have to be physically fit, but you also have to be able to read a map.

On Saturday morning, we started off on the easy tracks around the Hanmer Forest Range. The mountain bike section of the Challenge isn’t technically demanding, but the more confident you feel in the saddle, the more enjoyable you’ll find the experience. One useful skill we practiced was emergency braking. There are record numbers attending this year’s Challenge, and the riding is likely to be congested. Later, we moved onto some of the intermediate tracks, like Swoop and Swamp.

We also spent time with the compass, working to find bearings between checkpoints. We made mistakes but were able to learn from them, and we all felt that our navigation skills improved over the course of the day.

On Sunday, we put everything we’d learned into practice and took part in a mini-event, which saw us mountain biking and hiking to collect a number of checkpoints. All in all, the weekend provided a great opportunity to hone our skills and work as a team – and we had a lot of fun as well.

Although the South Island Spring Challenge is sold out (spaces always fill up quickly), you can still take part in the North Island version of the event, on 13-15 October 2017 in Auckland.

Or, take a look at New Zealand’s largest cycle race, the Lake Taupo Challenge, which this year takes place on Saturday 25 November. If you’re coming from overseas for a cycle or adventure event, we have top-quality mountain, road and performance bikes available to hire. Browse your options here, or drop us an email.

Have a good week,
Cecileah

P.S. We also offer mountain bike skills training on local hills in either the South Island or North Island. Find out more here.


Cycling the Rainbow Road – a True, Backcountry Cycling Experience

Meet Caroline and Jenny Whittaker

Meet Caroline and Jenny Whittaker. This mother and daughter pair biked from Christchurch to Picton back in February, along a route that included the Rainbow Road, and the coast road from Blenheim to Picton.

Cycling the Rainbow Road in New Zealand

For Caroline, experiencing the rugged, isolated terrain of the Rainbow Road was one of the highlights of the trip. Running from Hanmer Springs to St Arnaud, this 112 kilometre route serves up an impressive backdrop of forest, high mountains, tussock and scree. Various huts and camping areas are available along the way – Caroline and Jenny stayed at the Sedgemere Sleepout.

Specialized CrossTrail

Caroline hired one of our Specialized CrossTrails for this trip. Her verdict? “Knobbly enough tyres for the tracks, but quick enough for roads.” Jenny brought her own bike from the UK.

Back home, Caroline generally rides about twice a week with friends. Although she’s completed many day rides, this was her first multi-day trip – and she says she would have loved to have done more. In fact, she’s hoping to come back for a six week trip once she’s retired!

Thanks for sharing your experiences, Caroline and Jenny. If you’d like to cycle the Rainbow Road, check out the Rainbow Station website for seasonal restrictions and toll details.

Have a good week,
Steve

All Images: Caroline and Jenny Whittaker


5 Highlights of the 15 Day Christchurch to Christchurch Tour

15 Day Christchurch to Christchurch TourIf you’re looking for an in-depth New Zealand cycle experience, put our 15 day Christchurch to Christchurch road tour on your bucket-list. Aside from serving up some of the South Island’s most memorable scenery, this tour also packs in wilderness encounters, cultural experiences and geological wonders. Here are five of the highlights.

Test your stamina on high mountain passes
There’s no shortage of hills on this tour. Along the way you’ll encounter Porters Pass, Arthur’s Pass and the famous Crown Range between Queenstown and Wanaka. You can choose to put pedal to metal or catch a ride on the minibus.

Spend a night on a working merino sheep station
Wilderness Lodge is a 4000 acre sheep farm and nature reserve nestled amongst the peaks of Arthur’s Pass National Park. If you’ve got energy to spare, head out to explore the mountain trails, or simply kick back and enjoy the spectacular views. You may also have an opportunity to watch sheepdogs work, hand-feed tame sheep, and learn about shearing and merino wool.

Admire the glaciers
The two most famous glaciers in the Westland National Park – the Fox and the Franz Josef – are an arresting sight, with their mighty rivers of ice tumbling towards the sea. Nowhere else in the world, at this latitude, have glaciers advanced so close to the sea. Day five of your tour gives you ample time to study these spectacular ice forms – walk to the terminal face, or view from above aboard a plane or helicopter flight.

Wildlife encounters on the West Coast
Day six sees you check into Lake Moeraki Wilderness Lodge. Surrounded by lakes, rivers, rainforest and seacoast, this stunning location has a wealth of wildlife activities on hand. Borrow a kayak and enjoy a paddle on the lake, or hike to Monro Beach to spot fur seals and – in season – penguins. When darkness falls, take a stroll to learn about the stars of the southern sky and see glow worms light up the rainforest

Experience Queenstown
Your tour includes an entire day in buzzing Queenstown where all manner of adventures await. Jump aboard a thrilling jet boat through the narrow Shotover Canyons, enjoy a gentle putter across Lake Wakatipu on the vintage steamship TSS Earnslaw, or drink in the scenic views from the Skyline Gondola. The town is also home to numerous shops, restaurants, cafes and bars.

Route Info
You’ll start your amazing adventure in Christchurch, before heading over the Southern Alps to the wild West Coast. Here, you’ll cycle the twists and turns of the dramatic coast road, stopping off in Hokitika and Franz Josef, before making your way to Queenstown. Back on the bike, you’ll pedal through Otago tussock land to the scenic splendour of Mt Cook, before arriving back in Christchurch.

Despite the high mountain passes, this is a moderate tour with two challenging days. If you need a break from the saddle, the support vehicle is always available.

Departure Dates
06 Nov 2017-20 Nov 2017
13 Dec 2017-27 Dec 2017
27 Jan 2018-10 Feb 2018

Check out the full itinerary here, or get in touch to book today.

Have a great week,
Steve


Discover What Lives Below in Kaikōura

visit kaikouraIf you want to glimpse a true giant of the deep, put Kaikōura on your to-do list. This small town on the east coast of the South Island is one of the few places in the world where sperm whales can be seen year-round and close to shore.

Why? Well, it’s all due to the Kaikōura Canyon, a submarine trench located just 800 metres off the coast. Home to a rich concentration of underwater life, the canyon’s deep trenches and swirling currents provide the sperm whales, as well as a whole host of other wildlife, with the marine equivalent of an all-you-can-eat buffet.

Sperm whales are one of the deepest diving whales, with the ability to descend hundreds of metres to find their food. Only male sperm whales visit Kaikōura – the females and young whales stick to warmer tropical waters.

During the winter months, humpback whales are also frequent visitors to Kaikōura, passing through on their way north to warmer waters. Other wildlife you might spot include dusky dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, Hector’s dolphin, orca, fur seals and a wide variety of sea birds.

Whale Watch Kaikoura offers daily boat tours (weather dependent), or you can view the ocean from above with a plane or helicopter tour.

And take your bikes along for your visit. Kaikōura offers several mountain biking opportunities, from the relaxed and cruisy Kowhai Trail to the steep and technical slopes of the Mt Fyffe Track (advanced riders only). You can pick up track maps from the Kaikōura i-Site.

Getting to Kaikōura

Kaikōura’s road access was disrupted by last November’s earthquake and repair work is still taking place. The current road situation looks like this:

SH1 South (Christchurch – Cheviot – Kaikōura) is open 7.00am to 6.00pm Friday – Monday, with scheduled closures on Tues/Wed/Thurs for repair work.
Inland Route 70 (Christchurch – Hanmer Springs – Kaikōura) is open 24/7.
SH1 North (Kaikōura – Picton) is closed until December 2017.

Kaikōura town is open for business as usual. For an up-to-date status of the roads, check out the New Zealand Transport Agency website.

Have a great week,
Steve

P.S. Visit Kaikōura as part of our 7 Day Road Cycle Tour Top of the South Island. This Grade 2 ride starts in Christchurch and takes you over the Southern Alps to the West Coast, before heading to Nelson and the beautiful Marlborough Sounds. There’s time for a visit to some of Marlborough’s top vineyards before you make your way to Kaikōura, where you can round off your tour with a whale watching expedition. Read all the details here.

Image: Andrea Schaffer


Look Where Pedal Power Can Take You…

fireflies antipodesWe were wearing our red socks with pride last week when Emirates Team New Zealand beat Oracle Team USA to claim the America’s Cup. And we were especially thrilled to see that pedal power played a part in the win, with the team using bikes to drive their catamaran’s hydraulic systems.

The next America’s Cup will be held somewhere in New Zealand, with the dates and exact location set to be revealed in the next few weeks. We can’t wait to see what new ideas and concepts the team has up its sleeve for this one!

Despite colder conditions across both islands, pedal power is still a fun way to experience New Zealand. While we don’t offer guided tours in the winter months, it’s perfectly possible to embark on a self-guided tour. Indeed, some of our clients prefer winter cycle touring – it’s less crowded and you don’t have to worry about sunburn!

If balmy temperatures and sunny skies are more appealing, we’ve now locked in dates for most of our guided summer cycle tours. Adventures of all shapes and sizes await, from mellow trail rides to more ambitious, multi-day road tours.

Not convinced you’ve got the pedal power to attempt a guided cycle tour? We recently introduced a range of pedal-assist electric bikes to our hire fleet, and may be able to provide e-bikes on some of our guided tours. Riding an e-bike will give you extra power to tackle hills, headwinds and longer distances – and keep up with fitter riding companions.

If you think you’d like to include e-bike hire as part of a guided cycle tour, get in touch today. Some tours won’t be suitable for e-bikes and availability is limited. Send us an email with your requirements.

Have a great week,
Steve

P.S. Wondering why we were wearing red socks? Sir Peter Blake wore red socks when Team New Zealand won the America’s Cup for the first time in 1995. They’ve been synonymous with good luck ever since.

P.P.S. In the market for a new bike? We’re updating our rental fleet and selling off a selection of older models at very low prices. You’ll find top-quality, well cared for mountain, hybrid, touring and kids bikes available for purchase, as well as cycle accessories and clothing. Head to our bike sales page to see what’s available.