New: Triple Trails Tour. Ride 3 of the South Island’s Most Famous Trails

Struggling to decide on a South Island cycle trail? Then check out this new, 14 day tour which takes in not one, but three of the South Island’s most famous trails.
alps 2 ocean trail
Trail 1: Alps 2 Ocean
320 km of spectacularly scenic riding from the foot of Aoraki/Mount Cook to the little coastal town of Oamaru. Highlights along the way include the vast tussock-lands of Mackenzie Country, the beautiful blue waters of Lake Pukaki and the braided rivers and vineyards of the Waitaki Valley.
 
Trail 2: Otago Rail Trail
A ride aboard the Taieri Gorge Railway from Dunedin delivers you to the start of New Zealand’s original Great Ride, the Otago Rail Trail. You’ll follow the route of the historic railway, encountering viaducts, bridges and railway tunnels dating back to the gold mining era of the 1880s.
 
Trail 3: West Coast Wilderness
A day in Queenstown to catch your breath (or lose it on the bungy), before you saddle up to cross Haast Pass and cruise the bends of the rugged coast road. At Ross, you’ll join the West Coast Wilderness trail, which follows water races, logging tramways and old railway lines to emerge at Hokitika. You’ll finish your epic adventure by crossing the Southern Alps a second time at Arthur’s Pass, before returning to Christchurch.
 
This guided tour allows you to bike a complete circuit of the lower South Island, starting out from Christchurch, heading south towards the Southern Alps and Queenstown, and then returning up the West Coast and over the mountains to Christchurch. Two departure dates are available: 4 March 2019 and 27 February 2020. All accommodation, most meals, daily luggage transfer, personal guide, vehicle support and bike hire are included. Like to know more? View the full tour itinerary on the website, or get in touch today.

Have a good week,
Steve


New for Summer: 9 Day Northland Cycle Tour

Northland cycle tourWhite sandy beaches, secluded harbours and sub-tropical forests – this new, 9 day cycle tour offers sublime scenery at every turn. But Northland isn’t just pretty. The region boasts numerous sites of historical and cultural significance. Here are five of the highlights.
 
Marvel at majestic Tāne Mahuta
Day two of this tour takes you through Waipoua Forest, site of New Zealand’s largest living kauri tree. The age of Tāne Mahuta, which means “Lord of the Forest”, is unknown but it’s estimated to be between 1250 and 2500 years old.
 
Soak up the views of Hokianga Harbour
According to northern Maori, the sand dunes of Hokianga Harbour are where the great explorer Kupe first set foot in New Zealand. Like Kupe, you’ll be arriving under your own steam, although your first glimpse of these beautiful waters will be from the saddle of your bike, rather than a canoe.
 
Witness the power of two mighty oceans merging at Cape Reinga
At the northernmost tip of New Zealand, the currents of the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean meet in explosions of spray and spume. The views are outstanding and on a clear day you can see all the way to the Three Kings Islands. Cape Reinga is significant to Maori, since it marks the point from which Maori wairua (spirit) return to their traditional homeland.
 
Visit the Waitangi Treaty Grounds
It was here, in 1840, that the Treaty of Waitangi was signed between the British Crown and more than 500 Maori chiefs. Today the Treaty Grounds and museum offer an opportunity to learn about Maori culture and the events surrounding the signing of the treaty.
 
Explore Russell, gateway to the Bay of Islands
It’s hard to believe that pretty, laidback Russell was once known as the Hell Hole of the Pacific! The little town is also home to New Zealand’s first hotel, the Duke of Marlborough, which will be your base for two nights. By far the best way to explore the surrounding area is from the water and numerous operators offer sightseeing cruises around the Bay of Islands.
 
Three departure dates for this tour are on offer: 4 November 2018, 7 January 2019 and 7 April 2019. It’s graded moderate to challenging, with daily distances of between 23 and 147km. This is a fully-guided tour, which means all accommodation, most meals and daily luggage transfer are included. You’ll also have the option of hopping aboard the support vehicle if, at any point, you feel like a break from riding. Like to know more? View the full tour itinerary on the website, or get in touch today.

Have a good week,
Steve


A Coast to Coast Experience 30 Years in the Making

cost to coastWhen Kenneth Short crossed the finish line at this year’s Coast to Coast, it marked the fulfilment of a 30-year goal. Travelling all the way from his home in Hawick, Scotland to compete in the iconic race, here’s his story.

Why did you decide to take part in Coast to Coast? 
I first became aware of Coast to Coast at its conception in the early 1980s when I watched a documentary about it on television here in Scotland. I immediately thought “That’s for me!” This set me off on a 30-year multi-sport path until I eventually had the skills, time and cash to fulfil this dream. This was my second attempt at the Coast to Coast having failed to finish in 2017 due to a bad kayak choice!

Have you participated in any other multi-sport events or races?
Many! I started doing triathlon in the early 80s, then began adventure racing in 1996, adding fell running to my sporting loves in 2007. Notable events include 70 Wild Miles Glencoe (12 times), Ironman Germany, Scottish Coast to Coast, Irish Coast to Coast, Celtman (twice), The Heb, Loch Gu Loch, OMM UK (6 times) and OMM Iceland.

Which category did you compete in?
I think you call it “classic” over there: 50+.

What was your favourite part of the race?
Apart from crossing the finish line? Haha! I loved the mountain stage – it’s such an iconic part of the event. Wild, rough and committing!

Did you encounter any problems or mishaps along the way?
Nothing serious. I went over three times in the kayak but my roll is good so managed to get back up each time. I opted for a large bumbag for the run instead of a rucksack which was an error, and I forgot a cycling top for the final bike so had to do it in my bib… the result was a badly burned lower back!

The most disappointing mishap was my wife and only support, Mandy, got lost on the way into Christchurch… meaning she wasn’t there at the finish. I would have loved to share that moment with her as she had been part of the whole journey. It is a massive effort to support at the Coast to Coast – I believe the competitors have the easy part – and she has done it twice now without a single complaint.

What was your training schedule like in the run up to the event?
Living in the northern hemisphere means training for this race in the winter. This year in Scotland the weather was appalling, with continuous low temperatures and lots of snow. This made road biking impossible, so I had to train on a mountain bike. Once I sorted out five layers of clothing, thick gloves, hand and foot warmers etc it wasn’t so bad! I love running over the hills in the snow so that was okay (until it came to my waist!), but the biggest issue was kayak training. The loch I use was frequently frozen over and difficult to access due to blocked country roads. It is also really important to get fast-flowing river experience for the Coast to Coast – but any swim would potentially be life threatening in the freezing temperatures so bombproof rolling was motivation to say the least! 

It really helped that I had bought a Barracuda Enigma from PaddlerZone in Christchurch and shipped this over to Scotland (after the disaster of jumping in a super tippy boat in 2017 with no river practice!), so was able to train in the boat I would be hiring for the event.

My training started in earnest in November. I was relatively fit coming off our own summer season, so it was just a case of training specifically (long bikes, hill running and kayaking on loch/river), progressively increasing the time/distance until mid January, then a taper to the event.

What bike did you use? Did you feel it was a good fit and why?
You need an incredible amount of gear for the Coast to Coast and the logistics of organising this along with the whole trip to New Zealand is very complicated. I therefore decided to hire my bike from Natural High. They were brilliant. I opted for a Specialized Tarmac carbon bike which was absolutely perfect. Steve had a brand new bike ready for me – the fit was perfect and I had zero issues with the bike either on the lead up to, or the event itself.

I can’t thank Steve enough for his help when I arrived to pick the bike up – we were straight off a 26-hour flight and having issues at the hire car pickup, I needed a bit of help and Steve and Claire were just brilliant. It was the same after the event – I was heading out the next day and Steve went out of his way to make life easy for me by collecting the bike from my hotel. First class.

Although the bike legs on the Coast to Coast are relatively short (about 150km in total spread over three legs) the cumulative tiredness of these events makes it really important to have a comfortable bike. Carbon bikes reduce road buzz and the geometry of the Tarmac was perfect for me. Definitely on the shortlist for my next bike!

How did you feel when you crossed the line?
Crossing the line was emotional. A very good friend of mine had encouraged me for years to get out to New Zealand for the Coast to Coast. Niall Renwick – mountain biker, climber, skier and all round good guy lived in Queenstown for 20 years and was my support along with Mandy for the 2017 race. He was lined up to support me again in 2018, but a returning illness meant that he couldn’t do so. We knew this illness was terminal. Sadly, Niall passed away whilst I was on route to New Zealand. My thoughts at the finish line, as they had been during the whole race, were about Niall and the great time we’d had together the previous year.

Thanks, Kenneth for sharing your experiences. If you’re inspired to take part in a multi-sport or cycle race, you’ll find a roundup of some of New Zealand’s most popular events here

Have a good week,
Steve

P.S. Don’t forget, we have high performance bikes available for hire for multi-sport, triathlon or bike races. Check out our full range here, or get in touch to discuss your options.


Two Wheels Can Change Everything…

In September of 1895, a young Jewish mother named Annie Cohen Kopchovsy became the first woman to cycle around the world.
 
Wearing full-skirts atop her 42-pound bike, Annie had left her husband and three children in Boston 15 months earlier, reportedly to settle a wager between two wealthy Boston gentlemen that a woman couldn’t possibly circumnavigate the world on a bicycle. The terms of the bet required her to complete the trip within 15 months and earn $5000 above expenses along the way. No easy feat for a woman in that day and age.
 
Luckily, Annie was resourceful. To finance her journey she took on sponsorships, selling advertising space on her bicycle and clothing. She even changed her name to “Londonderry” as promotion for the Londonderry Lithia Spring Water Company.
 
As she pedalled her way through Europe, North Africa, Asia and the South Pacific, she acquired a lighter bike and began wearing a man’s riding suit. She did, on occasion, hop aboard a few steamships and trains, but still navigated thousands of miles of rough terrain.
 
Upon her arrival back in Boston, one New York newspaper called it “the most extraordinary journey ever undertaken by a woman”. Annie went on to become a vocal advocate for both cycling and women’s rights, although the story of her remarkable ride remains little known.
 
So next time you’re zooming along on your lightweight bike, donned in breathable clothing and with a phone to guide your every turn, spare a thought for Annie, who managed to get all the way around the world without a scrap of modern technology.
 
Inspired to step outside your comfort zone and try something new? Check out our range of fully-guided tours or explore at your own pace with a self-guided tour

Have a good week,
Steve

Image: Michael Neubert


Here’s How To Tackle the Alps 2 Ocean In Its Entirety

The Alps 2 Ocean is New Zealand’s longest continuous cycle trail. Starting out from the foot of Aoraki/Mount Cook, it traverses through some of the South Island’s most spectacular scenery all the way to the coastal town of Oamaru.
 
It’s a trail you’ll definitely want to complete in its entirety – and we’ve got guided tours that allow you to do just that.
 
New for summer 2018/19 is the 7 day Alps 2 Ocean End to End tour. This epic cycling adventure allows you to experience the full 320km of the trail, as well as some additional highlights along the way.
 
The tour kicks off with a heli flight across the Tasman River to the official start point of the trail. From there, you’ll cycle through the vast tussock-lands of Mackenzie Country, taking in the beautiful blue waters of Lake Pukaki and the braided rivers and vineyards of the Waitaki Valley, before emerging into the sea air at Oamaru.
 
Handpicked accommodation is a key highlight of this tour – along the way you’ll stay at a mix of lodges, premium backcountry farmstays, motels and luxurious glamping tents. And because it’s fully supported, you won’t have to ride with your luggage – we’ll ensure this is safely delivered to your next overnight stop.
 
Wondering if you’re fit enough? You’ll cover an average daily distance of 60km, but you’ll need to be comfortable riding up to 80km per day if you’re planning to cycle the entire trail. You will, however, be able to ride at your own pace and the support vehicle will always be nearby to offer weary legs a rest. 

Two departure dates for summer 2018/19 are available: 20 November 2018 and 6 March 2019. These are guaranteed departures and spaces are limited, so get in touch today to assure your place. We also offer a shorter, 6 day Alps 2 Ocean tour – click here for details.

Have a great week,
Steve

P.S. This tour can include the use of a pedal-assist electric bike. These handle just like a regular bike, while giving you extra power to tackle hills, headwinds and longer distances. If you’d like to find out more about e-bike hire, send us an email.


A Roundup of New Zealand’s Most Iconic Multisport and Bike Events

New Zealand multisport and bike eventsSigning up for a multisport event or cycle race can be a great way to switch up your exercise regime, increase fitness or discover a new area of the country. If you’re in the mood for a new challenge, here’s a roundup of some of New Zealand’s most iconic events. 

One of the world’s longest running multisport events, the Coast to Coast traverses the width of the South Island, starting out at Kumara Beach on the West Coast and finishing at New Brighton Beach in Christchurch. Incorporating running, biking and kayaking stages, over 18 000 people have completed the event since 1983.

The 2019 race takes place on 8 and 9 February. If you’ve got the stamina, sign up for the Longest Day, which involves attempting the entire 243 kilometre course in one day. There are also two day and two day tandem events on offer. Early bird entry is now open on the website.

The 226 kilometre Challenge Wanaka triathlon takes place amongst the stunning lake and mountain scenery of Mount Aspiring National Park. Considered one of the world’s toughest long distance triathlon courses, the 2019 event is scheduled for 16 February. Half triathlon and various junior events are also on offer.

Looking for a straight-up bike race? The Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge is New Zealand’s largest cycle event, with a huge array of categories, including the ever-popular Bike Barn Round the Lake (a 1 lap, 160 kilometre circumnavigation of Lake Taupo), the Half the Lake (approximately 75 kilometres), and the Extreme Enduro (1280 kilometres). There are also various off-road and kids events taking place. This year’s event runs on 24 November.

In late summer, why not head to Christchurch for Le Race – a 100 kilometre ride from Cathedral Square to Akaroa on the Banks Peninsula. You can take on the whole distance as an individual, or as a two-person team. Alternatively, enter the Petite race, which ends at Little River for a total distance of 53 kilometres. The 2019 event will take place on Saturday 23 March.

Need bike hire for any of these events? We can supply high performance road bikes and mountain bikes. We also offer mountain bike skills training on local hills in either the South Island or North Island, so if you’re not a confident rider, or you’d like to improve your riding technique and gain an edge on the competition, get in touch today.

Have a great week,
Steve

P.S. Natural High’s Cecileah is a big fan of Spring Challenge, an all-woman adventure race. Read about her experiences in the 2017 event here.


Don’t Miss Our Big Bike Clearance Sale

Big bike clearance sale at Natural HighIs it time for a new bike? If your current model has seen better days, or you’re looking to add to your riding arsenal, make sure you swing by our second hand bike sale page.

At present, we’ve got leading-brand mountain, hybrid, touring, road and kids bikes available for purchase, as well as cycle accessories like panniers and trailers.

Looking for a commuting or path bike?
The Schwinn Sierra is a stylish choice for riders who want to cruise smooth trails, or coast to work in comfort.

Thinking of getting off the road and hitting up the trails?
We recommend the 2015 Specialized Pitch. This entry-level hardtail comes with a light aluminium frame and reliable 650b wheels.
From $450.

Contemplating clocking up the kilometres?
We have a very limited number of Surly Long Haul Truckers and Surly Disc Truckers. These top quality touring bikes come with front and rear racks, plus two bottle cages.
From $1700.

Ready to race?
Our range of high performance road bikes have proven themselves in some of New Zealand’s biggest races, including Coast to Coast, the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge and Le Race.
Various models from $599 to $799.

Want full-suspension?
The Avanti Torrent’s alloy frame is stiff, strong and guaranteed to push your trail riding to the max.
From $2500.

All the bikes we offer for sale are in great condition and have been regularly serviced by our in-house bike mechanics. Drop us a line if you have any questions, or swing by our Auckland or Christchurch branches to view in person. We’d love to meet you!

Have a great week,
Steve

P.S. Don’t forget we also offer bike servicing at both our branches from as little as $70. Email us to organise a time, or give us a call on 03 982 2966 (Christchurch) or 09 257 4673 (Auckland).

P.P.S. We’ve also got panniers, trailers and other accessories available for sale. Take a look here.


Family-Sized Portions Of Fun To Be Found On The Great Taste Trail

Dishing up family fun on the Great Taste TrailOver the recent school holidays, Steve and I took the kids to Tasman, at the top of the South Island, to sample the many delights of the Great Taste Trail.

One of New Zealand’s Great Rides, the full trail offers 174 kilometres of riding. Since our children are only 7, 10 and 11, we opted to sample two, shorter segments.

First up was the Richmond to Mapua Ferry section, which winds its way alongside the scenic Waimea Inlet to the popular beach and recreation reserve on Rabbit Island. From here, you can jump aboard a ferry to the vibrant Mapua Wharf and village.

The other section we rode was from Norris Gully to Wai-iti Domain, through Spooners Tunnel. The kids loved the tunnel! It’s not lit, so take torches or bike lights. At 1.4 kilometres long, it’s New Zealand’s longest decommissioned rail tunnel, and the sixth longest tunnel open to cycling or walking in the world! Definitely worth a visit.

The riding on both these sections is easy and mostly off-road, making them a great option for families or less confident riders. The boys rode a Specialized Fatboy and Avanti Tracker, while Anahera tested out an Avanti Black Thunder. Steve and I were riding our usual bikes: a Specialized Camber 29 and an Avanti Torrent 650b. Mountain bikes or hybrids are equally suitable for this trail.

Given its name, food options are plentiful along the route. You’ll find the curious combination of homemade baking and tame eels at Jester House, and excellent hot chips at The Smokehouse in Mapua.

Tasman’s mild climate makes the Great Taste Trail a viable cycling option all year round. With multiple access points and loop options, it lends itself to leisurely day-rides, with plenty of time to soak up the sights and tastes along the way. Just bear in mind that during winter (30 April to 28 September 2018) the Mapua Ferry only operates on weekends, and during school and public holidays. You’ll find the full timetable on their website.

And if you’d like any additional information about riding this route, or you’d like to organise bike hire, send us an email.

Have a good week,
Cecileah

P.S. Other trails well suited to autumn and winter riding include the Twin Coast Cycle Trail, at the top of the North Island, and the Great Lake Trail around Taupo. See more details here.


Introducing The Paparoa Track, The West Coast’s Newest MTB Experience

Introducing The Paparoa Track, The West Coast’s Newest MTB ExperienceThe West Coast of the South Island is fast becoming a must-do mountain biking destination and they’ll be one more reason to visit come 2019, with the completion of the Paparoa Track. Built as a memorial to the 29 men who died in the 2010 Pike River Mine disaster, the track is set to become New Zealand’s 10th Great Walk and will also be open to mountain bikers.

Once complete, the 55 kilometre trail will stretch from Blackball in the south to Punakaiki on the coast, providing access to the remote alpine scenery of the Paparoa Range. An additional Pike29 Memorial Track will give walkers and bikers the option to view the site of the former Pike River Mine.

Mountain bikers can expect long, steep climbs, narrow track and unpredictable obstacles. The route will be classed a Grade 4: Advanced, meaning you will need good gear and plenty of experience. Plan to spend one night on the track, although fitter riders will be able to complete the route in one day. There will be two Great Walks huts available along the route, which must be booked in advance.

Unlike the Heaphy Track which only allows access to mountain bikers between 1 May and 30 November, the Paparoa Track will be open to bikers all year-round.

Rich in mining history, the Paparoa Range is renowned for its dramatic limestone karst landscapes, thriving rainforests and breathtaking views of the Southern Alps. The combined walking and biking track is set to open in April 2019 – we’ll keep you posted on its progress!

Have a good week,
Steve

P.S. Other top trails on the West Coast include the Heaphy Track, the Old Ghost Road and the West Coast Wilderness Trail.


Experience The Thrills And Spills Of Track Cycling at Cambridge’s Avantidrome

Waikato River TrailsThe New Zealand cycling team has turned in some stellar performances at the recent Commonwealth Games. Sam Gaze and Anton Cooper claimed gold and silver in a dramatic mountain bike race, Olympic rower turned cyclist Hamish Bond won bronze in the time trial, and the track cycling team collected a record 12 medals in the velodrome. 

If you’ve ever fancied having a go at track cycling, Cambridge’s Avantidrome is the place to go.

The Waikato velodrome – recently used as a training venue by the Canadian women’s cycling team prior to the Commonwealth Games – offers one hour, introductory sessions. Incorporating basic knowledge on how to ride a track bike, as well as the opportunity to experience riding on the velodrome, this is a great way to get a feel for the thrill of the track!

Have-a-Go sessions cost just $25 per person and include the use of a bike and helmet, as well as support from an experienced coach. Sessions run regularly at the weekends – click here to book online.

Aside from the Avantidrome, the Waikato region is home to hundreds of kilometres of cycle trails. Laid-back riders and families might like to check out Te Awa – The Great New Zealand River Ride, which offers 70km of smooth trail riding along the Waikato River. The route stretches from Ngaruawahia in the north to Lake Karapiro in the south, taking in waterfalls, historic Maori sites, shops, cafes and wineries along the way.

If challenging terrain is more your thing, head for the Waikato River Trails (image above). While some sections of the trail are easy-going, the Waipapa and Arapuni segments are graded 4 and 5. Both offer challenging downhills and unpredictable riding through native and exotic forest. Other impressive features along the route include two massive hydro dams, and the 80m long Mangawera Suspension Bridge.

We can hook you up with bike hire for any of these trails. Take a look at your options here, and drop us a line if you’d like some advice or recommendations.

Have a good week,
Steve

P.S. Like to give mountain biking a go, but not feeling that confident about your skills? Take a look at our half-day mountain bike training courses. These offer structured training with a qualified instructor in either the North or South Island. Find out more here.