Guided Riding on the Otago Rail Trail and Clutha Gold Trail

Looking for a gentle introduction to bike touring? Then check out our newest tour offering: the 5 Day Otago and Clutha Cycle Trails.
 
This easy cruise through stunning Central Otago combines two popular trails: the Otago Rail Trail and the Clutha Gold Trail. Both provide a fascinating insight into the history of this region, from early Maori moa hunters to the thrill of the gold rush, and European farming, railway and mining endeavours.
 
Scenic highlights along the way include mountain backdrops, cascading river gorges, and golden high-country. You’ll also have the option to experience viaducts, tunnels, abandoned gold diggings, and art deco buildings in pretty country towns.

In addition, this tour includes a trip on the Taieri Gorge Railway from Middlemarch to Dunedin, a scenic jet boat transfer down the Roxburgh Gorge, and wine tasting at a Central Otago Winery.
 
Both trails are classed grade 1, meaning the route is mainly flat, with occasional small climbs. Much of the riding is off-road, making it a safe option for families. And the tour is fully-guided, so you won’t have to worry about accommodation, getting lost, or riding with heavy loads – luggage transfer is included!
 
With just one departure this summer – leaving 8 April 2018 – get in touch today to book.

Have a great week,
Steve


An Introduction To Bikepacking In New Zealand

bikepacking new zealandNew Zealand’s varied terrain lends itself well to bikepacking – essentially multi-day mountain biking with an emphasis on travelling light. Throughout the country, a comprehensive network of cycle trails, tracks and gravel roads make it easy to escape the traffic and soak up the scenery.
 
Any of the Great Rides of New Zealand make for an exciting bikepacking adventure. If you’re just finding your biking feet, try the Timber Trail in the Pureora Forest Park, which incorporates ancient forest, purpose-built trail and tramway, as well as some of the longest and highest suspension bridges in the country.
 
For those with more advanced riding skills, the St James Cycle Trail close to Hanmer carves a fun loop through North Canterbury high country. Various rocky sections and steep climbs keep the riding challenging, and there are options for longer or shorter routes.
 
Another great option for experienced riders is the Old Ghost Road in Buller. This tailor-made trail traverses some splendid scenery and throws in plenty of steep climbs, too. Frequent huts provide accommodation and shelter along the way.
 
Perhaps the ultimate bikepacking route though is the Tour Aotearoa, which weaves its way across the entire length of the country. Designed by New Zealand cycling historian and guidebook writer Jonathan Kennett, the route follows a combination of cycle trails, tracks, paths and quiet country roads from Cape Reinga all the way to Bluff. At a casual pace, expect to take three to five weeks to complete the full 3000 kilometres.

What bike?
You’ll want a tough, light bike with big tyres. We recommend either the Surly Ogre or the Surly Troll which we’ve just incorporated into our hire fleet. Both are good options for bikepacking, and can be set up with various luggage options to suit your needs. Get in touch for hire rates and options.

Have a great week,
Steve

P.S. Want to know more about luggage systems for bikepacking? Check out this post from our archives.


From Tip To Toe: Meet The Guys Riding The Length Of New Zealand For Charity

It’s 2270 kilometres from the top of the North Island to the bottom of the South Island, and British riders Chris I’Anson and Chris Brown are planning to ride every single one of them over the next few weeks.
 
Aided by friend Paul Smith, who’ll be driving their campervan, the pair are aiming to complete their mission in 19 days, cycling over 120 kms per day.
 
The goal? To see the country but also to raise funds and awareness for two charities: Claro Enterprises, a North Yorkshire non-profit that was set up by Chris Brown as a workshop for people with mental health problems; and Parkinson’s UK, in support of a friend.
 
The duo are no strangers to physical challenges: Chris Brown has climbed the seven summits of the world, completed the Marathon des Sables in Morocco, and cycled the length of the UK, while Chris I’Anson has been on mountaineering trips to Nepal, Tanzania and Peru, and completed a five day ultra marathon in Spain.
 
Despite their endurance credentials, the pair are not underestimating New Zealand’s hills. Their route calculations have shown a total of 22,246 metres of elevation gain over the course of their journey – 2.5 times the height of Everest from sea level – and their training has incorporated plenty of dedicated bike sessions in preparation.
 
It won’t all be hard slog, though. Chris I’Anson runs a feed business in Yorkshire which makes Speedi-Beet horse feed (sold throughout New Zealand), and he’s hoping to call into a few suppliers along the route!
 
Their journey starts from Cape Reinga on 29 January and, if all goes to plan, they’ll be rolling into Bluff on 16 February. The pair say they’d welcome company from any local riders along the way – check out their progress on their website here, or donate to their campaign here.

Have a great week,
Steve

P.S. Combined camper and bike hire is a great way to see New Zealand. Pick and choose sections of the New Zealand Cycle Trail, or simply use your bikes to get a more up-close perspective of a local area or town. Check out options here.

Image: L-R Chris Brown, Chris I’Anson and Paul Smith.


Raise A Glass To New Zealand’s Best Bike-Friendly Wine Routes

New Zealand’s Best Bike-Friendly Wine RoutesFrom the volcanic, clay-rich soils of Auckland, to the sun-drenched valleys of Nelson and the cooler climes of North Canterbury, New Zealand’s wine growing regions extend right across the country. Here’s a selection of cycle routes that swing by some of the best cellar doors in the country.

Three-day, self-guided Waiheke Island Tour
Just a short hop from Auckland by ferry, Waiheke Island is a beguiling blend of rolling farmland, beautiful beaches, and award-winning vineyards. Tour notes come with a number of recommended cycle rides, ranging from a 50km slog to shorter, easier routes. With over 20 wineries calling Waiheke Island home, you won’t have to pedal far to quench your thirst.
Read more >>
 
The Wineries Ride, Hawke’s Bay Trails
Cycling expert Jonathan Kennett describes the Hawke’s Bay Trails as ‘the closest you can get to a European cycling holiday in N.Z.’ The 48km Wineries Ride offers smooth and mainly flat riding
through the wine growing areas of Bridge Pa, Gimblett Gravels and the Ngatarawa Triangle, with ample opportunities to sample award-winning vintages along the way.

6 Day Nelson Great Taste Cycle Trail
Meandering through the picturesque Nelson and Tasman region, the Great Taste Trail dishes up relaxed riding, stunning coastal views, and a veritable smorgasbord of cafes, breweries and vineyards. This six day loop also incorporates a half day walk on the famous Abel Tasman track, and a sailing adventure through the Abel Tasman National Park on a catamaran.
Read more >>
 
Waipara Wine Tour
The Waipara Valley just outside Christchurch is fast establishing itself as one of the premium wine producing regions of New Zealand. This day tour offers relaxed, easy riding along an off-road cycle trail and quiet country roads, with leisurely stops for an antipasto lunch and wine tastings along the way. Pre-bookings essential.
Read more >>

Got a question about any of these routes? Don’t hesitate to send us an email.

Hope your first week of 2018 has been a good one!

Steve


Check Out The Latest Additions To Our Hire Fleet

Christmas came early at Natural High! Every year, we update our hire fleet in order to offer the most up-to-date models and we’ve been busy unwrapping the latest arrivals.
 
One new addition for summer 2017/18 is the Specialized Tarmac Sport. Featuring a carbon fibre frame, durable DT R460 wheels and crisp Shimano 105 shifting, this is a well equipped, great looking and top performing road bike.

We’ve also taken possession of the Avanti Giro AR Gravel Road Bike. With its light, alloy frame and rack mounts, this is a versatile bike that can be used for road touring and bikepacking, with some gravel riding.

Both these bikes are so new that we haven’t got them up on the website yet – send us an email if you’d like to lock in hire dates!
 
Looking to hire a mountain bike, children’s bike, or bike accessories like pannier bags or bike racks? We’ve got you covered. Our hire fleet includes high-end tourers, comfortable hybrids, super-tough mountain bikes, kid’s bikes and a full range of accessories including car racks, seat bags, panniers and bob trailers.
 
All our bikes receive a full service before hitting the road, and we’ll take the time to ensure a proper bike fit before you head off on your adventures. You’ll also be supplied with a lock, multi tool, tyre levers, spare tube and repair kit.
 
If you’re planning some summer cycling action, check out your hire options here. We have branches located at Auckland Airport and Christchurch, and we also offer pick-up and drop-off locations throughout both the North and South Islands.
 
Got questions about any of our bikes or accessories? Drop us an email and we’ll be delighted to help you out.
 
Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year  – we’ll be back with more cycling inspiration and ideas in 2018!

Steve, Cecileah and the Natural High team


Your Questions About Guided Cycle Touring Answered

Your Questions About Guided Cycle Touring AnsweredSummer has well and truly arrived in New Zealand and we’re already enjoying long, sunny days and balmy temperatures – perfect conditions for cycle touring. If you’re wondering whether to clip-in and join us this season, we’ve got answers!

How fit do I need to be?
You don’t have to be an avid, hard-core biker to join one of our guided tours. Each trip we offer is rated for overall difficulty, based on the daily distances and the terrain covered. Here’s an overview of the three levels:

1 – Easy. These tours are suitable for people who just want to ride, relax and enjoy the scenery. They cover lower distances per day – around 40 to 50 km – over relatively flat terrain. If you’ve never embarked on a cycle tour before, this grade provides a perfect starting point.
2 – Moderate. Moderate tours cover longer daily distances – around 50 to 80 km – with more hills. To undertake a moderate tour, you’ll ride once or twice a week at home and be comfortable tackling the occasional hill climb.
3 – Challenging. These tours can cover over 100 km a day, across rolling (and sometimes steep) terrain with repeated climbs. If you ride two to three times a week and enjoy pushing your limits, these tours are for you.

What happens if I need to take a break from the bike during the day?
A support vehicle will always be on hand to give you a rest from the saddle, or shuttle you up the steep bits.

Will I have to ride with my luggage?
No, we’ll ensure your bags are safely delivered to your hotel room. We also organise all food stops and refreshments along the way.

What will the weather be like?
All our guided tours run through the summer and autumn months, which offer the most settled weather. Rain is still a possibility, (so bring warm and waterproof clothing), but generally you’ll enjoy clear, sunny days and warm to hot temperatures.

What types of accommodation will I stay in?
Every night you’ll kick back and relax at carefully-selected, comfortable hotels. Where possible, we pick properties that provide a deeper insight into a region, or a more memorable experience, like a farmstay or historic settlement.

Is food included?
Most of your meals are included in the price of your tour. These vary between shared, family-style dinners at the end of the day, big lunches at scenic spots along the route, and opportunities to dine independently and discover local cafes and restaurants. Check the individual tour for exact meal details.

If you’re feeling newly-inspired to discover New Zealand by bike, you’ll find a full list of upcoming tours here. Whether you want to experience pristine alpine landscapes, brilliant blue lakes or rugged coastlines, we’re sure to have an adventure to suit.

Have a great week,
Steve

P.S. Got a question not covered here? Email us at team@naturalhigh.co.nz.


Cycle Touring On The Banks Peninsula: Gruelling Uphills Studded With Scenery

Cycle touring on the Banks PeninsulaStunning coastal views, quiet backroads, and plenty of big hills – Christchurch’s Banks Peninsula isn’t just a picturesque cycle destination, it’s a challenging one, too.

Our three day, self-guided Banks Peninsula tour offers an enticing introduction to this little-known region. With just under 5000 metres of climbing, this is not an adventure for the faint-hearted (we’ve given it a grade 4 difficult rating), but if you enjoy pushing your limits amidst spectacular scenery, read on!

The tour encompasses a mix of on and off-road riding, including twisting backroads, remote gravel tracks, and a disused rail trail. There are also opportunities to incorporate rugged single track.

Starting and finishing at the Natural High headquarters in Christchurch, the first day will see you careening through the Port Hills and along the Little River Rail Trail. Hugging the shoreline of the vast Te Waihora/ Lake Ellesmere, and it’s smaller twin Te Roto o Wairewa/Lake Forsyth, this trail offers relaxed, easy riding through one of the most diverse bird populations in the country. Keep your eyes peeled for shags, bitterns, black-backed gulls (karoro), shoverlers, pied stilts, wrybills and pukeko.

Day two takes you past charming bays with brilliant blue water, to the historic French and British settlement of Akaroa. Here you’ll find a thriving community of galleries, craft stores and cafes, and plenty of options for further outdoor adventure. Head to Flea Bay to admire the largest little penguin colony on mainland New Zealand, or step aboard a sea cruise to explore sheer cliffs and sea caves not visible from land.

You’ve got four big climbs to contend with on your final day. Luckily, the route is peppered with picturesque views, giving you plenty of excuses to pull over and catch your breath!

This is a self-guided tour, which means you can ride at any time. Although we recommend three days, it’s also possible to incorporate extra riding, or spend longer at certain spots along the way.

Rental of a Specialized Rockhopper Sport 29er mountain bike fitted with pannier rear rack, rear rack bag, cycle helmet, basic bike computer, and full repair gear is included. You can also upgrade to an Avanti ARC1, and/or Garmin Edge 810 GPS computer, pre-loaded with day-to-day route navigation and offering live route tracking.

Your tour also includes detailed trip notes and accommodation suggestions.

Check out the tour map on the website, and if you have any questions, send us an email.

Have a great week,
Steve

P.S. Want to investigate some more tough touring options? Check out our 6 Day Self-Guided Catlins Coast tour, from Dunedin to Invercargill via Bluff. Running through one of New Zealand’s most isolated regions, this tour demands high levels of fitness and touring experience.


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.