Cycle Touring NZ: Bring Your Own Bike or Buy/Hire Here?

cycle touring nz: bring your own bike or buy/hire here?Planning a cycle tour in New Zealand can be a daunting task – especially if you’ve never visited our beautiful shores before. To help make the process easier, we’d thought we’d answer some of your most common questions. First up: is it best to bring your own bike or buy/hire when you arrive?

If you’re only planning a short stay in New Zealand, hiring a bike when you arrive is likely to be the most convenient option. Many airlines charge additional fees for large items of baggage and there’s always a risk that your bike might get damaged, or lost, en route.

At Natural High we offer a wide selection of bike rentals, from high-end tourers to comfortable hybrids and super-tough mountain bikes. We choose our gear to specifically suit the New Zealand terrain so while we may not be able to provide the exact same bike you have at home, rest assured it’s going to get you around comfortably and safely.

All our bikes receive a full service before hitting the road and we’ll also take the time to ensure a proper bike fit before you head off on your adventures. You’ll be supplied with a lock, multi tool, tyre levers, spare tube and repair kit. If you’re joining us for a guided tour, bike hire is usually included in your package price.

If you’re cycle touring for two months or longer, our buy back scheme could be a good option. We’ll refund half the purchase price if the bike is returned in a reasonable condition. At certain times of the year we also have a selection of ex-rentals available to buy at competitive prices. Another good option for finding secondhand bikes is Trade Me (New Zealand’s version of eBay).

Plenty of people do bring their own bikes and gear. If that’s still your preferred option, make sure your bike is clean before you travel. New Zealand has strict biosecurity laws and muddy tyres will be frowned upon!

Both our Auckland Airport and Christchurch branches feature fully equipped bike workshops, meaning we can unpack, build and service your bike ready for your Kiwi adventures. We can also store your bike box or case for you while you explore, and disassemble and pack your bike for your return journey. We can even supply cardboard bike boxes and packaging if needed.

Got any more questions? Click here to email us.

Have a great week,
Andrew Hunt


Wild Riding on the West Coast Wilderness Trail

Wild Riding on the West Coast Wilderness Trail

west-coast2Dramatic scenery and an equally dramatic past – they don’t call it the wild West Coast for nothing! Discover this region’s enthralling history on the West Coast Wilderness Trail – a 140km graded trail through dense rainforests, glacial rivers, lakes and wetlands. This gem of a tour offers five days of cycling, sightseeing, cultural experiences, dining and relaxing through one of the South Island’s most memorable landscapes.

Day One
Christchurch to Ross
From Christchurch you’ll cross the Southern Alps via Arthurs Pass and begin your riding along the quiet backcountry trails of Lake Brunner. Your lodging for the night is the historic town of Ross, home to New Zealand’s largest gold nugget (known as The Honourable Roddy) and a community that describes itself as “wonderfully wacky!”

Day Two
Ross to Hokitika
Day two starts with a exhilarating walk – through the treetops! The Westcoast Treetops Walkway takes you 20 metres above the forest for a birds-eye perspective of the surrounding landscape. Back on the ground we cycle to Hokitika, enjoying dramatic views of the coastline and stopping for a visit with a local carver of Pounamu (greenstone). Hokitika will be your base for the next two nights. It’s a cool little town with a fascinating history, culture and arts scene and there’s plenty to see and do during your downtime.

Day Three
Lake Kaniere
Easy-going riding awaits on day three when we cycle around beautiful Lake Kaniere. The rural countryside is flat and our ride takes us through many small townships and farms. We’ll stop for photos at the impressive Dorothy Falls and then follow an old water race used in gold mining times before a last (optional) ride back to town.

Day Four
Lake Kaniere to Kumara
Day four will see us driving back to Lake Kaniere to continue our journey along the trail. We’ll stop for coffee at Milltown, once home to a thriving sawmill. After a brief spell of uphill riding it’s mainly downhill for the rest of the day, following water races, bush tracks and reservoir roads to our overnight stop – the beautifully restored Theatre Royal Hotel in Kumara. We’ll enjoy a celebratory dinner this evening while reflecting on our west coast adventure.

Day Five
Kumara to Greymouth
Your final day of riding will follow the Taramakau River and the coastal road to Greymouth, where a variety of cafes and restaurants offer lunchtime dining options. You can also choose to visit the famous Monteith’s Brewery for a tour and tasting! Then it’s all aboard the Tranzalpine Express for your ride back to Christchurch.

Take This Tour
The West Coast Wilderness Trail is available from October through to April. Head here for exact dates. Tour costs $1695 NZD per person, which includes:

Four nights of 2/3-star, twin share accommodation.
Four breakfasts, three lunches and three dinners.
Support vehicle to whisk you up the steep bits.
Luggage transfer for lightweight touring.
Knowledgeable, friendly tour guide.
TranzAlpine fare.
Entry to Treetops Walkway.
DOC fees.

Grade: 1. Easy

To book, simply send us an email.

Have a great week,
Andrew Hunt


Is it Time for a New Bike Helmet?

is it time for a new bike helmet?We cyclists love our gear. But while we can be keen as mustard to get our hands on the latest carbon wheelset, or some sweet low rolling resistance tires, we’re not so good at replacing the most essential piece of kit of all: our cycle helmet.

If it’s been more than 3 to 5 years since you treated your head to a new helmet, consider a trip to your local bike shop to get fitted for a new one. Most manufacturers recommend you replace a helmet after 3 to 5 years (and if you’ve been involved in an accident, you should replace it immediately).

The fit of your helmet plays a big part in its effectiveness. As a general rule the helmet should rest flat on the top of your head and sit level. Make sure the strap splitters rest just under each ear and the chin strap isn’t too loose.

It’s compulsory to wear helmets when riding in New Zealand. If you’re hiring a bike from us, we can hook you up with a brand new helmet for just $45, or we can hire you one. In both cases, we’ll make sure the helmet is fitting you correctly.

Have a great, safe week,
Andrew Hunt

Image: Kate Fisher


Biking Taranaki: Empty Beaches, Crashing Surf & Quiet Backroads

DSCF3572The lower west coast of the North Island isn’t an area we venture to often. Shame on us – Taranaki (or ‘the Naki’ as it’s affectionately referred to by locals) is a great place for a few days exploration. Here’s the inside scoop on where to bike when you get there.

The Forgotten World Cycle Trail
A great way to get to Taranaki, the Forgotten World Cycle Trail starts at Taumarunui and winds its way along gravel tracks, cycle trails and coastal scenery to the region’s main city, New Plymouth. It’s an 180km journey which takes between two to three days.

The New Plymouth Coastal Walkway
This 7km coastal promenade stretches almost the entire length of the city and can be walked or biked. From the east, you’ll pass the surf beaches at Fitzroy and East End. The central section of the walkway brings you alongside the region’s famous Wind Wand by late Kiwi artist Len Lye. From here you can detour into the central business district, home to heritage and information centre Puke Ariki and the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, or continue west to the marina, Ngamotu Beach and Paritutu Rock. A remnant of the region’s volcanic past, Paritutu can be climbed for unobstructed views of the Taranaki coastline, New Plymouth, and distant Mt Taranaki.

Lake Mangamahoe
10 minutes south of New Plymouth is pretty, picturesque Lake Mangamahoe. There’s a 6km track running around the lake, plus a mountain biking area.

Around the Mountain
The Taranaki Cycle Challenge takes place every year – it’s a 148km road race around Mount Taranaki and the Egmont National Park. If you want to recreate the route in your own time, you can see the circuit here:
http://www.cyclechallenge.co.nz/images/cyclechallenge/Map2014.png

The Egmont National Park also offers an extensive network of walking tracks, ranging from a 15-minute stroll along the Kamahi Track to the three-day Pouakai Circuit. There’s also a maze of tracks around the Dawson Falls area.

Surf Highway 45
The coastal road from New Plymouth to Hawera offers great surf breaks, empty beaches, artist studios, historical sites, spectacular scenery and cozy cafés. A few places worth stopping at along the way: the 7km Opunake Walkway which ends at Te Namu pa site, once a fortified Maori village; the Cape Egmont Lighthouse and the 10m high Normanby Dam.

Garden Tours
If gardens are your thing, time your visit to coincide with the Taranaki Fringe Garden Festival and the Powerco Taranaki Garden Spectacular, running from October 30, 2015 to November 8, 2015. During this time, private gardens around the region open for visits. Pick up a map and go explore – many can be accessed by bike! Admission fees vary for each garden.

Need bike or campervan hire for your Taranaki adventure? Email us and we’ll get you sorted.

Have a great week,
Andrew Hunt

Image: Mount Taranaki by Geoff Pownall.


The Power of Yoga for Cyclists

yoga for cyclistsA while back I introduced yoga to my fitness regime and I’m loving the results. I’m stronger than ever, less stiff and I’ve got more energy when I’m out cycling. I thought you might like to know a bit more about the benefits of combining yoga with cycling, so I asked my yoga instructors Margo and Hamish, to share some of their wisdom. Read on to find out more…

Power Yoga practice is an excellent addition to your cycling fitness regime. Cycling builds aerobic fitness and strengthens your legs, while Power Yoga restores your full mobility and strengthens your core to support your back. By re-aligning and strengthening every part of your body, Power Yoga alleviates the aches and niggles that can arise through long hours in the saddle, and keeps you free from injury so you can keep enjoying your sport of choice.

Long stints of riding your bike gets you aerobically fit and strong, but it also requires you to round your spine forward. This continual contraction can shorten the chest muscles and overstretch the back muscles.

We often hear cyclists say that they want a “stretch” for their sore back muscles, but what those muscles need is Power Yoga backbending. Backbends such as Camel, Bridge and Wheel contract and strengthen your back muscles, and stretch your chest muscles, giving the best form of relief.

Power Yoga forward folding, such as Straddle Leg, is also great for cyclists. Poses like this stretch the backs of the legs and the lower back, and use gravity to help release tension from the neck muscles which get sore when you’re looking forward on your bike while rounded down over your handlebars.

Downward Facing Dog is the quintessential Power Yoga pose, and one that no cyclist should miss out on. This pose stretches, strengthens and realigns the hands, arms, shoulders and back. It helps to avoid and alleviate a condition known as cyclists’ palsy. This affects the area at the base of the thumb into the index finger, triggering a reaction in the ulnar nerve, producing a lack of coordination or numbness in the fingertips and hand. Power Yoga poses such as Downward Facing Dog and Crow stretch out and strengthen this portion of the hand, guarding against the occurrence of this frustrating cyclists’ injury.

Many Power Yoga poses work to stretch out and remove tension from the ilio-tibial band (ITB) – a strip of muscle running from the outer edge of the hip down the outside of the thigh. The leg action in cycling strengthens but also tightens the ITB, but Power Yoga poses such as Pigeon, Double Pigeon, and Supine Twists give relief to muscle groups connected to the hips including the ITB.

Power Yoga as part of the cyclist’s weekly, if not daily regimen, can help maintain healthy, natural alignment of the skeletal and muscular components of your body. If you want to stay on the road and pain free, take the time to develop and maintain a Power Yoga practice. It will increase the quantity and enhance the quality of time that you spend on your bike in your lifetime.

Hamish Kenworthy and Margo Perpick are Directors and Lead Teachers of Apollo Power Yoga. If you’re Christchurch-based, come along to one of their classes.
Image: Hamish Kenworthy, courtesy of Apollo Power Yoga.


18 Ways to Take On the Contact Lake Taupo Challenge

Lake Taupo Cycle ChallengeIt’s New Zealand’s largest cycling event and best-known for its 160km one-lap circumnavigation of Lake Taupo. But if a 160km ride sounds like too much – or too little(!) – there are plenty of other ways to take part in the Contact Lake Taupo Challenge. Here are the entry categories for the 2015 event, which takes place on Saturday 28 November:

Not up for the full circuit of the lake? Enter the 80km Half the Lake category.

Want to ride with your mates or work colleagues? The Relay event is open to teams of two, three or four riders. If you want to cross the finish line altogether, choose the Accumulator Relay category.

Got a bicycle made for two? There’s a 160km Tandem category!

Want something easy-going? Or maybe you’ve never entered an event before and want to ease into the scene gently? The 16km Lakesider is for you.

Extreme athlete? Choose from a 320km double circuit of Lake Taupo or a 640km four lap circuit.

Mountain bikers have a number of categories to choose from. The MTB events take place on the Waikato River Course and the Craters MTB Park in Warakei Forrest. There’s an 85km event, a 60km event and a 35km event.

Pro riders have their own elite categories. (Entrants must hold a current National Racing Licence.)

And don’t leave the kids at home because they have their own event: the 5km Kids Heart Ride.

For full details of each of these categories and to register, head to the Contact Lake Taupo Challenge website.

Need a bike for the Challenge?

We’ve got two great deals available:

2-day Performance Road Bike Hire ($100), event insurance ($10), bike relocation to and from Taupo ($80) = $190 (normally $300).
2-day Specialized Sirrus Hire ($75), event insurance($10), bike relocation to and from Taupo( $80) = $165 (normally $275).

You’ll be able to pick up your bikes in Taupo on Friday from late morning/noon (we’ll make sure they’re fitting you right) and return on Saturday after the event. Drop us an email to reserve your bike today.

Have a great week,
Andrew Hunt


Take Summer Road Trips to a Whole New Level

Nothing says summer like a free-spirited road trip, and fewer places provide a better backdrop than beautiful New Zealand. If you have plans to take a Kiwi road trip in the upcoming 2015/16 season, it pays to plan ahead. And that’s especially true if you want to cruise around in something snazzy! Britz have just introduced a new range of limited-edition summer campervans to their lineup, designed to make the whole road trip experience a breeze. Take a look:

cruiser campervanThe Cruiser
This four-berth van is ideal for two couples or a family of four. The Cruiser features a fully-equipped kitchen, living room and bathroom, giving you plenty of space to relax after a big day of exploring.

discovery campervanThe Discovery
Also a four-berth, so great for a family of four or two couples. Comes with a fully-equipped kitchen, spacious living room and bathroom. Add in a bike rack and bike hire to explore even more of New Zealand.

action pod campervanThe Action Pod
A two-berth van for those who like to travel light. After a long day exploring, fold out the bed and snuggle in. In the morning, cook up a delicious breakfast in the pull-out cooking facilities.

These vans are available for travel between November 2015 and March 2016 (exact dates vary for each van). But you’ll need to get in quick, as numbers are limited. Head to the Britz website for more details.

Have a brilliant week,
Andrew Hunt


Wheels and Wine on Waiheke Island

self-guided cycle tour waihekeJust a short hop from Auckland by ferry, Waiheke Island is a sweet blend of rolling farmland, beautiful beaches and amazing wine tasting. Not surprising then, that our three-day, self-guided Waiheke Cycle Tour is a popular one. Here’s what it offers:

Day One: Natural High Depot to Waiheke
Pick up your bikes from our headquarters at Auckland Airport and then peddle your way via the Watercare Coastal Walkway and Ambury Regional Park, to the Onehunga train station to catch a train to Britomart. Once you’ve arrived on Waiheke, make your way to your accommodation. All our recommendations are close to Oneroa Village, where there is a good choice of cafes and restaurants and a grocery store. Spend the rest of the day exploring, wining and dining at a local restaurant or planning your following day’s activities.

Day Two: Explore Waiheke
Self-guided tours give you the freedom to spend your time as you please. Our tour notes come with a number of recommended cycle rides, ranging from a 50km slog to shorter, easier routes. Many rides take you past beaches and vineyards. Stop for a swim, a bite to eat or to sample the sauvignon!

A few places you might fancy biking to:

  • Stony Batter. This former, top-secret gun complex (named for the large boulders that litter the slopes) was built as part of a defensive shield against German and Japanese attack during the Second World War. Today you can explore the numerous underground tunnels, command posts and munitions rooms (hours of fun!), or take a guided tour of this fascinating piece of history. Stony Batter is located on the eastern side of the island, close to Man O’War Bay (a good picnic spot) and Man O’War Vineyards.
  • Dead Dog Bay Wetland Garden and Sculpture Park. 13 acres of gardens framing a collection of NZ contemporary artworks. Open daily, 10am-5pm. $10 entry per adult, children free.
  • Wild on Waiheke. The ultimate multi-activity experience – café, vineyard, brewery and activities including archery and clay bird shooting.
  • Ecozip Adventures. New Zealand’s premier native forest zipline tour. This is one you might not fancy riding to, as it’s located at the top of a very steep hill! Fortunately they offer pick-ups in Oneroa Village.

Day Three: Waiheke to Natural High
After breakfast and maybe a final swim, make your way back to Auckland via the ferry. Hopefully you’ll have filled your panniers with a few reminders of your trip (but not too full as you’ve still got to cycle back to our depot!)

What’s included on this tour:

  • Top quality bike hire, including pannier and storage options. All our bike rentals come with a lock, multi tool, tyre levers, spare tube and repair kit, and are fully serviced before hitting the road. Because it’s compulsory to wear a helmet in New Zealand we can also provide a helmet, but if you prefer a new one you can purchase one at the discounted rate of $45.
  • Route maps and itinerary suggestions to make exploring as easy as possible.
  • Accommodation suggestions. We provide a list of recommended motels, backpackers, B&B’s and campsites to allow you to book your own lodging.

Fancy a few days away on Waiheke Island? Email us to book.

Have a great week,
Andrew Hunt


Small Town New Zealand: Queenstown

queenstownWhether you’re visiting in the depths of winter or at the height of summer, buzzing Queenstown has plenty to entertain you. Here are our top picks…

Right in town
For a bird’s eye view of Lake Wakatipu hop on the Skyline Gondola. Riding the luge is the quickest way back down – there’s an easier track for children and a faster route for those with more confidence.

In winter, the ice-skating rink at the Queenstown Gardens is a fine place to while away a few hours, or check out what’s under the lake at the Underwater Observatory on the town pier.

Thrill seeking
Queenstown’s tag of “adventure capital of the world” isn’t just for show – there really are a myriad of ways to test your mettle in this little town. Pick from bungy jumping (numerous jump spots around town including the Kawarau Bridge Bungy and the 134-metre Nevis), jet boating, white-water rafting, river surfing, canyoning, paragliding and parachuting. In the winter months, the Remarkables and Coronet Peak ski fields offer great skiing and boarding.

Escape the hustle and bustle
If you feel the need for a few hours of peace and quiet, there are plenty of tranquil spots just a short distance away. Glenorchy, at the head of the lake, is a 40km scenic drive from Queenstown and the starting point for some glorious walks through the Rees and Dart River valleys.

Head a further 15km north-west and you’ll find Paradise – literally. It’s actually just a paddock but it’s still a picturesque spot and was used in The Lord of the Rings films.

The faithfully-restored gold-mining settlement of Arrowtown is also worth a visit. It’s especially beautiful in autumn.

Cycle rides
The Lakeside Trails run from Queenstown to Frankton or Kelvin Heights or Jacks Point. They offer easy riding and are completely off the road, making them a great option for families and beginners. Another relatively flat, easy ride is the Arrowtown to Queenstown Trail.

The Gibbston River Trail is an 8.7km loop that starts at Kawarau Bridge and then heads east along the Kawarau River. Along the way you’ll pass plenty of the region’s wineries, including Gibbston Valley Winery (home to an excellent restaurant). If you overdo it in the tasting shed, burn off the excess at Rabbit Ridge Bike Resort, also in the Gibbston region. It’s home to a 40km network of trails ranging from challenging downhills to kid-friendly routes.

Mountain biking
There are heaps of opportunities for mountain biking both in and around Queenstown. The Queenstown Mountain Bike Park is right in town and features heaps of flowing singletrack. It’s accessed by either the Skyline Gondola or an uphill ride (around 45 minutes). 6km out of town towards Glenorchy is 7-Mile Mountain Bike Reserve, which offers hours of challenging terrain.

Cross-country riding is also in abundance. Shorter trips include the Seven Mile Track and Moke Lake. Longer trails include the Moonlight Track, Skippers Canyon trails and the Macetown Track.

Refuel
For a fast feed head to Fergburger. What was once a tiny, hole-in-the-wall burger bar is now a world-famous joint on Shotover Street. The Cow is another long-standing Queenstown institution – great pizza, pasta and soups.

Apres-adventure
Queenstown in legendary for its nightlife and there are numerous bars and nightclubs to pick from. Located on the waterfront of Lake Wakatipu, Little Blackwood is a swish tapas bar and eatery – think roaring fires, beautiful wooden furniture and big mountain views. Or head to Rhino’s Ski Shack for hot buttered rum!

Lots of our guided cycle tours take in Queenstown. These include:

5 Day Guided MTB Tour Queenstown to Wanaka (MB021)
6 Day West Coast Queenstown to Christchurch Cycle (GR005)
6 Day Southern Lakes Christchurch to Queenstown Cycle (GR023)
7 Day Road Cycle Tour Queenstown to Christchurch (GR012)
9 Day Road Cycle Tour Christchurch to Queenstown (GR008)
10 Day Road Cycle Tour Christchurch to Queenstown T2 (GR010)
10 Day Road Cycle Tour Christchurch to Queenstown T3 (GR013)

Tour dates for summer 2015/16 are now available for most of these tours. Email us for details.

Have a great week,
Andrew Hunt

Image: Tom Hall


Now Booking: Once-In-A-Lifetime Guided Mountain Bike Tours of the Heaphy Track

guided heaphy tour Seeking a challenging, mountain bike adventure amidst epic scenery? Then come ride the Heaphy Track with us. This 80km, three-day route through the Kahurangi National Park in the northwest corner of the South Island is one of New Zealand’s finest multi-day mountain bike rides.

It’s no walk in the park – the riding is grade three to four, and suited to mountain bikers with at least intermediate experience. But if you’ve got a good level of fitness and you’re seeking a new challenge, this is a great way to push your riding to the max.

Plus, the scenery is jaw-dropping. This area of the West Coast is truly magical, consisting of dense beech forests, sub-tropical rainforests and white sandy beaches. You’ll get to experience this wilderness up close and personal during the ride and then from the air – this tour includes a return helicopter flight from Karamea to Nelson!

We’re currently taking bookings for guided tours between now and September 2015. So, grab a bunch of your riding pals and let’s book you in for an adrenaline-packed adventure! Email us to book your tour.

4-Day Heaphy Experience
Cost: $2090 per person.

Day 1: Nelson
Day 2: Nelson to Perry Saddle Hut. 17.5 kms (3-5 hours).
Day 3: Perry Saddle Hut to Heaphy Hut. 44.5 kms (6-8 hours).
Day 4: Heaphy Hut to Nelson. 16.2 kms (2-4 hours).

What’s Included:

  • Vehicle transport from Nelson to the start of the track, and return flight from Karamea to Nelson by helicopter. (In the rare case that it is not possible to fly, vehicle transport will be provided).
  • Professional and knowledgeable local guide/personal chef.
  • All necessary equipment carried by the guide; cooking equipment, utensils and food for the duration of your trip, bike spares and tools (if you are hiring one of our bikes), emergency communication equipment and comprehensive first aid kit.
  • Three breakfasts, three lunches, three dinners, and snacks along the way.
  • One night in Nelson and two nights in bunk-style DOC (Department of Conservation) huts.
  • DOC fees.

 

Extras:

  • Bike hire: $350. We have the Avanti Torrent available for hire for this trip. This is a 140mm travel full-suspension mountain bike, available in S, M, L and fitted with freeload racks to carry your gear. If required we can also supply a 20L dry bag and helmet. Your guide will carry all repair gear specific for these bikes.
  • If you would like to bring your own bike, you can hire a freeload rack for $45. If you choose to bring your own bike, you’ll need to bring your own spares and be capable of keeping it running throughout your journey.
  • Single supplement (additional $100)

 

Please note: group size for this tour is limited to six riders to ensure a safe and personal experience, and riders are required to carry their own personal clothing and wet weather gear along the route. We’ll supply a concise gear list upon booking.

Ready to accept the challenge? Send us an email.

Have a great week,
Andrew Hunt

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