Fancy Your Very Own Personal Tour Guide?

andyThis week I’m out on the Alps 2 Ocean trail with a group of long-term clients. This is their fourth trip with Natural High and to celebrate they’ve let me design them their very own custom tour.

So I’ve put together an exciting itinerary which blends all the standard goodness of the Alps 2 Ocean trail – stunning scenery, big skies and wide open spaces – with plenty of unexpected twists and turns!

Naturally the signature Natural High touring experience applies too: top-quality bikes, tasty snacks all ready and waiting at refuelling breaks, support vehicle always on hand, top-notch accommodation and plenty of fun and laughter.

I absolutely love showing visitors around New Zealand. When I’m planning a custom tour I obsess over the details: what insider secrets can I include? What cafes have the most delicious coffee and muffins? Where are the best hotpools? (Got to have hotpools on a cycle tour.)

I’ve been leading tours around the North and South Islands for years now, and I love it as much today as I did when first starting out. It’s a pretty special feeling knowing I’ve helped give people holidays they’ll remember forever.

I’m thinking of running an Andy special in March – possibly the Rainbow Range…or even harder! This will be a challenging tour for experienced, fit riders who want tough terrain and everything taken care of. Expect a few surprises thrown in along the way too! Email me if you’d be interested in learning more. And if you want me to custom-build a tour just for you – get in touch. I’d be happy to help.

Have a great week,
Andrew Hunt

New! One-Day Cycle Tours Around Christchurch

one-day-tours You can pack a lot into a day! Our new range of day tours around Christchurch are overflowing with everything that makes this region great: stunning scenery, quiet country roads and delicious food and drink. Which one will you choose?

Uncork the pleasures of the Waipara Valley, a region well-known for its award-winning aromatic wines and spectacular views of the Southern Alps. This 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.

Tour includes:
Hybrid bike and helmet, hotel pick up and transport to and from Waipara. Morning coffee, wine tastings at any of four cellar doors (which could include Pegasus Bay, Torlesse, Waipara Springs, Greystone and Black Estate), and a delicious lunch platter. 10am pick up from your central Christchurch accommodation, drop off by 5.30pm.
Tour excludes:
Wine purchases, alcoholic drinks with lunch, optional coffee at your final cellar door.
Pricing details:
$275 per adult for 1-2 adults.
$240 per adult for groups of 3 or more.
Duration: 6-7 hours.

Escape the city and discover the delights of the Banks Peninsula. The Little River Rail Trail follows the route of a 19th century railway and offers stunning views of lake Te Waihora and its resident birdlife. The trail ends in the rustic country village of Little River, where an award-winning local café provides well-earned refreshments. Quiet roads, gentle gradients and beautiful scenery make the Little River Rail Trail a fantastic outing for cyclists with little to no riding experience and families.

Tour includes:
Hybrid bike and helmet, hotel pick up and transport to and from the trail. Water bottle and riding snacks. 9am pick up from your central Christchurch accommodation, 3pm drop off.
Pricing details:
$260 for 1 adult.
$180 per adult for groups of more than 2 adults. $150 per child.
Duration: 6 hours. Motukarara to Little River is a distance of 22km. Fast riders can ride both ways.

Lots of different options await riders in the scenic Port Hills, from road rides through seaside suburbs and along quiet country roads to fun and challenging mountain bike terrain. The Port Hills boast stunning views across the Canterbury Plains to the Southern Alps in the west and the blue bays of the Banks Peninsula in the east. Let us know your riding ability and preferences and we’ll tailor a day just for you.

Tour includes:
Performance bike and helmet, hotel pick up and transport to and from the trail. Water bottle and riding snacks. 9am pick up from your central Christchurch accommodation, 3pm drop off.
Pricing details:
Road bike tour: $260 for 1 adult, $180 per adult for groups of more than 2 adults.
Mountain bike tour: $280 for 1 adult, $190 per adult for groups of more than 2 adults.
Duration: 6 hours.

To book these tours, simply send us an email.

Have a great week,
Andrew Hunt

Cycle Touring NZ: When To Go

cycle touring nz: when to goIt’s the million-dollar question – when’s the best time of year to cycle tour around New Zealand (and not get hit by gale-force winds and bucketing-down rain?) Because blue skies and warm (but not too warm) sunshine every day would be pretty nice, right?

Since none of us at Natural High possess a crystal ball, here’s the next best thing: a general overview of the types of weather to expect each season.

Summer (officially December-February)
Our most popular season for overseas visitors. Average summer temperatures are around 25˚C in the North Island and 22˚C in the South Island. February and March generally offer the most settled weather of the year – mornings and evenings are cooler but the days are beautifully clear and sunny.

Peak holiday season for New Zealanders is during the summer school holidays, from late December to the end of January. During this period roads can be busy and many popular holiday spots (Coromandel, Raglan, Mount Maunganui, Northland) book out completely. Easter weekend and Labour Day weekend (late October) can also be fairly busy holiday periods.

Autumn (March-May)
Can still be warm, sunny and settled and it’s possible to swim in some areas until May.

Winter (June-August)
Tend to be the wettest months of the year. Gets chilly all over the country (especially the further south you go) with snow on high ground and alpine highways. On the upside, accommodation is often cheaper during this time of year and popular tourist spots will be quiet. Be aware that some accommodation providers close completely during the off-season – if you’re touring during these months, ring ahead to make sure you have a bed for the night!

Spring (September-November)
Can be cold and frosty, or warm and hot! Often the windiest season.

Top tip: be prepared for all weather no matter when you decide to visit. Good quality, reliable waterproof gear is a must. In the summer months, the sun can be fierce, so cover up with a hat, sunglasses, loose clothing and high factor sun cream.

Got any more questions? Click here to email us.

Have a great week,
Andrew Hunt

P.S. We’re introducing some exciting new day tours next week. Keep your eyes peeled for details!

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:

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