Your Guide to Cycling Middle-Earth

the hobbit locationsIf you’re a Tolkien fan, a trip to New Zealand wouldn’t be complete without seeing some of the extraordinary landscapes used in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies. If you’re also an avid cyclist you snag an extra bonus… because many of these locations are best enjoyed from the saddle of your bike. Here’s where to head:

Hobbiton, Matamata
The gently rolling hills of The Shire were – as in Lord of the Rings– filmed at Hobbiton, near Matamata. The set remains open for visitors and a two-hour guided tour lets you peek at the Hobbit Holes and enjoy a drink at the Green Dragon™ Inn.
Cycle options: Campers can park up at the Opal Hot Springs and Holiday Park in Matamata. From there, it’s a 21km cycle ride along rolling country roads to Hobbiton.

Turoa, Ruapehu
The rocky slopes and grassy tussock of Turoa was the setting for Hidden Bay, the entrance to the Lonely Mountain in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.
Cycle options: Ohakune Mountain Road. A 16.5km downhill ride from the top of Mountain Road (and the Turoa skifield). You can choose to stop off on the way down to take in the spectacular Mangawhero Falls, walk the Waitonga Falls track or just admire the (lonely) mountain views.

Twizel
The alpine scenery around Twizel was used in both The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. The Battle of the Pelennor Fields was filmed in a remote Twizel field.
Cycle options: The second section of the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail runs between Braemar Road and Twizel. It’s a 42km, Grade 2 ride that follows the eastern shore of Lake Pukaki and offers spectacular views towards the Southern Alps. Park up in Twizel and ride the section as a roundtrip.

Lake Pukaki, Mount Cook
The vibrant blue waters of Lake Pukaki was used as the location for Laketown in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.
Cycle options: Ride the Tekapo Canal Road from Lake Tekapo to Lake Pukaki (or vice-versa). It’s 31km of easy riding along a well-prepared track. On a clear day the views of Aoraki/Mount Cook are spectacular.

Queenstown
When Bilbo and The Company depart Rivendell in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, they’re making their way through Earnslaw Burn, a stunning valley of waterfalls close to Queenstown.
No cycle options for this one but you can walk the Earnslaw Burn Track: it takes 4-6 hours one way and can be tackled as a daytrip or an overnighter. You’ll find the start of the track on the left bank of the Earnslaw Burn on the Glenorchy to Paradise Road, 20 minutes from Glenorchy. Be aware that the track can be tricky to find in places and the river crossing to get to the bivvy spot is dangerous in heavy rain. This track is not recommended for young children. Shorter, more accessible day walks can be found here.

Fiordland National Park
Both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings filmed in the Fiordland National Park. Remember the scene where The Company flees the mountains on the backs of eagles in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey? That was shot against the backdrop of this stunning National Park.
Cycle options: Bikes aren’t allowed on any of the tracks within the National Park, however several road routes provide scenic biking opportunities. These include Borland Road, off the Southern Scenic Route between Clifden and Manapouri, and the Te Anau to Milford Sound road (120km).


6 Days. 800km. 10,377m of Climbing.

fireflies antipodes Every year, a group of advertising professionals cycle 1,000km+ across the French Alps to raise money for leukaemia and cancers of the blood research.

The FireFlies Tour was established in 2001 and since then amateur cyclists from the ranks of the advertising and film world have taken up the challenge, raising – to date – a whopping £1.5 million.

This year, the FireFlies are coming to New Zealand and next week Andy and the Natural High team are leading the group’s very first Down Under tour. They’ll be tackling a 6-day route from Christchurch to Queenstown via Arthur’s Pass and the Franz Josef Glacier – a journey that includes plenty of tough, hill climbs.

If you want to follow along with their progress – and get a first-hand idea of what cycle touring is all about – keep an eye on their website feed.

This tour is raising funds for the Snowdome Foundation, an organisation dedicated to finding new treatments for Australian blood cancer patients. If you fancy helping them reach their target of $22,000, sponsorship details can be found on their Just Giving page.

Like Natural High to lead a tour for you?
We’ve created and led tours for couples, families, fundraisers and groups. One of our most memorable custom tours was guiding 30 Irish rugby fans around the South Island during the 2011 Rugby World Cup! Drop us a line if you’d like to talk more about custom tours – we’d be delighted to help.


You’d Be Mad to Miss Marlborough

cycling in marlboroughWhen it comes to fine wine, stunning scenery and fresh-off-the-boat seafood, Marlborough is in a class of its own. Here are eight reasons why you’ll want to linger:

1) Lots and lots of sunshine
The sun loves to shine on Marlborough and the region is regularly in the running for the title of sunniest spot in New Zealand. Long, hot summers are the norm – just don’t forget to pack a hat!

2) Wine aplenty
Marlborough is New Zealand’s largest wine growing region, with around 65 wineries and 290 grape growers. Sauvignon blanc, pinot noir, chardonnay, riesling and pinot gris flourish in the sunny, dry climate. Most vineyards are clustered around Blenheim – download a free guide from Wine Marlborough and map out your own sampling route. Some can be reached on foot but having two wheels means you’ll be able to cover more ground – and more varieties! The bigger vineyards, like Wither Hills and Brancott Estate Heritage Centre, also offer wine tours and dining.

3) Sparkling waterways
The sheltered coastline of the Marlborough Sounds – dotted with picturesque coves and beautiful beaches – is perfect for sea kayaking. Pack a picnic and head off on a one-day adventure…or take a tent and stay overnight at a secluded DOC campsite. If you prefer a less-strenuous way of cruising the water, hop aboard the mail run. The Beachcomber mail boat departs from Picton Monday-Saturday and is a great way to discover the bays of Queen Charlotte Sound…and spy on the locals.

4) Fresh seafood
Seafood is on every menu in Marlborough. Green-lipped mussels, paua, snapper and blue cod are all regional favourites. Local produce and fare can be found at the Marlborough Farmers’ Market every Sunday, 9am-noon at the A&P Showgrounds in Blenheim. Another highly-popular food event is the annual Marlborough Food and Wine Festival. It takes place every February at Brancott Estate.

5) Intriguing exhibitions
Visit the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre, where the story of aviation during World War One is brought vividly to life. The exhibition includes Sir Peter Jackson’s own collection of WWI aircraft and artifacts.

6) Challenging singletrack
It’s not all smooth road riding – the region offers plenty of tougher terrain, too. The Queen Charlotte track is open to mountain bikers (although the section between Ship Cove and Camp Bay is closed for riding from the beginning of December to the end of February every year). Several good tracks can be found in the hills above Blenheim: the Taylor River Trail is an easy ride that runs from Burlegh Bridge to the Taylor Dam Reserve and connects with the Wither Hills Farm Park. Visit the Marlborough Council website to download maps.

7) Long (and short) walks
One of New Zealand’s best known walks, the Queen Charlotte Track, can be found in the Sounds. The trail winds its way through 71 kilometres of farmland, forest and coastal scenery and takes four days to complete. There’s a wide range of accommodation on offer along the way, from basic campsites to luxury lodges. If day walks are more to your liking, check out the Wither Hills above Blenheim and the forest tracks in the Essen Valley around Picton. DOC has a good list of walking tracks on their website.

8) Marine wildlife
To discover the secrets of the sea head to the small town of Kaikoura. It’s the best place in New Zealand to see an astonishing range of marine wildlife, including sperm whales, Hector’s dolphin, orca, pilot whales and blue penguins.

Want to discover Marlborough on a guided cycle tour? Check out our five-day North Canterbury and Marlborough tour, which features spectacular southern scenery, spa soaks and sublime sauvignon blanc.

Image: Phillip Capper


A Quick-Fire Guide to Cycling (and Kiwi) Lingo

cycle lingoWant to sound like a cycling pro, as opposed to a Fred and Doris? (See below!) Then it’s time to brush up on your cycle slang. Here are a few terms to get you started…

 

Granny gear
Your lowest gear. If granny were riding, this is what she’d be using!

Crank
To pedal like crazy.

Fred and Doris
Newbie cyclists. Brush up on your lingo and you won’t get called this!

Brain bucket
A cycle helmet – your most important piece of gear. It’s a legal requirement to wear a helmet when cycling in New Zealand.

Bonk
Runners hit the wall…cyclists bonk! Complete and utter exhaustion, usually caused by inadequate food and hydration.

Mountain biking terms:

Biff
To crash or take a hard tumble while riding the trail.

Bomb
To ride hard, with little regard for your personal safety.

Chainsuck
When your chain gets snarled between either the chainrings or the crank and the frame.

Pogo
A full suspension bike with plenty of bounce.

Snake bite
A double puncture on a inner tube.

And since a visit to New Zealand might be on the cards, we’d better bring you up to speed with a few choice Kiwi phrases, too:

Jandals
Flipflops or thongs.

Hot chips
French fries

Chips
Crisps

Dairy
Corner shop or store.

Wop-Wops
Middle of nowhere

Bach (pronounced batch)
Holiday home

Long drop
Pit toilet/outhouse. Commonly found when out tramping (walking), and on DoC sites.

Munted
Broken/not working

Togs
Swimwear

Stoked
To be very pleased or excited.

Got a favourite biking phrase? Let us know on Facebook.


Life’s a Beach

new zealand's best beachesYou’re never far from the beach in New Zealand. Here’s our pick of the best:

 

Ninety Mile Beach, Northland
This huge sweep of beach (which is actually 90km long) is also a highway. Bus tours travel from Kaitaia to Cape Reinga or vice versa, depending on the tides. You can make the trip in your own car but it’s really only suitable for 4WD vehicles (hire companies prohibit driving on the beach). The big sand dunes flanking the beach are popular for bodyboarding.

Piha, Auckland
Driving out west to Piha feels like you’re entering another world – it’s hard to believe you’re only 40 minutes from the city. This is a wild, rugged coastline and the beach – with its iron-sand and distinctive Lion Rock – lends itself to long, windswept walks. The town fills up fast during summer months but be aware that swimming here can be dangerous due to strong undercurrents.

New Chums Beach, Coromandel Peninsula
There’s no vehicle access to this beach and reaching it requires a 30-minute hike through native bush – but boy is it worth it. White sand fringed by large pohutukawa trees and crystal-clear waters. Your own private paradise!

Raglan, Waikato
Raglan is famous for it’s world class surf and laidback lifestyle. Ngarunui Beach is a good spot for walking, sunbathing, swimming (lifeguards in summer) and learning to surf, while the points at Manu Bay and Whale Bay offer long, lefthand waves for experienced riders. There’s no beach at either Manu Bay or Whale Bay, but you can sit on the rocks and watch the action.

Ocean Beach, Kawhia
Kawhia is a sleepy little backwater on Kawhia Harbour. The beach is windswept and wild but come two hours before and after low tide and you can dig your own hot spring in the sand. Just like Hot Water Beach on the Coromandel but without the crowds!

Wainui Beach, Gisborne
The perfect spot for lazy beach lounging. Catch a wave, top up your tan or stroll the shoreline.

Ocean Beach, Mount Maunganui
A beach right in the thick of the action, the Mount is a popular summer hangout for families and young people. Cafes and shops are just a short stroll from the water, and it’s a good spot for swimming, surfing and bodyboarding.

Kaiteriteri Beach, Nelson
Golden sands and clear blue water make this one of the most popular beaches in the South Island. Head behind the camping ground to find Withells Walk, a 45-minute excursion into native bush, with great views of the bay.

Gillespies Beach, West Coast, South Island
A pebbled beach with dramatic views of the Fox Glacier, Gillespies is one of those out-of-the-way spots that few people stumble across. Access is via a gravel road but there’s a free, DOC campsite and an old mining settlement to explore when you get there.

Curio Bay/Porpoise Bay, Catlins
Remote and rugged – your fellow beach goers will likely be the wildlife. In the summer, Hector’s dolphins frolic in the surf, while yellow-eyed penguins nest around Curio Bay and fur seals and sea lions regularly wander the shoreline.


Fun Family Cycle Rides in New Zealand

family cycle rides in New Zealand Summer’s here, so round up the family, pack a picnic and head out for a day of riding. Here’s a selection of fun family cycle rides in New Zealand…

 

Central region: Tongariro River Trail
A popular tourist trail from Turangi that heads south along the banks of the Tongariro River to Red Hut Bridge, where bikers can cross over and return on the opposite side. Easy riding with plenty of picnic spots along the way. 15km loop.

Also in the area: Craters of the Moon. What kid doesn’t like mud? This park just north of Taupo is an active geothermal field – meaning bubbling mud pools and steaming vents are all part of the attraction.

Wellington region: Waikanae River and Estuary Track, Kapiti Coast
Less than an hour’s drive north from the city and a lovely area to escape the hustle and bustle. This trail offers 13.5km easy riding along the Waikanae River – it’s a great place to introduce the kids to trail riding.

Also in the area: Nga Manu Nature Reserve, home to bird feed-outs, eel feeding, bush walks and kiwi birds.

South Island

Shipwreck Ride, West Coast Rail Trail, Greymouth
A ride back in time to New Zealand’s gold rush past. This section of the trail runs from Greymouth to Shipwreck Point and then on to Stone Pub (a great lunch option and worth a peek inside to see the vast collection of rugby club ties). Fun things to do along the way include biking the Shipwreck Point Causeway and searching for gold and jade along the beaches.

Also in the area: From Stone Pub you can cycle a little further to Shantytown, a heritage village with gold panning claims and a steam train.

Arrowtown to Queenstown Trail
25km of smooth gravel riding through the Wakatipu Basin. There are a few hills, but this is mainly easy riding. Add an extra 8km to your journey with the addition of the Lake Hayes Circuit – well-known for its calm waters and stunning reflections of The Remarkables mountain range. The trail takes you over the famous Shotover Bridge on your entry into Queenstown.

Also in the area: Skyline Luge is likely to be top of your family’s to-do list!

Looking for bike hire? We make it easy. Head here to see our range of road, mountain, touring, hybrid and kid’s bikes.


9 Things To Do On Your Bike In 2015

9 things to do on your bike in 2015 Looking to shake up your 2015 cycling life? Here are 9 ways to go about it…

 

1) Watch a pro cycle event
Whether it’s an indoor track event or a road race, watching the pros at work is a thrill. Television viewing doesn’t do their speed justice – in real life they’re flying!

2) Ride your bike to work
You’ve probably got a whole ream of excuses for why you don’t ride to work: it’s too dangerous, too far, you’ll arrive all hot and sweaty etc. But try it once and see how you go. You might just be surprised by how much more enjoyable your daily commute becomes. Plus, it’ll save you money and get you fitter.

3) Get involved with a cycle club
Cycle clubs come in many different forms, from weekly road riding crews to hardcore off-road shredders! Joining a club means you’ll instantly gain a whole new crew of riding buddies who share the exact same passion as you. Often you’ll have to give time back to the club, like helping to build tracks or organising events – but hey, that sounds pretty fun, too.

4) Ride a hundred miles in a day
There’s something deeply satisfying about getting a century under your belt – and your friends and family will be mega impressed. You’re going to have to put in some work to reach this milestone though, so keep pushing out your regular rides, ramping up the distance bit by bit.

5) Go cycle touring
Get up close and personal with the sights, smells and sounds of a new region (or country). If you’ve never cycle toured before, a guided tour is the best way to get started. These take care of everything – route, accommodation, meals and luggage transfer – and if the riding gets too much, you can always hop aboard the support vehicle.

6) Enter a race or event
There are so many great cycle events taking place these days that you might find it hard to pick just one! We’ve talked about 2015 Kiwi events in past editions of the newsletter (click here for easier, lighthearted affairs and here for more hardcore challenges).

7) Ride with all the family
Pack up a picnic and head out for a day exploring. Whether you choose a leisurely cycle trail or a selection of quiet back roads, it’s a great way to get the kids interested in your sport.

8) Combine cycling with sipping
While we’re not not advocating heavy drinking and riding, a two-wheeled vineyard or craft brewery tour makes a lot of sense. Great places in New Zealand for sampling and cycling include Martinborough, Waiheke Island and the Nelson region.

9) Hit up a park
If you’re a dedicated road rider, switch it up a little. A few hours riding a park or an off-road trail could convert you to the rough and tumble. Similarly MTB fans might get some benefit from taking to the road once in a while.


How to Make a Cyclist Happy This Christmas

If you still haven’t got round to your Christmas list, don’t panic: we’ve rounded up a few, fun gift ideas for the avid cyclist in your life….
xmas gifts for cyclists
Pizza Tool
Who doesn’t love pizza after a long day in the saddle? The PZT-2 Pizza Tool is an update of one of Parktool’s all-time greats, except now it’s bigger (for better hand position), better (super sharp, large diameter stainless steel cutting wheel cuts through even the toughest terrain), and stronger!

 

xmas gift guide
Camelbak Podium Drink Bottle
BPA free and made to fit all types of bike bottle cages. The self-sealing Jet Valve™ means spills and splatters are a thing of the past. Plus, each purchase supports Trail Fund NZ, a not-for-profit project helping develop and maintain mountain bike trails across New Zealand.

 

xmas gift guide
Pedallers’ Paradise
The cycle tourist’s bible to biking in New Zealand, available in North or South Island versions. Each guide includes route descriptions, highway profiles, gradient descriptions, details of local attractions and services and sketch maps. 2013/4 updated editions now available through the Natural High shop. Start planning your NZ cycling adventure!

 

cycle gift guide
Oopsmark Leather Wine Rack
A vegetable-tanned, leather bicycle wine rack, for the vintage-loving cyclist.

 

 

gift guide cycle lovers
Retrofitz Cycling Shoes
Turns a favourite pair of sneakers into a grippy, cycle shoe. The Retrofitz DIY Conversion Kit comes with a 4-hole plate for a variety of cleat placement.


The Following Events Are Not For the Faint-Hearted

mtb parks in aucklandLooking to challenge yourself in 2015? Then put the following events in your calendar…

1) The Kiwi Brevet
A self-supported 1100km or 700km cycle event around the top of the South Island.
When: 31 January – 8 February 2015.

Never heard of a brevet before? Riders follow a course through a series of pre-determined checkpoints. You can ride individually or in groups, and must be self-sufficient in terms of food and accommodation.

The 2014 Brevet traversed anti-clockwise from Blenheim – route details for 2015 will be announced shortly. You can read about the 2014 Brevet – and register for the 2015 event – here. (Entry numbers are limited and filling fast, so get in quick if you’re keen.)

2) The Rainbow Rage
21 March 2015 marks the 20th anniversary of this Kiwi classic. The 106km route takes in the wild and mountainous terrain between St Arnauld and Hanmer Springs – expect big climbs, dramatic downhills and ford crossings.

Entry fee: $99 before 15 March. Includes free entry to the Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools & Spa + meal ticket.
Late entry: $130 (no soak or meal tickets).
Enter here.

Find YouTube footage of the 2013 race here.

3) The Tour Of New Zealand
8 days of road riding through either the North or South Island, averaging around 100km per day. On the last day, everyone meets in Wellington for a head-to-head criterium in the grounds of Parliament. You can enter individually, ride in a team of three or more, or join for day stages.

When: 11-18 April 2015.
For full details, head here.

We can hook you up with bike hire for all these events! Check out our range of rentals here.


Temptation Abounds on the Great Taste Trail, Nelson

great taste trail NelsonWhen is a cycle tour also an exercise in eating and drinking? When you’re sipping and savouring your way around the Great Taste Trail Nelson…

Meandering through the picturesque Nelson and Tasman region, the Great Taste Trail serves up relaxed riding, stunning coastal views and a seemingly limitless supply of cafes, breweries and vineyards.

This northern tip of the South Island enjoys more sunshine than any other part of New Zealand, meaning hop gardens, orchards and berry farms flourish. You’ll find plenty of roadside fruit and veg stalls dotted along your route – leave room in your backpack or panniers to take home a few treats.

Mainly flat riding makes this trail a great option for families or newbie cyclists (although not so great for working off the excess calories!) Ride the whole 174km loop… or break it into bite-sized chunks. Here are a few options:

From Nelson:
Ride round the Waimea Estuary to Rabbit Island, a popular beach and picnic spot. From there, you can catch a ferry to Mapua (check ferry times here) and explore the shops and galleries at Mapua Wharf.

From Motueka
Head out along quiet back roads to Riwawa, where refuelling options include the Ginger Dynamite café and Hop Federation brewery. If you’ve overdone the eating part, opt to push on to the pretty beach at Kaiteriteri. This route will take you through the Kaiteriteri Mountain Bike Park – there’s a hill involved – but the coastal views and golden sands at the end are more than worth it.

Or, head south from Motueka to the little town of Tasman. There are several vineyards just off the trail – check winenelson.co.nz for an interactive map. Push on a little further along the Ruby Coast and you’ll find the 2013 New Zealand Café of the Year. Jester House is home to fabulous baking, a rambling, organic garden and tame eels!

Sample it all
Alternatively, strap on your panniers and complete the whole circuit. The trail is 174km in total – at a relaxing pace you should be able to complete it in three or four days. Accommodation is as plentiful as the food options – you’ll find a good selection on the trail website.

Image: Brad Fults