Time to Start Planning Your Summer Cycle Tour of New Zealand?

Time to Start Planning Your Summer Cycle Tour of New Zealand?The long, light-filled days of summer are coming! If you’re dreaming about a New Zealand odyssey (and maybe escaping a northern hemisphere winter), now’s the perfect time to start planning.

Whether you fancy an all-inclusive guided tour, a go-at-your-own-pace self-guided tour, or a combined campervan and cycle road trip, we’re sure to have an adventure to suit.

Want an in-depth New Zealand cycle experience? Then take a look at our 15 Day Christchurch to Christchurch Guided Road Tour. You’ll get up close and personal with some of the South Island’s most memorable scenery, spend a night on a working sheep farm, and immerse yourself in the thrills of Queenstown.

Prefer to roam free? Our 6 Day Self Guided Road Tour from Christchurch to Queenstown takes you through the heart of the South Island via the vast Canterbury Plains and the Lindis Pass.

Looking to cover more ground? Then hire a campervan and clock up the kilometres in comfort. Add in bike hire and you’ll get to experience New Zealand’s many off-road delights, as well.

This summer, we’re also offering e-bike hire on selected guided cycle tours. If you’ve always thought you aren’t fit enough to attempt a multi-day cycle tour, riding an electric bike could be just the confidence-boost you need.

Our e-bike models (the Avanti Montari E and the Avanti Discovery Low E) handle just like a regular bike, but give you extra power to fly up hills, combat headwinds, and cover longer distances.

If you think you’d like to include e-bike hire as part of a guided cycle tour, get in touch today. Some tours aren’t suitable for e-bikes and availability is limited. Send us an email with your requirements.

And if you have a question about any of our tours, campervans, or cycle hire options, don’t hesitate to get in touch. We’re here to make planning your summer cycle tour of New Zealand as easy and stress-free as possible.

Have a great week,
Steve

P.S. Cecileah is heading to Geraldine this weekend for Spring Challenge! She’ll tell you all about it in the next newsletter.


Three Places to Spy The Famously Cheeky New Zealand Kea

Three Places to Spy The Famously Cheeky New Zealand KeaExplorer Charlie Douglas wrote of New Zealand kea, “For curiosity and impudence the kea takes the record among all the feathered creation…”

These smart, playful and frequently fiendish alpine parrots are a popular sighting amongst the mountains of the South Island…despite their destructive tendencies.

Kea often supplement their traditional diet of bugs and berries with windscreen rubber, loose clothing and brightly-coloured objects. When it comes to food, kea are fiercely determined, and stealing from bags and vehicles is well within their capabilities.

Unfortunately, kea aren’t popular with everyone. Kea attacks on sheep led to the initiation of a legal government bounty in the late 1860s, and up until the early 1970s around 150,000 kea were killed. Today, kea are a protected species and while exact numbers are unknown, estimates suggest that fewer than 5,000 exist across an area of 3.5 million hectares.

Kea only live in the South Island, most commonly in and around alpine areas. They are frequently sighted at the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers, and in Arthur’s Pass National Park. When kea are around, keep a close eye on your belongings, and don’t be tempted to feed them.

Our upcoming 15 Day Southern Alps Road Tour offers numerous opportunities to watch kea in action, with stops in Arthur’s Pass National Park, and the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers. Other highlights include cycling the scenic west coast road, a night on a working merino sheep station, and a day in vibrant Queenstown. This tour gets underway on 13 December in Christchurch. Read more here, or get in touch to reserve your place.

Have a good week,
Steve

P.S. While you’re searching for kea, you might also want to keep an eye out for the South Island Kōkako. This ancient bird was listed as extinct until 2013, when credible sightings prompted it to be reclassified. A $10,000 reward is on offer for anyone who can confirm the bird is still alive. Find out more here.

Image: Andrea Schaffer


Stepping Up the Spring Challenge Training in Hanmer Springs

Stepping Up the Spring Challenge Training in Hanmer SpringsHi all, Cecileah here. I spent last weekend in scenic Hanmer Springs (right), training for the fast-upcoming Spring Challenge (29 September – 1 October in Geraldine).

Hanmer is a brilliant destination for a spot of outdoor adventure. It’s only a 90 minute drive from Christchurch, has lots of great riding options, and offers a good variety of accommodation, cafés and restaurants. We stayed at the fantastic Village Lake Apartments, which are conveniently located right next to town.

My Spring Challenge team were one of four groups (two from Christchurch and two from Nelson), who joined Coach Ray from Qwik Kiwi for two days of mountain biking and navigation skills training. Spring Challenge is a multisport event that involves mountain biking, hiking and rafting, as well as mapping and navigation skills. You have to be physically fit, but you also have to be able to read a map.

On Saturday morning, we started off on the easy tracks around the Hanmer Forest Range. The mountain bike section of the Challenge isn’t technically demanding, but the more confident you feel in the saddle, the more enjoyable you’ll find the experience. One useful skill we practiced was emergency braking. There are record numbers attending this year’s Challenge, and the riding is likely to be congested. Later, we moved onto some of the intermediate tracks, like Swoop and Swamp.

We also spent time with the compass, working to find bearings between checkpoints. We made mistakes but were able to learn from them, and we all felt that our navigation skills improved over the course of the day.

On Sunday, we put everything we’d learned into practice and took part in a mini-event, which saw us mountain biking and hiking to collect a number of checkpoints. All in all, the weekend provided a great opportunity to hone our skills and work as a team – and we had a lot of fun as well.

Although the South Island Spring Challenge is sold out (spaces always fill up quickly), you can still take part in the North Island version of the event, on 13-15 October 2017 in Auckland.

Or, take a look at New Zealand’s largest cycle race, the Lake Taupo Challenge, which this year takes place on Saturday 25 November. If you’re coming from overseas for a cycle or adventure event, we have top-quality mountain, road and performance bikes available to hire. Browse your options here, or drop us an email.

Have a good week,
Cecileah

P.S. We also offer mountain bike skills training on local hills in either the South Island or North Island. Find out more here.


Cycling the Rainbow Road – a True, Backcountry Cycling Experience

Meet Caroline and Jenny Whittaker

Meet Caroline and Jenny Whittaker. This mother and daughter pair biked from Christchurch to Picton back in February, along a route that included the Rainbow Road, and the coast road from Blenheim to Picton.

Cycling the Rainbow Road in New Zealand

For Caroline, experiencing the rugged, isolated terrain of the Rainbow Road was one of the highlights of the trip. Running from Hanmer Springs to St Arnaud, this 112 kilometre route serves up an impressive backdrop of forest, high mountains, tussock and scree. Various huts and camping areas are available along the way – Caroline and Jenny stayed at the Sedgemere Sleepout.

Specialized CrossTrail

Caroline hired one of our Specialized CrossTrails for this trip. Her verdict? “Knobbly enough tyres for the tracks, but quick enough for roads.” Jenny brought her own bike from the UK.

Back home, Caroline generally rides about twice a week with friends. Although she’s completed many day rides, this was her first multi-day trip – and she says she would have loved to have done more. In fact, she’s hoping to come back for a six week trip once she’s retired!

Thanks for sharing your experiences, Caroline and Jenny. If you’d like to cycle the Rainbow Road, check out the Rainbow Station website for seasonal restrictions and toll details.

Have a good week,
Steve

All Images: Caroline and Jenny Whittaker


5 Highlights of the 15 Day Christchurch to Christchurch Tour

15 Day Christchurch to Christchurch TourIf you’re looking for an in-depth New Zealand cycle experience, put our 15 day Christchurch to Christchurch road tour on your bucket-list. Aside from serving up some of the South Island’s most memorable scenery, this tour also packs in wilderness encounters, cultural experiences and geological wonders. Here are five of the highlights.

Test your stamina on high mountain passes
There’s no shortage of hills on this tour. Along the way you’ll encounter Porters Pass, Arthur’s Pass and the famous Crown Range between Queenstown and Wanaka. You can choose to put pedal to metal or catch a ride on the minibus.

Spend a night on a working merino sheep station
Wilderness Lodge is a 4000 acre sheep farm and nature reserve nestled amongst the peaks of Arthur’s Pass National Park. If you’ve got energy to spare, head out to explore the mountain trails, or simply kick back and enjoy the spectacular views. You may also have an opportunity to watch sheepdogs work, hand-feed tame sheep, and learn about shearing and merino wool.

Admire the glaciers
The two most famous glaciers in the Westland National Park – the Fox and the Franz Josef – are an arresting sight, with their mighty rivers of ice tumbling towards the sea. Nowhere else in the world, at this latitude, have glaciers advanced so close to the sea. Day five of your tour gives you ample time to study these spectacular ice forms – walk to the terminal face, or view from above aboard a plane or helicopter flight.

Wildlife encounters on the West Coast
Day six sees you check into Lake Moeraki Wilderness Lodge. Surrounded by lakes, rivers, rainforest and seacoast, this stunning location has a wealth of wildlife activities on hand. Borrow a kayak and enjoy a paddle on the lake, or hike to Monro Beach to spot fur seals and – in season – penguins. When darkness falls, take a stroll to learn about the stars of the southern sky and see glow worms light up the rainforest

Experience Queenstown
Your tour includes an entire day in buzzing Queenstown where all manner of adventures await. Jump aboard a thrilling jet boat through the narrow Shotover Canyons, enjoy a gentle putter across Lake Wakatipu on the vintage steamship TSS Earnslaw, or drink in the scenic views from the Skyline Gondola. The town is also home to numerous shops, restaurants, cafes and bars.

Route Info
You’ll start your amazing adventure in Christchurch, before heading over the Southern Alps to the wild West Coast. Here, you’ll cycle the twists and turns of the dramatic coast road, stopping off in Hokitika and Franz Josef, before making your way to Queenstown. Back on the bike, you’ll pedal through Otago tussock land to the scenic splendour of Mt Cook, before arriving back in Christchurch.

Despite the high mountain passes, this is a moderate tour with two challenging days. If you need a break from the saddle, the support vehicle is always available.

Departure Dates
06 Nov 2017-20 Nov 2017
13 Dec 2017-27 Dec 2017
27 Jan 2018-10 Feb 2018

Check out the full itinerary here, or get in touch to book today.

Have a great week,
Steve


Discover What Lives Below in Kaikōura

visit kaikouraIf you want to glimpse a true giant of the deep, put Kaikōura on your to-do list. This small town on the east coast of the South Island is one of the few places in the world where sperm whales can be seen year-round and close to shore.

Why? Well, it’s all due to the Kaikōura Canyon, a submarine trench located just 800 metres off the coast. Home to a rich concentration of underwater life, the canyon’s deep trenches and swirling currents provide the sperm whales, as well as a whole host of other wildlife, with the marine equivalent of an all-you-can-eat buffet.

Sperm whales are one of the deepest diving whales, with the ability to descend hundreds of metres to find their food. Only male sperm whales visit Kaikōura – the females and young whales stick to warmer tropical waters.

During the winter months, humpback whales are also frequent visitors to Kaikōura, passing through on their way north to warmer waters. Other wildlife you might spot include dusky dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, Hector’s dolphin, orca, fur seals and a wide variety of sea birds.

Whale Watch Kaikoura offers daily boat tours (weather dependent), or you can view the ocean from above with a plane or helicopter tour.

And take your bikes along for your visit. Kaikōura offers several mountain biking opportunities, from the relaxed and cruisy Kowhai Trail to the steep and technical slopes of the Mt Fyffe Track (advanced riders only). You can pick up track maps from the Kaikōura i-Site.

Getting to Kaikōura

Kaikōura’s road access was disrupted by last November’s earthquake and repair work is still taking place. The current road situation looks like this:

SH1 South (Christchurch – Cheviot – Kaikōura) is open 7.00am to 6.00pm Friday – Monday, with scheduled closures on Tues/Wed/Thurs for repair work.
Inland Route 70 (Christchurch – Hanmer Springs – Kaikōura) is open 24/7.
SH1 North (Kaikōura – Picton) is closed until December 2017.

Kaikōura town is open for business as usual. For an up-to-date status of the roads, check out the New Zealand Transport Agency website.

Have a great week,
Steve

P.S. Visit Kaikōura as part of our 7 Day Road Cycle Tour Top of the South Island. This Grade 2 ride starts in Christchurch and takes you over the Southern Alps to the West Coast, before heading to Nelson and the beautiful Marlborough Sounds. There’s time for a visit to some of Marlborough’s top vineyards before you make your way to Kaikōura, where you can round off your tour with a whale watching expedition. Read all the details here.

Image: Andrea Schaffer


Look Where Pedal Power Can Take You…

fireflies antipodesWe were wearing our red socks with pride last week when Emirates Team New Zealand beat Oracle Team USA to claim the America’s Cup. And we were especially thrilled to see that pedal power played a part in the win, with the team using bikes to drive their catamaran’s hydraulic systems.

The next America’s Cup will be held somewhere in New Zealand, with the dates and exact location set to be revealed in the next few weeks. We can’t wait to see what new ideas and concepts the team has up its sleeve for this one!

Despite colder conditions across both islands, pedal power is still a fun way to experience New Zealand. While we don’t offer guided tours in the winter months, it’s perfectly possible to embark on a self-guided tour. Indeed, some of our clients prefer winter cycle touring – it’s less crowded and you don’t have to worry about sunburn!

If balmy temperatures and sunny skies are more appealing, we’ve now locked in dates for most of our guided summer cycle tours. Adventures of all shapes and sizes await, from mellow trail rides to more ambitious, multi-day road tours.

Not convinced you’ve got the pedal power to attempt a guided cycle tour? We recently introduced a range of pedal-assist electric bikes to our hire fleet, and may be able to provide e-bikes on some of our guided tours. Riding an e-bike will give you extra power to tackle hills, headwinds and longer distances – and keep up with fitter riding companions.

If you think you’d like to include e-bike hire as part of a guided cycle tour, get in touch today. Some tours won’t be suitable for e-bikes and availability is limited. Send us an email with your requirements.

Have a great week,
Steve

P.S. Wondering why we were wearing red socks? Sir Peter Blake wore red socks when Team New Zealand won the America’s Cup for the first time in 1995. They’ve been synonymous with good luck ever since.

P.P.S. In the market for a new bike? We’re updating our rental fleet and selling off a selection of older models at very low prices. You’ll find top-quality, well cared for mountain, hybrid, touring and kids bikes available for purchase, as well as cycle accessories and clothing. Head to our bike sales page to see what’s available.


Christchurch to Auckland By Bike: Sequoia Schmidt’s Solo Cycle Tour of New Zealand

Christchurch to Auckland By Bike: Sequoia Schmidt's Solo Cycle Tour of NZBack in April, Sequoia Schmidt embarked on a multi-day cycle tour across New Zealand to promote her recently-released book Journey of the Heart: A Sojourn to K2.

Sequoia is the daughter of renowned mountain climber Marty Schmidt and sister of 25-year-old Denali Schmidt, who both died in an avalanche on K2 in 2013, and the book tells the story of her trip to K2 Base Camp in 2015 to retrace her late father and brother’s footsteps.

Sequoia is now back in the US after having successfully completed her solo cycle tour, and we thought we’d check in with her to see how her journey went.

Where did you cycle tour take you?
My cycle began in Christchurch, I picked up my bike (actually it was delivered to me; amazing service) and began my cycle up to Auckland, zigzagging around New Zealand on the way up.

What was your favourite place?
The Rainbow Valley was one of my favorite sections from this trip. Three days alone in nature as I crossed the hills from Hanmer Springs to St. Arnaud. It was also one of the most challenging sections of the journey but magical. New Zealand wilderness at its finest.

What did you love most about travelling by bike?
Heightened awareness. There is something magical about having all your possessions in two pannier bags, strapped to your mode of transportation. It’s a feeling of freedom from the norm of society, it makes you look at things in a different light. After cycling the country, I feel like I know intimate details about the land, that I might have otherwise overlooked. On a bike, you are forced to pay close attention to your surroundings. I stopped in small towns and had personable interactions and conversations with locals. I made new friends and enjoyed every moment of my journey. It has allowed me to see my homeland with a whole new perspective.

What was your cycling experience prior to this trip?
I had virtually no cycling experience for this trip. It was a huge undertaking for a novice cyclist like myself. When I first decided to cycle across New Zealand (eight months prior to my trip) I picked up a bike in Los Angeles (where I live) and began my training. It was important to learn about clipping in and also make sure that I had my pedals and seat with me in New Zealand. I trained on the hills and flats of Los Angeles, until I arrived in New Zealand. When I got my bike in Christchurch, I simply had the pedals and seat put on the bike there and I was good to go. Because I had been training with that equipment, I felt more comfortable. Your seat is one of the most important things when cycling.

Did you have any worries/fears before setting off?
The main cause of my anxious nerves were the New Zealand roads. I grew up in Napier and just remember how terrifying the roads would be when I would cycle to intermediate (school). Apart from one small bump, most of the drivers were pretty respectful and my journey was smooth.

Do you have any new adventures in the pipeline?
There is always a new adventure to be had….. for me, my next trip will be to Ama Dablam in Nepal this coming October.

Sequoia’s second book Changing Gears will chronicle her solo cycle across New Zealand and is set for release in early/mid 2018. A short film about her journey will also premiere at the New Zealand Mountain Film Festival in June 2018.

Inspired to follow in Sequoia’s tyre treads? Here are two articles from our blog archives to help you plan or pick a cycle tour around New Zealand:

Five Beginner-Friendly Cycle Tours
Cycle Touring NZ: When To Go

Have a great week,
Steve

P.S. Be sure to check out our full range of tours on our website. We offer self-guided and guided options to suit all ability levels.


Big Bike Sale: Get a Leading-Brand Bike for Less

In the market for a new bike? Then be sure to check out our bike sales page. We’re currently updating our rental fleet and selling off a selection of older models at very low prices.

You’ll find top-quality, well cared for mountain, hybrid and touring bikes available for purchase, as well as cycle accessories like panniers and trailers.

Current specials include the Specialized Pitch 650b Mountain Bike available from just $450, or the Specialized Hardrock 29er Mountain Bike from $350 (Auckland only).

Got plans to race? You’ll find a range of high performance road bikes also available for sale. Prices range from $599 to $799.

And if your cycle clothing needs an overhaul, we’ve got gloves and cycle tops in the sale as well.

If you’re not looking to upgrade your bike right now, you can help extend its lifespan with regular maintenance. Check out this post for bike servicing tips, or let one of our qualified bike mechanics take care of it for you. Servicing is available at both branches from as little as $70. Email us to organise a time, or give us a call on 03 982 2966 (Christchurch) or 09 257 4673 (Auckland).

Have a great week,
Steve

P.S. We only have a limited number of secondhand bikes available for sale, so get in quick to avoid missing out. Click here to see what’s available.


Find out how Cecileah’s Spring Challenge 2017 training is coming along

spring challenge 2017Multisport and adventure races are no easy undertakings. But as anyone who’s ever taken part in such an event will testify, the joy of making it to the finish line far outweighs the physical demands and discomforts.

One member of the Natural High team who’s familiar with this feeling is Cecileah. Last year, she took part in one of the biggest all-women adventure races in the Southern Hemisphere: the Torpedo 7 Spring Challenge. Despite being a last-minute injury replacement, she enjoyed the experience so much that she’s signed up for this year’s event, which takes place in Geraldine on 29 September – 1 October.

Cecileah and her team are competing in the open event, which involves 10-15km of rafting, 25-35km of biking and 8-12km of hiking. The fastest team are expected to complete the course in around six hours.

It’s a tough, rugged course requiring a high level of fitness as well as mapping and navigation skills. To prepare, Cecileah’s current training schedule involves a minimum of two spin bike classes and two pump (weights) classes a week. She’s also adding in extra running and mountain biking sessions when time permits.

Cecileah says that an ideal training session for an event like this would be a trifecta of a pump class, followed by a spin class followed by a run – back to back!

Hours of non-stop action require plenty of fuel. During the event, Cecileah will be carrying Jelly Belly Sports Beans, scroggin and a couple of packets of Whittakers Artisan Collection Wellington Supreme Coffee Chocolate which she says is great for boosting team morale three hours in. But number one rule she says is to stay hydrated.

Her other top advice for anyone taking part in an event like this is to 1) not get lost and 2) remain calm if you do get lost. To help them perfect their map reading skills, Cecileah and her teammates will be attending a few rogaine clinics as part of their training.

Inspired to give the Spring Challenge a crack? Spaces are still available for the Auckland version of the event, which takes place 13-15 October.

Other events you might fancy taking part in:

Entries for New Zealand’s largest cycle race, the Lake Taupo Challenge, open on 1 June. This event takes place on Saturday 25 November and offers 14 different event categories, ranging from the 160km Bike Barn Round The Lake, the 80km Half the Lake, as well as 35km, 60km and 85km mountain bike options.

June is also the month to register for the 2018 Motatapu Off-Road Sporting Event, which takes place in the Wanaka and Queenstown high country on 10 March 2018. There are five different events to choose from including a 47km mountain bike race. An extra incentive for taking part is that much of the course is only accessible to the public during the event, making it a unique opportunity to experience some of the South Island’s most remote and rugged riding terrain.

If you’re coming from overseas for a cycle or adventure event, we have high-performance mountain and road bikes available to hire. Take a look at your options on the website, or let us know what you’re looking for by email.

Have a great week,
Steve

Image: Expect views like this as you take part in the Motatapu. By Tom Hall.