The Inside Track on Queenstown Mountain Biking…Part 2

We’re back with former Olympic skier Mitchey Greig to find out more about the Queenstown MTB scene. This week, she’s sharing stories from Pinewood Lodge, the accommodation spot she runs with her whole family.

Queenstown Mountain Biking
The Hub at Pinewood Lodge.

How long has Pinewood Lodge been operating?
My brother, sister and I all grew up at Pinewood. My parents have owned it for 25 years now, and the whole family is in there running the place on a day to day basis.

Why should mountain bikers stay with you?
We definitely go out of our way to make sure we look after the mountain bikers. Our location is about 100m away from the Skyline Bike Park – we have a special track built directly to it! We’re central to town, can always help a stranger plan their next epic day’s riding in Queenstown, and can even supply them with a bike if they don’t have one.

We know peoples’ bikes are like their children and worth a small fortune, so we have a 50-bike lockable storage unit, to keep them safe and clean. We can also throw the odd tool in there if you have some basic mechanical issues.

Not only that, we are made up of 28 houses, able to accommodate two to 24 people, so you can rent out a whole house and block yourself off from the rest of the world, or you can get amongst it and share with a bunch of other like-minded people. The option is yours. We’ve got everything from basic dorm beds through to ensuite rooms.

MTB Queenstown
Heading back to the Lodge after a blast on the bike.

What’s it like working in a family-run business?
It has its moments, but on the whole it’s an awesome environment. If we want to make something happen we don’t need to go very far to ask for permission. And, in general we’re all on the same wavelength and just want our guests to have a great stay. We’re all passionate about what we do : )

What’s the funniest request you’ve received from a guest?
It was quite funny when a guest somehow managed to lock himself out of his room when he went for a shower. His mad dash to reception to ask for another key was entertaining…don’t ask why he didn’t have a towel.

Favourite spot to hang out in Queenstown after a hard day biking?
I think everyone knows the mountain biking bar in Queenstown is Atlas. It’s the only bar you will walk into and be greeted by a healthy rack of great-looking bikes outside and people covered in dirt inside with big grins on their faces. You also can’t go past a swim in the lake on a hot summer’s day after a great ride : )

Thanks to Mitchey for letting us in on her secrets. Queenstown is an awesome spot for biking….if you haven’t made it there yet, put it on your bucket list. And if you need a great place to stay while in town, you really can’t beat Pinewood Lodge. It’s located just two minutes from the Skyline Bike Park and offers a range of accommodation options to suit all budgets.

Photos: Riley Bathurst.


The Inside Track on Queenstown Mountain Biking…with Mitchey Greig

Queenstown is a hugely popular destination for mountain bikers, so this week we’d thought we’d get the lowdown from someone who knows the local scene well. 2010 Olympic freestyle skier Mitchey Greig grew up in Queenstown, and after many years of chasing the snow is now loving life on her mountain bike. Mitchey and her family run popular accommodation spot Pinewood Lodge, which is just a two-minute ride from the Queenstown Bike Park.

Mitchey Greig MTB Queenstown
Mitchey in action in Queenstown.

When did you start riding and why?
When I retired from competitive skiing I suddenly had a lot of time…and after 18 straight winters I felt it was finally time for a summer. I quickly discovered biking and the world-class riding we have in Queenstown and found it was a great way to get out and blow off some steam. The riding just keeps getting better, thanks to the Queenstown Mountain Bike Club charging on and creating more and more sweet trails.

What type of riding do you enjoy the most?
I love all types: cross country missions, downhilling at the bike park and a sneaky bit of road riding in between. As long as I’m outside, it’s a great day : )

Globally, the word is out about Queenstown mountain biking. How would you rate the riding compared to Whistler?
I would say we are right up there. A few years back, the Atherton family (the fastest family on two wheels) said it one of the best places they’ve ever ridden. And you definitely can’t beat the scenery – I still can’t get enough of it and I see it everyday. Our bike park may not be as big (as Whistler), but it definitely packs a punch.

What’s your favourite Queenstown ride or trail?
My favorite ride is being dropped off at the car park at Coronet Peak (the local ski area) for a 45-minute grind to the top of the mountain on the Enduro track. At the top you get to turn around and ride the epic trail back down to the base building. From there you join onto another track called Cock Rock, where you pound down flowy, fast singletrack switchbacks. And that’s not all..at the bottom of that you meet up with the Zoot track which is a very poppy, narrow singletrack that takes you to the bottom of the mountain. There’s a lot of downhill and it’s definitely worth a look. I’m also pretty excited about trying the New Skippers link track being built up there as we speak.

Tell us about your most memorable moment on a bike?
My most memorable moment on a bike was riding with a great crew of mates down the Whole Enchilada in MOAB Utah, which hands down, is the most awesome four hours of pure downhill. It definitely opened my eyes to how mountain biking and great company can get you addicted to living… you just can’t beat it.

Next week…Mitchey spills the beans on working with her entire family at Pinewood Lodge.

Inspired to ride in Queenstown? We offer a number of South Island MTB tours, which take in the region’s most exhilarating terrain. Click here to view our selection >>


Bike Hire Made Easy

How to choose the right bike for your New Zealand cycle adventure

 
Thinking about hiring a bike but not sure which one to choose? Or, maybe you’re planning on buying a bike…Xmas is coming after all…and you haven’t a clue which type to spring for?

To help you out, we’ve put together a handy guide to some our most popular NZ cycling adventures and the bikes that suit them best.

Adventure #1: Cycle Touring

 
Long hours in the saddle demand a reliable, robust and comfortable bike. You’ve got two options: a touring bike or a hybrid bike.

The Cannondale Touring T2.

What’s the difference?
Touring bikes are specifically designed to handle heavy loads and long distances. If you’re thinking of heading off on a self-guided cycle tour with panniers, a touring bike is likely to be your best option.

Hybrid bikes can handle a variety of terrain, from smooth road surfaces to gravel roads and non-technical trails. Typically lighter than a mountain bike but studier than a road bike, a hybrid rental could be a good fit for a guided cycle tour. (Our guided tours include luggage transfer, meaning you’ll be travelling without a load).

Our top pick for touring:
The Cannondale Touring T2: A proven and reliable trek bike. Front and rear racks mean you can carry lots of gear and still cover ground fast.

Adventure #2: On-Road Day Trip

 

The Trek 7300 Hybrid.

Maybe you’re not quite ready to tackle a multi-day cycle tour, but you’d like to hire a bike for shorter trips or to help you explore the city? A lightweight, hybrid bike is a great option for these type of journeys.

Our top pick for day tripping in style:
The Trek 7300 Hybrid Bike: Tough, efficient and comfortable. Big wheels, an upright riding stance and plush seats means you’ll be rollin’ in style.

 

Adventure #3: New Zealand Cycle Trails

 
Nga Haerenga /The New Zealand Cycle Trail is a network of rides stretching right across the country. Predominantly encompassing off-road terrain, the trails wind through areas of stunning natural beauty and are a fantastic way to explore some of this country’s lesser-known secrets.

The Specialized Hardrock Sport 29er.

The trails vary in ability level, distance and terrain, so the exact route you choose will determine your bike hire. For more rugged trails, we recommend hiring a mountain bike, while some of the easier trails suit a hybrid bike.

Our top pick for riding the trails:
The Specialized Hardrock Sport 29er: A stable and comfy bike. 29ers roll well, accelerate easily and deliver a smooth ride.

Adventure #4: Mountain Biking

 

The Cannondale Rize Full Suspension.

New Zealand offers world class mountain biking opportunities. Popular spots include Rotorua, the Ruapehu region, Woodhill Forest in Auckland and Queenstown. Many of the New Zealand Cycle Trails also offer great mountain biking terrain, suitable for a variety of ability levels.

MTB options:
Hardtail mountain bikes offer no rear suspension and are generally lighter. If you’re a beginner or less intense rider, a hardtail could be a good fit.
Full-suspension mountain bikes provide more shock absorption but are usually heavier. They’re ideal for backcountry riding, singletrack, drops and jumps.

 
Our top pick for New Zealand mountain biking:
The Cannondale Rize Full Suspension Mountain Bike: With dual-suspension and an alloy frame, the 130mm Rize is the best of its class. Innovative engineering details help boost bike performance, while plush suspension delivers a balanced, comfortable ride.

What’s included with Natural High bike hire?

  • Fully-serviced bikes for peace of mind on the open road.
  • Bike fitting to suit your shape, size and journey – essential for your performance and comfort.
  • Lock, multi tool, tyre levers, spare tube and repair kit.
  • We can also supply helmet hire (additional cost) or purchase. (It’s compulsory to wear a helmet while cycling in New Zealand).

 
Click here to browse our full range of bike hire. And, if you’ve got any questions, feel free to drop us a line.


Liftoff at Auckland Airport’s New MTB Park…

And You’re Invited to the Grand Opening!

 
We’re stoked that the Runway Mountain Bike Park, located within The District at Auckland Airport, is set to open on Saturday 23 November.

The new park – which will be free to use – is just around the corner from our Natural High Auckland branch and features a fantastic network of tracks suitable for all ability levels, from beginners and children to intermediate riders.

There’s also a fun, 50m Pump Track: a circuit of dirt rollers and berms that can be ridden without pedalling.

Runway MTB Park Auckland Airport
Trail map of the new Runway MTB Park.

Test drive the trails

 
The grand opening of the park takes place on Saturday 23 November from 10am, and to celebrate we’ll be onsite throughout the day with a great selection of mountain bikes that you can take for a spin in exchange for a gold coin donation.

The gang from Auckland MTB Club will also be on hand to offer riding tips and an energy-boosting sausage sizzle.

So, if you’ve ever fancied giving mountain biking a go – or you’d like to try out a few different mountain bike models – this is your perfect opportunity. In fact, why not bring the whole family along and make a day of it?

When: Saturday 23 November, from 10am.
Getting there: The District is located at Auckland International Airport. Look out for signs from George Bolt Memorial Drive, Ansett Place and Leonard Isitt Drive.
What’s on:
Gold coin donation mountain bike hire.
Sausage sizzle and drinks.
The District also features food outlets, shops and an outdoor art gallery.

Check out the Pump Track under construction:


The Ups (and Downs) of Family Cycling Holidays

Andy takes the kids on their very first family cycling holiday along the back roads of the South Island.

family cycling holidays in NZ
Get the whole family out and riding! New Zealand is a great destination for family cycling holidays.

It’s 4pm on Easter Tuesday, on a long, boring stretch of North Canterbury road. The end of holiday traffic is relentless and a slight head wind is blowing.

“Come on, sweetpea,” I cajole. “It’s only another 5km to the Huranui pub.”

“NO! THAT’S IT…NO MORE.”

My 8-year old daughter has, quite clearly, had enough.

“But it’s really, really close…30 more minutes of riding and then you can have a can of lemonade.” I pull out the oldest trick in the parenting handbook: bribery.

Earlier in the day, while relaxing in the warm waters of the Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools, the first family cycling holiday seemed to promise such fun.

Starting out from Hanmer Springs and finishing in Motunau Beach, the plan is to spend three leisurely days pedalling along the quiet roads of North Canterbury, a ride totalling 109km.

As a family we’ve completed day rides of 40km before, so confidence is high and the kids (ages 8 and 10) are excited about starting with a splash at the hot pools (their idea) and overnighting in local pubs along the way (my idea).

But as Kay (my wife) drives away to return to Christchurch, the first niggling doubts begin to creep in. I wonder if this is how Hillary and Tenzing felt when they set out to climb Everest?

Back on the open road, the bribery is working and pedal stroke by tiny pedal stroke, we beat the wind and make it to our first night’s accommodation. A good hearty meal is consumed with relish and then it’s early to bed to prepare for the next day.

Fuelled by plenty of sleep, and with the roads back to their usual quiet selves, the next two days offer fantastic riding. 700c wheels are great for smaller cyclists and the kids are riding with ease.

There’s plenty to see along the way…and plenty of treats from a stoked dad, who’s just happy that the kids’ first cycle tour hasn’t gone completely pear-shaped.

Family-friendly cycling in New Zealand

New Zealand offers plenty of great places to get the whole family out and riding. Here are a few of our top picks:

Hauraki Rail Trail
The first two stages of this trail (from Thames to Paeroa and Paeroa to Te Aroha) offer flat and very easy riding, along an old railway line.

Hawke’s Bay Trails
Several different rides available. The Water Ride is most suited to families, offering gentle riding and great ocean views.

Otago Central Rail Trail
A 1-5 day ride, through an ever-changing landscape. Kids will love the spectacular river gorges, tunnels and viaducts.

Clutha Gold Trail
Two days of riding along the mighty Clutha Mata-Au River. Four fascinating goldrush towns along the way offer interesting stories, great meals and accommodation options.

Little River Railtrail
Following the route of a 19th century railway, this is a combined walking and cycling track running from the edge of Christchurch city out into the beautiful, rural landscape of the Canterbury region. Riding from Christchurch to Little River is a journey of approximately 49km, but if little legs aren’t up to the full distance, you can choose to ride shorter sections of the route.

For more ideas, or to chat about the logistics of family cycling holidays in New Zealand, feel free to drop us a line. We’ve also got a great range of children’s bikes for hire, including tagalongs and trailers.


Top Ten Bicycle Touring Tips… for Hassle-Free Cycle Adventures in NZ

Thinking about organising a cycle adventure in New Zealand but not sure where to start? Relax…we’ve got you covered. Here’s our top ten bicycle touring tips for hassle-free cycle adventures in New Zealand.

NZ bicycling touring tips
Adventure awaits on the open road.

Touring Tip #1

Don’t try and cram everything into one trip.
New Zealand might be a fairly small looking country but take our word for it – there’s a lot to see. As a general rule we recommend:

  • One to two week holiday: focus on one or two specific areas, instead of trying to see everything.
  • One month holiday: gives you a reasonable amount of time to see bits of both islands.
  • Two months+: enables you to really explore both islands in full.

Touring Tip #2

Be open to possibility.
The beauty of cycle touring is that you never know what’s around the next corner. And sometimes, a random coffee stop or spur of the moment detour can yield the most memorable moments of your entire trip. So don’t just focus on seeing the popular tourist spots. Take your time, keep your eyes and ears open and check out some of the smaller towns and villages you pass through.

Touring Tip #3

Be prepared for all weather.
New Zealand enjoys a changeable climate, so wind and rain are always a possibility (yes, even in summer). June, July and August are generally New Zealand’s wettest months, while spring tends to be the windiest. Good quality, reliable waterproof gear is a must. In the summer months, the sun can be fierce, so remember to cover up with a hat, sunglasses, loose clothing and high factor sun cream.

Touring Tip #4

Choose a route/tour to suit your ability.
If you’ve never tried cycle touring before, a guided tour can be a great introduction to the sport. These take care of every element of your trip, from accommodation booking to route planning and include the support of an experienced local tour guide, luggage transfer and backup vehicle (jump aboard whenever the riding becomes too much). We’ve got a great range of different tours available in both the North and South islands that cater for all levels of ability. Check the tour grading for an indication of the fitness level required. Grade 1 tours are the easiest, covering lower distances per day with fewer hills, while Grade 4 tours are reserved for the expert rider only.

New Zealand is a hilly country, so if you’re touring independently, make sure you match your route to your ability. Try and take it easy for the first few days, to give your body (and backside) time to adjust.

Touring Tip #5

Build up some biking fitness before you arrive.
You don’t have to be super-fit to cycle tour, but the fitter you are, the more enjoyable your experience will be. Try and get out and do some biking before your arrival. Start with smaller distances – around half an hour a day – and then build up to two to three longer rides each week.

Touring Tip #6

Travel light.
If you’re planning on joining a guided tour, luggage transfer between hotels will be organised for you (lucky you) and you’ll be able to travel with just the essentials you need for that day. However, if you’re cycling independently you’ll be carrying everything on your bike, so pack light (leave the kitchen sink at home)!

Exactly what you bring will depend on your individual preferences, the season you’re travelling in and your accommodation options. But essential items include:

  • Clothing: Waterproof jacket and over-trousers, warm fleece, cycling shoes or trainers, comfortable cycling clothing, set of clothes for evening wear, warm hat.
  • Sun protection: sunglasses, sunscreen and lip protection, hat, neck gear/neckerchief to protect your neck.
  • Helmet (we have helmets available to hire or purchase).
  • Small first aid kit.
  • Swiss army knife, torch.
  • Bicycle repair kit and accessories. (Natural High bike hire includes a lock, multi tool, tyre levers, spare tube and repair kit.)
  • If camping: tent, sleeping bag, sleeping mat, cooking gear.
  • Camera.
  • Maps.

Remember, our Natural High branches in Auckland and Christchurch offer luggage storage, so if you turn up with more than you can cram into your panniers, we can store the excess until you return, or forward it on to your final destination. And if you forget to bring something important, chances are you’ll be able to find it here.

Touring Tip #7

Hire a bike or bring my own?
If you’re only planning a short stay in New Zealand, hiring a bike when you arrive is likely to be your best option. Most airlines charge additional fees for large items of baggage and there’s always a risk that your pride and joy might get damaged, or lost, en route.

At Natural High we offer a huge range of bike rentals, so while we may not be able to provide the exact same bike as you have at home, we’re sure to have something equally as good!  Plus we have depots in convenient locations throughout both islands, including Auckland Airport and Christchurch.

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.

Touring Tip #8

Be traffic aware.
Outside of the main centres, New Zealand roads are generally quieter than other parts of the world. However, the twisty nature of many roads means limited visibility for drivers, so cyclists need to be aware of approaching traffic at all times. You might want to consider wearing reflective gear and using a bike mirror, to keep an eye on the traffic behind you.

Touring Tip #9

Know the rules of the road.
Kiwis drive on the left, as in Britain, Australia and Japan. Cycling is illegal on National Park tracks and most motorways. Helmets are compulsory and you risk a fine if you don’t wear one.
For more road rules, head here >>

Touring Tip #10

Don’t put it off!
Life is short, so hit the road sooner rather than later. We promise you won’t regret it!

Inspired to ride? Check out our great selection of self-guided or guided tours and start planning your adventure today…


New Zealand’s Best Hot Pool…Revealed

Andy spills the beans on his favourite hot pool in New Zealand.

My favourite thing to do after a long day in the saddle (or a blast down a ski slope) is to sit and soak in a hot pool.

As Kay (my wife) has discovered, a common theme runs throughout the trips we take and the places we visit: Rotorua: MTB and hot pools; Taupo: MTB, skiing and hot pools; Maruia: cycle touring and hot pools; Hanmer: St James Cycleway, skiing and you guessed it… hot pools.

I’m not sure why hot pools have this pull on me but like many Kiwis I never miss an opportunity – togs or in the buff – for a bathe.

So where is my favourite hot pool in New Zealand? Well, earlier this year, my family were checking out the Kauri Coast Cycleway, in the Far North. The second night we stayed at a place called Kaikohe and 5km north of the town is a small place called Ngawha, home to what I’ve come to consider is New Zealand’s best-kept hot pool secret. (Not any longer)!

Owned by a local Maori family these pools are as authentic as you can get. With a rustic exterior and laidback staff, they offer the perfect environment for a good soak.

There are a number of different pools, each with their own character, temperature of water, mineral element and healing powers. The Tanemahuta pool shares a name with the largest living kauri in New Zealand, the Doctor pool possesses medicinal mud that you can smear on your body while soaking, and the Waikato is named after the beer.

Initially I found the sandy bottom of the pools a little off putting, but the natural bubbles permeating through the sand, massaging my feet and bouncing up my legs soon won me over.

Next to the Taniwha pool is a warning about its feisty, dark black waters. Kay was hesitant about stepping into this pool and rightly so because she slipped while getting in…right into my waiting arms! The irony made us think this was a pool with a very cheeky character!

So, if you find yourself travelling through the Northland town of Kaikohe, make sure you stop at the Waiariki Pools, Ngawha Springs. The entrance fee isn’t going to break the bank: for $4 it’s the best value pools I’ve ever been to and at that rate you can even afford to shout your mother-in-law!

Like to know more of our New Zealand secrets?

 

Sign up here to get the High Life delivered direct to your inbox every week. Weekly biking adventures, top touring tips and must-see destinations from the Natural High team.



Testing Time: Specialized Hardrock Sport Disc 29er 2014

Logan recently headed out on a four-day MTB road trip in the central North Island with Andy and decided to put the Hardrock 29er through its paces.

Terrain: We rode Whakarewarewa Forest in Rotorua, Craters of the Moon and the W2K track in Taupo, and then tackled the 85km Pureora Timber Trail over two days.

First impressions: Immediately I notice the HR Sport Disc 29ner has a modern cockpit; short stem, relatively wide handlebars and comfortable grips. When it comes to MTB handlebars the wider the better. They offer more control, easier breathing and better positioning for balance.

Getting grippy with it: Handlebar grips are two of the five attachment points between your body and the bike – and I’d say they’re the most important. The Hardrock’s grips come from Specialized’s own R&D division and feature quality rubber and technical design ribbing for greater grip. After wrapping the finger around the grip, the palm naturally rests on the flared wing – a unique feature of the Specialized Body Geometry XCT grips.

Trigger-happy gear shifts: The bike’s Shimano trigger shifters allowed me to fly through the gears, mainly going uphill trying to catch Andy! I really like the Shimano setup, where unlike the SRAM you use your pointer finger and your thumb to up-shift / downshift instead of using your thumb for both. Once again, well positioned for easy reach shifting and ergonomically pleasing.

Responsive brakes: The Tecktro HD-M330 hydraulic disc brakes were a standout: highly responsive and enabled me to stop aggressively. A confidence booster for cornering and downhill, once again chasing after Andy!

Tricky tires: Not having ridden the 29ner a lot, I found the wheels ran over everything with ease. However it was the tires that let the bike down. They gave minimal grip in the mud, although they were perfect for hardpack riding and would suit many of the New Zealand Cycle Trails, such as the Timber Trail, Alps to Ocean or West Coast Wilderness trail.

Faultless forks: The forks are Suntour SF13-XCT-MLO 29” and feature hydraulic damping, oversized stanchions with lockout and 80mm travel. They’re durable and chattering is no obstacle. The Preload is a nice feature that allows the rider to achieve the proper sag and ride feel.

In conclusion: Okay. ….with such a short travel this is not a bike to take on serious downhill. It’s designed with the recreational rider in mind and is perfect for tackling easier single tracks, cycle trails around New Zealand and gravel road cycle touring such as the Molesworth. Combining practicality and performance the Hardrock Sport is versatile and comfortable, with everything you need right at your fingertips.

TECHNICAL SPECS

Frame: Specialized A1 Premium Aluminum 29er, fully butted, 6061 alloy
Fork: SR Suntour SF13-XCT-MLO 29″, coil spring, mechanical lock out w/ preload adj., 80mm travel
Brakes: Tektro HDC 300, hydraulic disc, dual piston, Lightwave style rotor, 160mm
Shifters: Shimano Altus, 8-speed Rapidfire plus, SL type w/ optical display
Derailleurs: Shimano Altus front, Shimano Acera rear
Cassette: Sunrace, 8-speed cassette, 11-34
Crankset: SR Suntour XCT, 8-speed, 42/32/22 chainrings
Tyres: Specialized Fast Trak Sport, 29″x2.0″, wire bead, 40TPI
Seat: Specialized Body Geometry Hardrock, steel rails, 143mm width

QUICK OVERVIEW

  • Hydraulic brakes are great
  • Tyres no good in mud but perfect for gravel and hardpack summer riding
  • Fast rolling due to wheelsize and tyres, stable cornering
  • Comfy seat but needs lock on grips
  • Suspension not up to rougher trails

 
Thinking about renting this bike? Click here to view pricing details. Don’t forget: we’re currently offering 10% discount on December bike hire (7 day hire or longer only).


Are You Up For The Challenge?

Andy and Logan are tackling the Contact Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge in November. Will you join them?
Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge

You may have heard about New Zealand’s largest cycling event – the Contact Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge. This annual event takes place around beautiful Lake Taupo, a volcanic crater lake in the centre of the North Island, and regularly attracts up to 10,000 riders from New Zealand and the rest of the world.

This year’s event takes place on Saturday 30 November and has 15 different challenges to choose from, including a 5km race for the under 10’s (I found Logan trying to enter into this category), team challenges, the popular 160km solo circumnavigate around the lake and the ultra crazy 1280km Extreme Enduro!

Throwing down the gauntlet
Natural High’s Auckland branch manager Logan is a veteran Taupo Challenge rider…but I’m not. Can you guess where this is going? Yes, this year the young whippersnapper is taking on the colonel, and we’ve both entered the solo 160km race.

In the saddle
We’re following a 15-week training programme to prepare for the ride, which starts off with two 5km rides a week and then increases distance each week. Being used to longer rides, I’ve found the early weeks of training fairly easy, but it really does show that even those with limited fitness can train for this race.

On the day
Every year we hire out a number of our performance race bikes and tandems to competitors, and this year we’ll have a dedicated tent at the Taupo Domain. We’ll also have a small retail area with gloves, gels, jackets and socks – and a few spare Avanti Giro Trek 2.1 and 1.5s – for those last-minute glitches.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it
I like to set myself three challenges a year in order to 1) combat complacency and 2) resist marathon TV box-set sessions (like watching 3645 minutes of The Wire in one sitting).

One year I (reluctantly) completed a sky dive, in 2011 my challenge was to set up Natural High’s Auckland branch. Today, I’m handing a challenge on to you: have you got what it takes to tackle the Contact Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge?

Remember, there are heaps of different categories to choose from, so whatever your fitness or ability level there’s a ride to suit!

As an extra incentive, the scenery around Lake Taupo is stunning and there are hot pools waiting at the end to ease tired muscles.

I’ll leave the last words to the team at Contact Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge.
“Remember:
The saddle gets easier to sit on.
Expect the good and not so good.
It’s the body (not the bike) that pedals.”

See you there?

Andy

P.S. Need to hire a road bike for the Challenge? We’ve got a fantastic Hot Deal just for you! Get a 3-day hire of one of our top-quality road bikes for just $150 and cruise the circuit with speed and style. (Includes free relocation and pick up and drop off in Taupo). Book this hot deal now>>
(Write “Hot Deal” in the subject line).

Image: Courtesy of Contact Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge
For more information about the event, please head to their website.


Andy’s Great Rides of New Zealand: The St James

south island mountain bikingAndy continues his cycling journey around New Zealand. This week he’s headed deep into the southern wilderness to ride the St James, a unique backcountry mountain biking experience in North Canterbury where the tough get going and the adrenalin really kicks in!

Kenichi has a big grin from ear to ear. “This is like Disneyland,” he says.

I look at him in amazement, wondering how he can compare this unique alpine wilderness to a crowded, corporate theme park.

This is our third mountain bike ride in as many days, and three hours into our six-hour ride we’re already hurting. I’m just hoping that Kenichi – my Japanese MTB cycle guide and Aloha Bike Tours Owner – isn’t hallucinating!

The St James is not a ride for the faint hearted; its unforgiving terrain can throw some curve balls and a mechanical breakdown way out here in the wilderness could easily mean a freezing night under the stars.

But when fitness, weather and great mates combine, riding the St James can be pure heaven.

Today we’ve started the ride at the Marling Pass carpark and are heading towards the Homestead. Travelling in this direction gives us more downhill riding and some extra assistance from the predominant wind. On a ride as tough as this, we’ll take any help we can get!

It’s an easygoing start out to Marling Pass, followed by an exhilarating descent through beech forest to the Waiau River Valley. Keep an eye out here for the rabbit-proof fence, seen to the right of the trail. Completed in 1889, it extends 125km from the Main Divide to the coast.

We push onwards, following the well-formed track along the tussock and wildflower valley floor and crossing the crystal-blue waters of the Waiau River at Saddle Spur bridge. Now the riding gets more challenging, with some hard climbs, uneven surfaces and tricky descents.

A sighting of the St James wild horses, framed against the backdrop of the rugged snow capped Southern Alps is a memory worth holding onto. If the uphills don’t take your breath away, then the scenery certainly will.

From Macarthurs Bridge the trail follows an old 4-wheel drive track up a series of terraces to Edwards Valley and then on to Peters Pass – our last major hurdle of the day. (I’ve since been told there are some hot pools just after Scotties Hut at Cow Stream – I’ll be looking out for them on my next trip in October!)

Totally exhausted from our seven-hour ride, we round off our day with a well-earned soak at Hanmer Spring’s natural hot pools.

RIDE HIGHLIGHTS
Stunning high country scenery
Challenging terrain
Definitely not Disneyland, but truly one New Zealand’s great backcountry mountain bike rides.

ABILITY LEVEL
Grade 4
This is a ride for ADVANCED riders only.

GETTING THERE
From Hanmer Springs take Jacks Pass Road, before turning right onto the steep, gravel Clarence Valley Road. Turn left onto TopHouse Road at the Y junction. The Marling Pass carpark is about 30km from the turn off.
As you drive out along TopHouse Road, you will pass the old St James homestead on the left after about 3.5km. This is the end of the St James Cycle Trail.

Inspired to hit up the mountain bike trails of New Zealand?

We can hook you up with top-quality, latest-model mountain bike hire and help you sharpen your off-road skills with a half-day of dedicated mountain bike training. We’ve also got a fantastic selection of guided mountain bike tours on offer!