February is Bike Wise month in New Zealand, and up and down the country there are heaps of fun biking events taking place, from Go By Bike days to family outings to free bike tuneups. Here’s a quick roundup of a few events that caught our eye. For the full list, or to find something close to you, check out the Bike Wise website.
Frocks on Bikes
16 February in Rotorua. 10am.
Enjoy a leisurely bike ride from the Tarawera Rd end of Long Mile, via the Te Ngae ‘Share with Care’ and Sulphur flats to the Lakefront. Buy tickets in advance from the Lakeland Queen office at the Lakefront. www.rotoruabikefestival.co.nz
16 February in Wellington, 1pm-5pm.
Enjoy the Miramar Peninsula free of traffic. Ciclovía is a concept that’s growing in popularity around the world – close a road to cars and open it to people. On Sunday 16 February the section of road from Shelly Bay to Scorching Bay will be open for walkers, cyclists, and people on rollerblades, push scooters and in wheelchairs. There’ll be rock pooling activities, historical site tours and a treasure hunt for the kids. Should be a blast! www.ciclovia.org.nz
Bike Month Scavenger Hunt
17 February in Tauranga. 9am.
Explore Tauranga on your bike. Complete four rides using the new Tauranga City Cycle Map, answer the questions and go in the draw to win great cycling related prizes. You can pick up a copy of the scavenger hunt at your local library or community centre. www.sportbop.co.nz/februarybikemonth
Begins 18 February in Hawkes Bay.
Swap one car trip a day for walking or cycling for a week. Sign up on the TripSwitch website and go in the draw to win great prizes. www.tripswitch.co.nz
Ride to Work
20 February in Christchurch.
We’ll be doing this one! (Actually we ride to work every day, but it’d be great to see some new faces on the morning commute). www.citycare.co.nz
Got a Bike Wise event you want to tell us about? Share it on our Facebook page…
You might remember that back in November we helped open the new Runway Mountain Bike Park at Auckland Airport.
Well, since the opening, the park has been attracting a steady stream of riders. And we’re happy to report reviews have been great – with plenty of big grins and beaming faces.
The park is located at the end of Ansett Place behind the Airport Shopping Centre (just around the corner from our Auckland branch). There’s heaps of free parking and the park itself is free to ride – making it a great day out for all the family.
The tracks are been designed to suit riders of all abilities, including beginners and children. So while there’s nothing too hairy to contend with, the park still offers a good variety of features. In fact, it’s a great place to really nail your basic skills. Hats off to Auckland Mountain Bike Club for their design skills.
And don’t forget to give the 50m Pump Track a go. You won’t even need to pedal!
If you don’t own a mountain bike, pop into our Auckland branch at Uenuku Way and we’ll hook you up with everything you need.
Right now we’re offering $10/hour mountain bike hire for the park. Give us a ring on 09 257 4673 with your requirements and we’ll have everything ready and waiting for you. We’re open Monday-Friday 9am-5pm and from 10am-4pm over the weekends. See you there!
Not many people get to see a kiwi in the wild. These are shy birds, whose numbers have plummeted because of their vulnerability to predators and changes to their habitat.
On quiet, remote Stewart Island, the birds – the tokoeka species – fare better, because there are no predators and few people, making it one of the best places in New Zealand to experience them in their natural habitat.
Kiwi spotting is just one of the highlights of our 8-day guided cycle tour from Queenstown to Dunedin, which includes two days on tranquil Stewart Island. This is a tour that takes you deep into rural South Island life; quiet roads, stunning scenery and firsthand encounters with the local wildlife. Here’s what you’ll experience…
Day 1: Queenstown to Te Anau
You set out along the shores of beautiful Lake Wakatipu, before hitting the rolling, rural roads of upper Southland, en route to your overnight stop in the township of Te Anau, perched on the edge of the dramatic Fiordland National Park.
Day 2: Te Anau to Otautau
The lakes of Te Anau and Manapouri provide the backdrop to your morning riding, before the road heads south through an ever-changing landscape. Stark arid mountains give way to more gentle pastures as you enter Southland farm country. Tonight you’ll stay with Kiwi farmer hosts and get the opportunity to tour their farm.
Day 3: Otautau to Stewart Island
Rural riding through farmland and beech-forests, before you hit the windswept coast and approach Invercargill, New Zealand’s southern-most city. At Bluff you’ll board your ferry for the short voyage across Feauvoux Straight to Stewart Island.
Day 4: Stewart Island
Known as a wildlife sanctuary, Stewart Island and the Rakiura National Park provide plenty of opportunities for exploration. Take a hike to Ulva Island bird sanctuary, sea kayak in magical Patterson Inlet, relax on one of the many lovely beaches, hop aboard a local bus or boat tour or head out deep on a fishing charter. Not to be missed is the evening’s Kiwi Spotting tour, a unique experience to watch these shy birds digging for their dinner on a local beach.
Day 5: Stewart Island to Catlins
The route today skirts the beautiful and undiscovered Catlins Forest Park and coastline. The roads are quiet and the scenery diverse. The ride ends at beautiful Curio Bay for a leisurely picnic by the sea, a swim for the brave (or foolhardy) and a visit to the petrified forest(!) on the seashore. This is a renowned wildlife area so watch out for fur seals, yellow eyed penguins and the rare Hector’s dolphins.
Day 6: Catlins to Owaka
More scenic cycling along quiet roads as you continue along the Catlins coast. The cycling is tough with some serious climbs but the rewarding views of the coastline make it all worthwhile. Picnic by the sea before climbing back onto the saddle for the final push to Owaka. Late afternoon we’ll drive out to Surat Bay for a walk on this remote and beautiful beach and pay a visit to the resident sea lions.
Day 7: Owaka to Dunedin
You’ll ride out to Nugget Point to admire the spectacular views, before continuing on to Balclutha for lunch. In the afternoon you have the option to drive over the busy highway section to Milton; from here a serious climb will challenge you before you drop down to the coast for the final, gentle ride along the beach into Dunedin.
Day 8: Dunedin – Departure Day
Sadly your tour ends today after breakfast but there are plenty of options for more adventures. Talk to your tour guide about riding out to the spectacular Otago Peninsular.
Join us for this tour
We currently have a limited number of spaces available on an upcoming Queenstown to Dunedin tour, which gets underway on 26 March. The tour costs $2995.00 NZD per person, which includes:
Seven nights of 3-star twin share accommodation.
Seven days of delicious breakfasts and five days of lunches and dinners. (We leave you free to sample local cafes/restaurants on certain days).
Support vehicle to whisk you up the steep bits.
Luggage transfer for lightweight touring.
Knowledgeable, friendly tour guide.
High quality bike hire.
Late-March is a perfect time to experience the South Island as the weather should still be fine and settled…but not too hot or too cold!
Earlier in the year, Wendy Laugesen hired a Specialized Rockhopper from Natural High to compete in the Spring Challenge in Queenstown. Here’s a little bit about her riding life and her verdict of the bike…
When did you start riding and why?
I started mountain biking in Whistler where I lived about ten years ago. There were so many amazing trails that we had to see, so my friends and I bought second hand bikes. Beautiful.
Why did you choose to hire the Specialized Rockhopper?
I think this bike was the one Andy recommended, as I wanted a good quality, fast, 29-inch hardtail that I could ride in the Spring Challenge race in Queenstown. I have a 26-inch at home which is great, but my two team mates were riding 29-inch bikes and I’d had a bit of trouble keeping up on the flatter 4WD trails and roads.
As a first timer on the 29er wheels, what did you think? And were the larger tires an advantage?
The Rockhopper was awesome. Loved riding it. The 29-inch wheel size made such a difference and I had no trouble keeping up – and passing my team mates. I would definitely choose to ride a 29er again in this kind of race.
The Rockhopper features SRAM X5, 2 x 10 gearing. What did you think of the gear ratio and was the highest gear sufficient for climbing?
The Rockhopper was great for climbing. There were a couple of pretty steep climbs in the race to get up to the Rabbit Ranch trails in the Gibbston Valley, but I found the climbs pretty easy on this bike. The highest gear was more than sufficient. I didn’t have much of a chance to ride the Rockhopper before the race, and the gears were quite different to my Giant, but the bike was really easy to adjust to.
Specialized is known for its Body Geometry advancements in grips and seats – how would you rate them?
Very highly. It was comfortable and fast. I will buy a 29er in the near future and am keen for my new bike to be a Specialized Rockhopper.
What’s your favourite ride around New Zealand?
The Queen Charlotte Track is a fun, scenic ride. There’s also an awesome track built by the Mountain Bike Club in Dunedin. It’s a really fun loop riding north from the Bull Pen behind Flagstaff, down a single trail through the forest and then back up to the Bull Pen.
Thanks Wendy for taking the time to answer our questions.
Earlier in the year we introduced you to a few of the Natural High team members. Well, with the onset of summer, things have got a tad busier and we’ve had to hire more staff to keep everything ticking over…
Name: Jeremy aka J-Dogg.
Job title: Head bike mechanic in Christchurch. Home town: Christchurch. Favourite New Zealand ride/trail: Queenstown jump park (any riding in Queenie makes me happy). Best spot for after-biking drinks: Any local car park or outside the nearest bottle shop, if you’re that thirsty! Favourite NZ small town: Twizel – there’s loads of fun stuff to do around the lakes and a funky little skate park. Who would play you in the film of your life: Wesley Snipes. Top tip for better biking: As you’d expect a mechanic to say – a well-tuned bike. It’s not about how much you spend on the bike but how you look after it. Bike you’d most like to own: I have some conceptual sketches but yet to purchase a welder. What do you do when not riding: Work on my car, tinker with things, figure out easier ways of living!
Name: Mike Buttar. Job title: Bike mechanic in Auckland. Home town: Queenstown. Favourite New Zealand ride/trail: Queenstown to Glenorchy – nice scenery, plenty of hills Best spot for after-biking drinks: Glenorchy Tavern. Favourite NZ small town: Arrowtown.
Who would play you in the film of your life: Simon Pegg. Top tip for better biking: Get a bike fit done. Bike you’d most like to own: Colnago C59. What do you do when not riding: Darts, cricket, working.
The West Coast Wilderness Trail currently concludes in Hokitika, a buzzing little community surrounded by dramatic coastline and stunning mountain scenery. It’s Andy’s favourite small town and a great spot to while away a few days. (It’s also the setting for Eleanor Catton’s 2013 Man Booker prize winning novel The Luminaries.)
Play: Pan for gold at the historic goldfields of Ross and Goldsborough. Marvel at the vivid, turquoise waters of the Hokitika Gorge. Discover the area’s rich history at the Hokitika Museum or catch a glimpse of a kiwi at the National Kiwi Centre.
Ride: If the Wilderness Trail has left you wanting more off road action, there are plenty of other trails around the region to keep you entertained. Easier riding can be found near Lake Kaniere and Lake Mahinapua, or head to the Blue Spur area for a tougher challenge. The Westland Mountain Bike Club has ride ideas on their website.
Refuel: ClockTower Café was recently awarded ‘Runner-up Cafe of the Year 2012/13 for the West Coast Region’ by Café Magazine. You’ll find it…next to the Clock Tower!
Tug at the purse strings: Hokitika is home to numerous artists and craftspeople and you’ll find a diverse range of interesting shops and galleries throughout the town.
Admire: The Arahura River is rich in pounamu – also known as greenstone or New Zealand jade. Head to Hokitika beach, where, if you’re lucky, you might just find a piece amongst the pebbles.
By road: three and a half hours from Christchurch via Arthur’s Pass. The Great Coast Road from Westport to Hokitika has been voted one of the top 10 coastal drives in the world by Lonely Planet.
By rail: take the TranzAlpine Rail Journey from Christchurch, considered one of the top six rail journeys in the world.
By air: regular flights from Christchurch.
Ready to ride the West Coast Wilderness Trail and explore Hokitika? We can provide top-of-the-range bike hire, panniers and accommodation recommendations. Get in touch to set your West Coast adventure in motion…
136km of spectacular riding amongst dense rainforest, glacial rivers and historic, gold rush towns…the West Coast Wilderness Trail is not to be missed.
The first three sections from Greymouth to Hokitika are now officially open for riding (hooray!) with the final stage from Hokitika to Ross due to be completed next year.
In September, Natural High helped a group of Year 13 Kaiapoi High School students test out the trail prior to opening. Here’s Rebecca Bailey’s account of their trip…
Sun, sea, adventure and friends…
These are the four things that best describe my first cycle tour on the wonderful West Coast Wilderness Track. Our class left all bright eyed and ready on the 23 September all excited for the tour. Before we all embarked on our amazing journey, preparation was in order. We began by grabbing some of the older bikes and learning to change a tyre, chain, brake cables etc. So you can imagine that we were total “pros” by the time we hit the tracks. Next we had to decide where we were going. Out of the many choices our teacher had, we all decided on the West Coast Wilderness Trail from Greymouth to Hokitika past Kumara and Lake Kaniere. With our trusty Natural High bikes and panniers, we were finally ready.
Leaving school at a crisp 9am on Monday morning we travelled the wonderful scenic road to the Greymouth Information Centre. Here we stopped for lunch, and loaded up our bikes ready to leave. After waving goodbye to the locals, we set off on our journey to the racecourse near Kumara.
Our first stage was flat – only taking us about two hours which provided enough time to get used to the weight on our bikes. Although some of the class managed to clip panniers on some narrow gaps between poles on the trail, the roaring ocean scenery kept our hopes high as we carried on to our destination.
Arriving at the Kumara racecourse, we headed in to the dining room and started to find our places to sleep. But alas we were not sleeping here, the bathroom foyer was the only place with carpet so the class migrated to the toilets, separating into the ‘jockeys’ and ‘lady jockeys’. For us 12 females all trying to squeeze into the smaller of the rooms was not easy, and the only male student in our class got the biggest room to himself. “Whose idea was this?” Nice and warm in this wee room, sleep was the next issue; nonetheless we eventually drifted off ready for the next exciting day of cycling.
Waking to a beautiful cloudless day in Kumara, we downed some porridge and packed for the toughest day of our ride. The ride from Kumara to Lake Kaniere, approximately 8 hours (for our class who were newish to cycling) and a “wonderful” undulating track in the heat of a sunny West Coast day. “At least it isn’t raining” Looking to our left and right we passed weirs, reservoirs and amazing backcountry bush and wildlife. The class carried on up the hills chanting “1 and 1” this was how we survived. Although some of us, especially those with a trailer, couldn’t make it up some of the hills. This led to the formation of a walking group known as the ‘Honga Tribe’.
With a lunch time stop at the top of the final hill, we were all refreshed knowing Lake Kaniere was getting ever closer. Following lunch was the highlight of the day, DOWNHILL!!! Picking up speed, (too much speed) we all whizzed past waterfalls and creeks, with the smell of brake rubber filling our nostrils. An abrupt halt at a closed gate stopped us in our tracks. Working as a true tribe, one by one we lifted everyone’s bikes over the locked gate and carried on our journey.
Finally after some more up hills and downhill’s, walking and the sounding of squeaky horns and bells, we arrived at our next location, A HOUSE! In Lake Kaniere. After a long day and some unpacking, some of us headed off to the lake for a debrief and even a swim. Brrr. We had a slightly more enjoyable dinner that night, knowing that we had a spongy mattresses and a good night sleep ahead. This encouraged plenty of class interaction and even an impromptu dance party. We headed to bed while treated to the pink setting sky over the lake and began to look forward to the last day.
Waking to another glorious day on the West Coast, we left our Lake Kaniere rental home with Hokitika now in our sights. Our last days ride wasn’t very long and this showed in the speed we generated up some of the hills. Some uphills and downhill’s, through the forest, along the road – this really capped the trip off for me and I wish to do it again someday, especially when the track to Ross is finished. After stopping for compulsory ice-cream at the local BP, we headed back to Kaiapoi exhausted but satisfied with our first cycle tour.
For some who may have been infected with this disease I recommend next time, you try not to rush because the sights I saw by taking it nice and slow were truly remarkable. If you plan on taking this track allow plenty of time for breaks and some photography as bikes can go places no car can. Also be prepared for rain. Unless you were lucky like our class… Finally have fun and do enjoy yourselves.
Rebecca Bailey, L3 Kaiapoi High, Outdoor Education Class 2013.
Fancy riding the trail? We can provide top-of-the-range bike hire, panniers and accommodation recommendations. Get in touch to set your West Coast adventure in motion…
‘Tis the season of joy and goodwill! We’ve rounded up a few Christmas gift ideas for the keen cyclist or outdoor explorer in your life. Spread a little cycling love this holiday season!
For the rugged adventurer: BioLite CampStove™
This ingenious portable stove cooks your meals using twigs and leaves…and charges your phone at the same time. Ditch the expensive gas canisters and simply collect your fuel as you need it.
Tech specs: The heat from the fire generates electricity via a thermoelectric generator to power a fan creating airflow for improved combustion. Surplus electricity is sent to the USB port for charging devices.
For the urban cyclist: Hövding “invisible” bicycle helmet
Hövding is an “invisible” bicycle helmet developed in Sweden. It looks like a scarf but in the event of a crash or impact, a small gas canister in the back of the collar inflates an airbag around the wearer’s neck and head.
In tests carried out last year by Swedish insurance company Folksam, Hövding was found to be “more than three times as good as the best conventional cycle helmet.”
The product is becoming increasingly popular in Europe and the company is set to launch sales in Canada and Japan next year. But at Euro399 (around NZ$660) it’s certainly not a cheap safety option. (And once inflated, it can’t be used again).
We’re also not entirely sure if wearing this would constitute a “helmet” in the eyes of the NZ law. Food for thought over the Xmas Day dining table, perhaps?
Not a gift for under the tree but a gift that gets you out into the trees. Set aside a few hours, pack a picnic and jump on your bikes to explore an area, park or trail you haven’t visited before.
A few places you could venture: Christchurch: The Little River Rail Trail. Auckland: Hunua Ranges Regional Park. Tracks, trails and prime picnic spots south of the city. Wellington: Pick a section of the Rimutaka Cycle Trail, which runs from Petone to Ocean Beach.
Stocking filler #1: Journey Magazine
A printed and online magazine guaranteed to spark your lust for bicycling adventures. Pick up a copy from Natural High or head to the Journey website to subscribe.
It’s one of New Zealand’s biggest cycling events, bringing together cyclists of all abilities; from lycra-clad whippets to weekend warriors to the “I’ll give it a crack even though I’ll be sore for the next month” type.
Competing in the Contact Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge has been on my radar since I first took up cycling and even though the stars weren’t really aligning for this year’s event (held on 30 November), I did it anyway!
This year, over 8000 people took up the challenge, competing in solo road races, relays, mountain bike challenges and children’s races. Now, as you’ve probably noticed, my heart lies in the rough back country hills but Logan, my faithful riding companion and Auckland Natural High manager, was adamant that I should start with the classic challenge: the 160km road race that takes you anti-clockwise around the lake. Logan completed this race a couple of years ago and after starting in a slow group, did a tough solo ride of six hours and five minutes. This year he had something to prove.
Logan only started training a month out from the race and had put in a total of six long rides (between 60-80km) plus his regular commute to work and quick spins throughout the day testing out our bike fleet. Perks of the job.
My training consisted of daily bike rides to work and a 10-day cycle tour of Myanmar (Burma) with Red Spokes. Not the speed race training I was hoping for, although constantly having to navigate around ox carts and basket-balancing locals gave my hand signals plenty of practice.
What to carry on the day
Getting the nutrition right on a 160km race is tricky. Although I’ve ridden plenty of long-distance days, they’ve always featured lots of stops along the way to smell the roses and refuel.
Before the race, Logan presented me with a small food bag to attach to the top tube of the bike, which I filled with a small bag of jet planes and nuts, a tube of gel and a power bar. This proved to be perfect. I scoffed between 80 and 120km, guzzled down the gel to stave off cramp and nibbled on the power bar, although I found the dry crumble hard to swallow and a small mouthful from about 40km was the best I could do.
Our game plan was simple
A slow start to ride our legs into a good cadence, then hammer it from Turangi. By the 40km mark Logan and I had starting working in with a couple of others and were making excellent time. But then disaster struck. My right cleat broke while powering up a small incline. Considering I’d had problems with these the week before, I was cursing my lack of preparation and being reduced to three-quarter power while raring to go at race speed proved frustrating and energy sapping.
The straw that broke the camel’s back
Anyone that has cycle toured from Turangi to Taupo will recall the long, taxing incline of Hatepe Hill. It was here while struggling to get my legs going, that an Aussie bloke in the 320km/twice around Lake Taupo category, flew past as if we were standing still. And he wasn’t young! 13km from the finish, a fella from Rotorua nursed me home, drafting me from the windy conditions that had been the bane of the day’s ride. Our time: five hours 22 minutes. We were stoked!
Over the weekend I talked to cyclists from all over the world and heard many inspiring stories. Like our Japanese client who, four years ago, suffered a tyre blowout in this event and has felt compelled to settle the score ever since. A father and son team from the UK and Australia respectively, who share a love of cycling and decided to meet up in New Zealand for this race. And Kristen from Switzerland, who’s currently here on a MTB touring holiday. Last year she travelled around New Zealand by bus and regretted every minute she wasn’t on her bike.
Regardless of our reasons for entering, the challenge is the same for all of us. We ride for passion, the thrill of being a part of something special…and the feeling of satisfaction when we finally cross the finish line.
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.
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.
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.
A: 10 Uenuku Way,
Off Tom Pearce Drive,
Auckland International Airport Ph:+64-9-257-4673
(April – September):
Monday to Friday, 9.00am to 5.00pm.
Spring, Summer & Autumn Hours
(October – March):
Monday to Friday, 9.00am to 5.00pm.
Saturday 10.00am to 4.00pm
Closed on Public Holidays
If our opening hours don’t suit your plans, please ask about a bike drop off or pick up service. Service available in Auckland or Christchurch only and subject to staff availability. Fees and conditions apply.
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