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!

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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!


The Freewheeling Adventures of Bert and Doug

Way back in the 1980’s, Natural High’s intrepid leader Andy had his first introduction to cycle touring, thanks to an adventurous pair of Americans called Bert and Doug…
cycle touring new zealand
I was a fresh-faced youngster in the 80’s when I met my first cyclist.

Bert and Doug were a couple of 20-year olds from Colorado, who were seeing the world by bike. They had made contact with the Auckland tourism hosting group my parents belonged to, which helped visitors to New Zealand arrange meals and accommodation with host families.

My parents were superb hosts. Mum would cook a Sunday roast of Yorkshire puddings and three veges fresh from the garden, topped off with a superstar kiwifruit pavlova. Then Dad would take visitors on a tour of the dairy farm, and if they were really lucky, give them a display of young calves feeding on a Kiwi invention called a “calfateria.”

Not surprisingly, Doug and Bert loved our hospitality and their planning seemed to take a while! Maps with notes, directions and contact addresses were constantly strewn all over our breakfast table. Cycle touring in New Zealand was very uncommon back then, and cars would often stop cyclists to ask if they would like a lift. Cycling was seen as a mode of transport forced upon by circumstances, certainly not something anybody would choose to do for fun.

I’d never seen anything like Doug and Bert’s bikes before – 21 gears, cable caliper brakes, drop-down handle bar, bags capable of carrying extreme quantities of gear and enough repair kit to start their own bike shop. Tubes, tires, spokes, derailleur hangers, brake pads, cables – they had it all!

Yet what amused me most of all was their choice of riding clothing. Tight, stretchy material that was ultra-revealing, yet they called it comfortable and practical?

Their New Zealand grand tour was split into two: North Island, back for Christmas at the Hunt’s, then the South Island. Their stories at Christmas were hilarious and featured eye-opening acts of kindness; a stay with an active mob member and his family, rides with local farmers when their bikes had broken down, kicking up their heels at a Young Farmers Ball…

Doug and Bert were no athletes, but their biking journey had taken them deep into the lives of Kiwis that the average tourist was unable to experience. It was the connection with the country, the land, the environment and the people that seemed to set cycling apart.

Doug and Bert had an acceptance that everything would always work out and a sense of freedom that was inspiring. Their experiences were to prove the catalyst for my own cycling adventures…but that’s a story for another day.

Inspired to start planning your own biking tour of New Zealand? At Natural High we offer a huge selection of both guided and self-guided cycle tours that will give you an exhilarating, first-hand glimpse of Kiwi life.

Not sure where to go? Feel free to drop us a line or give us a call on 0800 444 144. We’re always happy to listen to your questions and share our recommendations.

Until next time, happy cycling,
Andy

Photo: Andy and Kay freewheeling around New Zealand.


Small Town New Zealand: Raglan

We’re on a mission to show you our favourite small towns of New Zealand. This week we’re kicking back in the west coast town of Raglan, home to world-class surf, taxing uphill rides and smooth caffeine highs.

Raglan New ZealandPlay: Where to start? Surf, paddleboard, kayak, horseride, fish, walk, swim, rock climb…It’s officially impossible to be bored in Raglan.

Ride: If you relish a challenge, the 45 km slog around Mount Karioi will get your weekend off to a flying start. The route is predominantly gravel, with long, steep climbs offset by stunning coastal views. You might want to come back for the annual Karioi Classic race, which runs every July.

A little easier on the legs is the back route to Bridal Veil Falls, which takes you through rolling farmland. (Gravel roads again). Stop by the Raglan i-Site in the centre of town for maps and directions.

The road out to Manu Bay and Whale Bay is also popular with bikers but be aware it’s twisty and offers drivers limited visibility.

Java-hit: Raglan Roast, Volcom Lane and Te Uku Roast Office. Roasted daily.

Refuel: The Shack, Bow Street. Tasty breakfasts, lunches and dinner (check beforehand for evening opening hours as these can vary).

Tug at the purse strings: Heaps of great shops along the main street of town. Zinnia is a homeware store with an interesting mix of vintage, retro and new. Find recycled and new clothing at Frocking Gorgeous. Creative Market at the Old School Arts Centre every second Sunday of the month.

Admire: The Studeo Gallery on 21 Cross Street. Disguised as a 1950’s Studebaker car enthusiast’s backyard, this is where you’ll find the ingenious creations of local artist Chris Meek.

After-hours: Fish and chips at the wharf, followed by a sunset spin around the harbour on the Wahinemoe. Or head into town for sundowners on the Verandah Bar of the Harbourview Hotel. The Yot Club has bands most weekends. Pick up a copy of The Raglan Chronicle when you arrive in town for gig listings.

Sweet dreams: Find accommodation listings on raglan.net.nz. There’s a campsite right in town for campervan travellers.

Getting there:
From Auckland: Take State Highway 1 south. At Ngaruawahia turn right at the BP gas station onto State Highway 39. At Whatawhata, turn right at the “T” intersection and follow State Highway 23 to Raglan. Approximately 2 hours depending on traffic.
From Hamilton: Take State Highway 23 to Raglan. Approximately 45 minutes depending on Hamilton traffic.

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Meet the Team

This week we’re getting to know some of the Natural High team…

Natural High AndyName: Andy Hunt
Job title: Colonel & head spokesperson
Home town: Lincoln, New Zealand.
Favourite New Zealand ride/trail: Gees – it’s a toss up between the Timber Trail and the St James but will have to go with the St James. It’s one of the harder epic backcountry South Island rides, with no cell phone coverage, majestic southern Alps, tussock glacial valleys and clear mountain streams.
Best spot for after-biking drinks: Zeroes Café (Cashmere, Christchurch) for either MTB or roadie – excellent coffee.
Favourite NZ small town: Hokitika
Who would play you in the film of your life: People used to say Brian Brown looked like me but I’d like to say Jason Statham.
Top tip for better biking: All physical activity requires energy, but for those long rides or multi-day tours, the right kind of food and liquids along the way become really important. While some of us may stop for a coffee and pub, the right nutrition can mean the difference between a enjoyable ride and an uncomfortable, miserable ride. I always take along some gummy airplanes, mini Moro bar, a bottle of water and bottle of electrolyte.
Bike you’d most like to own: 1988 Daccoldi in blue mother of pearl. This is actually Max’s bike (Natural High team member) that he imported from Italy to use in New Zealand… is it wrong to covert another mans bike?
What do you do when not riding: Skiing at small New Zealand club fields, playing crazy games.

Natural High LoganName: Logan McRae
Job title: Auckland branch manager.
Home town: Auckland, New Zealand.
Favourite New Zealand ride/trail: Heaphy Track. First multi-day MTB ride I ever did; stunning and diverse scenery in a unique part of the country and it’s an awesome track for riding.
Best spot for after-biking drinks: Beers in the car park straight after the ride. Or if riding Hunua, south of Auckland, drive around to the Hunua Falls after the ride.
Favourite NZ small town: Hahei in the Coromandel.
Who would play you in the film of your life: Henry Cavill.
Top tip for better biking: Get your bike set up right. Seat height, stem length, position of brakes and shifters all make a huge difference in your comfort and enjoyment of your riding. Also, RIDE MORE!
Bike you’d most like to own: Currently it would be a 2014 Rocky Mountain Altitude 799 MSL.
What do you do when not riding: Hang out with my son, read.

Natural High JamieName: James Warren
Job title: Auckland mechanic/fleet manager.
Home town: York, Yorkshire, UK.
Favourite New Zealand ride/trail: Redwoods, Rotorua. I love downhill/freeriding and it has fantastic options for both styles.
Best spot for after-biking drinks: Frasers Cafe, Mt Eden.
Favourite NZ small town: Cambridge/Karapiro.
Who would play you in the film of your life: David Beckham!!!
Top tip for better biking: Follow Natural High on Facebook for my weekly Workshop Wednesday posts.
Bike you’d most like to own: Specialized Enduro 26”.
What do you do when not riding: Dad, football, sleep!

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Andy’s Great Rides of New Zealand: The Timber Trail

Earlier in the year, Andy took on the Timber Trail – an 85 km adventure that runs from Pureora to Ongarue (and vice-versa) in the North Island. It’s a route that takes riders back in time; mixing diverse riding, beautiful native forest and tales of old. Here’s his account of the weekend…
Experiencing the Timber Trail

Day 1: Pureora to Piropiro

Distance: 40km

Our journey starts from Pureora Village, once a thriving sawmill town, and takes us south through 8kms of towering native forest. As we hit the lower-slopes of Mount Pureora, our legs get their first real test – it’s a 14 km climb to the western summit. Here the forest changes, with the lower half of the mountain replanted with modern commercial timber like pinus radiata, and the top remaining largely untouched.

Hats off to DOC – they’ve constructed a masterpiece of a track; the climb gradient is no greater than 6% and the switchback corners are easy to steer.

Mount Pureora, or Pure-ora-o-Kahu, is a spiritual place. According to Maori legend, Kahu was a woman of great status. While searching the lands for her lost son, she became sick and her group came to rest on the northern side of the mountain. To offer prayers, her tribe followed the stream Waimiha (wai = wate, miha = special incantations) to the summit. Upon returning, Kahu bathed in the stream and recovered to full health.

Recovery is on our minds too, as we reach the summit and start our descent, only slowed by occasional peeks of Lake Taupo and areas of boggy track. Maintenance is currently being undertaken on the track here, so expect a full pumice surface in the future.

A 30-metre rocky slope brings us to the first of six newly-constructed suspension bridges. These easy to ride wooden bridges are suspended from wire rope and anchored to basalt rock. They’re a modern engineering achievement and similar to the bridges you encounter on the Heaphy, another highly recommended Great Ride of New Zealand.

One more climb and a final swing bridge before a fantastic 14 km champagne downhill run to Piropiro DOC campsite. Wow – it makes the heart sing! Spying our comfortable Britz campervan ready and waiting is also a relief!

Day 2: Piropiro to Ongarue

Views from the Timber TrailDistance: 45km
We wake to fog, which wasn’t in the itinerary! Fortunately it burns off quickly, revealing a beautiful, bluebird day. Ranginui (sky father) is looking down on us favourably.

The second half of the ride follows the old logging tramways, once used to haul huge logs of timber from the forest to the timber mills in the Taumarunui district. At the height of the logging boom there were around 300 mills in this area – now there are just two.

Narratives placed along the trail tell the stories of the early pioneers of this region. As we sit re-fuelling on salty cashews, Moro bars and bananas, we can’t help wondering what they ate back then?

Logging ended here in 1963 and despite the presence of introduced pests such as pigs, goats, deer and possums, the forest is regenerating quickly.

Talking of those pests – the area is popular for hunting, so be prepared to see the odd hunter riding around on a quad bike with guns, pack of dogs and a dead pig. Yes, this truly is backcountry New Zealand!

A short distance on the flat and we’re climbing again. The reward? A fantastic downhill to the first of four suspension bridges, the highlight of which has to be the 90-metre suspension bridge over Mangatukutuku Stream.

Then it’s another, steady climb to the restored Ongarue Spiral, once part of the timber industry’s bush tramway, before a final, long downhill to the start of the valley and the forest boundary.

The last 8 km of the trail takes us along farmland and road, giving us time to reflect on the spiritual and historical journey we’ve just undertaken. Pure bush, crystal-green rivers and a mountain challenge all add up to a unique backcountry riding experience in the central North Island of New Zealand. We’ll be back.

RIDE HIGHLIGHTS
85 km of mountain-bike riding through native New Zealand bush.
Eight massive suspension bridges.
A chance to step back in time and learn about the early timber workers of this area.
Excellent signage and well-maintained tracks.

ABILITY LEVEL
Day 1: grade 3
Day 2: grade 2

RECOMMENDED BIKE
Specialized Hardrock 29ner

GETTING THERE
This trail can be ridden in either direction, although riding from south to north is a more challenging route.

From the North: You’ll find Pureora Village located 45 minutes east of Te Kuiti, along State Highway 30. Turn off State Highway 30 at Maraeroa Road and continue on until just past the Harakeke Centre, where you turn left onto Barryville Road. The trail starts 2km down this road.

From the South: Turn off State Highway 4 onto Ongarue-Waimiha Road. Turn right and cross the river at Tuhua Road. Turn left onto Ngakonui-Ongarue Road and continue for 7 km to the trail start.

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