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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other events you might fancy taking part in:

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

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

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

Have a great week,

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

Top 5 Guidebooks for Planning a NZ Cycle Tour

top 5 guidebooks for planning a nz cycle tourContemplating a cycle tour of New Zealand? We offer a number of resources to help you plan the perfect trip. Top tour planners available for sale on the website include:

Tour Aotearoa Official Guide – Bikepacking Cape Reinga to Bluff
This two volume set provides step-by-step instructions, route maps and insider tips to make cycling from Cape Reinga to Bluff a breeze. $20 for a 2017 twin pack (covers the North and South Islands).

Pedallers’ Paradise North Island & Pedallers’ Paradise South Island
The cycle tourist’s ‘bible’ to biking New Zealand by local author Nigel Rushton. Includes detailed route descriptions, highway profiles, gradients, local attractions, sketch maps and information about services such as food outlets, bike shops and accommodation options. $19 per edition.

Classic New Zealand Mountain Bike Rides North Island & Classic New Zealand Mountain Bike Rides South Island
Published by the Kennett Brothers, these guides includes easy to read directions, elevation charts, maps, distances, times and grades. If it’s worth biking, it’s in these books! $29.90 per edition.

Classic New Zealand Cycle Trails
Features 46 fabulous trips. Includes maps, elevation charts and valuable tips for beginner riders through to seasoned veterans. $29.90.

Classic New Zealand Road Rides
This guide provides full ride descriptions, along with route maps and altitude graphs for three or four classic road rides within each region. In-depth details include Tour de France climb categories, annual average daily traffic volumes, as well as café stops along the way. $29.90.

We also sell a comprehensive range of maps and atlases. We think the best maps for cycling touring are those published at 1:250,000 – these have all the rural roads named, as well as elevation details, geographical features, campsites and points of interest.

All guidebooks and maps can be ordered online and posted to you – email us for postage details.

Have a great week,

Our Newest Team Member Talks Multi-Day Trips & Must-Do Rides

The Natural High team is chock-full of passionate bikers and our newest addition, Claire Glanville, is no exception. Born in Tavistock in the UK, Claire came to New Zealand in 2013 and has been living in Christchurch ever since. Here’s a rundown of her riding highlights.

Tell us about your riding experience.
I learned to ride a bike when I was four, and have been biking ever since. My first brand new bike at the age of eight was a metallic red Raleigh Peugeot road bike; it was very special to me as it was bought for me by my parents from money left in my granny’s will – it was my pride and joy! I currently enjoy both road and MTB riding, but do more MTB in New Zealand as there are so many single tracks and trails to ride. I currently ride a Giant Trance and a Claude Butler Milano road bike I brought with me from the UK.

What’s your favourite ride (either in New Zealand or overseas) and why?
I have enjoyed all the trails that I’ve ridden here in New Zealand as the scenery is so amazing. I think the Queen Charlotte will stand out as my favourite, as it was my first multi-day ride in New Zealand. It was a challenging ride for me, but the hard work was all forgotten by the memories of the initial boat trip to the start, the amazing views and awesome downhills. In the UK my favourite rides I completed were the Coast to Coast multi-day ride which takes you from Whitehaven on the west coast to Tynemouth on the east coast. My favourite local ride is the Devon Coast to Coast which took us from Ilfracombe on the north coast to Plymouth on the south coast. These UK rides both benefited from some amazing village country pubs on the way.

Best spot for after-biking drinks?
I really enjoy the New Zealand craft beers and ciders – therefore any pub that serves these is a good spot as far as I am concerned. I do really like Pomeroy’s here in Christchurch as they have such a great range of beers, and the Honest Lawyer in Nelson is great to frequent after completing the Dun Mountain Trail. My favourite local country pub back in the UK is The Castle Inn, Lydford – this is in the village that my granny and grandad lived in.

What do you like to do when you’re not riding?
I just love anything outdoors. I play competitive tennis for my local Kaiapoi team. I enjoy tramping, growing my own vegetables, outdoor swimming and going to the gym to keep fit for all my outdoor adventures. I also like to hang out with mates enjoying a coffee, BBQ or cold beer/cider.

What made you want to work for Natural High?
Since arriving in New Zealand I have been hoping to work for a biking company as I wanted to combine my passion of biking with my experience/skills I have from working in the leisure and tourism industry within the UK. I met Steve and the team whilst I was at my previous employer, as Natural High supplied bikes to our customers; when an opportunity came up to join Steve, Cecileah and the team I jumped at it!

Do you have any “must-do” rides or destinations?
I am trying to tick all the South Island New Zealand trails off the list. I really want to do the Old Ghost Road next, and then the St James Trail and a trip to Queenstown to do Around the Mountains is on the list too!

Anything else you’d like to share?
I am going to spend some of the off season back in the UK visiting family and friends; so I am looking forward to trying out some of the trails at my local Haldon Forest Bike Park in Exeter, Devon.

Claire is based in our Christchurch branch on Harewood Road (close to Christchurch International Airport). We’ve got a fully-equipped bike shop, shower facilities and luggage storage on site, as well as a huge selection of top-quality bike rentals and accessories. Pop in and check out our services if you’re in the area!

Have a great week,

Image: Claire on the Heaphy Track.

Great South Island Day Rides: Dun Mountain Trail

dun mountain trailLooking for a decent leg workout? Then put Nelson’s Dun Mountain Trail on your to-do list. This one-day loop climbs to a height of 878m along New Zealand’s first railway line before descending back down to Nelson.

The early part of the ride takes you through Codgers Mountain Bike Park and mature beech forest. The gradient is shallow and constant, but there are plenty of information boards along the way to give you an excuse for a break! Another good pitstop option is the hut at Third House, where you’ll find fresh water.

Near Windy Point (which is appropriately named), the trail opens out onto the mountain tops, giving you stunning views across Tasman Bay. Coppermine Saddle is the highest point of the ride, and from there it’s downhill all the way back to Nelson.

You’ll be navigating loose rocky terrain for the first 10km of the descent (definitely more suited to a full suspension bike.) Sections here are narrow with deep drainage ditches on either side. After crossing Maitai River the going gets easier, with the last 11km of the ride following the river into the heart of Nelson.

Useful information:

  • The trail starts about 1km along Brook Street, 3km from the Nelson CBD. The start is well sign-posted and there are various car parking options in the vicinity.
  • Total trail distance is 43km, and should take around 4-6 hours to complete.
  • The Dun Mountain Trail is a grade 3 to 4 trail, best suited to fit and experienced off-road bikers.

While you’re in Nelson, make sure you pop into The Bike Station on Vanguard Street. As well as all the usual services you’d expect from a bike shop, they also serve excellent coffee and food. It’s a great place to swap biking stories and get some insider knowledge of the local area.

Drop us an email if you’d like to organise bike hire for this ride. It’s also a good option if you’re roadtripping around New Zealand with a combined camper and bike hire.

Have a great week,

P.S. Our Auckland and Christchurch branches will be closed on Tuesday 25 April for Anzac Day.

Image: Steve Bittinger.

Craft Beers By Bike: Where To Go To Sample NZ’s Best Brews

Sample NZ craft beers at Moutere Inn, NelsonNew Zealand is well-known for the quality of its wine. But did you know that our craft beer industry is also starting to make a name for itself, with dozens of small breweries popping up all over the country? If you appreciate a hoppy brew after a few hours in the saddle, here are a few places to head for.

Hallertau Brewery, Coatesville-Riverhead Hwy, Auckland
If you’ve ridden like a hero at Woodhill Mountain Park, reward yourself with a beer from Hallertau’s Heroic range. Located just a 20-minute drive from the park (on your way back into Auckland), this brewery offers a huge range of hand-crafted beers, as well as a beer garden, restaurant (currently closed due to a kitchen fire) and brewery tours.

The Moutere Inn, Moutere, Nelson
Relaxed riding, beautiful coastal views and an endless supply of cafes, breweries and vineyards are all on the menu of Nelson’s Great Taste Trail. With so many pit stop options, it can be hard to know where to pull over, but true beer connoisseurs should make a beeline for Moutere Inn, New Zealands’ oldest pub and a craft beer freehouse with 13 rotating taps. The Inn also has its own range of craft beers under the Moutere Brewing label.

Three Boys Brewery, Christchurch
After you’ve sampled Christchurch’s vast array of cycling terrain, head to the Three Boys cellar door, for an equally impressive lineup of classic pilsners, golden ales and IPAs. If you like rich and dark malts, give the Oyster Stout a go – Three Boys say the secret is in the addition of Bluff Oysters harvested from the southernmost waters of the Pacific Ocean.

Scotts Brewing, Oamaru
When the Alps 2 Ocean Trail deposits you in Oamaru, head for the waterfront and the sunny deck of Scotts Brewing. Made with local grain, South Island hops and Southern Alpine water, there’s an ever-changing array of beer on tap – including New Zealand’s only gluten-free beer.

Catlins Brewery, Kaka Point, Catlins
You’ll work up a sweat on our 6 Day Self-Guided Catlins Coast Tour. Reward yourself by popping into The Point Café and Bar in Kaka Point to sample this unusual range of beers, which take their names from the stories and landmarks of the local region. Look out for Yellow-Eyed Pilsner, White Squall Wheat Beer and Nuggety Black Stout.

Looking for bike hire? Check out your options on the website. You could also put together your own bike and brewery tour of New Zealand with combined campervan and bike hire.

Have a great week,

Image: NZ Craft Beer TV

Rotorua: Not Just For Mountain Bikers

One of Rotorua's many geothermal attractionsWith hundreds of kilometres of trails, Rotorua is often billed as a mountain bike destination. And while Whakarewarewa Forest is impressive, there are plenty more biking, cultural and geothermal reasons to visit this intriguing region.

Maori culture
With a large Maori population, Rotorua offers numerous cultural experiences, and two popular activities are concerts and hangi (meals cooked in an earth oven). Various operators offer packages, or pay a visit to Te Whakarewarewa, a living Maori village which is also home to numerous geothermal features. Most impressive of these is the Pohutu geyser, which erupts between 10 and 20 times a day. Cultural performances by one of Rotorua’s leading Kapa Haka groups take place daily at 11.15am and 2pm, and feature traditional song and dance (including the fearsome Haka).

Geothermal activity
Rotorua is part of the Taupo Volcanic Zone, a geothermal field extending from White Island off the Bay of Plenty coast to Mt Ruapehu far to the south. The geothermal features of this region are some of the most concentrated and dramatic in the world. Kuirau Park, close to town, is home to a crater lake, pools of boiling mud, and small mineral baths. Further afield, Waiotapu, (meaning Sacred Waters), offers the large, boiling Champagne Pool, craters and blowholes, colourful mineral terraces and the Lady Knox Geyser, which performs punctually at 10.15am every day.

Te Ara Ahi – Thermal by Bike
One of the best ways to discover the sights of Rotorua is by bike. Te Ara Ahi – Thermal by Bike is one of New Zealand’s Great Rides. The 48km trail takes in four significant fields: Whakarewarewa Thermal Reserve, Waimangu Volcanic Valley, Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland and Waikite Valley Thermal Springs. The route is easily split into one-day or half-day rides, allowing you plenty time to soak up the scenery and culture along the way.

Hot pools
Talking of soaking, Rotorua also offers some exceptional hot pools. Popular spots include the Polynesian Spa in Government Gardens, the open-air pools at Waikite Valley Thermal Pools, and Kerosene Creek, on SH5, where you can bathe for free.

You can experience Rotorua as part of a guided tour, or a self-guided tour. Alternatively, book a combined camper and bike hire, for total travel flexibility.

Have a great week,

Image: Te Puia. Robert Linsdell

35 Days, 9 Cities & 1 Bike: Sequoia Schmidt’s Intrepid NZ Book Tour

Sequoia Schmidt NZ Book TourSequoia Schmidt is no stranger to adventure. The daughter of renowned mountain climber Marty Schmidt and sister of 25-year-old Denali Schmidt, who both died in an avalanche on K2 in 2013, Sequoia is about to embark on a 35-day cycle tour across New Zealand to promote her recently-released book Journey of the Heart: A Sojourn to K2.

The book documents another intrepid journey in her life – her trip to K2 Base Camp in 2015 to retrace her late father and brother’s footsteps, and “respect the mountain and the climbers who came before.”

Born in the Hawke’s Bay but now living in California, this is Sequoia’s first time back in New Zealand following the deaths of her father and brother. She’ll be stopping in nine cities along the way, conducting book readings, Q&As and signings, starting in Queenstown and ending in Auckland on May 4.

Sequoia will be pedalling her way around New Zealand on a Surly Long Haul Trucker, picking it up from our Christchurch branch and returning it to our Auckland branch at the end of her tour. This is a robust, comfortable bike that’s perfect for the kind of long-distance trip that Sequoia is about to embark on. (If you’re considering cycle touring around New Zealand, check it out on our website).

Fancy meeting Sequoia and hearing more about her amazing adventures? Here’s a list of her tour dates:

Queesntown: Lakes District Library, 11 April – 5pm.
Dunedin: City Library, 12 April – 5.30pm.
Christchurch: Upper Riccarton Library, 13 April – 5.30pm.
Wellington: Central Library, 20 April – 5.30pm.
Palmerston North: Central Library, 22 April – 12.30pm.
Napier: Public Library, 24 April – 5.30pm.
Tauranga: Library, 29 April – 12.30pm.
Hamilton: Creative Waikato Space, 1 May – 6pm.
Auckland: Central Library, 4 May – 5.30pm.

Have a great week,

P.S. Mountain bike fan? Crankworx is taking place in Rotorua right now. This is the first major event of the new season and there’s heaps going on, including the Rotorua Pump Track Challenge on Friday 31 March and the Crankworx Rotorua Downhill on Saturday 1 April.

Great North Island Day Rides: Ohakune’s Old Coach Road

old coach roadFeaturing volcanoes, viaducts and spectacular views, Ohakune’s Old Coach Road is a fascinating half-day or full-day adventure on the fringes of Tongariro National Park.

Constructed in 1907, this cobbled road was originally used to ferry goods and passengers between the northern and southern railheads. The route was abandoned upon the completion of the North Island Main Trunk line in November 1908, and lay forgotten until 2002.

Today, the 15km road serves as a popular cycle and walking track. If you’re only planning to ride one-way, the route from Horopito to Ohakune is easier, with a mainly downhill gradient all the way. If you’re cycling both legs, start out at Ohakune and get the uphill slog out the way first (although there are only one or two steep sections and most of the track is easygoing).

Various impressive sights line the route including the only two curved viaducts remaining in the Southern Hemisphere. Taonui Viaduct and the much-larger Old Hapuawhenua Viaduct were constructed in 1907–8 under tough, working conditions. Thanks to recent restoration work, Old Hapuawhenua Viaduct (where AJ Hackett established bungy jumping) is crossable.

The road also dives through the pitch black of the curved Hapuawhenua train tunnel, and meanders alongside ancient forest where you can catch glimpses of giant rimu and spiky mountain cabbage trees.

Vintage car fans should also request a diversion to Horopito Motor Wreckers, commonly known as Smash Palace due to its role in a cult 1981 movie of the same name.

Experience this ride with a combined campervan and bike rental. This is a great way to see New Zealand and sample a selection of cycle trails along the way. Head here to see the full range of vans available.

Have a great week,

Image: Old viaduct near Old Coach Road, Ohakune. Jim Swanson.

Catch the Autumn Colours in Queenstown

Few places in New Zealand experience autumn colours like the Southern Lakes region – Queenstown, Arrowtown, and Wanaka. Around April, the hills are ablaze with golden hues, providing picture-postcard views at every turn.

One way to immerse yourself in this stunning landscape is to cycle the Queenstown Trail. Linking Queenstown, Arrowtown and the Gibbston Valley, this 120km network of trails offers everything from easy lakeside jaunts to more ambitious, long-distance treks. Here are three riding options.

Lake Hayes Circuit
An 8km loop around New Zealand’s most photographed lake. Experience stunning mountain and lake vistas as well as a peek at some of the area’s fanciest homes.

Arrow River Bridges Ride
16km of easy riding which zigzags across five bridges over the Arrow River, takes you alongside AJ Hackett’s Bungy, and meanders through the magnificent wine-growing region of Gibbston Valley. This ride begins in Arrowtown, which is widely regarded as the best place in the country to soak up the autumnal hues. (If you’re only travelling one-way, its better to start out from Arrowtown for a predominantly downhill ride.) The town also hosts a boisterous Autumn Festival at the end of April (running from 20 to 25 April in 2017).

Lake Wakatipu Ride
Incredible views and easy-going riding are the features of this 15km trail around Lake Wakatipu. Numerous cafes and restaurants offer refuelling options along the way.

If an all-inclusive guided tour of this region is more to your liking, check out our 6 Day Southern Lakes Christchurch to Queenstown Cycle (GR023), or our 6 Day West Coast Queenstown to Christchurch Cycle, both of which offer autumn 2018 departure dates.

Have a great week,

Image: Image: The Remarkables. Mike Hermary

Have You Got What It Takes to Enter One of the Gems of New Zealand Adventure Racing?

spring challenge nzSpring Challenge is an all-women adventure race that’s been running in the South Island since 2007. Last year, 1350 women rafted, mountain biked and hiked their way around Golden Bay, with another 540 women taking part in a similar event on the North Island.

One of those racing at Golden Bay was Natural High’s Cecileah, who was a last-minute injury replacement for a friend’s team. Despite her late call up and rainy conditions, Cecileah loved every minute of the event, especially the mountain bike section.

“The best part was the sense of achievement completing all the disciplines – rafting, mountain biking and running rogaine plus surprise canoe towards the end!”

Cecileah and her team took part in the six hour event. There’s also a three hour and nine hour event to choose from, depending on your ability level. Each team consists of three women, and the team stays together throughout the course.

This year, dates and locations for Spring Challenge are:
South Island: Geraldine, 29 September – 1 October 2017.
North Island: Auckland region, 13 October -15 October 2017.

Both the South and North Island Challenges involve elements of mountain biking, hiking, rafting and navigation.

Based on her experience, Cecileah recommends plenty of strength and endurance training, as well as map reading skills and rogaining. Her teammates also booked some mountain bike skills training with Natural High, which helped improve their confidence and riding ability.

Entries for this year’s Spring Challenge open at 7am on Saturday 1 April and book out fast, so if you want to get involved make sure you’re poised over your keyboard bright and early. You’ll find full entry details on the website:

You will need a mountain bike to compete in this event. If you’re travelling from overseas or another part of New Zealand, we have top-quality models available to hire. We also offer mountain bike skills training on local hills in either the South Island or North Island, so if you’re not a confident rider or would like to improve your riding technique and gain an edge on the competition, get in touch today.

Have a great week,

Image: Cecileah and her teammates on the finish line of the 2016 Spring Challenge.