5 Highlights of the 15 Day Christchurch to Christchurch Tour

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a great week,

Discover What Lives Below in Kaikōura

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

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

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

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

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

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

Getting to Kaikōura

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

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

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

Have a great week,

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

Image: Andrea Schaffer

Look Where Pedal Power Can Take You…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a great week,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a great week,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a great week,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other events you might fancy taking part in:

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

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

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

Have a great week,

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