Hop Aboard the TranzAlpine: One of the World’s Great Rail Journeys

See the Southern Alps aboard the TranzAlpineWhen gold was first discovered on the South Island’s west coast in 1863, hundreds of east coast settlers wanted in on the action. But something rather large stood in their way: the high and often hostile peaks of the Southern Alps.

Travel across this mountain wilderness wasn’t impossible – Maori had been transporting pounamu (jade) across the Alps for many years, and European shepherds had been grazing sheep in the mountains since the mid 1800s.

But as hordes of gold-seekers, pack horses, cattle and sheep reduced the regular route west to little more than a mud slurry, it was clear that the rough bridle path was in desperate need of an upgrade.

In February 1864, surveyor Arthur Dobson and his brother Edward set off in search of a new route through the Alps. After much exploration, they decided that the only option was to cut a road through a steep and rocky pass occasionally used by Maori hunting parties. This was later named Arthur’s Pass.

Around 1000 men toiled through a harsh winter, using only hand tools, rudimentary rock drills and explosives, to form a metalled road. Once the road was open, a stage coach service swung into action. The journey from Christchurch to Hokitika took 36 hours in good weather, and could be delayed more than a week in anything else. From 1907, the rail link from east to west was slowly built from each side, with the through line opening in 1923.

Today, the train ride from Christchurch to Greymouth takes just under five hours and is considered one of the world’s best rail journeys. Sit back and soak up the breathtaking variety of scenery, from the fertile farmlands of the Canterbury Plains to the spectacular peaks of the Southern Alps. Stay alert for the plunge through the Otira rail tunnel, an epic engineering feat through 8.5 kilometres of rotten rock, and watch out for more panoramic vistas on the western side of the Alps – vast sweeps of podocarp forest and gleaming Lake Brunner, fringed with cabbage trees.

A trip aboard the TranzAlpine is a feature of several of our all-inclusive cycle tours, including our 5-Day Road Cycle Tour Christchurch to Christchurch, our 9-Day Christchurch to Queenstown Tour, and our new Best of Both Tour, which we’ll be profiling in more detail over the next few weeks.

Prefer to cycle this vista-filled road? Our 10-Day Road Cycle Tour Christchurch to Queenstown T1 and 15-Day Road Cycle Tour Christchurch to Christchurch give you the opportunity to pedal this famous route – and tick New Zealand’s highest pass across the Southern Alps off your bucket-list.

Get in touch if you’d like to chat about any of these tours. Have a great week,
Steve

Image: Southern Alps. JSilver


Discover a Dram of New Zealand’s Past in Oamaru: New Zealand Whisky Tasting

New Zealand Whisky Tasting in OamaruNew Zealand is rightfully famous for its wine, but whisky rarely makes it onto a traveller’s must-do list.

That’s because whisky distilling nearly became a relic of New Zealand’s past in 1997, when our last remaining distillery – the Willowbank Distillery in Dunedin – closed its doors. The stills were sent to Fiji for making rum and an industry that was first introduced by Scottish settlers in the 1830s seemed destined for the history books.

But in 2010, a group of Tasmanian whisky aficionados made a rare find: stashed away in the small, seaside town of Oamaru sat 443 barrels of cask-strength whisky, the last remnants from the Willowbank Distillery. With a product all ready to go, the trio set about re-invigorating this once thriving industry, and the New Zealand Whisky Company was born.

The barrels now reside in a colonial warehouse in Oamaru’s historic precinct, where the sea air has given the whisky a unique tang that’s seen it collect numerous awards around the world, including a DoubleGold medal for its South Island Single malt at the 2013 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

If you’d like to sample the full New Zealand whisky story, the company’s cellar door is open daily from 10.30am-4.30pm. Several of our guided tours make stops in Oamaru. These include:

6-Day Southern Lakes Christchurch to Queenstown Tour
7-Day Queenstown to Christchurch Road Tour
5-Day Alps to Ocean Tour
6-Day Alps to Ocean Tour
9-Day Twin Trails Tour

Have a great week,
Steve

P.S. We’re all set to launch another new tour for summer 2016/17. Keep your eyes peeled for details – they’ll be coming soon.

Photo: Oamaru’s historic precinct. Samuel Mann


Test Yourself at the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge

serene lake taupoStand on the edge of serene Lake Taupo and you’d never imagine that this was once the site of one of the most violent volcanic eruptions of all time. Around 25,000 years ago, vast quantities of rock, lava and pumice were blasted high into the air, creating the huge basin now filled by Lake Taupo, and coating the whole of the North Island in a thick, toxic ash.

In the years following this massive explosion, the region was regularly rocked by further eruptions, and the area remains volcanically active even today (although the last eruption occurred about 1800 years ago).

Come November and an explosion of a different kind descends upon this little town in the centre of the North Island. Thousands of cyclists flock to Taupo each year for New Zealand’s biggest cycle event: the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge. Famous for its diverse range of entry categories, spectacular scenery and supportive atmosphere, this is a great way to test your cycle fitness and earn some bragging rights at the office, club or dinner table.

Since our Auckland branch manager Logan has ridden the 160km ‘Round the Lake’ category three times now, we thought we’d get him to share some of his experiences.

What‘s the most enjoyable aspect of riding the 160km challenge?
Finishing it! I found it really is a challenging ride and it’s a great feeling of achievement to cross the finish line. Also the atmosphere, most people are pretty friendly and supportive of others on the road.

And the least enjoyable?
The wind! The one thing organisers can’t control is the weather. The first year I did it the wind was so bad they nearly cancelled the event due to safety concerns. The weather can be changeable but it’s all part of the experience. Just be prepared with the right clothing for cold or wet or hot weather.

How have you trained for the event in the past?
Poorly. Haha. I usually seem to leave it kind of late to start training, usually sometime in October. Once I got into it I would ride to work three to four days a week, which is 21km each way for me. This is an easy way to build up base fitness. I would also do a longer road ride on weekends, starting at about 50km and building up from there. The longest training ride I did was 90km. If you’re not experienced riding in bunches, it is a good idea to find a local cycling club or shop group ride, and join a few of their rides to get used to it.

What can riders expect on the course?
There is some really scenic countryside and some great views of the lake. The first half of the ride is quite rolling with a lot of up and down. There are a few good hill climbs and the descent to Waihi is quite steep and fast. Hatepe Hill is notorious as being a hard climb, mostly because you reach the bottom of it after about 130km. A lot of overseas riders find the chip road surface to be quite rough. A carbon bike definitely helps smooth it out.

Anything else you think people should know about the event.
It is a well organised event and an iconic ride in New Zealand. Don’t underestimate your ability when choosing your starting group. I learned that it is better to choose a slightly faster group, then if you can’t keep up with the pace you will get picked up by the next wave. If you start too far back you could end up riding most of the way on your own, without the benefit of being in a bunch, which is what happened to me the first time I entered. It’s not too late to enter and start training!

It’s also not too late to grab a special deal on bike hire for the event (which takes place on 26 November). If you’re coming from overseas, or want to rent a high-performance bike, we’re offering discounted hire for early bird bookings plus the chance to win free bike hire.

Lake Taupo Challenge Early Bird Special
Book before 30 September 2016 and enjoy these great prices:

Alloy road bike: $110 + relocation $75 = $185 (usual price $313.33)
Carbon road bike: $150 + relocation $75 = $225 (usual price $355.33)
Sirrus flat bar: $85 + relocation $75 = $160 (usual price $283.33)
Rockhopper Expert 29 hardtail MTB: $110 + relocation $75 = $185 (usual price $313.33)
Camber 29er full suspension MTB: $150 + relocation $75 = $225 (usual price $355.33)

These prices are for a two-day hire. You’ll be able to pick up your bike in Taupo on Friday 25 November (we’ll be on hand to adjust your bike for a perfect fit and answer any questions you might have about the event) and return on Saturday 26 November after the event.

Even better, everyone who books a bike for the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge before 30 September 2016 will go in the draw to win their bike hire for free*! Drop us an email to reserve your bike today.

Have a great week,
Steve

P.S. The Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge offers rides to suit every level of ability and riding style, from on road to off, short to ultra-long. For full details of all the categories and to register, head to the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge website.

*The winner will have their deposit refunded. If the winner has a booking for multiple bikes, only one bike (the highest value bike) will be free. The winner will still need to sign our normal bike hire terms and conditions and can choose to pay our optional insurance.


Jonny’s Take on Whistler + Christchurch Adventure Park Update

whistler a-lineChristchurch’s new Adventure Park is set to open on 16 December 2016. One member of the Natural High team who’s counting down the days is our Christchurch mechanic Jonny, who’s recently returned from a seven-week trip to Whistler. Here’s his take on the Whistler mountain bike scene.

The riding
Whistler is the best place on earth if you’re a mountain biker. My favourite trail was A-Line (above). It’s probably the most famous trail in Whistler: an advanced machine-built jump trail full of 20-40ft tabletop jumps and high speed berms and rollers. It’s the best fun you can have on a bike. I could happily have ridden it everyday I was in Whistler – it’s that good!

Choice of bike
I took my own bike: I was riding a Specialized Demo 8 the whole time and it was ideal. Best bike for Whistler would be a downhill bike for sure, or even a long travel trail bike would be fine, just depends on your riding style.

Useful tips
If you’re planning on going to Whistler, early and late in the season are probably the best time to go because the trails are in better condition and it’s not so damn busy! And bring lots of spare tubes and extra money for when you keep breaking parts on your bike because you’re doing laps of the bike park all day, everyday!

whistler mountain bikingBefore he headed to Whistler, Jonny spent a day helping shape some jumps at Christchurch’s Adventure Park. He says from what he’s seen so far, it’s going to be good! Once open, the park will be the first, four-season MTB park with lift access in the world. Features include hundreds of kilometres of hand-built trails for all levels, a bar, restaurant, zip line and on-park lodging.

Add in the riding opportunities of the Port Hills, Bottle Lake Forest and McLeans Island, plus the delights of Craigieburn Forest and Hanmer Springs a few hours’ drive away, and Christchurch is all set to be a true mountain bike paradise. We can’t wait!

Have a great week,
Steve

P.S. We offer an exciting range of guided mountain bike tours, from one-day rides to epic multi-day adventures deep in the New Zealand wilderness. Head here to learn more.


Alps 2 Ocean: One of the World’s Most Epic Rides

alps 2 ocean trail
It’s official: the Alps 2 Ocean Trail is one of the world’s most epic rides!

The 301km trail has just has earned a place in Lonely Planet’s newest publication Epic Bike Rides of the World. The guide spotlights 200 of the world’s best rides, with destinations ranging from France, Spain and Italy, to the wilds of Mongolia and Patagonia.

Running from Aoraki/Mount Cook to the cool little coastal town of Oamaru, the Alps 2 Ocean is the longest continuous ride in New Zealand and serves up a dazzling array of scenery, from sweeping mountain vistas to beautiful blue lakes and golden grasslands.

It’s an epic adventure on its own, but we can offer you something even better! We’ve paired the Alps 2 Ocean with another classic ride, the Otago Rail Trail, to create the ultimate South Island adventure. The Twin Trails Tour is our newest offering for summer 2016/17. It’s a nine-day, fully-guided tour that encompasses the Alps 2 Ocean Trail, the Otago Rail Trail and buzzing Queenstown.

What will you experience along the way? Intriguing Maori rock art, interesting townships, old railway tunnels, great vineyards, scenic hot pools – and a helicopter ride across dazzling Lake Pukaki. Click here for a full overview of the itinerary.

The tour is fully-supported and suitable for riders of all abilities. You’ll be accompanied at all times by an experienced guide and support vehicle and have all your accommodation and most meals taken care of. Plus you’ll be able to ride without luggage, since this will be transferred daily to your next overnight stop. For departure dates and to download an itinerary, check out the Twin Trail page.

Have a great week,
Steve

P.S. Wondering whether any other NZ rides made the Lonely Planet guide? Auckland to Piha, the Forgotten World Highway, the Great Lake Trail, the Heaphy Track, Mountains to Sea, Queenstown and Whakarewarewa and the Old Ghost Road are also included.


An Insider’s Guide to Life at Natural High

working at natural highEver wondered what it’s like working in the bike tourism industry? Natural High’s Christchurch branch manager Dan recently returned home to the UK. Here he shares his experiences of New Zealand and Natural High life.

“Three years ago I embarked on a journey of a lifetime with my three siblings and a couple of close friends. After six months travelling together through China, South East Asia and Australia the group temporarily parted ways. The idea was to work for a few months and save some cash to continue our travels. Some decided to stay in Australia finding work in Melbourne while the rest of us headed over the Tasman to New Zealand.

Arriving in Christchurch was a bit of a shock at first. I was aware of the devastating earthquakes that had occurred three years earlier, but wasn’t expecting to still see so much damage. After a day or two talking to the locals and with so much happening in the city it proved impossible not to fall in love with it. Before long I was heading out to play in the Port Hills and the bays beyond, and realising what the amazing Banks Peninsula had to offer. All of a sudden it was home.

Keen to get back into the bike industry the first job I applied for in Christchurch was for Natural High as a seasonal bike cleaner and mechanic – which turned out to have been filled the day before by none other than our current main mechanic in Christchurch, Jonny. Instead, I decided to get involved with the rebuild working on the new police building and renovation of the University of Canterbury. Natural High called a few months later looking for a branch manager as Sandra was headed off to cycle around India. I met for a coffee with Andy and jumped at the opportunity to join the team.

Natural High life has been pretty perfect; doing what I love to do everyday, getting to experience the best rides in New Zealand and meeting lots of brilliant people along the way. I’ve now made the tough decision to leave not only the Natural High life…but also New Zealand. With some important weddings and other commitments all on the horizon it made sense to return home to the UK.

After Andy sold Natural High, I unfortunately didn’t get so long to work with the new owners. Steve, Cecileah and their three kids are a great family with lots of passion and great ideas to continue the journey. I will of course be spreading the word of Natural High and look forward to many trips back to New Zealand for riding experiences like no other!”

Fortunately we haven’t seen the last of Dan – he’s now an official International Ambassador for Natural High!

Have a great week,
Steve

P.S. Did you check out our brand new tour yet? The Twin Trails combines the Alps 2 Ocean and the Otago Rail Trail for an amazing nine-day, guided adventure. Click here to learn more.

P.P.S. We’re hiring! We have a number of potential job opportunities available over the busy summer period. If you love cycling and would like to be a part of the Natural High team, please email us your CV along with a short letter outlining your talents and experience. Skills we’re looking for include: bike cleaning, mechanics, guiding, front of house, admin and bookings. Send your application to team@naturalhigh.co.nz.

Image: Dan cruising the Kennet & Avon Canal in Reading.


Sandra & Hendrike’s 5000km NZ Odyssey

Sandra & Hendrike's 5000km NZ OdysseyGerman travellers Sandra Wehl and Hendrike Neh recently spent eight months cycling around New Zealand, clocking up over 5000km and getting the kind of up-close perspective of New Zealand that most people can only dream about. The gutsy pair took advantage of Natural High’s buy-back scheme, purchasing two Surly Disc Truckers and then selling them back to us at the end of their trip. Here, Sandra and Hendrike share their cycle touring adventures.

Where did your cycle tour of NZ take you?
We started in Auckland at the beginning of November 2015 and made our way all the way down to Bluff and all the way up to Cape Reinga. At first we did the centre and the East Coast of the North Island: Coromandel, Rotorua, Taupo, Hastings. A bus took us from Napier to Wellington and after catching the ferry to the South Island we cycled through Picton, Kaikoura, Christchurch, went inland to Lake Tekapo and Lake Pukaki, spent some time in Queenstown and visited the Catlins.

With the Tranz Alpine train and the bus we reached the West Coast where we cycled from Franz Joseph to Nelson. Back on the North Island we headed north from Whanganui until we arrived in Hamilton. The last part of our tour was Northland. Starting in Whangarei we did a big loop via Russell, Kerikeri, Kaitaia, Dargaville, so we finally ended up in Whangarei again, having cycled more than 5000 kilometers during our trip.

lake-pukaki

What was your favorite place/places?
It’s always hard to pick one favourite place, because New Zealand’s scenery is so amazing and we liked all of it. But the ones we enjoyed the most were Lake Pukaki (right), Abel Tasman National Park and the Catlins.

Did you encounter any problems/mishaps along the way?
No. We had some flat tyres, but that was it. Our bikes were amazing! Beside that everyone we met was really nice and helping and luckily we never got involved in an accident, either. Neither on the roads nor anywhere else. The average New Zealander drives rather carefully. (But mind the trucks and tourists!)

bikes at bluffCan you tell us about your choice of bike and why you decided to use the buy back scheme?
We really wanted a bike that could survive eight months of cycling and carry all our gear. So we decided to buy two Surly Disc Truckers and were really happy with them. We didn’t have any issues at all. But taking them home with us on the airplane would have been difficult and very expensive. Furthermore both of us have bikes at home, no touring bikes, but bikes that are good enough to cover small distances – we probably won’t do another bike trip as big as our tour through New Zealand any time soon. So buying bikes at the Natural High bike shop and selling them back there was just perfect for us.

What do you love most about cycle touring?
That you are so close to the nature. You don’t have any glass between you and the scenery, you can feel the sun on your face and the wind in your hair and hear all the birds singing. Whenever you want to stop to take photos or take in the view you are able to do so, and by the end of the day you have the feeling that you have accomplished something. That is really satisfying, especially when you think of all the hard parts of the trip that you have managed to get through.

What was your cycling experience prior to this trip? Did you have any worries/fears before setting off?
We didn’t really have much experience before this trip. We’ve done two very small tours in Germany, one was for a week and the other one for three days – nothing comparable to our tour in New Zealand. So we basically started our training in Auckland. We feared that we couldn’t make it on the bikes – but we did it! 🙂 We were also scared that something would happen to our bikes, because we didn’t have any idea how to repair them. We knew how to change a tube, but that was it. Luckily we didn’t need to fix anything else.

Thanks for sharing your experiences, Sandra and Hendrike! If you’re planning an extended tour of New Zealand and don’t want to bring your own gear, our buy-back scheme could be a great option for you. Find more details here.


NEW: Twin Trails Tour. Ride the Alps 2 Ocean and the Central Otago Rail Trail

lake pukaki Alps 2 OceanNew Zealand’s South Island is home to some of the most diverse and dramatic landscapes on the planet. Experience it all on our brand new Twin Trails tour. Combining two of New Zealand’s most famous trails, the Alps 2 Ocean and the Otago Rail Trail, this nine-day adventure takes you from the soaring peaks of Aoraki/Mt Cook to the historic port town of Oamaru (alongside the Pacific Ocean) to buzzing, adventure-filled Queenstown. This is a journey rich with cultural heritage, epic vistas and tantalising extras. Here’s what awaits:

Day 1: Christchurch to Mt Cook
Approx 30km of cycling.
Your Natural High representative will pick you up from your accommodation and drive you to Natural High headquarters to meet the crew and get you set up with your bike. Then it’s time to hit the road, stopping along the way to cycle the famous hydro canals and admire the pristine blue waters of Lake Tekapo and Lake Pukaki. Once at Mt Cook, you’ll have time for a stroll around the DOC information centre and museum, or a hike in Aoraki National Park.

Day 2: Mt Cook to Ohau
Approx 58km of cycling.
Wake to one of the best views in the world and an unforgettable start to your Alps 2 Ocean adventure: a scenic helicopter flight across Lake Pukaki to the start of the trail. Today’s riding is endlessly scenic: glacier-carved valleys, turquoise lakes, snow-covered peaks and tussock-covered highlands.

Day 3: Ohau to Omarama
Approx 55km of cycling.
Today’s riding starts with a small climb to the bush line where native beech trees meet the tussock. The track is wide and the gradients no greater than 5%. From the top enjoy stunning views of Lake Ohau, one of the coldest and deepest of the southern lakes. We detour for a picnic lunch at Clay Cliffs, before a short afternoon ride takes you to Omarama for an afternoon gliding flight over the Southern Alps, or a soak in some of the most scenic hot pools in New Zealand.

Day 4: Omarama to Kurow
Approx 67km of cycling.
Ease into the day with a gentle climb over the Otematata Saddle. Take a last admiring glance at the Southern Alps before rolling downhill to Otematata. For the rest of the day, you’ll pedal past pristine lakes and intriguing early engineering works, before arriving in Kurow – the hometown of former All Black captain Richie McCaw.

Day 5: Kurow to Oamaru
Approx 82 km of cycling.
Unusual geological features and Maori rock art are on the agenda today, along with a stop at Vanishing World Visitors Centre. Tonight’s final destination is the fascinating Victorian town of Oamaru.

Day 6: Oamaru & Dunedin
Rest day.
Plenty of time this morning for a stroll around Oamaru’s historic precinct with its period costume shops, or a visit to the famous Yellow Eyed Penguin colony. After a picnic lunch at the waterfront, we drive the east coast to Dunedin, with a stop along the way to see the famous Moeraki Boulders.

Day 7: Dunedin to Wedderburn
Approx 46m of cycling.
After breakfast we head to Dunedin Railway Station for a scenic train journey to Middlemarch or Pukerangi (depending on the timetable). After a transfer to Hyde, you’ll start your journey along the historic Central Otago Rail Trail. This easy-going trail throws up a stunning backdrop of turquoise blue lakes, big skies and flinty river gorges. Tonight’s entertainment is a spot of curling, followed by a slap-up meal at the quaint Danseys Pass Coach Inn.

Day 8: Wedderburn to Omakau
Approx 42km of cycling.
Today you’ll meander through the vast open expanse of the Ida Valley and take a peek at the Idaburn Dam, one of New Zealand’s few outdoor winter curling sites. A highlight of today’s ride is the beautiful Poolburn Gorge, featuring two tunnels and two viaducts.

Day 9: Omakau to Queenstown
Approx 29km of cycling.
Good news: today’s cycling is all downhill! You’ll cruise through the colourful fruit growing area of Alexandra before dismounting for the final time for a celebratory lunch at the Shaky Bridge café – where local wines and craft beers await sampling. Then, sit back and enjoy a relaxing drive to your accommodation in Queenstown.

Is this tour for you?
This tour is a fully-supported, all-inclusive tour that’s suitable for riders of all abilities. You’ll be accompanied at all times by an experienced guide and support vehicle and have all your accommodation and most meals taken care of. Plus you’ll be able to ride without luggage, since this will be transferred daily to your next overnight stop. For departure dates and to download an itinerary, please see the Twin Trail tour page.

Have a great week,
Steve

Photo: Lake Pukaki


The South Australian Recreational Cycling Club’s Top Three Rides of the North Island

SARCC at TuroaBack in February of this year, the South Australian Recreational Cycling Club (SARCC) landed on our shores for a two-week cycle tour around the North Island.

Taking in the delights of the Coromandel and the Hauraki Rail Trail, Te Ara Ahi (the Path of Fire) in Rotorua, the Bridge to Nowhere Track, the Old Coach Road, various rides around Taupo, the Te Awa Trail and a section of the Waikato River Trails, this was a busy, action-packed adventure.

President and NZ tour coordinator Eric Chaney says the whole 14 days were full of highlights but if he had to pick three rides, “I guess the Hauraki Rail Trail for a great scenic recreational ride, the Turoa Ski Field 1000m downhill in 16km to Ohakune for the adrenaline rush, and the Bridge to Nowhere for the incredible rewarding challenge and jetboat exit.”

Here are excerpts from the group’s trip notes for these rides:

Hauraki Rail Trail
For recreation this is one of the best. We dropped five riders at Kopu; their task was to ride to Waihi to bring three minibuses back. The remaining riders drove to Waihi and rode through the bush clad Karangahake Gorge Gorge to lunch at Paeroa, then on through quiet countryside to Kopu. The trail is a little undulating for the first 5km then settles to flat for the remaining journey. This is a not to be missed recreational ride.

Bridge to Nowhere
We changed dates to avoid any inclement weather and you wouldn’t ride this track in any rain. The Bridge to Nowhere Track is an incredible ride that includes a huge range of track styles, stunning scenery and New Zealand bush. It’s one of the best ‘adventure rides’ on the North Island and a must for all mountain biking enthusiasts.

From the signposted start of the Mangapurua Track, we had a well-graded but challenging climb. Over the course of about 4kms, you’ll climb just about 300 metres on a 4-wheel drive farm track – we found our granny gear and stopped every now and then to look back at the mountain views behind. From the Mangapurua Trig the track literally flies down into the valley for about 7kms, before it flattens out and meanders down Mangapurua Stream along the valley floor for a further 20kms, crossing countless swing bridges. Finally travelling along the valley floor the Bridge to Nowhere quite literally appears from nowhere.

You can expect to complete the Mangapurua Track to the Bridge in four to six hours – including many stops along the way. The track is nearly 100% rideable apart from the dozen or so swing bridges; it is still a bit technical in some downhill parts and some of the exposed sections where the track crosses bluffs. You can expect to hop off your bike a couple times to cross these bluffs. A short 3km track takes you from the Bridge down to the Mangapurua Landing on the edges of the Whanganui River. Ken of Whanganui Jet Boats picked us up from Mangapurua Landing and took us on a fantastic adventure 30km down river to Pipiriki where we organized our minibus to take us 28km home to Raetihi. What an adventure WOW!”

Turoa Ski Field 1000m downhill
We drove 30km up to Turoa at 1625m. We all disembarked in a cold thick cloud and rode down 1000m on a sealed road 16km to Ohakune. The cloud parted at 100m down and the speeds became faster – WOW – the thrill and the concentration was intoxicating. To cap it off we rode through the finish line at Ohakune to cheers and cameras… we had interrupted a MTB race round the base of the mountain and crossed the line in first place – oh well. Great coffee break at OCR CaféOhakune.

Then off to ride the Old Coach Road Ohakune to Horopito (I recommend riding Horopito to Ohakune next time). The views of the old viaduct and the bush make the bumpy cobblestone track bearable. Albeit the climbs are not long nor too steep the surface is far from smooth. We had lunch at Hapuawhenua Viaduct and were lucky to see a freight train cross the new viaduct – literally a real hoot.

SARCC is a medium sized recreational cycling club who embark on regular rides around Adelaide and further afield.

Their New Zealand tour was a DIY affair. The group (of 36) hired three minibuses and then added bike trailers and bikes from Natural High. Eric designed the route and itinerary, mixing gentle, cruisey rides with the occasional more challenging route, as well as non-riding activities. Accommodation close to each ride was booked in advance, and the group cooked and dined together each evening.

Natural High supplied a variety of bikes, including 29” MTB and commuting bikes, and Eric says they “received great guidance from the friendly competent staff at Natural High, both in fitting and selecting the right bicycles.”

They must have enjoyed their trip because they’re coming back next year to tackle the South Island!

If you’re a member of a cycling club looking to do something similar, drop us a line. We can help you organise bike trailers and bike hire, as well as assist with route ideas and accommodation recommendations.

Have a great week,
Steve

Photo: SARCC tour riders about to descend from Turoa Ski Field.


The New Carbon Roubaix Has Landed (Special Deals On Hire)

Specialized Roubiax Sport SL4 590x370When the Olympics get underway later this week, keep an eye on the Kiwi track cycling team. They’ll be riding a new, revolutionary design of bike that they believe will have a massive impact on the Rio velodrome.

The high-tech design is the result of a three year, closely-guarded project between bike manufacturers, wheelwrights and aerodynamic experts. The final outcome? A lighter frame, reduced aerodynamic drag and one, very fast bike. Now it’s just up to the riders!

While we don’t have access to the supersonic wizardry of our Olympic team, we do have a new, high performance bike in stock: the Specialized Carbon Roubaix. The 2016 model of this superb road bike has just landed in our Auckland branch, and to celebrate we’ve got a few special deals lined up for you:

Roubaix Day Sprint*
One day hire for $80 (normally $90), with helmet. Available for weekday hires only.

Roubaix Weekend Pursuit*
Hire the Roubaix for a whole weekend, picking up before 5pm on Friday and returning before 10.30am on Monday, and pay for only two days hire ($175). We’ll also throw in a bike helmet. Please note that bikes returned on Monday after 10.30am will incur a $60 fee.

The Roubaix features a light carbon frame and fork, plus Shimano 105 11 speed components. It’s designed to feel stable and comfortable on the longest of rides, making it a great choice for the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge.

To book Roubaix hire, send us an email, or give the team in Auckland a call on 09 257 4673.

Have a great week,
Steve

*Available for Auckland hires only. Offer available during August and September. Bike drop off/pick up at hotels available for fee.