Saddle Up for a Spectacular High Country Experience: Cycling Molesworth Station

Cycling Molesworth StationNestled amongst 180,787 hectares of towering mountains and river valleys, Molesworth Station is New Zealand’s largest farm and a truly unique place on earth.

Located three hours drive of either Nelson, Blenheim or Christchurch, Molesworth is cradled in the headwaters of the three great rivers of Marlborough – the Wairau, Clarence and Awatere.

This is rugged, isolated terrain with a long and chequered history. Ngai Tahu Maori were the first to establish trails across the area. Later, Molesworth captured the imagination of early European settlers, who used the valleys as short cuts for moving stock from Marlborough to Canterbury.

Over the years, numerous owners and managers attempted to turn a profit in this inhospitable environment, but by the late 1930s overstocking, overgrazing, scab mite, erosion, rabbit infestation and economic recession had all taken their toll, and the land was largely abandoned to the Crown.

Today, Molesworth is administered by the Department of Conservation. Careful management has enabled the land to recover and the station is now home to around 10,000 cattle.

Molesworth Station is only open to the public for a limited period every summer. It’s a not-to-be-missed chance to experience the wide open spaces, remote beauty and remarkable history of a true high country station.

Experience Molesworth Station on our 5 Day North Canterbury and Marlborough Cycle Tour
Starting out in Christchurch, this tour takes you through the wine growing district of the Waipara Valley and idyllic Hanmer Springs (where wonderful hot springs await). Day three sees you cycle the scenic road through Molesworth Station. Breathe in the spectacular landscape and learn more about the station’s history, as you pass buildings from the original stock droving days. After a night in the shearers’ quarters of a merino sheep station, you’ll follow the river down the beautiful Awatere Valley to emerge amongst vineyards alongside the ocean. You’ll overnight in Kaikoura with options to view whales, dolphins and albatross, before returning to Christchurch via the spectacular inland Kaikoura road.

Fancy Christmas in New Zealand? We’re currently taking bookings for this tour’s 27 December departure date. Head here for full tour details (more dates are available).

Have a great week,

US travellers blown away by Kiwi kindness

cycling in marlboroughWhat makes a trip to New Zealand so special? For many people it’s the beauty of our natural landscape. For others it’s our unique culture or first-class wine.

For US travellers Lucas and Lisa Barber it’s our Kiwi kindness. In a recent post on their travel blog, Barbers Go Global, Lucas writes,

“When I think of culture I often think of food, fashion, music, or the arts, but by doing this I fail to recognise the values that are at the centre of those outward expressions … During our first seven days in New Zealand, we had been recipients of so much unsolicited kindness and generosity that our human interaction paradigm was spinning.”

“In those first few days people that hadn’t known us up until a few hours beforehand offered us rides, invited us to their homes for coffee and cake, invited us out to dinner in the city, took off work to show us around the country they were so proud of, engaged us in deep and meaningful conversation, bought us lunch and dinner, offered the use of their vehicles and homes to us, prepared us dinner, brought us home to meet their family, and even invited us to cross-fit with them.”

The couple, from Rochester in New York, quit their jobs and sold their house in order to travel the world, with New Zealand their first stop. Lucas says the level of kindness they’ve experienced has been so foreign that it’s exposed his “cynicism towards strangers”, and challenged him to re-examine his attitudes.

“Although I’m sure you have your own problems as a country, it has been a breath of fresh air for an American who did not realize how tired he was of being guarded. You reintroduced me to the magic of human interaction…If you take nothing else from this letter, take this – please don’t change! Some of us need to have our worlds rocked, our paradigm flipped on its head, and our kindness recalibrated.”

Makes us proud to be Kiwis!

Have a great week,

P.S. We’ve got brand new cycle tours coming for summer 2016/17 – details coming soon!

P.P.S. To get you even more inspired to visit, here’s Tourism New Zealand’s latest video, featuring US director James Cameron.

Top image: Phillip Capper

Cycle Touring NZ: How to Pick a Cycle Tour that Fits Your Comfort Level

How to Pick a Cycle Tour that Fits Your Comfort LevelYou don’t need to be an elite athlete to enjoy a Natural High cycle tour. In fact, on any tour you can ride as little or as much as you like.

Guided road tours always have a support vehicle in attendance, so you can climb aboard whenever you feel like a break. And if you’re independent touring, you can stop and take a breather (or take the afternoon off!) whenever you feel like it.

However, in order to get the most enjoyment out of your trip, we recommend picking a tour that best matches your riding style and ability. We offer tours to suit all levels of rider, so whether you’re looking for laid back and cruisy, or technical and tough, we’ll have a trip to suit.

Here’s a quick guide to the different levels of tours we offer:

1 – Easy
Easy tours are just that – easy peasy. Generally these tours are suitable for people who just want to ride, relax and enjoy the scenery. They cover lower distances per day with fewer hills.

2 – Moderate
Moderate tours cover longer distances with a few more hills thrown in. To take on a moderate tour, you should be able to comfortably cycle for up to 3 – 4 hours a day, on some uneven ground and with some uphill.

3 – Challenging
You’ll want to be a competent, fit rider for these tours. Some days cover over 100km/60miles, with lots of steep uphills.

4 – Difficult
We reserve our top grade for long, hard, gut-buster rides and off-road technical riding on difficult trails. These are for experienced, fit riders only.

Wondering what the NZ terrain is like?
All major highways and many secondary roads are tar-sealed (paved). Unsealed secondary highways consist of gravel and are generally well maintained in popular tourist areas.

New Zealand roads tend to be straight up and over affairs and there are no long, all-day climbs as found in places such as the European Alps. However many of the alpine passes have steep sections.

If you’d like to talk more about finding a tour to suit your ability level, please get in touch. And keep your eyes peeled over the next few weeks – we’ve got some brand new tours coming for summer 2016/17 which we think you’re going to love!

Have a great week,

Why Cycling in Christchurch is Set to Get Even Better

discover christchurchA compact, buzzing city surrounded by rolling hills, steep peaks and epic trails, Christchurch offers a huge variety of cycling terrain – and it’s set to get even better with the construction of a new $20 million, 358-hectare mountain bike park. Expected to open in December this year, the Christchurch Adventure Park will feature more than 100km of downhill trails, a 1.8km chairlift and 2km of zip lines through the forest.

Once completed, this will be the largest park of its kind in the southern hemisphere. We’re excited about what this means for cycling in Christchurch – which is already crammed full of opportunities. From laid back city cruising to more challenging, rugged terrain, here’s a guide to what Christchurch has to offer.

See the city
Pedal power is a great way to discover Christchurch’s many attractions like the Cardboard Cathedral, the Re:START Mall (made up of shipping containers) and the extraordinary Gap Filler Projects which pop up around the city at random. Or take a spin around Christchurch’s iconic Hagley Park, which offers 5km of gently-meandering, tree-lined tracks. It’s a great spot for families and especially stunning in spring and autumn.

Head to the hills
Looking for tough climbs and exhilarating downhills? The Port Hills are just ten minutes from the city centre and offer plenty of uphill slogs and exhilarating downhills, as well as vistas that stretch all the way from the Pacific Ocean to the Southern Alps. Popular routes include The Kiwi Loop, Dyers Pass and Summit Road. You’ll find maps on the Christchurch City Council website. (Also a good place to check for track updates before you ride).

Lose yourself for a few days
South-east of the city lies Banks Peninsula. Formed over six million years ago by the violent eruptions of two volcanoes, the resulting craters now form the harbours of Lyttelton and Akaroa. One way to reach the peninsula is to cycle the Little River Rail Trail, which runs from the edge of Christchurch to the township of Little River (mainly flat and off-road riding) From Little River, numerous routes, hills and tracks beckon and you can easily spend several days navigating the quiet back roads and spectacular scenery.

Excited to ride Christchurch? We can set you up with bike hire, route ideas and insider information. We also run guided tours of the Port Hills and Little River Rail Trail. Drop us an email to get your Christchurch cycle trip underway.

Have a great week,
Steve Inns

P.S. We’re currently in the process of upgrading our Christchurch bike fleet – we’ve got some exciting new deliveries arriving soon which are going to make biking in Christchurch even more fun! We’ll keep you posted…

Image: Re:START Mall. Shelia Thomson.

Where to Stay When You’re Cycle Touring Around New Zealand

Where to Stay When You're Cycle Touring Around New ZealandBack-to-nature campsite? Or a luxury lodge with everything taken care of? Whatever your level of comfort and budget, New Zealand has an accommodation option to suit. Here’s a quick guide to the different accommodation options available to you when you’re cycle touring around New Zealand.

Don’t want to spend a lot?

DOC’s range of conservation campsites offer some of the cheapest overnight stays going, with fees starting at just $6 a night per person (and some are completely free). Facilities are limited: a composting toilet and water supply is your most likely setup but the surrounding scenery will more than make up for the lack of amenities. Check the DOC website for a full list of locations.

Campgrounds and holiday parks with a wider range of services can be found in just about every corner of New Zealand. Most provide well-equipped communal kitchens and fridges, and some have games and TV rooms. Many also offer cabins and self-contained accommodation of varying degrees of luxury.

Backpackers and hostels are a good budget option if you want to meet other travellers.

Want a taste of Kiwi life?

Farmstays are a popular option for travellers who want to really immerse themselves in Kiwi culture. Costs vary widely – some farms offer B&B-type accommodation while others have more backpacker-style shared accommodation. Rural Holidays provides a collection of farmstays throughout New Zealand.

Bed and breakfasts tend to be smaller, independent affairs run by friendly hosts. Like a farmstay, these offer a more local experience than a chain motel or hotel.

More pricier accommodation options.

Holiday homes. The classic Kiwi holiday home is called a “bach”. Typically these were simple, rustic cottages with basic facilities. These days, holiday houses tend to be flashier (and therefore more expensive). Usually the entire house is rented, so this can be a costly option for a single traveller or couple. Book a Bach offers a wide range of holiday homes available for rent.

New Zealand motels are typical to motels anywhere in the world. You’ll generally find a selection lining the highway on the entry and exit to a town or city. Quality and prices vary: a double room in a mid-range motel can cost anywhere between $100 and $200.

International hotel chains can be found in the main centres, while independent hotels are scattered across the country. Trivago is a useful website for finding the best deals on hotel and motel accommodation.

Lodges are a cross between a luxury bed and breakfast and boutique hotel. They’re often in beautiful or remote locations and offer excellent food and wine.

Accommodation on our cycle tours

All our guided cycle tours include accommodation – usually a mix of high-quality, three and four-star hotels and motels. Many tours also include at least one night at a farmstay. All accommodation options have been carefully chosen to incorporate comfort and scenery.

Our self-guide tours provide a list of recommended motels, backpackers, bed and breakfasts and campsites to allow you to book your own roadside lodging.

Check out our full range of guided tours and self-guided tours on our website.

Have a great week,
Steve Inns

Extend the Life Expectancy of Your Bike with this Quick and Easy Bike Service

Extend the Life Expectancy of Your Bike with this Quick and Easy Bike ServiceTwo weeks ago we offered up a quick list of checks to carry out before you head out for a ride. But is there more you can be doing to keep yourself safe and your bike in tiptop condition?

Here’s a more in-depth bike service that we recommend carrying out about once a month. Bear in mind that if you’re regularly clocking up big kilometres or you ride off-road, your bike may need more frequent attention.

  • Nuts and bolts. Check the tightness of all connecting parts such as the cranks, pedals, handlebars and stem.
  • Drivetrain. Wipe the chain and cassette with degreaser, then rinse, dry and re-lube.
  • Frame. Clean the frame and check for any cracks or dents.
  • Cables. Inspect for any fraying or rust and apply lube to keep them running smooth.
  • Crank arms. Grab each crank arm and try to shake away from the bike. If you notice any movement, your bearings may need to be adjusted or the crank bolts might need tightening.
  • Headset. With your bike on the floor in the riding position, squeeze the front brake with one hand and place your other on the top headset cup just below the handlebar stem. Move the bike back and forth. Any movement in the headset cup indicates that it needs tightening.

While regular checks will keep you safer and help extend the life expectancy of your bike, don’t overlook regular maintenance by a qualified mechanic. If you ride frequently, we recommend bringing your bike in for twice-yearly tune-ups to ensure that complex components such as spokes, bearing surfaces, derailleurs and cables are in top-notch condition.

We’ve got qualified mechanics at both our branches who can handle these checks for you. Give us a call on 03 982 2966 (Christchurch) or 09 257 4673 (Auckland) to organise a time.

Have a great week,
Steve Inns

North Island Cycle Tour: 8-day Road Tour from Auckland to Rotorua

beautiful beaches on a north island cycle tourStark volcanic landscapes, white sandy beaches and an intriguing Maori heritage …New Zealand’s North Island is a landscape loaded with contrast. This guided road tour from Auckland to Rotorua offers eight days of riding through some of the North Island’s most fascinating regions. Here’s a overview of what to expect.

The city of sails
Situated between two beautiful harbours, Auckland is a scenic and vibrant waterside city. There’s plenty to see and do before your tour starts: take a trip up the Sky Tower, check out the many museums and galleries or enjoy a leisurely wander along the waterfront.

Coastal scenery aplenty
From Auckland you’ll head to the Coromandel, a beautiful peninsula that’s packed full of white sandy beaches and ocean vistas. The windy coastal road from Thames to Coromandel town is especially fun to ride and boasts magnificent views over the Firth of Thames.

Bask in your own beach hot pool
You’ll pay a visit to Hot Water Beach, where you can dig your own hot pool in the sand. Just nearby is the photogenic Cathedral Cove, which featured in the film The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian.

Experience Hobbiton
Fan of Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit? You’ll be delighted to know this tour includes a meander through the rolling hills of the Waikato… aka the Shire! The set is open for visitors and a two-hour guided tour lets you peek at the Hobbit Holes and enjoy a drink at the Green Dragon™ Inn.

Weird and wonderful geothermal activity
Rotorua is a hotbed of bubbling mudpools, hissing steam vents and sulphuric smells. It’s also a region of great significance to the Maori and offers numerous cultural activities, including Whakarewarewa, a thermal reserve and living Maori village. If you want to keep riding, Whakarewarewa Forest and the Redwoods is home to around 130km of mountain bike trails.

Head to our website to check out full details of this all-inclusive North Island cycle tour:
8-day Guided Road Tour from Auckland to Rotorua

Have a great week,
Steve Inns

Bike Servicing Tips: Six Things to Check Before You Head Out On a Ride

Bike servicing tips: Six Things to Check Before You Head Out On a RideWhen the open road is calling you want to be out the door and riding as fast as you can. But taking a few minutes to check over your bike before you jump in the saddle is a good habit to get into, helping you catch potential problems before they develop into dangerous (and expensive) hazards. Here’s a quick checklist to run through before you hit the road or tracks.

1. Check any quick-release parts. Make sure quick release wheels or seat posts are closed tight.

2. Check the wheels. Spin the wheels in the frame to ensure they aren’t rubbing on the brake pads, frame or fork. If you see any wobbles they may need to be trued (straightened). This is a bit of a tricky process, so you might want to pop and see a bike mechanic.

3. Inspect the tyres. Check your tyre pressure – low tyre pressure can force you to use a lot more energy than needed, and will also make the tyre more prone to punctures. The recommended maximum PSI will be printed on the tyre sidewall. Check for any cuts, nicks or embedded debris.

4. Test the brakes. Spin the wheels and squeeze the brakes to make sure they’re stopping the wheels. Inspect the brake pads and ensure they’re not rubbing while the wheel is spinning. If your bike has v-brakes, check that the brake pad closes onto the wheel rim, not the tyre wall. If the pads have a shiny coating, or they’re squealing a lot, give them a light sand. This will also help improve braking performance.

5. Lube the chain. Have a look over the chain and add lube if it looks or feels dry.

6. Check your spares. Make sure you’re carrying a spare tube, puncture repair kit, tyre levers, multi-tool and a pump. There’s nothing worse than springing a leak in the middle of nowhere and having to walk home!

And if you notice anything amiss during your checks, our qualified bike mechanics are here to help. We offer a wide range of bike servicing options at both our Auckland and Christchurch branches. Give us a call on 03 982 2966 (Christchurch) or 09 257 4673 (Auckland) to organise a time.

Have a great week,
Steve Inns

Three Intrepid Tales From The Road

solo cycling in nzSome cycling inspiration for you today. We love reading about intrepid cyclists and their travels – here are a few of our current favourites:

Friedel and Andrew are two Canadians who’ve pedalled over 30 countries and clocked up more than 60, 000 km on their bikes. Most of that distance was accumulated on a world bike tour between 2006 and 2009, which we’re happy to see included New Zealand! Now with two little ones in tow their cycling adventures tend to be a little closer to home (the Netherlands). Their website is packed full of stories, tips and inspiration and is a great resource for anyone thinking of embarking on a cycle tour:
Travelling Two

Alastair Humphreys left England at the age of 24 to cycle the world. In four years he rode through 60 countries and five continents. His journey took him through Europe and Africa, up the west coast of the Americas, and through Russia, Japan, China and Central Asia. Since that adventure, he’s competed in the gruelling Marathon des Sables, walked across India, and packrafted across Iceland! You can read about his world bike tour here:

We wrote about Lotus (pictured above) and her extended cycling tour of New Zealand last year (it’s been one of our most popular newsletters ever). Originally Lotus was only going to cycle for three weeks but she loved the experience so much she ended up pedalling for ten weeks! Read all about her adventures here:

Inspired to jump on your bike? Maybe you need a new bike? Check out our second hand bike sale page. We’ve got top-brand mountain bikes, hybrids and road bikes available from as little as $250, as well as cycle accessories like panniers and trailers. These are top of the line models that have been well cared for and fully-serviced after every rental. Head here to see what’s currently available:

Have a great week,
Steve Inns

Our Current Second Hand Bikes For Sale + Time For A Service?

bike servicing at Natural HighWinter is coming. Which at Natural High means two things:

1) We’re updating many of our hire bikes and selling off our older models at ridiculously low prices. We’ve got top-brand mountain bikes, hybrids and road bikes available from as little as $250, as well as cycle accessories like panniers and trailers. These are top of the line models that have been well cared for and fully-serviced after every rental. Take a look at our bike sales page to see what’s currently available.

2) Now is a really good time to show your bike some love by booking it in for a Natural High service. Regular bike maintenance is essential for safe riding, as well as helping to prolong your bike’s lifespan. Servicing is available at both branches by qualified bike mechanics from as little as $50. Email us to organise a time, or give us a call on 03 982 2966 (Christchurch) or 09 257 4673 (Auckland).

Here’s what Alan and Judy have to say about these services. They purchased two of our ex-rental Specialized Hybrid bikes and bring them back every year for servicing:

“Dan and the team at Natural High have provided excellent service from when we first purchased our bikes, continuing with annual servicing. We would recommend a pre-loved bike from these folk at Natural High!”
– Alan & Judy

You’ll find the full list of bikes for sale on the website.

Steve Inns

P.S. It might be getting a little colder, but winter cycle touring around NZ is still a lot of fun (and quieter, too). Head here for a full list of self-guided cycling adventures.