You 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!
It’s the million-dollar question – when’s the best time of year to cycle tour around New Zealand (and not get hit by gale-force winds and bucketing-down rain?) Because blue skies and warm (but not too warm) sunshine every day would be pretty nice, right?
Since none of us at Natural High possess a crystal ball, here’s the next best thing: a general overview of the types of weather to expect each season.
Summer (officially December-February)
Our most popular season for overseas visitors. Average summer temperatures are around 25˚C in the North Island and 22˚C in the South Island. February and March generally offer the most settled weather of the year – mornings and evenings are cooler but the days are beautifully clear and sunny.
Peak holiday season for New Zealanders is during the summer school holidays, from late December to the end of January. During this period roads can be busy and many popular holiday spots (Coromandel, Raglan, Mount Maunganui, Northland) book out completely. Easter weekend and Labour Day weekend (late October) can also be fairly busy holiday periods.
Can still be warm, sunny and settled and it’s possible to swim in some areas until May.
Tend to be the wettest months of the year. Gets chilly all over the country (especially the further south you go) with snow on high ground and alpine highways. On the upside, accommodation is often cheaper during this time of year and popular tourist spots will be quiet. Be aware that some accommodation providers close completely during the off-season – if you’re touring during these months, ring ahead to make sure you have a bed for the night!
Can be cold and frosty, or warm and hot! Often the windiest season.
Top tip: be prepared for all weather no matter when you decide to visit. Good quality, reliable waterproof gear is a must. In the summer months, the sun can be fierce, so cover up with a hat, sunglasses, loose clothing and high factor sun cream.
Planning a cycle tour in New Zealand can be a daunting task – especially if you’ve never visited our beautiful shores before. To help make the process easier, we’d thought we’d answer some of your most common questions. First up: is it best to bring your own bike or buy/hire when you arrive?
If you’re only planning a short stay in New Zealand, hiring a bike when you arrive is likely to be the most convenient option. Many airlines charge additional fees for large items of baggage and there’s always a risk that your bike might get damaged, or lost, en route.
At Natural High we offer a wide selection of bike rentals, from high-end tourers to comfortable hybrids and super-tough mountain bikes. We choose our gear to specifically suit the New Zealand terrain so while we may not be able to provide the exact same bike you have at home, rest assured it’s going to get you around comfortably and safely.
All our bikes receive a full service before hitting the road and we’ll also take the time to ensure a proper bike fit before you head off on your adventures. You’ll be supplied with a lock, multi tool, tyre levers, spare tube and repair kit. If you’re joining us for a guided tour, bike hire is usually included in your package price.
If you’re cycle touring for two months or longer, our buy back scheme could be a good option. We’ll refund half the purchase price if the bike is returned in a reasonable condition. At certain times of the year we also have a selection of ex-rentals available to buy at competitive prices. Another good option for finding secondhand bikes is Trade Me (New Zealand’s version of eBay).
Plenty of people do bring their own bikes and gear. If that’s still your preferred option, make sure your bike is clean before you travel. New Zealand has strict biosecurity laws and muddy tyres will be frowned upon!
Both our Auckland Airport and Christchurch branches feature fully equipped bike workshops, meaning we can unpack, build and service your bike ready for your Kiwi adventures. We can also store your bike box or case for you while you explore, and disassemble and pack your bike for your return journey. We can even supply cardboard bike boxes and packaging if needed.
Thinking about organising a cycle adventure in New Zealand but not sure where to start? Relax…we’ve got you covered. Here’s our top ten bicycle touring tips for hassle-free cycle adventures in New Zealand.
Touring Tip #1
Don’t try and cram everything into one trip.
New Zealand might be a fairly small looking country but take our word for it – there’s a lot to see. As a general rule we recommend:
One to two week holiday: focus on one or two specific areas, instead of trying to see everything.
One month holiday: gives you a reasonable amount of time to see bits of both islands.
Two months+: enables you to really explore both islands in full.
Touring Tip #2
Be open to possibility.
The beauty of cycle touring is that you never know what’s around the next corner. And sometimes, a random coffee stop or spur of the moment detour can yield the most memorable moments of your entire trip. So don’t just focus on seeing the popular tourist spots. Take your time, keep your eyes and ears open and check out some of the smaller towns and villages you pass through.
Touring Tip #3
Be prepared for all weather.
New Zealand enjoys a changeable climate, so wind and rain are always a possibility (yes, even in summer). June, July and August are generally New Zealand’s wettest months, while spring tends to be the windiest. Good quality, reliable waterproof gear is a must. In the summer months, the sun can be fierce, so remember to cover up with a hat, sunglasses, loose clothing and high factor sun cream.
Touring Tip #4
Choose a route/tour to suit your ability.
If you’ve never tried cycle touring before, a guided tour can be a great introduction to the sport. These take care of every element of your trip, from accommodation booking to route planning and include the support of an experienced local tour guide, luggage transfer and backup vehicle (jump aboard whenever the riding becomes too much). We’ve got a great range of different tours available in both the North and South islands that cater for all levels of ability. Check the tour grading for an indication of the fitness level required. Grade 1 tours are the easiest, covering lower distances per day with fewer hills, while Grade 4 tours are reserved for the expert rider only.
New Zealand is a hilly country, so if you’re touring independently, make sure you match your route to your ability. Try and take it easy for the first few days, to give your body (and backside) time to adjust.
Touring Tip #5
Build up some biking fitness before you arrive.
You don’t have to be super-fit to cycle tour, but the fitter you are, the more enjoyable your experience will be. Try and get out and do some biking before your arrival. Start with smaller distances – around half an hour a day – and then build up to two to three longer rides each week.
Touring Tip #6
If you’re planning on joining a guided tour, luggage transfer between hotels will be organised for you (lucky you) and you’ll be able to travel with just the essentials you need for that day. However, if you’re cycling independently you’ll be carrying everything on your bike, so pack light (leave the kitchen sink at home)!
Exactly what you bring will depend on your individual preferences, the season you’re travelling in and your accommodation options. But essential items include:
Clothing: Waterproof jacket and over-trousers, warm fleece, cycling shoes or trainers, comfortable cycling clothing, set of clothes for evening wear, warm hat.
Sun protection: sunglasses, sunscreen and lip protection, hat, neck gear/neckerchief to protect your neck.
Helmet (we have helmets available to hire or purchase).
Small first aid kit.
Swiss army knife, torch.
Bicycle repair kit and accessories. (Natural High bike hire includes a lock, multi tool, tyre levers, spare tube and repair kit.)
If camping: tent, sleeping bag, sleeping mat, cooking gear.
Remember, our Natural High branches in Auckland and Christchurch offer luggage storage, so if you turn up with more than you can cram into your panniers, we can store the excess until you return, or forward it on to your final destination. And if you forget to bring something important, chances are you’ll be able to find it here.
Touring Tip #7
Hire a bike or bring my own?
If you’re only planning a short stay in New Zealand, hiring a bike when you arrive is likely to be your best option. Most airlines charge additional fees for large items of baggage and there’s always a risk that your pride and joy might get damaged, or lost, en route.
At Natural High we offer a huge range of bike rentals, so while we may not be able to provide the exact same bike as you have at home, we’re sure to have something equally as good! Plus we have depots in convenient locations throughout both islands, including Auckland Airport and Christchurch.
If you’re cycle touring for two months or longer, our “buy back” scheme could be a good option. We’ll refund half the purchase price if the bike is returned in a reasonable condition.
Touring Tip #8
Be traffic aware.
Outside of the main centres, New Zealand roads are generally quieter than other parts of the world. However, the twisty nature of many roads means limited visibility for drivers, so cyclists need to be aware of approaching traffic at all times. You might want to consider wearing reflective gear and using a bike mirror, to keep an eye on the traffic behind you.
Touring Tip #9
Know the rules of the road.
Kiwis drive on the left, as in Britain, Australia and Japan. Cycling is illegal on National Park tracks and most motorways. Helmets are compulsory and you risk a fine if you don’t wear one. For more road rules, head here >>
Touring Tip #10
Don’t put it off!
Life is short, so hit the road sooner rather than later. We promise you won’t regret it!
Inspired to ride? Check out our great selection of self-guided or guided tours and start planning your adventure today…