Family-Sized Portions Of Fun To Be Found On The Great Taste Trail

Dishing up family fun on the Great Taste TrailOver the recent school holidays, Steve and I took the kids to Tasman, at the top of the South Island, to sample the many delights of the Great Taste Trail.

One of New Zealand’s Great Rides, the full trail offers 174 kilometres of riding. Since our children are only 7, 10 and 11, we opted to sample two, shorter segments.

First up was the Richmond to Mapua Ferry section, which winds its way alongside the scenic Waimea Inlet to the popular beach and recreation reserve on Rabbit Island. From here, you can jump aboard a ferry to the vibrant Mapua Wharf and village.

The other section we rode was from Norris Gully to Wai-iti Domain, through Spooners Tunnel. The kids loved the tunnel! It’s not lit, so take torches or bike lights. At 1.4 kilometres long, it’s New Zealand’s longest decommissioned rail tunnel, and the sixth longest tunnel open to cycling or walking in the world! Definitely worth a visit.

The riding on both these sections is easy and mostly off-road, making them a great option for families or less confident riders. The boys rode a Specialized Fatboy and Avanti Tracker, while Anahera tested out an Avanti Black Thunder. Steve and I were riding our usual bikes: a Specialized Camber 29 and an Avanti Torrent 650b. Mountain bikes or hybrids are equally suitable for this trail.

Given its name, food options are plentiful along the route. You’ll find the curious combination of homemade baking and tame eels at Jester House, and excellent hot chips at The Smokehouse in Mapua.

Tasman’s mild climate makes the Great Taste Trail a viable cycling option all year round. With multiple access points and loop options, it lends itself to leisurely day-rides, with plenty of time to soak up the sights and tastes along the way. Just bear in mind that during winter (30 April to 28 September 2018) the Mapua Ferry only operates on weekends, and during school and public holidays. You’ll find the full timetable on their website.

And if you’d like any additional information about riding this route, or you’d like to organise bike hire, send us an email.

Have a good week,

P.S. Other trails well suited to autumn and winter riding include the Twin Coast Cycle Trail, at the top of the North Island, and the Great Lake Trail around Taupo. See more details here.

Introducing The Paparoa Track, The West Coast’s Newest MTB Experience

Introducing The Paparoa Track, The West Coast’s Newest MTB ExperienceThe West Coast of the South Island is fast becoming a must-do mountain biking destination and they’ll be one more reason to visit come 2019, with the completion of the Paparoa Track. Built as a memorial to the 29 men who died in the 2010 Pike River Mine disaster, the track is set to become New Zealand’s 10th Great Walk and will also be open to mountain bikers.

Once complete, the 55 kilometre trail will stretch from Blackball in the south to Punakaiki on the coast, providing access to the remote alpine scenery of the Paparoa Range. An additional Pike29 Memorial Track will give walkers and bikers the option to view the site of the former Pike River Mine.

Mountain bikers can expect long, steep climbs, narrow track and unpredictable obstacles. The route will be classed a Grade 4: Advanced, meaning you will need good gear and plenty of experience. Plan to spend one night on the track, although fitter riders will be able to complete the route in one day. There will be two Great Walks huts available along the route, which must be booked in advance.

Unlike the Heaphy Track which only allows access to mountain bikers between 1 May and 30 November, the Paparoa Track will be open to bikers all year-round.

Rich in mining history, the Paparoa Range is renowned for its dramatic limestone karst landscapes, thriving rainforests and breathtaking views of the Southern Alps. The combined walking and biking track is set to open in April 2019 – we’ll keep you posted on its progress!

Have a good week,

P.S. Other top trails on the West Coast include the Heaphy Track, the Old Ghost Road and the West Coast Wilderness Trail.

Experience The Thrills And Spills Of Track Cycling at Cambridge’s Avantidrome

Waikato River TrailsThe New Zealand cycling team has turned in some stellar performances at the recent Commonwealth Games. Sam Gaze and Anton Cooper claimed gold and silver in a dramatic mountain bike race, Olympic rower turned cyclist Hamish Bond won bronze in the time trial, and the track cycling team collected a record 12 medals in the velodrome. 

If you’ve ever fancied having a go at track cycling, Cambridge’s Avantidrome is the place to go.

The Waikato velodrome – recently used as a training venue by the Canadian women’s cycling team prior to the Commonwealth Games – offers one hour, introductory sessions. Incorporating basic knowledge on how to ride a track bike, as well as the opportunity to experience riding on the velodrome, this is a great way to get a feel for the thrill of the track!

Have-a-Go sessions cost just $25 per person and include the use of a bike and helmet, as well as support from an experienced coach. Sessions run regularly at the weekends – click here to book online.

Aside from the Avantidrome, the Waikato region is home to hundreds of kilometres of cycle trails. Laid-back riders and families might like to check out Te Awa – The Great New Zealand River Ride, which offers 70km of smooth trail riding along the Waikato River. The route stretches from Ngaruawahia in the north to Lake Karapiro in the south, taking in waterfalls, historic Maori sites, shops, cafes and wineries along the way.

If challenging terrain is more your thing, head for the Waikato River Trails (image above). While some sections of the trail are easy-going, the Waipapa and Arapuni segments are graded 4 and 5. Both offer challenging downhills and unpredictable riding through native and exotic forest. Other impressive features along the route include two massive hydro dams, and the 80m long Mangawera Suspension Bridge.

We can hook you up with bike hire for any of these trails. Take a look at your options here, and drop us a line if you’d like some advice or recommendations.

Have a good week,

P.S. Like to give mountain biking a go, but not feeling that confident about your skills? Take a look at our half-day mountain bike training courses. These offer structured training with a qualified instructor in either the North or South Island. Find out more here.

Three Places In New Zealand To Spot Penguins

penguin spotting in new zealandNew Zealand’s shores are regularly graced by three breeds of penguin: the Fiordland crested penguin, the yellow-eyed penguin, and the little blue penguin. If you’d love to catch a glimpse of these memorable creatures, put the following three places on your itinerary:

Curio Bay, Catlins
A number of yellow-eyed penguins (also known as hoiho) nest in the area around Curio Bay, and can frequently be seen waddling in from the surf at the end of a long day. These are one of the rarest penguins in the world with an estimated total population in New Zealand of between 6000 and 7000. They are very timid birds, so if you are lucky enough to spot one, keep your distance. Curio Bay is also home to Hector’s dolphin, fur seals, and sea lions, as well as the fossilised remains of an ancient forest. The viewing platform overlooking the forest provides a good vantage point for wildlife watching.
Cycle options:  6 Day Self Guided Catlins Coast Tour. This tough tour will take you from Dunedin to Invercargill, via Bluff. Prefer guided? Our 7 Day Queenstown to Christchurch Road Cycle Tour includes a stop at Curio Bay.

Akaroa, Banks Peninsula
Little blue penguins can be spotted right across New Zealand, but the largest mainland colony can be found in Flea Bay, on the Banks Peninsula. Due to the sensitive nature of these animals, only guided groups are taken into the breeding colony. Pohatu Penguins offers a variety of different tours. The best time for viewing is between the end of August to the end of December.

Cycle options: Our 3 Day Self Guided Banks Peninsula Cycle Tour gives you ample time to lock in a tour with Pohatu Penguins.

Munro Beach, near Lake Moeraki
The Fiordland crested penguin or tawaki, is one of the rarest of New Zealand’s mainland penguins and therefore much harder to spot. One option is to head to Munro Beach, near Lake Moeraki, 30 km north of Haast. A walking track leads from Lake Moeraki to the beach, and guided tours are conducted from the Lake Moeraki Wilderness Lodge. Fiordland crested penguins can also be seen in Milford Sound and at Jackson Bay. The best time of year to see tawaki is during the breeding season from July to November, and they can sometimes be seen during the moulting season from mid-January to early March.

Cycle options: Several of our self-guided tours take in the west coast of the South Island, enabling you to schedule a stop at Munro Beach. Take a look at our 5 Day Self Guided Road Cycle Tour Christchurch to Queenstown, 8 Day Self Guided Road Cycle Tour Christchurch to Queenstown, or 10 Day Self Guided Road Cycle Tour Queenstown to Christchurch.

Got questions about any of these tours? Don’t hesitate to send us an email.
Have a good week,

P.S. Both our Auckland and Christchurch branches will be closed over the Easter weekend. We’ll be away from 5pm on Thursday 29 March until 9am on Tuesday 3 April.

Ancient Forests Await On The Timber Trail

Ancient Forests Await On The Timber TrailOnce upon a time, over three-quarters of New Zealand was covered in forest. Today that number stands at less than a quarter. European settlement brought deforestation on a mass scale: Huge tracts of forest were cleared for farming and houses, and timber exports became a major industry for the country.

By the 1970’s, the environmental movement had begun to take action. In Pureora Forest Park on the North Island, environmentalists climbed high into the canopy to protest against further logging. Eventually the government responded by preserving the remaining indigenous blocks.
Today, Pureora Forest Park is home to the Timber Trail – one of the 23 rides that make up Nga Haerenga, the New Zealand Cycle Trail. To travel this route is to experience both sides of New Zealand’s timber heritage: ancient podocarp forests of soaring rimu, totara, miro, matai and kahikatea; and a glimpse of the industry that nearly brought it all crashing down.
Stretching from Pureora Village in the north to Ongarue in the south, remnants of the region’s timber heritage feature frequently along the 85km trail. At Ongarue, the trail follows the contours of an old bush tramway, once used to haul felled trees to the sawmill. Winding through picturesque natural bush, the tramway passes numerous cuttings, embankments, stream crossings, cliff ledges and tumbledown huts. Particularly impressive is the Ongarue spiral, an engineering marvel made up of a lower-level bridge, a very deep cutting, a curved tunnel, and an over-bridge. 
New marvels constructed especially for the trail include eight suspension bridges, built to span the many streams and river gorges of this mountainous region. The Maramataha suspension bridge claims one of the longest (141 metre) and highest (45 metre) single-spans in the country. 
With reasonable fitness, the Timber Trail can be ridden in two days. It’s recommended that you set out from the northern end at Pureora Village and head south, since this will save a lot of arduous climbing. You’ll find two accommodation options at the half-way point of Piropiro Flats: a scenic DOC campsite, or the newly-built Black Fern Lodge. You can also choose to ride shorter sections of the trail, or venture deeper in the forest where numerous advanced mountain bike trails await.

If you fancy riding the Timber Trail, we can help organise bike hire. Check out options here, or send us an email.

Have a good week,

Get The Lowdown On Christchurch’s MTB Scene

Book in for a bike service at our Christchurch branch, and you’ll likely meet the Lloyd brothers. Jake and Toby hail from Tavistock in the UK and are currently in New Zealand on working holidays. We pinned them down for a quick chat to find out more about their biking backgrounds and get the lowdown on Christchurch’s MTB scene.

How long have you been biking for, and what initially sparked your interest?
Jake: I have been biking on and off for about 12 years. We had a skatepark and local woods near our home when growing up which we used to go to after school and at weekends. The rest they say is history!
Toby: I grew more of an interest in bikes and started riding trails around 2005. My family moved house and we were within riding distance to the local woods. This enabled me to ride at the weekend and sometimes after school growing my love for bikes and riding. 

What’s your favourite ride or trail?
Jake: I’m constantly finding new exciting and challenging trails here in New Zealand, a favourite would be Rad Sick trail at Victoria Park at Port Hills.
Toby: I haven’t ridden many trails while I’ve been in New Zealand and only a few that aren’t that well known in the UK. There are some good trails in a town called Tavistock near to where I lived in the UK, but here in New Zealand, I’ve found some good rides around Victoria Park and the Adventure Park also looks as though it has some great runs which I’m soon to check out. I’m more into downhill/freeriding, but I tried out a 27.5” which was more of an all mountain/enduro and thought it was awesome. Not only do they climb well, but they descend better than expected. 

Best spot for after-biking drinks?
Jake: Most of our biking is done after work and so we usually head home afterwards for dinner and a beer.
Toby: As I’m on my working holiday, I’m torn between trying to ride as much as possible, but also work and save up as much as I can. I’d usually drink at home with my housemates, but a place I like is Burgers & Beers Inc. It has a decent selection of burgers and of course, great beer. 

What do you like to do when you’re not riding?
Jake: I really like to explore on foot, whether it be looking for new trails or hiking up the mountains. When I’m at home in the UK I play a lot of hockey.
Toby: If I’m not riding or working, I tend to either explore in and around Christchurch. But I also enjoy editing videos and clips of myself and friends riding. I quite enjoy the media side of things and putting a little sequence together for others to see. 

What’s your top tip for keeping your bike in perfect condition?
Jake: Regular maintenance.
Toby: My tip to keeping a healthy bike is to just keep on top of it. You can get a cheap bike or an expensive bike, but it’s best to keep it clean and maintained so there is less likely to be an issue out on the trail. Although, there is the chance you get things a bit wrong and you run out of talent while riding. 

Do you have any must-do rides or destinations?
Jake: From my experience, New Zealand as a whole is a must-do destination that I would highly recommend for any type of biking. Dyers Pass here in Christchurch is a climb to get ticked off the list!
Toby: I wouldn’t say I have any must-do rides or places to go, but I would say just enjoy yourself. Do what kind of riding you feel like and don’t do anything you’re not comfortable with. 

Check out a clip of Toby riding here.

And if you think your bike could benefit from a tune-up from an experienced bike mechanic, we offer servicing in both our Christchurch and Auckland branches. Send us an email, or give us a call on 03 982 2966 (Christchurch) or 09 257 4673 (Auckland).

Have a good week,

Images: Toby Lloyd

Guided Riding on the Otago Rail Trail and Clutha Gold Trail

Looking for a gentle introduction to bike touring? Then check out our newest tour offering: the 5 Day Otago and Clutha Cycle Trails.
This easy cruise through stunning Central Otago combines two popular trails: the Otago Rail Trail and the Clutha Gold Trail. Both provide a fascinating insight into the history of this region, from early Maori moa hunters to the thrill of the gold rush, and European farming, railway and mining endeavours.
Scenic highlights along the way include mountain backdrops, cascading river gorges, and golden high-country. You’ll also have the option to experience viaducts, tunnels, abandoned gold diggings, and art deco buildings in pretty country towns.

In addition, this tour includes a trip on the Taieri Gorge Railway from Middlemarch to Dunedin, a scenic jet boat transfer down the Roxburgh Gorge, and wine tasting at a Central Otago Winery.
Both trails are classed grade 1, meaning the route is mainly flat, with occasional small climbs. Much of the riding is off-road, making it a safe option for families. And the tour is fully-guided, so you won’t have to worry about accommodation, getting lost, or riding with heavy loads – luggage transfer is included!
With just one departure this summer – leaving 8 April 2018 – get in touch today to book.

Have a great week,

An Introduction To Bikepacking In New Zealand

bikepacking new zealandNew Zealand’s varied terrain lends itself well to bikepacking – essentially multi-day mountain biking with an emphasis on travelling light. Throughout the country, a comprehensive network of cycle trails, tracks and gravel roads make it easy to escape the traffic and soak up the scenery.
Any of the Great Rides of New Zealand make for an exciting bikepacking adventure. If you’re just finding your biking feet, try the Timber Trail in the Pureora Forest Park, which incorporates ancient forest, purpose-built trail and tramway, as well as some of the longest and highest suspension bridges in the country.
For those with more advanced riding skills, the St James Cycle Trail close to Hanmer carves a fun loop through North Canterbury high country. Various rocky sections and steep climbs keep the riding challenging, and there are options for longer or shorter routes.
Another great option for experienced riders is the Old Ghost Road in Buller. This tailor-made trail traverses some splendid scenery and throws in plenty of steep climbs, too. Frequent huts provide accommodation and shelter along the way.
Perhaps the ultimate bikepacking route though is the Tour Aotearoa, which weaves its way across the entire length of the country. Designed by New Zealand cycling historian and guidebook writer Jonathan Kennett, the route follows a combination of cycle trails, tracks, paths and quiet country roads from Cape Reinga all the way to Bluff. At a casual pace, expect to take three to five weeks to complete the full 3000 kilometres.

What bike?
You’ll want a tough, light bike with big tyres. We recommend either the Surly Ogre or the Surly Troll which we’ve just incorporated into our hire fleet. Both are good options for bikepacking, and can be set up with various luggage options to suit your needs. Get in touch for hire rates and options.

Have a great week,

P.S. Want to know more about luggage systems for bikepacking? Check out this post from our archives.

From Tip To Toe: Meet The Guys Riding The Length Of New Zealand For Charity

It’s 2270 kilometres from the top of the North Island to the bottom of the South Island, and British riders Chris I’Anson and Chris Brown are planning to ride every single one of them over the next few weeks.
Aided by friend Paul Smith, who’ll be driving their campervan, the pair are aiming to complete their mission in 19 days, cycling over 120 kms per day.
The goal? To see the country but also to raise funds and awareness for two charities: Claro Enterprises, a North Yorkshire non-profit that was set up by Chris Brown as a workshop for people with mental health problems; and Parkinson’s UK, in support of a friend.
The duo are no strangers to physical challenges: Chris Brown has climbed the seven summits of the world, completed the Marathon des Sables in Morocco, and cycled the length of the UK, while Chris I’Anson has been on mountaineering trips to Nepal, Tanzania and Peru, and completed a five day ultra marathon in Spain.
Despite their endurance credentials, the pair are not underestimating New Zealand’s hills. Their route calculations have shown a total of 22,246 metres of elevation gain over the course of their journey – 2.5 times the height of Everest from sea level – and their training has incorporated plenty of dedicated bike sessions in preparation.
It won’t all be hard slog, though. Chris I’Anson runs a feed business in Yorkshire which makes Speedi-Beet horse feed (sold throughout New Zealand), and he’s hoping to call into a few suppliers along the route!
Their journey starts from Cape Reinga on 29 January and, if all goes to plan, they’ll be rolling into Bluff on 16 February. The pair say they’d welcome company from any local riders along the way – check out their progress on their website here, or donate to their campaign here.

Have a great week,

P.S. Combined camper and bike hire is a great way to see New Zealand. Pick and choose sections of the New Zealand Cycle Trail, or simply use your bikes to get a more up-close perspective of a local area or town. Check out options here.

Image: L-R Chris Brown, Chris I’Anson and Paul Smith.

Raise A Glass To New Zealand’s Best Bike-Friendly Wine Routes

New Zealand’s Best Bike-Friendly Wine RoutesFrom the volcanic, clay-rich soils of Auckland, to the sun-drenched valleys of Nelson and the cooler climes of North Canterbury, New Zealand’s wine growing regions extend right across the country. Here’s a selection of cycle routes that swing by some of the best cellar doors in the country.

Three-day, self-guided Waiheke Island Tour
Just a short hop from Auckland by ferry, Waiheke Island is a beguiling blend of rolling farmland, beautiful beaches, and award-winning vineyards. Tour notes come with a number of recommended cycle rides, ranging from a 50km slog to shorter, easier routes. With over 20 wineries calling Waiheke Island home, you won’t have to pedal far to quench your thirst.
The Wineries Ride, Hawke’s Bay Trails
Cycling expert Jonathan Kennett describes the Hawke’s Bay Trails as ‘the closest you can get to a European cycling holiday in N.Z.’ The 48km Wineries Ride offers smooth and mainly flat riding
through the wine growing areas of Bridge Pa, Gimblett Gravels and the Ngatarawa Triangle, with ample opportunities to sample award-winning vintages along the way.

6 Day Nelson Great Taste Cycle Trail
Meandering through the picturesque Nelson and Tasman region, the Great Taste Trail dishes up relaxed riding, stunning coastal views, and a veritable smorgasbord of cafes, breweries and vineyards. This six day loop also incorporates a half day walk on the famous Abel Tasman track, and a sailing adventure through the Abel Tasman National Park on a catamaran.
Waipara Wine Tour
The Waipara Valley just outside Christchurch is fast establishing itself as one of the premium wine producing regions of New Zealand. This day tour offers relaxed, easy riding along an off-road cycle trail and quiet country roads, with leisurely stops for an antipasto lunch and wine tastings along the way. Pre-bookings essential.

Got a question about any of these routes? Don’t hesitate to send us an email.

Hope your first week of 2018 has been a good one!