Cycle Touring On The Banks Peninsula: Gruelling Uphills Studded With Scenery

Cycle touring on the Banks PeninsulaStunning coastal views, quiet backroads, and plenty of big hills – Christchurch’s Banks Peninsula isn’t just a picturesque cycle destination, it’s a challenging one, too.

Our three day, self-guided Banks Peninsula tour offers an enticing introduction to this little-known region. With just under 5000 metres of climbing, this is not an adventure for the faint-hearted (we’ve given it a grade 4 difficult rating), but if you enjoy pushing your limits amidst spectacular scenery, read on!

The tour encompasses a mix of on and off-road riding, including twisting backroads, remote gravel tracks, and a disused rail trail. There are also opportunities to incorporate rugged single track.

Starting and finishing at the Natural High headquarters in Christchurch, the first day will see you careening through the Port Hills and along the Little River Rail Trail. Hugging the shoreline of the vast Te Waihora/ Lake Ellesmere, and it’s smaller twin Te Roto o Wairewa/Lake Forsyth, this trail offers relaxed, easy riding through one of the most diverse bird populations in the country. Keep your eyes peeled for shags, bitterns, black-backed gulls (karoro), shoverlers, pied stilts, wrybills and pukeko.

Day two takes you past charming bays with brilliant blue water, to the historic French and British settlement of Akaroa. Here you’ll find a thriving community of galleries, craft stores and cafes, and plenty of options for further outdoor adventure. Head to Flea Bay to admire the largest little penguin colony on mainland New Zealand, or step aboard a sea cruise to explore sheer cliffs and sea caves not visible from land.

You’ve got four big climbs to contend with on your final day. Luckily, the route is peppered with picturesque views, giving you plenty of excuses to pull over and catch your breath!

This is a self-guided tour, which means you can ride at any time. Although we recommend three days, it’s also possible to incorporate extra riding, or spend longer at certain spots along the way.

Rental of a Specialized Rockhopper Sport 29er mountain bike fitted with pannier rear rack, rear rack bag, cycle helmet, basic bike computer, and full repair gear is included. You can also upgrade to an Avanti ARC1, and/or Garmin Edge 810 GPS computer, pre-loaded with day-to-day route navigation and offering live route tracking.

Your tour also includes detailed trip notes and accommodation suggestions.

Check out the tour map on the website, and if you have any questions, send us an email.

Have a great week,

P.S. Want to investigate some more tough touring options? Check out our 6 Day Self-Guided Catlins Coast tour, from Dunedin to Invercargill via Bluff. Running through one of New Zealand’s most isolated regions, this tour demands high levels of fitness and touring experience.

Cycling the Banks Peninsula

cycling the banks peninsulaCrammed end-to-end with breathtaking views over bays and beaches, quiet roads and a huge variety of riding possibilities, the Banks Peninsula is a little-known cycling gem, right on the doorstep of Christchurch.

Aussie cyclists Ben and David recently got to experience this region’s world-class biking first-hand. The lucky duo were the winners of a three-day guided cycle tour of the peninsula, a competition offered by Cycling Tips and put together by Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism.

Their three-day adventure was custom-designed by us to showcase the area’s full spectrum of riding, from adrenaline-pumping mountain bike trails to long, road slogs and the gentler delights of the Little River Rail Trail.

The route:
Day one: Christchurch to Little River, over the Port Hills via Rapaki Track and Gebbies Pass and then onto the Little River Rail Trail. 65km. 760m climbing.
Day two: Little River to Akaroa via Okuti Valley and Wainu. 42km. 1220m climbing.
Day three: Akaroa to Christchurch via Summit Road, Pigeon Bay and Diamond Harbour. 93km. 2800m climbing.

So what did the boys think?
“A quick cruise through Christchurch on morning one to get some supplies and Dan soon had us sweating and trying to find our climbing legs as we ascended the steep dirt roads of Rapaki Track for the first glimpse and photo stop at the top looking down into Littleton Harbour. Being newcomers to New Zealand the sound that would become familiar of sheep baaing had us giggling early on and the contours of the Port Hills were both scenic and a nice way for the ride to begin.

Day one route met up with the Little River Rail Trail through to Little River where a stop at the pub and then roll into town and check-in to the cosy silo accommodation (SiloStay) was unique.

A relaxed start to day two after Dan used his English roots to guide us through the best of Kiwi beers the night previous. It was straight into the hills on day two and although the day’s ride was short on kilometres it was packed with views that had the eyes darting from side to side and once again photo stops were aplenty. Descending into Wainui tested the off-road downhill bike handling skills and the cruise around the bay in the sun punctuated by the odd short sharp climb and ending with fish and chips in the picturesque Akaroa was just about the perfect day out.

Much talk had been of the day three route due to both the additional kilometres, climbing and promised scenery and so it was with some nervousness and dusty heads that we rolled out of Akaroa and again the triple chain ring was sought out early. Once at the top of the hills out of Akaroa the following hour or so was as good as riding could get. Views to the north and south were equally appealing. A fast and at times technical descent had us in Pigeon Bay and awaiting the longest climb of the day on the dirt roads. Ben’s fall into the grass was a sign of the nerves and difference between road biking and skills needed for the loose gravel. While the climb was taken slowly it was perhaps the most enjoyable section of the three days and an exciting drop down to Port Levy saw the end of the off-road sections. David lifted the pace down to and around Diamond Harbour just to make the Dyers Pass climb out of Governor’s Bay hurt that little bit extra.

The ride ended with a nice run back into Christchurch and Dan and the Natural High team had more than delivered on an awesome long weekend of riding and sightseeing.”
Ben and David.

Fancy cycling the Banks Peninsula? We offer guided, self-guided and custom tours of the Little River Rail Trail and surrounding countryside. Daily luggage transfer can be arranged for lightweight touring! For more details or to book a tour, get in touch.

Have a great week,
Andrew Hunt

P.S. This article appears in the latest edition of Licence to Ride. Pick up a copy when you visit us in our Auckland or Christchurch branches.