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Friday, January 31, 2020

"Great Riding" in New Zealand

Our most scenic ride - the Alps 2 Ocean Great Ride
Mike and I recently visited New Zealand for our 25th wedding anniversary, and our number one activity was cycling the numerous, wonderful trails.  We had visions of doing both road biking and trail riding, but upon arriving we discovered the trails are really where you will find the best cycling.  In fact, the roads are fast driving (100km/60mph), rough-paved, and two lanes with no shoulders, making road biking very unappealing with questionable safety, which perhaps explains why you will be challenged to even find road bike rentals. But who needs roads when you have endless off-road trails for all abilities.

New Zealand has become known for their trail riding thanks to New Zealand’s Cycle Trail organization and its creation of 22 “Great Rides”, an idea that was born in 2009 at a government ‘jobs summit’.  During our two-week travels in the North and South Islands, we enjoyed four scenic and fun-filled trails.  We opted for half-day or day long rides, but there are many options to do these Great Rides end-to-end over multiple days.

There is enough bike “hire” (rental) supply that you probably do not need advance reservations for half- and full- day rides.  Since we were in peak summer season, we did make advance reservations for a couple rentals, but we probably could have found rentals without them.  A full-day rental costs around $50-55 NZD (~$35 USD) and since the trails are free, you can enjoy hours of low-cost adventure and fun.  It was helpful to do advance research to know what trails we wanted to ride, and we even planned some of our itinerary around the places we wanted to ride. If you want to do more than a day ride, you would want to make advance plans and reservations.
Painted mural on toilets

For the most part, the trails are well-marked so while there were a few times we wondered if we were going the right way, we never got lost.  You do want to plan for lunch.  On our first ride we assumed we could find food along the way, partly because the bike renter said there would probably be food stand mid-way, but there was none.  From then on, we always packed lunch and snacks and enjoyed some awesome picnic spots.

Music serenading toilets!
And here’s perhaps the best part – I never once had to pee in the woods!  Toilets abound and they will be the nicest and cleanest outhouse / porta potty / public toilets you were ever encounter. A couple of them even serenaded me with music.

 My subsequent four blog posts cover each of our bike rides, two on the North Island and two on the South Island.

Bike Ride #1:  Motu Dunes Trail, Opotiki, North Island
Bike Ride #2:  Lakeside Trail, and the Mountain Trails to Huka Falls, Taupo, North Island
Bike Ride #3:  Central Otago Wine Trail, Queenstown surroundings, South Island
Bike Ride #4:  Alps 2 Ocean Great Ride, Twizel / Aoraki Mount Cook, South Island

For an overview of our full trip, including our itineraries for the North and South Island, please see my 3 part series on the Intrepid Tourist.

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