New Zealanders have always enjoyed cycling, but trails such as the Otago Central Rail Trail and the 42 Traverse have given this activity a major boost in recent years.
Cycle-based activities are becoming increasingly popular all over New Zealand. Some visitors travel the entire country by bike, while others prefer to explore a few localities. Visitors can rent a mountain bike and explore, or take a cycle tour with a group. In Marlborough and Wairarapa, visitors can even go wine touring by bike. The Otago Central Rail Trail, in Central Otago, is a popular 150-kilometre cycle trail through stunning scenery, while Whakarewarewa Forest in Rotorua is criss-crossed with renowned mountain bike tracks. The Port Hills in Christchurch, Makara Peak in Wellington and Woodhill in Auckland are also popular with mountain bikers of all abilities. Competitive cyclists might plan a trip around a major cycling event, such as the Wattyl Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge. For more on New Zealand cycling events, visit www.cyclingnz.com. Note that cyclists must wear helmets when on the road and must not cycle on footpaths.
Cycling is an increasingly popular activity for visitors to New Zealand. New offers, from wine tours by bicycle to heli-biking, are regularly becoming available.
When planning a cycle touring itinerary, note that for most people of average fitness, four hours of cycling per day is about right.
Consider booking a guided tour for longer cycle tours of New Zealand – insider knowledge can make a real difference in your clients’ enjoyment of their tour.
There are mountain biking trails all around New Zealand. Renting a mountain bike and getting out on the trail is a higher energy alternative to taking a forest walk.
In New Zealand, the law requires that cyclists must wear a helmet at all times and they must use a light during the hours of darkness.
Heli-biking is an exciting option for keen mountain bikers who love extreme downhill biking – without the uphill slog!
Cycling in New Zealand
Getting out and about on two wheels is a great way to explore the New Zealand landscape – faster than walking but a lot more peaceful than driving!
The Otago Central Rail Trail (see article on facing page) has really put cycling in New Zealand on the map. This wonderful 150-kilometre cycleway introduces cyclists to gold rush history in the dramatic landscape of Central Otago. Small towns offering accommodation and eateries along the way ensure that this trail can be experienced with as much indulgence as your clients care to choose. The 42 Traverse in Tongariro National Park (Ruapehu region) is a more challenging prospect. Although it is only 46 kilometres in length, the trail covers rugged and isolated countryside and, unlike the Otago Central Rail Trail, there are no eateries or accommodation along the way. Riders will need to carry their own food, first aid kit, warm clothing and tool kit (including a spare tube) for any repairs required along the way. It should only be attempted by those with a reasonable level of fitness. The New Zealand Cycle Trail project is a national initiative to build a network of cycle trails – Great Rides – throughout New Zealand. You can stay up to date with the project at www.tourism.govt.nz/Our-Work/New-Zealand-Cycle-Trail-Project/.
Hugely popular with a large number of New Zealanders of all ages, mountain biking has become a very common weekend pastime and that means there are excellent mountain biking trails located all around the country – including within easy reach of the main centres. Rotorua has one of the most well-established mountain biking trails. Whakarewarewa Forest is home to 70 kilometres of trails winding their way through the ferns and shaded by huge pine trees in a former forestry estate. But there are great trails all around the country, whether your clients rent a bike or bring their own from home.
A relaxing way to enjoy cycling in New Zealand is on a wine tour by bike. In wine regions such as Wairarapa and Marlborough, visitors may rent a bicycle and explore the vineyards independently or join a guided group tour around the region.
Self-guided and Guided Tours
Aside from vineyard tours by bike, a range of other self-guided and guided tours are the perfect way for visitors to explore New Zealand by bike. Ranging from short regional bike rides to multi-day road cycle tours from one end of the country to the other, there are options to suit cyclists of all abilities. An advantage with some guided tours is the option to have luggage transported by a bus or minivan, so cyclists don’t have to carry it themselves. Mountain bikers can even take the opportunity to brush up their technical skills on a short course with an expert guide. When planning a self-guided tour for your clients, bear in mind that the first few days of cycling will be the hardest, as riders acclimatise to days spent in the saddle, so encourage them not to push themselves too hard!
Gear and Transport
If your clients would like to hit the cycle trail but would prefer not to take part in a guided tour, there are plenty of places where visitors can rent bicycles and gear. Mountain bikes, road bikes and even tandem bicycles are all available, along with child trailers, panniers, and all manner of accessories (including essentials such as locks and repair kits!). Some operators offer one-way bike hires, with pick-ups and drop-offs by arrangement. Inter-island ferries, along with most airlines, trains and coaches, will carry bicycles for a fixed charge.
In New Zealand, cyclists must wear safety helmets at all times. During the hours of darkness, bikes must be fitted with functioning front and rear lights. It is also a good idea to wear brightly coloured or reflective clothing. When travelling on roadways, cyclists must adhere to New Zealand’s road rules – keeping to the left, following the same rules as motor vehicles at intersections, and indicating stops and turns with hand signals at least three seconds prior. Cyclists may ride two abreast where space permits, but they must ride in single file when overtaking other vehicles. Use cycle paths whenever possible – they are indicated by signage. Riding on footpaths is prohibited.
Cycling and Mountain Biking Operators
This is a small selection of the operators in New Zealand.
Biking Nelson (Nelson)
cell: +64 21 861 725
Fat Tyre Adventures (Queenstown)
NZ fp: 0800 328 897
Flying Kiwi Adventure tours (Nelson)
t: +64 3 547 0171
Freeride NZ (Wanaka)
NZ fp: 0800 743 369
Mountain Bike Adventure Co. (Christchurch)
Mud Cycles (Wellington)
t: +64 4 476 4961
Natural High – Adrenaline Dealers (Christchurch)
t: +64 3 982 2966
New Zealand Pedaltours (Christchurch)
t: +64 9 585 1338
Off the Rails Cycle Tours (Queenstown)
cell: +64 27 363 3724
Pacific Cycle Tours (Christchurch)
t: +64 3 982 9913
Planet Bike (Rotorua)
t: +64 7 346 1717
Rapid Sensations (Taupo)
t: +64 7 378 7902
Trail Journeys (Clyde)
t: +64 3 449 2150
t: +64 3 442 8378
Otago Central Rail Trail
Built along a disused rail trail dating from the Gold Rush era, the 150-kilometre Otago Central Rail Trail is very popular with walkers, cyclists and horse riders. With great scenery, history and plenty of accommodation options along the way, this outdoor adventure is highly recommended. Plan your trip independently or join a guided tour! To obtain interactive maps, planning advice, accommodation bookings and more, visit www.otagocentralrailtrail.co.nz.
Where to Mountain Bike
Woodhill Mountain Bike Park (Auckland)
Forty minutes from New Zealand’s largest city, mountain bikers can explore 130 kilometres of purpose-built trails and 250 man-made features.
Whakarewarewa Forest (Rotorua)
One of the nation’s oldest mountain bike networks boasting 90 kilometres of crafted trails catering for families, beginners and experts.
Eskdale Mountain Bike Park (Napier)
Privately owned network featuring 75 kilometres of specialist cross-country trails and forest roads to suit riders of all abilities. Riders who are not Hawke’s Bay Mountain Bike Club members must purchase a Visitors Permit.
42 Traverse (Ruapehu)
46 kilometres of rugged terrain in wild scenery in Tongariro National Park from State Highway 47 to Owhango on State Highway 4.
Makara Peak (Wellington)
Ten minutes’ drive from the centre of Wellington City, Makara Peak features 8 kilometres of 4WD track and 24 kilometres of custom-built mountain biking trails across rugged hillsides and through regenerating native bush.
Queen Charlotte Track (Marlborough)
The longest single-trail mountain bike trail in the country winds its way 71 kilometres around a bush-clad coastline.
Port Hills (Christchurch)
Bottle Lake Forest and McLeans Island are popular mountain bike trails in Christchurch, but the Port Hills are also criss-crossed with excellent trails such as the Rapaki Track, the Bowenvale Traverse and The Serpent.
Otago Central Rail Trail (Central Otago)
Traversing 150 kilometres of stunning Central Otago scenery, this famous trail is open to cyclists, walkers and horse riders. It follows the historic railway line from Middlemarch to Clyde.
Find out More
Stay up to date with the New Zealand Cycle Rail project at www.tourism.govt.nz/Our-Work/New-Zealand-Cycle-Trail-Project/. Obtain interactive maps, planning advice, accommodation bookings and more about the Otago Central Rail Trail at www.otagocentralrailtrail.co.nz.