New Zealand is a land of vastly different landscapes – everything from towering snow-capped mountains, rolling green plains, barren tussock-covered hills to wild and wind swept beaches. It’s a land of contrasts, a place where sheep outnumber people and it’s easy to get away from it all. Quite simply, it’s a country made to be explored by bike.
In 2010, the New Zealand Government committed millions of dollars in funding The New Zealand Cycle Trail. This trail was once envisioned to stretch across the entire country – from Cape Reinga to Bluff. This lofty goal has been scaled back, and as a result there are now over 20 multi-day cycle trails measuring up to over 2,500 kms in length around the country that take in everything from active volcanoes, to barren beaches, to dense-native bush and vast volcanic lakes.
Last month, Dan and I set off to explore the North Island’s recently completed cycle trails with a six-berth Apollo Van. We covered over 1200 kms of New Zealand’s roads and nearly 400 kms of New Zealand’s cycle trails in just short of a week, and were blown away by the quality of the rides and the huge variety of cycle trails on offer.
If you’re considering a trip cycling in New Zealand, be sure to ride one of these epic Great Rides.
Grade: 2 Beginner
The Hauraki Rail Trail is an easy one-three day ride that explores the Hauraki plains and the fantastic Karangahake Gorge – one of the 14 Wonders of New Zealand. This trail offers easy riding with loads of options for cafe, restaurant or accommodation stops along the way.
The start of the trail in historic Thames is only a short two hour drive away from Auckland, and it’s a great ride to get your legs warmed up for some more challenging riding. A highlight of this ride is a 1 km long tunnel cutting through the Karangahake Gorge – don’t forget your head torch.
Grade: Intermediate 3
The Taupo Great Lake Trail features kms and kms of easy to intermediate single track riding through native New Zealand bush. It’s an absolute blast, and for anyone that thinks Rotorua is the MTB Capital of New Zealand, we think it’s worth heading south to see what Taupo has to offer.
This ride has two huge draw cards. First, you’re greeted with stunning views out across New Zealand’s largest lake throughout the ride with a number of spots where you could go for a dip to cool down. Second, the epic little lakeside town of Kinloch splits up your journey so you can refuel with a coffee (or a beer!), and if you’d like – break up the ride with an overnight stop on the shores of Lake Taupo.
Get in touch with Peter from Great Lake Shuttles to transport you to the track start and finish.
Grade: 1 – 3
The Motu Trails are the most remote trails on the North Island, and they offer the most diverse range of track styles. Starting from the beachside town of Opotiki, the Dunes Trail takes you along the beach with sweeping views out across the rolling hills of the East Cape.
We chose to ride the Loop Trail, which heads inland after 10 kms and slowly climbs up the historic Motu Road – first opened in 1914 and was the first chance for two wheeled access across the rugged bush-covered East Cape. This deserted stretch of road is the real New Zealand – and while it’s open to the driving public, you’re more likely to see horses making their way across the cape than cars.
The highlight of this ride comes after the climb up the Motu Road – The Pakihi Track takes you down 15+kms of single-track downhill with numerous crossings of the Pakihi Stream along the way.
Grade: Intermediate 3+
The Bridge to Nowhere Ride is an adventure ride that should be on your New Zealand Mountain Biking Bucket List – it’s adventure from start to finish and includes more downhill riding than climbing, remote backcountry riding, views of the volcanoes of Tongariro National Park, a jet boat ride and a night deep in the Whanganui bush at a backcountry lodge.
It’s located in the Ruapehu Region of the North Island, and we reckon it’s one of NZ’s best rides. The highlight is finishing the track in the middle of nowhere where a Joe from the Bridge to Nowhere Lodge will collect you and jet boat you down to the lodge.
Keen? We thought so.
Grade: Beginner 2-3
The Pureroa Timber Trail is a fantastic one to two day ride that includes a huge range of track styles – everything from single track, to forestry and backcountry roads. This track is best ridden from North to South and the highlight are a number of recently constructed suspension bridges – the longest measuring up at 141 metres.
The ride starts with a challenging climb through the bush to the top of Mt Purerora, but then the rest of the trail is predominately downhill with the last 12 kms being all downhill. It’s an epic ride, one of our favourites from the trip.
The Apollo Van we used was ideal to get us from Point A to B – we could find a campground late a night to grab some rest on full sized beds before hitting the next trail; good sleep is crucial when you’re doing 400+ kms in a week, and we got that in our Apollo van. Loads of space in the rear for our (often stinky) ride gear made it the perfect bike mission van.
NZByBike.com is New Zealand’s most-searched cycle information website containing information on the Great Rides of the New Zealand Cycle Trail Project and local and regional tracks from around the country. Book your New Zealand mountain bike trip on NZByBike.com.