Gear Combo Guru
Join Date: May 2007
Bikes: Spec' Tarmac (road), Ridley Fenix (commuter & fast tourer), Salsa Mamasita (MTB), CoMo Speedster (tandem), Surly Big Dummy (cargo), Airnimal (folder)
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We just got back from 5 weeks of independent tandem touring in New Zealand. It's a great place to bike tour - beautiful scenery, great roads, friendly people, and many interesting places to stop that are easy riding distances apart.
Don't worry about the Santana tour being book up already - doing it independently is really straightforward. There are various accommodation options in every town (big or small), and tourism is a major part of the economy in many areas, so everything is geared up to cater for people touring around (although most other people are in campervans/motorhomes). There's also a tourist information office in most towns that can help with anything you need to know while on the road.
One thing to be prepared for when tandem tourng: More questions about your bike than you've ever had anywhere else. We couldn't stop in any town for more than a couple of minutes without having multiple people come up to study the tandem and asking many questions. We're used to having people look at the bike, and answering an occasional question, but in New Zealand the interest was extreme. It's true that the bike is rather different (a coupled tandem, with belt drive, and custom-fit frame bags as well as regular panniers), but we never expected the amount of attention that we received while there; we were even getting kind of tired of it by the end. I can imagine that if a group of tandems show up together then people are going to be even more fascinated. Given the amount of advertising we were doing for the equipment manufacturers, we need to look into getting sponsored if we ever go back there (which I hope will be not too far away).
The locals kept trying to tell us to be extra careful cycling on the roads there because "the roads are so narrow, there are so many cars, and not all drivers are courteous to cyclists". You can ignore all such comments. The roads are far wider than we're used to, generally have pretty low levels of traffic (sometimes extremely low), and in 2,500 km (1,500 miles) we encountered just one driver who was not courteous (but still didn't cause us any real problem). I think that if the dozens of people who felt compelled to warn us had more experience of roads in other countries then they might have a better perspective and realize that the New Zealand roads are an awesome place to ride a bike.
Here's a taster of what to expect:
Last edited by Chris_W; 02-01-13 at 12:52 AM.