first bike tour: NZ
Hey all i just got into biking and myself and a buddy are planning on going to New Zealand for our first tour across both islands over 6 months. we have 6 months of training to do for this before we leave. Right now we have a couple old mountain bikes we got for free, so in around 5 months we are going to buy touring bikes and everything we need for the trip.
So for now we are just trying to research everything so any tips or info as what to learn would be great, or if anyone has been there, info on that. thanks for your time
Life is a fun ride
The south island has much more solitude and extraordinary views but it is more rugged than the north island and the weather can be a challenge (wet). The north island is more populated and logistics are therefore much simpler (campgrounds, etc). NZ is very cycling friendly and you can get parts and supplies at most major towns. Cost-wise it was not too bad either. If you have sufficient time you should check out the Dunedin area in the south island with its albatross and penguins. It's quite interesting.
Remember the Christchurch area recently had a major earthquake and some infrastructure may be unavailable. Make sure to call ahead before venturing out. It's a very friendly place. Enjoy.
there is still plenty of infrastructure here in Christchurch, don't let the earthquake put off any plans to visit here - still plenty of everything you need, minus a CBD If you are planning to be here 6 months, I would recommend starting in spring and heading thru summer into autumn. If you can, try to do the south island in late summer / early autumn - there can be quite a lot of holiday traffic on the roads as school holidays is from December thru January, and quite a lot of roads have narrow or no shoulders. Central otago area in the south island is simply stunning in autumn with all of the trees changing colour, you won't want to miss it.
oh, and avoid state highway 1 at all times if you can, definitely not a cycle safe road.
thanks for the heads up, we are starting in late october on the north island i think, and finding towns which are fun and will hang out there for a week or 2 just trying to find people to hang out with
Awesome first touring place!
I would add, the Pedaller's Paradise books could be useful, I found them to be, but I was on a much shorter tour.
Also, get your tour bikes ASAP and do your training on them, so you can work out any fit issues.
And finally, it's freaking STEEP there, so get bikes with low gearing. Mountain bike gearing is not too low.
I don't know if you already have airfares, etc, but NZ is going to be in a state of absolute bedlam around October. That's the closing stages of the Rugby World Cup, which will be the biggest event in the country for years. I know a number of kiwis who are flying from England to NZ just to watch matches. Prices will be through the roof. You should be okay by November.
This article about accommodation prices says they are expecting 70,000 foreigners for the WC.
Best of luck,
oh wow, thanks. we allready have our tickets cause they were cheap at the time. we fly in 2 days after the final actually
Here's another great site for newby tourists (touring section): http://www.biketoledo.net
You'll be fine in the north island in October so long as you stay away from major cities and towns, keep to the smaller towns. ScruffyChimp is right, it's going to be a sellout!
State Highway 1 OK to ride.
oh, and avoid state highway 1 at all times if you can, definitely not a cycle safe road.[/QUOTE]
I have noticed that SH1 is actually better in places than some minor roads.Those minor roads can be more winding and hilly. SH1 has generally wide shoulders and visibility around the corners is better as the higway is better maintained. Only downside is much more traffic.
So to stay safe I suggest having mirrors and riding apart from other cyclists. No headphones to listen music either on the road.
I don't know if it the same now, but at least on So. Island in 1990, I was able to put the fully loaded touring bike on the bus without taking apart anything. 1/2 the bus was packages, 1/2 was seats for passengers. The bus would deliver mail to the post offices along the route, often by throwing the bag across the front of the bus without stopping.
Anyways, it was a great way to get some miles in when needed, that allowed me to circumnavigate the island and get back to the airplane to the No Island.
Shoot Your Car
Last edited by fks; 05-04-11 at 06:30 AM.
I don't know in which countries you have been touring so far, but I can't agree with your opinion that NZ is cycle friendly. I have just finished an 8 week trip on the North Island; half of it around Coromandel and half of it around Northland. I cannot say anything about South Island, but I would not go cycle touring in New Zealand again.
Originally Posted by safariofthemind
There are almost no cycle ways. You will be sharing the road with normal traffic. Most roads have little to no shoulder. Often the shoulder is in a pretty awful condition. Drivers usually don't anticipate the path a cyclists has to take: I hated it when the road got narrower and the shoulder vanished. As long as there is a shoulder, drivers expect you to use it and get out of their way. The don't see that you will have to move more into the road because suddenly the shoulder ends.
Many drivers didn't give me much of a berth. From what I experienced, tourist drivers were the best, often moving to the other lane when passing me. Small local cars were good as well. The drivers who really sucked were the local delivery vans and the big trucks (often heavy logging trucks). I was scared quite a few times when those monsters passed me with less than 1m distance between me and their tires. I heard the same opinions from the only 2 other tourers I met and happened to talk to.
Coromandel was more cycle friendly than Northland. Interestingly, the signs they put up there every couple of kms depicting a cyclist and a driver with the minimum distance (1.50m) and the slogan "share the road" seemed to help. I guess many people just don't know how much room a cyclist needs.
Northland was not so great. Cycling up the East Coast I had the choice between the heavily used "highway", and a small coast road with very steep climbs and bad road conditions. I chose the highway. As long as the shoulder was wide enough, it was tolerable, although the constant noise from the traffic didn't make the cycling fun. I got better about halfway up the coast. West Coast was better; and they even have a less busy road which runs roughly parallel to the main highway. But not all the way.
Cities here are anything but cycle friendly. I found it hard to find a place to lock my bike. There were hardly any designated bike locking posts, which is something you will find in most European cities.
There are many cycle shops, correct, but equipment is about 30-70% more expensive than in my country (Germany). Sometimes even more. If I were you, I'd bring everything I need. Especially if it's touring and camping related stuff. Just one example: my Therm-a-Rest cost me 109 EUR in Ireland. I could have even gotten it cheaper in Germany. They take 275 NZD here - which is ~150 EUR.
Camping is superb, though. I love NZ campsites! I have never stayed on cleaner and better equipped campsite in my life! And in touristy areas you'll find a campsite about every 30km.
Woud I have to plan my trip again, I would leave the bike at home, get a car and go hiking as much as possible. They have some awesome hikes here, although those often had scary sections.
I'm writing this, because all I heard of New Zealand before was what a great touring country it is. Maybe the landscapes are nice, but cycling conditions definitely are not.
+1 for the Pedaller's Paradise books. Get them in NZ, as they are locally printed. As far as I know you can't get them via Amazon. Only selected book shops have them - you can go to the Pedaller's Paradise website and check if any shops in your area have them. Otherwise, you can buy them in NZ, but only in major cities and also only in major book shops. I had to go to quite a few book shops until I found one that stocked them.
Originally Posted by valygrl
I'd also recommend the HEMA camping guide (also buy in NZ). I bought one for the North Island and one for the South Island because they were lighter and smaller than the one for all of New Zealand. The guide also includes fairly useable road maps.
+1 on the low gearing! I spent A LOT of time in my lowest gear (24 front - 34 back). I was heavily loaded, but I would have been using that gear unloaded as well. The climbs on the smaller roads are hard. The Pedaller's guide has a profile which shows you what to expect. I underestimated the climbs in the beginning, and on my first day hardly made it to the campsite before sundown. I was so exhausted I had trouble setting up my tent and eating something before more or less fainting. Don't necessarily plan to ride the distances you're used to in the beginning, unless you are used to very hilly terrain. Take your time to adjust and you'll be able to increase the distance. I had serious knee pain after the first couple of days, and took a longer break before continuing.
Interesting the different perspective you get on the North Island from the South! I rode 5 weeks on the SI and 2 on the NI (East Cape). I found the roads to be shoulderless but the traffic mostly light. I think you could have a better experience with different road selections. And yes, the log trucks were not very interested in giving you much extra room - I bought a mirror and when I heard/saw one of those monsters coming, I often would just stop and get off the road for a sec.
The NI is much more highly populated than the SI, so it's not that surprising that the traffic was worse there. I really only rode a small bit of it, and it was carefully selected to stay away from major population centers AND major tourist areas (except Rotorua), so if you wanted to "cover" the NI I wouldn't be surprised if you had some of the issues luxlumis did.
Pedallers Paradise is available in a few US locations http://www.paradise-press.co.nz/address.html#us I just called one of these stores (can't remember which) and ordered on the phone. If you have it in advance, you can do some planning. I also used the Lonely Planet guide - the routes they suggest are very short and disconnected, but there's a lot of general info about wind direction, other modes of travel, culture, etc. that I found useful.
Every lane is a bike lane
I've toured quite extensively on both the North and the South islands. Here's my take on it.
1. You really need to do both islands. If I had to choose one, I'd lean toward the South, but there are a lot of things on the North that you won't see on the South. I'm talking about the volcanoes around the Tongariro National Park, the thermal areas around Rotorua and Taupo, the Maori culture (which seems a lot more prevalent on the North than the South). If you arrive in October with six months, do the North first, find somewhere to lay low for a couple of weeks over Christmas, then head for the South.
2. I guess "cycle friendly" is a term that depends on your frame of reference. Personally I found New Zealand drivers on the whole (on both islands) much better than those I deal with in Australia on a daily basis. Granted, there are few bike paths or lanes (with the exception of Christchurch), but as I rarely use them anyway, I didn't find that to be a problem. Locking the bike was never a problem for me either. New Zealand is a pretty informal place, and in most parts you can lock your bike pretty much anywhere you please. Once you get outside Auckland, the crime rate is pretty low, too. I didn't use SH1 very much, but the few places I did use it, I didn't have any problems.
3. Definitely bring the low gearing, and also make sure you bring a bike that can handle dirt roads. Some of the best touring in the entire country is on dirt roads (particularly on the North). The best of the Coromandel is the remote dirt road north of Coromandel town, the 91km stretch of dirt road through Te Urawera National Park is definitely not to be missed. While it's possible to do a lap of the South without using any dirt roads, there are some attractions (such as The Nuggets on the Caitlins coast) only accessable by dirt. I saw a lot of tourers using MTBs on both islands.
4. Definitely ride the Milford road on the South Island. For some reason, people have this idea that you should take a bus to Milford Sound because the road is hilly and it's an "out and back" road. Fact is, the road has some of the best cycling you'll experience anywhere in the world, and the long days in the South Island summer make it easy to time your ride to avoid the bulk of the tourist traffic.
5. The Pedallers Paradise guide has plenty of useful information. I found it readily available in book shops on the South Island, but apparently a lot harder to find on the North, and so I didn't use it on the North, and got by OK.
6. Be aware that the weather on the South Island is extremely variable. I'm told in Central Otago that the locals put keep their beer in the fridge to prevent it from freezing, but at the same time, summer days can get blistingly hot there, too. I remember having a February night dip below freezing while camping near Queenstown. Also be aware that 90km/h winds can turn up without a moments' notice, often with no regard for what should be the "prevailing wind". It's a good idea to be flexible in your planning on the South, and allow some extra days for when the weather does turn to crap. Oh, and watch out for Keas in the Southern Alps. They steal things and eat bicycle saddles.
"I am never going to flirt with idleness again" - Roy Keane
"We invite everyone to question the entire culture we take for granted." - Manic Street Preachers.
My bike tours. Japan tour page under construction.
You could always post in idea of the route you plan to take. I'm sure some of us locals could add some local advice.
I agree with some of the other recomendations about low gearing 22x34 will come in handy at times, as will some wider all terain tires.
A lot of the good touring in on sections of dirt rd. So a mtb style tour bike is worth looking at. (Whanganui river rd + the new bridge to nowhere section. Otago rail trail etc.)
The Heaphy Track is now open to cycles as is the Queen Charlet Track.
East Cape is great and can be pretty quite at xmas (no logging trucks & everyones camped up at the beach so not much traffic).
Hi there...I'm not an expert on NZ touring but I did a week on the East Cape of the North Island that was probably the best cycle touring I have ever done. Its a circle route from Gisborne directly over the mountain to Matawai, then Opotiki and then back around the Cape to Gisborne. Very few cars and beautiful scenery...highly recommend it.
Highway 2 to Napier is extremely dangerous. Do not ride it. You can throw your bikes on a bus and do that part off the bike. Good luck.
i get my maps of the islands soon and will try to outline our trip a little. what kind of MTB touring bikes would you recommend, i have a pretty nice KONA MTB perhaps i can convert it?