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  1. #1
    Bike touring webrarian
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    Things to know about New Zealand

    My wife and I recently returned from a 4 week (non-biking) trip to New Zealand. We spent 1 week on the North Island and 3 weeks in the South. It is unbelievably pretty with so many varied things to see is such a small place. I highly recommend a trip there, either on or off a bike.

    I've written an article about some things that people looking to tour there might like to know in advance. There are 14 observations broken into two sections: Highways and General Bicycle Touring.

    Here are all 14:

    Cars in New Zealand have the right of way.
    There are no shoulders on New Zealand highways.
    New Zealand has only 2 lane roads
    Drunk driving seems to be a serious problem in New Zealand
    There are very few stops signs in New Zealand
    There are many one-lane bridges in New Zealand

    New Zealand was expensive
    Subway sandwich shops in most larger towns
    There are long distances between places of resupply in New Zealand's South Island
    Organic food is not readily available in New Zealand
    Bicycle shops seemed plentiful
    Public rest rooms in New Zealand are widely available and clean
    The wind can be very strong in New Zealand
    The roads in New Zealand can be very steep
    Visit the on-line Bike Touring Archive at www.biketouringtips.com

  2. #2
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    I agree with most of your observations. Drivers don't give much space when overtaking you and they're very aggressive, which is weird because when they're out of their vehicles the Kiwis we met were amazingly friendly and down to earth. I got honked at twice and yelled at once while walking in crosswalks. The car definitely rules in NZ.

  3. #3
    Senior Member 009jim's Avatar
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    I want to add one item.

    Trucks and semis drive dangerously fast on narrow roads with no shoulder and a not prepared to slow down if they encounter another vehicle. Keep one eye in the rear-view mirror.

  4. #4
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    I hope you enjoyed it overall. I'm a displaced Kiwi and I have a couple of quick thoughts on cycle touring in NZ:

    The thing I always tell visitors, before I get to any travel tips, is to be very careful with the sun. Because the ozone layer is thin there, at the peak of summer you can get sunburnt extremely quickly. In January and February, always wear a sunhat and regularly apply high SPF sunscreen. It is not the same as Europe or North America.

    The expense of travelling in NZ is variable. Because it's a small nation, the currency fluctuates a lot. The Kiwi dollar and the US dollar are nearly at parity at the moment, whereas a few years ago you could get NZ$2 for each US dollar. That would make a big difference to how you perceive the cost. Having said that, some things aimed at tourists are a gouge, like the hot pools at Rotorua.

    I would advise people to stay off the bikes from Xmas to about 10 January. The whole country goes on Summer holidays, and the traffic is horrific.

    NZ is currently building a national cycle route (http://www.nzcycletrail.com/). We aren't good at following through on infrastructure projects like this, but if it is completed, it should improve cycle touring safety immeasurably.

    Cheers,
    James

  5. #5
    Bike touring webrarian
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    Quote Originally Posted by ScruffyChimp View Post
    I hope you enjoyed it overall. I'm a displaced Kiwi and I have a couple of quick thoughts on cycle touring in NZ:

    The thing I always tell visitors, before I get to any travel tips, is to be very careful with the sun. Because the ozone layer is thin there, at the peak of summer you can get sunburnt extremely quickly. In January and February, always wear a sunhat and regularly apply high SPF sunscreen. It is not the same as Europe or North America.

    The expense of travelling in NZ is variable. Because it's a small nation, the currency fluctuates a lot. The Kiwi dollar and the US dollar are nearly at parity at the moment, whereas a few years ago you could get NZ$2 for each US dollar. That would make a big difference to how you perceive the cost. Having said that, some things aimed at tourists are a gouge, like the hot pools at Rotorua.

    I would advise people to stay off the bikes from Xmas to about 10 January. The whole country goes on Summer holidays, and the traffic is horrific.

    NZ is currently building a national cycle route (http://www.nzcycletrail.com/). We aren't good at following through on infrastructure projects like this, but if it is completed, it should improve cycle touring safety immeasurably.

    Cheers,
    James
    Thanks for adding your insights.

    I very much enjoyed my time in New Zealand and hope to go there again and ride a bike around.

    We actually saw a piece of the NZ Cycle Trail being built near Rotarua on the North Island. It was off to the side of the main highway. It looked like a dirt/crushed gravel trail that would likely require wider tires.

    We did a ride on the Otago Rail Trail, which is part of the Cycle Trail. The tires used on the rental bike were 2 inches wide and the trail was mostly small rocks on dirt. It added greatly to the cycling effort and created a fair amount of "tire noise." We enjoyed riding the trail (first time on a tandem!) but grew tired of the condition of the track. Eventually, toward the end, dirt had been laid down over the rocks and the trail became much more pleasant to ride. I do have to say that riding on a rock strewn dirt track for hundreds of miles would probably force me back on a low traffic, no shoulder highway.
    Visit the on-line Bike Touring Archive at www.biketouringtips.com

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    Quote Originally Posted by raybo View Post
    Thanks for adding your insights.

    I very much enjoyed my time in New Zealand and hope to go there again and ride a bike around.

    We actually saw a piece of the NZ Cycle Trail being built near Rotarua on the North Island. It was off to the side of the main highway. It looked like a dirt/crushed gravel trail that would likely require wider tires.

    We did a ride on the Otago Rail Trail, which is part of the Cycle Trail. The tires used on the rental bike were 2 inches wide and the trail was mostly small rocks on dirt. It added greatly to the cycling effort and created a fair amount of "tire noise." We enjoyed riding the trail (first time on a tandem!) but grew tired of the condition of the track. Eventually, toward the end, dirt had been laid down over the rocks and the trail became much more pleasant to ride. I do have to say that riding on a rock strewn dirt track for hundreds of miles would probably force me back on a low traffic, no shoulder highway.
    I have info on NZ cycle touring at https://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/...c_id=5873&v=3o

    which covers most of what has been discussed. The cycle trails are not suitable for the average tourer as mentioned above. Traffic is OK at all times of the year provided you plan your route on quieter roads rather than the main highways. I have mostly toured around Xmas and New Year with few problems. I get annoyed with cycle tourists who complain about the heavy traffic when they insist on cycling on SH1 and SH2. Get a decent map and find better and more scenic routes.

  7. #7
    Velo View
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    Thanks for all the information! We've been looking at potential overseas tours to complement our domestic bike vacations, and New Zealand is high on our list.

    Thanks again,
    Velo View Bike Tours
    http://veloviewbiketours.com/

  8. #8
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    A lot of tourist attacks recently probably due to current very high unemployment. To escape NZ's poor prospects immigration to Australia is extremely high (Approx 58,000 this year from memory). My advice other than take very good quality wet weather gear (the place is a soaker cept for February) is either to camp at proper campgrounds or to wild camp very very carefully with lots of stealth. A google search "tourist attacked" with NZ as the preference should explain my view. Many people camping wild in cars and vans have been targeted by criminal behaviour. I feel qualified to give this opinion having spent approx 2003 to 2010 there before returning to Australia. Wonderful scenery but like everywhere beware the local ferals.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Bicycle Addict's Avatar
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    Hi Guys Paul here from Auckland NZ. I work in a bike shop here (more like a co-op) a huge part of our business is touring bikes 2nd hand and new. A couple of things
    1) most NZer's seem to change when they get in their cars into very aggressive people.
    2) Do not I repeat do not travel on the main highways take the road less traveled, (get the books "Pedallers Paradise which explain in many cases the less busy routes available)
    3) Our hill ranges are many travel light, with thinner layers of clothing. Generally do not take more than 2 full changes of clothes (if in winter take merino thermals) Find a thinnish waterproof breathable jacket to ride in if raining (no lining) this will act as a good wind break too.
    4) Be prepared for a chilling wind if it is a southerly as there is nothing between Antarctica and NZ so the wind hits Stewart Island and gets split where it then goes straight up the coast on either side and it is a very cold wind.
    5) Travel with lots of plastic bags to keep clothes dry if not travelling with waterproof panniers. Snap lock type bags are great for cellphones, medication etc.
    6) If on Railtrails most touring tyres 700 x 37-40c or 26 x 1.50-2.00 will be fine, take a lot of water you will need 3-4 litres of water per day in the summer months.
    7) The South Island is not too populated from southern Canterbury down in the middle of the island with most of the population being down either coast. Take lots and I mean lots of bottled water if going inland Otago as refreshment stops are few and far between.
    8)Our weather is very unpredictable and very quick changing too sun one minute then cloudy then torrential rain enough to soak you completely then cold wind and then sunshine again, I have had this all happen in 1 hour. The rain is hard and fast.
    9) run your rear light on blink function whenever you are on the road night or day, if you are planning to do some night riding the brighter your front light the better.
    10) Our roads while better than other countries are not the best, so run a puncture protected tyre at the recommended pressure( I run my Schwalbres at 95psi and about 70 on Railtrails.
    11) Our rail trails are where it is at for me, in a lot of cases these are areas you will not get anywhere near on roads, some of the most beautiful untouched scenery. This is the stuff that has me so proud to be a Kiwi.
    12) Enjoy yourself, we have a very beautiful country here.

    If I can be of any help to anyone coming to NZ please do not hesitate to PM me, I would love to help if I can.
    Where are the Bikeaholic meetings? . . . . . I need help!? I just don't think I can do this alone.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rifraf View Post
    A lot of tourist attacks recently probably due to current very high unemployment. To escape NZ's poor prospects immigration to Australia is extremely high (Approx 58,000 this year from memory). My advice other than take very good quality wet weather gear (the place is a soaker cept for February) is either to camp at proper campgrounds or to wild camp very very carefully with lots of stealth. A google search "tourist attacked" with NZ as the preference should explain my view. Many people camping wild in cars and vans have been targeted by criminal behaviour. I feel qualified to give this opinion having spent approx 2003 to 2010 there before returning to Australia. Wonderful scenery but like everywhere beware the local ferals.
    Gosh, it's good to find this info out from an informed source. I have lived in NZ all my life and never knew about our very high unemployment (compared to which countries?) and poor prospects. I'll have to remember to upgrade my wet weather gear since I can now expect more rain than I have ever experienced when cycle touring in NZ. Currently, our town in on high water usage restrictions but this should ease when the high rainfall occurs. I will also have to keep an eagle eye out for the ferals since there appears to be a huge risk (or is it because the media highlight the few cases which occur?). There are ferals in every country, including Australia. You appear to be incredibly biased.

  11. #11
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    Unfortunate I have to agree about the poor driving of us kiwis. I'll second the recommendations for lots of water in summer in the South Island, and the choosing back roads where possible.

    WEAR SUNSCREEN. Our sun is vicous and during summer we are fairly close to the Antartic "Ozone Hole". You can burn in 15 mins in the height of summer.

    Due to the increasing number of tourists using mini-motorhomes (campervans fitted with a bed and cooker but without sinks, waste tanks and on-board toilet facilities), several Disctrict councils have placed prohibitions or restrictions on where you can freedom (stealth) camp. See http://www.mfe.govt.nz/issues/waste/freedom-camping/ for more information.

    We don't have the population to support the infrastructure for more than 2 lane roads in most locations. It also means that the road surface of choice on sealed roads is Chip Seal.
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  12. #12
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    The most important thing to know about New Zealand is that it should be on any traveller and/or cyclists' must visit list.

    I did a 4 day bike tour on the South Island this year, and it was incredible. Friendly people and some of the most amazing- and varied- landscape I have seen anywhere in the world, made even better by relative lack of people so you can enjoy the scenery often all by yourself.

    My major unexpected finding was the chip and seal roads, gives you a beating on long riding days.

    Expense- Australia and New Zealand both are relatively expensive but for cycling, I hit hostels for ~$20 a night. I did all my planning via the internet and had plentry of options everywhere I went.

    Agreed on the car comments, do not expect much room when they pass.

  13. #13
    Senior Member Cyclebum's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheRedWolf View Post
    My major unexpected finding was the chip and seal roads, gives you a beating on long riding days.
    Ah, like in Texas.
    Last edited by Cyclebum; 12-23-12 at 07:57 AM.
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  14. #14
    imi
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    Uh, anyone mention the sandflies?
    We looped around south island last winter. Beautiful.
    Have to agree about the drivers 'though. Logging trucks and the yellow postal vans were the worst.
    Bombing down hills at 60+ km/h is great fun, but being caught in the crosswinds of a truck passing within inches at those speeds less so.

    I rode on 28mm Gatorskins (Hardshells actually). Next time I'd go for 32's because of the chip seal. Lowering the tire pressure a bit helped.

    IMG_2038.jpg IMG_2304.jpg
    Last edited by imi; 12-28-12 at 01:26 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cyclebum View Post
    Ah, like in Texas.
    Chip seal is de rigeur in the Antipodes. That's why we were... ummm... less than sympathetic about your observations on chipseal shoulders in Texas
    Dream. Dare. Do.

  16. #16
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    I have recently returned from my second tour of the South Island. The road conditions didn't bother me at all, and very few vehicles came close enough to penetrate my consciousness.

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