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(Get) On Yer Bike

The recent addition of cycle trails to the NZMCA’s mhftowns.com site is a direct response to the increasing interest in cycling amongst members. Much of the trail information on the site came from the New Zealand Cycle Trail organisation.

Nga Haerenga The New Zealand Cycle Trail has a vision for New Zealand to be the home of the world’s greatest cycling experiences and ten years after it was founded, it’s well on the way to achieving exactly that. The 22 Great Rides around the country (10 in the North Island and 12 in the South Island), are attracting both committed cyclists and people new to the activity to get on their bikes and see parts of the country that aren’t necessarily on the most-visited lists.

In that way it shares the NZMCA’s off-thebeaten- track philosophy and general manager Janet Purdey says motorhomers are in the perfect position to take advantage of what the trails have to offer, with many of them suitable for day rides. “The Great Rides are spread right throughout New Zealand but they are often in remote places that you might not normally have reason to visit. What you get is a heightened local experience.

“They’re in beautiful places with lots of history and lots of culture. You get to access these awesome parts of New Zealand and people with motorhomes and a couple of bikes on the back can stop and do a half-day trip or a full-day trip.” The trails grew out of a job summit that was held in 2009 following the Global Financial Crisis. The purpose of developing cycle trails throughout the country was to create jobs in the regions, stimulate the regional economies and create world-class tourist attractions. While each ride is governed at a local level, The New Zealand Cycle Trail is a national organisation that supports them in terms of user experience, sustainability and promotion. The rides vary in length and difficulty, ranging from flat, smooth pathways suitable for beginners to rough terrain that attracts mountain bikers

Otago Central Rail Trail
Otago Central Rail Trail

Find your own trail

For example, the Otago Central Rail Trail, which follows the old railway line between Clyde and Middlemarch, is one of the easier rides suitable for beginners and families. The Old Ghost Road ride, which follows an old gold miners’ route between the ghost town of Lyell and Seddonville on the West Coast is an advanced track for experienced mountain bikers. The Timber Trail through Pureora Forest Park in the centre of the North Island, is not as advanced, but still provides some thrills for less experienced mountain bikers.

Janet says it’s encouraging to see areas in New Zealand that may have struggled in the past getting a new lease of life as businesses come to town to support the trails: “I go around the country quite a lot visiting trails and communities and the impact in small places has been huge.” That includes bike companies, but also accommodation, cafes and restaurants. “A lot of people cycling the trails want to stay in nice accommodation and enjoy local produce and they have the money to do that. That means that a huge cafe has sprung up in a little place called Millers Flat, which is on the Clutha Gold Trail,” says Janet.

Great for the community

“The great thing about that is while it’s good for the cyclists visiting the area, it’s actually a great place for the locals. They encourage them to bring their instruments in on a Sunday and play music, and you see a lot of locals meeting up there. So it helps create services for places as well.” Currently, the vast majority of cyclists on the trails are New Zealanders (and predominantly in the over-50 age group), but we are increasingly being seen as a cycling destination internationally. As well as continuing to promote the trails, the focus over the next few years is to work on enhancing the services surrounding the trails, with plans to work on connections between some of the South Island trails. Janet says once people complete one trail, they’re often keen to start planning for the next. They’re popular with groups of friends or family travelling together, which has become easier with the growth of e-bikes.

“They mean with a group some people might have a standard bike, others might have e-bikes and they are able to keep up with them. E-bikes are the growth market in cycling, they’re meaning a lot of people can get on these trails. “People say to me that they are always on a high when they finish and want to know which trail they should do next. There’s a whole group of people who are discovering it’s a nice way to go on holiday.”


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