After spending a few months cycle touring both the North and South islands between December 2014 and April 2015 we have come up with our top ten tips for anyone else considering New Zealand for a future bike tour.
-then follow it step by step. They know the roads well and have a great insight for touring. Their route links up most of the ‘Great Rides’ with quiet, scenic and often gravel back roads, taking much of the stress out of where to go and how to get there. The only time to vear off is when advices by other local CYCLIST (not just anyone’s) and check with local iSites that the trails are open.
2) Limited Wild Camping
-don’t believe the hype that you are sold that NZ is the home of wild free camping because it’s not for cycle tourers* #ItsNoAmerica.
As part of this we would advise downloading the App ‘Official Camping NZ‘, free on Android and £11.99 on iOS at time of writing. Although it is aimed at campervans it still shows all the camping spots, their facilities and costs. You can also store all the maps and info off line so no need to have signal to find out where to go.
‘Freedom’ camping only applies to self contained motor homes and even then spaces are limited. It got ruined by a few taking the Michael and popping in the bushes, hitchhiker/tourists get the blame, but I have seen with my own eyes locals (well kiwi city folk) pooping right in the middle of a track to a campground so who knows… This leads nicely onto WarmShowers.
*Exception being if you set up at sunset and leave at sunrise, but even then if your discovered its a $200 fine or a linching from the local land owner depending where you are.
3) Sign Up To WarmShowers
-this should be a general touring tip, but with the limited wild camping and extortion prices for accommodation in much of the country I decided to add it in.
Kiwis as a whole live up to their reputation for loving the outdoors and all the WarmShowers hosts we meet were very interesting and extremely active, regardless of age. Make sure to take them up on any offers and advice, we went hiking, canoeing, mountain biking and even stayed with their families and friends further down the road. It’s a very small country and everyone knows everyone in the cycling community.
They also have a good app so once your signed up make sure you download it.
-Holy smokes we heard about the whole in the ozone layer and they were not kidding. You can literally feel your skin frazzle if out too long especially without protection. I would suggest a high factor or even cover up if you don’t care for gaining a tan. This is especially true on the warmer North Island.
5) Easy Gears
-To tackle some of the monster mountains having a good range of easy gears would be helpful, so you can super spin yourself to the top without having the shame of getting off and walking.
6) Fat Tyres
-utilise the off road trails ultimately this is why you are surely coming to NZ. To smash the Timber Trail and tackle The Old Ghost Road off road tyres would be helpful, a mountain bike would be great and going as light as possible would be ideal!
7) Carry Water
– or at least be able to. Shops and even houses can be few and far between at points and in our experience its best to assume DOC sites won’t having drinking water either. This coupled with the heat and hills will have you sweating buckets so it’s important to stay hydrated.
We always had 3 water bottles each and carried a 4L hydration bladder when remote camping.
8) Go Out Of Season
-from the end of December to the start of February literally all 4 million Kiwis are on holiday so it’s busy (well for NZ anyway) on the roads, at tourist hot spots and most campground. This is not a huge issue, but from our experience and from what others have said February through March is the best time to cycle tour.
NB: Try and hit Hawks Bay, the fruit and veg capital of NZ, around harvest time and you won’t go hungry.
9) Transfer Car
– If you have got a bit behind schedule due to all the walks, beaches, mountains etc or just don’t fancy doing a loop route then we highly recommend taking advantage of Transfer Car. This is a free service for returning hire cars from one city to another and unlike flying you still get to see parts of the country you would otherwise miss.
10) You can’t go wrong
– whatever your time limitations, route, bike etc you can’t really go wrong. Just don’t expect to see everything and don’t assume the ‘must see’ attractions are any better then anywhere else.
Our advice would be to get off the beaten track as much as possible, stay with and talk to locals when you can and remember although cycling (especially mountain biking) is on the rise NZ is the home of Tramping for good reason!