Biking in New Zealand
Whilst the main roads provide great scenery and easy access, the off-road possibilities tend to really excite most cyclists. With huge varieties of terrain and some of the most spectacular backdrops you could imagine its an excellent option to see the natural beauty of New Zealand.
The South Island offers some of the best cycle routes in the World (arguably) and the North Island has some excellent paved back roads. The main highways are the busiest roads to cycle on and traffic does get busier through the summer months. The population of the North Island is around 3 million and the population of the south around 1 million and as you’d expect cycling in the South means less traffic!
Whilst some of the more popular tracks are open to cyclists access to these with a bike it limited and its always worth checking with DOC before undertaking any such rides. Maps are available from most major tourist offices and bookstores otherwise AA members can actually get folding maps for free.
When to Go
The best weather is from January to March with warm temperatures and less rain. The periods around Christmas are always particularly busy with school holidays and to be avoided if possible. Other times of the year are certainly possible but with the occasional strong winds and rain its more limited to the hardy cyclists!
The weather can change rapidly and its advisable to check forecasts on a daily basis thought a general concensus is that there are more southerly (from the South) winds on the South Island’s West coast and Northerly on the east coast.
- Obtain maps. The AA (Automobile Assoc'n) Touring maps (approx 1:500,000) are $10 per set (plus postage) and are available to anyone, i.e. you don't have to belong to the AA. One set of four sheets for each of North/South Island. AA email address for enquiries is firstname.lastname@example.org. AA district maps (approx 1:300,000) to suit planned trips are available free to members of nearly all overseas motoring organisations and can be picked up at any AA office once in NZ ($3.50 each for non-members, 16 maps cover whole country).
- Estimate distance per day. 80 km for camping is average. More with a tail wind, 50 km with a strong head wind will be quite enough. Allow at least one free day a week - for rest, laundry etc. Do plenty of training before you come, 100-200 km per week over a period of at least six weeks is suggested.
- Plan your route. Refer to http://www.mountainbike.co.nz/rides/touring/routes.html and to references such as Bruce Ringer's New Zealand by Bike and the Lonely Planet Cycling New Zealand. Take time and other personal preferences into account and plan route accordingly.
- Hunt down provisions. Get location of eating places, supermarkets and country stores; ask as you go and early in the day or you might go hungry! The various cycle touring guides also have information on places to eat or stock up.
It is law to wear a helmet when cycling in New Zealand. Roads are generally of a good standard thought its worth being aware of newly "graded" gravel roads that will contain plenty of loose gravel. Following general cycling rules and driving codes and you will be fine, due to the narrow nature of many roads cycling in single file is advised
For bike tours in New Zealand we recommend using Flying Kiwi. They are a company who specialise in biking, camping and hiking tours