Cycling in New Zealand

After copious number of enquiries about cycling in New Zealand,I have asked our friend Daniel Carruthers to tell us about riding in NZ.After a long spell in Asia, Daniel has returned to his motherland.Therefore with great honour I leave to Dan to tell us about that.

In recent years, New Zealand has been heavily promoting their NZ Cycle Trails to attract more overseas cyclists to visit and discover NZ by bicycle. If you have been considering New Zealand as a possible destination for your next cycling holiday, then make it happen: it will be an experience that you will never forget. Depending on what type of cyclist you are, there is something here for all levels of ability. If you are a road cyclist or mountain biker, there are a multitude of events to choose from!

Since re-locating to New Zealand last month after living in China for six years, I have taken part in the REV Cycle Race and also New Zealand’s longest standing MTB race, the Karapoti Classic  50km of rugged old school mountain biking through native NZ bush. In a couple of weeks I will take part in events here in Rotorua: The famous 24hr MOONRIDE, and the Rotorua to Taupo 100k Flyer.  Pretty much all year round you can find good cycling events to enter if that is what you would like to add on to your cycling holiday.

The REV 100

This was an event I had been wishing to take part in for a while. It’s not an easy one with 1500m of climbing packed into the 100km, with most climbs only going for 2-3 minutes so its an intense ride up and down on the NZ chip sealed roads, but the amazing countryside scenery and the numerous quiet narrow twisting roads make up for the demanding course. We even zoom by the world famous Hobbiton Tour site - The Shire! Definitely does look like scenes straight out of the Lord of the Rings. In fact, there are numerous Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movie scene locations dotted all over New Zealand - you could really turn it into a Lord of the Rings cycling tour if you have the time. This event also has UCI 1.2 status, which is for the professional or elite riders and is a separate event to the 100km event I did.  I did not have a current UCI license, nor was I in shape to compete with the best cyclists in New Zealand! This event is always held in late February each year and there are a number of other events on at around the same time frame so multiple events could be done if racing is a priority of yours.  However, if you are here for cycle touring then discovering the seldom travelled on trails and roads can be researched on the New Zealand Cycle Trails website.  

Karapoti Classic

This is New Zealand’s most iconic, toughest and gnarliest race. Canadian mountain biker Cory Wallace, who races all over the world, remarked that it was a proper old school style track! If you ride mountain bikes and are up for a serious challenge, I recommend signing up for this 50km event. It traverses through the rugged Akatarawa Ranges (close to Wellington). This event was established in 1986 by the Kennett Brothers and is the longest standing MTB event in the Southern Hemisphere!  The course begins with a Le Man’s style start with hundreds of riders splashing their way across the river to begin the 6km ride up the Karapoti valley.  It is a fantastic course that challenges the very best of mountain bikers yet is still achievable for weekend warriors. The climbing in this race is so steep that you will need to grovel in the granny gear to get up and over. However, many riders got off to push as it was not any slower that way. I noticed on one of the steep climbs that there was a long unbroken line of riders, half of them pushing yet keeping the same pace as the ones riding!  I first did the Karapoti way back in 1994 as a fresh faced 19-year-old university student and was too chicken to race the 50k event so I downgraded to the 20k recreational event. It’s always been on the back of my mind to nail this 50km event: perhaps it was a 21-year-old dream of mine that was finally realized upon my return to NZ. Since I was coming back with some great fitness after some big training months in Chiang Mai, Thailand, I had high expectations that I would do well in the race by going under three hours and would glory in my name being added to the coveted SUB 3hr club. If you can achieve a time below 3hrs, it is a highly respectable achievement as more than 15,000 riders have raced the 50k but only 600 riders have ever gone below 3hrs over the 30 odd years since inception. 

However, despite a good first half where I was riding in the top 30 in the expert/pro-elite category and on target for a great sub-3hr time, my legs just cramped up at the base of Dopers Climb and I had to stop for 10 minutes. I could not even walk. I finally did get going again, but had to stop an additional four times as I struggled to survive. It was a big mistake to ride with a Camelbak full of water and just relying on GU and bananas. I finally made the last river crossing just before the finish and rode straight into waist high water, my bike being completely submerged. I stumbled across and then road the final 200 meters, crossing the finish line with a time of 3hrs and 15mins. The GPS moving time was 2hrs 43. I will come back next year to chase the elusive sub 3hr time!  The winner did 2hrs 10 mins, which was one of the fastest times ever recorded. Anton Cooper from New Zealand (U23 MTB World Champion) holds the record time of 2hrs 7mins.

The Karapoti is definitely a bucket event to do should you plan to visit NZ with your mountain bike. 

If you do wish to plan for a MTB holiday in New Zealand, then check out,   an awesome website to  create your own itinerary for mountain bike riding in Central North Island. Rides can be filtered according to your ability level.

MTB photos credit :

Thank you Daniel,for the great article.We all looking forward to receive more info from down under.

Happy Easter for the SD TEAM.