The New Zealand Cycle Trail project was created to generate lasting economic, social and environmental benefits for New Zealand communities through the creation of a network of world-class cycling experiences. The New Zealand Cycle Trail will take you off the beaten track where you will get to meet the locals and learn about New Zealand’s culture and heritage while enjoying our iconic scenery.
The brand Nga Haerenga means ‘The Journeys’, both in a physical and spiritual sense, which is exactly the sort of experience we want visitors to New Zealand to enjoy.
Most Great Rides are multi-day but can easily be ridden in sections of various lengths and levels of difficulty, so there is an enjoyable trip to suit all levels of fitness and ability, including novice riders and families. Trails are mostly off-road but range widely in terrain, from smooth rail trails and paved pathways to hilly, technical single track. Check our Trail Grading page to make sure a trail is the right one for you.
Each Great Ride is Graded from 1 (Easiest) to 5 (Expert), with some the same grade the whole way and others varying from section to section. Grade 1 trails are so easy almost anyone can ride them, while Grade 3 (Intermediate) rides are best for reasonably fit cyclists and children over 12 years old. Grade 5 is for highly fit, experienced cyclists with solid off-road skills. Descriptions of the trail Grades can be found here.
Easy trails can be ridden on an upright hybrid bike with knobbly tyres and front suspension, while a mountain bike is recommended for most Grade 3 rides and higher. Bike hire depots and cycle tour companies can be a good option to provide the right bike for the terrain, helmet, spare tubes and other necessary gear.
Most Great Rides can be cycled all year round, with spring and autumn offering spectacular colours, and some trails serving up excellent winter riding. New Zealand’s changeable climate however, means it is essential to check current track conditions and the weather forecast.
No matter which Grade trail you are riding, it’s important to take time to plan your ride before heading out on your bike. Let someone know your plans, NZCT recommend you don’t ride alone. Be aware of weather conditions and be prepared for changes. New Zealand’s weather can be highly unpredictable. Know your limits, and take sufficient supplies. You can read more on Trail Safety here.
Various tours are offered on each of the trails, ranging from half-day, self-guided rides through to fully guided multi-day trips with food and accommodation provided. Some tours combine cycling with other popular activities such as hiking and kayaking. For more information, visit our Official Partners page.
Many trails are close to towns and villages, with conveniently located bike hire depots. More remote rides are accessed via trailheads with car parks, with local bike shuttles offering handy drop-offs and pick-ups for those without their own transport.
Most multi-day trails have a variety of accommodation en route or nearby, with shuttle operators transferring luggage between overnight stops. Many trails can also be ridden as day trips, offering the convenience of staying in one place. For more information, visit our Official Partners page.
Thanks to Government funding and significant support from local communities, almost all of the Great Rides are free. Visitors can contribute to the maintenance and development of the trails by making a donation or paying the modest cost of track permits.
Many trails pass cafés, restaurants and shops. In fact, sampling local food and wine is a major highlight of many Great Rides. Others however traverse remote countryside, with no services whatsoever, so riders need to plan well and carry appropriate supplies of food and water and consider a first aid kit for Advanced trails.
Yes a few trails encounter roads and we recommend the following tips. Have lights on your bike and wear reflective clothing, stick to the road rules, use hand signals, ride in single file, allow cars to pass, and it is compulsory to wear a helmet in New Zealand.
The long term objective of NZCT is to connect Great Rides with the rest of New Zealand through the creation of a nationwide cycling network. Heartland Rides aim to encourage cyclists away from busy state highways and onto scenic, quiet, back-country roads where they will experience heartland New Zealand.