This quiet back road provides a useful link from the southern end of the Timber Trail to the trail’s main service town, Taumarunui.
This route follows a gravel road through lush hill country. A pleasant enough ride in itself, allows riders to bridge the gap without the need for shuttle transport to or from the southern end of the Timber Trail.
Reasonably fit riders should have no trouble adding this two-hour ride on to the southern leg of the Timber Trail (Piropiro to Ongarue; 45km) although its gravel surface and countless undulations mean it’s not a total walk in the park.
The route follows Ongarue Back Road (as opposed to busy SH4, which shadows the same route); the Back Road is well signposted from both town and Timber Trail ends.
From the western end of Taumarunui, take Short Street to reach Golf Road and follow it north. Stay on Golf Road to pass Taringamotu Road, after which it turns into Ongarue Back Road.
The road undulates alongside the Ongarue River for some considerable time before emerging at Ongarue township. The Timber Trail is signposted from there.
A helpful source of information about this ride, and other Heartland and Connector Rides, is Classic New Zealand Cycle Trails by the Kennett Brothers.
The surface of this route is approximately 45% sealed road and 55% gravel road. There is very little traffic on the gravel road section with less than 50 vehicles per day, closer to Taumarunui the traffic increases to moderate levels entering the town. Riders should expect other vehicles on the road at any time.
FITNESS & SKILLS
The route is relatively flat following the bank of the Ongarue River with some moderate undulations. This is a grade 3 (intermediate) ride suitable for averagely fit riders with little cycle touring experience.
TYPE OF BIKE
Touring bikes are most suitable for the terrain, however, if you are riding the Timber Trail too, a mountain bike with knobbly tyres is recommended. E-mountain bikes, with sufficient battery capacity, are also suitable. Riders should ideally have basic mechanical skills and carry a tool kit and spares.
MAPS & NAVIGATION
This country roads along this route are well signposted but a map will help prevent wrong turns, help you time your ride, and identify points of interest along the way.
The route can ridden any time of year although it can be cold and wet on the volcanic plateau at any time of year. Good wet-weather gear is essential.
A variety of accommodation, from holiday parks to motels and BnBs can be found in Taumarunui and around the Timber Trail itself.
FOOD & WATER
There are restaurants, cafes and supermarkets in Taumarunui. There is no drinking water supply between Ongarue and Taumarunui; water taken from rivers and streams along the Timber Trail should be boiled or treated.
Intercity buses and the Northern Explorer train go to Taumarunui.
Coverage is good around Taumarunui but patchy elsewhere.
Toilets are located in Ongarue and Taumarunui.