Easy Great Rides for Springtime Adventures

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The Dunes Trail - Photo Credit: Neil Robert Hutton

Easy Great Rides provide an ideal destination for recreational cycling and a fabulous relaxed adventure. If you’re a bit rusty, new to biking, or bringing your kids, there’s plenty of fun to be had without screaming downhills and clifftop passes.

After a week of work or looking after children, cycle trails envelop us in a world of stunning coastlines, lush farmland, mountains and lakes, and all from the seat of your bike.

It’s a journey you can take at your own pace and tailor to your desire. You can bike on your own or with others, breathe fresh air, soak up the sun, release endorphins, swim and relish the abundance of wineries and fine dining along the way.

There are cycle trails to suit all levels of fitness and experience, including novice riders and families. All you need to do is follow our grading system to choose the perfect ride. Many of the Great Rides comprise at least one section which is suitable for all riders, even if there are more technical sections which make up the trail.

Grade 1 Easiest cycle trails are suitable for all riders. They are mostly off-road trails wide enough for side by side riding, with some gentle climbs. These cycle trails are also suitable for E-Bikes if ridden appropriately.

Grade 2 Easy cycle trails are also suitable for most riders. These are mostly off-road trails wide enough for riding two abreast, although some sections may require single file. Surfaces are generally smooth with some gentle hills and once again E-Bikes may be used.

These two Grades of trail are particularly user friendly, allowing plenty of rest spots along the way. You can ride between cafes and restaurants or pedal slowly from vineyard to vineyard.

If you’re determined to bike regularly it pays to invest in the right bike. Alternatively you can rent from one of the many experienced operators along the trails. The more you enjoy your ride, the more often you’ll get out on the trails, and in turn get fitter, more skilful and feel a sense of achievement.

With Spring around the corner, here’s a list of manageable trails to help kick off a plan for the warmer weather.

North Island

Hauraki Rail Trail – 77km, 2-3 days – Grade 1 Easiest
This trail follows historic railway lines between quiet country towns within easy reach of Auckland and The Coromandel. With gentle terrain and an abundance of accommodation, cafes and restaurants, this is one of the easiest and most satisfying cycle trails in the North Island.

Twin Coast Cycle Trail – 84km, 2 days – Mostly Grade 1 Easiest
Following smooth rail trail, dedicated cycle paths and back roads, this trail offers an opportunity to visit signifiant cultural sites. Thanks to Northland’s subtropical climate, this trail offers great riding all year round.

Motu Trails – Dunes Trail – 10km, Grade 2 Easy
The family friendly Dunes Trail offers an irresistible blend of easy riding and beach time, perfect for a half day adventure with a picnic and swim to top it off.

Hawke’s Bay Trails – 200km, 1-4 days – Mostly Grade 1/2 (Easiest / Easy)
Easy riding, grand landscapes, great wineries and stacks of other sights are offered by this mostly flat trail network. Following dedicated cycle paths and quiet country roads, it offers day trips for all ages and abilities, with the convenience of accommodation and dining along the way.

South Island

Tasman’s Great Taste Trail – 175km, 1-4 days – Mostly Grade 2 Easy
Meandering through picturesque countryside and along the Tasman Bay coastline, this easy trail is a terrific way to tour the region’s attractions ranging from art galleries and boutique shops to craft breweries and winery restaurants. The trail lends itself to leisurely day-rides allowing plenty of time for sightseeing and other activities.

West Coast Wilderness Trail – 139km, 4 days, Grade 2 Easy
This easy trail is an unbeatable way to explore this spectacular part of the South Island with its mesmerising mountains, lakes, rivers and rainforest scenery. Accommodation, shuttles and luggage transfers make it easy to complete in full or get a taste on shorter rides with its four roughly equal sections.

Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail – 306km, 1-8 days, three Grade 2 Easy sections along the trail
Divided into eight predominantly gentle sections, with multiple access points and shuttle services along the trail, making it easy to tailor a shorter ride to suit riders of all levels. Abundant accommodation and cafes ensure maximum enjoyment along the way.

Otago Central Rail Trail – 152km, 1-5 days, All Grade 1 Easiest
Tracing the route of an old railway between Clyde and Middlemarch, the multi-day trail offers super easy riding through ever changing scenery. There are plenty of places to eat, drink and sleep, with support crews to make your adventure a breeze. The all-season trail can be ridden in either direction and split into shorter rides taking in major highlights.

Roxburgh Gorge Trail – 34km, 1 day, mostly Grade 2 Easy
This extraordinary one-day adventure follows the mighty Clutha Mata-au River following a wide smooth path through rocky terrain. It’s a fantastic 4-6 hour outing and can be combined with the Clutha Gold Trail and Otago Central Rail Trail nearby.

Clutha Gold Trail – 73km, 2 days, Grade 1-2 Easiest to Easy
Following a mix of gentle riverside path and old railway line, this trail offers changing landscapes rich in river scenery, history and local hospitality. Easy terrain makes it possible to ride this trail in one day, and homespun hospitality and convenient transport make all options simple to arrange.

Queenstown Trail – Gibbston River Trail – 8.7km, Grade 2 Easy
This extensive trail network is a richly rewarding way to reach many of the Queenstown region’s must-see attractions while soaking up sublime Central Otago scenery. Options include the family-friendly Lake Hayes Loop and the Gibbston River Trail. Handy bike hire depots, open terrain and clear signage make planning and navigation a breeze, while wide, smooth paths means riders can keep their eyes front and camera at the ready.

If you’re still unsure which Great Ride is best for you, read more about each trail in the AA Guide to The New Zealand Cycle Trail. It’s an excellent resource and recently updated for 2018.