Great Rides 101


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Great Rides are the perfect way to experience New Zealand’s breathtaking scenery while visiting iconic attractions and discovering a multitude of hidden gems.

Nga Haerenga, The New Zealand Cycle Trail comprises of 22 Great Rides which cover 2,500km of countryside and provide a truly unique Kiwi travel experience. Mostly off-road and predominantly Grade Easy – Intermediate, they traverse a remarkable range of landscapes, from sparkling coastlines to rolling farmland and flinty mountain passes.

Most Great Rides are accessible from towns and cities where tour guides and shuttle operators offer advice and support including luggage transfers for multi-day trips.

Many of the Trails offer self-guided and guided riding options. Once you know which Trail you want to ride, you can take a look at the services offered by their Official Partners to help plan your accommodation, bike hire, shuttle transport or guided tour. You can also find 100’s of incredible tours and itineraries in our Product Directory.

Here’s a few questions you might ask yourself when planning your trip.

1. What are the benefits of travelling by bike?

Adventuring by bike enables you to experience the landscape and culture of a region. The unique features of the terrain, wildlife, people and towns along the way, and at a much more leisurely pace than speeding through the countryside by car.

2. Should I go with a local bike tour operator?

The best way to experience cycle trails is with the knowledge and guidance of the locals. This means help and advice with your planning, and local on-the-ground support with bike hire, tours, transport and other helpful extras. This first hand knowledge of the trail and the region can also enrich the experience.

3. What’s in my budget?

You can set your budget according to the kind of experience you’re seeking. There are self-guided tours, guided tours and for a little extra there’s a handful of ‘all-inclusive’ luxury tours. Most of the cycle trails have official local operators and offer a variety of services at great value. There’s an abundance of Half-Day and One-Day cycling itineraries to choose from, just perfect for a weekend get away. If you’ve got time up your sleeve there’s plenty of Multi-Day cycling itineraries to help you explore a little further.

4. Where do I want to go?

Researching destinations is a good place to start narrowing down which cycle trail. Ask yourself what kind of terrain and scenery you’d like to experience. Check your skill level and fitness is suited to the trail. Are you looking for a Bush or Coastal adventure, and would you like to explore a few towns along the way? Remember you don’t have to lug your bike across the country, as most of the trails have bike hire and tour operator options.

5. Do I want to ride with a guided group or on my own?

Guided and self-guided tours offer different experiences, and each has unique advantages. If you enjoy meeting people and having a schedule, then a guided bike tour could be best for you. These tours provide the convenience of having everything planned for you from hotels to rental bikes, routes, meals, and luggage transfers. Self-guided tours are popular because of the flexibility and independence they offer. They cost less than guided bicycle tours but still maintain a level of support and convenience that allows you to explore in your own time.

6. What’s my ability level?

All of The New Zealand Cycle Trails fit into four categories. Grade 1 Easiest, Grade 2 Easy, Grade 3 Intermediate, and Grade 4 Advanced. Every trail and its individual sections are Graded to help you plan your ride according to age, fitness level, and ability. You can find more detailed descriptions of the Trail Grades here.

7. How many days should I ride for?

Most of us are super busy and have limited time, but with careful planning you can plan the perfect biking break. All Great Rides are situated in incredible regions across New Zealand and provide plenty of opportunity to explore beyond the saddle. Riding a section of a trail for half a day is a great way to get to know the trail for when you might ride the whole thing. We also recommend adding an extra day to any trail so you have more time to experience the region, or in the event of bad weather.

8. Do I want to ride every day?

Many of us enjoy travelling each day from A to B and sleeping in a new location at night. The scenery changes and a greater variety of experiences are offered. There’s still something to be said however for staying overnight in one town and doing day trips from the same base. You don’t have to pack each morning, and it’s a good opportunity to really get to know a location. Many of the Bike Tour Operators on the Trails offer a baggage drop-off service which is a good option if you want to explore multiple locations without having to carry the bathroom sink.

9. How far do I want to ride each day?

Remember it’s meant to be fun and not a race! There will be lots to see and do along the way, and you may be riding for a few days, so make sure you take well earned breaks. Even short rides with a few stops can quickly fill up a day and wear you out. Every Great Ride on the website detail the Trail length in Kilometres, and provide a rough idea of how many days you should take to ride the Trail. You’ll also find more detailed descriptions for each section of the Trail which will help with planning breaks and overnights. Seeking local knowledge is a great way to help work out which route you will take and the amount of time you can reasonably expect it to take.

10. What kind of route and terrain do I prefer?

The Great Rides are predominantly ‘off-road’ cycle trails that showcase the best of New Zealand’s landscape, environment, culture and heritage. There are also around 20 Heartland Rides, which aim to encourage cyclists away from busy state highways and arterial routes and onto scenic, quiet back country roads. The trails offer cycling experiences which appeal to a wide range of interests and abilities, and so there is something for every rider. No matter what type of biking spins your wheels, make sure you take some time to research and plan to get the most out of your adventure.

Remember to check out the many tours and itineraries in our Product Directory.