Great Rides for Advanced Riders


Old Ghost Road - Steve Hussey Photography

If you’re an experienced rider seeking bumpy, flinty, steep, narrow cycle trails with crazy downhills and speed, we’ve put together 6 of the grittiest Great Rides with remote and epic mountain biking trails worthy of a challenging adventure.

Grade 4 Advanced rides are suitable for experienced cyclists with good skills, and a high level of fitness. These mostly off-road trails tend to be narrow with steep climbs, unavoidable obstacles, and possibly gravel sections or uneven surfaces.

Most Great Rides are multi-day but can easily be split into shorter rides of various lengths and levels of difficulty. Riders simply need to check the trail or section grading and make sure it’s suitable for them.

Many Rides are accessible from towns and cities where tour guides and shuttle operators offer advice and support including luggage transfers for multi-day trips. Most remote rides are accessed via trail heads with car parks, with local bike shuttles offering handy drop off and pick ups for those without their own transport.

For all Great Rides, but particularly Grade 4 Advanced Cycle Trails it’s imperative to plan your ride. Seek local knowledge and plan your route. Tell someone your plans and preferably don’t ride alone. Check the weather forecast and be prepared for changes. Know your limits, and take sufficient supplies for the worst case scenarios.

If you’ve ticked all those boxes, here’s 6 Great Rides to get those endorphins pumping.

North Island

Waikato River Trails

Arapuni to Waipapa Dam (Grade 4-5 Advanced), 36km

This section includes some road riding from Jones Landing to the end of Waotu South Road. Jim Barnetts Reserve is full of birdlife and there is a 1000 year old totara that is worth a visit. The Mangarewa suspension bridge 42m above the stream is a thrill.

Pakihi Track (Motu Trails) 

Grade 4 Advanced, 44km

The Pakihi Track is the third trail in the Motu Trilogy, and although it is mostly downhill it includes Grade 4 Advanced mountain biking on challenging narrow trail through magical forest. This is not a trail to ride at high speed, and it includes 20km of advanced off-road riding through splendid isolation. The trail crosses some 25 bridges, including a 35m swing bridge. The off-road section includes steep drop-offs that require a cautious approach.

South Island

Queen Charlotte Track

Grade 3-4 Intermediate to Advanced, 70km

This Great Ride is a classic mountain biking adventure along one of New Zealand’s most beautiful waterways. It features a mix of intermediate and challenging sections, all of which are equally welcoming to walkers. The whole track can be completed over 2-3 days by fit riders. It also has the added bonus of being able to use the sealed roads if the going gets too tough. You can also start and finish your ride at various points along the track.

Dun Mountain Trail

Grade 3-4 Intermediate to Advanced, 38km

The Dun Mountain rises to 1129m and due to its unique geology is one of the most distinctive mountains around Nelson. One of the most accessible back-country alpine cycle trails in the country, the trail involves a technical downhill over loose, rocky terrain, and as such is best suited to fit and experienced mountain bikers. You will be a long way from assistance, and so it’s imperative riders are fully prepared to handle any problems which may be encountered.

The Old Ghost Road

Grade 4 Advanced, 85km

New Zealand’s longest single track and the ultimate remote back-country mountain biking epic. With expertly cut track and comfortable sleeping huts in an environment dominated by ancient rainforest, rocky mountain tops and rugged river gorge, this is the cutting edge of cross-country mountain biking. Whilst not for the faint of heart or inexperienced rider, if you match your experience level to this trail and prepare appropriately, The Old Ghost Road will reward the fit, technically competent, self sufficient and experienced adventurer with an other worldly experience. To make the trail more accessible to a wider range of appetites, a set of packages are available through Old Ghost Adventures, which includes options such as helicopter assists, luxury accommodation, end to end transport shuttles, and heli-biking.

St James Cycle Trail

Grade 3-4 Intermediate to Advanced, 64km

This trail takes riders through a sub-alpine wonderland and is definitely challenging in parts as it skirts the foothills of the Southern Alps. It is an enthralling journey through some of New Zealand’s most spectacular and historic high country – a true mountain biking experience and one you will never forget. The Homestead Run is a 15km loop which is Grade 1 Easiest and is ideal for families or riders who don’t have time to attempt the full trail.

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