Riding Safely

Even the most experienced riders can come unstuck in our great outdoors. Here are some guidelines to help ensure safe, happy riding for you and everyone else in your group.



While it’s okay to challenge yourself, be sure you’ve doing the right ride for you, in the right conditions, with suitable equipment.

  • Do your research – New Zealand’s bike trails are incredibly diverse, and not all rides are equal in distance, difficulty, remoteness and other factors both known and unknown. Research your mission properly so you know what to expect, and know you have sufficient fitness and experience to complete it.
  • Gear up properly – make sure you, your bike and your other gear is up for the specific ride ahead. Read our What to pack section for a gear list and tips.
  • Check the weather forecast – New Zealand’s maritime climate can be highly unpredictable and downright treacherous should you find yourself on the wrong side of freezing alpine temperatures, wild coastlines, or rivers and streams after heavy rain. Always check the forecast, and be ready to change plans if it’s not favourable. Carry more than sufficient gear for the likely conditions, and be prepared to backtrack or bail out out if the weather gets too bad to carry on.
  • Check on current track conditions – some sections come with special warnings or are occasionally closed for maintenance; check for current alerts on individual trail websites and social media channels.
  • Time your ride right – allow plenty of time to complete your ride: rushing or cycling after dark are both recipes for trouble. If possible, shorten your mission, split it over two days, or change it to another day or time when your situation or conditions are more favourable.
  • Take care of other riders in your group – not everyone shares the same level of fitness and ability, and nobody likes to be left behind.

Local bike companies, i-SITE staff, accommodation providers and the Department of Conservation are just some of the places you can ask for advice on whether a ride is right for you, and whether now is the best time to do it.

You may also wish to read our Biking Etiquette section, which includes ebiking tips.



Although most sections of the Great Rides and Heartland Rides are well signposted, a map will eliminate any second-guessing and help time your ride for shuttle pick-ups etc. It will also help you identify landmarks, adding even more interest to your ride.

Printed and/or downloadable maps are available for most Great Rides, along with other printed and digital maps such as Kennett Brothers guidebooks, KiwiMaps, NZTopomaps, and the Great Rides App.

If you’re venturing on to more remote rides (such as the Old Ghost Road or bikepacking routes), a more detailed map is essential, but you may wish to carry an electronic navigational aid, too.

  • Your cellphone GPS will work as long as there is good cellphone coverage and decent weather. Consider downloading NZTopomaps as a base layer.
  • A cycle computer is a reliable and relatively cheap navigational aid, particularly when used with detailed ride descriptions such as those in the Kennett Brothers guidebooks or the cue sheets (turn-by-turn guides) commonly used in bikepacking events. The battery life of a cycle computer is more than a year.
  • A GPS attached to your handlebars will make it pretty hard to get lost, especially if it’s loaded with up-to-date gpx files for your ride. If such files aren’t available, it’s still valuable for showing your position, although don’t count on it showing recently constructed cycle trails or every backroad. Garmin brand units are waterproof and robust, and can be operated in the wet.

Suffice to say, such devices won’t work with flat batteries, so ensure you’ve got spares or the ability to charge it up, and consider turning it off when not in use, to save power.



  • Always tell someone where you’re going – a family member, friend, accommodation provider or bike hire operator. Let them know what track you’re riding and when you plan to be back.
  • Carry a fully charged cellphone – you may not get reception the whole way, but you may be able to find a spot to get a call through in an emergency.
  • For more remote rides, consider taking a personal locator beacon (PLB) or satellite tracker – available to buy or hire.
  • Whatever tracking device you take, keep it on your person rather than on your bike just in case you get separated from your bike in a crash.

Visit the Mountain Safety Council website for lots more useful information about communication in the outdoors.



If you’re cycling on the road, you need to know the road rules. The Official New Zealand Code for Cyclists, developed by the New Zealand Transport Agency, is a user-friendly guide to New Zealand’s traffic law and safe driving/cycling practices.

Here are some basic tips to know and share.

  • Be seen – wear high visibility or brightly coloured clothing. Use front and rear lights at night, in low light and in poor visibility such as fog or rain.
  • Be aware – watch and listen for approaching vehicles, pedestrians, potholes, animals, car doors opening and other potential hazards.
  • Be predictable – make eye contact with other road users. Maintain a straight line, keep to the left and signal your intentions clearly and early.
  • Be confident – know how to safely approach railway crossings, roundabouts and intersections etc. Use hand signals to indicate your intentions and a bell to alert other road users to your presence.
  • Be safe – ride to the conditions and follow the road rules. Cycle no more than two abreast and ride single file where visibility is an issue or traffic is busy. Keep at least one metre away from parked cars and use cycle lanes where they exist.
  • Be patient – slow down near parked or queuing vehicles. Pass slowly and only when safe. On narrow windy roads, pull over where practical to allow vehicles to pass.
  • Be prepared – wear an approved helmet and check your bike regularly. Plan your route and carry sufficient water and food, along with basic tools for any repairs.



We’ve developed a guide with the NZ Mountain Safety Council to help you plan for your trip into New Zealand’s outdoors. Download and read the Backcountry Mountain Biking guide; it has all you need to KNOW BEFORE YOU GO, from trip planning and what to take, to the skills you need on the track and how to keep properly fuelled.