5 epic summer trails for man and MTB
Call us biased, but there’s nothing better than setting off into the unknown on an epic ride with a bike and the bare essentials on a sunny day. Sometimes, however, one day doesn’t cut the mustard. There are 22 ‘Great Rides’ in New Zealand, with 10 in the North Island and 12 in the South Island, with options to bikepack or stay at accommodation along the way. NZ Great Rides are a group of multi-day off-road trails through the farmlands, bush and along the waterways of the country. Graded in difficulty from 1 to 5, you can find the perfect ride for you. Today we’ll highlight the 5 most epic trails for your summer getaway, from north to south.
Hauraki Rail Trail:
Let’s start off easy. Graded 1-2, the Hauraki Rail Trail is a truly flat and accessible trail made up of 160km of light gravel. Perfect for hardtail mountain bikes or gravel bikes, this trail is perfect for young families or cyclists who aren’t overly confident about their fitness. Highlights include passing through the Karangahake Gorge and finishing in the home of Hobbiton, Matamata.
One of the most stunning rides on offer is the back-country trail under the massive virgin forest canopy, crossing some of the country’s longest suspension bridges. At only 85km, this 2-3 grade ride could fool you into thinking it’s easy. Starting with a 10km climb into the bush, the Timber Trail requires a full-suspension MTB - or hard tail at a push. For experienced riders, this ride is a true epic. When else do you get to ride through a whole day or two of rainforest trunks meandering through the historic route?
Mountains to Sea:
Easily the most varied ride on the list, as the name would suggest, this 3-4 grade advanced ride starts on the outskirts of New Zealand’s largest volcano before entering dense rainforest through not one but two national parks before riding downriver to the coast. At 231km, it’s a couple of days' cycle even for the hardened cyclist from Ohakune to Ruapehu. Full suspension is recommended.
Alps 2 Ocean:
The longest great ride in New Zealand comes in at a beasty 322km travelling through the epic South from Canterbury to Otago. Some sections of the 2-3 grade trail are suitable for beginners, but the variety of landscape and climate zones add difficulty. Although open year-round, summer is your best bet and easiest way to travel light. Majestic scenery and experiencing the true beauty of our land on the remote trails makes this one hard to beat.
Otago Central Rail Trail:
Okay, sure. There were plenty of other parts of the South we could’ve chosen. But we’re talking ‘Great Rides’ and where greater than Otago for scenery? Also, at grade 1 throughout, this promises the easiest terrain in New Zealand. Gravel bikes are perfect for this, hardtail MTBs too. A full-suspension is overkill, but hey, if you’ve got it flaunt it. The 152km ride is best broken up into 3 days to enjoy the scenery at its best as you tunnel through the hill country and cross elevated railway viaducts. This is a must for every cyclist.
These breathtaking trails are worth a day planning and a few days riding on a brand-new mountain bike. Do it the right way and enjoy the trip. Safe travels, riders.