Guest blog by Ritchie Bath - Pushbikes/Giant Bikes NZ Ambassador
There is something special about turning the cell phone off, joining some good friends and pedalling your way through stunning parts of NZ. If you have not explored the Heaphy Track on the South Island I can assure you it will not disappoint.
The Heaphy Track is one of the NZ ‘Great Walks’ and as mountain bikers, we are fortunate enough to have access to this stunning ride between May and September each year.
The 87km track runs between Brown Hut in Golden Bay and Kohaihai which is 14km from Karamea. It is important to note that the track is not a loop track, however, can be ridden in both directions.
There are a few things I love about riding this track
The diverse landscape – From dense rainforest, dry and vast flatlands and the roaring coastline heading back toward Kohaihai.
The fact that 50-60km’s on this track can make a solid 5-6 hour day ride – Not overly technical just good honest riding.
The huts are exceptional, they could be renamed lodges.
Suitable for a wide range of abilities and best of all, easy to keep a group together with different skill levels.
Suitable for an expert level one day ride, right through to a gentle pace 4-day adventure. There are 7 huts on the track which provide loads of options.
Ride Options and Planning
The ride has 7 huts, ranging from basic old style huts to lodges with gas cookers and solar LED lights – no power but they have flushing toilets, pots and pans are provided and all have amazing fireplaces to warm you up after a hard day. If one thing is for sure, you will be comfortable in the evenings!
Since it is a fair drive from Christchurch to Karamea, I would suggest travelling and either staying in Karamea the night before you start or at most, riding into the Heaphy Hut (1.5-3hr ride for your first night).
From the Heaphy Hut, you have lots of options depending on ability. 1-2 day ride through to Brown Hut which is the end of the track, or 2-4 days riding and ride the track both ways and back out to Karamea.
There is one solid climb whichever direction you are riding in, however, if you enjoy the downhill, the section between James Mckay Hut and the Lewis Hut is some of the best I have ridden in the country.
Another popular option is to fly from Karamea – fixed-wing plane or helicopter and to ride the track back over 1-3 days or organise a key swap with others riding in an opposite direction.
I have ridden both directions and also been on two heli trips. I must say the helicopter is stunning and is a great flyover of the track before riding but have opted to ride both ways on my last 3 rides as it is more fun on the bike. Details at http://www.helicharterkaramea.com
I have always stayed at the Last Resort in Karamea on either end of the trip. Amazing service, super friendly local team and so handy to the start of the track (14km ride if you opt not to drive). http://www.lastresortkaramea.co.nz
Great options from dorm style rooms to higher end units. Department of Conservation also has some fantastic info for Mountain Bikers. http://www.doc.govt.nz/heaphytrack
Training, Preparation and Equipment Suggestions
The riding is not overly technical, and there are always options to walk the bits you are not comfortable riding, however, the ride will be more enjoyable the more confident and comfortable you are on your bike.
Greenwood track from Mt Pleasant to Godley Head, the tracks in Kennedy’s Bush right up to Summit Road and the John Britten Track here on the Port Hills would be fantastic tracks to build confidence and give you some idea of the most technical sections you will encounter on the Heaphy. These are all a little narrower than the Heaphy however if you can ride these, you are in for some serious fun when you get there.
With moderate fitness and skills, the last group I rode through with were averaging approximately 10-12kph out on the track. The DOC website has some good info on approx ride times to help your planning too.
The track is remote, and often you are a long way from coverage, help or any supplies – plan carefully, look after others in your group and ride with caution.
Carry Spare tubes and at least one spare tyre for the group.
A locator Beacon would be a great idea, and make sure you use the Doc Intentions books in the huts.
Some good quality woollen ride socks – Pushbikes have fantastic ‘Defeet’ socks in stock – there is a few river crossing so wet feet unavoidable.
First Aid Kit – also something Pushbikes are now selling.
A strong and reliable bike rack – always more fun with the weight off your back and on the bike.
Manageable track for the hardtails, right through to the larger travel bikes – as long as you are comfortable and confident on your bike, you will have fun.
Basic tools to cover most repairs – talk to the Pushbikes team as keeping your bike going when a long way from help can be really helpful.
Highly recommend a bike service before you go and FRESH brake pads.
Warm extra layers – weather can change very quickly, rivers can rise quickly and you might end up out there longer than planned in the cold. Be cautious in your planning.
I would highly recommend pulling a group of friends together and exploring this iconic NZ MTB ride. Combine it with the recently opened ‘Old Ghost Road’ for the ultimate West Coast Adventure. If you would like any more help planning your trip or if you have any questions about the track, feel free to contact the team at Pushbikes who can put you in contact with me. Thanks for reading, take care out there and I wish you all a great summer on the bike.