Mountain biking trails on a fully loaded bicycle? Yes, it’s possible.
I know. From experience.
No entirely positive experience. But one I ultimately don’t regret.
Now, I’d come to New Zealand expecting some fairly laidback cycling. I got about 100 kilometers of it. On the Otago Central Rail Trail. That was easy. No steep gradients. No headwinds. No killer climbs. No crazed drivers of milk trucks wanting to find out what it’s like to make road kill out of an overseas cyclist.
So why’d we decide to take on the Timber Trail? I blame it on Wellington-based bicycle advocate Patrick Morgan . It was Patrick, after all, who gifted us a copy of the (amazing) Kenneth Brothers Classic New Zealand Cycle Trails guide.
And it’s that innocent looking book that got us turned on to the idea of cycling the Timber Trail.
The Timber Trail ushers you through majestic native forest, across the flanks of Mount Pureora, over long suspension bridges and down to the village of Ongarue on historic bush tramlines.
Cool. I liked the idea of cruising across a suspension bridge tucked away deep in Pureora forest.
Don’t do it if there’s rain. It’ll be too muddy.
That was Patrick’s advice.
By the time we reached the trailhead, it had been raining off and on for the last 24 hours. Heavy, drenching rain. The kind that washes out mountain biking trails, I imagine.
The locals were overjoyed with the much-needed precipitation. It hadn’t rained for weeks, they told us. Farmers were getting worried.
Was I surprised that our arrival into the region had been ushered in with a rainstorm? Absolutely not.
We weren’t entirely certain if it was prudent to take on the trail under such weather conditions. The official NZ Cycle Trails website warns that the Timber Trail is a remote backcountry ride. Check the weather forecast, it says. Take warm clothing and food! Inform someone of your whereabouts!
Okay, okay. Maybe they were going a little overboard on the precautions. But lost cyclists make for bad headlines.
A question of perspective
The Kennett Brothers rate this ride as easy to intermediate. Which may be accurate if you’re Julie Bresset or doing the trail from north to south where it’s mostly downhill.
Heading the opposite direction (as we were) is not so easy. Here are a few of the highlights:
Had we had enough after our trials on the Timber Trail? No way!
Adventure was calling. We found it in the form of the Waikato River Trail. We did stages 1 (easy) and 3 (intermediate).
Most of the cycling wasn’t too tough…except for this part:
Ready to cry uncle now?
Now have we had enough of the New Zealand cycle trails? NO! Next up is the Hauraki Rail Trail in the Coromandel region. But this one, promise the Kennett Brothers, is easy. VERY easy in fact. We’ll see about that!