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.

The book that started all this trail frenzy! Get it if you want to cycle NZ.

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:

It started off so easy!

It’ll be a breeze if the route stays like this!

Naturally, the trail got a bit tougher. We pushed quite bit. Past the obstacles and over the steep bits.

These very cool suspension bridges (there must be about ten of them) are scary. It’s a loooong way down and I kept my glance straight ahead.
It was pretty late before we made it midway and set up camp for the night.

It got down below freezing at night! Luckily the sun shone brightly in the morning and warmed us up quickly.

Pushing! One of the less romantic parts of bike touring!

Sometimes you just want to throw down your bike and give up for awhile@
And then the cycling gets easier again!
Finally we make it all the way to the end of the Timber Trail and pitch up for the night at the conservation campsite in Pureora.


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:

It was really rough going for awhile on the Waikato River Trail! Back country, indeed.
Fortunately we were rewarded with a beautiful view of Lake Waipapa!

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!

Taking to the Trails!

4 thoughts on “Taking to the Trails!

  • February 9, 2013 at 6:56 AM

    Ha! That makes me think of the bit of the Tibetian Highway we walked our touring bikes through despite all warnings of it being dangerous after the rains.

    Have been thumbing through the New Zealand Cycle Trail book ever since I got back from New Plymouth and ridden bikes unloaded on the waterfront trails. Glad you’re enjoying it – that book certainly gives you the low down on some of the better places to ride.


  • February 9, 2013 at 7:07 AM

    Love it!! Before we got hooked on bicycle touring, we were big on mountain biking. (In fact, my touring bike is a old 1990s era Trek MTB.) Sometimes I really miss it!! So, we try to get off-road as much as possible– which means some pushing at times. But I’m with you– it’s always worth it!! Although one time in Israel, the path was soooo muddy we weren’t even able to push! I say keep going– looking forward to the report from the next rail trail!!

  • February 10, 2013 at 10:03 AM

    At last Cycle Tourists are finding the best cycle touring book out for cycle touring in New Zealand.


    Pete . . . .

  • February 11, 2013 at 12:49 PM

    Great to read more of your wheeled adventures… I mention you to every CSer I host these days! I still long to hop on a bike with a tent attached to the back and just hit the road, but i still haven’t figured out how my dodgy shoulder will allow that! Your email says you’re flying back to Melbourne? Let me know if you’ll be there any length of time… I have some cycling friends who may be able to host you if you need a place to stay!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *