St James Cycle Trail

There’s a lot of chatter on a Facebook group, Bikepacking New Zealand, where people keep asking if it is possible to do the St James in a day, and I keep replying “Why would you do that?” This is stunning NZ high country, remote and unspoiled (except for the power pylons and the odd 4wd track) and it truly should be savoured, not rushed. Do it slowly, take your time, check out the hot pools up the Cow Stream and then you won’t have to bother with the pools at Hanmer Springs, a tourist-oriented town, excused only by its surrounding beauty.  

 

We only had a day, and we have e-bikes so we are constrained by having to recharge now and then, but I reckon we would be able to knock the whole thing off on a single charge. We did 40K which included a couple of good climbs and had about 30-40% battery left, so if the whole thing is 65k with a lot more climbing than we did I reckon it could be done, perhaps by someone fitter and younger than myself and Jill. We’ll do the other half one of these years.

 

The photos speak for themselves, not than I’m any more than an adequate photographer, but it’s just a stunning part of the world, therefore photogenic as hell.

 

Total distance: 42.06 km
Max elevation: 947 m
Min elevation: 620 m
Total climbing: 1177 m
Total descent: -1171 m
Average speed: 16.37 km/h
Total Time: 05:58:29

West Coast Wilderness Trail

Greymouth to Ross, and by all means do the whole thing because they need the tourism or they will keep on mining or damning their valleys for power schemes, but really, the only part worth doing is the Kaniere to Kumara section. Do it it that direction for the best trip, and some of the best riding you will find anywhere.

 

The Greymouth-Kumara section is flat and only slightly interesting with a lovely bush section near the end, and the Hokitika-Ross section is similarly blessed with another nice bush part through Mahinipoura, but the best part of both of these sections is the pub at then end, especially the Empire at Ross which is as near to a genuine part of the West Coast tradition as any outsider is likely to see. Eat whitebait at both.

 

We started day 2 at Lake Kaniere, but don’t tell anyone about this gem, possibly the most beautiful spot on the planet on a good day. Ride down the tail race to the power station then back for a warm up, then follow the road around to Cowboy Paradise (could do better) and after a bit more uphill it’s all downhill to Kumara again. It’s a well done trail, excellent surface, and it’s been designed for bikes unlike the unfortunate Waikato River Trail with it’s fae-too-tight switchbacks.

 

Ride the whole thiing because you should, but if you’re pressed for time the middle section is the part you will remember forever. About 60k altogether and about 30 – 40% battery left at the end.  I did use level 3 and 4 quite a lot because I was feeling a bit lazy, but you would really only need to on the uphill parts around Cowboy paradise where a lot of people report having pushed the last part.

 

 

 

 

Total distance: 54.74 km
Max elevation: 338 m
Min elevation: 72 m
Total climbing: 1539 m
Total descent: -1620 m
Average speed: 19.41 km/h
Total Time: 04:57:08

 

Kaniere tail race section

Total distance: 15.89 km
Max elevation: 200 m
Min elevation: 57 m
Total climbing: 905 m
Total descent: -951 m
Average speed: 19.10 km/h
Total Time: 01:14:19

Wellington – Pencarrow Lighthouse

Choose a perfect Wellington day, no wind, no clouds, warm, in fact a typical day in the capital. Get yourself to Eastbourne, drive as far as you can and chuck your bikes over the gate, the bike as far as you can. Apparently its possible, with landowners permission, to bike all the way to the Wairarapa but that was out of reach for a late afternoon bit of exercise while our hosts cooked dinner for us so we opted for taking the coastal route and returned via the old lighthouse track. Walk down the steep, very narrow Wellington side please.

 

One of the best things you can do in Wellington, and it makes you forget that it’s the home of all those politicians, bureaucrats and other vermin.

 

 

Total distance: 31.92 km
Max elevation: 55 m
Min elevation: -28 m
Total climbing: 772 m
Total descent: -756 m
Average speed: 21.07 km/h
Total Time: 02:24:33

Waikato – WRT + Te Awa

Waikato River Ride and Te Awa

Four days with Judy Yeoman and Mike Brockie, both hardened by years of international tandem touring on their trusty old mountain bikes, and Jill and I on our Bulls E-MTBs . 

 

Our constraint is battery life and charging stations, which took out the camping option at Jim Barnett reserve, and made day 2 longer, but the trail isn’t really set up completely yet and until it’s easier to people to stop and start at various well-fed and powered-up options, it will not be as popular as the timber trail.

Day 1 | Atiamuri – Mangakino

Wilhelmina from Blue Tui shuttles picked us up from our AirBnB dead on 8:30, flung our bikes onto the trailer with ease and care, dropped off our dinner goodies at Arapuni Backpackers for a couple of nights hence, and plonked us in the middle of nowhere at the beginning of the track after a kickstarter of muffins and coffee.  Good on yer, mate.

 

It’s 40k to Mangakino with a stop at the Dam Cafe at Whakamaru, and we used about 50% of the battery, more than I expected but the few hills in the middle added up. Still, we have a bigger day tomorrow so we are going to consciously use the 22 speed and less power tomorrow. It is too easy to be tempted into simply boosting the power rather than changing down a cog or two. The front derailleurs become unadjusted quite easily so I went to Adventure Cycles Monday night club and learnt how to tweak them, and now we have the use of granny gear at least 80% of the time.

 

Mangakino is a very tidy little town but not thriving. It deserves to do better but in the meantime the accommodation is limited to the Mangakino Hotel, currently for sale and being operated only for the rooms. Our host couldn’t be there and arranged to leave the keys at the local Four Square. However, the other guests let us in and showed us our rooms and where to store the bikes so we felt very welcome, and the clocks on the wall put us bang in the centre of the universe.

 

Dinner has to be on Friday or Saturday only if you want more than takeaways. Mucky’s is great,  their website advertises B&B but there’s not a B to be had, and it was packed, probably because its the only place for thousands of miles, but also serving damn fine tucker. Breakfast has to be across the road at Shorty’s, and very good it was too.

Total distance: 39.96 km
Max elevation: 266 m
Min elevation: 192 m
Total climbing: 1464 m
Total descent: -1485 m
Average speed: 13.74 km/h
Total Time: 06:46:36

Day 2 | Mangakino – Arapuni

A big breakfast is essential. From here on you carry your own until Arapuni, but not on Mondays or Tuesdays because the Rhubarb Cafe is closed then and you would have to bike on to Karapiro or even Cambridge.  That’s why we thought ahead and dropped off the saussies and wine and spuds and breakfast stuff on the way through.

 

We took off into rain, so I gave the GroundEffects gear a good workout, and between that and the electrics it’s a very pleasant ride. Some big steep bits followed by wide roads carpeted with pine needles, not slippery and beautifully quiet, traversing along above the river. There’s a blast of a 200m climb with about 39 switchbacks, most of them just a wee bit too tight and that’s the last of the climbing, then there’s about 20k down to Arapuni. We took the trail route from Jones Landing and there were a couple of trying moments, but  nothing too serious.

 

Battery use 80% + . Showing 2 bars on the display, but charging shows 1 – 2.  It would be good to have a better display with “k’s to empty” , and the ability to download data for analysis.

 

Total distance: 58.73 km
Max elevation: 359 m
Min elevation: 91 m
Total climbing: 2194 m
Total descent: -2269 m
Average speed: 16.78 km/h
Total Time: 08:58:13

Day 3 | Arapuni – Cambridge
Part Waikato River Trail, part Te Awa

Battery use 50% because we weren’t trying