Art Week in Auckland's Big Little City is positively bursting at the seams with over 100 events at around 70 venues, and it's on from now till November 4. There are free exhibitions, talks on art, walks of art, special events and late night openings. And the bit that most tickles my fancy has to be the free cycle tours of Auckland's arty parts, covering five of the six Art Week precincts - Newmarket, Ponsonby, K Rd, the CBD and Parnell. Being a bike geek, I was delighted to be invited to take a sneak peek at the loop that rolls round Jervois, Ponsonby and K Rds.
All the tours bar one saddle up at T White's Everyday Bikes on Symonds St, which is a great idea because, aside from the central location, if your two-wheeler gathered dust over winter, Tim and the team can give your cycle a sparkle. So arrive a bit early if you think your ride needs pimping, or pumping. And, if you're in between bikes, Auckland Transport have 15 bikes to lend (free of charge) per tour, real beauties they are too.
Peddling these pedal tours is Julian Hulls, a man who's passionate about cycling.
As the proud founder and director of Next Bikes, an organisation dedicated to promoting bicycles for everyday transport, Julian has been a cycling advocate as long as he can remember. And he's a big fan of the visual arts too.
"Bicycles," he says, "are perfect for getting around small independent galleries."
After a sensible safety briefing, Julian led the way down Symonds St. The cemetery at our shoulder, we hooked left on to K Rd, and our adventure began. One gallery's window had a most intriguing photograph of a woman cradling a mullet like a baby, thought-provoking to say the least.
As for the vast mural outside the Mobil Station (corner K and Ponsonby Rds), I don't know how many times I've passed by those panels, yet to stop and really appreciate them is another thing altogether.
Over the road at Object Space we oohed and aahed over Kobi Bosshard's contemporary jewellery. Virtually next door at Black + Asterisk, it was just as well I didn't have a trailer, or I'd have hauled a bunch of Emma Bass's flowers home.
Left on to Crummer (home of my first Auckland flat), then left on to Maidstone, we took a quick squiz at the images that loom over Genji's off-street parking. A wild wall of waves, babies in utero, a collision of Pacific, Eastern and Western imagery. Back on Crummer we visit White Space, where we meet Deborah White, one of the driving forces behind Art Week. She tells us that, during Art Week, visitors to White Space will be invited to paint the pristine front window with cow poo, a most original concept, and much more hygienic than it sounds.
Back in the saddle, we scroll along the side of Vinegar Lane (formerly So-hole Square) where we cross paths with artist Charlotte Fisher painting a panel on the fortress walls, doing beautiful work with an intense blue paint. This is one of the many upsides of travelling by bike - the people you bump into and chat with. Never happens in a car.
Free-wheeling down Richmond Rd, we tucked into the particularly pretty John St, don't ask me why but it's even more fetching by bike. Then, like a cork from a bottle of fizz, we popped on to Jervois Rd to view the new-ish Sanderson Gallery, a dear little space, well worth stopping and propping the bike. Two minutes later on the other side of the road, we're in The Smyth Gallery where David Bromley's works have been catching my eye for years. They do everything from extravagant pieces for fancy-pants collectors to cute little birds on plaster (by Datsun Tran) for a song. We even spied a celebrity putting a red sticker on a Bromley, clearly delighted he'd snapped a good deal.
Signalling by hand, we took a right at Three Lamps before gliding back down Ponsonby Rd, stole a peek at the wares in Masterworks, gazed at Western Park's buried buildings, before pedalling back up K Rd and home to T White's, filled with the thrill that comes from propelling oneself.
These tours are wheely good fun. But don't take my word for it, make a booking and get ready to roll because, how often do you get a chance to combine culture with exercise, and a spot of socialising? Not often enough. So, on your bike.
Art Week: artweekauckland.co.nz. everything you need to know about Art Week
Art Week Cycle Tours: All tours are free, but riders must register by emailing: email@example.com or texting 021 154 8371 (groups limited to 30 riders per tour). facebook.com/nextbikerider
T Whites Bikes: twhitesbikes.co.nz. All tours start at T Whites, 132 Symonds St, except "Waterfront Family" which starts at Silo Park. Today K Rd, Ponsonby Rd, Jervois Rd tour (meet 10am). Check out the Newmarket Halloween tour (Oct 31 5.30pm), or November's Heart of the City, Parnell and Waterfront family-friendly tours.