There's a lot about New Zealand that makes it a pretty dreadful place to ride a bike. Our geography gives us plenty of hills and buffeting westerly winds, our society gives us homicidal car drivers and our central government gives us poor quality roads.
As a child, I remember looking out the car window in bemusement as brave Europeans pedalled over Coromandel hills while logging trucks and hoons blazed past them at high speed. Later in life, I experienced the awful roar of truck drivers thinking it was great sport to run a giant trailer as near to a cyclist as possible. Hilarious, fellas.
Plenty of other countries do it well. France, the nation that makes more money from tourism than any other on Earth, is famously brilliant for touring by bike, helped in no small part by a certain tour that bears that nation's name.
New Zealand doesn't have to be so bad for biking. We can't beat the wind, but dedicated cycle lanes and paths are a massive step in the right direction. So, whatever you think of the bloke in general, John Key was on to something when he put his name to plans to develop a national network of cycle routes.
Like early cellphone coverage, cycleway connections are still patchy at best, but catering to biking tourists is smart business for New Zealand.
And, of course, it provides a fabulous way for our own people to see our country.
Which makes Jonathan Kennett's handy Cycle Trails guide a fine addition to your saddlebag. He covers 23 great rides, with historic background on each track and some nitty gritty details on how to navigate the paths. With lovely pictures and a firm cover, this volume is somewhat bigger (and heavier) than others in the market.
The Kennett name will be familiar to readers of cycling books and guides. They won't be disappointed with this.
The NZ Cycle Trails Nga Haerenga
Author: Jonathan Kennett
Publisher: Random House