Sometime back in the 90s, staff at Cliff Kingston’s local bike shop got tired of hearing him moan about the lack of organised road rides happening over winter. They suggested Kingston go ahead and create an event himself — and so he and wife Sandra did just that.

Tauranga-based Kingston settled on rolling back-country Waikato roads around Tirau and Putaruru to host the Okoroire Midwinter Fun Ride.

"Bearing in mind that it is mid-winter, the roads we use are mainly flat with some undulations towards the end," he said.

"At this time of year most of us are not at our fittest so these roads really suit while providing the incentive to kick start our training for summer."

Fifty-three riders braved a cold morning in July 1999 for the first Okoroire Midwinter Fun Ride, and Yvonne Manson was among them. The 70-year-old is an accomplished cyclist and regular participant at the NZ Masters Games, where she competes in time trials, road racing and velodrome.

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Manson believes the Kingstons have got the event right.

"Cliff and Sandra do a really good ride. It is very well organised and family oriented. The scenery is beautiful - along the river edge, through Arapuni then that lovely rolling countryside around Putaruru and Tirau."

Manson has ridden all 16 Okoroire Midwinter cycle rides and will line up again on Sunday July 26.

This year, she will be on her own - her regular cycling partner, at nearly 91, will be sitting the event out.

"I will keep it rolling" she said. "I always have a goal in mind. I would like to go to the 2016 Masters Games, so I need to keep my training going."

Organising a major midwinter cycling event almost single-handedly sounds brave, but Kingston spent 10 years as operations manager for a white water rafting company.

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"During the boom days we were running up to 600 people a day down the Wairoa River," he said.

"With most of the staff employed on a casual basis, we became very good at pre-planning and juggling staff. It was important to have backup plans in place should things not work out as expected."

Kingston is comfortable with the team he has built up to help him run the event, and is grateful for time donated by family and friends.

"Running a cycling event requires lots of pre-event planning and the need for temporary staff on the day. We have developed a core of experienced people to help us, and they also seem to enjoy the day."

Kingston's niece, Linda Martin, sees her role of volunteer as a way of "giving back" to her uncle.

"Cliff is so good to all of us, encouraging people into cycling, lending us equipment and organising social rides. He is 70 now, but he has raced motorbikes, cars - even speed skated - he just loves speed. Yet he waits for the slower riders on long rides." Carter believes the Kingstons' organisational skills and the timing of the event are what make it so popular.

"There are so few cycling events over winter. Tour de France has just started and people are inspired to get out on their bikes. It's well organised, lovely scenery, and the ride is achievable, but with enough challenge to keep it interesting for people at all levels."

These days about 800 riders take part in the event, half of them regular participants.

Kingston attributes the popularity of the event to a great course and the event base - the Okoroire Hot Springs Hotel, which has its own golf course and private hot pools. Cyclists are encouraged to stay and make a weekend of it with the family.

Kingston advises participants to dress for a mid-winter ride as the event goes ahead "regardless of conditions - it is winter, after all".

Midwinter Fun Ride

What:

40km and 70km road cycle

When:

Sunday, July 26

Where:

Okoroire Hot Springs Hotel

For more information: