The popular travel guide company encourages a form of travel nicknamed ‘bikepacking’ in the new release, which involves travelling with just a single backpack – a affordable, sustainable way to see more remote destinations. As well as listing key supplies and tricks for making a bike trip run smoothly, the book highlights some of the top trails in the world for keen cyclists.
Four New Zealand tracks are among the many international locations named, lauded for their stunning scenery, sense of adventure and remote feel.
Alps 2 Ocean
This trail runs from the mountainous heights of Aoraki-Mt Cook National Park all the way down to the funky town of Ōamaru on the east coast. At 315 km the South Island track stands as the longest of the 23 Ngā Haerenga Great Rides of New Zealand, and offers scenic and sprawling views throughout all nine sections. Throughout the Alps 2 Ocean trail, among the many sights that riders will enjoy are the peaks of Aoraki, the icy blues of Lake Pukaki, the Takapō Canal, the rolling Ōhau Range and more rivers, valleys and lakes. Lonely Planet also cites the several small towns littered through the route, where riders might stop to enjoy wine-tastings, spa pools and penguin-watching.
The full ride takes five to seven days, though it’s easy to break the well-planned route into smaller sections for more relaxed overnight or day trips- - the grading of this ride also ranges between beginner and intermediate, making it a good start for people interested in ‘bikepacking.’
The tougher ride along the Kahurangi 500 loop is ranked at a higher difficulty level, as it boasts a 518 km distance and 8940 m ascension. However, Lonely Planet also rates it as a “must-ride destination” for all keen mountain bikers around the globe. The track is comprised of two different routes, the Old Ghost Road and Heaphy Track and takes from 5 to 10 days. Ngā Haerenga also suggests starting from Tapawera, as “the Rāmeka and Heaphy Tracks are more fun that way.”
Highlights along the trail include the major Tākaka Hill climb, the whitewater scenery of Murchison and plenty of opportunities to cool off with a swim. An important note is that the Heaphy Track is only open from May 1 to late November, making the Kahurangi 500 a winter-only option (so pack warm and ride safe). Currently, the track is partially closed at the Heaphy River but there are trips possible through helicopter transfer.
St James Trail
Canterbury hosts a shorter route for beginner riders, with the 93 km St James Trail. It’s a breezy two-day loop, with stunning outlooks of towering peaks and deep river valleys, best done under a chilly but blue autumnal sky (during the winter makes for much tougher alpine riding). There are a few cosy huts to spend the night in, and while the route could be powered through in one day, an overnight stay allows for a little more time out in the wilderness.
Unfortunately, the full trail loop is currently undergoing repairs, as the McArthur Bridge was washed out due to flooding. It is expected to be reopened by the end of 2023. An alternative trail, the Homestead Loop, currently remains open.
The ultimate NZ mountain biking challenge is the Tour Aotearoa, where 3000 km of tracks are joined from Cape Reinga to Bluff with the addition of scenic back country roads. It’s an ambitious quest with many long hours of riding, first created as part of a 30-day riding event by the notable Kennett brothers. Now, bikepackers can take on the event outside of that month-long schedule.
Highlights along the ride, which departs from the Cape Reigna lighthouse, include Ninety Mile Beach, the Hobbiton set, Waikato River Trail, Wairarapa Wine Region, the new Sounds2Sounds route, Waiau Toa and Te Anau among many others.
Lonely Planet’s Bikepackers Guide to the World is available where all good books are sold or at lonelyplanet.com.