Inspired by the launch of Lonely Planet's Epic Bike Rides of the World, we asked for your stories on the best cycle trails across the globe. We had such a great response that we want to share them all. This week, New Zealand bike rides; next week, advice on international trips. Thanks to everyone who sent in their stories, and congratulations to Gareth McCabe and Roger Spragg, two lucky winners of Epic Bike Rides of the World. The final two winners will be revealed next week.
The 42nd Traverse is a forestry track that cuts through the Tongariro Forest Conservation Area. It's shared by hunters, trampers and 4WDs looking for the extreme wilderness factor. Our bitterly cold start through early snow gave way to dropping fast and furious into the Waione Stream, followed by a rollercoaster of gruelling climbs and rewarding downhills. Camo'ed hunters with dead deer strapped to quad bikes provided a strange contrast to sweaty heaving Lycra. Cafe 39 in Owhango provided deserved comforts and beverages after many hours in the saddle. It was the perfect combination of pleasure and pain.
Gareth McCabe, Howick
Want a cycle journey that has it all? Look no further than New Zealand's Alps to Ocean trail, the 301km A2O. Starting beneath majestic Aorangi Mt Cook, you cycle through stunning vistas of lakes, high-country pasture land and mountain saddles on a mix of dedicated trails and back country roads to historic Oamaru. You will pass power station dams, a salmon farm, Maori rock art and the other-worldly fossils and rock formations of the Vanished World. You can do all or part of it over as many days as you want. Life-changing cycling.
I have never biked anywhere else in the world but we have just come home from a weekend mountain biking in Rotorua - a present we gave our just turned 14-year-old for his birthday. The smile on his face was enough to tell us that a cycling holiday would be a fantastic adventure - where he would still be happy to hang out with his old parents ...
Naturally, being in Rotorua, it is special to cycle on or off-road, but having recently completed The Pioneer 2016, the South Island is incredible and spectacular - the endless trails, climbs and descents - it is out of this world.
Carol Harwood, Rotorua
A friend and I made a day trip of riding through Mt Aspiring National Park. Our goal was to reach the first hut and back. The beautiful pastures, rugged foothills and lush native vegetation spelled out "Ultimate-New-Zealand-Mountain-Bike-Trail". We rode through tracks that didn't even look like proper man-made trails - just vast open fields from one end of the valley to the other, riding among the cows. As the yellow hills gleamed in the background and the last sliver of light trailed around the corner, I thought "Doesn't get better than this".