The hotel and cafe at Upokongaro are busy, bicycles are often parked outside and loaded bicycles can be seen passing through Whanganui.
A combination of the new bridge at Upokongaro and peak numbers of Tour Aotearoa cyclists passing through have put Whanganui on the map, Mountains to Sea and Timber Trail cycleway champion Lynley Twyman said.
"It's putting a feather in Whanganui's cap in terms of creating more opportunities."
In the three months since the Papaiti-Upokongaro bridge opened in early December 12,764 cyclists have crossed it, Twyman said. The counter on the bridge uses both a camera lens and a pressure pad that can differentiate between bicycles and pedestrians.
Many of those riders may have pedalled out from Whanganui, but there are some who do longer sections of the Mountains to Sea/Ngā Ara Tuhono cycle trail. A counter on the Whanganui River Rd, 2km from its SH4 intersection, counted 5133 cyclists during the same three months.
Some are on Tour Aotearoa, a 3000km set-route cycle trail from Cape Reinga to Bluff. It includes both the Timber Trail and Mountains to Sea cycleways.
It can be done at any time, but the peak starting times are in late February and a wave of its cyclists is passing through Whanganui. They are self-supporting, buying accommodation and food en route.
"You can't get enough food when you are riding that much," Twyman said.
The rules state they must take at least 10 days and not ride for more than 18 hours a day.
"It's not a race. It's a journey. We try and encourage people to slow down."
The riders check in at 30 photo points, make a $100 donation to charity and offset the carbon emissions used to get them to and from the start and finish points.
Work to improve the Mountains to Sea trail is ongoing, Twyman said. A section from Turoa to Ohakune has yet to be finished, and a section from Horopito to National Park is being worked on.
It could use part of a former highway or a tunnel, and parts of the Marton Sash and Door Tramway.
"There's a chunk in the middle that we haven't quite figured out."
The Department of Conservation is remediating the Kaiwhakauka section that starts at Whakahoro, and is working on the Mangapurua section. That is now "riding beautifully", Twyman said.
The Te Pūwaha port project will eventually take the cycleway through the port at the mouth of the Whanganui River, providing "a fitting end" to the trail.
Lots of people ride the trail in sections, and Twyman said tour operators are providing transport to make this easier. She's working on a package for Auckland people, who would fly with Air Chathams to Whanganui, take a shuttle to Ohakune, ride and jetboat back to Whanganui and spend a little time here before flying home.
"It takes all the travel logistics out of it for people," she said.