Jonathan Kennett would love everyone to explore New Zealand by bicycle.
"The simple pleasure of cycling is a joy that can be experienced by everyone, including ‘the Renaissance' rider shedding the years as they jump on a bike for the first time in years," he writes in his new book, The New Zealand Cycle Trails Nga Haerenga: A Guide to New Zealand's 23 Great Rides. Nga Haerenga means "journeys" in both a physical and spiritual sense.
The idea of a nationwide cycle trail is relatively new in our landscape. John Key first articulated the vision of developing a network of cycle trails covering the whole country at a job summit in 2009:
"I see the national cycleway developing from a series of great rides through some of New Zealand's most beautiful scenery, our long-term goal is to create a network that links these great rides into a uniquely new Zealand set of cycling experiences that connects and passes through our cities." (Key)
In a time of economic recession, building cycleways promised to create employment. If the 150 km rail trail in Otago generated over 200 jobs, imagine what 2000 km of cycle trail could do!
Cycle Trails to Explore
Many "over fifties" have already conquered The Otago Rail or have it on their bucket list – it's almost become a rite of passage. But there are lots of other cycle trails to explore. In the last few years, over 2000 kilometres of cycling trails have been built. So far there 23 Great Rides and other cycle routes, with more in the pipeline. We are spoilt for choice!
Jonathan Kennett is a passionate cyclist and a project manager for the New Zealand Cycle Trail. He has first-hand experience of every Great Ride.
His book is well researched and full of practical information. It covers everything you could want to know: where to hire a bike, places to stay, the kind of terrain and scenery, great shops, and good cafes for a pit stop. In addition, "trail tales" provide information on the natural and cultural history of each trail.
To help people choose a trail that suits their level of riding skill and fitness, the trails are graded from Grade 1 (very easy) to Grade 5 (expert).
Trails such as the Old Ghost Road and the Saint James Cycle Trail are more challenging than the Otago Central Rail Trail or the Hawkes Bay Trails and may be too arduous for many. But there are also plenty of easy trails or you can choose to ride only a part of one.
Beginners may like to start with the very easy Hawkes Bay Trails. Some take only 2-4 hours and have wide, smooth, and flat cycle pathways. Here are some beginner-friendly examples:
The Coastal Road: Grade 1, Very Easy
This is the easiest cycle trail in the book. It runs from Napier South towards Cape Kidnappers and has great scenery. The finishing point is the Clifton Café.
The Peketapu Loop: Grade 1, Very Easy
This weaves through graceful old trees and finishes at the Puketapu tavern which has won awards for being the best country restaurant in the region.
The Wineries Trail: Grade 2, Easy
On this this route you will pass 11 vineyards with cafes and cellar doors.
If you're not a beginner, or keen on a harder challenge, there are lots of more demanding rides.
But you don't have to hop on a bike to enjoy this book (although I did read some of it on my exercycle). It contains lots of scenic photographs and has many stories about our colonial and Māori heritage.
If you are planning a cycle trip, the book will be an invaluable reference and will bring back memories after the trip.
For Christmas this year, why not share a copy of this book and buy "his-and-hers" pairs of padded bicycle pants. Might as well travel in comfort!
Title: The New Zealand Cycle Trails Nga Haerenga:
A Guide to New Zealand's 23 Great Rides.
Author: Jonathan Kennett
Publisher: Random House New Zealand