Apparently, mountain biking in New Zealand is the next best thing since; well since Tourism New Zealand put Megan Gale on a bike and called her a ‘cycling ambassador.’ And according to the Financial Express, mountain biking in Kiwiland is experiencing a kind of resurgence (although in our opinion, it's always been going strong). Anyway, we digress.
Recently the above news outlet named five great mountain biking rides in the country. Five rides with which we disagree. Not because they're not great, but because if you’re in New Zealand to mountain bike, then you’re in New Zealand to mountain bike - if you get what we mean. No gentle two-day trails our list thank you very much.Not that we’re the authority on all things biking, but we should mention we have a semi-professional working here, so we think our difference of opinion comes with a bit of weight.
Spectacular, diverse, and home to some of the best scenery in the world, what makes this country so unique - and so inherently attractive - is the opportunity to go beyond the traditional and experience a wilderness unlike any other nation. Which is why our pick for the best places to ride are based on local knowledge rather than the most-well known. So fluffy adjectives aside, here's our take on the best mountain biking spots in the country.
- Makara Peak, Wellington. Located in the hills surrounding Wellington City, Makura Peak Bike park encompasses over 250 hectares of native bush. Custom built and winner of several awards, Makura Peak has over 40 km of tracks for all levels of skill and ability. From technical rock gardens to undulating downhill to sharp switchbacks and steep drops, it provides the ultimate playground for anyone keen on biking. For bike hire, drop into either Mud Cycles, Dirt Merchants or iRide, all located within the central city.
- Whakarewarewa Forest, Rotorua. Our next stop is Rotorua - home to the pinnacle of international mountain biking, Crankworx. Dubbed ‘disneyland of riding’ the Whakarewarewa forest is one of the oldest bike trail networks in the country with around 130 km of continually evolving trails, through towering redwoods. Dipping from wide logging areas into lush native bush, Whakarewarewa is an eclectic mix of maintained trails, raw tracks and international level downhill courses. Offering options for beginners through to advanced, Whakarewarewa is perfect for both first timers and those wanting to improve their technical skill. To get geared up for a day on the trails head to Mountain Bike Rotorua, Cyclezone or Bike Culture. You can see a full forest map online, or purchase a printed microfibre one when you arrive.
- Sticky Forest, Wanaka. A locally-built and maintained set of trails through spectacular pine forest and native bush. On the east side of picturesque Wanaka, its tracks range from novice to advanced, and many give way to breath-taking views of the river and lake surrounds. Many of the trails have technical man-made features (namely jumps) but almost all include an alternative opt out or ‘chicken line.’ Go to Outside Sports or Racers Edge for your ride map and to check out the conditions.
- Queenstown Bike Park, Queenstown. Located at the top of the Skyline Gondola, The Queenstown Bike Park sports New Zealand's first-ever gondola assisted bike lift. Set amongst the towering pines of the Ben Lomond Reserve, 27 international standard trails are on offer - with over 30 km of tracks suitable for all abilities. Riders can attach their bikes to the back of the gondola car for a unique scenic trip to the top. Pop by Vertigo Bikes or Bike Queenstown to get kitted out and check out the best tracks.
- Signal Hill, Dunedin. Set above the city in a lush green-belt, Signal Hill provides diverse riding for all abilities. As Dunedin's premier downhill park, it’s tracks feature steep hills, rock gardens and tight turns. Changeable weather makes for challenging riding, and with over 50 km of trails Signal Hill is great for gaining experience in difficult conditions. Stop in at Cycle World Dunedin or iBikeHire for your bike.