When we planned our route through New Zealand we knew we would like to avoid the main roads and simultaneously to avoid rough and very hard single-trails.
After a couple of minutes of googling we found Great Rides:
Twenty three cycle trails in both North and South Island. Short (tens of Kilometres) or long (hundreds of Kilometres), easy, intermediate or difficult. Simply perfect for all kind of bikepacking freaks. Awesome.
A few minutes later we found so called Connector Rides:
Connector Rides are recommended quiet and safest roads, which connect all the Great Rides. Thanks that, there is a network of cycling paths, trails and roads all over New Zealand.
And that is how we discovered Tour Aotearoa:
Tour Aotearoa is a self-supported “race”, which follows 3000km long route from the northernmost place – Cape Reinga in North Island to the southernmost – Bluff in South Island and connects several of the Great Rides.
Tour is organized by Kennet brothers. Three men, Paul, Simon and Jonathan, who really like biking and everything that goes with it. They write books about (Mountain) biking and also design and build cycling tracks. After riding the Tour Divide in US in 2008, Simon attempted to replicate the experience in New Zealand. After couple of smaller races, the first Tour Aotearoa was held in February in 2016. Over 300 people were registered and about 220 finished. But it must be noted, it is not a race in the truest sense. There is no entry fee, no prize giving. A winner is everyone, who finished the ride in 30 days and between 9am one day and 9am the next must spend at least one block of at least six hours not travelling. Riders must have a Spot Tracker and there are also 30 photo control points on the course.
There are all kinds of terrain there – beaches, forests, cities. Swing bridges, never ending uphills or steep downhills. And there are five ferry trips and jet boat or canoe on top of that. But the biggest challenge is the weather. New Zealand weather is unpredictable and riders can experience all seasons – hot, windy, rain, frost – during one month.
Despite this, the race is becoming very popular. Next Tour Aotearoa will be again in February 2018 and the start list is already full. (The starts date are: 10th, 12th and 14th and 24th, 26th and 28th February 2018).
But the advantage of this event and reason why we are writing about it is the fact, that you can ride it anytime and in both directions or only some parts. Maps are available online at www.touraotearoa.nz where you can find a huge amount of useful information. There are also books which describe all the Great and Connector Rides.
So, if you like bikepacking, travelling and have 1-2 months of spare time, Tour Aotearoa is the perfect adventure for you!
We are going to ride only part of Tour Aotearoa. We would like to start in Malborough Sounds, which is one of last places in South Island we have not visited. Then we are going to take a ferry to Wellington and then pedal all the way up to Auckland. If you want to know how we managed it, stay tuned!