I bet I’m not the only person who spends the wet short days of winter fantasising about summer bike touring around New Zealand. And in the past year, I’ve expanded my dreamfields to the Pacific Islands and Europe. As the days lengthen and the sun becomes more reliable, the urge to grab my best bike buddies and take to the road becomes overwhelming.
I confess this year we got a cycling ‘fix’ in July by escaping to Samoa in July to circumnavigate Savai’i by bike. We returned gloriously tanned, relaxed, well fed and fitter and vowing to return to ride the main island of Upolo.
The Kennett Brothers have become bike touring gurus since they published their first book Classic NZ Cycle Trails in 2012. They followed this up with their inspirational publication The New Zealand Cycle Trails Nga Haerenga which took NZ by storm. Its photos, maps and historical background so enriched cycle touring that many people set about riding and ticking off all of the trails.
In February this year Jonathan started 250 bikers at Cape Reinga to ride 3000km to Bluff. His Tour Aotearoa captured imaginations of people from around the world. The Tour traverses many of our cycle trails, including the Rimutaka Rail Trail. By chance, my mates and I were riding the Trail in March just as a few of the first Tour riders were passing through. We were gliding down the Wairarapa slopes of the trail – it’s so steep I had to focus on staying upright but didn’t have to turn my pedals once. Meanwhile, the Tour bikers were pedalling up those mean slopes! Amazingly they had huge smiles and were bubbling with stories of their experiences.
The Tour was such a success that Jonathan was inspired to encourage more people to ride it in their own time and at their own pace. So he’s created a set of 3 books; a superb hard covered book of text and photos and 2 little pocket guides ( one each for the North and South Islands).
My bike tour mates and I set off last month to test-ride the North Island guide book, aiming to ride from Ahipara at the bottom of Ninety Mile Beach, all the way back to our homes in Devonport. The book was our bible – it had everything we needed to know – compact maps, gradient diagrams (challenging for the Waipoua Forest section!), and lists of places to stop for food and drinks and accomodation. The Tour route includes remote sections of road where there is no mobile/internet cover, so we wouldn’t think of leaving town again without our Tour pocket guide.
I returned from the ride to find a complimentary copy of the hardcover book Tour Aotearoa: New Zealand’s 3000km Bikepacking Odyssey, waiting for me to read and review. I fell on it with delight, keen to check if it had captured most of the highlights of the ride I’d just completed. It did!
It’s a perfect book to read either in one session or to dip into to learn about favourite or unknown sections. The text provides a rich mixture of the history of areas traversed by the Tour, personal stories of people living along the route met by riders, comments from Tour participants and descriptions of the landscape and scenery. The photography is superb: big wide shots that lift the spirits and inspire the reader to put themselves in the picture. If you loved the photography in the Kennetts’ marvellous NZ Cycle Trail book, you’ll devour these photos.
It’s truly a treasure that every bike tourer and wannabe tourer will love. Rush out and buy your copy now for Christmas, or order on line from the Kennett Brothers. Happy trails!
Ed note: We’re also fans of the Kennett Brothers’ Short Easy Bike Rides ($24.90), which covers 52 rides across the country with cafes and no traffic – perfect for family trip planning! And if you’re looking for another bike-related book present that will slip nicely into any stocking, Laura Williamson’s great little book The Bike And Beyond: Life on Two Wheels in Aotearoa New Zealand (Bridget Williams Books, $14.99) is available at any good bookstore.
Or, if you prefer gifting experiences rather than stuff, how about tickets to Le Ride – in NZ theatres this week – in which Amazing Race guy Phil Keoghan and his mate reenact the legendarily grueling 1928 Tour De France ride on vintage bikes. Note: even if long distance bike races aren’t your thing, the film absolutely stands up as eye-candy travelogue, a humorous tribute to camaraderie, and a classic Kiwi-battler tale.
Lastly, if a bike itself is one of the presents you’re giving this year, here are ten ways to wrap it – and if you’re a total overachiever, here’s how to wrap a bike to look like a reindeer, complete with red nose!