With the long weekend ahead, our thoughts turn to out-of-town bike trails. Our events guru Jessica Rose rode the Old Coach Road in autumn, and loved it.
If anyone is heading out of town for a trip to (or near!) the snow, try taking a look at the Old Coach Road. This is en route to Ohakune, near Horopito on State Highway 4, just a couple of hundred meters past the National Park turn off (and near the original Smash Palace, for fans of NZ film).
The Old Coach Track was part of the first rail line that spanned the North Island from Wellington to Auckland, until it fell into misuse and was, for a time, entirely forgotten. Now rediscovered, it has been transformed into a beautiful walking and riding track.
The sign states this is a relatively easy Grade 3 ride and that it’s likely to take two hours (each way). You can enter from the Ohakune end or from the Horopito end, but if you start at Horopito you get to enjoy the downhill side of the journey.
This is considered the coldest part of the North Island, so it’s a good idea to rug up. It’s pretty easy to get warm once you get going, but this is definitely something to be aware of!
We found that the track was wide, flat and accessible. It alternated between metal roading, grassy paths and dirt bush tracks.
There are many opportunities for taking in the beautiful views as you are at quite an elevation. The bridges, both retired and active, are breathtaking to observe, and the track is studded with interesting and informative soundbites of times past.
This is quite a gentle ride, so would be fine for a beginner. There is little technical difficulty, and as it’s on an old rail track, it’s on a gentle gradient most of the time.
One of the best parts is winding up at Ohakune at the end where you can have a well deserved bowl of fries by the fire. (If you don’t want to ride both ways, try to time this with meeting up with friends, so that you can hitch a ride back to your car at the Horopito end of the track.)
Ohakune also offers rental bikes so you can take an afternoon ride while staying in town for the weekend – good to know! I recommend keeping this one up your sleeve as a fun activity, even if you don’t usually bike, or haven’t brought yours with you on holiday but feel like a great ride.
— Jessica Rose