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Cycle trails for first-timers: what you need to know

The Central North Island cycle trails are a great destination for recreational cyclists looking for a weekend of laidback adventure. The scenery is spectacular and travelling through the farmland, mountains, valleys and past lakes from the seat of your bike is a very different experience to whizzing by in a vehicle. You will see others out on their bikes enjoying the sunshine, you will smell the fresh air, swim in the lakes and rivers and take photos from the vantage points of some magnificent bridges.


Great wineries, restaurants and views make the Hawke's Bay Trails worth savouring. Photos: TNZ

You don't have to be super-fit or skilled on a mountain bike to ride these trails. They are designed to be user friendly so everyone can experience the trail, its views and the rest points along the way. Most cycle trails are peppered with plenty of cafés and restaurants that serve food and drink. It's quite common for a couple or group to spend all day riding between cafés and restaurants. Or from winery to winery if you're on the Hawke's Bay Trails. These trails are designed to be ridden on your time – relax in the sun before meandering down the trail to the next attraction or photo opportunity. 

Like the sound of that? You're one step closer to your cycling adventure.

Unwind after a day of ambling along the Hauraki Rail Trail. Photo: HWT

It's not just about the trail ... make sure to take some wine down time. Photo: TNZ

Here's what you need to know:

There are many different types of cycling and there are several different types of bikes. For the cycle trails in New Zealand it would be best to use a geared mountain bike with front suspension to make your ride more comfortable. Mountain bikes are also available for rental on all of our cycle trails. You might also like to purchase some cycle-specific clothing. This will mean buying shorts with padding sewn in, which makes for a far more comfortable ride and we'd recommend a ride jersey with good ventilation. Once you have selected a suitable mountain bike and comfortable clothing, you will need to choose the appropriate trail to ride. Navigate to our What Type of Rider Are You? tool on our Trails page and select "Cruiser" – or click here. These trails can all be comfortably ridden by most people – even first-timers.

The benefits of these trails are numerous. As you soak in the views and atmosphere along the trail, your fitness will increase and you will feel a surprising sense of satisfaction by the end of the day. Warm temperatures, very little road traffic, combined with the food and drinks available during your journey combine to make the Central North Island one of the most attractive ride destinations in New Zealand.

Within just a few hours' drive of Auckland you will be spinning your day away on the seat of a bike and breathing in the fresh country air in no time. Why not make a weekend of it and visit the Central North Island this summer?


Top cycle trails for first timers

  • A couple stop to soak in the experience of a fire on the beach along the Hawkes Bay Trails, Napier. Photo: Tourism Hawkes Bay
    Boasting more than 180km of trails the easy grade Hawke's Bay Trails feature a clover leaf of superb cycling between and around Napier and Hastings. The Grade 1-3 trails offer year-round cycling that will suit most skill and fitness levels. The network is mostly flat as it sprawls out across the Heretaunga Plains, waterways and beachfront. You can plan a trip for 1-4 days on the three distinct sections of trail, which each feature a unique part of the Hawke's Bay experience: expansive ocean views, world-class wineries and beautiful New Zealand countryside. 
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    The 160km Hauraki Rail Trail showcases New Zealand’s rich pioneering history against a backdrop of stunning rural and mountain scenery. This 160km ride makes a great 3-4 day ride and stretches from Miranda and Thames on the Coromandel Peninsula to the historic Waikino Railway Station and Waihi in the east, and the spa town of Te Aroha to the south. This easy to ride Grade 1 trail is suitable for all ages, abilities and fitness levels. 
  • The lads relax alongside the Pakihi River at the end of the Motu Trail, Eastland, New Zealand. Photo: Derek Morrison
    Motu Trails provides a trilogy of contrasting trails that can be ridden in a loop totalling 93km. The three links offer a range of all-terrain riding, which includes stunning beaches, spectacular native forest and family friendly rest stops. This cycle trail can be ridden all year as a full loop, or can be split into the three shorter sections. As a popular 1-3 day ride, it offers options for all ages, abilities, fitness levels and preferences. 
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    The Waikato River Trails follow the meandering riverbanks of the mighty Waikato River, taking in native forest, wetlands teeming with wildlife, historic landmarks and volcanic formations. The 100km of off-road trails travel south as it heads upstream alongside New Zealand’s longest river. With hydro dams, suspension bridges and exhilarating downhills, there is plenty for all mountain bikers to enjoy. 
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    Ever imagined riding through a thermal wonderland of steaming vents, bubbling mud pools and spectacular geysers in a chronically volcanic area? We certainly did and the Te Ara Ahi – Thermal by Bike trail in Rotorua offers exactly that. The 51km Grade 2-3 cycle trail weaves through some of Rotorua’s most impressive thermal hot spots and is rich in Maori history, folklore and geothermal flora and fauna.