During February 2016, 200 mountain bike riders will leave Cape Reinga at the very tip of New Zealand and undertake a 3000km journey as they make their way to Bluff at the very southern tip of the South Island for the inaugural Tour Aotearoa. The riders will follow a route carefully chosen by the Kennett Brothers – pioneers in this type of endurance distance event. “The route covers many iconic sites of natural beauty and cultural importance,” explains Jonathan. Scarlett Hagen spoke to Jonathan Kennett to get the inside scoop on how the ride will work and what could be expected as riders tap into the Great Rides of the New Zealand Cycle Trail.
Along the way, spectacular Central North Island trails such as Hauraki Rail Trail, Waikato River Trail, Timber Trail and Mountains to Sea Cycle Trail will be used.
These great rides were built, or upgraded over the last five years specifically for cycling and are still being improved to enhance the riding experience. Riding them one after the other is going to be a great experience.Jonathan Kennett, Tour Aotearoa founder Share
The overarching aim of the ride is simple, to ride from Cape Reinga to Bluff via a mix of fantastic cycle trails, stunning back-country roads and urban commuter routes. On paper it sounds like an idyllic New Zealand adventure and certainly something that many people have on their bucket list. In reality, it might not be so easy.
"Outside support is not allowed, tour riders are encouraged to support each other," adds Jonathan. This means no campervans following alongside with coffee and no support from family along the way.
Sounds tough? Well it probably will be. I asked Jonathan whether riders will be able to maintain 100km each day for 30 days. His response was cautious, “for the first 1000km they will, after that, all bets are off!”. The riders are expected to be competent, skilled riders with bike-packing experience. While riders will be self-sufficient for the majority of the trip, as a luxury they are allowed to stay at any public accommodation such as motels or camping grounds along the way.
Tour Aotearoa will follow a sensational route. Along the way, Jonathan expects riders to be surprised by the beauty of the New Zealand landscapes and natural features. “I think everyone will be blown away by the Bridge to Nowhere in Whanganui National Park, and the cloud forest around Mt Pureora on the Timber Trail. For most Kiwis the Waikato River Trail will be a big surprise, it’s kind of a secret river."
As a way to share the experience, riders are required to take photos at designated locations along the way. “Each rider has to stop, take a photo and hopefully enjoy their place in paradise at that time,” Jonathan explains.
It’s not just about the ride in itself, the memories from this journey will last a lifetime. It will be difficult, but imagine the sense of accomplishment when recalling the journey, and revisiting the photos, having conquered the length of New Zealand.