If you’re out and about in Long Bay and don’t mind riding some gnarly hills you might want to give the Coastal Track a crack and head north to the Okura River. A walking path has been there for years, accessed from the stairs just past Vaughan Homestead, but it’s a bit of a roller-coaster with masses of stairs. Now a series of gravel paths have been constructed with bikes and the less adventurous walker in mind. This new trail zigs & zags up the hills at various angles so if you have a mountainbike with nice low gears it’s totally ridable, if a little steep in places. Teenage kids will cope fine (with the odd push), but leave the little guys at home, or walk the tracks instead.
The cycle track starts at Vaughan Flats in the north-western corner of Long Bay Regional Park. Pedal past the ranger station on the access road from the main gate and you’ll see it sign-posted on your left. The first half of the trails are graveled tracks and farm access roads. As you approach farm gates there are ridable stiles initially (which are great), but as you progress further you’ll have to muscle your bike over the fences and use the traditional stiles provided for yourself. Sounds like hard work, but there are only a couple of these.
When that first climb out of Long Bay is over (it’s the hardest one) you can ride straight down into Grannys Bay or detour along the 100 Acre Trail on your left. In summer I’d recommend doing this as it’s a fun 10-minute loop with glimpses of the surrounding farm and panoramic views out to sea as you barrel down into Grannys Bay. This section is grassed so I’m guessing it will be hard-going, and probably muddy when the rains return in winter.
After climbing out of Grannys Bay you drop down into Pohutakawa Bay. Another beautiful spot, but be aware it’s a nudist beach. I’ve got no problem with folks airing their goods in public but why are nudists never 27-year-old fitness instructors? The creepy old men I rode past were not pleasant viewing. It looked like one of those Damien Hirst conceptual art installations where human forms have been assembled from a selection of German sausages. Eeeeew, gross.
Some things can never be unseen, I struggled to keep my muesli bar down as I pedaled with renewed vigor up and over the hill out of there!
As you head north the gravel surface ends and the trail follows the cliff edge on grass, skirting along the fence-line. Although you’re relatively high-up the sea views are mostly blocked by gorse and scrub, with only glimpses of coastline through the trees. It’s more like a ride in the country.
The trail is part of Te Araroa - New Zealand’s Trail, a 3000km route stretching from Cape Reinga to Bluff. That came as a surprise to me because after the final downhill you’re deposited on a muddy beach with seemingly nowhere to go. By bike it’s a u-turn and back to Long Bay, but as I discovered the Te Araroa route takes you across the estuary, and joins the Okura Bush Walkway on the opposite side. With my swimming skills that’s not something I’ll be attempting anytime soon. It looked like a Westpac Rescue Helicopter moment to me, but a bloke I met who had just walked across assured me the channel was only knee height.
So there I was, sat on a rock looking across the river mouth to Stillwater. Time for a snack and a drink, then back on the bike for the three or four kilometre ride back to Long Bay. Like most of these little adventures the ride out seems to last forever but the return leg takes no time at all, I’ll never understand that.
Was this crease-in-time the mind playing tricks, or a subconscious effort to escape the sausage-men? That, I’ll never know, but I think if the weather is kind you’ll enjoy this little ride as much as I did.
Okay, okay, I know it’s got nothing to do with North Shore cycling, (or even Auckland cycling for that matter), but I’m scratching around for content and I thought you might be interested in bike infrastructure done right, south-of-the-border in this case.
While it’s hard to spot any money being spent on cycling up here, our cow-bothering neighbours in the Waikato are throwing bucket-loads at it, and it’s money well spent. In Mooloo country recently for a school rowing event I escaped the rigours of parent-help and went exploring on two wheels with my young daughter. Since my last visit the bike-path beside the rowing course had been completed and I was keen to check it out.
From the official website:
When complete, the Great New Zealand River Ride will travel 70 kms along the shoreline of New Zealand’s largest & longest river – the mighty Waikato. With a gentle contour it is an easy ride suitable for all ages and abilities. It is designed to work as a linear route or as a location based route with two key hubs; Hamilton and Cambridge.
Te Awa is being built in sections, with the full 70km expected to be completed in 2015. The sections through Hamilton City and between Cambridge and the start of the rowing course at Lake Karapiro are completed and can be enjoyed now.
Not to be confused with The Waikato River Trails ( an “off-road” experience), Te Awa (The Great New Zealand River Ride) is suitable for all bikes and abilities with mostly paved surfaces and boardwalks. The completed section mentioned above starts at Leamington (sort of the ass-end of Cambridge) by the pony club and follows the road on a beautiful wide path down to the dam at Karapiro. From there you continue past the rowing centre, following the river (lake?) along to the starting gates of the rowing course itself. That’s the bit we rode and where all these photos were taken.
It was a stinking-hot day but a gentle breeze off the water cooled us some, and we were in no hurry. The Midget Assassin is not a cycling fanatic (unlike Dad), but there was plenty to look at along the way and the five or six kilometres we rode was about right. My sons’ mountainbikes hang unloved in our garage, I don’t want to put this one off cycling!
We parked at the far side of the dam and waited our turn to cross back over. Sensors detect waiting vehicles, but cyclists have to push a button to trigger the phase. That’s okay, kids love pushing buttons, and when the lights turned green we raced across straining to see over the railing to the huge drop beyond.
When you reach Mighty River Domain (AKA, the rowing venue) you could continue along the path beside the main road, but it’s more fun to cut through the domain itself and have a nosey around. If it’s summer there’s bound to be something on and you may strike the child-cyclists’ dream – the mobile food vendor! Mr Whippy was doing a roaring trade at the Waka Festival the day we passed-through and my wallet was quickly lightened.
The path attempts to follow the waters edge with twists & turns and ups & downs. Some parts were much steeper than they needed to be, but it all added to the fun, before you know it you’ll be at the end. Time for a drink, a snack, or a nap, and retrace your route unless you want to join the road and continue east. We enjoyed the long boardwalk section most as it hugs the bank right down at the waters edge and you feel more connected to the lake.
All in all, a great little family ride. Not something you’d specifically drive to the Waikato for (not until the whole 70km is joined-up), but worth a look if you’re in the area.
As we pedalled around the Waikato on this beautiful infrastructure I couldn’t help thinking what an opportunity we’re missing up here in Auckland. Imagine riding from downtown Auckland through Wynyard Quarter, up and over the Harbour Bridge taking in the views, stop at Northcote Point for coffee, then down to Takapuna Beach for lunch. Catch the ferry from Takapuna wharf back to town or continue down the coastal paths to Devonport.
You can string together some of that route at the moment, but it’s a haphazard affair, with an emphasis on hazard. Done properly it would encourage bicycle commuting and be an attractive activity for tourists.
Entries are now open for this year’s instalment of Bike The Bridge. I did the inaugural ride in 2011 with my youngest son and it’s a great thrill to pedal up and over the coat-hanger.
There’s 105km and 50km distances for the hard-core, the 20km “standard” ride for the rest of us, and events for primary school aged riders and little ones at the final destination, North Harbour Stadium.
Now, don’t get me started on why we shouldn’t be able to bike the bridge any day of the year, but until that happens a fun ride supporting a worthy charity is no bad thing!
All the information you need is here.
A few photos from the 2011 ride…
Yes, yes, I know this is supposed to be a “community cycling” blog, but I’m a mountainbiker at heart and wanted to share some photos from the weekend. The riding was so good and my camera seemed to be operating on auto-pilot all day.
The wind was howling, the surf was booming and every motorised contraption in West Auckland was thundering up and down the northern end of the beach. Being classed as a national highway they’re perfectly entitled to, but wheelying your motocross bike at 120kph is probably frowned upon in law enforcement circles.
There didn’t appear to be a whole lot of law enforcement going on; dirt bikes, mini bikes, quad bikes and off-roaders of every size and shape were going balls-out in all directions. It was all great fun, if a little scary riding a bicycle in the midst of a petrol-head circus maximus.
Oh, fat-bikes? I’ll explain those in another post. But it goes without saying they’re right at home on the beach.
I drove out to Woodhill Forest this morning after dropping my son at rowing training.
At 6.00am in the morning you’re in that no-man’s-land of “it’s still the middle of the friggin night” but “it’s too late to go back to bed”.
Even after stopping at Kumeu for a coffee and sticky bun I was the first one to arrive at the mountainbike park, I’m never the first at anything!
So early in fact, it was too dark to ride. So I assembled my mojo, got the fat-bike ready to roll and reached for the camera.
I tell ya, getting out in the fresh-air on a mountainbike is one of the best experiences you can have.
Not as good as sex. Not as good as salt & pepper prawns from Chinatown washed down with cold beer. But it’s up there, it’s really up there.
If you’ve been a regular visitor to this blog you may have seen my big purple mountainbike pop-up from time to time. With it’s chunky 3.7 inch tyres (on 65mm rims) it tends to stand-out in a crowd, and with me being 6′ 5″ it’s a huge bike by any measure.
Seven years ago when I put my Pugsley together the category didn’t even have a name, we called them snow-bikes, sand-bikes or adventure bikes. As the genre grew and more manufacturers got onboard “fat-bike” became the standard description. You can’t really argue with that handle, they might not be as heavy as they look, but they certainly are fat, and getting fatter year by year.
I’m going to do a proper post on fat-bikes another time and share why they’re so addictive and so much fun. For now let’s just say most of the allure is in those words above; snow, sand & adventure.
I’ve had such a blast on my purple fatty it amazes me they haven’t taken-off down-under, we are surrounded by beaches and mountains after all. In the USA and Canada, and to some extent Northern Europe the bikes are starting to sell in numbers. That has piqued the interest of the big boys and fat-bikes are no longer the domain of boutique brands and custom frame-builders.
So after four paragraphs of waffle I’m finally getting to the point. If you want to see the latest in next-generation fat-bikes, the ones with even fatter tyres on even fatter rims, get down to Echelon Cyclery in Barrys Point Rd. Echelon are a Specialized dealer, and Specialized are very big bike company indeed.
This is their first entry in the fat-bike market and they’re not mucking around. My Surly Pugsley looked decidedly wimpy propped-up next to it, almost track-bike thin. The FatBoy’s swoopy alloy frame and carbon fibre fork looked great but like most fat-bikes it’s the wheels that grab your attention. Rather than speccing established rims and tyres (some manufactured by competitors), Specialized have developed their own. Usually that would concern me, but the Big S have a long history of tyre development and these chunky 4.6 inch variants of their Ground Control design look the business.
The 90mm single-wall rims are very striking, a filigreed work of art. With a fat-bike you are only running between 6 and 15psi so to save weight you can cut holes between the spokes and the rim-strip only bulges out a few millimeters.
If you’re in anyway interested in these amazing machines get down to Echelon pronto and check it out. There are only four in the country, it won’t be there for long.
Tell them Bike Friendly North Shore sent you. Better yet, why not buy the thing? Then I’ll have some company riding on the beach!