Tag Archives: Mountain biking with kids

Hauraki Rail Trail

We’ve spent a lot of time exploring the Karangahake Gorge area but never on our bikes which is somewhat surprising. When the kids were younger we spent a lot of time at Waihi Beach – I think I found it easier going to the same holiday home so you know what to expect when the kids were younger and its an easy 2 hour drive from Auckland.

The kids got older, we got more adventurous, discovered mountain biking and haven’t spent quite so much time in the area. In the school holidays I thought it would be nice to revisit the area and do some of the Hauraki Rail Trail. As an icy blast swept the country we headed South to Waihi Beach, at least we were there for 4 days so hopefully we could get one fine, not too chilly day. As luck would have it the second day we were there dawned bright and sunny…if a little chilly. After we had fueled up and layered up we drove to the Waikino carpark.

Hauraki Rail Trail mapI didn’t realise until I was looking up the website for this ride that the trail goes from Waihi township to Paeroa and then South to Te Aroha and North to Thames where it also heads round the Firth of Thames towards Kaiaua on the Seabird Coast. More information on each section of the trail is available here.

We decided to ride through the Gorge as we have always enjoyed the history of the area and have read that it’s the most picturesque part of the trail. There is a tunnel under State Highway 2 that connects the Waikino carpark to the trail. Then across the Ohinemuri River on the first bridge of many on the trail. Within a couple of hundred metres you encounter your first historic site at the Victoria Battery. The Battery had 200 stampers and was the largest quartz ore processing plant in Australasia and the country’s largest producer of gold. There are extensive ruins and points of interest. The Tramway Society of Waikino has open days on Wednesdays Sundays and public holidays.

Not far from here is the historic Waikino pub, accessed via a new swing bridge, and then there there is the stunning Owharoa waterfall only a couple of minutes from the trail but we decided to visit them on the way back seeing as we hadn’t spent much time on our bikes just yet. The trail was lovely and flat so a great gradient for kids or those not looking to expend too much energy.

It was about a half hour ride at a leisurely pace to the narrow part of the gorge where another bridge crosses the river and connects to the tunnel. This end of the tunnel is quite an interesting view as you study the engineering feat of a 1 km tunnel built over 100 years ago with the rush of the rapids in your ears and cars whizzing by on State Highway 2.

We have walked through the 1 km tunnel many times so it was fun to whizz through it on our bikes. The lighting has been upgraded a lot since we first walked through so its very easy to ride. It can be busy with pedestrians and cyclists but when we rode even though there were lots of people on the trails we didn’t encounter too many in the tunnel.

At the other end of the tunnel its straight on to another bridge across the Ohinemuri river again. At this point you can ride North towards Paeroa and Thames or loop back to the main Karangahake Gorge carpark. We rode a couple of kilometers along the river towards Paeroa before turning around and saving that section for another day. I have heard that its not the most interesting ride but if you were looking for a less busy part of the trail to do then this would be worth checking out.

We headed back towards the Karangahake Gorge carpark as we have always loved this area and there is a café there. There are some awesome walks here and if you wanted to explore the area more you might want to bring your bike locks and more food than we did. After a coffee and a snack we retraced our steps ( or wheels as the case might be) back to the tunnel. There is another trail along beside the river that connects to where we first went into the tunnel but the signage was slightly ambiguous as to whether it can be ridden or not and from experience we know its very narrow and there were lots of walkers on the trail so we didn’t want to get in anyone’s way or be getting on and off our bikes all the time – it is a stunning walk beside the river so again if you wanted to do it, bring your bike lock and explore by foot .

Normally I don’t like riding back on the same trail but the views on this trail are so stunning that I didn’t mind at all. There was less stopping for photos on the way back although the kids wanted to throw stones in the river, something we do every time we come and who can resist getting splashed by icy water on a chilly day.

It was nice to have saved the Owharoa Waterfall side trip for our return trip. We couldn’t believe we hadn’t discovered the waterfall before and its always nice to find something new.  It isn’t very well signposted so take the first road into the hills after the battery. Less than 5 minutes from the trail ( and the main road ) there is a stunning waterfall with what would be a great swimming hole in summer.

At this point I realised that only one of the adults needed to drive the car back to Waihi, so lucky me got to ride the 8 km back to Waihi all by myself. While it didn’t have the stunning scenery of Karangahake Gorge section, it was a lovely ride following the river and at times the historic train tracks. This section of the trail was much less popular on the day we rode.

All in all a great way for us to revisit a part of New Zealand’s history and if you haven’t enjoyed the wonders of the Karangahake Gorge before, it’s a must do.

You may also like to read about walking in the Karanghake Gorge or check out other rides we have done with children; Old Coach Rd and the Timber Trail.

Tips for riding with kids

This would be such a great trail to get younger kids out on their bikes and could also easily be ridden with younger children on your bike, bike trailers or tag-alongs.

It’s a mostly grade 1, a great gradient and has nice wide paths. There are enough points of interest along the way to keep everyone motivated although this can make for a stop/start ride to fully appreciate the beauty and history of the area.

Pick the distance you want to ride, what most interests you ( or you kids ) on the trail and get out there.

You may also like to read Mud, sweat and tears – a blog I wrote about mountain with kids.

Queenstown cycle trails

There is lots to do in Queenstown and lots to spend your money on, especially when you factor kids in as well. Thankfully once you have invested in your bike gear mountain biking is a relatively low cost activity.

So with four days to spend ( as little money as possible ) in Queenstown we decided to mountain bike. There are lots of different options depending on your need for speed and again how much money you want to spend. There is the Skyline Gondala tracks, a mountain bike park at 7 Mile Bay and a range of trail rides between Queenstown, Arrowtown & Gibston Valley Winery.

The team at Round the Basin Bike Tours were super helpful and as we were riding with the kids and wanted it to be a fun experience for them (and us) we decided to ride out to the Kawerau Bungy Jumping bridge, about 25km from Queenstown. We booked the pickup and hoped for fine weather the next day.

The day dawned bright and sunny , we probably would have ridden in the rain but is always nice to enjoy the views in the sunshine. We drove out to Frankton and parked there to cut a few kilometers off the trail for the kids and avoid having to cross roads etc getting out of town. Where we joined the trail gave us stunning views of the Remarkables for the adults and adorable Shetland Ponies for the kids. In fact the kids had so much fun patting the Shetland ponies and I was enjoying the views so much it was hard to get started.

As luck would have it the views continued to deliver along the trails but the only other wildlife we saw were rabbits. Wow, I knew they were a problem in the South Island but it felt like they were taking over as they sat in fields not concerned at all by our passing.

Anyhow back to the trail; the track is very well made and mostly downhill with three relatively small hills to climb. There was a bit of bike pushing for the kids, well make that bike pushing for the adults but nothing too major.

Some highlights from the part of the trail that we rode include; riding over the old restored Shotover river bridge, riding through farmland alongside Kawerau River and watching the jetboats go past and the Arrow River suspension bridge (it’s a long way down to the river ).

The views along this trail are simply stunning from mountains to rivers and amazing bridges. And if there wasn’t enough adrenalin on the trail you could always book in a bungee jump from the Kawerau Bridge. We just chose to watch but still a great end to an awesome ride.

Top tips

When we did the ride the distance wasn’t marked and after about what we hoped was half way we did feel like we were rushing to meet our pickup. As my very wise Aunt later told us – its always less stressful to be dropped off and ride ( or walk ) back to your car if possible.

If wineries are your thing you could carry on riding down river to the winery for a late lunch.

Waitangi Mountain Bike Park

Waitangi Mountain Bike Park where have you been all my life! My husband’s parents retired to Paihia about 15 years ago so it’s fair to say we have spent a few holidays in Pahia but sadly not had any where to ride. Apart from that time we bought our bikes and rode the forestry tracks which just isn’t that exciting. So it was with great excitement that we heard that Waitangi was getting its very own mountain bike park.

We were heading further North for part of our Northland adventure and sadly didn’t get a chance to ride our bikes anywhere in the Far North, so when we arrived in Waitangi I would have gone straight to the bike park. Lucky my husband is the voice of reason and pointed out it was a little hot so we decided to go first thing next morning…the day after New Year’s and we stayed in a campground. Lucky we love mountain biking tired or not ( notice I don’t mention hungover – we are too old for that )

So after a stop for coffee on the way and another read of the trail maps we were in to it. The trails we rode in on started off a little bumpy and stony, and unfortunately my daughter took a tumble. Lucky she is tough like her mother and got back on her bike or it could have been a very short ride indeed. We headed up Taane’s climb which was a relatively easy climb. Was a great view from the top and then a lovely flowing ride down Kiwi Flow.

As the park is quite new there are limited rides at this stage so it was up Taane’s climb again, only this time we didn’t go all the way to the top and rode down Kaokao Chaos.
All in all a great addition to the Bay of Islands. We thoroughly enjoyed our ride and can’t wait for future development of the park.

Top tips

It’s very dusty when the clay is dry so glasses would be handy.

It’s further out of town than we realised so we are pleased we didn’t ride out like we had thought we might.

At the moment the only way to pay is for a yearly pass which at $25 we figure is a good investment into further trail development and a reason to visit the in-laws.

And a shout out to the sponsors:

Waitangi Mountain Bike Park, Northland, New Zealand
Waitangi Mountain Bike Park, Northland, New Zealand

Twin Coast Trail, Opua to Kawakawa

We had ridden the Opua to ‘the bridge’ section of the Twin Coast Trails once before but we had heard the bridge was open for the summer so we were excited to be able ride over the bridge and make it to Kawakawa for a coffee.

It was predicted to be a 29 degree day so we set out early, OK early-ish we are on holiday after all. Opua harbour was looking stunning as we drove to the start of the ride. The carpark for the bike ride already had a few cars in which was good to see.

The tide was in and we were pretty much instantly treated to lovely views of the Kawakawa River. The ride is on gravel that has been put down over old train tracks and is relatively flat and an easy ride. When we are riding other trails with the children we stop to give them a rest every so often but the only reason we were stopping was to enjoy the stunning views.

Usually from the Opua end you can only get to the bridge before Kawakawa ( just short of a coffee stop ) but over the Summer period ( of 2017 ) the council has got the bridge to a safe standard for people and their bikes. Thanks Far North District Council!

Not only does this ride have a bridge, its got a tunnel as well. Just short enough that you can easily see all the way through.

Usually I don’t enjoy riding over bridges ( think Timber Trail suspension bridges and the Old Coach Rd viaduct ) but I really enjoyed riding over this one. Maybe it was the thrill of knowing that its only open for a short period of time.

From there it was a short ride to Kawakawa for a coffee and a refuel for the kids and as an added bonus we go to see the steam train going through town and coming back again. If you haven’t checked out the Hundertwasser Toilets they are well worth a visit as well.

The return ride was just as enjoyable and an easy 11km return ( we rode 22km in total ) without so many stops for photos.

Top tips

This is a great ride to do with kids or are enjoying holiday mode a little too much.

As we were leaving there were people about to do the rides with e-bikes.

Check if the bridge is open. We found out the bridge was open on the Bay of Island VIntage Railway website and at that stage it was open until the 8th of February 2017.

Mountain biking with kids – mud, sweat and tears

We were mountain biking with a group of adults who hadn’t ridden with our children for ages and one of them had never even meet our children. The adults and I were catching up to my husband and the kids who had gone on ahead. We started riding up a solid 20 minute uphill trail ( Sidewinder for those of you that know the Redwoods ). We have ridden it with our kids once before and there was a bit of bike pushing but it’s all part of the experience. The guy who didn’t know our kids was saying ‘your kids can’t be on this trail’ and at one point he actually stopped and said I should call my husband to find out where they were.  Not sure if he was questioning my navigation skills (which are questionable ) or our children’s fitness levels. So we got to the top of the hill and there were my little mountain bikers with big contented smiles on their faces. ‘I rode all the way’ says my 8 year old – and then I had a big contented smile on my face.

Ok, so am pretty proud of my kids. They love mountain biking and we love mountain biking with them but it wasn’t always like this. I can still remember the first time we went riding with the kids, they were 5 and 8 years old. I almost didn’t change into my bike riding gear coz I thought it was going to be a short ride. Of course we started off on the easy trails and there was a lot of bike pushing and moaning…and not just from the kids. After about 6 km we headed back to the café for a refuel and probably thought that was it but after some cake they were keen to go out again so we ended up doing 16km that day.

We started going to Rotorua on a more regular basis and took the kids riding about once a month with varying degrees of success and lots of perseverance. We spent a lot of time getting their confidence and fitness up on the kid’s trails. And then gradually the moaning decreased, the enthusiasm increased and we ventured onto harder trails.

And they aren’t just fair weather riders either – one time it was pouring with rain when we set out and didn’t stop the whole time we were out. Not only was it wet, it was cold. When we got back to the carpark after 2 hours ride we were covered in mud, soaked to the bone and freezing cold with the biggest smiles on our faces, kids included. Nothing more bonding and character building than a shared adventure.

So it might not happen overnight and there will probably be a few tears but it’s worth it to share your love of mountain biking or tramping or whatever form your adventuring takes because as the good memories grow the challenge of getting there fades. In fact the challenge of getting there are part of the good memories.

So when our friends thought there was no way my kids would be on the steep uphill trail I knew they would be because we had put in the mud, sweat and tears to get them there.

Top tips

Unless you are Mother Teresa,  this is going to test the limits of your  patience but it will be worth it!

Try and get out on a regular basis. Just like us, the more your kids do something the easier it becomes.

We have found that mountain biking with kids is more dangerous than riding with adults. Seems to be something to do with their unpredictability, sudden stops and my daughters ability to ride at ridiculously slow speed. So have your wits about you!

Take sugar or whatever it takes to keep your child going and be prepared to stop often.

Invest in the best gear you can afford for your kids to enjoy the activity, e.g cycle shorts for cycling. We wouldn’t want to ride without cycle shorts so why would our kids.  My husband gets lots of great deals on trademe. Buy unisex colours and styles. You could also suggest to friend’s and relatives that they buy related gear for your kids birthdays or Christmas presents.

Check out my blog on training for Tongariro Crossing with kids.