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Mountain Biking

How to ride the Great Lake Taupo bike trail

Great Lake Taupo Cycle Trail

The Great Lake Taupo Bike Trail has had significant investment in recent years.  There are a bunch of different ways to ride the Great Lake Taupo Bike Trail.  Official websites describe flexibility to cycle it in every direction or stage (there are 3 sections), many businesses offer an endless number of shuttle options.  But all of those options make my head hurt!

Here are my well researched tips on how to ride the Great Lake Taupo bike trail. 

I’ve broken it down to 3 different flavours:

  1. Ride the Eastern sections – Intermediate to advanced riders, half a day
  2. Ride a single section –  Beginner to intermediate riders, half a day
  3. Smash out the full trail in a day – Advanced or fit riders, full day

1. Recommended ride for intermediate – advanced riders – 34km

Start – Orakau carpark (30km from Taupo).  Start riding at around 9.30

Orakau to Kawakawa Bay:  10km -1h. 

Kawakawa Bay to Kinloch  K2K:  9km – 1.5h

Kinloch for lunch.

Kinloch to Whapaipo – W2K:  13 km – 2h

Finish – Whakaipo Bay (13km from Taupo).  At your car/shuttle by 3pm

Total distance:  34 km



Option 1:  Park your own car at Whakaipo.  Catch a shuttle to Orakau carpark

Option 2:  Shuttle from Taupo – Orakau.  Shuttle Whakaipo to Taupo.

Do you have a bike?  Just arrange a shuttle from FourB

Do you need to hire a bike?  FourB also provide a range of regular and electric mountain bikes


Recommended ride for beginner to intermediate riders – 20 km:

Start – Orakau carpark

Finish – Kinloch – 20km

Distance – 20km


This trail is mostly downhill.


Full trail

Start – Waihaha (45mins drive from Taupo)

Ride the 25km from Waihaha, take the boat across to Kawakawa or Kinloch

Kawakawa Bay to Kinloch  K2K:  9km – 1.5h

Kinloch to Whapaipo – W2K:  13 km – 2h

Finish – Waikapo

Distance:  54 – 63km  – 6-8 h riding



You’ll almost certainly need a shuttle to get you to Waihaha.  You could either meet in Taupo or at the finish at Waikapo (probably easiest so you can be more flexible with time).

You’ll need to arrange a boat trip with your bikes, any Operator can do this.  Around $75-100 depending on # people.

Variation:  You can shorten this trip a bit by finishing in Kinloch instead of Waihaha.  But honestly, you’re so close to finishing the whole trail in one, just do it!


Other options:

Western side only – start and finish at your car at Waihaha

This is a cost effective day trip of the western side, it’s easiest to start and finish yourself at Waihaha, which unfortunately means riding back on yourself.    Rent your bike in Taupo and throw it in the back of your car (if you’ve got room!).

Western side only – start at Waihaha and finish at Kinloch

This is an expensive option just to get a boat ride with a mountain bike.  You’ll need a shuttle from Kinloch to Waihaha ($50+ per person) and $75-100pp for the boat ride.

Cycle back to Taupo instead of catching a shuttle?

It’s pretty boring and chances are you’re knackered after the long ride.


Where to hire bikes and get shuttles?

Hire a bike in Taupo.

FourB will bring the bike to you with their shuttle.  They hire out electric mountain bikes, which would be a great option for less fit or experienced riders to keep up with (or even overtake) the group.

Taupo Mountain Bike Hire Huka Falls are the only Operator hiring out Full Suspension bikes, which would be a dream to ride on this sort of track.

Find a bike to hire and book a shuttle

More information:

The Taupo website has more information about the trails.

Equipment Mountain Biking

Choosing a Bike Helmet in New Zealand

Mountain Bike helmet selection

Getting the right bike helmet could save your life!

All bike helmets sold in New Zealand and Australia must meet a government approved safety standard, so you can rest assured that no matter what you buy from a legitimate retailer, it will be safe.

(With thanks to Torpedo Seven for the following article on choosing a bike helmet)

Bike helmets are an absolutely essential piece of gear when you are riding a bike, not only because it is illegal not to wear one in New Zealand, but because bike helmets could save your life if you are in an accident. 

Bike Helmets come in three basic styles; street style, road and mountain. Different styles have features specific to their riding situation. All helmets are designed to protect a riders head from impact at the same time as being both lightweight and comfortable to wear. 


Helmet Construction:

The differences: There are 2 main types of bike helmet construction, hard shell & in mould construction. Entry level mountain bike helmets consist of a foam liner that is taped or glued to a hard shell exterior. This type of construction makes the helmet slightly heavier with fewer venting options.

The majority of medium to high end bike helmets will have an in mould construction. This means the interior liner of the helmet is built into the hard outer shell while it is still in the manufacturing mold. Therefore, creating one piece of material with a hard outer. In mould helmets are lighter, stronger and have more venting options.

There is generally no difference between the two options in terms of protection and overall safety.

The benefits: The main points of difference is hard shell construction bike helmets have a cost benefit (cheaper to buy), and in mould helmets have a weight and ventilation benefit. However, with the added benefits of in mould you can expect to see a higher price tag associated with the technology.

Helmet Construction Materials

There are also some lesser known technologies making there way in to bike helmet construction, the most prominent of those is the use of Koroyd (honeycomb material) in combination with EPS foam (in mould). The use of Koroyd in the construction of bike helmets allows manufacturers to drastically cut weight and volume, without compromising protection. 

Key Features of a Helmet

Liner: Most inner helmets are made of expandable polystyrene (EPS) foam, designed to dissipate the force of impact. EPS foam liners are an industry standard for action sports, have a low-profile and are lightweight. Higher end helmets are made out of lighter and stronger materials, therefore the more expensive the helmet, the more force it will absorb when your head takes a knock.

Shell: The outer component of a bike helmet is typically made of composite materials like fibreglass, or very hard plastics such as polycarbonate or ABS. The hard shell is designed to spread the force of an impact over a broader area

Ventilation: Vents are designed to keep you cool and comfortable while you’re riding. Road cycling helmets typically have a large amount of vents to enhance wind flow over your head and keep you cool. Having a large amount of vents also makes the helmet lighter.

Strap: Trail bike helmets usually have thicker straps for rough terrain, and road helmets have lighter and cooler straps. The strap should be comfortable, adjustable and easy to take on and off.

Weight: Higher end helmets are made out of lighter and more expensive materials. The lighter the helmet, the more comfortable it will feel when you are out riding.

Fit System: Some helmets will come in one size, compared to others that will come in S, M, L etc. All bike helmets will have an adjustable fit system to enable each size to fit a range of head sizes. That way you can adjust the fit of the helmet to your individual head size. Entry level helmets have a basic fit system with less range of adjustment. Higher end helmets will have an adjustable dial at the back of the helmet, which allows for a more precise fit. 

Finding the correct fit is essential! All helmets will have a size guide range that refers to your head circumference. If you are unsure of your size, be sure to take a simple measurement and refer to the size guide.

To discover the best way to get the correct fitting helmet, take a look at this video on bike helmet fitting. Although the soundtrack is a bit crazy, the video brilliant.


When to Replace Your Helmet

Bike helmets are designed to absorb the impact when you hit your head. Therefore if you take a tumble and hit your head, your helmet will become damaged. Helmets are only good for one crash. You should replace your helmet after any significant impact, even if the helmet appears completely fine. 

If you’ve been crash-free, the general recommendation is to replace your helmet after five years use. This is because your helmet will weaken overtime, through exposure to sunlight and pollution. 

Mountain Biking

Mountain Biking Rules in New Zealand

Mountain biking rules in New Zealand

Know the mountain biking rules in New Zealand so you stay safe and have an epic time!

New Zealand’s mountain biking trails range from easy to epic, with special sights and scenery that take riding adventures to a whole new level. Knowing the Mountain Biking Rules in New Zealand means better fun and safety for you on your holiday!

The following MTB code was developed by the New Zealand MTB Association (NZ MBA) in liaison with key stakeholders and DOC. It’s aim is help everyone enjoy the incredible mountain biking opportunities that exist in New Zealand.  It’s a simple set of mountain biking rules in New Zealand that everyone should be able to keep-to, easily.

The Mountain Biking Rules in New Zealand

Always wear a helmet

It’s the law in New Zealand a helmet is required while riding a bike.  But a helmet also protects you and your brain in case of a collision.  It’s nice being alive right?

Respect others

Stay in control. So you can safely avoid others and keep yourself intact. We all love to go fast, but consider who/what might round the corner and be sure you could stop in time.

Give way to walkers

Use a bell or greeting when approaching others. Most negative feedback from walkers on shared-use tracks concerns being surprised by bikers approaching without warning. If you’re heading round a blind bend then simply give a quick blast to let people know you’re there.

Ride shared-use tracks in small groups. 

A ‘bike-train’ with a dozen riders displaces other users. 6-8, or less, is a better number and possibly less impactful on the environment too.

Respect the rules

Only ride MTB and shared-use tracks; stay off closed tracks – including those that are seasonally closed to protect the surface or minimise conflict with other users. Land managers are generally pretty reasonable so talk with them about issues or ideas you may have. If you’re in any doubt, then ask a local, contact the Department of Conservation ( or your local bike shop.

Be prepared

Take food, water, tools, First Aid and warm clothes. Plan for the unexpected such as a change in the weather, an accident or getting lost and late. Conditions in New Zealand can change quickly, that’s why we’re known as having 4 seasons in one day. Be sure to have the right gear with you. If you’re worried, then head to and use the chat function to ask any questions you might have.

Be sure to get a weather forecast for the area you are biking. Head over to to get a good local, New Zealand based forecast.

Obtain permission from private landowners before you set out.

Leave gates as you find them either open or closed to keep stock where they are intended to be.

Respect the track.

Don’t skid, cut corners or make new lines. Skidding creates water channels and causes erosion. Use both brakes to slow down without skidding as you approach a corner. Cutting corners is cheating and damages fragile ecosystems. If there is one thing we get serious about in New Zealand, it’s protecting our eco-system. Why? Because it’s one of the youngest in the world and it’s really rather fragile.

Avoid riding in the mud and rain. 

Both bikes and walkers damage soft, wet tracks.

Clean your bike to prevent spreading weeds like gorse and didymo. this might seem petty, but it comes back to protecting our eco-system, as these plants can wreak havoc.

Take rubbish home.

Rubbish in the outdoors, like banana skins, old tubes and snack wrappers, detracts from everyone’s experience.

Respect public access easements.

Some mountain bike rides travel along public access easements through private land. All easements and tracks are well marked. Please do the following to ensure others can enjoy the same privileges:

Stay on the public easement track.

Leave gates as you find them.

Do not disturb stock – cycle slowly through livestock areas.


On the road

You won’t always be off-road so when you find yourself using the roads in New Zealand, please take care and follow these guides:

  • Follow the road rules – stop for red lights and at pedestrian crossings.
  • Ride predictably, in a straight line and signal your intentions clearly in advance.
  • Ride no more than two abreast and only where safe and appropriate.
  • Try not to slow the flow of traffic – where practical pull over to let vehicles pass.
  • Courtesy works – a wave and a smile to other road users will help foster a more positive attitude to cyclists.
Equipment Mountain Biking

How to choose the right mountain bike size

Getting the right mountain bike size for you!

Getting the right mountain bike size for your body can be the difference between a great ride and a terrible ride that will haunt you in days to come.  Why?

  • Your back may have poor posture
  • Your legs over extending (saddle too high)
  • Your legs not extending enough (saddle too low)
  • Your arms too extended, limited control of the bike
  • Your arms too squashed up, uncomfortable steering of the bike

What influences the bike size?

Frame size this is the height and length of the frame.  This is a key thing to get right
Saddle height This is a key parameter to get the leg spinning the pedals at the right angles.  Mountain bikes are designed so there is a lot of adjustment possible, it’s unlikely you’ll every ride with the saddle all the way in, touching the frame.  
Saddle position you can move the saddle forwards and backwards, although on a mountain bike this is rarely changed.
Handle bar stem length this is rarely changed given the adjustment possible on the saddle.

How to choose the right size?

  1. First choose the right frame size, based on your height
  2. Adjust the saddle to fit your leg length.
  3. Go!

A typical size chart:

Bike Size
Rider Height (inches)
Rider Height (cm)
5′ 2″ 5′ 6”
158 168
5′ 6″ 5′ 10”
168 178
5′ 10″ 6′ 2”
178 188
6’ 2” 6’ 6”
188 198
There are size charts for every bike type from every manufacturer.  There is no standard however sizes hover around the same ranges.  So if you’re a medium on one bike then chances are you’re a medium on another bike, unless you’re at the boundary of the range.

How does Leap choose the right bike frame?

We think getting the right bike size is hugely important for a great ride so we ask for the height of the rider to help determine what size you’ll need. Since there are so many bikes, shops will possibly stock different brands of a certain bike type so the sizes may vary slightly.  With the height of the rider the bike shop can decide on the best size, they’re the experts and know their bikes.
Be concerned if you book somewhere and they’re not asking you for it, you might not get the bike you need especially if you’re a Small or X-Large as they carry fewer of these models.
Equipment Mountain Biking

What’s the best type of mountain bike to ride?

Downhill mountain biker and hardtail mountain biker riding trails
Improvements in technology has resulted in a range of incredible mountain bike machines that are purpose built for particular riding styles. The many choices makes it hard to know the best type of mountain bike to ride!

A hard tail, regular mountain bike, that you probably learnt to ride on can certainly get you down the hill.  However there are a raft of other types of bike which will make getting down the hill, and up again, extremely enjoyable due to comfort, traction, cornering ability and it’s ability to help you cycle uphill again.

Here are our recommended best types of mountain bike to ride for a variety of New Zealand bike trails.
Recommended bike to use
Whakarewarewa, Woodhill Forest, Makara Peak and other all round mountain bike parks
Full suspension
Skyline Gondola
440 MTB Park, or other shuttle assisted bike parks
Downhill, Gravity or Full suspension
Grade 3+ Great Rides, eg. 42 traverse
Full suspension All purpose or XC
Grade 2 Great Rides, eg. Timber Trail
Full suspension or Hard tail.
Grade 1 trails, eg. Oriental Parade, Auckland Waterfront, Hawkes Bay iWay
Hard tail
Why are full suspension bikes the most common bike listed above?  They’re the most comfortable to ride, and that comfort also means the trails are safer and easier to ride resulting in a much better experience for you.  There are much better options than hanging on for dear life riding down a technical trail on a hard tail.   
Since full suspension bikes are more expensive and require more maintenance they’re not as common to find for hire.  However, Leap makes it really easy to find shops that rent them, just filter the search results
On the flipside, given their cost to buy they’re often bargain to hire, typically $80-$120 per day, and all maintenance is taken care of for you.
Equipment Mountain Biking

What are the different types of mountain bikes?

4 types of mountain bike, downhil, cross country, electric, trail

We used to just call a mountain bike a mountain bike.  Improvements in technology has resulted in a range of incredible machines that are purpose built for particular riding styles.  Now we’re faced with choices like: Full suspension, Hard trail, Gravity, XC, Downhill, 650B, 29er, Fatboy.  What do these all mean?  And more importantly, what should you choose for your next mountain bike ride?  We explain the different types of mountain bikes to you simply:

Type of Bikes:

While there are plenty of different terms manufacturers use to describe their bikes, there are 4 basic types: Cross Country (XC), Trail, All Mountain (Enduro), and Downhill (DH).


Cross Country:

These bikes are suitable for more gentle off road trails or orientated for speed over cross country courses .

  • Hard tail general.  
    • What many people know as a mountain bike”.  This is probably the most common type of bike, typically ridden by beginners and intermediates largely due to low cost to hire or buy.
  • Hard tail performance
    • A lean mean machine designed for speed.  Advanced riders use these for mountain bike races.  Today they typically ride on 29” wheels due to the benefit of momentum and hence speed the wheels bring.
  • Full suspension XC
    • A relatively new type of full suspension bike, for racers or those favouring speed and encountering some rough terrain. 


Modern full suspension bikes can ride anything.  There’s a comfortable range of full suspensions, they’re well placed riding down most downhill sections and speedy uphill.  That’s in part due to rugged construction and nifty features like doing away with the front derauiller and riding 1×11 or even 1×12 group sets.  These full suspension bikes are the second most common bike you’ll see available for hire or buy.

  • Full suspension.  

All mountain/Enduro

These bikes are orientated for the downhill but still with gearing, dropper post for saddle, and suspension stiffness for the rider to comfortably ride uphill. These are a fairly new breed of bike and not as common.

  • Full suspension Enduro
  • Gravity


Downhill beasts.  There is nothing delicate about these, they’re tough machines designed for speed and control on downhill descents.  They’re not designed for riding up hill, in fact you’ll often see downhill riders pushing these up!  As a result you’ll only really have opportunity to ride these on Shuttle assisted, gondola or lift assisted bike parks.

Wheel size:

Chances are you grew up riding 26” wheels however in the last 5 years or so a few variations have appeared on the market:  27.5” (aka 650B) and 29”.

Why ride on bigger wheels?

  • Larger wheels mean they go over bumps easier due to the angle of attack”.  That is, a bump will hit the wheel lower down, because of the wider angle to the ground, which helps it roll over easier. 
  • Larger wheels have more momentum which helps maintain speed.  Racers love this.

Why ride on smaller wheels?

  • Smaller wheels are more nimble.  This is key for control through technical trails.
  • Acceleration less mass and radius aids acceleration.  This is great for exiting corners.

The end result?  Go in the middle 27.5” wheels are becoming the new standard size and versatile for everything.


For a long time 24 or 27 speed was the norm for mountain bikes, that meant 3 gears up front and 8 or 9 down back.  However, Downhill mountain bikes have had just had one gear up front and 8 or 9 at the rear to avoid the dreaded chain slap and largely because they’re only designed for going downhill!

Modern Trail and Enduro bikes are moving to 11 or new in 2017 12 speed.  That is a single gear up front and 11 or 12 at the rear.  This helps solve the problem of chain slap (making noise) for downhill sections, as well as avoiding front gear difficulties such as the chain coming off.  The rider still has a full range of gears required for up and downhill.  New clutch’ technology for the rear derailleur has enabled this.  


Your bike will probably come out of the box with flat pedals, however there are a few altneratives.  When you’re hiring a bike it will come with flats by standard however most mountain biking focused bike providers will have other pedal types and be happy to install them for you.  Just BYO shoes.


  • Clips SPD, Crank Brothers, etc.
    • Clips are great for riding cross country and single track trail riding.  They enable efficient transition of power and control of the bike. The main types in New Zealand are produced by either Shimano or Crank Brothers.
  • Downhill MTB spiky flats.  
    • The spikes on these can shred shins if you’re not careful so wearing knee protection and suitable flat shoes is highly recommended.

Human powered or electrically assisted:

That’s a whole other topic, here’s a story from two different riders trialling an electric mountain bike.

Best tools for the job we match bikes to trails

Given there are a variety of bikes to choose from, then check out this article which will help you decide which one is best, link here.

Mountain Biking

What are the NZ Cycle Trails?

The NZ Cycle Trails are a collection of Great Rides, Heartland Rides and Urban Cycling Networks around New Zealand.  These total around 2,500km total route length.

Many of theses NZ Cycle Trails are relatively new while others are recently upgraded as a result of over $100 Million investment from Government and local communities.  These investments stems from a Government initiative in 2009 to build a quality NZ Cycle Trails network.  The primary objectives of the NZ Cycle Trails are providing a healthy and enjoyable way for Kiwis and international visitors to see the country” [1].

The New Zealand Cycle Trails consists of 3 types:

  •  Great Rides, 
  •  Heartland Rides 
  •  Urban Cycling Network.

There can be some confusion amongst New Zealanders what the NZ Cycle Trails are in 2009 when the project was announced it was originally called the New Zealand Cycleway, and later the National Cycleway Project.  It was initially conceived as a continuous cycling route to run through the length of New Zealand, from Kaitaia to Bluff”.  However given the high cost to build the strategy was adjusted to build Great Rides (premier trails) and connect these with Heartland Rides/Cycle Touring (mostly paved trails built along existing corridors and infrastructure), and an Urban Cycling Network.

Sine 2011 Sarah Ulmer has been the official ambassador’ for the New Zealand Cycle Trail.


Where are the New Zealand Cycle Trails?


Great Rides:

The Great Rides of the New Zealand Cycle Trail [2] network are premier and predominately off-road trails that showcase the best of New Zealand our landscapes, environment, culture and heritage.

  • Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail, Canterbury/Otago
  • Around the Mountains Cycle Trail, Southland
  • Clutha Gold Trail, Otago
  • Dun Mountain Trail, Nelson/Tasman
  • Old Ghost Road, West Coast
  • Otago Central Rail Trail, Otago
  • Queen Charlotte Track, Marlborough
  • Queenstown Trail, Otago
  • Roxburgh Gorge Trail, Otago
  • St James Cycle Trail, Canterbury
  • Tasman’s Great Taste Trail, Nelson/Tasman
  • West Coast Wilderness Trail, West Coast

Book a Great Ride   See all Great Rides, find where to hire bikes, shuttles and guides and book online


Heartland Rides/Cycle Touring Routes

On-road cycle touring routes [2] link the Great Rides, urban centre and transport hubs.  These routes encourage cyclists onto scenic backcountry roads where they can experience heartland New Zealand.

    • Cambridge-Waikato River Connection
    • Far North Cycleway
    • Forgotten World Highway
    • Gentle Annie
    • Kaipara Missing Link
    • Kauri Coast Cycleway
    • Manawatu Cycleway
    • Mountains to Sea Connection
    • OTT Trail
    • Rere Falls Trail
    • Route 52
    • Tararua Traverse
    • Timber Trail Connection
    • Wairarapa Valley Cycleway
    • Golden Downs Trail
    • Molesworth Muster Trail
    • Old Ghost Road Roundabout
    • Queen Charlotte Drive
    • Rainbow Trail
    • Touring the West Coast
    • Westport to Old Ghost Road

Book to ride a Cycle trail See all Cycle trails, find where to hire bikes, shuttles and guides and book online

Mountain Biking Top Things To Do

Top 10 New Zealand Family Friendly Bike Rides 

Family friendly bike rides around New Zealand can take your family holiday from great to brilliant! Family friendly bike rides for children that are scenic, fun and exciting for the whole family mean that the entire family has fun riding their bikes, not just mum and dad! From Northland to Otago there are family friendly bike rides to suit all types of families:

1.The New Plymouth Coastal Walkway, Taranaki, New Zealand.

This ride is completely on a purpose built biking and walking track that takes you along the New Plymouth Foreshore and is one of the great family friendly bike rides. This is a great bike ride for families with young children right through to teenagers and can be as long or short as you like. Th bike park in Bell Block allows your little ones the chance to practice their skills at stop signs and road crossings!

Hire a bike

2. Whakarewarewa Forest, Rotorua, New Zealand.

There are some great family friendly bike rides in the Redwoods just outside iconic Rotorua. Take in the massive Redwoods and keep mum and dad happy with the off road yet safe riding terrain. This is a great family bike ride for families with children aged from 4 years and older. 

Hire a bike

3. Hauraki Rail Trail, Hauraki, Waikato, New Zealand.

Spectacular and gentle ride through hills, tunnel, gorge, farmland, bush and wetlands.   The section Waihi to Paeroa (24km) is a spectacular part of the Hauraki Rail Trail.  The trail follows a retired rail network which incorporates a 1 km tunnel, train stations, retired gold mines, water falls, bridges and native bush.  There’s even an icecream stop along the way.  This trail is a must do.

Hire a bike

4. Huka Falls to Aratiti Dam Loop Track, Taupo, New Zealand.

The track out of Huka Falls is not ideal for very young children, however, if you get up the hills then the rest of the ride is relatively flat. This is a great family bike ride for children aged 7 years and over. If you time it right the Dam is opened 3 times daily so you can see the release of the water! On the way back to Huka Falls keep your eyes out for the steaming stream which you can bike alongside!

Hire a bike

5. Tongariro River Trail, Turangi, New Zealand.

The Tongariro River is know for Trout Fishing in New Zealand and alongside of the river runs a beautiful well maintained bike trail that loops around via a swing bridge. This ride is great for young children if you stay on the Turangi side of town and ride up and back down on the trail. For older children cross over on one of the two swing bridges and explore the beautiful landscapes and views from the other side of the river. There is a very steep drop on the non town side of the river, hence we recommend that small children stick to the town side of the track. This is a perfect family bike ride which goes along the river and through native bush.

Hire a bike

6. Raglan Inlet Track, Raglan, New Zealand.

After a family surf lesson at the famous Raglan beach you can all head out for the afternoon on the Raglan Inlet Bike track. Its great for the whole family. This is an easy 10km loop track that will please the whole family with views of the ocean you just learnt to surf in!

Hire a bike

7. Hastings Wineries Cycle Trail Loop, Hastings, New Zealand.

Clip on the children or put them on their own bike  and head out to explore the 11 wineries around the Hastings township. This is a great easy bike ride for children with plenty of stops for mum and dad to do some sampling of local New Zealand wines. Mostly on specially developed cycle paths means this ride is safe for the younger members of the family to bike along.

Hire a bike

8. Oriental Bay Cycle Path, Wellington.

If your family is more comfortable in the city then head out along the Oriental Parade cycle path (shared with walkers) to get a taste of Kiwi city life. Watch your children near the road however!

Hire a bike

9. Twizel River Trail, Twizel, New Zealand.

This is a mostly flat grade 2 family friendly trail with a few gentle climbs. It is more suitable for children aged 7 years plus, depending on their biking experience and fitness. Jump off and head to a local swimming hole along your ride to enjoy a family swim in New Zealands’ clear water!

Hire a bike

10. Kidnappers Coast Ride, Havelock North, North Island, New Zealand.

A family friendly 15-18 km bike ride which also includes some adult wine tasting along the way.

Itinerary Mountain Biking

North Island Mountain Biking trip

The North Island has a lot of great mountain biking trails and mountain biking parks.  The varied landscape in the North Island makes for a spectacular variety of trails within a small radius.  The coast is never far away, so you may be treated to great views, coastal trails, or even coast to coast within a day!  And great volcanic soils means water drains away quickly making most trails ridable all year round and in any weather.

It’s easy to spend a week in the North Island focused on mountain biking.  Here is our recommendation for an awesome North Island biking trip for an experienced biker, starting in Auckland and finishing in Wellington.  It includes a great mix of downhill parks and remote single track trails, experiencing the best of the North Island and New Zealand.


Day 1: Mountain Biking in Auckland

Assuming you’ve hoped off a long haul flight, or even a flight from Australia, then dust off those tired eyes and start at either two of the top mountain bike parks in New Zealand:

FourForty Mountain Bike Park, South East Auckland.

Woodhill Forest Mountain Bike Park, West Auckland.

Grab a full suspension mountain bike and hit the trails for 2 hr to half a day.  Both offer an awesome range of grade 2 grade 6 advanced trails flowing trails, technical trails and jumps so bike that make your bones shiver.  FourForty even offers a bike shuttle to help you get more vertical and rides in a day.  Mountain bike festivals and competitions are held in both of these parks, they’re awesome.

Get a good nights sleep somewhere in Auckland before hitting the road.


Day 2: Mountain Biking in Rotorua

Drive to Rotorua, 2.5 hours from Auckland


Bike Whakarewarewa Forest (also known as Redwoods)  Some of the best purpose built mountain bike trails in NZ set inside a stunning forest.  It lays claim to over 130 km of trails so there is something in the forest for everyone. Trails range from easy grade 1 to super duper excellent grade 5 trails, some long, some steep, some with jumps, some smooth and some machine built, come on over and take a ride.  You could easily spend a day here and still not ride the same trail twice.  There’s also a mountain bike shuttle that runs every 20mins from the base to the top point of the mountain.

 Book a bike to hire


Tip:  See our blog post for our Top trail loops for beginner/intermediate riders in Whakarewarewa.


Sleep in Rotorua


Day 3:  Mountain Biking in Rotorua

Bike Rotorua Skyline Use gondolas to ride purpose built trails from top to bottom. Frequently used for mountain bike festivals, spectacular views over the town

Tip:  This is one of the few places in NZ you can hire a Downhill full suspension bike (180mm travel).  If you haven’t tried one before, this is the place to try.  They’re an awesome experience. Hire one and all the protection equipment from Skyline Gravity Mountain Bike Park, at the base of he gondola and trails.


Book a bike to hire  


Drive to Taupo (1 hour) and sleep there


Day 4: Mountain Biking in Taupo

Bike Great Lake Taupo.  This is a set of a grade 3 trails, around 71km in total, around the western and northern sides of the lake.  It passes throuth a canyon, bush, past waterfalls, remote beaches and more.  The Western and Northern sections are not connected, except you can get a boat transfer between them.  The trip requires a bit of logistics such as shuttle and boat transfer as you’ll want to cycle just one way.


Our tip for an independent traveller doing a day trip from Taupo:

  •  Drive and Park at Whakaipo.  Get Jonny from FourB to collect you in his shuttle and drop you off at either the Orakau carpark (35km/4hour loop back to your car) or Waihaha (71km/8h loop back to your car, including boat transfer).  He also supplies electric mountain bikes, including a full suspension.  If you want a regular full suspension, you’ll need to go to Taupo Mountain Bike Huka Falls, they’re the only one in the area renting them.  You’ll need to get in in the evening of the day before, or first thing in the morning and arrange a shuttle with Jonny around 10am from Whakaipo carpark.   Book now:

 Book a bike and shuttle


Drive to Ohakune (or area around) and sleep there it’ll be a full day tomorrow!  Drive is 1.5 hours

Day 5:  Mountain Biking in Tongariro National Park

Bridge to Nowhere This ride is a bit more gentle than the others but the scenery and experience is awesome, including a jet boat ride with your bike at the end to return you back to civilisation after 40-70km isolated in the bush.  It’s a remote trip best done with a guide, for safety and logistics (shuttle and boat transfer).  A guide will also add an awesome experience due to the rich history of the area and the trail itself Greg from Rag2E is the only guide registered in this area of National Park.


Book a bike, guide and shuttle 


Sleep in Ohakune (or area around)

Day 6:  Mountain Biking in Tongariro National Park


42 traverse Get dropped off at the trail head, it’s then a 520m descent down an old logging road.  Ride through sub-alpline landscape with the backdrop of Mount Ruapehu and Mount Tongariro (aka Mount Doom”).  There are a few river crossings, so best the check with you bike shop before embarking to ensure the rivers are passable.

Ohakune rents out the best full suspension bikes in the area.  Throw the bike into your car/van, drive up to Owhango, park your car there and grab a shuttle to the top from a local shuttle operator.


 Book a bike and shuttle, and guide


Drive to Wellington, 3.5 4 h drive

Day 7:  Mountain Biking in Wellington

Wainuiomata Mountain Bike Park Over 14km of Mountain bike trails set in re-generating native bush and a significant wetland area.  It’s maintained by a keen group of mountain bikers and volunteers and got a wide range of tracks.  

 Book a bike to hire

Tip:  Try out an electric full suspension mountain bike from Wellington electric bikes.  They’re located near the bottom of the trails. 

Makara Peak Bike Park just a few km from the centre of Wellington is an award winning purpose built bike park set in bird filled native bush.  There are over 40km of tracks to suit riders from beginner to expert. 

Sleep in Wellington.  Enjoy the nightlife, the beer and food is amazing in Wellington.  Then fly back to Auckland.


Image:  Mountain Biking Whakarewarewa trails, Rotorua


Image:  Mountain Biking Skyline Park, Rotorua


 Image:  Themal River beside Craters of the Moon and Huka Falls Loop track, Taupo


Image:  Mountain Biking Skyline Park, Rotorua

Image:  Mountain Biking Mount Victoria, Wellington

Special mentions


There are so many other great mountain bike parks not in the list above, but worth a visit:

Waitangi Mountain Bike Park Far North, a 4-5 hr drive from Auckland.

Te Mata Peak Hastings

Craters of the Moon Taupo

Mount Te Aroha Mountain Bike Trail East of Hamilton, on the way to Tauranga

Te Miro Mountain Bike Park East of Hamilton

Te Ara Kakariki Mountain Bike Trails, Raglan, West of Hamilton

Lake Maungamahoe, New Plymouth



You can find a collection of all these bike parks here:

Mountain Biking

Best Mountain Bike Parks in New Zealand

Mountain biking on a mountain bike park trail, jumping over a flow jump

No matter where you are in New Zealand, you won’t be far away from some great mountain bike parks.  These best mountain bike parks in New Zealand all have love and attention from local clubs, businesses and communities to keep the trail riding great.

With the surge in interest of people to go mountain biking, the trails have improved dramatically:  Most parks now employ machines to help build awesome trails; many have shuttles to help get you to the top quicker and more vertical; there are two parks which run off a gondola, these are really downhill focused parks.  

Related posts:

Fun mountain bike parks in New Zealand by region:


Waitangi MTB Park, Paihia    

Parihaka MTB Park, Whangerei


FourForty, Auckland

Shuttle assisted riding.  Close to Auckland City with 440m of elevation and a host of shuttle buses, you’ll spend a day riding a host of trails from steep and techy too fast and flowy! There are machine built trails and hand dug single track, then once finished pop across the road for a swim in the river. Grade 3 / 5.

Woodhill MTB Park

Premier mountain bike park set in a forest, 40km trails. Woodhill mountian bike park has been a staple of the auckland cycling community for a long time. With a lot of trees recenlty being felled the park has undergone a host of trail construction and the new trails are better built, have more flow, bermed corners, surfaced (to stop errosion) jumps and everything between. Be prepared to pedal, but the descents will be worth it. Grade 2 3

Riverhead Forest

Local forest with a bunch of trails leading of a main access route up. Take a map or phone! There is a huge number single track trails in the forest and knowing where you are and where to go is quite important Using Trail Forks or similar is a great option But once you’re on the right track you’ll find enough kilometers of trail to keep you happy all day. Trails are a mix of old forestry roads, motobike trails and hand build single track. Grade 3 / 4

River head West Coast Riders

On the opposite side of the road to the River Head Forest are more purpose built Mountain bike trails with a map, pump track, downhill track, jump track and loads more. There is a lot of machine built trail and some hand built single track (mostly in the existing pine forest). Good for a shorter ride, and a map isn’t as needed in this area. Grade 2 / 4

Maraetai Forest


Pukete Farm

A good (12km) loop in the city boundaries, this mostly flat trail is a great hit out to build fitness or to partake in common races held here. Link it in with the Waikato River trail for an excellent way to get too and from downtown or park in one of the easily accessible carparks. Easy, flat grade 2

Te Miro MTB Park

In the Te Miro Reserve the mountain bike park surrounds the water reservoir in a huge belt of native bush. The tireless efforts of the local community have established a large trail network (X KM’s), reinstating original trails to their former glory as well as adding a great range of new trails, lots of native trails with technical sections with roots and rocks, or wide machine built trails with big bermed corners. You’ll need to enjoy pedalling as the hill has some sharp pinches.


Te Ara Kakariki Bike trails


Cougar Park mountain bike trails have been a feature of the Tokoroa park for many many years, with recent local investment a host of new machine built trails, and the revamp of the old existing trails the park now has a larger range of trails with more variety. Be sure to stop by and take a ride. Grade 2 / 3



Whangamata mountain bike park

Blackhill Mountain Bike Park, Waihi

Scarface Mountain Bike Trails, Thames


Whakarewarewa Forest The Redwoods

A premier bike park in NZ hosting international competitions, 130km of trails, bike shuttle.

Skyline MTB Park

Skyline is the only year round gondola accessed mountain bike trails in New Zealand, they do close in the wet so check their facebook page on the day prior to planning your trip! Just a 5min gondola ride gets you to the top from where there are multiple trails from single track trails to machine built jump tracks. The classic jump trail Mr Black has 32 jumpable features including road gaps, table tops and big doubles and is the most popular trail in the park. Grade 3 / 4



Craters of the Moon

Specific mountain bike trails built by the local club cater for all rider types with over 30km trails starting with family friendly short loops to grade 4 technical trails and everything in between. A permit is required and can be picked up in town from all bikes shops.



Te Mata Park, Havelock North

Eskdale MTB park




Lake Mangamahoe, 30km trails in forest and bush just 15mins drive outside of New Plymouth



Arapuke Forest


Makara Peak MTB Park

Mount Victoria 

Wainuiomata Mountain Bike Park



Codgers MTB Park

Dun Mountain

Kaiteriteri MTB Park

Wairoa Gorge Bike Park (private)




Victoria Park

Christchurch Adventure Park 



Craigieburn trails , Canterbury

Mount Hutt Bike Park, Canterbury


Sticky Forest 

Cardrona Bike Park



Skyline MTB Park

7 Miles Riding Area

Rude Rock Trail, Coronet Peak


Signal Hill, Dunedin



Find mountain bikes to hire, guides and shuttles to get you to the top, all around New Zealand:


Need detailed maps of trails?  Download the Trailforks app .  But do it with wifi so you can download the trail maps so you’ve got offline access when the signal drops in the forest!