6 Apr 2018

On Your Bike: part one

From Country Life, 9:11 pm on 6 April 2018

The Mountain to Sea Cycle Trail from Ruapehu to Whanganui isn't "up there" with the popularity of the Otago Rail Trail yet, but Susan Murray reckons it's only a matter of time. She gets on her bike to check out who is benefiting from extra visitors to the area.

Listen to part two here.

Spending five days on a bicycle might sound like hard work. It mightn't sound like a holiday. Or it might sound like a wonderful break from routine.

For Susan Murray, it was the latter.

Whizzing 17 kilometres down the Turoa ski field road, bouncing along an old coach road built in 1906 and rediscovered 8 years ago, disappearing into the valleys of the Whanganui National Park was a tonic of the addictive kind.

The list continues, cycling over the Bridge to Nowhere, built for the WW1 vets who were trying to farm plots of land in this isolated area, jetboat riding looking at tree-clothed, steep-sided river banks,  paddling a canoe, and grunting up the not-so-gentle Gentle Annie on the iconic Whanganui River Road.

Although only a few years old, the Mountain to Sea cycle trail is starting to make a name for itself. It's not "up there" with the Otago Rail Trail, or even the Timber Trail in north King Country in terms of visitor numbers, but I reckon it will be.

It provides a good challenge and certainly requires a degree of fitness, although according to the accommodation providers at the Flying Fox on the Whanganui River Road, cyclists don't all have athletes bodies.

Co-owner Kelly Stevens says he first sees the riders coming across on the flying fox and thinks "holy moly.... they're not quite what you'd consider cyclists. They come in all shapes and sizes".

Partner Jane McCall adds it's great people are enjoying life "being able to get out into really what is one of the unspoilt parts of New Zealand still".

There is a flow-on effect for many small businesses in the region, too.

Ohakune's New World has queues on busy days – unheard of four years ago. And cafes don't shut down over summer anymore.    

According to Mountain Bike Station owner Mike Fraser, cyclists are spreading the money around a bit more

"Summers are nearly as busy as winter. In winter if the weather's bad people cancel. That doesn't tend to happen in summer. The future's looking very good."