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 New Zealand – Riding in Kiwi country

 

It’s a long, long way away… but it should definitely be on every mountain biker’s list of places to visit. At the time of writing, New Zealand’s borders are completely closed due to Covid 19. But in the meantime, make the most of these great images captured during a France Bike Trips tour in 2019. Epic rides, wide open spaces and stunning scenery…

 

Photos: Pascal Gaudin Text: Géraldine Benestar

 

This article is supported by FRANCE BIKE TRIPS

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Nouvelle zélande, sur les routes de l'Île du Sud

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En route to the south island's top riding spots... with stunning scenery right from the word go!

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The start of our road trip! Mountain biking is extremely popular here, and lots of Kiwis ride offroad. Whether it's DH, enduro or cross country, the trail building and upkeep are super organised.

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In Castle Hill, where Lord of the Rings was filmed, we get our first taste of springtime weather in New Zealand. It snowed all night, and we set off in the rain!

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Snow-capped summits, menacing skies and beautiful light make for a superb big mountain atmosphere.

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An iconic species in New Zealand, tufts of tussock grasses, that can grow to an impressive size, are a regular feature all over the countryside here.

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Wild mountain atmosphere in the area around Lake Tekapo. The famous Aoraki/Mount Cook, highest peak in New Zealand at 3724 metres, looms large in the background.

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With scenery like this, you can easily imagine yourself in Tolkien's fantasy world...

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A great singletrack trail leads us to the mesmerising turquoise waters of Lake Tekapo. Its impressive colour derives from its glacial origins in the nearby mountains.

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Pink lupin flowers, alongside the turquoise waters of Lake Tekapo, with snow-capped peaks in the background offer a picture postcard setting! The small town of the same name is a popular tourist destination... We recommend giving it a miss, and making the most of the great wild and beautiful surrounding countryside.

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A week of rain in Wanaka led to some exceptional flooding... which means we don't get to experience the full potential of the destination. The area usually benefits from a dry climate at this time of year (spring runs from September to November in New Zealand). However, climate change appears to be influencing the local weather...

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The area around Wanaka benefits from some 750km of superb trails... and the adverse weather doesn't stop us from enjoying some great riding.

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A "Gold Rush" atmosphere on the road between Wanaka and Queenstown...

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Yes, it's a bra fence! Though controversial, the Cardrona Bra Fence has become a major tourist attraction over the last 20 years. The installation enables a charity to collect funds to fight breast cancer.

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Welcome to Queenstown, the outdoor sports and mountain biking mecca of New Zealand! Surrounded by mountains and ideally situated on the banks of Lake Wakatipu, the small town is busy with tourists all year round. The Skyline bikepark offers chairlift access to a world class network of around 30 enduro and DH trails.

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The bikepark is a maze of well maintained, flowy trails, with a sumptuous decor as a backdrop!

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The bikepark draws top dirt jumpers from all over the world. Here, a French rider shows us how it's done, making the most of the southern hemisphere summer whilst Europe is under snow!

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We leave the DH section of Skyline in search of wilder trails on the Fernhill Loop. Climbing on singletrack is definitely harder work, but the scenery more than makes up for it!

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On the trails in front of the Remarkables Range, with the scent of the broom bushes in flower.

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Change of scenery the following day as we find ourselves at the top of the Coronet Peak chairlift at 1647m above sea level. We enjoy the panoramic views of the surrounding mountains, with the Southern Alps in the distance, before dropping into a great descent!

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After riding through dry, rocky alpine landscapes, we rediscover a more spring-like atmosphere.

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We end the day in a small town full of colonial architecture. A mix of old world UK and USA!

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A particularly inviting sign after a long day in the saddle. Burgers never tasted so good!

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Not far from Queenstown, Moke Lake has an impressive volcanic and glacial atmosphere!

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Sheep are everywhere in New Zealand, and roam free over large areas. You could be forgiven for thinking we're in Scotland!

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A network of tracks lead us around Moke Lake without disturbing the local flora. Particularly environmentally aware, New Zealand strikes a great balance between human activity and wildlife protection.

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Non endemic forests are restricted, in order to repair the mistakes of the past. Such is the case for this pine forest, controlled in order to prevent it from replacing native species.

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The day, and our journey, ends on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, on yet another dream singletrack trail.

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If this content has given you an insatiable desire to explore the riding in New Zealand, France Bike Trips offers a tour that takes in the best of the riding on the South Island.

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