A Beginner's Guide to the Otago Central Rail Trail...
Welcome to 152 kilometres of gently rising historic railway track through incredible landscapes, followed by a gentle descent through even more spectacular scenery. And lots of great coffee. And wine. And wonderful places to stay. You're going to love it.
But don't take our word for it - ask the thousands of people who regularly vote it New Zealand's best bike trail. Located in Central Otago, New Zealand's original and most popular bike trail is easy to get to with international airports close to either end. Queenstown Airport is only one hour from the Clyde rail head; Dunedin Airport is only 50 minutes from Middlemarch, and wherever you land there's a range of transport options to get you to and from the trail.
So here's some useful stuff on which direction to go; what our bikes are like, what you should pack, what the weather's going to do, and how to take your butt to bike boot camp.
There's no right or wrong way, but there is wind you could potentially bike into; either from the south - making it hard if you start at Clyde, or from the nor-west, making it tough if you start from Middlemarch. Either way, if the wind's in your face, it'll be a long day. On the plus side, Central Otago is one of New Zealand's least windy places.
The majority of cyclists begin in clyde, but some people reckon the horseshoe bends on Tiger hill are easier when approached from the middlemarch end... It's hard for us to make the call on which direction you should go, so we suggest you bike the direction that best suits your travel arrangements and post trail travel.
The Otago Central rail trail is rated as “Grade 1 Easiest” by New Zealand Cycle Trails, but realistically, if you or your group have low to moderate fitness, or it's been a few years since your rear said hello to a saddle, you might want to allow four or five days to cycle the trail. Or seize the moment and check out our butt boot camp training tips at the bottom of the page...
what's the weather going to DO?
Whatever it wants to, is the short answer. Summer (Dec-Feb) is warm and dry with 20 to 30 C temperatures. Winter (June-Aug) can be ten degrees either side of freezing with an average of -10 to 10 C. Spring (Sept- Nov) can reach 15-25 C or anything in between, and Autumn temperatures (Mar-May) range from 10 to 25 C.
What sort of bikes do you have?
When it comes to hiring a bike for the rail trail, you'll hear a lot about who has most comfortable this and most high-tech that. But not from us. Sure, our bikes are made by GIANT and AVANTI - two of the world's leading bike manufacturers, and, yes, they've got a comfort saddle and wide range of gears for easy riding, plus a light-weight aluminium frame and front suspension to make the trip easier. But, at the end of the day, they're bikes. Not arm-chairs, loungers or bean bags. Bikes. Handlebars, a frame, two wheels, and something to make them go round. Because whatever else you put on a bike, we still reckon the part that matters the most is the bit between the saddle and the pedals.
BIke hire prices: adults bikes from $45 PER DAY/$40 for multi day hire - includes helmet, gel seat and pannier.
E-bikes $100 per day
children's 20" and 24" bikes from $30 per day - includes helmet.
tandem bike $80 per day
half day bike rentals: adults bikes from $25, children's bikes from $20
ALSO FOr HIrE: bike-toad (tow ropes), tag alongs (for riders 110-130 cm tall), toddler trailers ( room for two children with a combined weight of 36 kg) and baby seats.
IF YOU CAN RIDE A BIKE, YOU CAN DO THE RAIL TRAIL...
But we guarantee taking your butt to boot camp will make your rail trail experience even more pleasurable.
You're not getting ready for the Tour De France, but it wouldn't hurt to start showing your butt who's boss a few months before you hit the trail. Here are some pre-trip cycling and cardiovascular suggestions for people of all fitness levels (from people who know their stuff!
If you regularly workout, doing one or two resistance sessions and at least three CV (cardiovascular) sessions each week plus stretching, focus on cycling training and include some back-to-back sessions, where you train on consecutive days. Change your resistance training to focus to concentrate on leg, arm and back exercises.
If you resistance train twice or more per week. Start a gradual cycling training programme. Build up to a minimum of three sessions each week and aim to eventually be capable of cycling for the duration of a single day’s ride. Continue with your current resistance training concentrating on leg, arm and back exercises.
If you exercise occasionally, increase your cycling training to a minimum of three sessions each week and aim to eventually be capable of cycling for the duration of a single day’s ride. Start with one resistance training session each week, building to two sessions as your fitness improves. Use light weights to begin with, only adding weight when you are both comfortable with the exercise and capable of stepping up. Focus on leg, arm and back exercises.
If you haven’t exercised for some time, start a gradual cycling programme of cycling every third day. Build up to a minimum of three sessions each week and of the duration of a single day’s riding. Start with a single resistance training session each week, building to two sessions as your fitness improves. Use light weights to begin with, only adding weight when you are both comfortable with the exercise and capable of stepping up. Focus on leg, arm and back exercises.
What to bring
Padded cycling shorts. Seriously. Everyone wears them
Walking / jogging shoes OR sneakers OR biking shoes
Lightweight leggings (Polyprop / Lycra / Merino)
Mid-weight jacket (merino/fleece)
Long sleeve tee-shirt (merino / micro fleece)
Short sleeve tee-shirt
Small first aid kit (dare we suggest anti-chafing cream?)
A GREAT attitude
Did we mention padded cycling shorts?