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Cycling the Length of New Zealand

10 min read

Cycling the length of New Zealand had never been a goal of mine until I stumbled across an article on Craig Harper’s successful world record attempt early 2017.

It was originally a planned husband and wife getaway to New Zealand for two weeks in July 2017.

How it came about…

In 2014 I sent a pleading email to my parents asking them if they would consider looking after my two young girls in 2017 so Alice (my wife) and I could get away. At that point in time, both my kids were in nappies and were quite a handful. By 2017 they would be a little easier to look after and my parents would be more likely to say yes if it was in 3 years.

The parents agreed and we slowly started to get excited about July 2017.

Despite the fact it would be winter we decided on New Zealand as it’s where my mother is from and I’d never really ‘seen’ the country, particularly the South Island which many describe as a ‘mini Europe’. It’s also only a 3 hours flight from Melbourne and the time zone is relatively the same, so ease was another deciding factor for two tired parents.

The goal to ride the length of New Zealand, 7 weeks out.

It was my wife who suggested that I ‘do some riding in New Zealand’. So a few months out from our trip I started to research.

A few days into my research I found the article on Craig Harper’s world record.

I started to ponder riding the length of New Zealand. Not in world record speed of 4.5 days but at a reasonable timeframe (two weeks) that my wife and I had planned there.

Despite the fact we had pleaded with my parents to look after the kids 3 years prior, we actually had not planned the trip. We were just going to wing it. So the possibility of disrupting the husband and wife getaway with an epic winter cycling adventure had some merit.

After pondering the thought for a week and analyzing my current fitness levels plus the level of training I’d need to get there, the pondering thought became a pounding reverb in my head. I could do this!

Seven weeks out from our trip to New Zealand I put the idea on the dinner table, and despite a number of “are you serious” style comments, I had the support of my family and wife. I had 7 weeks to train like I’d never train before and also organize a landing page to raise funds for a charity that is close to my heart, CanTeen.

89 hours of saddle time across 13 winter days (2336km)

 To say I was underprepared for this trip would be an understatement.

While I was supported by my wife in a car, I was required to average 180km per day through extreme winter conditions. Not to forget a ½ day for the fairy from the North Island to the South. You can read the full story here

Outside of the weather – which would be as low as -8 degrees at times – one of my biggest challenge on the ride was getting from the Cape Reinga (top of the North Island) to Wellington (bottom of the North Island).

I consulted with ‘Bike By NZ’ about which route I should take for my ride. I wasn’t going for the world record, but I wanted to be as efficient as possible while getting in some nice scenery. The route I had been given was rough, and it suggested a lot of time on HWY 1 (New Zealand’s main and most dangerous HWY) on the North Island.

After spending two days on HWY 1 at the start of the ride, I was looking for every possible way to take detours. This is where the Wahoo Element became an invaluable asset.

Using the route suggestion feature, the ELEMNT guided me from Auckland, all the way down to Wellington (total 767km), only having to touch HWY 1 a couple of times on my way to the bottom of the North. The suggested route feature had me traveling on a number of smaller side roads that ran parallel with HWY 1, giving me confidence that I could get on with riding and not have to stress about analyzing maps every evening or during the day. It was truly a magnificent technology feature that had a profound effect on my confidence. Especially considering I had limited daylight during the depths of winter.

The reflections are emotional.

 Yes, I completely stuffed up a romantic getaway for my wife and me.

However, we both connected deeply with one of the most beautiful countries in the world and my partial motherland. We both got to ‘see’ the Desert Road on a clear day; the Crown Ranges, Queenstown, the Glacier region, the Marlborough Sounds, and a number of small towns and amazing people we would have never have seen if we just went there for a holiday.


Cameron Nicholls, also known as the 10-Hour Cyclist, is a co-founder of Bike Chaser and a passionate amateur cyclist. He shares his insights and ideas on how to get the most out of your cycling performance with less than 10 hours of training per week.




For more on how to optimize your ELEMNT or ELEMNT BOLT check out the Six Must-Have Apps to Synch With the ELEMNT.  Share your cycling adventures in the comments below.

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