When we make the effort and take the time to go for a ride with kids, we want it to be an enjoyable experience. To have a ‘great day’ on the bike with kids there are simple things to think about, plan and do. In this story I am going to introduce you to the idea of spending a ‘great day’ mountain biking The Homestead Run with Kids – on the St James Cycle Trail. A trail easily accessed from the popular holiday destination of Hanmer Springs in the South Island of New Zealand.
The Homestead Run – Where is it?
The start and finish is located approximately 12km from Hamner Springs. You need to drive via Jacks Pass and Tophouse Road to the St James Homestead where off road parking is available. This road is primarily a gravel backcountry road, and is suitable for most cars. The St James Homestead is the finish of the St James Cycle Trail.
If you need to hire bikes they are available at Hanmer Springs Adventure Centre
Is it doable?
The ride needs to be doable for you and any riders (kids) you are biking with. The length of The Homestead Run is 15km and is graded easy by St James Cycle Trail. The Homestead Run is a cycle loop (starting and finishing at the St James Homestead) and is a combination of single track and 4WD tracks. The terrain is some gravel and rock but is generally well compacted.
Section One: Involves a 7km ride on single trail up the beautiful Peters Valley to Peters Pass. This is a very gradual sustained climb up the valley. The trail is not technical so the riders need to be capable of a gentle gradual sustained climb for 7km. The views and country side are rewarding as you ride up to the pass…so at least for the adults it doesn’t feel like 7km.
Section Two: Involves a 4.2 km ride on 4WD track and some single track towards Tophouse Road. At the end of the single track up Peters Valley you come to a T intersection. Turning left will take you further into the the St James Cycle Trail heading towards Scotties Hut but The Homestead Run Loop has you turning right and riding towards the adjacent valley – Top House Road and the Clarence River (note the turning right for The Homestead Run is not signposted). Having reached the high point of Peters Pass this section is mainly downhill on compacted gravel and rocky road. After initially biking along the 4WD track you come to a section of single trail which is marked with St James Cycle Trail poles and runs adjacent to Tophouse Road.
Section Three: Involves the final 3km ride along Tophouse Road. This is a back country 4WD road that connects St Arnaud (Lake Rotoiti) through the Rainbow Station to Hanmer Springs. You can therefore encounter 4WD vehicles and dust. This back country road through the Rainbow is well used by bikers so the vehicles are warned and use to encountering bikers.
My 11 year old boy and 9 year old girl were very comfortable with the technical and fitness demands of the trail. The ride is likely to take you 2 plus hours with kids so the kids need to be capable of riding for that duration. If the weather allows there are places to stop, rest, enjoy and absorb the magnitude of the back country. Taking time to rest and re-energise will help the kids manage – 2 hours on the bike.
It doesn’t matter what ride you are doing or where you are going, you want to feel comfortable. Check out the goRide guide How to have a “great day” on the bike for general information on how to make sure you are comfortable on the bike.
Water – you will need enough to last the ride. There is no access to water on this ride. During summer this can be very dry and hot country. Though the last section of the ride does follow the Clarence River you do not have direct access to the river at any stage.
Food – If the weather allows you – as it did for our spectacular ride in this fantastic country there are places that you can stop and enjoy some food along the way. The ride is 2 hours plus so the kids will need at the least some high energy snacks to keep their energy levels up for the ride. A museli bar or a bit of chocolate can be a great motivator or reward. If you are happy to carry more food then lunch somewhere around the top of Peters Pass makes for a fantastic lunch stop.
Protection – This is the back country. The weather can be very different to where you started your journey eg Christchurch or Hamner Springs and the weather can change quickly no matter what the season. You need to be prepared for the back country. You should never tackle this ride without carrying your rain jacket (if not required for wet weather it is a great wind barrier to the cold) and a warm riding layer. During summer months this can be very dry and hot country, so don’t forget the sunscreen and riding clothing options that will protect you from the sun and keep you cool.
You are mountain biking so, good bike helmets are essential. To assist with their enjoyment of the ride make sure riders are protected and comfortable at the points of contact with the bike.
- Their bottom on the seat. This is a 2 hour plus ride so consider padded bike underwear – goUnders for Kids, see photo to right. Worn under their shorts or leggings these ‘undies’ protect soft tissue & prevent chaffing.
- The feet on the pedals. Good closed in footwear
- Hands on the handle bars. Biking gloves and comfortable handlebar grips.
It doesn’t matter what ride you are doing or where you are going, you want to feel safe. Check out the goRide guide How to have a “great day” on the bike for general information on how to make sure you are safe on the bike.
Maps – The Homestead Run is not consistently signposted throughout the whole ride. As long as you remember to turn right at the T intersection at the top of Peters Pass and not left towards Scotties Hut then it is basically following the trail to lead you back to the clump of poplars and pine trees found at the St James Homestead. Where you started.
Something that I found confusing and a little unsettling – The Cycle signs and often information given on the website, though talking about The St James Cycle Trail the times given for sections of the trail are walking times. When we arrived at the Homestead car park and I checked out the sign post pictured with the kids I had a sudden panic of my lack of preparation as the times to Peters Pass said 2 1/2 hours. Then I realised it was walking times and breathed a sigh of relief – we were prepared for the ride we were expecting.
As with all mountain biking excursions you should carry a basic compact biking first aid kit in your bag or on your bike. Have a more comprehensive kit in the car or a refill pack in case serious patch ups are required. Grazed knees, elbows and irrigation for eyes are the most common minor biking accidents. Even though this is not a technical ride you are riding bikes and falls and spills can happen at any time.
You – Am I safe to goRide? A checklist to complete that ensures YOU are safe to goRide.
Bike – goRide pre-ride bike safety check – is it safe? A simple checklist to complete pre-ride so that you know your bike is in working order.
If you have worked through the points above and are prepared then you will be more likely to enjoy and have fun on your ride. There is so much fun to be had on a bike.
Some things you could plan to enjoy on The Homestead Run with Kids
- At the St James Homestead there are some historic farm buildings dating back to the 1880s giving a glimpse into the past glories of this high country farming station.
- Take time to absorb the magnitude of this high country. Make a half a day excursion and enjoy some food in a great spot- around the top of Peters Pass makes for a good rewarding stop … and the kids know it is mainly downhill from here.
- This is a taster of the type of country that you would be exposed to and get to enjoy on the St James Cycle Trail. Maybe it might inspire you… for future rides.
Don’t just ‘do’ the ride, ‘be’ in the ride and I wonder what you will discover (see Chi Riding – Tip 3 – Engaging the Senses).
Does it fit?
Does the ride ‘fit’ with what you want to achieve? Easy access if you have a vehicle from Hamner Springs – A 2 hour ride to half a day biking excursion on single trail and 4WD tracks in the high country. A breathtaking experience of the back country.
The highlights for the kids was the downhill ride and views as the whizzed down from Peters Pass back to the Homestead… it is just big country.
Getting specific information on the Homestead Run was quite challenging. I hope that this story inspires you and your family and gives you the confidence that your family could acheive this ride…it is worth it. Here are some links for further information to the Hurunui region and DOC or the NZ Cycle Trail for information on The St James Cycle Trail.
Have you ridden the Homestead Run with Kids – St James Cycle Trail? Did you have a ‘great day’ on the bike?
What went well, what could you work on for next time? We would love to hear about your ‘great day’ on the bike so tell us where you went and why it was fun.
get Inspired and goRide – The Homestead Run (St James Cycleway)
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