When we make the effort and take the time to go on a family biking adventure, we want it to be an enjoyable experience. To have a ‘great’ multi-day biking adventure it comes down to planning and preparation.
In this story I am going to introduce you to the planning and preparation that the John family Mum/ Dad and 13 year old boy and 11year old girl did to ride the 85km Timber Trail April 2019.
The Timber Trail is part of the NZ Cycle Trail Network making up one of the 22 great rides. It is located in the central North Island within the Pureora Forest Park and runs between the 2 small rural towns of Pureora and Ongarue. An even smaller settlement (if you can call it that) – Piropiro is located around halfway along the trail. The trail is well signposted and supported with shuttles/ tours bike hire (including electric bike options) but make sure you have booked in advance as the start and end of the track is quite isolated. Check out this link for all the different companies supporting the Timber Trail
The Timber Trail is close to a number of larger towns making access to the trail from larger cities like Taupo, Rotorua, Hamilton on the day you start and finish the ride possible.
This trail takes you through spectacular forest and amazing gorges with numerous swing bridges. Its flowing trail is certainly achievable and will be enjoyed by the whole family. It is 82km over 2 days so a good level of fitness and endurance is essential for the family to successfully ride the Timber Trail.
Is it doable?
How far is the biking journey? 82km. It is suggested that you complete this over 2 days with a night in Piropiro… so your family needs to be able to ride 40km plus in one day to comfortably complete the ride. If time is limited or 2 days feels like a little much for your family – then there are day ride options that can be organised with the shuttle companies.
The topography suggests you ride the Timber Trail in a north to south direction starting at Pureora and finishing in Ongarue – this is definitely recommended for families.
DAY ONE – Pureora to Piropiro = 40 km – is it doable?
Graded by the NZ cycle trail as easy/intermediate.
The day starts with a gradual uphill ride winding your way around the side of Mt Pueora to the tracks high point of 971m, located about 11km into the first day. From there it is mainly down hill as you gradually descend through flowing trails to PiroPiro. Allow between 5-7 hours to complete this section for a family.
Piropiro is remote. The accommodation options to consider are:
1. Timber Trail Lodge. Meals and accommodation provided (no child rates are available)
2. Black Fern Lodge (this lodge is located 6-7km off the trail – it is well signposted at about the 35km mark. You will need to consider whether adding in additional kms to your journey is ideal for your family. This Lodge offers a variety of meals/ shuttles as well as self catering.
3. Camp Epic offer the option of staying in a designated campground and can provide varied levels of support. Ranging from them supplying tents and all your equipment to you providing your own tent and equipment and Epic will shuttle your gear. A great family option.
4. DOC campground at Piropiro is free – the facilities here are very basic – running water and a couple of toilets. This campground is widely used by a large number of hunters. You will need to be able to carry or have all your own gear shuttled into this area. Not all shuttles go into Piropiro so you will need to determine if this is a possible option for your family.
DAY TWO – Piro Piro to Ongarue track end = 42 km – is it doable?
What skills will you need to do this ride? This track is graded as a beginner/intermediate track. It is well graded and the technical skills involved come from negotiating flowing winding single track.
What level of fitness will you need to do this ride? You will need moderate levels of fitness. The gradual climb of 500m sidling around Mt Pureora as well as the daily distance you need to cover approximately 40km per day means a good level of fitness is required.
How could the weather effect the success of your journey? The track is quite remote there no services along the trail (except for the accommodation providers) so once you are on this trail there is very little option for any pulling out.
Is this ride possible with kids attached or towed? The remoteness of this ride as well as the daily distance means it is not an ideal ride for kids attached. If kids are riding independently a Tow Whee tow rope would be highly recommended. Easy and light to carry you can help assist them up hills or over the long distance of the day.
Sam on the trail, enjoying the well graded surface
Hollie crossing one of the 11 swing bridges on the trail
To have an enjoyable experience riding the Timber Trail Track you need to make sure you are comfortable in the weather conditions while riding your bike. You also need to be comfortable carrying gear. The gear you carry will depend on the support you choose (where you stay, self catering versus catered) at minimum you will need to at least carry gear for the day – additional clothing as well as food and water.
Comfortable in the weather conditions
You will be riding for a number of hours for each of the two days so clothing choice needs to not restrict any movement. It also needs to protect and regulate temperature. The Timber Trail is a remote track so you need to be prepared for all types of weather conditions. The gear required will vary a little depending on the time of year doing the trail.
Comfortable on the bike
The right type of bike. You are going to be riding on single graded but flowing winding trail with some obstacles, so mountain bikes are ideal.
Comfortable at the contact points on the bike. You are on the bike for a number of hours each day, for 2 consecutive days. The surface is bumpy, being comfortable on the bike is a MUST.
- Your bottom on the seat. A comfortable saddle – a women’s specific saddle that is set up correctly. Bike seat adjustment. Shop Padded Bike Pants and Women’s Bike Saddles.
- Hands on the handlebars. Bike gloves and bike brake levers set up correctly. Shop bike gloves
- Feet on the pedals. Merino socks and footwear for on and off the bike.
Comfortable carrying gear
You are riding in a reasonably remote area with no services throughout the day – you need to be comfortable carrying gear – first aid kit, wet weather clothing and additional clothing as well as food and water for the day.
To help with balance and control of our bikes on the terrain, we are carrying our gear within the confines of the bike in a small backpack, frame bags, handle bar bags, seat bags, and a rear carrier with a dry bag.
Access to water & food…We need to carry food and water for each day of riding.
There is a lot of crossover between feeling comfortable and being safe – being comfortable will also support your safety. The main thing is we need you to consider both comfort and safety.
Your bike and safety
Clean and prepare the bike and the chain. Do you need to do any maintenance work? Change the brake pads? Check the tyres for tread and any wear. Carrying tools split between us to help ensure that we can fix most problems or challenges along the way.
What tools will you need to take and carry? Check out our tool kit suggestions for a multi day mountain bike ride.
Before you head out on the trail each day you will need to do a pre-ride bike safety check – is it safe? A checklist to complete pre-ride so that you know your bike is in working order, and then you can prevent and/or solve any issues before you start the day.
You and safety
You are in the backcountry you need to tell someone when and where you are going, how long you are going for and when you expect to be back. Carrying a cellphone is always a good idea but there any many areas of the New Zealand backcountry that do not have cell phone coverage. If you are in a remote area it is suggested that you carry a personal locator beacon. PLB.
You have checked your bike now we need to know that YOU are safe. See Am I safe to Bike Tour? A checklist to complete that ensures you are safe to goRide.
Safety in the environment
Carry a Map – The track is very well signposted at every kilometre so is very hard to go wrong. A map is useful to know exactly where you are and how much further you need to go etc. The kids often enjoy this understanding and enjoy helping with planning and motivation along the way.
Carry a First Aid Kit – Accidents can and will happen. We are prepared with a compact first aid kit for mountain bikers to help us deal with minor injuries See First Aid Kit for Bike Touring.
Carry a personal locator beacon. Make sure the whole family know whole is carrying and where it is located.
Tool Kit, Personal Locator Beacon, First Aid Kit, Emergency Blanket
Signpost located at every kilometre.
Riding the Timber Trail and experiencing this part of New Zealand on a bike is very rewarding. From enjoying the ancient forest, to the 11 swing bridges and gorges you traverse, to the information boards and the history of the area.
For our family holiday we decided to link up the Timber Trail with a trip to Rotorua to enjoy its cultural diversity as well as spending time on the Mountain biking trails.
Setting up camp in the DOC campground Piropiro.
Ready to leave – day 2. We had our gear shuttled so we are carrying what we need to be comfortable and safe for the day.
View of one of the swing bridges traversing one of the gorges
Does it fit?
If you are keen to experience a multi-day 85km remote but well supported mountain biking trip on an easy/ intermediate graded track then the Timber Trail is a right for you and your family.
get Inspired and goRide – The Timber Trial planning & preparation
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