New Zealand Mountain Biking

New Zealand mountain biking allows for some extreme experiences, both in terms of adrenaline rushes and scenic vistas.

Even if you’re not an adventure tourist, mountain biking provides a great chance to get out in the great outdoors and enjoy the main attraction that brings people to NZ - the beauty of nature.

Many people are intimidated by the term ‘mountain biking’ because they think it implies the need for extreme physical fitness or some kind of death wish. But in actual fact there are different forms of mountain biking, some of which are much less extreme than others.

Downhill Mountain Biking

Mountain Biking Woodhill Forest, Auckland - Photographer, Chris Cameron
Mountain Biking Woodhill Forest, Auckland - Photographer: Chris Cameron

Downhill mountain biking is one of the crazier types of mountain biking in NZ, and the one which will likely appeal most to New Zealand adventure travel tourists.

Basically it involves freewheeling down a track (or making your own track, if you’re particularly bold and not afraid of hurting yourself) at high speed. Most tracks have ramps and jumps dug or built into them.

This is an exhilarating sport, but it can also be extremely dangerous. If you haven’t tried it before, stick to a small track without a steep incline, and make sure you wear the correct safety gear such as a helmet and chest plate.

If you’re an experienced downhill rider, you can put yourself to the test with the Heli Bike Challenge on Mount Benmore - a 1300 metre downhill track.

Long Distance Mountain Biking

Tandem Biking with Style, New Zealand - Photographer: Roy Sinclair
Not Mountain Biking but...
Biking with Style, Photo by Roy Sinclair

Of course, many New Zealanders treat mountain biking as a serious sport and many also use it as their primary way of keeping fit. Compared to many other countries, a cross-country tour by bike is relatively easy and safe on New Zealand roads.

Whereas downhill biking requires guts, biking uphill or across long distances requires at least some fitness and experience. If you want to push yourself physically and experience parts of New Zealand which are “off the beaten trail,” a mountain bike trek may be ideal for you.

Scenic Mountain Biking

Otago Central Rail Trail - Fat Tyre Adventures
Otago Central Rail Trail, South Island
Photography: Fat Tyre Adventures

You can experience the freedom of mountain biking through the NZ landscape even if you aren’t particularly adventurous or fit. In fact, if you have the time, biking is one of the best ways to see the country. It allows you to cover a lot more ground than when you’re walking, while still having the time to take in all the sights, sounds and smells.

You can get a taste of some of the easier, flatter trails through the National Parks and forests. For instance, there are extensive trails through the Whakarewarewa Forest just south of Rotorua, many of which are easy enough to be tackled by beginners. The Otago Central Rail Trail is another good scenic track which can be biked at a slow, steady pace without having to negotiate down or up hills.

The wine-growing regions are also good areas for guided scenic bike tours. These areas tend to be relatively flat and have a good climate for enjoying some open outdoors.

New Zealand is a surprisingly diverse country in its range of landscapes for you to experience. It is quite a small country that is well spread out with a sparse population and noticeable differences between the North and South Islands. Because it is spread out with a small population it has the feeling of being a much larger country than it actually is with many regions with natural landscapes untouched by humans.

The diversity of bird and animal life is something else you will notice as you are touring or riding down mountains through natural bush or alpine environments.


Why not combine your biking experience with campervan travel?

You will have the freedom to choose where you go, stop for a few days in one location and try out the local mountain bike trails before moving on to somewhere with a completely different landscape and scenery.

Full list of travel options.

Coromandel Peninsula, Mount Paku View
Coromandel Peninsula, Mount Paku View


To get an insight into the mountain bike events or read news about biking in New Zealand, visit the Mountain Bike New Zealand (MTBNZ) website. The MTBNZ are a national body and have responsibility to lead the growth and development recreational and competitive mountain biking.

Road Code

Although mountain biking tours including road travel are relatively safe because of the sparse traffic, you should see if you can pick up the copy of the Road Code and read through it to make sure you are familiar with road traffic rules. Driving in New Zealand may be slightly different even if you are from Australia or the UK so it is a good idea that you are aware of the rules for other drivers and yourself. Or just print it out from the government website at New Zealand Road Code.

Cycling and Road Sign - Photographer: Roy Sinclair
Cycling and Road Sign - Photographer: Roy Sinclair
Bike and Elevation Sign, SH35 coastal road from Opotiki to Te Kaha - Photographer: Roy Sinclair
Bike and Elevation Sign, SH35 coastal road from Opotiki to Te Kaha - Photographer: Roy Sinclair