A2O Cycle Trail Tour FAQs

Here are our most commonly asked A2O FAQs (frequently asked questions) about the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail and our A2O Cycle Tours, if you have any other questions or would like a specific answer to your personal situation, please don’t hesitate to Contact A2O Cycle Tours

About the A2O Cycle Trail:

Click on the Toggle Icon to expand each section:

What do the Cycle Trail Grades Mean?

GRADE 1: Easiest
Trail Type:
– Off-road trail surface is either firm gravel or sealed (e.g. concrete or asphalt) and is wide enough for 2 people to cycle side by side for most of the way.
– On-road trails generally follow quiet roads with little traffic.

Suitable For:
– Novice cyclists, families and others seeking a very easy cycling experience.
– Any bike is suitable for riding Grade 1 cycle trails, including touring bikes, single speed bikes and children’s bikes.

GRADE 2: Easy
Trail Type:
– Off-road trails are predictable, i.e. no surprises and mostly flat with some gentle climbs.
– The surface is either firm gravel or sealed (e.g. concrete or asphalt).
– The trail is wide enough for 2 people to cycle side by side at times and may include sections where cyclists will have to ride single file.
– On-road trails generally follow quiet roads with little traffic.

Suitable For:
– Beginners, occasional cyclists and families who have limited cycling experience.
– A multi-geared bike with medium to wide tyres is recommended, such as a comfort bike, touring bike or mountain bike.

GRADE 3: Intermediate
Trail Type:
– Off-road trails can be narrow and may include hill climbs, steep drop-offs and small river crossings.
– The trail surface is mostly firm, but may include muddy or loose sections.
– There may also be obstacles such as rocks or tree roots to avoid.- On-road trails have moderate traffic levels (up to 1000 vehicles per day) include hill climbs and possible gravel sections.

Suitable For:
– Regular, experienced cyclists with a good level of fitness and over 12 years of age.
– Children should be accompanied by an adult.
– A mountain bike is recommended for off-road trails.
– On-road trails that include sections of gravel will require knobbly tyres. Road racing tyres are not recommended.

What’s the difference between ‘undulations’ and ‘hills’?!

This may actually depend on where you’re from! In Queenstown, we’re surrounded by mountains up to 2319m (7600ft) high, so what we consider hilly may well be very different from if you live in Holland, for example. So, in the words of an overseas visitor:

“When Kiwis say a ride is “undulating” (and they say that a lot), it’s hilly. When they say it’s “a little hilly,” it’s a lot hilly. And when they say it’s “quite hilly,” well, just….ouch. “

What will the weather be like?

Now there are some things we just can’t answer. New Zealand has a maritime climate, which means that we generally get warm (but not hot) summers and cool (but not cold) winters, with a relatively narrow annual temperature range. But, and it’s a big but, because of our latitude and absence of other close land masses, a change in direction of the wind can change the temperature by over 20 degrees within an hour! A Southerly wind blows directly up from the Antarctic bringing very cold weather, a North Westerly wind blows over the warm Tasman Sea bringing heavy rain to the west and strong warm, dry winds to the east.

Consequently, our weather is variable and highly dependent on the wind direction and the location within the NZ. On the Alps 2 Ocean, we start near the West Coast at an altitude of 770m above sea level surrounded by snow capped mountains and finish 300km away by the Pacific Ocean on the East Coast.

Unfortunately, there are no guarantees concerning the weather 🙂

Where can I buy essentials whilst on a tour?

The A2O has limited options to shop during your tour. All our tours have the option to stop at a supermarket en route to allow you to stock up on anything you need and the guides will advise you throughout the tour on your options. For some essentials, such as ladies toiletries, we strongly advise you to come prepared, just in case.

What toilet facilities are there?

Although the number of toilets is increasing, some areas just don’t have enough. We provide a camping toilet and tent on all our trips for times when there’s no official toilet. For ladies, we recommend taking a SheeWee and there’s always the option to pack a DOC ‘PooPot’, just in case…

What’s the best type of bike to ride?

We’re determined to ensure that riders ride the bike most suited to their ability and the surface and gradient of the trail that they’re riding. For the gravel, loose rocky surfaces and stream crossings you’ll encounter on the A2O, this is definitely a mountain bike with at least front suspension. For the smooth road sections, you need larger wheels and fast rolling tyres and for some of the steeper hills, you need the right range of gears or you end up pushing. As a consquence, we strongly recommend a front suspension 27.5″ or 29er mountain bike with a spread of at least 11 gears and the right tyres as the perfect all round bike for all these trails.

About You:

How fit do I need to be to ride the A2O Trail?

Fitness is a fairly subjective issue on these trails and depends a lot on how fast you want to ride and whether or not you intent to ride the entire trail or take advantage of the support vehicle to miss out hills and some of the more difficult sections of trail. You should be of at least average fitness to enjoy these trails whist on a supported tour and, ideally, above average fitness if you are riding unsupported on the Alps 2 Ocean Trail. When it’s described as fairly easy cycling, in reality is has hills and is 300km long so you still have to cover the distance by your own leg power. If you want to ride the entire trail and enjoy it to the full, we’d advise the following fitness levels. Remember, these relate to bike fitness:

  • Average Fitness: Be able to ride 40 to 50km a day on loose surfaces and easy, flat terrain, in less than 5 hours and able to do this for several days in a row.
  • Above average Fitness: Be able to ride 40 to 50km a day on loose surfaces and undulating terrain, in less than 5 hours and able to do this for several days in a row.
  • High level of fitness: Be able to ride 40 to 50km a day on loose surfaces and hilly terrain, in less than 5 hours and able to do this for several days in a row.

But what does this actually mean?

Many of our clients have trained on the road and were unprepared for the extra effort required for loose surfaces. Many clients only trained on the flat and didn’t appreciate how tiring it can be to ride up and down small hills. Many clients only ride once or twice a week and didn’t appreciate how sore your bum and sit bones can get riding several days in a row. Many clients didn’t train at all and spent more time than they thought in the van! So, prepare for the trail surface, distance, number of days and terrain you will be riding. You’ll have a much more enjoyable holiday.

What bike skills or experience do I need to have?

The Alps 2 Ocean Trail is graded up to 3 which means it is fairly easy but you should be able to ride a mountain bike on loose surfaces (including gravel) up and down small hills and be confident riding around sharp corners. We provide quality mountain bikes with larger (27.5″ or 29″) wheels and disc brakes and there is time on each trip to get used to the bike and to have it set up so that it fits you well.

My partner doesn’t ride, can they still join the tour?

Absolutely! We often have tours where a non-rider stays with the guide in the van. From the feedback we’ve received, the non-rider usually has a fantastic time, they get to learn more about the area whilst still meeting their friends at regular intervals throughout the day. We ensure they’re included in every part of the trip except the cycling.

I’m not as fit as my friends, how will I keep up?

When riding the trail unsupported, this is the biggest issue facing mixed ability groups. On our supported trips, however, that’s where the support vehicle comes in. Our guides know all the best places to pick you up and drop you off to miss out the hills or harder sections of trail. We also have regular stops to make sure slower riders have time to catch up so, for safety and everyone’s enjoyment, the group never gets too spread out. The alternative is to upgrade to one of our new ebikes.

I’m a single traveller, can I travel on my own?

Our trips tend to attract sociable people so, as a single traveller, you’ll make new friends. Unfortunately, as these trails get busier, we have to book rooms further in advance and usually don’t have the option of being able to get an additional room for a single person. In peak season, this means that taking a single person limits our tours to only 9 people which isn’t viable. As a consequence, we’re only able to take singles off peak with a single room supplement and in peak season, rooms are only available twin share so you can’t book on your own.

What you need to bring on tour:

What clothing and equipment should I bring

If riding the Alps 2 Ocean trail unsupported, we highly recommend you pack for all weathers and emergencies and make sure you know how to use your emergency equipment and bike spares.

If you’re on one of our fully supported tours, then you have to pack and carry much less gear. You’ll receive a tour checklist when you book your tour. This outlines everything we’d recommend you pack for your Alps 2 Ocean Tour. We resend a copy of this checklist the week before your trip as a reminder.

What do I get with a hire bike?

If you’re hiring a bike from us, we supply a helmet and puncture repair kit and carry spare parts and even a spare bike to ensure mechanical issues don’t spoil your trip. Each bike has a gel saddle, grippy flat pedals, a bottle cage and the option to add a handlebar bag if you don’t want to carry a rucksack. We’re happy for you to bring your own saddle and your own pedals. For health and safety reasons, you cannot wear pedal cages/toe straps.

Click on the link for more information on our Rental Bikes…

I’m bringing my own bike. What do I need to know?

If you’re bringing your own bikes, here are some tips for you based on feedback from hundreds of clients:

  • Have tyres at least 2.1″ wide suitable for off road riding. All the trails we use are a mix of surfaces and so, from experience, we’ve found that off road tyres are best.
  • Ride a mountain bike with at least front suspension, they’re more comfortable on these trails. Riders who’ve brought hybrid style bikes have struggled on some of the more rugged and steeper sections of trail, both uphill and downhill.
  • As we’re covering reasonable distances each day, larger wheels (27.5″ and 29″) perform better than smaller wheels (26″)
  • Disc brakes are safer on descents or when riding in the wet.
  • Our bike trailer holds bikes secured by the rear wheels so please make sure you do not have rear panniers, or tyres wider than 2.4″, that stop a bike fitting into a standard vertical rear wheel bike rack.
  • Make sure you carry the most commonly needed spare parts such as inner tubes, spare chain links/magic link and spare rear derailleur hanger specific to your bike. All our spares are specific to our hire bikes so we may not have the parts for your individual bikes if something goes wrong.

If you are not bringing your own helmet, please let us know, in advance, so we will pack one for you.

Click on the link for more information on our Rental Bikes…

What’s included in my A2O Tour?:

What’s included and what’s extra?

You’ll be sent a tour itinerary with a full list of what’s included and what’s not when you book your tour. We try to ensure that everything you would need on each trip (excluding personal drinks or snacks) is included unless we’ve agreed otherwise. If you have any questions, please ask.

Cancellation Policy:

I’m injured and can’t ride, what are my options?

If your injury just prevents you from riding but not from enjoying the trip as a non-rider, you’re able to still join the tour. We’ve had great feedback from all non-riders over the years.
If your injury prevents you from joining the tour, our standard terms and conditions issued at the time of booking apply.

I’m no longer able to join the tour, what are my options?

If you’re no longer able to join the tour, our standard terms and conditions issued at the time of booking apply.

If you have any other questions or want to discuss any of these answers, please don’t hesitate to contact us…