A2O Cycle Tours

A2O Cycle Tours, (also trading as Not a Rail Trail) is run by the team at Helibike.com Ltd, the original Mountain Bike Tourism company to operate in the Aoraki/Mt Cook/Mackensie Region. The senior team at A2O Cycle Tours are made up of experienced tour operators and mountain bikers who’ve lived and worked in the Alps 2 Ocean region for years. With a passion for sharing this beautiful scenery and history with both local and international visitors, the introduction of the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle trail into our back yard has allowed us to use our tourism and regional expertise to design what is arguably the best fully supported Cycle Trail tour on the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail.

With the growth in mountain biking in Queenstown, and the fact that Queenstown is the closest international airport to the start of the cycleway, in 2012 the Directors relocated to Queenstown so that all tours will now start and finish at Queenstown, the mountain biking capital of New Zealand. As part of the move, the company launched an additional brand, Not a Rail Trail, operating Cycle Trail Tours on all the closest cycle trails to Queenstown.


Not a Rail Trail LogoWhy did we call ourselves Not a Rail Trail? Let us explain…

A Rail Trail follows an old railway line. Railway lines are, obviously, built to allow the train to travel effectively, so the trails are pretty straight and flat.

The new cycle trails that are being built are not built solely on railway lines. They’re an eclectic mix of existing walking paths, roads, purpose built cycle trails and, occasionally, sections of old railway line. The variety is huge and they generally follow the lay of the land with only a few restrictions. If a customer books to ride one of these new cycle trails thinking it’s another easy rail trail, (as dangerously misrepresented by some other tour companies, unfortunately), as we’ve found on numerous occasions, they’re in for a shock.

It became a joke that customers would call it the Alps 2 Ocean (A2O) Rail trail and we’d spend the entire tour saying “it’s Not a Rail Trail!”!

All the cycle trails we use from Queenstown have sections with corners where you actually need to have some basic bike skills, they are in some remote locations where you may even need to cross a stream or river, and, shock horror, they have hills!

After our first 2 seasons running cycle tours on the Alps 2 Ocean cycle trail, where past Otago Rail Trail customers were often expecting easy straight and flat trails with frequent pubs and cafes and, consequently, were sometimes scarily unprepared for what and where they were going to ride, we came up with the name ‘Not a Rail Trail’. It seemed the easiest way of making it clear that these trails are something different. And it worked, current clients have very different expectations and are far better prepared. We are very clear on what we do, the trails we want to use and the type of customers that will enjoy our particular brand of standards and service. Our 2 latest trails, the West Coast Wilderness Trail and the Around the Mountains Trail in Queenstown, complement the existing A2O, Roxburgh and Clutha Gold Trails perfectly.

Introducing Sara and Vernon, our Founders and Directors:

Vernon Reid

Vernon Reid is an avid mountain biker, rock climber, skier, and tramper. He knows the countryside around Twizel and the Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park like the back of his hand. We challenge you to find someone who knows more about the walking and biking trails locally than Vernon! His Claim to fame is to have driven Tom Cruise around Mount Cook while he was filming The Last Samurai, driven Orcs from Mount Cook to Twizel for the big battle scenes in the Lord of the Rings films and to have watched parts of the LOTR being filmed. He also bakes a mean banana cake! 10 years ago, he started a local tourism company called Discovery Tours Ltd who became highly recommended for their local Guided Hikes and Lord Of the Rings Tours. He has since sold Discovery Tours in order to focus on his real passion, mountain biking with Helibike.com Ltd. Call him “Smeagol” and see what happens…

Sara Leadbetter

Sara Leadbetter is an experienced Tourism Business Advisor specialising in Internet Marketing for businesses in Australia and New Zealand. An avid mountain biker from the days when mountain bikes were no more than road bikes with different tyres, she’s mountain biked in countries all around the world. Her favourite mountain bike trip was a week spent in the French Alps where she didn’t have to ride a single uphill all week thanks to their amazing ski lift system. A recent convert to full on downhill mountain biking, in 2012 she was the oldest female competitor at the famous Dirtmasters Downhill race in Queenstown! Now a little older and supposedly wiser, her main sport after mountain biking is ice hockey.



We’re all passionate about treating this beautiful country with respect. We recycle just about everything, waste nothing and offset all our carbon produced by the helicopter use. Our moto:

Leave only tyre tracks, take only photos…