What’s the best Bike to Ride the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail?

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Which bike?

Ever since the trail first opened, this has been a debate between the trail organisers, other tour companies and ourselves, A2O Cycle Tours about the type of bike and wheels best suited to this trail. I’m 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. On the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail, for the loose and rocky surfaces and stream crossings, 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. We strongly recommend a front suspension 29er mountain bike with the right tyres as the perfect all round bike but this advice is at odds with some of those with a financial interest in the trail.

So why can’t people agree?

  • If you’re the trail organiser, quite rightly you don’t want to make the trail sound too difficult or it puts people off who would actually be quite capable of completing the trail safely.
  • If you run a rail trail tour company and usually use bikes designed for rail trails, you don’t want to have to upgrade your fleet.
  • If you run a road cycle tour company and usually use bikes designed for roads or smooth trails, you also don’t want to have to upgrade your fleet.
  • If you’re an experienced biker with no experience of how novices handle loose surfaces, you won’t appreciate how much the bike can affect a riders confidence and therefore enjoyment of the trail.
  • If you’ve never actually ridden the whole trail or have only ever ridden it on one bike, as with the previous comment, you just won’t appreciate how much the bike can affect a riders confidence and enjoyment of the trail on the shear variety of surfaces you get across the 8 different sections.

Why am I so sure I’m right?

We’ve ridden this trail for almost 4 years and have listened to the feedback from hundreds of customers and trail users, including those who’ve used our bikes, brought their own bikes and those who’ve hired bikes locally. Before we bought our fleet, we tested bikes with and without suspension, with 26, 27.5 and 29″ wheels, with mountain, hybrid and road tyres. As a challenge, I even rode the trail on my single speed 26″ hard tail and the Oamaru guys have ridden it on their penny farthings! So, it is clearly possible to ride the trail on virtually any bike. But, considering some bikes make the trail so much easier and more enjoyable than others, why would you choose a bike that’s going to make the trail harder work…?

Over the last few years we’ve seen riders struggle on hybrid bikes over the rough surfaces, push up hills when they ran out of gears, have brakes fade on the downhills and get frustrated and tired. We’ve seen riders on road bikes angry that someone told them a road bike would be OK. We’ve been stopped many times by riders on unsuitable bikes to ask where a rider could hire one of our bikes as cyclists on our tour seemed to pass them effortlessly.

So what’s the perfect bike for the A2O Trail?

I’m a huge believer in comfort, so a comfortable bike that fits you well and is in good working order is a must. As to the type of bike, in my opinion, I cannot get past a 29er front suspension mountain bike with good gears, disc brakes a comfy seat and the right tyre choice as being the perfect all round option for the mix of off-road, hills and sealed road that you’ll find on this varied trail.

This article in the Timaru Herald covers a recent trail customer’s feedback: http://www.stuff.co.nz/timaru-herald/news/67609550/Great-trail-but-rough-on-tyres

Do you disagree with me?

That’s your prerogative, everyone’s open to their own opinion and I’d absolutely love to debate the issue with you. Just make sure you get your facts straight first…

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