Whenever we think about undertaking a bike trip in unknown territory I get scared that I won’t be able to do it. I fear I might become stranded somewhere, half way up a hill, too tired to go any further and with no way to get home. Physical exercise has never been my thing so contemplating riding 152 km does not come easy to me. I’ve had to turn back on one bike trip and get frustrated trying to find information that gives me a real sense of how difficult the trip will be. I want to be challenged but not distressed.
So this blog is for someone like me who wants to know what to expect from four days on the Otago Rail Trail. Steve has written his account of the journey in the posts The Otago Rail Trail – Clyde to Wedderbern & The Otago Rail Trail – Wedderburn to Middlemarch.
Our party of four were all over 50 years old and at 58 I am the oldest and the least fit. I’d been cycling to work three days a week for about a year, a round trip of 15 km and fairly flat. I don’t do any other exercise, I have a problem with my feet which limits the amount of walking I do and have a sedentary job. MaryAnn cycles to work regularly, swims and is more active than me, she had a hip replacement a couple of years ago. Lawrence does the least cycling of the party but he’s a farmer and is physically active all day. Steve rides a lot.
The Otago Rail Trail is different than cycling on a road. For a start it’s not smooth and that means more pedalling and less gliding. You also bump around more and that takes energy. On the first day we were picked up in Queenstown at 9 am by Trail Journeys and by the time we’d driven to Clyde, got fitted for our bikes and sorted our luggage out we didn’t hit the trail until 12 noon. It might have been better to stay in Clyde a night.
Clyde to Omakau is 37km, it’s the roughest section of the trail and inclines uphill for most of the way. I rode at a steady pace but was working hard and felt a real sense of achievement when I conquered Tiger Hill, one of the steepest points on the trail. I cycled all the way but a slightly younger couple we met on the trail said they’d pushed their bikes up Tiger Hill.
Day two, 43 km from Omakau to Wedderbern, was harder, a longer uphill ride with blustery winds that sometimes felt they were going to blow me off the bike. I was tired but happy when I arrived at Wedderbern. Just before Wedderbern is the 618 meter trail summit and there is a sign stating “it’s all downhill from here”. Don’t believe it!
Day three, was the longest distance, 48 km and supposedly all downhill however there are some tough uphill sections. A sign saying “an easy 3 km uphill ride” doesn’t make sense to me when I’ve been told it’s all downhill. The final descent into Wedderbern was hard work due a fierce headwind.
Day four, was a short 29 km to Middlemarch and this was just about all downhill. Even I would say this ride was easy.
Our slowest day was an average speed of 10.8 km per hour and the fastest day was a speedy 14.8 km per hour. The temperature ranged from 10 degrees to 29 degrees over the ride so take plenty of layers. The bikes were great and my butt didn’t get too sore but you might consider taking a gel seat. I wore padded pants. The accommodation along the way was fabulous and Trail Journeys moved our luggage.
I had great fun on this ride, we took our time and enjoyed the beautiful surroundings. It was perfect for me, not so hard that I felt overwhelmed but physically challenging enough to give me a great sense of accomplishment when I’d finished.
I’m keen to do a similar ride somewhere else in the world, any suggestions?