Sweaty & Close to Tears – The Waikato River Trail

In case you didn’t realise, when riding a bike, there’s a big difference between a rail trail and a river trail. Let me explain.


Anne and I recently enjoyed cycling the Otago Rail Trail with our friends Mary Ann and Lawrence. We captured the four day experience in two previous blogs – Clyde to Wedderburn and Wedderburn to Middlemarch. We loved it, and the maximum gradient for any “climb” on the trail was 1m in 50m.

P1070843More recently, when staying in Puketurua with our local New Zealand friends, Suzanne and Daryl, they invited us to experience the Waikato River Trail, which runs very close to their home, lending us their cycles and helmets to do so.

The trail covers 102km, broken down into five distinct sections, classified either intermediate or advanced.

In hindsight, I should have done a little more research on what intermediate and advanced really meant. I now know that the terms have nothing to do with fitness levels, but indicate the level of experience we should have had in riding a mountain bike. In our case, we should have been looking for a “beginner” grade, as Anne and I have no mountain biking experience!

imageThe section we chose to attack was “Karapiro”, an 11.5km track running from Arapuni Village to the Pokaiwhenua Bridge. It’s a very picturesque part of the trail, easily accessible, graded intermediate, and described as “undulating with a few short steep pieces”. The description is fairly accurate. There was one particularly steep piece where, despite my best efforts in pushing those pedals, all I could manage was to spin the back wheel in the gravel, making no forward motion. I had no choice but to abandon the hill and push the bike to the top.

P1070845I must give Anne her due. Whilst she found the trail difficult, she persevered, dismounted and pushed up a couple of hills, and completed the 24km ride, albeit a little hot and bothered. More importantly for me, she didn’t cry, or display any outward anger (but I know she harboured it)!

I think in future we’ll stick to the rail trails, rather than seeking out another river trail.

Anne’s conclusion……5km of road riding = 3km on a rail trail = 1km on a river trail.

2 thoughts on “Sweaty & Close to Tears – The Waikato River Trail

  1. Lala McDonald 05/03/2015 / 9:33 pm

    Sounds tough! Our ride around Lake Wanaka had some tough bits too, not as steep but a few kinda hairy areas with steep drops and narrow paths. Yes Mr Moorhouse research …. Looking forward to seeing you guys

    Sent from my iPhone


    • Steve 05/03/2015 / 9:39 pm

      Yes Lala – research is certainly the key…….but without entering the sphere of paralysis through analysis 🙂

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