Back in 2006, while we were running guided tours out of Christchurch on various trails, there was a major growth in the number of cyclists exploring the Otago Central Rail Trail. Led by female baby boomers travelling in groups while their husbands somehow were forced to stay home and work, play golf and see a man about a dog…… Women clearly gained the ascendency in cycling the dedicated cycle ways.
Rolling forward to 2009, and our then PM John Key recognised a great idea when he saw one – and with that (and a small bundle of $50 million) the Nga Haerenga – New Zealand Cycle Trail umbrella was born. The New Zealand Cycle Trail network now hosts 23 rides of many different grades, and provides trails from Northland through to Southland.
Cycle Journeys was established in 2011 in recognition of the opportunity that would arise with the establishment of the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail as part of the Nga Haerenga network. The Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail opened in 2012 and Cycle Journeys began with operations based from a shipping container depot in Twizel with 30 rental bikes and skeleton staff based locally, with the management function based in Christchurch.
Our early engagement with the Planning of the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail got us excited and based on our knowledge and experience providing awesome tours to cyclists since 1992, establishing ourselves on the trail felt like the natural thing to do.
In November 2012, we took over a sunny office, relocated two containers, and hung out the “Open Now” sign in Twizel. New sections of the trail slowly opened, as did awareness of this amazing opportunity.
Too big for our boots…
As demand rapidly grew, our bike fleet was soon over 50, and within three years was up to 150. By summer 2016/17 our vehicle fleet had also increased to 6 buses and 3 vans, along with 6 trailers.
By the start of summer 2017/2018 we had over 300 bikes, 30 of which were E-bikes. We had moved into a new Twizel depot in Benmore Place as demand expanded well beyond our initial container depot capacity. To provide for the complete customer support and trail coverage, our depot in Oamaru was established for bike drop off at the end of the trail.
The West Coast beckoned
In 2017/2018 we expanded to open a depot in Hokitka to provide services for clients on the West Coast Wilderness Trail. We formed a partnership with Wilderness Trail Shuttle that allowed us to provide full services for clients on this trail in a similar way to how we were on the Alps 2 Ocean Trail. This venture was in response to clients asking for the same level of service for their next riding experience and coincided with the developments on the West Coast Wilderness Trail and the need for reliable infrastructure and systems.
During the 2019/2020 season we will set up a depot in Greymouth to increase our support for the West Coast Wilderness Trail, and provide a base for our services on the newly opened Paparoa Track between Blackball and Punakaiki.
Cycle Journeys today
We now have depots in Twizel, Oamaru, Hokitika, Greymouth and Nelson as well as a small base in Blackball. All of this is supported from our Christchurch head office. Our bike fleet sits at just over 600, of which 110 are E-bikes and 30 are full suspension mountain bikes mainly for use on the Paparoa Track. Our vehicle fleet sits at 14 buses and vans with 15 luggage and bike trailers.
Ownership and management of Cycle Journeys is based on five decades of outdoor engagement, cycle and trekking guiding and business. Geoff and Shelley Gabites have an extensive background in outdoor equipment manufacturing, as co-owners of Macpac Wilderness Equipment and founder/manager of Adventure South. The appointment of Dan Thomas as General Manager continues the outdoor guiding and logistics connection.
We retain a strong engagement on a voluntary basis on both the Alps 2 Ocean and West Coast Wilderness Trail as well as a position on the national umbrella board of Nga Haerenga – New Zealand Cycle Trail.