FAQ’s & Reviews
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best direction to cycle the trail?
Starting at Ross and cycling north to Greymouth is our recommendation for a few reasons. The hill gradients of the trail are such that altitude is gained in less time cycling from Ross, and then it is predominantly downhill from Kawhaka Pass into Greymouth. Any prevailing winds are more likely to be behind you as you cycle from Hokitika up the Arahura Valley.
Finishing the trail on the last day in Greymouth times in perfectly with taking the TranzAlpine train journey from Greymouth through the Southern Alps to Christchurch. This is a great way to complete your West Coast experience.
Of course, if you would like to cycle the trail in a north to south direction (starting at Greymouth) then we can arrange this for you.
How can I get to Hokitika or Greymouth?
There are a few ways to do this, with most options routing via Christchurch. It is possible to take an 8:30am bus from Christchurch to Greymouth with Atomic Travel. Our shuttle can then pick you up and transfer you to the trail start at Ross.
Air New Zealand fly to Hokitika from Christchurch. We can then transfer you to Ross.
Taking the TranzAlpine train from Christchurch to Greymouth often requires adding an extra day to the trip as the train arrives too late to start cycling from Ross that same day. It would be possible to start cycling from Greymouth, however, depending on your mode of transport getting home – car, train, bus, plane – an extra night accommodation may still be necessary.
If you are driving to the start of the trail, you could park at Greymouth or Hokitika and we can shuttle you from either town to start at Ross.
We suggest checking the current train, bus, or plane timetables on the transport providers actual website before making any travel plans as schedules are subject to change.
What weather can we expect?
New Zealand’s weather is changeable at any time of the year. The temperature range in this part of New Zealand in spring and summer is likely to be between 10-20 degrees but it can vary a few degrees higher or lower. The winter months are more temperate than other parts of New Zealand with a typical range of 3-12 degrees. The trail is located in a spectacularly unique environment where precipitation occurs year round.
What clothing should we bring?
Prepare for all 4 seasons. Please have a read of our “West Coast Suggested Gear List” document for a detailed suggestion of what to bring to cycle the trail.
What is provided with the hire bikes?
Each hire bike comes with a cycle helmet, rear carrier bag (approximately a 10 litre capacity), lock, and bottle cage. You do need to bring your own water bottle. With each group hiring bikes we provide a number of spare tubes, tyre levers, & mini-pumps.
All of our bikes have upgraded seats that are very comfortable, and we have both extra- wide comfort seats, or narrower performance seats are also available. For even more comfort we have gel seat covers available for purchase at our depot.
Shimano SPD clip-in pedals are available with a hire bike for no extra charge. Please request these at the time of making your booking if you would like them fitted to the bike.
Can I bring my own seat and/or pedals to use on the hire bike?
Yes you can, however we ask that our depot mechanics do the fitting of any parts to the hire bikes. We do have a limited quantity of Shimano SPD pedals that can be requested with your bike hire at the time of booking. This can save the hassle of bringing your own.
Once you finish the bike ride, if you have brought your own pedals or seat, we ask you to kindly remove these yourself before leaving the bike at our depot. We recommend bringing your own tools such as a pedal spanner if you have your own pedals fitted.
What if a bike breaks down or has a puncture?
We suggest that at least one person in your group is familiar with removing a wheel from a bike and changing a tube. Some cycle shops offer classes so perhaps ask your local store if you have never done this before.
Our hire bikes are serviced after every trip and are in great working order however occasionally a random mechanical issue can occur. Part of the service provided with hiring a bike from us is that we will arrange for a replacement bike to be delivered to you if your bike becomes unrideable. If you have had a crash and the bike is damaged there may be a cost to bring another bike to you (and to repair the bike).
If you are bringing your own bike to cycle the trail then it’s a good idea to have it serviced before the trip.
Is there cell phone coverage along the trail?
There is cell phone reception for a good part of the trail distance. Between Lake Kaniere and Kapitea Reservior however, coverage will drop off and be unavailable. Various mobile network companies may have slightly different ranges of coverage but do expect periods of no service in the remote bush areas.
If you have an overseas mobile number it is possible purchase a NZ sim card upon arrival in to the country. Many overseas holidaymakers find a NZ sim a cost effective option rather than using international roaming. Please ensure that Cycle Journeys depot staff have your correct contact number before you start on the trail.
How long will it take to cycle the trail sections each day?
There are 4 sections of the West Coast Wilderness Trail, each averaging 35km. We suggest allowing 3-4 hours cycling time per section, adding in extra time for stopping to take photos, have lunch, and time to admire the scenery along the way. Overall the conditions are similar to easy mountain biking rather than road cycling and this is reflected in the average speeds. Use the following as a guide:
Non-cyclist/beginner – 10kmh average speed
Recreational cyclist – 12-13kmh average speed
Very fit cyclist – 15kmh average speed
How should I prepare for cycling on the West Coast Wilderness Trail?
The more bike riding you can do before your trip the better prepared you will be. The dedicated cycle trail sections are mainly smooth but there are still parts that can be rough or may change with weather conditions. We recommend spending some time cycling on off- road trail surfaces prior to your trip to get familiar with riding a bike on mixed terrain. If you are going to hire an E.bike it’s a good idea to have ridden one beforehand to become accustomed with the extra power they provide.
There are some hills along the trail route so any cycling on hills that you can do in the months leading up to the trip will help your fitness.
A distance of 10km on the Wilderness Trail will be similar in duration to cycling 15km on the road. If you can fit in some rides in the 1-3 months leading up to your trip that are close to the expected daily duration on the A2O trail then this will be good preparation. An optimal goal would be to do 2 or 3 bike rides per week.
I’m thinking of hiring an E.bike. When should I book one?
Cycle Journeys has a fleet of E.bikes that are ideal for the Wilderness Trail. E.bikes are in increasingly high demand and are reserved on a first-in first-booked basis. For peak months such as March the E.bikes can be fully booked over 6 months in advance so it’s a good idea get in early.
Please note that if you decide to book an E.bike there is no refund available if you change your mind and cancel it later on.
Is it easy to follow the trail?
Yes, the trail is signposted. Our depot staff will also provide you with West Coast Wilderness Trail map information when you arrive there at the start of your trip.
Are there places to get water along the trail?
We suggest starting each day on the bike with enough water for the full distance of that day as there are often no opportunities to refill bottles between townships.
Cycle Journeys hire bikes are fitted with one bottle cage that is designed for use with a 750ml cycling type water bottle (bottles such as Pump, Powerade etc do not fit into cycling bottle cages). You will need to bring your own water bottle and we suggest bringing at least one other normal screw-top type bottle of minimum 1 litre capacity. This can be carried in the hire bike’s rear carrier bag.
Some people use a hydration pack as many of these can hold 2-3 litres of fluid.
Is there a weight limit for bag transfers?
The weight limit for luggage transferred is 15kg per bag. As bags often have to be carried over uneven terrain in semi-rural environments it’s important the weight limit is kept to. If you are travelling with more weight than this we will ask for you to pack excess gear into a second bag. This second bag can be transferred to your accommodation for the normal daily rate, or to your end location for a single $20.00 charge. There is a $10.00 per bag storage charge for any luggage held at our depot.
Once a bag is booked to be transferred a luggage label is created and attached to it, and it is logged into our bag transfer system. This is done for the security of your bag and its belongings so we know exactly which bag is going to and from which location. Any bag without a luggage label is unable to be transferred.
Is our luggage at our accommodation when we arrive each day?
Generally yes, depending on how fast you cycle there. Our luggage vehicles start the first pickups at around 8:00am. The first bags are dropped off by about 10:00am and the luggage van then travels along the trail. We aim to have bags in Greymouth no later than 12:30pm to time in with anyone taking the TranzAlpine Train to Christchurch at 2:05pm. Unforeseen circumstances and extreme weather conditions may at times affect the scheduled timetable.
How do we contact Cycle Journeys while cycling the trail?
The Cycle Journeys depot is open from 8:00am to 5:00pm every day from October until early April (except Christmas Day). From May through to September the depot hours vary depending on how many people are on the trail. The phone number is 0274 350 558.
What happens if we have an accident and need help?
In an emergency call 111. Local emergency facilities and services are available. We will provide you with emergency contact details when you arrive at our depot. It’s a good idea for at least one person in your group to carry a first aid kit with them on the bike.
For non-emergencies we may be able to send out a shuttle but there can be a delay in getting to you and keep in mind that many sections of the trail are not accessible by vehicle. Please note that extra shuttle charges do apply if you request to be picked up and taken in the vehicle to the next location or township.
What happens if the weather is bad?
If you don’t wish to cycle on a given day then it works best to pre-arrange a shuttle transfer the day before (although sometimes it can still be organised if you phone the depot by 8:30am that morning). The minimum cost of a shuttle transfer is $30.00 per person but Cycle Journeys staff will advise the actual cost based on the distance of your transfer and where the township is that you require the pickup from.
Due to the logistics of operating over a large trail distance we cannot guarantee that all requests for late notice shuttle transfers can be accommodated. First priority is given to customers who have booked full trips with bike hire.
What is the best way to get home at the end?
The last cycling day works really well doing this: Cycle from Kumara to Greymouth in the morning, have lunch in Greymouth (we suggest Monteiths Brewery!), then take the 2:05pm TranzAlpine train back to Christchurch.
Atomic Travel have a 1:30pm bus departing Greymouth and arriving into Christchurch at 5:10pm. It may not operate every day so it’s best to check their current timetable before finalising your travel plans.
You could also finish in Greymouth, take our early afternoon shuttle back to Hokitika and then fly out of Hokitika that evening.
If you have ended the trail in Ross we may be able to shuttle you to Hokitika or Greymouth. This service is dependent on minimum booking numbers and time of year.
Which trail should I cycle next after completing the Wilderness Trail?
Cycle Journeys also operate on the Alps to Ocean trail and in late 2019 will be present on the new Paparoa Track. For your next cycling experience consider coming back to the West Coast to bike the Paparoa Track, or head to the other side of the Southern Alps. The A2O trail starts from Mt Cook Village and goes past spectacular glacier fed lakes and rivers, over the dams of the Waitaki Valley through to the ocean harbour of Oamaru. We look forward to seeing you again soon!
Wonderful experience with this mountain bike ride. Excellent service from Cycle Journeys with booking, transport, bikes and storage. Great support provided during the ride and they organised lovely accommodation along the way. Our group was thrilled with their service.
Great customer service with staff who did everything they could to make our 4 day Wilderness Trail cycle trip from Ross to Greymouth as relaxing as possible. The accommodation at the beginning and end was exceptional. The support crew are amazing.