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Tootling around Tauranga

Richard Kelly | Published on 5/14/2023

Tauranga, where my brother lives, is NZ’s fifth-largest city (pop. 160,000). It is NZ’s biggest export port (logs, dairy, kiwifruit), and 100 cruise-ship visits are booked for next season. There is no high-rise and negligible mid-rise. Combined with green pockets and water, water everywhere (see map), the city is VERY spread out.

Most of that water is very shallow, with associated mangroves and marshlands. There are also freshwater creeks and lakes. There are shared paths around much of the water/mangrove edge, making for days’ worth of pleasant cycling. The path surfaces vary: packed-fine-gravel, dirt, boardwalk, grass, & some sealed. But some gravel, especially on new/replacement sections, comprises loose, large pebbles. Most paths are flat, but there are short sharp inclines involved, especially when linking from one waterway to another.

When in Tauranga, I ride with the two biggest ride groups: Tuesday (av. 40 riders?) & Wednesday (av. 50?). A few “bikers” are in both groups. Most are retirees. All ride MTBs, with the majority on e-MTBs. Each group assembles in the one place, near a large coffee-shop, then splits into several ride-groups, likely heading in different directions for 20 to 35kms. Ride-groups often cross paths. Optional coffee is usually at end-of-ride, where the ride-groups intermingle.


The Tuesday group has long-since formally split into two e-powered and one pedal-powered ride groups. e-bikers had resented waiting for pedallers atop climbs, and pedallers resented e-bikers in the way when wanting a speedy attack at climbs. The Wednesday group has more ride-groups and informally splits similarly. Both groups have “away” day-rides at least monthly, plus some multi-day trips in small sub-groups.

The pedal-powered bikers tend to be fitter, long-term cyclists. On three of my four such group rides recently, everyone in my ride-group was e-powered, except the leader! (Ride-leader courses are rare, and it seems few e-bikers want to lead, anyway). Both Wednesdays, my leader was a 77yo woman, champion or place-getter in numerous events over three disciplines in the most recent World Master Games! My motor cut-out at 25kph (vs NZ legal limit of 32kph), and I couldn’t stay with Pat when she got serious MTB-ing on flat packed-gravel!

Attractions of Tauranga tootling include wetland birds, the variety of (non-eucalypt!) trees and bushes, super-tall hedges, hobby-farms, views to the nearby Kaimai Range, and the feeling of SPACE! Tauranga is an hour’s drive from three of NZ’s “Great Rides”: Whakarewarewa Forest Loop, Waikato River Trails, and Hauraki Rail Trail (two sperate sections), plus the 65km sealed(!) Te Awa River Ride. And Tauranga is approx two hours drive from other “Great Rides”: Motu Trails, Great Lake Trails, and Timber Trail.

- Oz(/NZ) Wanderer

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