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December 2020 Issue
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Pedal power

From Nelson to the Richmond Range tops on the Coppermine Trail. Photo: Virginia Woolf Photography

There’s a wonderful tramping paradox I’ve come to appreciate more with the passing of each track marker – that of the bottomless to-do list. It’s a contradiction that’s allowed Wilderness to publish trips for nearly 30 years, and seasoned trampers to walk for five plus decades only to hang up their boots with a list half-finished. I’m sure many readers are familiar with the feeling – you finally cross a route off your list, only to hear of another track leading just over that ridge, or down that valley. Or perhaps you spend a night in a hut, strike up a conversation with a fellow tramper and come away with five more huts you’re dying to visit. It’s endless, and it’s one of the greatest joys of the outdoors – there is always more to explore.

This month’s issue put a real spanner in my spokes; cycle trails. While they’ve so far managed to roll beneath my radar, this month they collided with the forefront of my mind.

Ex-tramper Sarah Bennett told me – with a passion palpable over the phone – I would hang up my tramping boots the day I rode my first cycle trail, while 80-year-old Graeme Hare shared the lifelong joy of pedal power.

Now, I’d classify myself as a novice cyclist, but the passion has always been there. I started young with trainer wheels, before graduating to a hand-me-down two wheeler with cardboard pegged to the frame to catch the spokes and deafen the neighbourhood. I dabbled in unicycles at high school, and have recently purchased my first ‘grown-up’ road bike for commuting – though I’m hopelessly inconsistent.

Having spent several weeks chatting to passionate pedallers, I’ve had my eyes opened to an exciting new world of low-carbon adventures, connectivity and coffee stops. Bike sales are going bananas, and so are track networks, popping up all over the country at an unprecedented rate.

The 22 Great Rides are hugely varied, in both scenery and difficulty level, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see several more popping up in the next few years – check out Taranaki residents’ bid to develop a route.

Though I’m still very much a tramper at heart (sorry, Sarah), the contagious excitement of Kiwi cyclists has definitely caught hold, and I’ve set my sights on tackling a Great Ride as soon as I can to see if it suits.

If it does? Well, I guess I’ll add the remaining 21 to my never-ending list.