Riding high in Waitangi Mountain Bike Park

By: Cornelia Luethi, Photography by: Cornelia Luethi


Riding high in Waitangi Mountain Bike Park Grant cycling in the Waitangi Mountain Bike Park Riding high in Waitangi Mountain Bike Park
Riding high in Waitangi Mountain Bike Park There is an onsite bike repair and servicing workshop Riding high in Waitangi Mountain Bike Park
Riding high in Waitangi Mountain Bike Park Such lovely scenery to cycle through Riding high in Waitangi Mountain Bike Park
Riding high in Waitangi Mountain Bike Park There’s no need to cycle uphill if you don’t want to – at weekends a shuttle will take you and your bike back to the top of the hill Riding high in Waitangi Mountain Bike Park
Riding high in Waitangi Mountain Bike Park Riding high in Waitangi Mountain Bike Park
Riding high in Waitangi Mountain Bike Park There’s an app that can show you where you are in the park... Riding high in Waitangi Mountain Bike Park
Riding high in Waitangi Mountain Bike Park ... of course old-fashioned paper maps work just as well! Riding high in Waitangi Mountain Bike Park
 Riding high in Waitangi Mountain Bike Park The view from the Trail Hub Village  Riding high in Waitangi Mountain Bike Park
 Riding high in Waitangi Mountain Bike Park Enjoying a well-deserved treat after the ride  Riding high in Waitangi Mountain Bike Park
Riding high in Waitangi Mountain Bike Park Shuttles run at weekends to take you back to the top of the hill from designated shuttle stops Riding high in Waitangi Mountain Bike Park
Riding high in Waitangi Mountain Bike Park The gel seat and extra-wide tyres on the e-bike made for a very comfortable ride Riding high in Waitangi Mountain Bike Park

Waitangi Mountain Bike Park is so highly regarded in Northland, it even inspired MCD writer Cornelia Luethi to get back in the saddle after a 20-year hiatus

Since opening in 2016, Waitangi Mountain Bike Park has come to be regarded as a leading mountain biking destination in New Zealand.

With nearly 50km of tracks in the Bay of Islands’ Waitangi Forest – and more tracks in the pipeline – it’s an incredibly scenic spot. Developed by a community group, the park is an all-weather, family-friendly activity that’s affordable and suitable for people of all ages, and all cycling abilities.

With so much positive talk about the bike park locally, it was on my bucket list to check it out – even though I hadn’t mountain biked in nearly two decades. I convinced my partner, Grant, to come with me, and he’s had an equally long hiatus from cycling. Here’s how we got on…

Arriving at the bike park

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The Trail Hub Village has a spectacular view over the Bay of Islands

The access road is gravel, but I’m reliably informed that big motorhomes and house buses navigate this with ease. And there’s a huge car park – but if you have a particularly big rig, you may want to avoid peak times.

The Trail Hub Village features a cafe, bike hire shop, bike mechanic, toilets, and the Waitangi Mountain Bike Park office. Riders are encouraged to make donations towards maintaining and building trails, and if you haven’t done this in advance, you can pay at the office. It’s $10 for a one-day tag, or $40 for an annual tag ($25 for under-14s).

The tag also gets you discounts at local cafes, tourism operators, and accommodation providers, including 10 percent off at Waitangi Holiday Park. If you are hiring a bike onsite from Paihia Mountain Bikes, the $10 daily rider donation is included in the rental fee.

Bike rental

Grant and I chose a full suspension mountain bike (Kona Process 134 SE) and an e-bike (Merida eOne Twenty 800) from Paihia Mountain Bikes, with the intention of swapping bikes part way through the ride to compare experiences.

The owner of Paihia Mountain Bikes, Jonny Martin, was extremely patient in explaining the bikes to us, and had us cycling around the car park as practice. Helmets, park maps, and a gel seat were included, and Jonny recommended the best novice routes for us to try.

The park

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The e-bike handled narrow paths with ease

Grant started out on the e-bike, while I rode the conventional mountain bike. I must admit the initial humps and bumps on Mokopuna trail scared me a little, but it was character building rather than terrifying. This was just a 0.8km trail, after which we rode the Holland Days trail (2.2km), and the Holland Days Loop (0.7km).

These tracks took us through a pine forest and then a large stand of gum trees – perfect shady conditions for a day with temperatures in the mid-20s, and the chatter of cicadas was wonderfully noisy.

These particular tracks were fairly level as they run along a valley at the bottom of the park where many of the downhill loops and trails terminate. And if you don’t fancy pedalling back uphill, you don’t have to – there’s a shuttle service on weekends that takes you back to the top of the hill. Genius!

The bikes

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Cornelia cycling through the Waitangi Mountain Bike Park

Part way through the Holland Days trail, I switched to the e-bike. Oh my goodness, how this altered my experience! I found the conventional bike hard work, as I’m not very fit, and don’t have great balance.

The e-bike handled the undulations with ease. I got the feeling of still exercising but without panting or pain. What’s more, this particular model has extra wide, plus-sized tyres that made the bike feel a lot more stable than the conventional bike.

I no longer felt that every rock was trying to trip me, which meant I became a lot braver with my biking – and made it so much fun! I had a huge grin on my face when we returned to the Village Hub, and enjoyed a celebratory post-ride coffee and muffin at the cafe.

Would I recommend Waitangi Mountain Bike Park? Absolutely. Would I go again? On an e-bike – definitely! And did I fall off? No, both Grant and I returned unscathed and happy.

More information

Waitangi Mountain Bike Park: Comprehensive information is at wmbp.nz. Note that gates are locked at sundown, and overnight parking or camping is not permitted.

Paihia Mountain Bikes: Advance bookings are recommended, especially for e-bikes. You’ll also find details of the Waitangi Mountain Bike Park Shuttle Service at

paihiamountainbikes.co.nz.

Interview with mountain biker Jonny Martin

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Jonny Martin and his fleet of modern mountain bikes and e-bikes

Jonny Martin is the owner of Paihia Mountain Bikes, the on-site mountain bike rental facility at Waitangi Mountain Bike Park. He’s been hooked on cycling since he was four years old, and has made a career out of his passion for bikes.

Prior to establishing Paihia Mountain Bikes, Jonny worked as a mountain bike guide throughout New Zealand. Jonny is thrilled that what, in his view, is the best mountain bike park in New Zealand has opened up near his hometown, and he loves sharing his passion for cycling with others.

Why is Waitangi Mountain Bike Park a good choice for novices?

"Many of the other mountain bike parks in New Zealand cater only for advanced riders, whereas at Waitangi it’s always been the goal to provide a family-friendly experience for all abilities," says Jonny.

Jonny adds, "The easiest trails are Grade 2, which are quite flat and smooth. At the other extreme, the Grade 5 tracks are technically challenging expert-level trails with drop-offs, sharp corners and difficult obstacles."

Are there enough technical trails for advanced riders?

Jonny believes Waitangi Mountain Bike Park is world-class, with plenty to keep experienced riders coming back for more. "I’ve mountain biked extensively throughout New Zealand, and even though I ride at Waitangi all the time, it’s always fun."

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