Cycle Touring on the South Island of New Zealand

by Susan Otcenas

240,000 frequent flyer miles. That plus $57 in taxes and fees will buy you two round-trip first class tickets to New Zealand. And let me tell ya - it's worth every mile of it.

We've been saving frequent flier miles for years, mostly by using a mileage credit card. But as anyone who has ever tried to USE their miles will attest, actually getting seats, when you want them, to a destination you want to travel to, can be almost impossible. In fact, we tried to take this vacation in 2003, but were unsuccessful. However, after a week in February 2004 of several-times-a-day phone calls to United Airlines, and literally hours on the phone with reservation agents, we finally managed to book 2 tickets TOGETHER on all the same flights for December 26th 2004 through January 11th 2005. New Zealand, here we come!

What we brought along

Bikes

After months of debating our options, we finally settled on buying Bike Fridays to take with us to New Zealand. Renting in New Zealand was not an option we would consider, as fit and function are far too important on a long-distance cycling trip. No, we wanted bikes we were familiar with and comfortable on.

Having traveled with a full-size bike before, I knew what my challenges would be, chief among them the inordinate fees we would pay to the airlines for the oversize bike boxes. Instead, Bike Fridays fold/disassemble into one standard black Samsonite suitcase, thus avoiding excess and/or overweight baggage fees.

Bike Friday is located in Eugene, Oregon, just a two hour drive from our home. We spent the day in Eugene test-riding various models and discussing componentry and gearing with our sales consultant. After 5 hours or so, I finally settled on an Air Glide while Jeff opted for a New World Tourist. The list of options/upgrades/componentry is seemingly endless. If it will work, and the parts are available, Bike Friday will build it for you. We opted for drop bars, a mix of Ultegra/XT componentry, and SRAM 3-speed internal rear hubs in lieu of triple chain rings.

Bags

Living in the Pacific Northwest, I have been a fan of Ortlieb panniers for years. No need to fuss with pannier covers or wrap your gear in plastic bags. Ortlieb panniers are truly waterproof and worry-free. I already owned a pair of Back Roller Classics while Jeff invested in a set of Bike-Packer Plus bags. Each of us added a Ultimate3 Plus handlebar bag as well. Since this was a "credit card camping" trip, no front panniers were necessary.

Pre-flight

A week before we left, we did a "test pack" of all our gear, clothing etc. (See what we packed)

My bike (including pump, bottle cages (no bottles), rack, fenders and lights weighed 31.5 pounds. Adding gear-filled panniers and water brought the total weight up to 59 pounds. Jeff's bike & gear totaled 55 pounds. Jeff's bike is about 1.5 pounds lighter than mine and he drinks much less water than I do. He pees less too. :)

All geared up, we rode 26 kilometers to the bike shop to buy some foldable tires and a few spare tubes. One limitation with 20" wheels is the dearth of tires and tubes available - luckily we in Portland are blessed with a fabulous recumbent shop, Coventry Cycle Works, that had just what we needed.

Our test ride was a complete success.  We're ready to go!
Our test ride was a complete success. We're ready to go!

Next Page: Departure