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Well, spring has arrived and someone told me recently that from now on we gain two minutes of light each night. That means a solid two more minutes of riding opportunity at the end of the day! A lot of other riders have obviously had the same thoughts, as I have noticed more and more road bikes heading out of town to do some of the many rural road circuits on offer.
I bet a lot of these people are getting some quality k’s under their belts before they ride the Contact Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge in November. This iconic cycling race (or event as I treat it!) draws thousands of cyclists to Taupo each year. With the addition of the Huka Challenge mountainbike race to the event, it sends out a reminder that the region is not just a great place to have some fun on your road bike, but it’s also a mountainbiking mecca.
The good thing about small towns is that it doesn’t take long to get out into the country on your bike, find some quiet roads and breathe in the fresh air. There are loads of good road loops that head out of Taupo, making it easy to ride for as long as you like and add on extra distance if you’re feeling fit.
Mapara Road Loop
I personally think you can’t beat the Mapara Rd loop. You get some great views of the lake and the idyllic Mapara Valley that sits above Whakaipo Bay. I usually start at the Acacia Bay end of Mapara Rd, ride through to the end of the road, then turn left onto Poihipi Rd and head back into town. The whole loop is approximately 30km, making it a great middle distance training ride with a couple of decent hills to get you off your seat!
One of the nicest things about doing the Mapara Rd loop is you can pop into L’Arte Café for some quality java and local art before continuing on your ride through the valley. L’Arte would have to be one of my favourite cafes in the Taupo area with brilliant coffee, great food and some quality, if not off beat, artwork and sculpture to enjoy and ride off with (depending on the size of your saddle bag of course!).
While I’m on the subject of coffee, I think Taupo has some of the best around and for some reason I think a great coffee compliments a ride (road or mountain) perfectly. For a really bike friendly place in town check out Eruption Café, and if you’re lucky a picture of a bike might appear on the top of your flat white!
However, I digress...
Yes, there are heaps of road cycling opportunities in Taupo. There’s the whole of the west side of town where you can head out to Kinloch (and more!), a distance of approximately 21.2km, then continue on along Whangamata Rd. There’s a choice of returning via Poihipi Rd or joining up with Oruanui and Link Roads, taking you out to State Highway 1 just north of Wairakei.
Another popular ride is to head north from town past Wairakei then turn right onto Aratiatia Rd and cross over the Waikato River on the Aratiatia Bridge (time it right for the opening of the dam gates and you’ll be treated to an amazing torrent of water filling up the gorge). From the end of Aratiatia Rd you can head back into town via Centennial Drive (covering a total distance of approximately 25km) or, if you want a longer ride, join the Ironman course on Broadlands Rd and head out to Reporoa and back.
So, for me, it’s time to get my road bike out from its winter hideout, wave goodbye to the kids and husband as he arrives home from work (the trick is to head out at the same time he gets in so he has no chance to complain!) and get some fresh air and k’s under my wheels. Who knows, I might even have another crack at the Cycle Challenge this year, or there’s always the relay option. Hmmm, or maybe I’ll just volunteer as a marshal with a coffee in hand!