Some of the most beautiful scenery and roads in the world are in New Zealand and the best news is that riding there is really easy and stress free.
I have ridden and driven on Kiwi roads on several occasions on holidays as well as motorcycle and car launches. The most recent was for the launch of the Indian Scout on the North Island. If you like European scenery, weather and food, why spend the money traveling to Europe when you can get the same for less in New Zealand – minus the castles and ruins? Another benefit is you get to ride on the same side of the road as Australia!
From my observations, riding in the Land of the Long White Burnout Cloud is not only exhilarating, but also quite a friendly experience.
Most of New Zealand’s roads are quiet, winding and well surfaced. In the North Island they use a coarse chip asphalt that can dislodge and leave gravel on corner exits and also flick up into your face, so wear a full-face.
South Island roads are composed of a denser material with finer stones. It doesn’t dislodge as easily, is smooth and grippy, but can be hard on tyre wear.
Kiwi drivers also seem the most polite I have encountered. They don’t seem to be in a hurry and they look out for riders, probably because many of them are also riders, even if it’s just riding around their paddocks.
If the road is wide enough, they will indicate and move over to allow motorcycles to pass. this is simply unheard of in many of the countries where I’ve ridden.
Even truck drivers move over to let you through. Sometimes they move over into the breakdown lane or road shoulder and allow you to pass, even when there is traffic coming the other direction!
Be nice and give them a courteous wave.
However, all is not total bliss in the beautiful Lord of the Rings setting.
For a start, fuel is quite expensive ranging anywhere from about $2 to $2.25. Strangely, it seems cheaper out in the country, which is opposite to here in Australia. At least the exchange rate brings the cost down, so a litre of unleaded costs about $A1.80 or $US1.60. It’s usually cheaper near Whangarei, where the refinery is located.
Also, the slow pace of life in theNew Zealand countryside can sometimes lead to frustration. It’s not unusual to be caught behind slow-moving tractors that just can’t move over far enough on narrow country roads or be caught as flocks of sheep are ushered across the road.
New Zealand is also such a pretty country and has had such a marketing coup with the Lord of the Rings and Hobbitt movies that it attracts a lot of tourists. Most of those are in slow-moving RVs and they don’t move over for anyone! There is also the probability that tourists from Europe and North America can occasionally get confused and leave carparks and turn on to the wrong side of the road, so be careful.
Although I’ve never had a run-in with a Kiwi cop, local motorcycle journalists tell me they can be pretty good, letting you off with a stern warning for speeding. But, there can be exceptions.
Beware of the many unmarked patrol cars, usually late-model Commodores, but speed cameras will almost always be in new Hyundai iLoad vans in dark colours, parked in obvious ways.
I’ve been told to watch out for the cops around the Lake Taupo and desert road areas where the roads are flat, straight and boring and you are likely to twist the throttle a little too eagerly.
The good news is that radar detectors are legal inNew Zealand.
Other traps to watch out for just about any time of the year is black ice, especially on the lee and shady sides of hills, slippery manure on the road and moss growing on the road edges or between tyre tracks.
Please note that shipping your own bike over from Australia for the trip is not so expensive, or there are many motorcycle hire companies. Taking a bike between the islands by ferry is relatively cheap and fun, and only takes about three hours. However, you will need to take your own tie-down straps for the trip. Try Lockstraps which are light and secure.
Anyway, it all seems so attractive, I’m heading over at the end of the year for a couple of weeks to explore the South Island, mainly. It will be a timely preview for the inaugural Iron Run rally in March based around Queenstown.