Motorcycle Cruising in the North Island of New Zealand
Created | Updated Nov 12, 2002
A landscape that unravels before your eyes in a cocktail of all the shades of green, blue, red and yellow. A rolling countryside dotted with representatives of the 18 million sheep in the country. The smell of freshly-cut grass and the pungent odour from cattle crossing gently titillating your nostrils. Mighty volcanoes soaring straight up into the sky, that you can see from the corner of your eye. Skies as blue as Claudia Schiffer's eyes stretching over the horizon. A warm wind that caresses your face and makes you forget you have a helmet wrapped around your head. The dull thwack of bugs hitting the armour on your chest as you ride through recently-used cattle crossings. Schools of motorcyclists that sweep by you in a thunder of four-stroke engines and a cheerful wave of an arm. If you believe in God, you will know for a certainty that the Almighty loves you. If not, you can revel in the feeling of being the happiest person in the world. This is the essence of motorcycle cruising in New Zealand - the Land of the Long White Cloud.
The quality of the roads in New Zealand is quite acceptable, though Kiwis love to compare them unfavourably to those in the USA and elsewhere. There are verifiable instances of motorcycles as small as the Suzuki GN250 being used for long distance cruising in the country. Then there are the mighty Harley-Davidsons that can absent-mindedly eat up more than a thousand kilometres of New Zealand motorways in a day.
For those with a taste for scorching performance and ophidian1 manoeuvrability, all sorts of crotch rockets2 from from different parts of the world are available and can be used. However, this might be a good place to mention that New Zealand police do not adopt an indulgent attitude towards people breaking the speed limit of 100kph.
For the motorcyclist who is also a discerning wine lover, a visit to New Zealand's wonderful vineyards is a must. As most of these vineyards have gravel driveways leading to the door of the always friendly and knowledgeable owners, a BMW F650GS or its big brother the R1150GS, would be the tourer of choice.
A good riding style is that of a lone wolf travelling long distances at reasonably slow and legal speeds, enjoying the natural beauty that New Zealand has been blessed with in plenitude. Then there are motorcycling clubs that would envelope you in large schools of every conceivable type of motorcycle in the world and make the whole experience a social one. Of course, motorcycle rental companies would quite happily equip the new traveller with a proven and reliable machine along with an experienced, multi-lingual and similarly mounted guide. These companies are geared for the international tourist and are a great way to indulge in riding a wide range of exotic motorcycles without having to pay for and maintain them.
Books on the Subject
There are quite a few good books around that can also give you an idea of what to expect and a primer on the local road rules and tips on riding in New Zealand. One of the best is Great Escapes : A Guide To Motorcycle Touring in New Zealand by Peter Mitchell.
Preparation and Warnings
Food and Drink
Food is never a problem, and everything from huge pit stop complexes with McDonald's and restaurants to little village cafés selling Devonshire tea dot the motorways. To the rider interested in tasting traditional Kiwi hospitality along with their food, stopping at the village cafés comes highly recommended. Credit cards are accepted at almost all service stations, most of which also have little restaurants attached where you can get everything from cappuccino and fruit salads to long blacks and fried chicken. It is quite possible to make a 2500 kilometre trip, and possibly longer, without using any paper money whatsoever.
Fuel prices have recently gone up a bit (at the time of writing), but you will find that it is still quite reasonably-priced, at about 50 cents (US) a litre. Given the steady cruising speeds made possible by the mostly uncrowded motorways, indulgent climate and good quality fuel (and related fluids), even the snarling superbikes will be as kind as possible on the wallet.
Breakdowns can and do happen, but AA New Zealand3 has the entire North Island covered. You tend to get AA support along with your motorcycle at the motorcycle hire place. It does pay to carry a mobile phone for just this sort of situation and you can get cheap little prepaid ones from Vodaphone or Telecom, who cover most of the North Island. In case the unmentionable happens in a valley or a similar place where mobile reception is non-existent, chances are there will be a friendly Kiwi motorcyclist or a farmer driving a Nissan ute, who could give you a lift or call the AA from the next service station.
There are at least two good motorcycle rentals in Auckland that give very good value for money. One is Auckland Motorcycles and Power Sports (AMPS) and the other is New Zealand Motorcycle Rentals. Check out their websites for the latest prices and cruising possibilities. A search for motorcycle rentals on the Search NZ directory is bound to throw up a big list of choices.
Licences and the Motorway Patrol
All international two-wheeler licences are valid in New Zealand, but please do check with the rental company first.
Once again, a warning footnote: New Zealand Highway Patrol Officers are very unforgiving in their dealings with tailgaters, speedsters and lane-filterers and possess some very fast BMWs.
Live to ride, ride to Live!