The Queenstown Bike Festival
Our guide to Queenstown's premier biking event
In a place so indelibly surrounded by raw and rugged nature as this, it is unsurprising that Queenstown has acquired a reputation for extreme sports. Today, this mountain city is hailed as one of the world's prime biking destinations, mentioned in the same breath as France's Alpine Morzine and Canada's dramatic Whistler resort, home to long stretches of navigable mountain ridges and some of New Zealand's most beautiful lakeside tracks.
Cue the Queenstown Bike Festival, Queenstown's premier biking event. Since 2011 it has energised the city, attracting bikers and two-wheel enthusiasts to this veritable mecca of trails and tracks for a yearly, 10-day celebration of our favourite geared machines.
Races and activities range from family-friendly events like the Konica Minolta Bike Day (when live music and unicycle racing takes place at Earnslaw Park), to adrenaline pumping pursuits for the real professionals, such as the R&R Mega Avalanche event (when riders descend more than 2km down the Remarkables to a finishing point deep in the Wakatipu Basin).
The festival typically includes the Super D Enduro race in Queenstown Bike Park. The six-hour event starts at 10.00am and is set to pit downhill pros against mountain trail experts. Casual riders will love the free-entry social ride from Arrowtown to the crest of the Crown Range, while families should head to the children's Mini Cross event in Arrowtown itself. The festival includes an unashamedly relaxed vibe on certain days, with women-only rides and night time cycles starting at 6.00pm. A more energetic event is the Dirtmasters downhill competition. This race, which runs from the Queenstown Bike Park to Brecon Street in the heart of the city, challenges riders with a series of rough track sections and high-speed air jumps.
The Slopestyle event is held in the Ballarat car park when street bikers will try and conquer an intricate array of half-pipes and ramps. After the adrenaline subsides Queenstown prties until the early hours, with after events taking place in bars and clubs right throughout the city.Biking Options Around Queenstown
The area around town is home to such a variety of cycling hotspots that you're guaranteed to find something no matter what your level; whether that means discovering the tranquil tracks around Lake Wakatipu and Lake Hayes, or getting a high-altitude helicopter drop-off on the Remarkables Peaks.
Perhaps most notably the 100km-long Queenstown Trail encompasses a real plethora of local beauty, taking visitors right into the heart of Central Otago wine country, past Lake Wakatipu and Lake Hayes and alongside the iconic Shotover and Kawarau Rivers. It's possible to tackle individual sections of the trail, with many visitors choosing the Arrow River Ride that leads from historic Arrowtown to the home of bungy at the Kawarua Bridge. The Lake Wakatipu Ride conveniently begins close to the town centre at Earnslaw Park and finishes 15km later in the Kelvin Heights Peninsula.
Picking up the pace, it's possible to reach the acclaimed Queenstown Bike Park via the Skyline Gondola. Here, spectacular views and well-honed trails abound, offering every style of biker, from beginner to expert, a real variety of trails through the hills. Families will probably prefer the Jardines Mountain Bike Park, where the softer tracks and lighter jumps are better suited for kids.
If you're serious about making the most of Queenstown bike culture, one safe bet is to enlist the help of local experts. Guide companies like Fat Tyre Mountain Biking specialise in tailor-made biking excursions and can organise anything from 3-day trips into the wild backcountry of Otago, to calming culinary adventures to nearby towns.
For more information on the bike festival, head to the Queenstown Bike Festival website.