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. But, while Queenstown continues to draw adrenaline junkies from every walk of life – from bungy jumpers looking to conquer one of the world’s originals, to skydivers after some of South Island’s most breath-taking panoramas – there is one sport that has really come to the fore here in recent years: Biking.
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 14th takes on an unashamedly relaxed vibe, with women-only rides and night time cycles starting at 6.00pm forming the highlights of the day. The 15th is set to be a little more energetic, with the Dirtmasters downhill competition taking centre stage. This race, which runs from the Queenstown Bike Park to Brecon Street in the heart of the city, kicks off at 2.00pm and challenges riders with a series of rough track sections and high-speed air jumps.
From the 16th to the 18th of April riders will compete in the Slopestyle event. Held in the Ballarat car park, this competition kicks off at 6.00pm, when street bikers will try and conquer an intricate array of half-pipes and ramps. But, if you’re looking for a little bit more of a laid-back vibe, head to the Hilton Queenstown's jetty for 10.00am, where you’ll be able to join the free-entry ‘coffee ride’ through the newly-established local trails network.
The festival comes to a head on the 20th with the major R&R Avalanche event forming the pièce de résistance. After the adrenaline subsides Queenstown is set to party until the early hours, with after events taking place in bars and clubs right throughout the city.
Biking Options Around Queenstown
With world-class trails and supremely beautiful scenery to boot, there’s little wonder so many people are coming to Queenstown to bike. 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.