Accessible throughout the year the Rail Trail follows the now defunct Central Otago branch railway line along its entire 150km length from Clyde through to Middlemarch. It was the Department of Conservation (DOC) and the Otago Rail Trail Trust that originally came up with the idea of transforming the old tracks into a recreational activity for all the family to enjoy.
All motorised access to the trail is banned and as such the trail is not only incredibly peaceful but there is the added bonus that there are no traffic concerns, leaving you free to enjoy the ride and admire the stunning views.
Passing through spectacular scenery otherwise not seen from the highways the Rail Trail takes in mountain ranges, passes through old mining towns and sidles through the Maniototo plains.
Despite being rougher than a sealed highway, the trail’s surface is consistently level and evenly gravelled likened to a good unpaved road.
Accommodation ranging from backpackers to refurbished period houses can be found in the numerous towns along the way which developed in conjunction with the railway branch line stops. The most popular spots are Clyde, Alexandra, Chatto Creek, Omakau, Lauder, Oturehua, Wedderburn, Ranfurly, Waipiata, Hyde and Middlemarch. More accommodation exists in other towns slightly more off the beaten track.
A reasonable level of fitness is required to complete the Trail in comfort but children and the elderly alike have all completed the Trail thanks to a small amount of preparation and the level gradients experienced throughout the whole ride.
If you’re planning a trip on this amazing trail, allow yourself between 3 and 7 days to complete the journey with the most popular being 4 days which allows for rides of between 35 and 45 km per day; recommended riding pace is 10km per hour and all bikes have trip computers so you can monitor your progress. If sightseeing is to play a major role in your trip, then plan to take longer.
For more extensive information on the trail visit www.trailjourneys.co.nz
Tour operator Trail Journeys
Your Otago Rail Trail experience starts and finishes with Trail Journeys. A Qualmark endorsed company with facilities at either end of the Trail in Clyde and Middlemarch, they have over 500 hire bikes ready to ride and are ready to cater for your every need.
Since 2003 Trail Journeys has expanded from a 10 bikes - 2 man operation to the sizable and slick operation it is today. Their growth is based on an unfaltering commitment to excellence and refined customer service.
It is this commitment to excellence that led to the development of bikes specific to the Rail Trail…
Trail Journey’s Bikes
With their years of experience running bike hire operations for the Rail Trail, Trail Journeys, in a bid to provide the best possible rider experience on the Trail, collaborated with Avanti Bicycle Company to develop, design and spec bikes specifically for use on the Otago Rail Trail.
Avanti’s expertise in bike design combined with Trail Journeys’ experience on the Rail Trail led to the development of a bespoke set of bikes perfect for tackling the Rail Trail.
Based around the Avanti’s rugged Discovery 26.1 and 26.1 Low Step models, the bikes underwent minor transformations and emerged as the Spirit Trail models seen cruising up and down the Rail Trail today.
Features of the Spirit Trail bikes:
+ Kenda puncture resistant tyres have been fitted to greatly reduce the chance of punctures whilst out on the trail to keep you from spending time on the trail side mending inner tubes when you’d rather be riding along enjoying the scenery
+ a more upright riding position takes pressure off your wrists and helps transfer your weight more evenly across the bike. After all, the trail is 150km long so comfort is paramount
+ Zero comfort saddles with a central cutout make days in the saddle far easier and more inviting when rising in the morning for another day’s ride
+ The Zero saddle sits atop a suspension seat post which takes some of the sting out of the trail and provides a smoother ride
+ pannier racks and bags are provided if you should need them to hold all the gear you’ll need for the journey safely on the back wheels
+ upgraded bearings on the bike ensure that you’ll experience no looseness on the ride
+ other smaller but no less significant changes have been made all round producing the perfect bike for the Trail
+ finally, of course, a custom paint job just for Trail Journeys
These bikes are updated every year to ensure the highest quality bicycle for your journey and Trail Journeys now have a bike hire fleet of 500+ bikes in all sizes ready to take you on what promises to be a spectacular journey through Otago.
For all the info on Trail Journeys visit their website here