Kennett who collaborates on a range of cycling projects is focused on optimising the public use and enjoyment of cycle trails and mountain bike tracks throughout New Zealand. The cycling champion who has been biking since 1986 and ridden every mountain bike track in New Zealand says, “To ride this brevet day after day, through such fantastic scenery, and meet so many friendly and generous people is something I’ll never forget.”
The long-distance bicycle ride with its check-point control format follows the route described in the 3rd edition of his book Classic New Zealand Cycle Trails. Kennett’s vision for the brevet was to combine the bike-packing format with The New Zealand Cycle Trails and create something really special. Overseas riders of Tour Aotearoa are already claiming it as the best bike-packing course in the world, given its variety, scenery and the fact it is not just an event, but open to anyone at any time.
A newly developed live tracking technology was used for the brevet, with every rider wearing a GPS tracker, changing the dynamic for both riders and spectators. Kennett describes how people became addicted to “watching the dots”, constantly checking the webpage that showed where riders were, and how fast they were travelling. It enabled people to meet riders along the way and cheer them on, with riders able to see where other riders were and slow down, speed up or team up along the way, making for a social riding experience.
Participants of the tour were met alongside the trail by ‘Trail Angels’ with food, water and encouragement. The Hauraki Rail Trail surpassing expectation with a table laden with biscuits, cherry tomatoes and cool water outside a farmhouse. Bike shops and cafes stayed open to feed hungry riders or provide essential repairs. Kennett describes the generosity as “uplifting”.
Riders of the 15-30 day Tour ranged in age from 21 to 73. Some incredibly fit, cycling 300 km per day for a week or more. Others had never undertaken a significant cycle tour and struggled, although persevering and gaining fitness throughout their journey to Bluff. So far statistics have shown over 90% of the riders are managing to complete the 3000 km Tour.
For anyone aspiring to complete Tour Aotearoa it is suggested riders start with one Great Ride, working up to 2 or 3 in succession in order to prepare for the test of endurance. Training is critical, with comfort deemed of greater importance than speed. Kennett advises riders to commence training on one of the longer Great Rides, working up to multiple Cycle Trails. More specifically he proposes riders don’t train on the trails which are part of the Tour in order to “maintain their sense of discovery.”