Since '02 xBhp is different things to different people. From a close knit national community of bikers to India's only motorcycling lifestyle magazine and a place to make like-minded biker friends. Join us
Country name: New Zealand
Area: 268,021 km²
Language: English, Māori
Currency: New Zealand Dollar
Road Length: ~94,000 km
Road Details: New Zealand has a vast road network majorly divided into two islands; North Island and South Island. The North Island makes up for around 6,000 km of state highway while the South adds around 5,000 km for a total of 11,000 km of the state highway network. These roads also provide linkages to the vast network of local roads and we are talking 83,000 km vast. As a result of the relatively low population density, the road per person stat for New Zealand is among the highest in the world.
Roadtrip name: The Grand New Zealand Roadtrip
Distance: ~8,000 km
Route: Auckland > Opua > Cape Reinga > Kaitaia > Paihia > Dargaville > Auckland > (via Coromandel Coast) Opoutere > (via Whangamata-Rotorua Route) Rotorua > Gisborne > Wellington > (via ferry) Picton > Greymouth > Franz Josef Glacier/Fox Glacier > Queenstown > Mount Cook > Te Anau > Dunedin > Christchurch > Kaikoura > Picton > (via ferry) Wellington > (via Mount Taranaki circuit) New Plymouth > Auckland
Part 1: https://bit.ly/2xKi10l
Part 2: https://bit.ly/3aD3a50
Ride on: Left side of the road
Metric System: Speed is in KM/H and temperature in Degree Celsius. Fuel or gasoline is measured in litres
Best Weather: December to February (Summer in NZ)
Motorcycle: Suzuki B-King: 1,340cc | 184 bhp | 146 Nm | 262 kg
Suzuki B-King was one of the most radical-looking motorcycles of its time. That’s saying a lot but for some reason, even that seems like an understatement. And why won’t it… one look at that pair of underseat exhausts and one knows that it is something special.
The whole design of the motorcycle portrayed assertion. Suzuki had built a heck of an image as they rode the GSX line and the Hayabusa to success. But using the Hayabusa platform for a streetfighter… must have been a tall task.
Look at the B-King from any angle, the B-King is a peculiar combination of sharp lines and bulbous proportions. The front looks aggressive and almost Transformer-ish… the Decepticon kind. The point is it looks menacing. And well, the engine from the mighty Busa, it packed quite a punch too. 146 Nm of torque and 184 horses are nothing to be taken lightly.
It cannot go head-to-head with a Busa, of course, but being a naked motorcycle it does not have to. What really counts is the surge of torque that it possesses. This thing is ready to fly and there’s so much torque all across the rev range that it is almost too forgiving to ride. Even 2 or 3 gears over the right one don’t matter. Just roll your wrist and it goes.
The Suzuki B-King weighs 262 kg which is a lot… quite a lot for a streetfighter. Despite that, the characteristics of the engine make it seem agile when on the move and the sorted geometry ensures responsive handling. Now, it is not featherweight so expect some effort to make it change direction but it is nowhere near the feeling of being a 260+ kg bike.
The lack of a windscreen is troublesome. One of the main reasons, of course, is the speed that this bike is capable of reaching. It was even more problematic for us because New Zealand was really, really windy. Also, ABS was not standard but optional. Ours had it so braking was not a problem. Despite the massive inertia, the Nissin units had almost no trouble in bringing the behemoth to a halt.
The Suzuki B-King wasn’t meant to be a tourer. But then again, the same thing could be said for a lot of bikes that we used for touring. And the B-King surely finds itself on the sharper end of the list. We had done New Zealand before on a Kawasaki Concours but this roadtrip on the B-King was just as fun… if not more!
“There is no happiness for him who does not travel! Thus we have heard. Living in a society of men, the best man becomes a sinner… Therefore, Wander! The fortune of him who is sitting, sits; it rises when he rises; it sleeps when he sleeps; it moves when he moves. Therefore, Wander!”
-Aitreya Brahmanan in the Rigveda, 800-600 B.C.
There are only a few places left which seem so natural and fresh despite being pierced by world-class highways, five-star hotels, and a tremendous tourist influx. New Zealand is a prime example of this endangered species. Tucked nicely away on one of the farthest corners of our planet, it has just the right size and substance to make for that perfect roadtrip.
Despite its relatively diminutive size, compared to its gargantuan neighbour, Australia, it’s got a lot more punch when talking about landscapes, things to do and see and the possible number of wallpaper quality clicks you can get even with your mobile phone camera. And this is not to mention the number of GP quality curves its roads have.
This would be our second roadtrip around New Zealand on a motorcycle. Last time in 2008, it was on a grand tourer- Kawasaki Concours 14. This time it would be a hyberbike- a Suzuki B-King, all of 180 horses waiting to be unleashed.
When we first saw photos of the B-King, it was acknowledged to be a radical-looking ruthless street fighter. Never before did the possibility of long-distance touring cross our minds, so when we got a chance to be able to ride the King around New Zealand, how could we say no! There were no doubts about the 160 HP+ motor, the ample torque, the upright riding stance, and the Japanese reliability being true friends for the entire 8000 kms of the planned route.
The one thing poking at us was the possibility of riding all around in single underwear due to the lack of any storage space whatsoever and wind buffeting. However, a combination of sports panniers, a tank bag and a backpack did the trick. The tripod was strapped well on the rear seat, the faithful TomTom’s Rider 2 GPS was mounted and good times were all set to roll.
Another journey begins, giving way to good and bad memories from the past and possibilities from the future. One of the perks of being on the road on a motorcycle is the freedom to go anywhere. After almost five months of being in a prison created by urban, social, and financial necessities, we finally broke loose. The faculties were spread wide open in superior reception mode, throbbing with the anticipation of sensory overload by riding in one of the finest countries on Earth.
Starting the trip on Christmas from Auckland has its own incentives- the air was vibrant, decorations adorned buildings, and people all around seemed jovial (New Zealanders are anyway very warm people. On the flip side, it meant higher accommodation rates and more tourists on the road with their awfully big and slow motorhomes and caravans. But none of this would matter in front of the instant nirvana achieved riding in the countryside. From the first day, hundreds of bovines and other herbivores dotting the countryside became our camera’s best friends.
The route was divided into sectors and the first would be Northland. By the second day, we were standing at the Cape Reinga Lighthouse walkabout with the vast blue expanse of the Pacific merging with the blue of the clear New Zealand sky. The altocumulus clouds made for pretty clothes for the sky.
This was also one of the few days where the B-King did a bit of gravel ride and performed well despite being fully laden. It was a very good handler and inspired confidence despite its rather colossal proportions for a street bike. En route you get to see the giant Te Paki sand dunes with thick foliage on one side and blue ocean on the other, truly an amazing sight!
An early morning start gives you amazing sights and smells. Usually chilly, the sunlight is golden and has an electric effect when it meets the green and fresh countryside. As usual, the bovines will be seen busy ruminating. Clouds also often descend to the ground and roll on the green hills, collecting in a natural trough, hiding trees and cows.
The highlight in Northland was definitely the Bay of Islands cruise that takes you really close to wild dolphins, and through the famous ‘Hole in the Rock’. A short walk on Urupukapuka Island’s fantastic beach was also memorable.
This cruise was arranged by Explore NZ (www.explorenz.co.nz). There were quite a few people and we were all full of expectations. The cruise picked up speed as it ventured into the Bay of Islands. It is situated only three and a half hours’ drive north of Auckland. Made up of 144 islands, this picturesque region has arguably the best climate in New Zealand and is a world-class playground for numerous outdoor activities.
It is called ‘Birthplace of a Nation’ because the first European to visit the area was Captain Cook, who named the region in 1769. It was the first area in New Zealand to be settled by Europeans. In a 2006 study, the Bay of Islands was found to have the second bluest sky in the world, after Rio de Janeiro.
20 minutes into the cruise, the captain slowed the ship to a halt. It floated calmly in the deep waters. He announced that there were dolphins upfront in the ocean. There is a law there which states that there can be no more than three ships around a school of dolphins. And these were wild dolphins, no one was ‘paying’ them with food to come near and swim with anyone. It was their wish. There were around 500 dolphins and each one of them was named by the ship’s crew.
Proceeding south from Auckland via the Coromandel coast, which is a riding paradise, we stopped at the Opoutere YHA on New Year’s Eve. It was a paradise nestled amidst lush green environs on a no thoroughfare road, which made it very serene. The next on the list was Rotorua or the ‘Sulphur City’. The Waimangu Volcanic Valley offered incredible sights and sounds from the depths of the earth, right on the surface. You can also pay a visit to The Buried Village of Te Wairoa which was buried in the explosion of Mount Tarawera on 10th June 1886.
This was also the day when the youngest geothermal area in the world with an identifiable birthdate was created- The Waimangu Volcanic Valley. Another notable tourist attraction is Te Puia, which is home to the world-famous 30-metre Pohutu geyser, erupting up to 20 times each day.
We did the East Cape on a day which was overcast throughout. It had very less traffic and it would have been a lot more enjoyable with blue waters on a sunny day. The difference which the sun and a blue sky make to a coastline is unbelievable. The route was Rotorua- Opotiki- Hicks Bay- Tolaga Bay- Gisborne. East Cape Town is the easternmost point of New Zealand.
Gisborne boasts of being the first city in the world to greet the sun each day. Technically, however, this is only true for part of the year. Both Suva, Fiji and Nukualofa, Tonga, are closer to the International Date Line and therefore would seem more likely candidates for this title.
We arrived in Wellington from Gisborne over the Rimutaka ranges on an incredibly windy and wet evening. It was perhaps the only point in the whole ride where we felt out of control due to the 100+kmph winds! You’d have to ride with both feet on the ground and hovering at 30 km/h while trying not to get blown away. You cannot be too surprised by this as Wellington is one of the windiest places on earth!
After a stormy night in Wellington, it was pure luck that we got to sail the Interislander Ferry to Picton on calm waters. The 92 kms distance between Wellington and Picton is covered in 3 hours and is also regarded by a few as one of the most spectacular ferry voyages in the world.
The South island is undoubtedly more beautiful and exciting than the North, but the whole country is draped with ultra sinuous roads with fantastic scenic backdrops which will rival the endurance of even the biggest knee-scraping fanatic and the finger of a shutterbug.
Interislander and Bluebridge are the two ferry services that offer a to and fro service from Wellington, North Island to Picton, South Island. You can park your bike rather safely using the strap-ons provided by the ferry guides. The set-up passed a very rough sea crossing with the B-King!
We took the west coast to Greymouth and then to Franz Josef Glacier. The glacier highway is truly remarkable. It is incredible to be able to see the glaciers from the road. The weather held itself enough to allow a half-day glacier walk on the Fox Glacier.
It is one of the very few places in the world where a glacier meets the rainforest. We got held up in Franz Josef for a day owing to highway blockage due to inclement weather. Severely bad weather was building up for the South Island and that meant a lot fewer photos!
Further south, the weather improved surprisingly. Things got very pretty near and after Haast, the road winded into the Southern Alps which is a mountain range running along the western side of the South Island of New Zealand. It forms a natural dividing range along the entire length of the South Island. Riding down south towards Queenstown, you’ll be greeted with the blue waters of Lake Hawea and Lake Wanaka.
A few kilometres before Queenstown, it actually started to snow. It was magical to see light snowflakes fall everywhere. It did get super chilly and by the time we found an opportunity to get out the camera, the snow cloud had passed.
It was a moment to cherish forever. The rugged mountain ranges reflecting on the lakes around Queenstown have a remarkable resemblance to the Himalayas in India, although the former falls way short in height. A ride from Queenstown to Glenorchy and back in the evening sealed one of the best riding days. The powerful and rock-steady B-King made it even sweeter.
What awaited next was equally enchanting- Milford Sound which is touted as one of the most beautiful places on earth. The ride from Te Anau to Milford itself is astounding; however, we had to contend with a tour bus due to heavy rains and the only consolation was the memories of the ride on the Concours on the same road in 2008. The place is draped with hundreds of waterfalls, big and small, falling from the cliffs and luckily enough we got blue skies while sailing in the sounds!
Things got pretty dismal after my Milford sojourn; it was raining inexorably and it was hundreds of kilometres of riding in the rain till Dunedin where we made a customary visit to the world’s steepest street- Baldwin Street.
The ride to Mt Cook was almost cancelled based on the inclement weather hounding South Island, however, the lady on the other side of the phone in Glenn Tanner Park told us that it will clear up the next day. And we trusted her! The ride from Dunedin to Mt Cook (or Aoraki, the highest mountain in New Zealand) was one to cherish forever. It was just blue skies with scattered white clouds and the Mt Cook range in the distance. We came as close as 20 kays to the base!
The only high point after Mt Cook was the beautiful Akaroa circuit near Christchurch and the Mt Taranaki circuit near New Plymouth. Not to mention the ultra rough ferry crossing back to Wellington!
We would not mind doing New Zealand once more; in fact, we are truly obsessed with that land. The country is the perfect example of big things coming in small packages!
A BRIEF GUIDE ON DOING A ROADTRIP AROUND NEW ZEALAND
New Zealand is comprised of two main islands- the North Island and the South Island. Being on a road trip will mean that you will be better off choosing one of the two islands at one time (if you don’t have enough days at hand).
The choice of most people would be the South Island and perhaps, rightly so- the Glacier Highway, the Milford Sound and the abundance of jewels like the Akaroa on the east coast and Mt Cook in the centre. But make no mistake, North Island also has its share of treasures- the Bay of Islands and Rotorua being two of them.
We have had the good fortune of not just travelling to New Zealand but riding around it twice on some of the world’s best motorcycles. This has given a double assurance that this far-flung isolated country is indeed one of the best places that you can ride.
Here is a short guide to touring New Zealand by road. You can easily replace the motorcycle with a car.
Countries like New Zealand are so hard (and rewarding!) to cover in a limited number of days and on a fixed days plan. The main reasons for this are:
• The unpredictable weather and rain (Milford Sound is one of the rainiest places in the world). The inclement weather compounds your problems when you are a photographer working with expensive electronics.
• One-way trails. Places like Mt Cook, Milford Sound, and Cape Reinga are dead ends and you have to retrace your steps (with a smile on your face though!).
• The small area of the country is misleading; the whole country is dotted with places worth at least a look and ample planning is required to identify the best places/activities.
The above had been taken into consideration while designing the route along with a few things like inserting spare days which can also serve as rest days/emergency days (in case of a machine breakdown etc)/ a buffer day for accommodating heavy rains.
Best Time to Go
Since New Zealand is way down in the southern hemisphere, the seasons are reversed from the north. The best time for motorcycling would be summer (during winters in India). More specifically try and visit after mid-January to avoid the peak season in the summers when tourists (both domestic and international) throng the beaches and roads although there are still a lot fewer people than in India at any given time!
Moreover, it will be cheaper in all aspects (airfare and accommodation) to visit outside this busy window. Unfortunately, our trip fell right in the middle of all this, but except for a little expensive accommodation, it had almost no effect on the quality of motorcycling due to the increased number of tourists on the road.
Which Will Be The Right Bike for Me?
New Zealand has hundreds of thousands of corners. Straight roads are a rarity; therefore you should choose a motorcycle which is light yet not small enough to cramp you and leave you wondering where you will stash the entire luggage. We have travelled using a Kawasaki Concours and a Suzuki B-King. Both the bikes are a world apart in terms of classification but quite similar in terms of power and bulk.
The best bet would be a bike like the Kawasaki 650R/Yamaha FZ6, which will allow you to take on those corners with confidence and have luggage-carrying options. Avoid bikes like the high and heavy BMW GS1200 and the Goldwing which would render it as good as a car on the ultra sinuous and narrow roads of New Zealand.
Do your research on aatravel.co.nz coupled with wotif.com and real-world travel advice on tripadvisor.com. Try to stay in Holidays Parks. They usually offer cheap and great accommodation in a nice natural setting with the option of parking your bike right in front of your cabin. Try top10.co.nz which is a great chain of holiday parks in NZ. Also, try YHAs, they are a cheap (and sometimes great) alternative. But beware, they could be a little crowded sometimes with backpackers.
Best Route You Could Do in 3 Weeks on a Road Bike
Day 1: Land in Auckland, pick up your bike, load your luggage, and get in the right mental frame for the journey ahead. You can stay in Freemans Bed and Breakfast, 65 Wellington Street, Ponsonby, Auckland. Run by an Indian Punjabi family, it is great value for money (approximately 60 NZD for a single room with b/f) and very near to the city centre. You also have a public laundry nearby where you can wash your clothes for a few dollars. Do visit Devonport, near Auckland, at sunset. It offers a fantastic view of the Auckland skyline across the waters.
Day 2: Auckland to Opua (222 kms). Midway halt en route to Cape Reinga.
Day 3: Opua to Cape Reinga to Kaitaia (330 kms). Pay a visit to the northernmost point of New Zealand mainland and get terrific views of the confluence of the Tasman Sea on the west and the Pacific Ocean on the east. On the way, you can see giant sand dunes (Te Paki) meeting with the sea. Pack a subway sub and have it at the Cape while enjoying some fantastic views! You can dump your luggage at the town of Kaitaia, which is the gateway to the Cap, and then come back the same evening for an overnight stay at the Northerner Motel. Eating tip: We always preferred Subways to pick up some great fresh food- fast, cheap and healthy! They are pretty much everywhere in New Zealand.
Day 4: Kaitaia to Paihia (Bay of Islands, 101 kms). Book a tour with Explore NZ (explorenx.co.nz) to experience dolphins and the Hole in the Rock (if the waters are calm enough, they will take your boat through a natural hole in the rock in the middle of the sea!)
Day 5: Return to Auckland and get prepped for a longer ride towards the South (Paihia to Auckland via the west coast and Dargaville, 350 kms).
Day 6: Auckland to Opoutere via the Coromandel Coast (315 kms). This one is one of our favourites. The coast is an absolute jewel on a sunny day and it offers some really fantastic riding! Stay at the YHA Hostel in Opoutere (near Whangamata) if you like nature and serenity!
Day 7: Whangamata-Rotorua route (180 kms). The city of Rotorua smells of sulphur, and rightly so, considering that it has one of the most active and youngest geothermal regions in the world. Make it a point to visit the Waimangu Volcanic Valley, Te Puia, and the buried village of Te Wairoa. The YHA in Rotorua was a nice place to stay; request them to park your bike inside the premises. Keep more than half a day aside for this one.
Day 8:Rotorua to Gisborne has two options; via East Cape (longer and along the coast, 470 kms) and through the Waioeka Gorge Scenic Reserve (150 kms shorter). If it is an overcast day, choose the shorter one. The coast will be a dull grey anyway!
Day 9: Gisborne to Wellington (530 kms). Take extra care over the Rimutaka ranges which can be very windy and actually throw your bike to the ground.
Day 10: Wellington to Picton (via ferry which will take 3 hours to cover the 90 kms distance between the North and the South Islands) and then head to Greymouth (350 kms). Take an early morning ferry (interislander.co.nz). Visit Paparoa National Park en route to see some amazing pancake rocks. The Glacier Highway effectively starts from Hokitika to Haast, covering around 280 kms.
Day 11: Greymouth to Franz Josef Glacier/Fox Glacier (170 kms). Stop over at either of these townships along the Glacier Highway and make it a point to do a halfway glacier walk (if you have the time, that is). Stay at the Franz Josef Top 10 Holiday Park.
Day 12: Franz Josef Glacier to Queenstown (350 kms). A fantastic and unmissable ride! Also, do Queenstown to Glenorchy and back (80 kms roundtrip) at the time of the sunset for some beautiful views of the mountains!
Day 13: Queenstown to Mount Cook (250 kms) for a wonderful view of Mt Aoraki (Mt Cook), the cloud piercer. This is a one-way route. You can skip this and save one day. There is not much except a fantastic highway and sights of the highest peak in New Zealand. Stay at Glen Tanner Park.
Day 14 and Day 15: Mt Cook to Te Anau (400 kms). This is one of the rainiest regions in New Zealand and you will be lucky to find the sun. From Te Anau to Milford Sound (110 kms) is one of the best rides on the planet for a motorcyclist and it will be a crime to miss it! In the rain, you will find thousands of small waterfalls beside the highway, clinging to the cliffs, as you go to Milford Sound. Book yourself a cruise of the Milford for a wonderful experience! Stay at the Te Anau Downs (Fiordland National Park Lodge). The Milford Sound ride and cruise will eat up a whole day.
Day 16: Te Anau to Dunedin (300 kms). Dunedin has the world’s steepest street- Baldwin Street). Make sure you have a ride up and down it at least once, but always stay in first gear and keep those fingers on the brakes!
Day 17: Dunedin to Christchurch (360 km). Ride around the Akaroa peninsula near Christchurch for some fantastic views of the sea and the great narrow winding roads. Stay at Camelot Lodge in Christchurch.
Day 18: Christchurch to Kaikoura to Picton (350 kms). Then catch a ferry from Picton to Wellington. This is a wonderful ride along the coast. Stay at The Hutt Holiday Park in Wellington.
Day 19: Wellington to New Plymouth via the Mount Taranaki circuit (390 kms).
Day 20: New Plymouth to Auckland (360 kms).
You might have noticed that rest days were not included in between. This ride is for seasoned riders and you can insert rest and buffer days as per your convenience. New Zealand is not that big which means even if you get stalled by rainy days, you can skip destinations and cover distances fast enough to make sure you reach your home base and catch a flight back home.
Other Useful Tips
• HEMA Map’s Motorcycle Atlas is indispensable. Written by a motorcyclist, the highlighted routes make life easier in forming the sub-routes to be taken while travelling a whole country. Highly recommend it even if you are travelling by car.
• Check NewZealand.com, it has got some valuable information which might come in handy.
• New Zealand has a lot of tourists hiring big campervans. They drive them very slow on the roads and this is often frustrating for motorcyclists who are much faster. Proceed with extreme caution as the drivers are usually grey nomads and they have all the concentration on the road ahead and not on the rearview mirrors. Make no mistake, for most of the year, you will find a lot of these big vans on the road.
• Learn to say ‘Kia Ora’ which informally means ‘Hi’ in Maori which is one of the three official languages of New Zealand, the other two being English and sign language.
• You ride on the left side of the road.
• New Zealand can often get very wet. Carry suitable rain gear, especially for your electronics.
• Extra visor for your helmet, anti-fog for your helmet visor and tubeless tyre puncture repair kit with a small electronic air pump should be included in your inventory.
• Keep within 100 km/h on most highways, you never know where there might be an unmarked cop car.
• Try to find out about races and motorsports events going on while you are there, especially the Battle of Streets in Paeroa.
• Last but not least, don’t speak too highly about Australians to a New Zealander.