Mountain bike ride includes best part of Rail Trail

The Otago Central Rail Trail is now well known around the world, so I thought I'd better include a ride on the most spectacular part of the trail in this summer's bike rides series. 

Many regular riders are no doubt familiar with the 150km trail, so I've thrown in a loop which will take you off the old railway corridor and into the hills above the trail before exploring the best section of the rail trail on the way back to your start point.

Make sure you carry at least a litre of water on this ride if it's hot and take a torch for the tunnel.

Start at Lauder and head northeast on usually quiet SH85 (heading towards Ranfurly).

Enjoy the stunning views ahead to the Hawkdun Range and up to the Dunstan Mountains to your left.

After an 8.5km cruise you will arrive at Becks.

There's a pub here, so check your water and snack supplies.

Then carry on up the highway, cross the Manuherikia River bridge and almost immediately turn right on to Blackstone Hills Runs Rd, 10km into your ride.

This quiet gravel road takes you back down the Manuherikia Valley.

After a pleasant 7km pedal, you'll see a signpost marking Thurlow Rd, which heads off to your left up into the low hills.

Have a big drink and away you go on the only significant climb of this ride. At the top you'll reach a rickety old gate ("leave gate as found") and you can take in the views over to the Ida Valley and Rough Ridge above it, north to Blackstone Hill and back to the Manuherikia Valley.

Then plunge down the track into the Ida Valley.

Soon you'll reach the Rail Trail near Auripo - turn right and away you go.

This is the best section of the 150km trail, as it includes two impressive viaducts and two tunnels. Almost immediately you'll cross the 37m high Auripo viaduct over the Ida Burn, then plunge into two tunnels.

If you don't have a light and decide to ride through, look just in front of your bike, not at the bright tunnel entrance. As you emerge from the second tunnel, the walkway on the right leads to the remains of a tunnel workers' construction camp. Soon you'll be whizzing over the Manuherikia River on the second viaduct before you cruise down to your start point at Lauder.

Time for a cold one! I compiled a short, slightly whimsical video on this ride last summer.

Search on YouTube for "Crazy rail trail adventure".

• Distance: 30km
• Main climb: 150m
• Estimated riding time: 2 hours



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