A Railbike Adventure

On our second full day in Gisborne, Emma B and I signed up to do a four-hour railbike tour. Gisborne Railbike Adventures first opened in December 2018 and has been a big draw for tourists ever since. It was definitely on our must-do list!

We left Mahaanui early, since we were due to set off on the bikes around 9:00 am. Our starting point was a rural road just outside of Gisborne in Muriwai.

The railbikes are a unique contraption, and such a smart business venture, perfect for a railway line that’s no longer in use.

We enjoyed the sunshine and quiet countryside while we waited for the rest of the group to show up. We had regular bikes, but there were also electric bikes on offer, which some of the others had rented. Once everyone was there, there was a safety briefing and some information about the ride, briefly interrupted by some cow noises from the neighboring pasture (doesn’t get more Kiwi than that). Then, it was time to set off! We were second-to-last in the lineup, with about 20 people on 10 double bikes in total. Our guide was in the front on a special electric bike rigged for one person.

It was pretty smooth going and the best part about being on a train track is that you don’t have to steer. You can just enjoy the view all around you. The bridges were especially fun to cross, as long as you didn’t lean too far over!

We stopped at designated points along the track, which would be communicated to us by a series of bell chimes, moving down the line of bikes so we all knew to brake. It wasn’t too strenuous, but we were going steadily uphill at this point, so it was nice to have a breather.

My favorite part of the whole ride was the 1.5 km tunnel we rode through, which of course I didn’t bother taking photos of. We had lights on our bikes that were switched on before we entered, though it was still pretty dark, and it took a few minutes to ride through. It was an otherworldly sensation, hurtling through the cool darkness, rough-hewn walls all around, without having to steer or focus on your bike.

On the other side of the tunnel, we reached the apex of the ride, where we’d stop for our lunch and a forty-minute rest to take in the beautiful view.

While this is the end of the line for the railbikes currently, our guide, who is also the owner, was telling us how they hope to extend it all the way to Napier eventually, which would be a multi-day ride. There’s a lot of red tape and bureaucracy involved in getting there. It took them years just to get the permits they needed to set up the current tours, but hopefully they’ll prevail with their long-term goal!

After lunch, it was photo time. The tour company has obviously gotten used to so many requests from guests that they now have a designated time and place for taking everyone’s pictures, each bike in turn.

Then, it was the best part of the ride, the long downhill glide! Oh yeah, I did get one photo of the epic tunnel as we were about to enter on the way back down.

We didn’t truly realize how much uphill work we were doing until we were going back downhill and didn’t have to pedal at all for the majority of the return journey.

Our guide had just turned the bikes around on the track at the top, so we were third from the front now.

Around 1:00 pm, we arrived back at the starting point, just as a steam train was pulling up to the end of the functioning train line. Not a bad way to cover 32 km and spend a morning! I’d definitely recommend the Gisborne Railbike Adventure (we did the Beach Loop) if you’re in the area. They also do shorter rides for those with less time on their hands.

Coming up next, some shots from around the farm at Mahaanui, and then adventures in the Wanaka area!

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