Operator 'pedals' leisurely tours

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AUCKLAND, New Zealand -- "None of our trips is meant for serious athletes," said Richard Oddy, founder and owner of Pedaltours, which has run biking tours here since 1985.

Rather, cycling is a leisurely mode of transportation for the operator's destination-focused, multiactivity tours of New Zealand and Australia.

"It's not just head-down biking," Oddy said. "You go along at 10 mph rather than driving 60 mph and seeing relatively little."

Oddy described the firm's clientele as active, ages 35 to 50-plus, and "not dedicated cyclists, but people who dabble in skiing, walking, cycling."

"We sometimes get couples of varying ability," Oddy said. "One might like to do a long ride of 60 miles and the other half that distance. We can accommodate that type of thing."

Support vehicles, which tow luggage, coolers and picnic tables, also are available to give a lift to the weary, he said.

Evening meals are either at the small hotels or inns where the cyclists stay or at restaurants along the way.

One of Pedaltours' seven-night trips concludes in Rotorua, above, a geothermal spa town located on New Zealand's North Island Lunch usually is a picnic on the beach or at a scenic roadside spot. Out of the saddle, travelers have an opportunity to take guided walks, Oddy said.

Longer trips include rest days to enjoy activities such as kayaking in New Zealand's Paparoa National Park, rafting, jet-boating or taking a steamship cruise on Lake Wakatipu aboard the Earnslaw in Queenstown.

Pedaltours' longest trip, the 21-night Grand Tour, is a combination of three tours. It covers the northern tip to the southern tip of the South Island of New Zealand and visits four national parks along the way.

The journey previously was 18 nights, but was extended this year to make the distances more manageable, Oddy said. A support van is used on six of the days.

"If you've time to do the whole thing, you're going to cover the entire South Island, and it's certainly a very scenic route," he said.

The Grand Tour is priced at $3,980 per person, double, land only, including the $205 bike rental fee; a cruise on Milford Sound; and meals, with the exception of two lunches and five dinners.

The tours are Nov. 23 through Dec. 14, Jan. 10 to 31 and Feb. 28 through March 21.

At the opposite end of the challenge and time-commitment spectrum is the one-night Canterbury Wine Tour, which visits up to seven vineyards from Christchurch to Hanmer Springs.

"That's a particularly easy trip, designed as an introduction to cycling," Oddy said. "It is on near-flat roads, and the distances are short, about 25 miles per day, with lots of stops for wine tasting.

"Hanmer Springs, where we stay, has excellent hot pools to laze in and a superb restaurant," he said. "Our guests appreciate a good standard of lodging and meals and a guide who knows the area."

The wine tour is priced at $345 per person, double, including the $30 bike rental and all meals. Six departures are scheduled from November through March.

For two cyclists, private departures of the wine tour can be booked for $475 per person, including bike rental.

The warmest months in New Zealand, and, consequently, the most popular ones for New Zealand cycling tours, are January and February, but Oddy advised people seeking fewer crowds and finer scenery to consider visiting in early summer (November or December), "when the snow is still on the mountains, or at the end of summer, in March, when there are the fall colors."

Travel agent commission is 10%. A 10% discount applies to all pre-Christmas tours. For more information, contact Pedaltours New Zealand at (888) 222-9187, e-mail: [email protected] or visit the Web at www.pedaltours.co.nz.

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