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The Motu Trails offer a huge variety of riding within a stunning and undeveloped corner of New Zealand. Experience everything from coastal riding, to quiet backcountry roads where you're more likely to see horses than vehicles, and historic single track twisting down through massive native forest. With three trails to choose from or the option of combining them all there are plenty of riding options to suit all ages and fitness levels.
Dunes Trail :: Easy :: 10 KM
This lovely and accessible trail follows the spectacular stretch of coast east of Opotiki and forms a 10km link to the bottom of Motu Road. The trail offers unspoilt views of the Pacific Ocean and the rugged East Cape.
Starting from the stopbanks in the Opotiki township, the trail meanders over the Pakowhai ki Otutaopuku bridge and follows the sand dunes with a number of vantage points to take in the view! The trail is undulating but the rises are small and it caters to all abilities of cyclists.
The return journey can be completed comfortably in two-three hours. Tracks have also been formed along Opotiki’s stopbanks, so you can circumnavigate much of the town as part of the experience.
Parking is available at several points, with heaps of parking in town – a short hop from the start of the Dunes trail and the Pakowhai bridge. Toilets and a picnic area are located at Hikuwai Beach approximately 3km away from the start of the trail.
Motu Road Trail :: Intermediate :: 67KM
The 67km Motu Road Trail follows the historic coach road from Matawai (high on the ranges between Opotiki and Gisborne) to the coast; from where you take the Dunes Trail on to Opotiki. Opened in 1914, the Motu Road offered the first wheeled-vehicle access through the ranges between the two Bays.
The Motu Road Trail is challenging with a number of climbs and longer descents through bush-clad hill country and isolated farmland. A good fitness level is required. Starting the trail at Matawai (elevation 500m) or Motu (elevation 450m) will reduce the length of the climbs substantially!
From Matawai, the trail starts with a 14km relatively flat cycle to Motu. From here, consider a detour to the spectacular Motu Falls. Motu offers a shelter and toilet block; Motu-vation café & store offers refreshment; Motu Community House provides a great place to stay. After leaving Motu get ready for a solid 3km climb, up to almost 800m elevation. As always, the view at the top is worth it! From here the road crosses a couple of valleys but has much more down than up.
About 17km from Motu, you get to the top of the Pakihi Track, offering a more advanced ride back to Opotiki. For those who don’t like singletrack, continue on the Motu Road, 34km back to the coast.
Many complete this fantastic trail in a day, but some make an overnight stop at Toatoa. The trail is ideal for e-bikes as long as you have sufficient battery capacity and are not heading for a return on the Pakihi Track.
Pakihi Track :: Advanced Grade 4 :: 44KM (20km singletrack, 9km gravel road, 11km sealed road, 4km riverside trail)
The Pakihi Track begins high on the Motu Road, nearer Motu than Opotiki. Generally, shuttle drop-offs are from the Gisborne/Opotiki boundary line at nearly 800m elevation, which gives 9km of Motu Road riding, almost all downhill. Then you’re onto the Pakihi for 20kms of splendid isolation and fantastic riding. You drop through stunning bush, including large tawa, and crossing small wooden bridges — 12 bridges (10km) gets you to a DOC hut. Stop for a break, enjoy the forest and stream, even stay the night.
After the hut, you cross a 32m suspension bridge, then follow the Pakihi stream. It’s glorious riding, with lush nikau, plentiful ponga, and the chance of spotting birds like the rare NZ falcon.
A caution! The track’s numerous steep drop-offs call for continual attention and real care. It’s not especially technical riding, but there are often small slips and windfalls. In many places there’s also no room for error — with a four-eight metre drop to the river.
By the time ‘civilisation’ (in the form of Pakihi Road) is reached, you will have enjoyed a wilderness ride with few equals on the North Island. Opotiki is still 24kms away, with approximately 9km on gravel road before hitting a sealed road to take you back to the outskirts of town. Dive onto Te Rere Pa road and follow the Otara Stopbank Trail for a sweet finish, then head for a well-deserved beer. This is some fantastic single track riding and is without a doubt some of the best downhill and remote riding on the North Island.
Loop Trail :: Intermediate :: 91KM Open
Combine the Dunes Trail, Motu Trail and the Pakihi Track and you have the ingredients of an epic 91km ride – an unforgettable cycling expedition.
This is a full day mission that should only be attempted by keen and experienced riders. Two days is much easier, staying at Toatoa. The loop peaks at over 600 metres and there’s 1000 metres of climbing all up. The loop will take anywhere from five - ten hours, depending on your level of fitness and the number of stops you take to break up the journey.