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Winter Riding Tips on the Timber Trail

Official website, approved by DOC and Waitomo District Council


So, it’s winter, this generally means that we avoid the outdoors right? Wrong! 

Believe it or not, those brisk cooler months can be one of the best times to view the plethora of nature's bounty. From snow clad mountain tops, to overgrown and bulging water systems, the winter wilderness should never be taken lightly. 

If you’re planning a trip on one of New Zealand’s 22 Great Rides, like the 84km Timber trail, in the cooler months then here’s a few important tips we think you shouldn’t Ignore!


Nathan North

Bike and equipment

Even though the trail is classed as a Grade-2/3 cycleway, the trail shouldn’t be treated as anything placid by means of technicality and equipment in the winter months. With many steep and rocky descents, extended portions of muddy trail and deep pockets of native forest, the trail is a healthy MTB oriented journey. With this in mind, the bike best suited for the winter months is a sturdy and well-maintained mountain bike with suitable tires for riding in muddy and slippery conditions. 

Bikes should be prepared as follows, with the recommended equipment:

  • Be well serviced and maintained
  • Disc brakes 
  • Front suspension (Unless you’re really tough, and are one of those crazy bike packers!)  
  • Suitable tires for riding in mud and on slippery surfaces 
  • Front marsh guard or similar


Top Tip: It is highly recommended to carry a spare tube, a half link or reusable chain link, a multi tool with chain break and of course, a pump. 


Suitable winter clothing is often the item most overlooked, or under-looked for that matter, when preparing for winter riding. Clothing can be a massive determining factor on just how enjoyable your ride will be. Being wet, cold, and chilled to the core can be much different than being just wet, but warmed underneath. 

Making sure you hit the trails in winter time with the right clothing is rather easy and we recommend you carry: 

  • Thermal socks 
  • Thermal riding gloves
  • Thermal base layer (Merino is the preferable choice due to its superior properties to synthetic alternatives) 
  • Soft-shell outer layer (Wind breaker style jacket)
  • Hard-shell outer layer (for when it’s really wet)
  • Waterproof backpack
  • Arm and leg warmers
  • Good quality cycling shorts or pants

Top Tip: Clothing needs to be breathable, yet water proof when heading outdoors in the winter months. There is such a thing as being too hot!


So your bike and clothing is sorted? Great! Now for a few absolute must-haves when hitting the trails in trying conditions. Most of these are essential to making sure you not only have fun, you keep safe.

  • Waterproof back pack (again! Don’t leave home without it!)
  • Dry bag to keep the important things safe (Phone, camera, wallet, photo of your Mum)
  • Camera. How else will you skite about the amazing views and sights you’ve encountered along the Timber Trail?
  • Collection of different sized Ziplock bags - These are a great, cheap and easy way of storing stuff in an individual dry bag for each item.
  • First aid kit including a survival blanket
  • Bike repair tools. Pump, chain break, spare tubes, cable ties and duct tape
  • Personal Locator Beacon (PLB)
  • This is optional, but highly recommended. Too often people head into areas with no cellular coverage and expect that all will be well.
  • Trail Map. This can either be in electronic form or printed on waterproof paper.  

Top Tip: When riding in the wilderness, turn your phone to airplane or flight mode to preserve the battery. When not in airplane mode in remote areas, your phone’s battery will be gobbled up like a packet of lollies at a 5th birthday party….


Now everyone needs food. This is the fuel you rely on to get through your winter journey through the wilderness, so make sure you pick it wisely. There are many companies offering brilliant day food packs, snack bars and energy gels that are affordable and work!

Picking the right food will be one of the biggest determining factors on A.) The completion of your adventure and B.) the level of suffering. 

Some recommendations are:

  • Tuna pouches and crackers
  • Muesli bars and cookies (Em’s power cookies, OSM, Bumper bars etc.) 
  • Energy gels (Pure nutrition, GU energy, power gel etc.) 
  • WATER! 2 to 3 litre bladder depending on your ride length, and knowing your normal intake requirements
  • Electrolyte replacement
  • A small thermos or vacuum flask with hot coffee or tea if you’re partial to a warm drink.
  • Something filling like a filled roll, sandwich etc. Peanut butter and runny honey sandwiches never go a miss for quick and tasty fuel.  

Top tip: For an easy and tasty snack, dried meat is always handy to carry in your backpack or back pocket. It doesn’t weigh much and offers a good mix of salts, proteins and energy. 



So with all of the above in mind, take one extra step and familiarise yourself with the amazing guides that we follow from the Mountain safety council. Their outdoor guides will help you plan and execute a memorable and unforgettable (in the right way) journey on the Timber trail. 


So, from the snow clad mountain top of Mt Pureora, to the misty and eerie Native Beech and podocarp forests in Piropiro, enjoy your ride, share the love with us on our social media channels, and spread the word! We can’t wait to see you there!

Dinner at Timber Trail Lodge


Article by Ben Haselden - 3XploreNZ.com

Check out his Timber Trail Lodge Article - Luxury in the Middle of Nowhere

Instagram @3XPLORENZ

Great Rides App Main Screen

Great Rides App


Specifically designed for New Zealand's Great Rides this app is used by mountain bikers, runners and walkers. It aims to provide location tracking to find amenities, attractions and local information while riding the trail. Once downloaded, the trail information is fully available offline.

Download for iPhone Download for Android
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