Riding a grand circuit of Blenheim by mountain bike
Last Modified: 26-10-2022 9:39
By: Christopher Cookson
Blenheim has several cycle trails, from flat, sealed trails that are an easy ride for anyone, to more challenging mountain bike tracks on the Wither Hills. For a long time I’ve been keen to complete a grand bike circuit of Blenheim, utilising cycle tracks and staying off the road as much as possible.
I finally achieved my goal on the Saturday afternoon of Queen’s memorial weekend.
Stage 1: Mapp Track
Starting at the Redwood Street entrance to the Wither Hills Farm Park, I took the Mapp Track to the east towards Riverlands. This track follows the northern contours of the Wither Hills and is quite steep in places. I’m only a casual cyclist so on some of the steeper sections I got off and walked, but made up for this on the equally steep downhill sections.
My bike is a hard-tail, but I was glad of disc brakes rather than the rim brakes of some older or cheaper bikes, and I was very happy to have at least front suspension unlike really ancient bikes, as the Mapp Track is quite a bumpy ride. While it would be possible to ride the same circuit in the opposite direction, I’m glad I rode the Mapp Track first, as it has the steepest gradients of the whole ride.
Grade: Moderate - Hard
Stage 2: Riverlands Rail Trail
The Mapp Track ends at Cobb Cottage Road where I rode for a few hundred metres on this quiet rural road to the Riverlands Rail Trail which I then followed back into Blenheim, where I rode a short section of Kinross Street onto Redwood Street, then Main Street, and north along Symons Street to The Quays where I descended to the Taylor River.
Stage 3: Taylor River Reserve
From here it was off-road again along the river to Taylor Pass Road just north of the western entrance to the Mountain Bike Park.
Stage 4: Wither Hills Rifle Range Track
I rode along the road to the Mountain Bike Park, then took the Rifle Range Track back through the Wither Hills Farm Park to Redwood Street where I rode south to complete my circuit where I’d begun at the Redwood Street carpark and entrance to the farm park.
Grade: Easy - Moderate
According to my GPS log, the total circuit is just under 24 kilometres, with altitude ranging from sea level to 75 metres. As a casual rider carrying a light pack with several kilograms of camera and lenses, and a few photo stops where I forgot to stop the timer, it took me just over two hours to complete the circuit.
I’m guessing someone fitter without a load, or someone with an e-bike could probably complete the circuit in an hour or less as it took me around three quarters of an hour just to complete the Mapp Track section, even though this amounted to less than a quarter of the total distance.
I’m surprised this circuit isn’t promoted as a Blenheim attraction, as it takes in great views of the Wairau Plain, and even the North Island on a fine day, while from the Riverlands Rail Trail, there are great views of the iconic Wither Hills. It would be only a minor detour to visit the historic Riverlands Cob Cottage, and the short on road section passes Raupō cafe and the new library and art gallery. The Taylor River section is quite picturesque, and a quick detour for a Burleigh pie or a visit to Brayshaw Park, or following the west bank of the river south of the Burleigh bridge and visiting the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre would be easy.
In an era where we’re constantly reminded that burning fossil fuels to satisfy our travel urges isn’t a good idea, it’s pleasing to be able to take a bike ride that includes such a variety of scenery.
There is room for improvement though. Much of the vegetation alongside the Riverlands Rail Trail is weedy and unattractive. The cycle trail north from Blenheim to Spring Creek was originally like this, but much has now been planted in natives, and is far more appealing. For people unfamiliar with Blenheim, I think there’s room for better on-track signage to inform that it is possible to create a grand circuit. Perhaps one day there might even be an annual event to ride the circuit.
Maximum Elevation: 75m
Minimum Elevation: 0m
Cite this page
Cookson, C. (2022). Riding a grand circuit of Blenheim by mountain bike. Retrieved December, 5, 2023, from https://www.marlboroughonline.co.nz/marlborough/information/commentary/riding-a-grand-circuit-of-blenheim-by-mountain-bike/