HOW DO I GET A PLACE AT THE START?
Applications for 2026 will open 1 June, 2025
When it comes to assessing applicants, I'm looking for a range of attributes;
- good finishes in well known bikepacking event(s) (so within 1.5x of the "winners" time eg 6day GSB, 15day TA, 21day TD etc).
- a depth of experience in the backcountry, could be tramping, climbing, hunting etc
- experience in adventure races or similar
- experience bikepacking/ cycle touring in out of the way places
So it's not one of these or all of these. What I want evidence of is that you are capable of finishing the TTW in good time, that you have the experience and skills to look after yourself in a backcountry setting and you can have fun when times are tough.
WHEN WILL THE COURSE BE RELEASED?
While there's an overview of the course on the site, the detail will be released to successful applicants in August. It's will be the similar to previous editions, but there might be a few changes. The course will be released to the general public just before the start, to limit the chance someone puts the race in jeopardy by trespassing on private land.
WHATS THE IDEAL BIKE AND SETUP?
A course of this type has no ideal bike or setup. Long flat sections mixed with single track and hike-a-bike mean that whatever you choose there will be compromises. Remember the only bike shop on route is in Methven….
A hardtail with front suspension and biggish (29 x 2.35) tyres was the most popular option in the first editions. Some successfully rode a full suspension setup, less successful was a fully rigid setup with bigger tyres. Please don’t bring a gravel bike, I’m certain you’ll have a bad time when you could have been having fun.
Probably more important is gear range. I think having a low granny gear will pay dividends. 30T x 10-50 is probably a good place to start. What about the big flat sections and promised tail winds? A 2x setup would be good if your bike allows for it and we know singlespeed is pretty fast too if you are strong enough. Also consider how you will ride the technical downhills - maybe a seat dropper?
Gear carrying requirements are simplified by the abundance of water and frequency of huts, but complicated by long sections with no resupply and bike carries. A minimal bag setup with a stashable backpack for extra food is a valid option. Riders have quickly learnt that off-loading weight from the bike to a backpack was key to fast travel on the big hikes.
Shoes were the items that had the most failures during the inaugural race, with riders sporting carbon-soled XC shoes cracking them within the first few days. Do yourself a favour and sort out some shoes that have a proven record of being great for hiking and riding. In this respect some riders might choose flats as a good option, as it also makes the frequent mounts/dismounts vastly easier.
Tyre choice is always a great conversation point. A number of riders had issues with slashed sidewalls and pinch flats that dashed their racing aspirations. There are many good tyre options but more important IMO is knowing how to repair a catastrophic failure. Packing a needle and thread and a bit of practice is a good place to start.
Keep in mind that the weather on the tops can be truly nasty with nowhere to hide. You really do need proper wet/cold weather gear to have the ability to move in storm conditions. This includes thermals, windproof hand coverings and a full shell layer. A synthetic puffer jacket is an essential item in my opinion. Gale force winds and snowstorms have occurred in the high country sections of all editions and riders have been forced to bivvy in sub zero conditions. Make sure your sleep system can handle this. Be a good scout and come prepared.
HOW HARD IS IT? REALLY?
Hard. Unless you have completed a handful of similar bikepacking events, a hardcore wilderness tramp or an expedition-length adventure race, it's likely harder than anything you've done before. Words like brutal, epic and "truly inappropriate" have been used to describe sections of the route. Unlike other events, there will be times when the easiest way forward is to carry your bike and gear for significant periods of time up very steep hills. As well, there's technical singletrack riding and some brutally rough descents, so good skills are also very helpful. Check out the movie, blogs and podcasts to get an insight to the reality of the TTW.
In terms of preparation, anyone of us who has committed to a big bikepacking event knows it’s all too easy to get caught up in the bike/gear nerding. Yes, the right bike, best tyres and right gear will make life easier but they are not what makes the big difference. The big difference is your personal preparation, both physical and mental.
While standard training methods are important, getting used to operating in more difficult terrain not only gets the body used to the unusual set of movements but also normalises these requirements. Kurt Refsnider wrote an article about his preparation for the 2019 Colorado Trail Race called “Normalizing Difficult”. He’s also known to have said, “your bike is a tool, sometimes it’s the right tool, sometimes you’d be better off without it”.
Make sure you include some off-track training in your regime; hike-a-bike and carrying. If you have never ridden proper tramping-style singletrack (I’m excluding the Ghost Rd/Heaphy/Timber Trail) with a loaded bike, get out and do it. Even the Rameka Track on Day 1 is not the place to be a novice. A few tramping trips with a heavy pack is a good idea too…
WHAT'S THE DEAL WITH THE PRIVATE LAND SECTIONS?
Due to significant portions of the course crossing private land, the route is ONLY able to ridden during the race by tracked riders.
Some of the private land is intensively farmed, other sections are high country stations where sheep and cattle are sparse. Having an awareness of how to act when in these situations is crucial to continued access to these special parts of New Zealand. How you act determines the future of this and other events.
• Leave gates as you find them. If a gate is open and it seems wrong, close it. Gates need to be hitched securely, in particular for deer paddocks.
• Don’t rush stock. (cows, sheep, and especially deer!). If they are on the track in front of you, take it slowly and eventually they’ll move off. Don’t run them under any circumstances. Spooked high country cattle can run through/ over a fence as though it doesn’t exist.
• If you encounter stock being moved by staff, get instructions. Usually you can move to one side and then move through them slowly. With cattle/cows it’s often best to get off your bike.
• There is no stopping overnight/ camping on private land unless specified. Please do not enter private huts unless specified.
• Leave no trace; No fires, don’t drop rubbish, bury your poo. Farm dogs are experts at finding human poo….bury it well!
• If you do get an offer of food/ a beer/ a bed from a farmer think about the rider 2 hours behind you. Is everyone going to get that feed? If it feels like the right thing to do take the time to have a chat, then move on.
High country landowners are under pressure from tourism and recreationalists about access, farming practices and custodianship. Please be respectful of their requests so we are allowed back.
TRAIL MAGIC, ANGELS AND VISITATION (STOLEN FROM JEFE’S CTR EXPLAINER)
The rule is - if you know the person, say no. (With our famous 2º of separation in NZ, this rules out pretty much everyone!)
Trail Magic is and should be treated like a super lucky, tiny whiff of fresh air, not a resupply. If you screw up and are out of food and water, that is not anybody else’s problem. If you are hoping for/needing trail magic you are doing it wrong. Be prepared enough to say no. Sure taking a Coke from a total stranger is not a huge deal and is fine. Don’t make it a habit and do not ask/beg/or hint that you are in need when out on the trail. This is a test to see how far you can go and how well you can prepare for it. Do not bring the ride down to you, rise up to the level of the ride and do your best.
For the Dotwatchers out there as far as meeting riders goes, my rule is keep it between extremely limited to not at all. Racers, do not ask anyone to meet you out there, it simply isn’t fair to those that travel from afar to race and it opens the door to taking food/ water/ encouragement. Ultimately if someone is there at a trailhead without any arrangement, say hi, but don’t take advantage of the situation.
With regard to race coverage by media, only media who have been pre-approved by the Race Director can cover the event and interact with riders. No media crews that focus on a single rider are allowed.
AS A DOTWATCHER, WHAT HAPPENS IF SOMEONE IS OFF COURSE?
Behind the scenes there's a clandestine group who are constantly monitoring where riders are at and what they are up to. (Yes really). If there is an infraction they will make a call on what to do in conjunction with the race director. This may happen during the event, or afterwards once riders has been interviewed.
Be aware that yelling from the sidelines on social media can have real-world consequences for people who have invested months in preparation. If you have concerns, send a PM or email to the TTW before going public.
WHAT INFORMATION IS PROVIDED ABOUT THE ROUTE?
As a racer you will be provided with a gpx file (unfiltered and 10k point file for garmin etrex's) which has been ground-truthed in critical sections. There are also course notes which give elevation profiles, distances and descriptions of key sections, plus a list of services and opening times for stores along the route that is open source.
DO I NEED INSURANCE IF I AM TRAVELLING FROM OVERSEAS?
There is no requirement for any rider to have insurance, but you may want to have basic travel insurance. New Zealand has the Accident Compensation Commission (ACC) which covers every persons rescue and accident-related medical costs while they are in New Zealand. However, for non-accident medical costs, repatriation and other insurance cover, you will likely want some travel insurance. See more here.