Yeah, it's open for mountain bikers. Our dilemma was one or two days!!! We didn't want to carry too much gear and didn't know if it was able to be done in one day. I'd heard "race horses" were taking 8 hours! With limited daylight in May, we decide 2 days and travel light.
We took 4kg each in a Camilbak Mule. We had food, small first aid, tools, rain coat, tyre & tube - no sleeping bag (too bulky - we used a survival blanket and silk liner instead). There is gas and pots in all the huts. It pays to start from Collingwood end because you can bike the entire up hill section.
Brown Hut to Perry Saddle: 800m of climb over 17 km. Good steady climb. 2hrs 10 min
Perry to Gouland Down Hut: Rocky but rideable. 7km. 40 min
Gould to Saxon: 9km last five km muddy. 40 min
Saxon to James Mackay: 12km last few km muddy. Took about 1 ½ hours
Got to James Mackay about 2 o'clock. This is the hut were the Keas eat your bikes. We think they are filling up on bikes before the ski fields open where they eat cars! Doc provide a bird net and tarp so you can cover your bikes, but we waited till the Doc Ranger was in bed and brought our bikes inside. Most huts have fire wood but this one has kindling and coal. Took ages to warm up the hut. Started out 11 degrees and after 5 hours still only 17 degrees. (From the hut it is a short walk up to look at an old trig.) Some other mountain bikers turned up in the dark. They had left half their crew in Saxton Hut.
They thought it was going to be easy and were aiming for Lewis Hut. They had bother, (broken chain, crashes and lost a sleeping bag.) We heard that the next night some of their party still didn't make it out. That night the Doc Ranger came over and told us there was a heavy rain warning for the next 24 hours, (nice). It did rain that night but stopped about 7am.
The next section down to Lewis was the worst section. Lots of big ruts, roots and rocks. We played it safe and walked about 20-30 times. They have had some good rain, one lot was 500mm, this has made it harder to ride. This is where you have to look after your tyres and derailleur, a lot of people damaging bikes - it's a long walk out!
James Mackay to Lewis Hutt: 13km 1hr 40 mins
Lewis Hut to Heaphy: 8km. 1hr 10 mins
Down through beach forest, then all the nikau palms. Heaphy would be a cool place to stay by the sea.
Heaphy out: 16km 2hours.
Awesome along the sea. Mostly flat. Crayfish point was no bother. 1 hour off high tide was lots of room. We were out at 3pm. 10 hours all up riding time. Huts were all quiet. You can check on Doc website (www.doc.govt.nz) to see how busy they are going to be. And, check other ones too in case you end up having to stay in a different one. Leave early each day in case you have trouble. If you can have a day or two up your sleave, you can dodge the rain. The locals and Doc are very happy with Mountain Bikers. It's all money at a time that's usually quiet. The motels have "mountain bike friendly" notices on their doors. Looking through the log books in the huts, not too many trampers do it over winter. (we only saw one!) We recommend a stop at little Wanganui Pub for a burger on your way out. Biggest best burger in NZ.
Andrew "Lawnmow" Davidson