Securing our bikes to our custom bike trailers | Lachlan Gardiner
On the couch with operations manager Brett Leyden
From organising our vehicles, trailers, guides, bikes and depot staff to providing regular scones for morning tea, none of our trips would leave the door without the legendary Brett Leyden.
Former Adventure South NZ guide and avid cyclist himself, we sat down and talked to Brett about how he first got into cycling, his favourite places to ride and some advice for anyone planning a multi-day ride.
When did you start working for Adventure South NZ?
My first trip with Adventure South was guiding a South Island mountain biking trip in 2017. I loved the itinerary, the fun riding and the banter through the trip. Adventure South NZ has such a great supportive culture and a taste for the unique experiences that when the opportunity came up to take on the Operations Manager role last year, I was stoked to put my name forward.
How did you first get into cycling?
As a kid my best Christmas present was my first bike, a ‘girls’ frame blue Healing. After plenty of efforts and a few scrapes trying to stay upright I still remember that exact moment when pedaling and speed and balance all came together, and the switch turned on and I was away. It was great to come back to biking in my twenties and rediscover the adventure that a bike ride can offer.
What does cycling mean to you and what does it give you?
To me cycling is freedom, adventure and good times - with just enough hurt to make the rewards extra special. Cycling connects people in a way that is so natural. I love the humanity of bikes. Seeing a kid in India pedaling with one leg through the frame because he was too short to get over the frame. Someone else I saw was shifting a haystack by bike.
I love the stories around the racing also. As a butchers delivery-boy Eddy Merckx jumped in and stuck with a passing peleton - years later he was nicknamed the Cannibal and considered the greatest rider of all time. After World War 2, the Giro d’Italia brought communities together to rebuild the roads ready for the event - uniting and re-motivating a devastated country on the back of a bike race! Two wheels, a lifestyle, and a portal to better living!
Where's your favourite place to ride your bike?
I love going out the door and heading up into our Port Hills, almost immediately you are on quiet backroads with great scenery. There are small adventures available right there, or you can carry on riding further onto Banks Peninsula; and make the adventure as epic as you like. Further afield the Alps to Ocean is a fantastic journey to ride.
From the drama of Aoraki-Mt Cook, there’s an amazing variety of landscapes along the way, and a great finish at the Pacific Ocean - Steampunk Central in Oamaru. The Haast Pass is a pretty special road ride –ascending from lush green forest and big west coast rivers through carved ravines to wide open high-country golden tussock land and pastures with amazing blue lakes and streaming sunshine. No better place to be than on the bike!
You recently got back from a month of cycling in France, what was the highlight / most memorable part of your trip?
Getting in the mountains is always a winner, and the Massif Central was a quiet gem of France. Green forests, waterfalls, spectacular rock faces and cone volcanoes, alpine cattle, and some great little villages tucked in the midst. Our 2300km trip along the French Divide was to end in a tiny Pyrenean village.
It was a Sunday and things were looking gloomy for being able to get a celebratory beer and something to eat. Turning the last corner up to the village just after midday, all of a sudden we could hear music - a brass band was booming away, and people were spilling out from two bars onto the streets. Party for us? Really? You shouldn’t have!
What advice would you offer someone planning a multi-day cycling tour with Adventure South NZ?
Get into some training - prepare great to feel great. Riding a couple times a week in the lead up to your trip will be rewarded ten-fold. Bring open eyes and a sense of adventure, and you’ll have the time of your life!
Join us on Brett's recommended Adventure South NZ trip; our South Island Mountain Bike Adventure.