36 miles
Distance
8,828 ft
Climb
-8,831 ft
Descent
3,542 ft
High Point

This is one tough ride and not to be taken lightly, although the remoteness and surroundings in this epic part of the country will make up for it (on a good day). There is a remote bike carry section, long km's in big country, some incredibly steep rough 4WD tracks, and unpredictable weather. If you make it out, it's a rewarding experience.

It is recommended you get hold of a copy of "Classic New Zealand Mountain Bike Rides" by the Kennett Brothers who have a very good description of the route.

Expect it to take between 8 and 12 hours. Take maps NZTopo50 CD07 Manapouri, CD06 Deep Cove and CE07 Lake Monowai.

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1 Review & Comments

  • + 2
flag MountainSnail (Jan 11, 2019 at 11:47)
 This is a classic New Zealand back country MTB adventure. We’d never met anyone who’d done it so read up what we could find – internet articles, Kennett Brothers’ book, Trailforks etc. Reading some of this stuff you get the impression it’s like climbing Mount Doom while battling Orcs and dragons – grade 5, black, “expert” etc.

The truth is that it’s mainly following the electricity transmission pylon access road from the Manapouri Power Station to the rest of the country so it’s more like riding a 4WD track than anything else. The reason it’s “black” is that it’s in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by proper mountains with extreme and unpredictable weather and it’s a long way for a day ride – so you need to treat it with respect. Oh – and there’s a 1k section which doesn’t even have a path - more of an exposed downhill scramble with your bike than anything else. Unless you’re a regular competitor in the Red Bull Rampage you won’t be riding any of that so it doesn’t really count 

There are a lot of large granite boulders in dense bush to scramble over with your bike in this section so it might be an idea not to take your priceless new carbon fibre pride & joy if you don’t want to scratch the paintwork. This might be why it took us nearly 2 hours rather than the advertised 1 ..

Practically you need food and equipment to last you for a long day out and any mishaps. We took 9 hours – most people take 6 to 8 but a party who hit snow took 13 earlier in the year. It’s such a long way from anywhere you want to have sensible backcountry gear – survival blanket, warm clothes, bags to keep them dry, spare food, basic bike repair kit, DEET. There’s no cellphone signal anywhere on the ride.

The transmission road is very well maintained – it’s the only way they can work on the lines that carry the power out so they have to be able to use it right through the year. It’s cyclable from West Arm to the Percy Pass summit. The carry is clearly marked with new orange waratahs to the end of the transmission road at the head of the Percy Stream below where it’s pretty rocky and steep for a bit before becoming easy and rideable until the junction with Borland Road where it becomes a public 4WD road so is even easier riding.

The Borland Pass is almost the same height as Percy but comes at the end of a long day .. take extra lollies to power you through.

We stayed in Borland Lodge – appropriately the workers’ camp for building the road (and the pylons). It’s a youth activity centre these days with plenty of cabins, showers and cooking facilities but you need to bring your own food (or drop it off beforehand). From here it’s nearly 50k back to Manapouri – easy enough but was headwindy all the way for us.

One idea we had to make it less daunting is to charter a boat to pick you up at South Arm (the other way down the Borland Road once you’ve come down Percy Stream). This would make it more like 3 to 5 hours but you’d still get the awesomeness of the Power Station and the Percy Pass descent.

In short – this is what makes mountainbiking in NZ special. Don’t be put off by the “extreme” rating but make sure you’re very well prepared and treat it with the respect it deserves. Apparently some people do it backwards. That would be really hard work.
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Details

  • Riding area
  • Difficulty rating
    Black Diamond
  • Bike type
    AM, XC
  • Physical rating
    Hard
More Stats for Percy Pass mountain bike route
  • Altitude change
    -3 ft
  • Altitude min
    584 ft
  • Altitude start
    587 ft
  • Altitude end
    584 ft
  • Grade
    -0.002%
  • Grade max
    -86.798%
  • Grade min
    71.544%
  • Distance climb
    17 miles
  • Distance down
    17 miles
  • Distance flat
    2 miles
Avg: 5 (1 votes)
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