Every year, former city dwellers head to Wairarapa to start life anew, lured by the promise of (mostly) decent weather, more affordable housing, and a slower pace of life. The switch to a country lifestyle often tends to come with a gentler mode of transport.

Wairarapa has become as synonymous with bicycles as it has with a tasty Pinot Noir. Largely thanks to its many cycle trails – from the picturesque Woodside Trail for beginners, to the more adventurous Rimutaka Cycle Trail – the annual Huri Huri Bike Festival, and cycling day trips and guided tours.

Plus, with wide streets and quiet country roads, the region is fairly easy to navigate from a bicycle seat.

Shane Adams, manager of Blackwell & Sons bicycle store in Greytown, says slow road cycling has been a favourite pastime and way of getting from A to B in Wairarapa for some years – but its popularity has increased along with the region’s population.

Shane says he often meets newly settled Wairarapa folk who have been inspired to “get on their bike” after several years – as their past city environment didn’t allow much room to move on two wheels.

“People enjoy it – they think ‘why didn’t I do this earlier?’

“It’s the slow motion thing, the slower pace of life. You can take your time and not be in any particular hurry to go anywhere. Being on a bike forces you to slow down, and to look and appreciate what’s around you.

“Plus it’s flat here – and no one likes hills.”

Martinborough’s Victoria Read says her Pashley bicycle is her vehicle of choice. In fact, she will rarely get behind the wheel of a car.

“At one stage, I had the choice between getting myself a new car or a bicycle – and I chose the bike. It’s much easier to look after,” she says.

“I’ve got a busy job and four kids at home – so it can be hard to fit exercise in. Cycling to and from work is perfect – it’s calming, it’s slow and it gives me time to de-stress between home and the office.”

Victoria owns an architecture firm and will often travel by bike to visit clients.

“It surprises a lot of people, but mostly they like to see me rocking up on my bike, with everyone’s documents in my front basket.

“A lot of our clients are going for more environmentally friendly houses, so it helps if we walk the talk. I can’t preach to people about being green if I’m not doing the same.”

Victoria is a member of the Martinborough Community Board, which is working to create new cycling trails in and around Martinborough. She says more Martinborough locals have taken up cycling, following in the tracks of visitors – as they make good use of bikes for hire.

“The tourists have leapt on it. I think it’s been quite inspiring for locals to see them out and about on their bikes, and we’ve thought it’s high time we did the same.”

Story by Erin Kavanagh-Hall
Photograph by Rebecca Kempton