bike-it! TM   ...New Caledonia cycling adventures


New Caledonia Fast Facts

location is in the SW Pacific ~1220.2km NE of the Nth tip of Fraser Island and ~1450.1km NNE of Cape Reinga, NZ. It is 2-2.5 hours flying from east coast of Australia and there are direct flights from Brisbane, Sydney, Auckland and Tokyo. See Google Maps

topography and layout: Grande Terre is 400km long and about 30-60km across, with ranges in between rising 500-1700m and passes 300-500m. The main outer islands are Isle of Pines, and the Loyalty Islands of Mare, Lifou, and Ouvea.

• climate temperate to sub-tropical, and ideal mid-20s riding conditions in winter months of July, August, and September with nights about 15-20 degrees. Increasing heat and rain leading to summer from November to February, with the cyclone "season" December to March

environment is one of the most biologically diverse plant communities in the world, with the most palm species of any other country. Marine life within the reefs of the largest lagoon in the World which surrounds NC is spectacular, healthy and diverse

population is 250,000+ and most live in the Noumea region with only a handful of other towns of any size. The peoples are a mix of indigenous Melanesians (Kanak), settled populations and recent immigrants from the Pacific, SE Asia, Australia, New Zealand and France. The Kanaks more recently are building on and reasserting their rich culture. There are 8 Kanak cultural / language groups and 26 recognised dialects.

safety is very good, with very low crime rates and the people very friendly. NC is mostly free of tropical diseases, and free of the stingers found along the Nth Qld coast. The mosquito-borne diseases dengue fever can be a problem at times, mainly in the more populous south during summer. See more at Australian Gov.Smartraveller

Road rules apply as if it were France, being a French overseas territory. So driving is on the right and you overtake on the left, and as in France there is no legal requirement to wear a helmet whilst riding a bicycle. There are 5,000km of sealed and unsealed roads, with a sealed arterial mostly encircling Grande Terre, and five sealed arterials crossing the 400metre-high passes of the main range.

    
New Caledonia as a Cycle Touring Destination

There is a real diversity of cycling experiences in such a small country. It is large enough to go for extended tours, but with interesting landscapes and features close enough together to see even on a day's ride. There is plenty of varied terrain to suit tourers, MTB'ers and those out for a pleasant morning pedal.

The main island (Grande Terre) surrounded by the world's largest lagoon, and its four outlying isles is certainly a different cycling destination than the Australian bush! It's one of France's overseas territories, but very distant in location, character, and peoples. Of course there are Gallic similarities that any cycling tourer would recognise: driving and riding on the right, the French road signs, mountain ranges, and the unmistakably French cuisine, wines and produce (much imported). But there are exciting and unique differences that enhance it not only as a travel destination generally, but specifically to explore on two wheels. New Caledonia is a place of contrasts - both seasonally, geographically and culturally. There is the countless rough mountain trails to explore, new quieter rural valleys to meander your way up, some rainshadow, hot places with plenty of red dust. But in contrast the highly mineralised red soils miraculously exude bubbling and perfectly clear chutes cascading over escarpment providing natural pools and unadulterated H2O for the water bottle.
All this It screams opportunity to discover a gem

Riding conditions vary from a handful of km of tollway shoulder from Noumea northwards to Tontouta airport where riding is banned, to the frenetic main highway (RT1) all the way up Grande Terre's west coast, to the usually single lane each-way rural arterials in relatively good condition, to the main unsealed connectors, and lastly the local unsealed roads, tracks and trails. Because of the relatively low population and vehicle numbers, outside of Noumea traffic is light (apart from RT1). In busy Noumea itself there is a sprinkling of bicycle-specific lanes and recreational pathways, but generally you have to share with traffic, which on the whole is pretty sprightly. But at least they respect bike riders and other road users with little of the "aggro" you would get say on Sydney's roads.

Bike-it! Tours make use of the SE prevailing winds so along the east coast the routes have been planned in an anti-clockwise direction to maximise your chances of tailwinds -but of course nothing is guaranteed! Riding in the cooler months is fairly necessary as in the hotter months the back-radiation from the tarmac means that afternoon riding can be very debilitating and potentially lead to heat stroke. Hence the tours around July-August-September.

Sealed roads rarely reach grades over 8-9%, whilst the mountain trails can be 10-12% or sometimes more, which is about the limit for most riders on triple chainrings carrying a load. The coastal fringe apart from the SE corner (the Forgotten Coast or La Côte Oubliée) is serviced by a coastline-hugging sealed arterial, with minimal elevations apart from the occasional 50-100m "bump". The four offshore islands Isle of Pines, Mare, Lifou and Ouvea mostly have good quality sealed roads and interconnecting tracks and trails, with mostly low elevation and relatively flat topography. Unsealed rural roads, tracks and trails often stay in good condition even with low levels of maintenance because of the heavily mineralised soils over much of the country and little traffic. Also road shoulders tend not to erode away as easily as in many parts of Australia where mainly clay soils are found. For the same reason radial corrugations on bends are not as common on the unsealed roads. A surprising feature on some of the higher elevation trails (above about 400 metres) is that they are covered in a neatly trimmed (by deer?) grass sward that resembles a clipped suburban lawn!


See the photos gallery and reports from previous tours

^ Top







Australian Cyclist article



RideOn article


Check out the photos!


LINKS

General Info:
Lonely Planet
World Travel Guide
Rocket Guide

Tourism Agencies:
NC Tourism
Nth Province Tourism

Airlines:
Aircalin Airlines
Qantas Airlines
Air New Zealand

Tour Operators:
Nautilus Tours
Arc en Ciel Voyages
Aventure Pulsion



   


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