Motorcycle adventures – Places to go on a Motorcycle – Motorcycling destinations – or our preferred term – The Bucket List. Call it what you will, these are places to go, people to meet and things to be getting on with. Essentially … Life is short, so ride the damn bike!
The Wanganui Cemetery Circuit is one I can cross off my bucket list but would urge you to include it on yours. The event gets better each year thanks to Allan Willacy (aka Flea) and his colleagues pushing the event forward, so there is a compelling case for a return visit.
The Cemetery Circuit races are held on 26th December each year, in the middle of the New Zealand Summer break. Expect to be wearing shorts, T-shirt and a hat, along with a liberal coating of sun block. In 2015 the weather was so hot on race day that they had to start thinking about asking the fire crews hose the spectators down.
The circuit is made from the roads around the city, looping passed both sides of the Cemetery, hence the circuit’s name. The list of famous riders that have raced at Wanganui over the years is long and distinguished, and the event continues to attract top-flight racers from around the world. Recent competitors having included Guy Martin, Horst Saiger, Michael Dunlop (in 2016) and multiple sidecar winner Tim Reeves.
Nonetheless, don’t think this is just an easy way for northern hemisphere riders to escape winter. The Cemetery Circuit races are the final round of the New Zealand Suzuki Series, (open to all manufacturers – Suzuki are the title sponsor), which is held throughout December each year. The first two rounds are traditionally held on the first two weekends of December, with the final round, on the 26th, at Wanganui. Competition across all of the classes is tight and highly focused, so if you intend to compete, best come prepared. The circuits and the dates for the first two rounds of the Suzuki Series vary slightly from year to year. In 2016 the first round is at the Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park in Taupo, before continuing south to Manfeild Autocourse near Palmerston North. The final round as always is at Wanganui on the 26th.
On the basis that your plan would be to take in all three race weekends and a short detour to the New Zealand capital, Wellington, at the southern tip of the North Island, that is a round trip of around 1300Kms (810 miles) over 3 or 4 weeks. A very easy pace with time to enjoy the sunshine and many of the other adventures New Zealand has to offer, not to mention some “highly invigorating” coast roads to ride.
So … How do you do it? Shipping your own bike to New Zealand is going to take 6-8 weeks from Europe and 4-6 from the USA, so hiring is the obvious answer. The two options we liked were Auckland Motorbike Hire and New Zealand Motorcycle Rentals, although there are other renters available. Both are based in Auckland, with NZ Motorcycle Rentals also having an office in Christchurch on the South Island.
The range of motorcycles on offer is broad and includes pure tourers, sports tourers, and adventure bikes. Auckland Motorbike Hire include full luggage with all of their bikes, even the Suzuki DR650 which comes with a Ventura pack, frame, and soft saddle bags. NZ Motorcycle Rentals offers lowered DL650s and a selection of 35Kw bikes for those on restricted licenses.
Both companies also offer guided tours and assistance with other bookings you may need – internal flights, accommodation and a range of additional services that will make your tour of NZ “easy as” (Kiwi speak for something that is no bother, well organised and a pleasure to do).
A few things worth remembering. The Kiwis love summer and in later December and early January, it isn’t uncommon for people to take a 2 or 3 week break. You are always going to find the essentials, but if you go looking for something more specialised, you might find it harder to locate until the “summer shut down” is over. Around the tourist spots, Hotels and Motels are going to be booked up, so make sure you have a reservation. Motels range from fancy sheds and sleep-outs to designer apartments, so choose wisely.
When it rains in New Zealand it can be torrential, to say the least. Good wet gear is always advisable, however, unless you fundamentally need to be somewhere, there is always the option to park up, and let the rain get on with whatever it wants to do. You will be spoilt for choice when it comes to cafes and coffee shops.
Insurance is not compulsory for motor vehicles in NZ so it is advisable to cover yourself for all losses, even if it isn’t your fault. Full cover medical insurance, as with any trip, is also an excellent idea.
And finally the national speed limit is 100KPM (60MPH) and the Traffic NZ Cops cannot be bargained or reasoned with. They do not feel sympathy and they absolutely will write you that ticket. Trust me on this, the Father Confessor knows these things.
Whereas the information on these pages is as correct as we could make it, inevitably things will change. We can’t guarantee that everything will be as we describe, but then again where would the fun be in that?