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When thinking of cycling in Central Otago, we naturally think first of the Otago Central Rail Trail, which begins (or ends) in Middlemarch. However, there are numerous other exciting cycle trips you can do, both in getting to the Middlemarch area as well as while staying here.
The Otago Central Rail Trail is one of New Zealand's great bike rides. The trail follows the old Otago Central Railway corridor from Middlemarch to Clyde through the Maniototo plain and Ida Valley. No traffic, no city noise, three tunnels and a number of bridges and stone cuttings. The Trail takes approximately three days and follows through some of Otago's best and least populated country. The views are outstanding and the night sky, unpolluted by street lights, gives a fresh intensity to stars, satellites, meteors and planets. Geographically, this area was formed by the floor of a prehistoric sea, and you still get that awed sense of walking in an ancient cathedral when you step out into this landscape.
There are many local rides beyond the rail trail. Some of these are easy and loops for a variety of riders. There links also have useful comments and pictures:
The "Middlemarch Explorer":
It's easy and is a loop. There are no problems with DOC about riding around Sutton Slat Lake.
Here is another longer loop with goes on Hartfield road and the Rail Trail: http://www.wikiloc.com/wikiloc/view.do?id=3917660
This is a very easy return trip on the rail trail which is perfect for a family ride:
And here's a challenging ride to the top of the Rock and Pillar but technically not too hard: http://www.wikiloc.com/wikiloc/view.do?id=3917676
The above links with thanks to Thierry Jutel.
Ever thought of cycling from Dunedin to Middlemarch? Here is an account from a "cycle purist": Dunedin to Middlemarch by Bike (80km). An elevation map is provided.
An alternative suggestion is to take the Taieri Gorge Train to Pukerangi and either overnight there or carry on to Middlemarch or Hyde.
Excellent information about the practicalities of cycling to Middlemarch from Dunedin as well as the Otago Central Rail is available in this article.
In this article, Exploring the Strath Taieri by bike, by John Fridd describes two different cycle routes from Dunedin to Middlemarch. An excellent map and slide show explain what you are likely to experience. Suggestions include cycling from Dunedin to Hindon and from there catching the Taieri Gorge Train to Pukerangi or Middlemarch. Return trip suggestions take you via Nenthorn and Ramrock Road to Waikouait, then Karitane and on to Dunedin, or cycle via Hyde and Macraes Flat to Palmerston and on to Dunedin. The article was published in the Otago Daily Times.
For the even more physically fit, here is the map of a trip from the Old Dunstan Road to Summit Rock on the Rock and Pillar range. An elevation chart accompanies the map.