By | NZ Cycle Trails

Nothing better than heading away on a Cycling Retreat with clients keen to explore a different part of New Zealand.  This one was going to be extra special for two reasons

1. I had never guided or ridden in this part of country

2. We were being joined by the local Cycle Coach Richard braving the company of 10 women!!

The Motu Trails consist of forgotten stunning gravel roads that meander through the hills behind Opotiki. For the brave the famous Pakihi Track, a narrow trail that drops down along the ridge lines to the valley floor below, where you follow the river back out to civilization. This trail offers no room for mistakes otherwise you will end up flying DOWN a long way.   Not a good option when riding a bike.

This place is the perfect haven for getting on ones bike and going for an explore.  Our goal for the weekend was to explore the community of Motu and then make our way back to Opotiki.

An introduction to Bike Packing being the main theme of the weekend made us all pack small.  It was great to see everyone embrace this concept and come with limited gear with the I CAN ATTITUDE.

New Zealand with its very changeable weather can be challenging at times but we came out conquerors as we battled through rain, strong winds and sunshine.

I expect this weekend will stay a favourite of mine for a long time.  It was made very special by being immersed into the Community of Motu.  Meeting the locals, having cups of tea and finding out first hand about the history of the place was fantastic.  They have made this place a destination to visit and stay.  If you just drive by you will probably blink.  Get on the bike of yours and come and say hi to the locals instead.



Highly Recommend the Following Services

Accommodation – Motu Community House (Jane)

Food – Motu-vation Cafe (Karen)

Shuttles – Motu Trails Ltd (Ngaio)


For more information on Cycle Retreats, Coaching and Cycle Education please contact Janet direct on 027 404 3987 or [email protected]


By | Cycling Tips

There is nothing better than getting away from the normal rat race and having a holiday. Sometimes however those holidays seem far and few between. We get stuck in our day to day lives and have this little niggle that we are missing something.

I find this especially true when winter hits or we get a long period where it seems to be always raining. Adjusting our bodies to cope with the weather seems to take a bit of extra effort, discouraging us from venturing outside. Stopping us from exploring and having adventures.

If this resonates with you then I have the solution.


How do you do this?
• Decide on the length of your Micro Adventure i.e. half day, whole day or weekend
• Choose a location
• Research that location
• Decide to go solo or have company
• Book a guided trip with a company offering small adventures
• And stick with the plan

Your goal is to find a HIDDEN GEM during your micro adventure. This might be a favourite cafe that makes particularly good coffee, a seat which has an amazing view, a great place to have a picnic or swim. Somewhere that feeds your soul and helps with melting away the stress and anxiety you may have bottled up since your last holiday.

For me micro adventures are all about finding HIDDEN GEMS while I am out biking. Recently I revisited a hut that I hadn’t been to in years. I couldn’t quite remember how to get there or if the gravel road I was riding took me all the way and if there was be a hike a bike section.  I did remember there was a steep climb!

My reward was the rediscovery of this little hut (now refurbished – looking even more inviting than last time).

The joy of me finding these hidden gems is being able to take others back and sharing this space with them. Taking clients on guided rides is always a pleasure and seeing the delight on their faces makes the Hidden Gems even more special.

I would love to take you on a micro adventure, so you too can have this joy.
Check out my latest Adventures

New Adventures loaded each month
See you all soon



By | NZ Cycle Trails

With a grim looking weather forecast I packed up the truck with bike and gear in tow and started my journey down to Rotorua.  My windscreen wipers on their fastest mode I drove carefully over the hill and down into Rotorua.  My plan had been to get in a ride before all the lovely ladies arrived.  Too be honest I was feeling a little annoyed with the weather.  I LOVE riding in the Whakarewarewa Forest by myself and wanted a little me time before the busyness of the weekend overtook.

Arriving at the house I was super impressed with the layout and decided I had picked a ‘good one’.  I fell in love with the bike room and my spirits started to rise.  Was that sunshine peeping through?  I quickly set up the house, got on my bike and rode to the forest YAY I was now in my happy space.

With mud on my clothes, bike and body I arrived back at the house.  The ladies were starting to arrive and get settled in.  Everyone happy to have arrived safely and ready for some cycling action.

An evening spent getting to know each other with a shared meal and lots of talking!!  Must be a girl’s weekend!!!

SATURDAY arrived with the forecast much improved.  Still with a VERY fresh wind and not expected to get much past 10 degrees.  We all wrapped up warm and got ready for the arrival of our very own shuttle bus.  I had never hired a bus before and since we weren’t going to fill it I had contacted the local women’s cycling groups Rotorua Revolve Cranky Diva’s  to see if anyone wanted to join us for the day.

With our bikes loaded and all settled on the bus we rumbled our way to Waiotapu – our starting point.  The goal was to ride back to Lake Rotorua along the Te Aha Ara Cycle Trail and then back to our accommodation, about 50km.

We set off in two groups – a huge thanks to the Lynda and Barbara for helping for the whole day.  There is something special about girls who ride bikes.  Didn’t matter that we were all strangers as we had a common factor – the love of getting outdoors and cycling.   The day made all the effort that I had put into brainstorming and organising totally worth it.  Ladies coming together of all abilities and enjoying the moment.

The Te Ara Ahi Cycle Trail is not one of those on the top of the to do list. I certainly rate it as a good ride for those who wish to experience a NZ Cycle Trail but are not quite ready for something more remote.  It is a step up from the easier rail trails (Hauraki or Otago) giving you a taste of single track, riding under the road in a tunnel, gravel roads, quiet country roads and a concrete pathway along State Highway 5.   What’s more is its hot steam vents and creeks full of hot water – where else can you get that?

SUNDAY we hit the trails in the Whakarewarewa Forest under the watchful eye of Riding Flow.  A few weary bodies this morning but all still SMILING.  That’s is what I love most about my job – the smiles!  Whakarewarewa Forest is my favourite place to ride.  This is where I fell in love with mountain biking all those years ago.  The trails never disappoint, and it was great to introduce the ladies to this magical forest that smells divine and has such fantastic trails for all ages and abilities.

The weekend wraps up after a lunch at the café.  Next time let’s hope the new hot tubs complex is open, so we can have a good long soak before heading home.

Thank you, Rotorua for giving us such a fantastic weekend and massive thank you to Allie, Sue, Caroline, Teresa, Lynda, Katrina, Catherine and Jo for signing up for the weekend.

Looking forward to the next adventure with you already.  Keep an eye out for when & where it will be.


By | NZ Cycle Trails

Now I just love going on adventures on my bike, but adding in friends, a birthday, good food and fantastic accommodation makes for a prefect combination.

This was my second visit to the Timber Trail in 2017 and I can tell you now I would ride it again.  There is something special about this place.  Magical looking trees, joyous bird song, along with the sound of the wind in the trees.   The total feeling of being in the middle of nowhere, the serenity of it all.  The pure joy of friendship, biking and the knowledge that we were heading to the Timber Trail Lodge to be well looked after.

It didn’t take much arm twisting for me to say yes to experiencing the Ultimate Timber Trail Two Night Package at the new Timber Trail Lodge in October.  My thoughts jumped immediately to who would join me.

With Leanne & Christine in tow we drove to Ongarue to be greeted by Epic Cycle Adventures  Our bikes loaded for us and into the dusty van we set off for a bumpy ride to the Lodge.     The road is not well maintained and certainly adds to the atmosphere of going on an adventure.

We arrived at the Lodge looking forward to our evening ahead of us. To our surprise we discovered we were to be the only guests for our two nights stay, having snuck in before a big party that was expected to arrive on the day we were leaving – double bonus.   I fell in love the the Lodge from the moment we walked into the main dinning/lounge area, the big doors pushed open making you feel you were part of the valley.  I could of sat there for hours.

The next morning, after still feeling full from dinner and breakfast (OMG the food was amazing) we headed off to the start of the trail.  This time being shuttled by Pa Harakeke Shuttles through locked gates and private land made for an unforgettable experience

The weather was stunning.  The decision had been made to conquer Mt Pureroa along the way.  We had ridden past the sign on a previous trip but had not stopped.  We had all day and knowing that we would be well looked after when we returned to the Lodge – why not.  With lunch packed we rode to the start of the walking track to the summit.   It was soon discovered that bike shoes and a non maintained trail do not make for easy walking.  The climb was worth it with clear sky 360 degree views – WOW – and lunch was eaten YUM YUM.

I totally loved my two days riding with Christine and Leanne.  The downhills and ups all a pleasure in such beautiful surroundings.  The rush of life was gone to be replaced with friendship and time to think and just be immersed with nature.

Day 2 of riding consisted of another big breakfast (again still full from the night before).  Our bags all packed and lunch all made, we head off for the second half of the trail.  Now Day One is fun but boy I sure do love the second day.  The history of Tramway and how harsh life must of been sure makes you contemplate how easy we have it today.  The trail is easier on the second day and makes you want to just keep riding and soak in the pleasure of it all.  Rivers, Bridges, Historic Features and oh my DOWNHILL riding.  I don’t want my two days of riding to come to an end.  I want to delay the return to Auckland and just ride it all over again.

A huge thank you to Bruce, Daniel, Will and Dave for letting us come and stay.  WE LOVED IT and see you again in 2018


By | Cycling Tips

There is something rather special about making it to the top of a hill climb when riding your bike.  Yes you might of sweated, thought about giving up and had moments of doubt.

The point is YOU did get to the TOP

Take a moment to congratulate yourself and say well done.

The last time I rode up  Otau Mountain Road was two years ago and I have been putting it off because back then I was at the height of my fitness levels.  I didn’t want to feel down about myself.  I kept on making excuses.

Today I took James, who had never ridden up this hill before and told him he could do it.  It made me brave and forced me to ride    Yes it was hard work and my face went bright red and I huffed and puffed but I did it and got someone else to ride it as well.  In fact I rode it in my second fastest time WAHOO.

So if you are are putting off riding up a hill because you think it will be too hard,  just give it a go and set a bench mark for when you ride it again.

Hills play a mental game on you – don’t let it beat you.



By | Cycling Tips

So is it?

I was riding with a couple of clients in the weekend and this question came up.

Now some of you might think this is a silly question.  If I was asking (or someone was asking me if I wanted another bike), then YES of course it would be a silly question.  Everyone who knows me well, understands that bikes and bike related items are the best gift this girl could want and Diamonds are not her best friend.

Yet to someone relatively new to the sport the thought of having more than one made her feel a little guilty or greedy.  She felt she might be judged for having more than one.

As you could imagine I quickly justified the reasoning behind Rule #12

My reasoning that she should not feel guilty or greedy for purchasing another bike are.

  1. She had a nice dual suspension bike that was over specced for the trail we were riding
  2. She worked hard and could afford another bike
  3. Since taking up cycling she had been on a number of adventures and just wanted MORE
  4. The time using the bike justified another bike
  5. It would mean if one was at the repair shop then she could use the other
  6. She wants to experience different types of riding ie Mountain Biking to Road Cycling

And the list goes on.  My answer is……

YES it is OK to own more than one bike, but please make sure you are USING them and they are not collecting dust.  For the ones that you are replacing or not using them any more.  Find a new home, there are always people who can’t afford a bike or organisations that could use them.

Be Sensible and yes I have three bike and use them all.  How many do you have?


By | Events

I can get on my bike, ride by myself and not fear for my own safety AND VOTE

For those of us who live in New Zealand, either by choice or your country of origin, we have so much to gain.  It doesn’t take long from your door to ‘get’ to somewhere beautiful.  For me it is the beach or the local regional park.

I have the freedom to own a bike, to live in a house with my family.  My political views or beliefs do not put me behind bars.  I have food on the table and ‘too many’ things in my home, while others around the world do not.  As a women I can make my own choices, study, run a business, ride my bike, be a mum & a wife and VOTE.

In the 1880’s New Zealand women found freedom in the Bicycle – a frame and wheel size that they could actually ride was designed & made.  It soon become obvious that Victorian layered skirts were not easy to ride in.  A new dress fashion was born.  Women started to explore our beautiful country, connecting with other women further afield.

New Zealand women wanted a greater say in the running of our country.  They wanted the right to vote. Many of the 32 000 signatures that were collected around the country were BY WOMEN RIDING THEIR BIKES.

New Zealand became the first self-governing country in the world in which all women had the right to vote in parliamentary elections.   This all happened on the 19 September 1893.

Take a moment to remember these pioneer women who fought for our rights to be equal and don’t forget to VOTE.


By | NZ Cycle Trails

The Great Lake Trail Women’s Retreat

One of my favourite things to do is to encourage other women to get out of their comfort zones and experience new things on a bike.   Hosting a weekend in the very changeable weather of Spring down in Kinloch, NZ turned out to be just that!

We braved wind, rain and cold temperatures while taking in glimpses of the beautiful Lake Taupo and down to the waters edge.   The trail is split into three parts making logistics at little bit complicated.

We used the services of Chris Jolly Outdoors and had Erik as our driver and all round good sort.

On the Saturday Erik came and picked us up from the holiday home we were staying in.  Kinloch is a fantastic base if you want to ride these trails.  We used a house from the Bookabach site.  Prefect for a group.

Erik dropped of us at Whangamata Road car park all ready for riding the first two sections of the trail

Orakau to Kawakawa Bay 9.8km

Kawakawa Bay to Kinloch 9.2km

What a stunning trail, mostly downhill and only small bits of uphill riding.

We spent Saturday afternoon drying out and relaxing waiting for the sun to come out.  About 4pm we got on our bikes and rode to the start of the W2K & Headlands track.  The decision had been made that we would just ride to the Lookout and back to the house due to the lateness of the day.

W2W Track Kinloch to Whakaipo Bay 13.5km

Headlands Loop 9.5km

Sunday came around quickly with Erik picking us up and taking us to the start of the Waihaha Trail.  Wrapped up in lots of layers and waterproofs we started off with the treat of rain in the air that soon turned into rather wet stuff!

Waihaha Bridge to Waihora Bay 32km

This trail was more demanding than the other two with its elevation and trail conditions.  Lots of muddy patches, twists and turns, ups and downs.  It tested the girls with a flat tyre, cold temperature and rain.

But WOW what a trail.  This is the highlight of the three.  The remoteness, bush and setting is something very special.  I will be back to ride this trail again.


By | Cycling Tips

Can you balance on a bike?

On Friday I had the pleasure of taking a group of ladies riding at Craters of the Moon in Taupo.  We meet there to kick start our GREAT LAKE WOMEN’S RETREAT.  I decided to challenge them on a very cool track called SCRAGG’S, which has some purpose built balance wooden structures.

Balance is an interesting thing that seems to come naturally to some and not others.  The young appear to make balance look like an easy thing and somehow as the years tick by our balance ability slowly seeps away.

Is this because we forget to be kids running along edges or try new things with out the ‘risks’ popping into our heads?

I have been challenging myself and my clients to return to ‘being a kid’ and re learn how to have fun on a bike.  That might mean riding no hands or having fun on low down wooden structures like those on the Scragg’s Track.

So my questions to you are:

Can you balance on a bike?

When did you last ride with no hands on your handle bars?

Want to be that kid again?

Want help??  Come along on a coaching session to kick start your fun on a bike.


By | About Me

Janet Stark is not a normal mum, according to her kids, and that’s okay with them.

Most mums are not out loading up the truck in the mornings, and heading off to take lucky mountain bikers around the beautiful trails of Auckland.

Janet qualified as a mountain bike guide and cycle skills instructor through Skills Active, and is the owner of She also recently became a Skills Active assessor, which means working with keen bike-riders who are completing national qualifications, just as she herself did a couple of years ago.

Asked what’s great about her job, Janet says it’s the looks of delight on people’s faces as they navigate the world on two wheels.

“I just love seeing people gaining confidence on their bikes. But it’s the smiles in particular – I love seeing someone grinning away as they are riding a bike.”

Pedal power has been Janet’s preferred form of transport ever since she was a toddler, and her parents gave her a trike which used to get around everywhere – including off to the park by herself, before anyone had noticed. Later on, when she was busy with kids and life, Janet formed a group called Spokeswomen with some friends, aimed at carving out a bit more time in their schedules to go cycling.

“We met regularly on Fridays. During that time, I found I was quite good at guiding, and getting people on bikes,” Janet says. “So I thought, ‘I wonder if I can get a qualification?’ And that is how I stumbled across Skills Active.”

That was five years ago. As growing numbers of friends and acquaintances asked Janet to take them out for rides, and the word spread, a successful business was born.

On a typical day, after checking the weather report, Janet is off to work. That might mean helping people develop their cycling skills in one-on-one or group coaching sessions, or leading cyclists on expeditions around the trails or in the city. In the afternoon she can often be found cleaning her gear and her bike, and possibly fitting in another coaching session.

Although Janet is thrilled to have earned her cycling qualifications, it wasn’t always easy, due to a shortage of assessors that specialise in the discipline.

“It was a very frustrating process for me, particularly the mountain bike guiding certificate. There are not many mountain bike assessors, and there were even fewer then,” she says.

“My assessor was great but he was running a successful business and he was busy with that. Trying to get time to be assessed was difficult. All I could think was: ‘Why don’t I do this? I’m still growing my business, and I can add this into what I do.’”

Once she completed her qualification, Janet’s assessor advised her to clock up some more experience, and then complete her assessor training. In July this year, Janet completed her registration period and is now assessing her first two trainees.

Assessing adds a whole new level of fulfilment into her work, she says.

“One of my trainees is starting her own business, a very similar one to mine, down in Rotorua. It’s very rewarding, because she is using that knowledge I’m passing on in her own business. It’s not someone doing it just for the hang of it; she’s got a goal in mind.”

Janet wants to see it become easier for bike-lovers to earn their qualifications.

“I’m stubborn, so there was no way I wasn’t going to finish, but it was really frustrating at times. So I want to be part of making it better.”

She says she would never have been able to complete her two qualifications, train as an assessor, and build up her business, without the support of her fellow Spokeswomen, who helped her get the practice she needed, and gave her a sounding board for her ideas.

“And then, for me, it’s been my family – they have been fantastic. They have always given me the time and space I needed, and said to me, ‘You’ve got this mum. You don’t have to be a normal mum – it‘s okay if you go cycling!’”

For more information on cycling qualifications in New Zealand please contact Janet on [email protected]

Written by Esther McLaren Communications Advisor for Skills Active NZ for the Assessors Month Newsletter