We recently caught up with Gary Patterson, owner and creator of the Great Rides App. A tale built on experience, passion and dedication, here’s his story…
Gary Patterson. Cartographer, owner and creator of the Great Rides App
It all started off around 11 years ago, mapping and hand building trails around the world. Portugal, Patagonia, Jamaica, Canada are just some of the places Gary was lucky enough to see and explore. Not to mention some trails closer to home including the Wairoa Gorge near Nelson which has over 70kms of hand built trails and Welcome Rock Trails, just down the road, which has 27kms of hand built trail.
After a long stint of travelling around the globe in far flung destinations, it was time to settle in one place, Kingston, and build on his skills and interest to turn it all into a career. At the time, the NZ cycle trails were only half built, and after riding the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail and getting ‘disorientated’, inspiration for the Great Rides App was born.
Gary spent 6 months riding and mapping all 22 of the Great Rides, how awesome! He then spent a further 6 months developing the app and its features such as the ability to work offline, being GPS enabled and a huge amount of content all in one easily accessible place, and it’s FREE! It’s easy to see why it’s such a fantastic app.
It’s been four years since the app launched with Gary reporting over 50,000 users’ for the year pre Covid and still growing now. Nationally, he has ‘App advocates’ in the form of bike shops, bike rental companies, tour companies who encourage customers to use the app. It is also promoted by the NZ Cycle Trail and is a national partner of all the Great Rides. Wow!
Since it began, Gary has added 10 ‘bonus trails’ that aren’t part of the Great Ride network, but are generally stunning trails, such as the Heaphy Track, Paparoa Track and Link Pathway.
The App has also expanded with a sister app, the ‘Great Hikes App’, which compliments the Great Rides App just perfectly – it’s free too! With plans to move across to a new platform, and new trails being built all the time, it sounds like there is more in store to come!
Outside of the app, Gary recently worked with the Lake Dunstan Trail project and provided the base map for the trail. Also officially sneaked a first peek at the trail prior to opening.
While the App life takes up a lot of Gary’s time, he still does the things he loves, getting out for rides and creating maps for other trails.
Living in Kingston his local ride is the Around the Mountains trail, but it sounds like there are some other pretty rough and rugged off road trails to get your heart rate up in the hills above Kingston! When it comes to Queenstown, the Twin Rivers Trail, Kelvin Heights to Jacks Point trail and the Gibbston River Wine Trail are all up there as favourites as they all offer variety and a different experience.
Trails he’d like to see?
The Queenstown to Kingston link and the Kawarau Gorge trails, which would eventually link up the local trails all the way through to Dunedin! Offering a fully off-road cycle experience the whole way!
To sum up the trail network in Queenstown and trails all over New Zealand?
They are stunning day or multi-day rides that offer generally off-road adventures with great diversity; from tough and remote backcountry tracks overnighting in huts or lodges through to more gentler scenic trails linked between villages offering activities and the comforts of home.