New book charts best roads

Author Mike Hyde.
Author Mike Hyde.

Accidental author Mike Hyde was cruising through Australia when he just happened to write his first book.

''It started off just as we got around I had a laptop and knocked out a bit of a blog for family and friends. It got flowerier and flowerier and they suggested it would make a good book.''

He was surprised when publisher HarperCollins expressed interest and even more surprised when the book started flying off the shelves.

''I think it's because they saw a growing number of 40 to 50-somethings like me who have a bit of disposable income and the kids are off their hands, trying to relive their youth by buying motorbikes with a dream of touring the world.''

Two years later Christchurch-based Hyde, who has a day job as the business manager of an eye specialist organisation, was touring the United States and writing a second book in his tongue-in-cheek style. 

Then the publishers asked for another and while he was keen on travelling to Europe he offered the idea of a guide to off and on-road New Zealand motorcycle rides.

Years ago he had an interest in a motorcycle rental company and was always astounded by the number of overseas riders who would rock up intending to see New Zealand via State Highway One, unaware of more interesting routes.

He knew there was a gap for a proper guidebook with images, maps and GPS co-ordinates.

After about eight weeks on the roads and with the help of several friends he put together Twisting Throttle New Zealand, his guide to the top 50 off and on-road motorcycle rides in the country.

It is not your average Lonely Planet read, he says.

''If you want to know where to buy coffee or the best museum to look at don't buy my book. This is more semi-serious motorcycle guide book combined with some wise cracking text.''

Rides include everything from Ninety Mile Beach and Lake Waikaremoana in the North Island to the likes of the Buller Gorge, the Old Dunstan Trail, the Glenorchy Rd and The Catlins in the South Island.

They are informed by his own enjoyment of long distance motorcycle riding and pride in his home country.

''In some way we need to keep it a bit of a secret which is what I haven't done,'' he said.

His trip down south was also assisted by Jimmy's Pies, which is part of the underlying narrative of the story. 

The Roxburgh-based pie makers were not aware of him at the time but his enjoyment of the pies has seen him become a connoisseur and the company has sent a pile of the best for the Christchurch launch of his book.

''I got a bit upset when the only thing to eat at Haast was two Jimmy's Pies and they had been microwaved.

''There's nothing worse,'' he confided.

However, for this lover of motorcycle touring, little could detract from the joy of being on the road.

''I like the slow aspect of it. I like the time it gives you to think just sitting in a saddle pointing ahead at 120kph (in Australia) with nothing to do. I like the slight risk that something could happen (such as a mechanical breakdown) and keeping on the move.

''The motorcycle gives you a level of freedom rather than sitting in a car.''

And while he will continue to write, he is ''busting'' to do Europe next.

At this stage it remains very much a hobby with the sales of previous books covering about half the costs of researching the next.

''It just makes me laugh to think people read what I write,'' he says.

The Mirror