15 Apr 2024

Renowned broadcaster Patrick Gower will saddle up alongside three Kiwi sporting legends for this year’s Chopper Bike Ride from Queenstown to Invercargill on 10 May 2024.

Among the 100 or so riders joining Gower for the 230km ride are All Blacks legend Richie McCaw, dual Commonwealth Games medallist and Black Sticks champion Gemma McCaw, 2012 Olympic gold medal-winning rower and local hero Nathan Cohen, and seven members of the Lakes District Helicopter Crew. All funds raised will go to the local helicopter trust to support their lifesaving work.

An award-winning print and television journalist and broadcaster, Gower says he’s looking forward to spending the day in the saddle to support a valuable cause.

“I think I must be crazy to sign up for this ride. It is brutally long and starts at a ridiculously stupid hour in below freezing temperatures. I know it is going to cause me issues -  I will need extra padding in the bike shorts,” he says. 

“But it is absolutely vital that we raise money to keep the rescue helicopter out there, so it can keep saving lives of the people of the Deep South. So I am getting on that bike.

“I love the people of Otago and Southland and I want to help keep them safe. If that means slogging my guts out on a bike, so be it.

“We are riding as a team of 100 which includes a World Cup winner, an Olympic Gold medallist and the best cyclists Southland and Otago have to offer. Then there is me, the ultimate ‘Weekend Warrior’ so I will be hoping the other 99 team members forgive me.”

This year’s journey is dubbed the “million dollar bike ride”, with organisers hoping to raise the $80,000 needed to push the total funds raised since the first Chopper Bike ride in 2011 past the seven-figure mark.  Last year’s ride raised a whopping $160,000 for Westpac Chopper Appeal, part of a nationwide total of $1.4m.

The 12-hour ride will take in several stops at primary schools along the way, with time for riders to refresh and have a kickaround with donated sports equipment from the iSPORT Foundation.

All Blacks legend and Westpac Ambassador Richie McCaw braved last year’s ride in snowy conditions alongside fellow 2011 World Cup winners Mils Muliana and Jimmy Cowan; an experience that left a lasting impression.

“Last year I told the organising team to let me know the date for the next ride, because I didn’t want to miss it. It’s a great day out for an awesome cause, made even better by being able to deliver some gear to some deserving schools along the way,” McCaw says.

“It’s a special part of the world and we’re so grateful for all the schools and communities who come out to cheer us on and donate to the cause.  It helps keep a smile on your face throughout a pretty gruelling day.”

Chopper Bike Ride organiser and Westpac NZ Otago and Southland Regional Manager Phil Taylor is grateful for the star power to boost the fundraising towards a vital cause.

“The Lakes District and Otago Regional rescue helicopters flew 2,123 missions between them last year, saving countless lives with rescues and medical transfers in our remote and rugged part of the country,” Taylor says.

“It’s amazing to see the growth of the event over the years. We had a small pack of five riders at our first event in 2011, so it’s hard to believe we’ve already confirmed our 100 riders this year, and expect to tick over $1 million in fundraising for our local helicopters since the event’s inception.

“Every dollar raised in our Chopper Appeal month of May stays in the region and directly helps our local choppers continue their lifesaving service, so we encourage everyone to dig deep and donate if they can.”

People can donate to the ride now by visiting The Million $$$ Ride Givealittle page.

Editors note:

2023 Chopper Bike Ride: 2023 Chopper Bike Ride video


Above: Riders in front of the Lakes District Chopper, May 2023


Above: Patrick Gower at the finish line of the Mototapu challenge, March 2024