The Ultimate Bike Ride to raise $ for WIO

by Bree Arnott

Shantel Thilman fell in love with New Zealand when she first came here 10 years ago. Now she has returned to ride the length of our country as part of Tour Aotearoa 2020 and avoid winter back home in Oregon! As part of her best winter-avoidance tactic yet, Shantel is aiming to raise money along the way – her aim is $1 for every km cycled – and has chosen to support Whenua Iti Outdoors! (You can help Shantel reach her goal on our Give-a-little Page:

Shantel Thilman

So how did WIO end up being the lucky recipient of her biking efforts?

Shantel understands how essential it is to get young people into the great outdoors and connected to nature, something we are passionate about here at Whenua Iti of course. For Shantel, cycling has become and integral part of who she is. Always looking to expand and push her comfort zone, setting her sights on this ride is part of that push. As she so aptly describes it, “Being outside, being given an opportunity to jump in head first into adventure, or to look at a lake, or see where your body can take you- it’s more valuable than any lesson a city block could give you.” That is the lesson she wants to share. That building a connection with the outdoors through challenge is important for the youth of today and helps to build a healthier mind-set, a shared point of view with Whenua Iti Outdoors. “In an era of technology and social media, nature is so often forgotten. There is peace in nature; as well as resilience, tranquility, strength and connection,” says Shantel. We couldn’t agree more!

A bit about the ride…

Tour Aotearoa is a self-supported 3,000 km brevet from Cape Reinga to Bluff. A brevet is not a race. It is a ride following a set course, via 30 photo checkpoints, which you must complete between 10 and 30 days – no more and no less. We will be sharing Shantel’s progress as she reaches each checkpoint and can’t wait to go along for her ride! You can follow her live at

Shantel kicks off her Tour Aotearoa on 22nd February, which is the first official bike event she has ever entered, with a goal of finishing in 23-30 days. All going to plan she should reach the Nelson area around March 6th. She recognises it will be a challenge for her to ride 100+km day in, day out, over varying terrain having never spent an extensive time off road before. Riding for charity helps to drive her, “I have a goal, I have a focus… And I’m stubborn – so I’ll finish the ride.”

Chasing a dream…

This is not the first time she has cycled for charity. Of her own volition she undertook an incredible ride of 10,500km from Alaska to Mexico in 2017 to raise money for Alzheimer’s, a charity close to her heart following her Grandpa’s diagnosis. “Having never undertaken a massive bike tour before, I can’t really say if riding for charity changed it. It’s just what I was doing. It was one of the drives, and a huge focus. I wanted to contribute and to connect with others who have also faced Alzheimer’s.”

Continuing to challenge herself in the outdoors, as we encourage here at Whenua Iti, Shantel hopes that those who hear about her ride will be inspired to take up their own challenge in the outdoors and chase their own dream.

Thank you Shantel! Go well and enjoy the ride, and from all of us at Whenua Iti:

Kia hora te marino, kia whakapapa pounamu te moana, kia tere te kārohirohi i mua i tōu huarahi.
May the calm be widespread, may the ocean glisten as greenstone, may the shimmer of light ever dance across your pathway

We are looking forward to tracking her progress throughout the event – you can follow Shantel’s progress live at:


To donate to Shantel’s cause please head to  Money raised will be used to support youth in our communities who would otherwise be unable to participate in a WIO programme. The most vulnerable are often the people who benefit most so we work hard to ensure cost is not a barrier to participation.

Want to find out more about a programme or have a question for us? Talk to one of our friendly team - we're happy to help.