Some fool came up with the idea of riding both the 800Km & 1600Km rides this year and calling it a Double-Badger! …and some other fools bought into it!! For myself, someone known to be a bit psychotic at the best times, someone who tends to enjoy operating on the fringe, someone blessed to have several ‘internal’ friends …..yes well …this idea sparked a bit of a discussion along the lines of …. Oooh mate, that’s great, you can turn up and flip one way or the other depending on the weather!…bloody great idea! ….ride most of the 1600 in daylight! …pick a nice day and start when you want!! Yeah, yeah, yeah! (Perhaps I should mention here that this idea played into my hands because although I had all these secret thoughts and discussions between me and my internal mates, in the end I had the perfect excuse, “I had to ride the 800 so I could do CP Marshal duty for the 1600). ….*Sigh* …..yes well, some people never learn.
I suppose I should also mention that, as it turned out, this year’s 1600 riders enjoyed a pleasant start to the ride, then rode though a God-Damned-Awful wet front as it slowly worked it’s way up the island through the night and all turned up at our Taihape checkpoint looking like drowned cats …. and did that put a smile on my face?? …you bet (‘cos as well as being marginally psychotic, I’m a fully fledged arsehole!)
As I mentioned, all these great ideas kept being passed around in my mind with the reassurances, longest day, warm summer weather, and yesterday I did the Double-Bloody-Badger 1600 component with my (real) mate and riding buddy Steve.
Since we live in Wellington, that meant our plan was to join the ride at Shannon, so that would add about 130-200km to the distance, depending on where we started and finished, so the start was set at BP Mana and finish would be Brown Owl, since it made more sense to return through the Wairarapa and over the Rimutakas, since that was more-funner riding than back down SH1 …and of course, Steve lives in that Brown Owl area (so I would have another 30’ish km on top of that.
There was no fixed plan as to when we would ride, but probably on the Saturday between Christmas and New Year, (or some nice day in that period), but as the fates would have it, Saturday the 21st was scheduled to fall at the end of a wet week, whereby a massive high would sit over the country and it would be just perfec’ …and it just so happened that Sunday the 22nd was schedule to be the Longest Day ….and a few other things happened that meant I needed to get it done and dusted before Christmas! …so 1am at BP Mana it was!
Friday I knocked off a little early, checked the tyres and packed, eventually getting to bed at 2030, with the alarm slamming me at 0001 (midnight would have been too early), then after dithering about I was away late at 0050, arrived at BP Mana at 0105 …it was shut and Steve was waiting at the curb!! (you’re not seeing a trend here already are you?) So we popped down the road to Z Mana (Steve had already filled), arrived there at 0106, took 7 minutes to fill at a pay-at-pump bowser, because on the 20Km from home I had realized that a T-Shirt and unlined jacket with summer gloves, just didn’t cut it, so the wet jacket and mid-weight gloves went on!
0113 we were on the road and on our adventure, with the first scheduled stop at Shannon, but we had to stop at Paekak’, 14.7km at 0124, because some dickhead couldn’t drive! (I think I already mentioned that I was an arsehole) but on this instance, a car was upside down on the other side of the road, in an 80kph zone and on a straight section of road!!?? …FFS …there may have been extenuating circumstances, but at face value, the cynic in me doesn’t have a lot of sympathy at this stage ….and because the dickhead cost us 10 minutes!
So at 0134 it was on-on and at 0218 we had travelled 83.5km to Shannon where we joined the prescribed NI1600 route by taking a photo of the old Post Office …and did I mention it was a bit cold at 8º? Well it was, because the heated grips were on, but I still had to change to my winter-weight gloves …so the photo-stop took 2 minutes!
Next stop was BP Taihape, so SH1 bland riding and at 0341 and we had 218km done at an overall avg of 89kph. This was just another photo stop, but as we approached I asked Steve if he wanted a coffee because at that point, the temperature had dropped to 4º and I was freezing ….and severely feeling the affects of the cold squeeze, so we pulled in for a 25 minute extended stop where I had to strip off the jackets and put on two skivvies and I woofed down a banana, bar and some water.
The next leg of our adventure took us up to Taumarunui for fuel, then we had a CP at the junction of River, Ohura and Mangaparo Roads, then another CP by the junction of Ohura Rd and SH4. The scoot to Taumarunui saw us transition from a very cold black night to a lightening sky as we transitioned up SH4 to the west of the mountains and it almost got properly light as we entered Taumarunui. We arrived there at 0527, 352km into the ride and we had another relaxed 11 minute stop, then it was time to visit the Ohura Loop, from the Forgotten Highway end.
I’ve been through this road several times over the years, with the last visit being on the 2015 NI1600, however it must be about 13 years since I’ve been through in this direction. I thought the road seemed rougher than my last visit, with more care required, then, a few km after passing through Matiere, I was a bit distracted, saw a road sign indicating the direction to Taumarunui and next minute the GPS was telling me to make a u-turn. Whaaat!! Being a dingbat from way back, I stopped, then thought, “stupid GPS, this is a great road (a vast improvement from what we had been riding on), so we continued, but my vague recollections were casting doubts ….but we still continued to continue ….and emerged on SH4 to find that the dillbrain leading had taken us over the Okahukura Saddle!! ….Bloody dickhead, 25km later we had nipped up SH4 to the CP on Ohura Rd and back!! ….and it was still a cold 8º!
From here it was on to a revised CP at Kurutau School, as I had had “one of those discussions” with the NZDR Routemeister and because of the extra km we were doing, he gave us a dispensation of not having to go all the way to Turangi and back to Kurutau (a saving of about 40km), so at 0747 we were pulling in, 520km done and 45 seconds later we were pulling out for the scoot up the western lake road, where we extended the pace from the holiday tolerance to the normal tolerance. That’s always a nice pootle and the ride up Waipapa Rd was even nicer and we had soon crossed to and were pulling into the next CP at Wharepuhunga School. Well it seemed soon as we were now 651km in and it was 0904. ….and we still had the wets on to keep warm.
A minute later we were doing the 22km across to Tihiroa Hall, changed the gloves back to the summer jobbies, then went up to the next fuel stop at GAS Whatawhata. (715km at 0947) The GAS servo didn’t have facilities for another cold squeeze induced natural break, plus the temp had finally elevated enough, so we went across the road to a café for another break, so the 10minute fuel stop morphed into a 45minute fuel and coffee stop …..ok, I tend to avoid caffeine on these rides so I settled for a hot chocolate and cheese scone, but I also removed the wets and one of the skivvies. Then as the next CP at the New Beginnings Church was only 1km down the road, within another 2 minutes we had that (and the photostop was somewhat quicker with the summer weight gloves back on), so at 1038 we were embarking on a gallop over the Raglan Rd, then up H22.
On the NI800, Highway 22 was wet, I was losing time on the ETA and it wasn’t that pleasant, but this time it was dry and we were able to maintain a better pace and start peeling back some time, so by 1156 we had travelled 830km, picking up the CP at Naike Hall and the CP at BP Bombay. I must say I rather enjoyed that leg of the trip. But next we had the tedious job of going across SH2 to Kopu.
I must say, the dorklander car drivers weren’t too bad on this occasion, because if they didn’t see me, at least they tended to move over for Steve after I had squeezed past between them and the yellow line …..(pfftt…how can someone not know they have an ST behind when it’s looming in their mirrors!!??), but we actually managed to maintain an average of 90kph across to Kopu, and then we were to embark on our treat for the day. Up SH25A to Opoutere, then down to Waihi, before encountering more tedious double-yellows to Z Bethlehem …but that was not to be!!
We were romping through traffic over 25A when we had barely made halfway and encountered a bloody great queue of stopped traffic, so as you do when you are on a bike, we started filtering to the front. We had averaged 81kph across the 20km to that point, and filtered for 1km, when we met a motorcyclist coming back the other way, who informed us that there had been a bad accident and there was no way the traffic would be moving anytime soon! We were nowhere near the front of the queue and there were busses and big boats being towed, so there was no way they would be turning back, but we flipped around, had a brief discussion of options and decided to return on 25A, go down to Paeroa, but because we had plenty of fat, by way of surplus kms and because we’d been robbed of the one of the peachiest parts of the ride, we wouldn’t go through to Waihi and endure the crappy ride through to Bethlehem, but instead we would cut across to Te Kuiti from there on the NI800 track. I suppose in hindsight, we should have gone along Old Te Aroha Rd to rejoin the route by Te Poi, but we didn’t think of that at the time because we were gutted that we’d been deprived of our fang over half of 25A, then down 25 from there to Waihi ….criminal it was, just criminal!
We encountered our first enforcer for the day shortly after Otorohanga. He was following a vehicle that was obviously aware of the cops presence and hence driving at the indicated speed of 100kph ….but his true speed was actually varying between 89 and 93 …so we passed them in a very restrained fashion and arrived at BP Te Kuiti with 1,102km done at 1515. This was a CP and our newly revised fuel stop (due to the change of route) so once again, we enjoyed another casual 40 minute fuel-up, snack and Hot Chocolate before embarking on SH30.
We now felt we were getting through the ride with only 600’ish km to go, and we made very progress across 30. In fact, one could almost say we were making up for earlier and had a jolly good fang that continued across Poihipi Rd to Taupo where we transitioned through town and embarked on the Napier-Taupo Rd within the tolerated holiday limits, but the temp had now plummeted back to 8º …and then it started to bloody rain, so we stopped to don the wets and got passed by all the cars again.
Much care was now required thanks to the marvelous condition of the NZ highways and as we descended close to Bayview, the rain was easing and we could see some blue sky ahead …but it was still friggin’ cold! Napier was dry as we made our way down the Expressway and across to the CP at the junction of School and Middle Rds, then enjoyed a nice pace over Middle Rd down to the next and last CP at the Patangata Tavern, then on to our last fuel stop at BP Waipuk’. Those occurred at 1398km / 1905; 1429km / 1927 and 1452km / 1942 …and now we really were on the scoot for home.
I should mention that there was a car upturned on it’s roof, on a straight, along the Western Access road and between Pahiatua and Eketahuna, we encountered another care in a ditch, on a straight, being attended to by Police, Fire and Ambulance personnel, so we encountered four quite bad accidents on our day out, when the lowered tolerances are in place and people should be taking more care! …and the dickhead powers-that-be are talking about lowered limits and more barriers!!...maybe I need to write a rant blog on that subject?
Anyway, longest day and it was daylight all the way down to Woodville, then various stages of twilight through to Pahiatua-Featherston …and then it got really, really dark, really, really quick, to the point that I found myself rather disoriented on the Rimutakas. Not in a way of being impaired, but more so like I didn’t recognize the road or where I was on it ….and then we were finished! 1682km done in 21hrs 05 minutes (which included a couple of hours of stopped time) and I ended up doing 1741km in 21hrs 53.
…. And it was a right royal pain in the arse!! Literally and figuratively! It was much bloody colder than when the ride was held in October and we encountered a goodly chunk of crappy rain! OK, it was mostly in daylight, which was alright, but Double-Badger idea be damned. Do it in the middle of Summer he said ….when it’s warm and the days are longer! Global Warming my arse! (I’ll accept the Climate Change argument, but warming be buggered!!) And then being much inconvenienced by dickheads that don’t appear to know how to drive. That might be a bit harsh as there are many factors that can cause strife, but upturned on a straight dry road in an 80kph zone?? …*Sigh*
It was a ride but! Quite a long ride at that, but nothing like it was supposed to be…and it was my 13th 1,000 miler. Lucky for some I guess!
After a very hectic year with minimal riding, then a rather stressful couple of weeks before Christmas, as well the week just gone, which included having to work on Boxing Day, I finally got as close to ‘clearing the desk’ as I’ll ever get and thought, “Bugger it! I need a ride!”
What ride, one might ask and that was easy, I still needed to redeem my failure to complete the 2017 Nth Island 1600, after I had to pull out at 1,200 km because I couldn’t see ( 2017 NI1600 ).
It’s funny because there’s an expression that goes ‘some people find fault like there was a reward for it’, and that’s what many of our Distance Riding friends are like. I knew that if I just did the ride in mint conditions, next thing it would be, “That doesn’t really count because those guys that finished on-the-day, rode through 3 days of rain to complete the ride in 24 hours, so your effort was just soft!!” For God’s sake, it’s a 1,000 mile ride in 24 hours, in the parlance of the old Rusty Nut days, it’s a Grand Challenge ….it’s tough. Does it really matter if I happen to complete it on a pleasant day closer to the Solstice than the Equinox …..yep, yep, yep, yep, yep!
Now let’s face it, there’s no way I’m going to wait for a cruel and bitter day to do this ride, but I have to get to there and back, so by joining the route at Whanganui, I would end up doing 1,980 km, add in another 20 km filler and I would then be doing 2,000 km (still within the 24 hour parameter), so surely that would count? Well probably not for some but that was the plan.
Yes well, the best laid plans!! Turns out there have been multiple slips on the Paraparas (SH4) and I was required to go up and down that piece of road. No worries, you say, just go up and back on SH1 instead, but those nay-sayer Distance Riders would just have more to bleat about so I canned it, however, at the same time, there was discussion on a thread about the East Cape Road, which I haven’t been that fond of doing in recent times thanks to this ride ( 2011 Grand Challenge ) In particular, this bit, ….Steve did pop off the road for a breather whilst going around the Cape as there were quite a lot of spots where the road had subsided (one way or the other) leaving some drop-offs or bumps in the region of 3-6”. Steve hit a bump whilst engaging a very tight left hander. As usual, I was right up his date and it was severe enough to bounce him off the seat causing his feet to disengage from the pegs. Not a great look when one is keen to apply pressure to the brakes…and can’t find a foot, or free some fingers to use. Anyway, as I eased around the corner, look of disbelief on my dial, I saw Steve bounce, straighten, (WTF), brakes….back wheel locks (puff of dust and crap from loose shit), thoughts to the effect of, “Oh crap……I hope nothing’s coming…..is he going to ease it around?…..is he going to stop?…..Oh fuck! not again!! That’s a 3’ drop there Steve….and there’s a fence………………bugger he’s gone…..ooooh! nicely popped there Steve……..Holy Shit! He’s parked it......Hell, how are we going to get it back up on the road?....(looks around for somewhere safe to park the bike)…….Ooooh, nice one Steve! (he just rode it back up the bank!!) We exchanged notes, wiped brows and moved on!
Anyway, Dreds (Sth Islander) and others have been bleating about including the East Cape in an NI1600 for some time, and it just hasn’t been on my radar, so I thought, that’ll be nice, I can check it out and do both Capes in one ride, because although Steve and I did the Southern Cross Ride in 2009, which started at East Cape and rode across to Cape Egmont, we didn’t actually do the full distance because it was 24 hours between check-ins. I now had a plan and reasonable weather conditions. (maybe a bit of scattered rain in the Bay of Plenty).
The route planning was easy, the ST would need fuel at Wairoa, Opotiki and New Plymouth, then I’d just need a CP along the East Cape, so that was GAS Tokomaru Bay, and one along the Surf Hiway, which could be either Challenge or the big gates at Rahotu and that was it. Shortest distance across took me along SH30, which I haven’t done for some time, that was loaded into the GPS, tyres were checked, I grabbed the usual bananas and nutbars and I was good to go.
My preference was to do East Cape Nth to Sth, as the last couple of times I’ve done it was up and across, but I wanted to do it in daylight so I figured I needed to do that first, then I was looking at a 6am start, but in the end, an earlier start meant I could finish by midnight and it would hardly interfere with my sleep patterns, so I set the alarm for 0330 …nah, make that 0340 for a 4am’ish start, which eventually saw me rolling out at 0431.
The last fuel to go in the bike was a month and a half ago (after the 1KC ride) so I needed to fuel at Caltex Rimutaka and 20 minutes after departing home, I was making a 6 minute stop …and then I was enjoying a rather ‘spirited’ ride over the Rimutakas, only having to pass two cars and one truck. I guess the ‘spirited’ thing sort of continued afterwards as well, since the revenue collectors would be still slumbering and I wanted to get home before midnight, so within an hour I was on the Masterton Bypass and it was light enough to see.
This was all pretty mundane riding up SH2 so within 2 hrs I had bypassed Woodville and was 198 km into the ride, nearly at Dannevirke where I bypassed the main road to get past a couple of cars, at 3 hrs I was 311 km in at the Fernhill area …and the fun was soon to start because basically, from 340 km to 850 km one is served with a 500+ km feast of corners from where you dip away from the coast just north of Napier, right through to Opotiki.
This part of the country isn’t an area I frequent and it can often years between visits, but oddly enough, this was the third time I would be doing the Napier-Gisborne road this year as Steve and I did it through to Tolaga Bay (Nth of Gisborne) in February on the TT2000, then again in the dark of a very dark night on the NI1600 in October and now this. I had gotten quite disoriented on the moonless night in October and even though I know the road reasonably well, at that time I generally had no idea where I was, so it was much nicer doing it in daylight. I was also glad it wasn’t wet as there are a few bits that even glisten in the dry and the ‘Powers That Be’ think it is OK to keep us safe by putting signs to advise “Slippery when wet” (…but I won’t get on that soapbox right now).
Wairoa and my next fuel stop was at 439 km and normally, for an ST, that would be very conservatively placed, but considering I had had fueled 32 km into the ride and was now on reserve at just under 410 km was …??... poor form! ST’s can be quite economical and I have been known to get in excess on 20 km per ltr, but they don’t like round-town stop-start stuff, and they don’t like a twisty-wrist! One needs to set a pace for the road and hold it with minimal throttle input. I have managed 13.8 km per ltr absolutely caning it through the Para’s on one occasion and this time, between the ‘spirited’ pace, combined with what might be considered a fang over the Rimutakas and quite a twisty-wrist between Napier and Wairoa, I had managed just 15.4 km per ltr. This next tank needed to get me to Opotiki with few options between, it was only a 422 km leg, but the were a lot more corners and hills ….so I squeezed as much as I could in and it took 24 Ltrs on board (29 Ltr tank be damned. I managed 26 Ltrs once and that was cramming it in on a very empty tank). It was now just before 0900 and the temp was up to 17°.
After losing the 6 minutes filling at Rimutaka, I’d managed to pull that back before Masterton, and the average of 106kph from Rimutaka to Wairoa, had picked up quite a bit of time on the ETA, getting it down to 2230, I expected to continue this trend, but that was not to be so. The temperature soon settled between 21-23° and the ride from Wairoa to Gisborne although a little more moderate, but still peachy, with little traffic out and about, was still quite quick and had almost hauled back the cruisy 10 minute Wairoa fuel stop. I skirted Gisborne (535 km) just before 1000 and being the height of the holiday period, now encountered steady traffic (but nothing like the crap one encounters around Auckland and Coromandel at this time of year …so I was still making good progress but the average through the East Cape section dropped to 95 kph.
The road up to Tokomaru Bay is pretty good, except that over the hill north of Wainui beach, the beaches were crammed with campers and the roads had Temporary 70 kph Limits imposed. I got to Tokomaru Bay at 1052, 625 km into the ride with an overall average of 99kph, I took 50 seconds to get a photo of the 4-Square / GAS stop, then continued.
The road heading North of Tokomaru Bay was OK, but between my doubts about the state of the road, the fact that I was now encountering more patches of roadworks (even if that was often signs with no apparent work taking place), or often, finding myself riding on mottled chip, or surfaces that I found hard to read (ie had the appearance, or gave the impression that it might have had loose stuff, when in fact it didn’t …or at least the bike wasn’t squirming on it!), anyway, I found myself riding with a greater margin for error. It’s hard to explain really, because there are a lot of other factors ….like the road getting narrower and/or tighter, there were a couple of sections towards Te Kaha that were controlled by lights (that took an eternity to change), but the bottom line was, the average from North of Wainui Beach to Tokomaru Bay was about 102kph, Tokomaru to Te Araroa was 96kph, Te Araroa to Te Kaha 89kph, the Te Kaha to Opotiki 94kph. …Of course, it’s actually more likely that I just slowed down to take in the magnificent scenic beauty!! ….he said as he reached for another Tui.
Bottom, bottom line is that checking out this section was the reason for the ride. There was no slumping to speak of on my riding track, the road had it’s defects, but we live with that on Godzone’s roads and to sum up ….it was better than it was, but not as good as it used to be ….and I give it a tick of approval!
So by 1325 I was pulling into the Caltex Servo in Opotiki for a casual stop, 861 km into the ride (a tad over half way) with an overall average of 97kph, I was back on reserve with the economy back on 15.4 Km per Ltr again, I squeezed in 25.5 Ltrs this time, had a ‘natural break’, scoffed a couple of bananas, a nut bar, gulped some water down and was pulling out at 1342, 9hrs 11minutes into the ride, with the average now down to 94kph, and the ETA at 2244.
The last forecast I had seen the night before indicated I should expect rain in this area, but all was clear so far and I was more preoccupied with other things when I left Opotiki, so it wasn’t until about 10 km along as I turned in from the coast that I encountered a few spits and noticed how dirty it was looking to the South, so I expected I would need to stop to put on the wets at some stage, but at this time I just zipped up the jacket vents.
Then the GPS started getting a bit moody! As mentioned earlier, I had been very minimalist in my route planning, which I do in MapSource, then take it through Basecamp to transfer to the Garmin 595 Unit (because it won’t interact with MS). I run NZ Open Maps in MS, while BaseCamp has NZ Open, Global & NZ/Aus Maps and the unit seems to run on both NZ Open and the Garmin NZ/Aus maps. Then of course, it’s quite likely that the route preferences are different in the various Aps. Consequently, the GPS wanted me to go via Ohope-Whakatane, but I knew for the way I was going, that would be a few km shorter, but some minutes slower. Sure enough, when I went past the turnoff, the Arrival Distance popped out a few km and the ETA went to 2235. however, shortly afterwards it bounced to 2330!!!! ….WTF!!!
Next thing, my mate Kate or Emily or whoever (GPS) started telling me “Low Battery!”….bugger. She departed around Tane Atua, so I crossed the light-controlled one-way bridge and stopped to connect a power-pack (2 minutes lost). Music back I rolled on!
Next thing, passed the Awakeri Z, turned onto SH30 and the GPS flipped it’s lid by suddenly bouncing the ETA to 2330! That threw me and I was thinking, “Shit, does the bloody thing think we’re going via Galatea!?”, so just to be sure, I turned around, went the few hundred metres back to SH2, (another 2 minutes lost) turned onto that behind one of “those” cars and followed him to Edgecumbe, by which time the precipitation was definitely looking imminent ….so I stopped and put my trusty Warehouse jacket on, (and another 2 minutes lost) so for the 68 km from Opotiki, I had just managed to average 84kph.
Next thing you know it was raining enough to clean the visor I hadn’t cleaned in Opotiki ….and I was on slick roads with traffic in front of me, making it slightly harder to pick lines for good traction whilst still putting oneself in a position for passing. I continued to make progress though, and by the time I was off the Rotomas and coming into Rotorua the rain had cleared, the average (from Opotiki) was up to 87kph, then as I turned back onto SH30 on the South side of Rotorua, it was 86 …but now I entering the ‘rampant roads’!!
SH30 is one of those sweet Kiwi roads that meanders through rolling countryside with nice sweepy turns that make the ride interesting …and quick! Without exceeding the tolerated limits by too much, I managed a 110kph average to the Kopaki turnoff and it was still 108kph when I came out on SH4 and arrived at Eight Mile Junction. SH3 required a bit more restraint, but the Awakino Gorge has to rate as one of the sweetest, must ride Kiwi roads, so by Awakino I was still on 106kph and maintained that through to New Plymouth and the next fuel stop, which turned out to be at Challenge Spotswood. (Economy for this leg at 16.4 km per ltr at an average of 97kph between fuel stops and 95kph from the start).
Another pre-pay pump, more relieving, snacking and 9 minutes later I was pulling out on the last 378 km leg at 1818hrs.
At this point the GPS played up a bit again, with the ETA bouncing out. It was a bit odd as it was almost like the track wanted to go down SH3 but I had a CP at Rahotu …so who knows what was up, but once I was out of town the GPS was indicating and ETA for 2300?! That was crazy because a sub 100kph average should still have had me in before 2230, …so I got on with the job of pruning it back.
The Surf Hiway is generally pretty straight, and sort of remote, so I dialed it up to a few km more than Steve and I would normally do in GC (Grand Challenge) mode and the minutes were peeling off the ETA, then from Hawera, I was having to finish the ride on SH3 and SH1, so I had to settle back closer to the allowable limits. It was an easy way to finish and pretty droll, but I just focused on maximizing progress through whatever traffic I encountered.
The minutes continued to tumble though and I finally swung into the driveway at 2209, parked up and had trouble extricating myself from the bike, particularly as the way I park it, I have to climb over the bike to the right, and my butt was feeling pretty tight.
It was a pretty quick trip doing 1672 km in 17hrs 38mins at an overall average of 95kph and moving average of 100kph. I’d enjoyed some of the better riding that the North Island has to offer, namely the Rimutaka Hill, Napier to Wairoa is premo and Napier to Opotiki just extends the pleasure by 5 times! SH30 is sweet going and the Awakino Gorge would have to be in the top 5 must ride roads.
That ride makes it a dozen completed 1,000 miler rides (two of which have exceeded 2,000 km), I got to re-evaluate and give the big tick to the East Cape road for future NI1600’s, ….and I had a bloody good fang to blow out the cobwebs from work and finish off 2018 with a bang, rather than a whimper!
Bring on 2019!
North Island 1600 - 5-8/10/18
With the event looming, I thought my riding prep was minimal but OK, and then came the bike. I had ordered two new tyres, advised that I thought the front seemed a little spongy, so requested they check the suspension and sure enough, after four years and 60,000 km, the oil did need replacing, along with the rear pads, so after a wee cough I walked out of the shop about $1100 lighter ….and we hadn’t even started buying fuel yet!
The bike felt much harder and more like it was back on rails though, so I figured I was ready.
Friday 5th Oct I departed home a little after 0800 and scooted over to the Wai’rapa to drop T-shirts etc for the Marshalls for the Masterton checkpoint, then noted with a little surprise that, as I left Carterton, my ETA for Turangi was 1250 and I was hoping to be there by midday. Damn, no stops required so I pootled off, somewhat akin to a dog just released off it’s leash and after a relatively unexciting trip arrived at the cabins at 1210 after scooting up and around Woodville, over the Saddle, up Vinegar Hill and along SH1.
The rest of the afternoon was a blur, getting a hug from Riza, setting up, getting the bike checked, bumbling around with not much to do, having a feed, then releasing the routes at 1900 and finally slipping off to bed at about 2200.
Usual story, I awoke a 0400 and the brain was too busy thinking about all sorts of things so I knew I wasn’t going to get any more sleep …but tried to just relax and doze, then arose at 0630, scrubbed and went for breakfast. The morning went quite quick with the 800 ride having their briefing at 0930, then departures starting at 1000, but after that we still had over two hours before our briefing, so time started to drag. I killed a bit of time by going to town for supplies (the usual nutbars, bobby-bananas & water), filled the bike, then went for another scrub and got into my jeans etc, packed the camera and bits, kitted up after the briefing and joined the queue in the first starting group with Steve.
My aim was to do the ride at a semi-relaxed pace in about 20 hours. ….and we were off!
Steve led and we were sitting on or just over the tolerated limits as we made our way down to Vinegar Hill, got stopped at the lights where the road has slipped away, then I ended up leading out to the first CP at Cheltenham and that’s the way it stayed for the rest of the trip.
I was surprised to see our moving average to this point was 105kph, but we now had the slowest part of the whole route to negotiate so that would see to that.
It was quite a nice fang up past Kimbolton, but we did encounter a few crazy sheep along the way. I came around a corner to see one as it decided to come on to the road from the right, so a quick scan and assess whether I should swing left of right, it was progressing, …so right it was, to go behind it …then the next bastard panicked and followed the first. Damn!! ABS was fully deployed and luckily their three other mates stayed on the verge. We continued.
It wasn’t far to CP2 at Rangiwahia, then a km or so down the road we took Te Para Para Rd into the Pohangina Valley. A lot of this is unmarked and narrow but the surface was clean and dry so we continued to make good progress, unlike a month before when we did the 800 ride through here.
On that occasion, whilst we were negotiating the top end of the Pohangina Valley there had been a few slips, …causing shits. There’s nothing like the feeling as you ride through the back country, as fast as you can but you are still losing time on your ETA, then you round a corner to find the road covered in mud, of mixed states of saturation from clumps to goo. You pick a line then start to scan the surrounds and just as your eye spots the solid grey dark matter constituting the bank (that used to be larger) and before you can utter “Jack Robinson”, or any other utterance, like “bugger-me it’s papa clay!!!”, your back wheel is dancing with delight!!
Anyway, this time around we were surprized to see that the road had received some TLC and was in very good condition, so good progress was maintained.
From here we scooted over the Saddle, took Oxford Rd to Pinfolds, crossed SH3 and emerged on SH2 via Priests Rd, then took that to the 1st Manned CP at Mobil Nth End. We arrived with the Moving Average on 100kph and had a relaxed 15 minute stop here as I needed to put another layer on, which meant removing my jacket and helmet, we snacked, watered and left.
Next we were off towards Castlepoint and the junction at Langdale Rd. It’s pleasant riding, but the section between Blairlogie and Langdale Rd is particularly sweet with some tight’ish sweepy corners having quite a bit of banking angle on the road. In other words, the original man with the Ministry of Works grader needs a hug! Pic taken quickly and it was across the narrow, unmarked Langdale Rd and on to Riversdale.
From Whareama to Riversdale was noted as two-way event traffic and at it was through here we saw GaryP at the front of the field with my arrival distance indicating 17km to the CP. A quick calculation to double that and I estimated about 20 minutes ahead (plus a minute for the CP photo), we arrived just behind Bandit Rider on his Conny, blocked him in, then he had to follow us to the windfarm.
The trip back is more quite good riding with a tight’ish section between Whareama and Blairlogie, then we took Stronvar and Lees Pakaraka (another narrow lane) Rds to cut across to Te Whiti Rd, which passes through Gladstone and onto the Tablelands. Tablelands has three sections of narrow unmarked lane, but one can still make good progress and we were soon preparing to take the turn onto Te Muna Rd. … Yes, well, some of us were.
Te Muna Road joins the Martinborough Rd at a very acute angle approaching from the East (of course, coming the other way it’s like a slip road) and last time we did this, even though I’ve done a lot of slow handling stuff, I ended up well into the right lane once I had made the turn and would have been toast had a car been coming down to the intersection. I will note here that on this occasion, there was also an abundance of gravel scattered about on the Martinborough Rd. Anyway, I flip my indicator about 350mtrs out (as you do) and at about 100 mtrs, whilst threading my way through to avoid the gravel, I was also picking a line to flip wide to the right so I could throw the bike over, drop a gear, take the tight hairpin and come out on the left under power to take the rise. Easy aye!
Yeah right! I remember slowing, flipping right across the centre line then hanging left ….and hearing through the intercom, “ooooooaaaahhhhh!!!” and glancing round to see Steve nearly give it to me up me date! I commented, “didn’t you see my indicator?” to which he responded, “I was too busy avoiding the gravel!!” …or something.
The road straightened here, took a couple of 90° turns then hits 2km of gravel, but it’s easy riding and even the ST could maintain 80kph across it.
Just a short squirt now and we were at the Windfarm.
Andrew must have gotten frustrated behind us because he got away first and by the time we got to the really, really long straight, he had totally disappeared. I even wondered if he might have wandered off the road, but my concern wasn’t enough to go back and check!
That was all the tight stuff done and we were now on the scoot into Martinborough, onto Ponatahi Rd (where we passed a group heading the other way to avoid the narrow section and gravel), to emerge on SH2 via East Taratahi Rd. Then we virtually stayed on SH2 all the way to Paengaroa.
Steve’s range wouldn’t get him to Bayview so we discussed fuel strategy and in the end, decided on a big fill at Dannevirke, a splash-‘n-dash at the next manned CP in Bayview, then fuel in Opotiki and Te Kuiti.
So we took the Masterton Bypass, pootled up to Priests Rd to bypass Woodville, had a long 30 minute stop at BP Dannevirke, where I put my wets on (for warmth because it was 9pm and getting cold) and had my first ever pie whilst riding a 1000 miler, took SH50 to get to the Napier expressway, then embarked on the lovely curly roads that took us to Wairoa, then Gisborne and via the Waioeka Gorge.
Once we left Bayview it was a really dark night (no moon etc) and I found it a bit disorienting as I couldn’t work out where we were. Life at the time was just a series of corners and afterwards, there were parts of the road I couldn’t remember passing, because I never saw any of it!!?? We were making good time though, averaging around 90kph from Bayview to Opotiki and I definitely remember seeing the massive, humungous, stupendous, ginormous slip. There was nothing happening but there were lights for Africa and it looked really, really impressively big.
It was hardcase when we reached Opotiki (just after 0200) because as we pulled into the servo, there were cars at every pump and one would have thought it was just after work on a 10c discount day. There were also quite a few young people in the café and I guess it’s a small town thing, but it just seemed odd to a city slicker.
From here the weather was deteriorating and since it was two in the morning, we decided to try the road through Ohope and Whakatane since I hadn’t been through there for years. That was OK, then shortly after we headed out of Whakatane, it started to piss down, then the road was dry, then wet, then it pissed down again ….and so on and so forth. By this time it was after three in the morning and slowing down a bit took me out of ‘the zone’ so I started to struggle with the fatigue, but we eventually got to Paengaroa and as I turned off SH2 onto Wilson Rd, the bike had a huge twitch on the slick patches ….I hate it when that happens!
We made our way onto the forecourt of the Gull station and the poor marshals were away with the fairies with all the excitement, we took 10 minutes to do our bit and headed for lake Rotorua.
Once we were back on the road I started to struggle with fatigue again, so made a conscious effort to lift the pace and dragged the four of us (we had now been joined by Tony and Nik) over SH5 to Putaruru, across the Arapuni Dam, over to Kihikihi and down to Z Te Kuiti for our last fill. We had averaged 100kph from Paengaroa, it was now 0530 and Steve and I took a leisurely 13 minutes at this stop as several more riders came and went.
When we did get back on the road, my ETA for the finish was 0712 and I thought that since we were way ahead of our 20 hour target, we might as well try to pick up those 12 minutes and go for an even 18 hours, so I tweeked it a bit.
By this time it was 0545 and although still dark, there was a hint of dawn, whereby one could sort of see the road now. That is, one could identify different shades of grey through black on the mottled surface of the road. I never gave this much thought at the time but on reflection, I guess I was subconsciously avoiding the black sections …maybe clipping the edge every now and then. Nek Minute ….I’m pootling along, taking care of business and minding my own, when I hear the scream of an engine and a thud …and maybe another of those “0ooooaaaahhh’s” …or perhaps something more like an “Oh fuck!!” My instant reaction was to check the mirrors, thinking that Steve had baled on his mission, or something, but there was nothing to be seen. It’s all a bit vague but next thing Steve emerges from behind me into the mirror view and I commented, “Are you OK?”
Turns out that Steve hit one of the black sections and went into a full tank slapper for 40-50 mtrs! No doubt his Biker Hail Mary’s were somewhere between, “Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit …and …I’m toast! I’m toast! I’m toast!” But the big Ten’ and Big Steve survived without ….well, there was probably a stain or two!!
It was most odd really because I was about 50 mtrs ahead but I clearly heard the engine rev-up and a thud, but on reflection, that was probably delivered via the Sena intercom …and the other odd thing is that the Tenere has traction control …so how can that happen?
Anyway, that was the end of any 18 hour finish as I eased off and we poot ….limped home.
That in itself caused other problems because the reduction in speed came with a reduction in focus and the onset of fatigue as I was soon struggling to stay awake, whereby I found myself on occasions drifting towards the verge, or the centre line! Not much fun and anyone with half a brain would probably pulled over for a nap, ….but we weren’t far out …..and the weather was crap ….and I’m just a dickhead!!
Consequently, we pulled back into the cabins at 0719, having covered the 1600+km with an Overall Average of 88kph and Moving Average of 97kph. That was all thanks to dry roads in good condition (until the last bit) and it was a good ride, but I must admit, I never quite felt totally ‘in the groove’, especially at night when I was tending to compensate by riding from the centre-line to give myself more latitude each way. We made it though and now I ask myself, “Is eleven 1,000 milers enough? And is it time to give it away, give it away now?” (We’ll see)
The rest of the day was a bit of a blur. I don’t remember much about checking in the pix etc, I do remember scoffing a feed and Ken telling me I looked like crap, then hearing that AlanD had ‘torn a new one’ on a sheep as he exited Wairoa, ending up in hospital, and that several chappies had been warmly greeted by one of “those” cars as they exited Te Kuiti and were all now travelling much lighter in the wallet department and much heavier under the burden of all those demerits!
*Sigh* …All good but. Skinny has survived and is adamant to get yet another bike (where I’m sure I wouldn’t be allowed to!!??).
Having coma’d for a good eight hours, I arose early on Monday, scrubbed, packed the bike up, had breakfast and helped clean up, then got on the road for work at 0930. It was a nice day and I was riding solo, operating at somewhere between a pootle and the tolerated limits and making quite good progress. Then, as I was on the big rise before Mangaweka, GaryP passed me and waved. I was all “Hey Gary” (to myself), as I continued to pootle along and Gary disappeared into the distance …but never really fully out of site …but almost. This was helped every now and again, by me giving it a bit of a squirt and of course, some strategically placed traffic, so I would catch-up a bit.
Now listening to how Gary rides I figure he’s probably got a few more OCD tendencies than my own self and because I’ve always professed to be a bit of an arsehole, I figured for me to suddenly appear behind him would be a bit of a surprise, so noticing there were a few trucks and a bit of other traffic on the approach to Bulls, with Gary about a km ahead … I couldn’t help myself. Depending on luck and that sort of thing, I gave it a bit of a squirt, took Fagan St on the northern entry to Bulls at a good clip, to see Gary cross in front about 30mtrs ahead of me, I pulled behind a slow car, passed it and what do you know, I was right up Gary’s date! I don’t know but would have to assume he had one of those WTF moments as I was giggling like a schoolgirl (privately in my helmet of course).
If luck had abandoned me and I not caught Gary, I would have been sorely tempted to take the road behind Ohakea and ‘give it death’ to emerge on SH1 ahead of him and that really would have ‘knocked his socks off’!
I slowly drifted back a bit again but getting into more traffic, I found myself back with him in Foxton, and when he hesitated, I passed, then went into ‘Full Assertive’ riding mode, because now we were well and truly in the traffic stream.
That was fun and I got to work at 1247 after my ETA departing Turangi was for 1330 …so that was quite good progress …. And since then I’ve been working my arse off to catch up!
This weekend was the 4th NI1600 and the 2nd NI800 at Turangi, so at around 0820 on Friday morning I was getting on the road. Brett had commented on the weekend before that the forecast predicted a massive high that would linger over the country for days, with the bonus of a full moon, ...by Thursday we were looking at a clear first third of the ride, ...by Friday we were looking at the pits and Saturday dawned a dismal, dreary affair.
I arrived just on midday, we setup the hall, checked in, got scrutineered, then settled down to business while the poor scrutineers toiled in the rain.
Brett and I strolled down to the tavern at 1700 and I enjoyed a nice steak before returning to setup for unveiling the route at 1900 and with that done, spent the rest of the night assisting riders to get to grips with the route.
As predicted, Saturday dawned another dismal day and was the first time since I started doing Rusty rides that a pre-ride briefing has ever been held in the hall because no matter how bad the weather got on the rides, the Saturday mornings always seemed beautiful. It seemed no time at all before the 800 riders were departing, then in no time we were being briefed and departing ourselves and the NI800 has certainly broken up the hurry-up-and-wait syndrome that used to be the case.
In the weeks before the ride I had arranged to ride with Dreds, a rider who nearly (inadvertanly) led me to my doom on the Takaka hill ( https://longjohnbiker.weebly.com/old-blog/tt2000a-fangers-delight ) and on subsequent rides, although I never actually rode with him (at least not for any real duration because we couldn't keep up) he always impressed me as a very smooth operator on his steed of choice, the Africa Twin. On Friday night I tried to share the route via our Garmin 595's, but that didn't work so he had to manually input it, then Saturday morning, we paired up our Senas and about a minute or so after the others, we rolled out of the camp as part of Group 1 with me in the lead.
We started relatively sedately on the wet roads and gradually ramped up the pace as we rolled up SH32, especially once I remembered that the fleet on Goldwings were in group 2 and I didn't fancy following them through the tight stuff between Waipapa Rd and Te Kuiti. Also the rain had cleared and the roads were drying!
Another thing that happened was that once I started riding, I noted the GPS hadn't activated and with having oversized gloves on, I couldn't seem to activate the route, but in the end I managed to load to the first checkpoint. We had a good scoot past Waipapa Dam, and as we approached the turnoff, I was expecting the GPS to try to send us along the gravel road, but I would take the second turn. Well ...bloody GPS knew which road to send us down so I flew past, only to find the next road was gravel and we had to turn back ....and then the fun started.
Wairehi Rd is a single lane track but it's in pretty good condition so we made good time and were soon at the CP, clicked the photo, got the cards signed and were on our way again ...but guess who forgot to initiate the route into the unit! Bugger me and the bloody thing still didn't want to take it (thanks to the dodgy gloves). Shortly after CP1 I spotted JohnG parked up and apparently fiddling with his GPS so I paused long enough to give him a nod to join us and on-on we went, with me still fiddling!
We negotiated some fantastic corners through here and in between I continued fiddling with the GPS and that led to a minor pucker, when that moment of inattention had me offline into a right hand corner and next thing I knew, I was in through the loose stuff and onto some horrid spongy crap, but remained upright and bounced back on to the road with Mark in the lead.
By the time we had cleared checkpoints 2 & 3 through to Te Kuiti, we had had such a jolly good fang that there was no way I would make the 460Km for the leg back to Turangi and I wasn't even sure if I would make Taumarunui, so I joined Mark to fill before continuing in a much more sedate manor for Awakino.
At this stage the temp hit 17° so riding was rather pleasant and the Awakino gorge is always a treat and 15Km out from Awakino, we passed Gary coming the other way, putting him about 20 mins ahead (wow). We had soon taken our pic, returned on our path and were taking the turn onto Totoro Rd to head across through Aria. There was a couple of Km of roadworks to negotiate here and although it wasn't gnarly, by the time we had gone about half a Km, the Sena started peeping to me, indicating that Mark was already out of range because he doesn't linger when it comes to the dark side!!
I eventually caught him though and the scoot through Aria to SH4 is usually more good riding before finishing the first loop on SH41 and arriving back in Turangi at 1805, so we had taken just over 5 hours for the first 460Km, then had a relaxed 15 minute break before heading out on the second leg to Kai Iwi and back. I led on this leg and between the dusk and the rain, I struggled to get into the groove and ride at a decent pace.
We had averaged 92kph to get to Kai Iwi at 2022, it was pitch black and I was relieved to pause at Z Dublin St on the return and while Mark was topping up, I was able to give my specs and visor a good clean, so when we got back on the road I felt much more comfortable. Oddly enough, although the weather seemed to improve a bit on the way back to Turangi, we still only averaged the same pace, arriving at 2235, then getting back on the road for the third leg at 2255, Mark back in the lead.
This was supposed to be the easiest riding leg up to Rotorua, across to Karapiro, then back via the Western Lake, but the weather had really closed in now and the temperature was dropping. It wasn't a 'heavy' rain but a really persistant 'light' rain coming down in huge volumes ...if that makes any sense? and in hindsight, I think this is where my problems stemmed from.
I believe I had failed to secure my outer wet jacket properly and the because the fine, light rain was sort of 'floaty' and 'drifty', it managed to come in under the helmet and around my neck, so by the time we as got to Rotorua, I was starting to feel the cold and had the perception of being a little wet. Our track to the Skyline Sign CP was a slow 87kph, there was no cover there, so after a 3 minute pause, we headed straight for Mobil Karapiro, where I had decided I would put more layers on and have a good cleanup.
We managed the 70Km at a slightly improved 90kph, arriving at 0120, so while Mark and Graeme, who had joined us from Skyline, filled, I put on two skivvies, leaving the third to keep dry for the next day, then I changed my wet gloves ....and threw them in the bag on top of the dry top!! (There's some dumb bastards out there). I then took care to ensure the gear was all in the right place before moving out .....forgot to restart the GPS (although I'm not sure why it was stopped) ....and within half a Km, my visor had fogged up, so I cracked it one notch ....and within another two Km my glasses were speckled with drops of rain!! ....and my GPS wasn't going ....and it was difficult to get the route in with my rain-off over gloves on!! In the end, Mark got sick of giving instructions and took the lead when it looked like I was going to turn the wrong way ....and then I had to tell him we were at the CP as he was accelerating past it!! What a pair. ...Oh yes, and I was so busy at the Karapiro CP that I forgot to take a photo so I had to hope I was in one of the others pix?!
Graeme had left the Mobil before us and he was leaving the Puketurua CP as we were arriving, but he was heading off down Pearsons Rd which takes one out to Putaruru, so I figured he must be opting for an SH1 return to Turangi. After had our photos and I had cleaned my specs and visor again, I asked Mark if he wanted to do the Western Lake or SH1 and Western Lake was the outcome, so we took to the roadworks, which was pretty hardpacked and easy going and made our way to Whakamaru, which is about 50Km and I had to stop in the shelter of the GAS to clean specs and visor again, at which time Graeme turned up. It turned out that his GPS was telling to depart Puketurua on three if the five roads, so he had done a loop and swung in behind us again.
My vision was buggered because the slightly damp clothes were causing the visor to fog instantly. This is compounded by the screen and lack of airflow on the ST, but the nature of the rain meant that the slightest of cracks in the visor to clear the fogging resulted in a multitude of small water droplets on my specs. Bloody marvelous! I was as good as tits on a bull so tucked in behind Mark and followed his light.
My recollection was that we were making good time down the lake, but the GPS Tracklog says otherwise, so it must have been occasional spurts as the average was just 90kph. I was operating on the edge with marginal vision and was also concerned that by the time we got to Bayview, the wet gear would also lead to getting much colder ....but I followed on relentlessly and the only time I ventured out of Mark's wheeltrack was just over the bridge out of Tokaanu, when he was in the left wheeltrack of the lane and he sent up a huge bow-wave as he scooted through a massive pool of standing water ...then did it again 20 mtrs further on, so I drifted right and may have even crossed the line to avoid doing the same.
Next thing you know, we were pulling into the Z and Mark bypassed the pumps, parked by the store, got off the bike with a sort of sheepish grin and announced, "I'm done!"
I had sort of paused by the pump, then followed him to the park and I don't really recall if I thought, "Thank God for that!" or "Aahhh FFS!" ....probably both, but the doubts that had already been festering in my mind made it an easy decision and we all pulled, noticing at that point that Graeme's rear tyre seemed to be losing air!
We packed up, went back to the cabins for a cuppa, had the bestest long hot shower and went to bed, only to be awakened by some noisy bloody biker at 0750 ...and thought, "I've got time to kit up and rejoin the fray", then rolled over, then figured I wasn't going to get any more sleep, so got up for another long, hot shower, sorted my gear to start drying it, then went around for my post-ride meal ...and spent the day relaxing, chatting, turning my gear every hour or so and finally went back to bed at about 2130 for a really good kip.
By Monday morning all the gear was dry and we hit the road for home by 0840. I rode back with James and it was dry and rather pleasant. He has asked me on the Sunday if I would redo the ride and I quickly said, "Nahh!", but the more I thought about it on the bike, the more pissed-off I got with myself. When I was sorting the gear, it became apparent that my clothes hadn't really got that wet and that it had most likely happened because I was too casual, so I had no one to blame for my failure except myself. Not my gear, not my riding buddy, just me!
Am I still pissed off with myself? ....you bet!
This blog is pretty much just about motorcycling ...but every now and then I might rant or dribble on about other things.