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!
I took the bike for a WoF on Thursday, went for a coffee while I waited and got back to find it was leaking fluid from the right fork ….bugger! No worries though, the guys at Boyles ordered new seals (overnight), gave me scooter to get back to work and all was good …well almost. I haven’t ridden a scooter before so I hopped on, started it up, gave it a bit of juice ….and nothing happened! I looked down and, as expected, there was no gear shift, so I gave it a bit of juice ….and nothing. Repeat, repeat, turned it off and went to ask. “Give it some juice” the man said, so went back, gave it some more juice and it finally started to move when it seemed to be nearly red-lining! Fifteen metres later I was coming to the giveway sign so I grabbed the clutch and found it was a bit ‘grabby’! … ie a handful of rear brake suddenly applied causes the back wheel to skip a bit sideways. Next thing I’m pootling along Karo Dve …which leads to the motorway and I thought, ‘oh shit, I shouldn’t be taking this thing on the motorway’, then figured, oh bugger it, I’m straight off again and continued. It was raining so I dropped it home and took the car back to work.
Next day I took the scooter to work and had to brave the even worse elements to pick up the ST. Scooters don’t do it for me!!
I let Steve know my plan for the day to see if he wanted to join me, then once I eventually got home, I did the usual stuff, tyres, packed, got the gear ready etc.
I got up just after 0500, scrubbed, kitted (fully with wets), farted around trying to get the new rear tyre pressure sensor to work, but couldn’t and was late getting away, so I didn’t arrive at Caltex Rimutaka until about 0605 and was surprised to see about 20 bikes there already, I filled, signed the disclaimer to say I wouldn’t blame myself if anything went wrong, took a few photos, then Steve and I were first away at 0617.
It was still wet with the occasional drizzle so we embarked at a semi-brisk pace and as we descended into the Wai’rapa there was no improvement, however, as we skipped along the Masterton bypass at 0700 some of the road was dry and I spotted the tiniest hint of blue off towards Woodville ….and now the fun began.
We still needed to leave plenty of margin for error, but these roads are pretty good so we slipped into GC mode, adopted a pace at the top end of the allowable limits and averaged 102kph through to the first checkpoint at Mauriceville, grabbed the pic and continued via Dreyers Rock Rd, through Alfredton and onto Pa Valley Rd to the next CP, being the road sign at the junction with Estcourt Rd.
It was still wet with the occasional drizzle so we embarked at a semi-brisk pace and as we descended into the Wai’rapa there was no improvement, however, as we skipped along the Masterton bypass at 0700 some of the road was dry and I spotted the tiniest hint of blue off towards Woodville ….and now the fun began.
We still needed to leave plenty of margin for error, but these roads are pretty good so we slipped into GC mode, adopted a pace at the top end of the allowable limits and averaged 102kph through to the first checkpoint at Mauriceville, grabbed the pic and continued via Dreyers Rock Rd, through Alfredton and onto Pa Valley Rd to the next CP, being the road sign at the junction with Estcourt Rd.
We were now back onto main roads up to Ashhurst, across via Colyton to Cheltenham, over Vinegar Hill to SH1 and up to Turangi for our first fuel stop. We were operating at the top end of the allowable limits and were making good time, but once we passed Waiouru, for some unknown reason, the pace lifted another notch, but our average through here wasn’t that great as there were queues of traffic to negotiate over roadworks. We did catch two of the Masterton boys through here and got caught by the third, but they all left Z Turangin before us and we never really saw them again. The roadworks were crappy too because they were wet, but where that usually offers a bit ‘sticktion’ between the bits of gravelly pieces, this stuff was sort of slushy, with cement mixed in (and my poor baby still hasn’t had a clean up).
We pulled into Z Turangi for fuel at 1013, having done 370km at a moving average of 96kph and we’d only paused for 4 minutes on the 3 CP’s, so we were doing OK and had a relaxed 13 minute fill, snack, drink, clean-the-visor (for Steve) and Colin arrived while we were there.
Back on the road we passed Phil at Tokaanu (who, it transpired, had paused to remove a bee from his helmet) and had Colin in tow as we crept (yeah right …at an avg of 104) over the saddles to Kuratau and up the western lake road. For some odd reason we seemed to carry our pace (and some) from the Desert Road over to this leg, so the average pace was a little higher than the allowable limits, but hey, the sun was shining, the roads were dry and the dogs had been couped-up for ages!!
Steve had to pause to fix something at Whakamaru, so I dropped to ‘putter’ mode and Colin gapped it (probably because he didn’t want the slow-pokes in front of him through the good bits), Steve caught up again and we embarked upon the choicy bits for the day by the Waipapa Dam. Once again, I wasn’t totally comfy through here but still managed to make quite good progress through to Ngaroma Hall, arriving as the Masterton boys departed, then leaving a minute later with Phil pulling in. (but that was all we saw of that lot for the rest of the day) PS. We’d ended up averaging 105kph for the 128km from Turangi.
Next stop was the Otohina farm and we had to negotiate 53km of sweet tighty-witey stuff to get there ….primo Waikato roads that were built when the gents driving the graders knew how to do it and when the Ministry of Works boys weren’t leaning on their shovels, they laid a good base. Bloody sweet and the best part was that having a GPS that knew where it was going, I could just focus on the ride …..and we arrived as Nathan was leaving. (I guessed it was Nathan since the tail of his bike looked very ST’ish!)
Once again, the stop was barely more than 35 secs before we were moving again and with the next CP only being about 10km away at the Rangitoto Hall, we were there in 7 minutes, stopped for 50 secs this time and I was surprised that we didn’t see Nathan again, but we did catch him on the run into Te Kuiti and he pulled aside to let us pass. (Go figure?) That was a waste of time on his part though as I was day-dreaming on the way into the town limits and nearly missed the turn, but Steve must have been up my date and all I heard was, “I’ll take the next one!”, but when I got to the rail crossing on main road there was no Steve and I had to wait, so Nathan slipped back on past.
We followed him out of town and he gradually pulled away (because we are good little law-abiding characters!?), but as happens, depending on traffic and corners, we would sometimes catch him, then passed him and led to our next fuel stop at BP Taumarunui.
Once again, we had a fairly relaxed stop here, taking 11 minutes, in which time Ken (from Masterton) and Nathan left and we were surprised to see Colin roll in a) because he was on a GSA and had fuelled in Turangi; and b) he’d bolted on Waipapa Rd and we expected him to be closer to National Park than Taumarunui at this point, but it transpired that he had missed a turn and enjoyed more of those Waikato / King Country backroads than he was supposed to.
Anyway, by the time we got back on the road, we were 660km into the ride and had a moving average of 96.7kph with a stopped time of 31 minutes …and now we had one more CP to get at Upok and were homeward bound on a favourite road ….so we gave it some juice!! ….but not too much ….and we did get slowed down following some dude in a red car with blue and yellow patches on it as we approached National Park.
So anyway (again) we scooted along and managed to average 108kph to Raetihi ….and then our last bit of fun began.
Nth to Sth on the Para’s is a downhill run and the ST is a bike that doesn’t have a lot of engine braking so it tends to carry speed into corners when you’re on a roll-on – roll-off run, which is how Steve and I tend to ride. By this time in the day (700+ km) and with the finish looming, I was feeling in the groove and felt like we were making really good progress. On top of that, there was a bit of traffic, but we seemed to be catching it all at the right time, whereby we just flowed past them, rarely getting held up. The GPS told a different story but!
I have found in the past that even when ‘pushing the pace’, one is lucky to pick-up just a few minutes over the Para’s, but on this occasion, we were well along and I happened to check the GPS and commented to Steve, “Bloody hell mate, I thought we’ve been going well through here, but we’ve lost three minutes on our ETA!!” Steve agreed that it felt like a nice pace and that we were in the groove …and sure enough, when I checked the Track Log on Sunday, we’d averaged 103kph! It was a bloody nice ride!
, Last checkpoint was another 30 second job at 1508 and we were now down to the last 200km to Sanson, then down SH1. The traffic was moving pretty well and we were riding ‘assertively’, maintaining an average just under 100kph to Levin, but between the lights and traffic we started to lose time from there on in. We were passing shitloads of traffic though and as we approached the new expressway, I spotted another bike in the traffic ahead …it had to be Nathan.
We were reeling him in through the traffic, but once he got to the expressway he took off and we dropped behind again, but once he got back into the traffic after Mackays Crossing, he sat where he was while we continued to pick up a car here and another there, closing to within a dozen cars of him before we got to the WRB along the coast, then half a doz cars as we came out of Pukerua Bay …and then the bastard hit the double lanes and took off again!
He was probably half a km ahead by the time he pulled up behind several cars at the roundabout …and he’d pulled up very close to a car in the centre of the right lane ….so he wasn’t going anywhere! But I on the other hand was in full ‘assertive’ mode (read that as aggressive or arsehole if you wish, 'cos I had a big grin), hitting the queue as the front cars started to move and I just cruised down the channel, powered out of the roundabout, then hit the lights as they turned orange …and caught all the lights through to the Paremata roundabout, as well as the Police College ones …so I was now out of range of Steve’s Sena (ie more than 2 km ahead) …so I slotted behind a car at 80-90kph for the next few km until the boys caught up.
We finished by taking the Murphy St exit, went down to Kate Sheppard Pl, then accidently turned up the one way to get to the Backbencher, to find that Ken had just pulled in too. I grabbed the camera, went inside and was a bit surprised to find that the four of us were first home, because we were expecting the other Masterton boys to be ahead of us and probably others, but apparently we had passed them at Te Kuiti. It was a pretty damn good ride with us completing the last leg in the Saturday traffic at 92kph and the 1,013km at a moving average of 96.5kph in 11:03 with 33mins of stopped time.
We had a coffee, a beer and a snack and I settled down with Graeme to see the rest of the riders in and listen to some of the stories and it was good to hear that all seemed to enjoy the day as much as Steve and I had.
I was a bit worse for wear when I had to work on Sunday, but it was bloody marvellous to have had such a fine time whilst raising over $1,000 for the kiddies with Muscular Dystrophy.
Below are the routes out of Wellington & Hamilton (Click for full view)
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!
Yeah …..well that was good!!
I had entered and gone through the motions of plotting a route, (that looked quite doable in one hit), then it was looking a bit marginal that I would be riding, however when my long-standing riding buddy, Steve, confirmed he had entered …. that was that …. I couldn’t let Steve down could I!
That resulted in some correspondence with Geoff, ( http://geoffjames.blogspot.co.nz/ ) to check out road options, potential fuel and the prospect of riding the Coromandel Peninsular, this turned out to be invaluable), then tweeking the route to split it over three days, working out fuel stops for Steve’s 300-350Km range, where to stop for the nights and book accommodation, then make sure I was up to date at work.
The bike was serviced between Christmas and New Year with a new rear fitted, but when I did my first fuel stop on the way to Ashhurst, I noted that the last fill was in December, so the service might just as well have been earlier in the week. I cleaned the bike on the weekend, ensured the usual bits and bobs were packed and hit the road at 0740 on Friday morning to meet up at Steve’s, where we had a coffee, chatted for a bit and commenced our adventure at 0929.
It was an uneventful ride with me having to fill at GAS Eketahuna, while Steve filled at Caltex Woodville, because that meant he was within range of the first fuelstop on route and we arrived at the Ashhurst Pub at 1142, with not much spare time before the briefing and midday start.
I thought we had fluffed around a bit, collecting our T-Shirts (which are required to be on the bike for the checkpoint photos), then preparing to leave, but the Tracklog shows we departed at 1202, so perhaps we were briefed early ….or maybe I was so hyped up that time was dragging ….or perhaps it’s an age thing and I’m losing it!
Anyway, we started the weekend with a scoot over the Saddle and via Dannevirke, where we bypassed the CBD and must have passed several riders, then completed 98.8Km up to the first CP at Waipuk’, which was the back of the Angkor Wat Café (since it was deemed unsafe for us to be parking and snapping on the main street). We managed an average of 89kph then only spent a minute taking our pix, got back on the job and Steve having advised that he was having issues with his jacket zip, (which wasn’t staying zipped), so on the next leg, which took us through Napier on the Expressway, we paused at the Honda shop in Bayview. Fortunately they had one jacket in his size.
It took Steve 11 minutes to walk in the shop, pick his new jacket, arrange to have his old one and the thermal liner from the new one couriered home, pay for it, transfer his wallet and bits from one to the other, put it on along with his helmet and gloves and start moving again! ….and that’s what I like about distance riding with Steve, he values minimising stops!
The next section took us through to Wairoa, then out to Frasertown and this would rate as one of the North Island’s premier motorcycling roads and our first peach for the weekend. We managed to average 95kph for the 114Km and we loved every minute and every Km of it, took two minutes on the photo this time, scooted back to Wairoa Mobil for fuel and took 14 minutes to also enjoy a snack and chat to a few other riders as well.
The next CP was the jetty at Tologa Bay and this meant another 151Km of sweet riding as the road through to Gisborne is just more of the Napier-Wairoa road and the 50Km each way to Tologa is a really nice stretch of rolling sweepers with a good surface ….so more enjoyment was enjoyed and at 1802 we were pulling into a BP back in Gisborne for the 2nd fill, 640Km done.
A casual 10 minute fuelstop, snack and swig this time, then we had to embark on the Waioeka Gorge. *Sigh* ….we are certainly endowed with splendid rides in this country and thus our adventure continued on more peachy-keen curvy riding, however, when we arrived at Matawai, it was drizzling and getting worse, so we had to pause to don our wets before the short skip out to the next CP at Motu.
That done, we were back on the Waioeka Gorge, but a now rather wet and slippery road, so the spirited pace we had been enjoying up until Matawai, was now more a tame and sedate limp. We had one more CP for the day and that was the Tauranga Bridge, but as well as the rain and wet roads, more problems stacked up by way of my Sena intercom batteries going flat! This in itself wasn’t a problem, but because the Sena had gone offline, my Garmin 595 GPS had a big warning banner covering 95% of the screen …..telling me what I already knew! That shouldn’t have been an issue either but I couldn’t get rid of it and therefore see when we would be approaching the CP, so I waved Steve though (thinking that he had the route in his 660 and it wouldn’t be a problem!!!)
Yeah right! We had passed a couple of trucks, then the rain ceased and we were back on dry roads, then I spotted a sign alerting of our approach to the CP, so I put on my indicator, realised Steve wasn’t stopping, started tooting my horn and pulled over as I watched Steve disappear! Feck! It wasn’t the first time this sort of thing has happened but I figured he would realise I wasn’t there in the next Km or so, then turn around, so I took my photo, plugged a power pack onto the Sena then tried to ring Steve …..hmmm, no mobile coverage! ….bloody typical! Oh well, I cleaned up my glasses and visor, changed to dry gloves and generally farted around getting my shit sorted until Steve finally did arrive. I was off the road in a carpark, so I had left the engine running and lights on to alert Steve when he did return ….and 15 minutes later we were pulling out to head for our overnight stop.
We arrived in Whakatane at 2113 and looked for a Chinese Takeaway or the likes, but alas, all that seemed to be open was the fast food outlets, but then we spotted a Subway, …but although the lights were on and staff were there it was locked, so we resorted to Pizza Hutt, ate on site and finally arrived at the motel at 2158, scrubbed and slipped into a coma!! Day one finished, 730Km done.
Day 2 commenced at 0500, we cleaned up, packed, I tried a piece of leftover pizza but that wasn’t great, when checking the bikes discovered it had pissed down during the night, then we departed at 0551 in cool dark conditions. The first leg was a sprint up the coast to Bethlehem for the first fuel stop 93 Km along at an average of 97kph and we even found ourselves riding within the allowable limits (along the Expressway).
We lingered at the stop for 8 minutes before embarking on that horrid 54Km stretch that is littered with double-yellows from Tauranga to Waihi …but then things changed again and we had to endure riding the Coromandel. *Sigh* …..life can be so rough sometimes …..with so many twists and turns …I guess you could say we were in biker-heaven!
We had arrived in Waihi at 0737 and it took us until 0853 to complete the next 105Km to the first CP for the day at Whitianga, but we were feeling a bit generous with our time as we were ahead of our schedule so before stopping for a photo, we treated ourselves to some goodies at a bakery, although I just settled for a breakfast-like bacon and egg sandwich before going around the corner to get the photo.
After 20 minutes all up, we continued up the coast to Kuaotunu, across to Coromandel and up to Colville and all was good until about 10-15Km North of Coromandel, when my GPS shit itself and decided I needed to do a U-turn. Fortunately we knew where we were going so after a bit of a fiddle on the fly, I just selected the CP from the favourites. We arrived at Colville at 1018, spent a couple of minutes farting around then headed back to Coromandel with thoughts that we might need to shift the programmed Thames fuel stop to Coromandel because we were both down on our usual economy for some reason. This wasn’t a problem though because we could still make the next fuel stop in Te Kuiti from either place, but we would assess the situation once we got close to Coromandel.
We did fuel in Coromandel, then had a very sedate ride down to Thames due to the roadworks and traffic. We had been exceptionally lucky with traffic to that point because most seemed to be going to the other way and we only had to pass a few cars. Through this section there still wasn’t that much traffic in our direction but it was difficult to get past due to oncoming traffic, or cones etc…but it was only 50Km.
Once we were across the Kopu Bridge we got back in the groove and had a quick scoot down through Matamata, out to SH1 at Tirau and off again at Putaruru. The plan was to go over the Arapuni Dam to Waipapa Rd and take that down to the next CP at Mangakino, however, that is not what transpired!
Once we were over the dam, I noticed that the GPS wanted me to turn right onto Mangere Rd rather than Waipapa Rd and I didn’t have a great feel about this but Steve and I both have the faintest of shadows of Mike Hyde in us, so since we hadn’t tried this road, we took it anyway. Well! It turned out to be a narrow, unmarked lane and at one stage we had to avoid a bloody great tractor barrelling along the other way …and that wasn’t the worst of it. It turns out that this option was about 1Km longer than going straight to Waipapa Rd, ie. It took us 22Km before we joined Waipapa Rd, but the last 6 Km was bloody gravel!! ….but that’s not the worst of it either! …this gravel road wasn’t any wider than a driveway! ….what the hell was I going to do on the ST if someone came at us??
Well, we would have taken twice, or maybe even three times longer on Mangere and Huirimu Rds, but now we’ve been there and done that ….and most unlikely that I’ll ever do it again …but then it’s most unlikely that I’ll ever go to Motu or Kiwi Rd (yet to get to that part of the story) again!!
Now we were finally on Waipapa Rd we got to enjoy the curvy lane through the bush beside Waipapa Dam and were soon stopping at the bustling metropolis that met us on the shores of the Mangakino Dam. We’re still not sure if it was speed boats or skiing as they were on a break while we were there, but the place was packed.
The next leg was across SH30 to Te Kuiti ,then out to the coast at Marokopa, via Waitomo. I haven’t been on 30 for some years and it’s quite a nice amble through rolling country. We then fuelled and stopped for a 30minute late lunch at BP Te Kuiti before attacking the last 339Km for the day.
The road out to the coast past Waitomo is another of the North Island’s dream biking roads, but on this occasion, some care was required because the temp was up and what would be a slippery road in the wet was now a potentially oozy road on a nice summery day. Damn shame that so much care had to be taken picking one’s lines, but a nice ride all the same, then after the CP at Marokopa, the 55Km road down to Awakino starts as a nice road, has about 10Km of nasty, corrugated gravelses along the way, then finishes with one of the best signs a bike rider could wish to see, a yellow diamond shaped sign with a squiggly black line down the centre of it and arrow at the top, and the best part ….wait for it, ….below that is a little rectangular yellow sign with black line around the perimeter and in the centre it says, “Next 27 Km”!!! Sweeeeeet!! And this road really is sweet. If one wasn’t buzzing with excitement, the motion would rock you to sleep! (Long Jahn says – Highly Recommended)
From here we continued down SH3, over Mt Messenger to Uruti, where we had to take Uruti Rd out to a tunnel labelled on the CP data sheet as “Kiwi Rd”. I hadn’t taken much notice of this prior to the ride because I just didn’t have time, but when we got to the tunnel, we decided to go through it and take a pic from the other side, but at that point the GPS was telling me to turn right on Kaka Rd and keep going, so I pulled out my trusty NZ Nth Is Road Atlas and thought, this isn’t really Kiwi Rd, but it looks like there’s another tunnel up the road and that might be on Kiwi Rd, so we continued for a bit to check it out ….but we were soon on a dirt track so returned to the tunnel. It was really interesting to ride through the tunnel because it was a dirt track and the sides were carved into the clay and you could still see the scouring from the digger bucket. The bloody thing was effectively just a hole scraped through the clay.
More pics taken at the front end and it was On-On for home. At this point we checked the schedule and even with all our stops and farting around, we were still operating on what had been scheduled as our optimum ‘fast’ time, which had us arriving in Hawera at 1900, so we decided to add a scoot around the mountain on the Surf Highway and that would chop 50 Km off Sunday’s ride. That meant Steve would need some fuel in New Plymouth and were now on the home run.
The last hundred Km for the day was done in slightly less than an hour and we finally arrived at a restaurant at 1946, enjoyed a leisurely meal and drink, got to the motel around 2100, scrubbed, sat on the bed to watch a little TV, but nodded of and was well and truly in a full-blown coma by 2200. Day 2 done and dusted, 1,013Km for the day & 1,743Km for the trip.
I awoke about 0415, then fell in and out of consciousness but we had earned a sleep-in for Day 3 and didn’t get up until after 0630 and got on the road at 0736, however, in those waking moments route options for the day kept swirling around in my little brain. In planning this ride I had strayed from my normal anal, pedantic, OCD tendancies and just connected the dots, accepted the results and did a little tidying up. Normally I would rename and load all the all the checkpoints, then load each day’s route, and now I was regretting my slack attitude. When the GPS started playing up on the way to Collville, the CP’s were all in the Favourites, but who was to know whether we were supposed to be heading for Chapter 11 or Chapter 4. Well, of course I would normally but not on this occasion. The other thing was that separate daily routes have several benefits, especially when it comes to tweeking the route if needs be.
Anyway, I had loaded the route with a ride up the Para’s on Sunday and after adding the Surf Highway on Saturday, now I had difficulty working out exactly how many Km we needed for Sunday because I couldn’t remember how many Km we were short if we went direct to the Vinegar Hill CP, then straight to the finish. The other problem was that I hadn’t reset the GPS trip meters at the start, so I didn’t know exactly how many Km we had done.
I had been mulling over all this and decided we should go around Santoft, out to Parewanui Beach, then up to the Vinegar Hill CP, out to Cheltenham, up to Rangiwahia then check how many more Km we needed after that and once we got up, I manually loaded that into the unit, then it dawned on me to enter the direct route in and at that point, realised we were only about 30Km short!! Bloody hell, that was easy so we decided to see how we were at the CP and just add what we needed.
We had finished Saturday at a relatively spirited pace and started Sunday on the edge of the allowable limits (or thereabouts) and it was pretty straightforward. We zipped into Whanganui to the BP on the bypass for me to have my first proper fill for the weekend, then carried on through Turakina and took Makirikiri Rd across to SH1. Once we had turned onto Makirikiri, I note that the GPS wanted us to turn right onto SH1 and I though ….”WTF!!” So I zoomed out and noticed that it wanted to take us via Halcombe and up to the CP from the bottom! So Cooool! I had noticed the day before that some roads in the unit had a green tinge to them and wondered if the unit had stolen old route data from the PC and this sort of confirmed it because it was even taking our usual bypasses. The old 660 never ever did that.
I advised Steve of the change and was pleased to be avoiding SH1….and our canter became more of a gallop to the finish. We got to the CP at the same time as another rider coming in from the North, checked our Km status and decided to take SH54 out to SH1 and enjoyed a jolly good fang there and back to Cheltenham, then turned up Kimbolton Road to burn a few more Km before turning for Ashhurst. Some more math was carried out on the way through Colyton and we ended also doing a few Km up the Pohangina Valley and finally arrived at the finish at 1023, having done 2,002 Km and collecting our 50,000 points. Wacko Blue you bloody beaut!
We parked up, chatted with the other riders that were there, checked in our photos, had a coffee and chatted some more before departing at 1150. We opted to head for Aokoutere and over the Track, where we struck some light drizzle, then down the Wai’rapa. It was pretty windy and care was needed on “the hill”, but fortunately, we had no cars in front of us when we encountered the usual areas that cause concern, so we were able to keep enough pace on to keep the bikes stable.
I finally got home just after 1400 and had to go to the office for a couple of hours, but shit we had a great weekend!!
Many thanks to the organisers and cheers to Mike Hyde. This ride was themed around Mike’s NZ book and we particularly enjoyed the reduced number of CP’s and at times were reminded of Mike’s knowledge of obscure roads and places.
After my failure to complete the NI1600, there was a comment made, "Never regret failing - just regret not starting", to which I made a facetious comment about kaftan wearers. Well I just failed again so now I'm thinking I better pop out and buy myself a kaftan!!
It's not that often that I really look forward to riding a route, especially if it's one I've come up with, but last year I was eager to ride the 1KC and this year it was the same for the NI1600 and the 1KC, so maybe I better come up with something dreary for next year.
I had the bike prepped and packed on Friday night, got to bed at 10pm to arise at 0500, scrub, kit up and get on the road by 0545 and having learned my lesson on the NI1600, the very gloomy looking weather over the Hutt and Rimutakas prompted me to fill at the Hutt Road BP and don my wets. I arrived at Caltex Rimutaka before 0615 and was surprised to find almost 20 bikes already there, so I checked in with Brett, took a few pix and slipped off the forecourt at 0617.
I had decided to ride by myself, maintaining a good pace with short stops and I wasn't too concerned about the wet roads on the Rimutaka Hill because it looked like we should get good weather for most of the ride and although there was no rain, I was surprised to find the wet roads persisted until almost up to Waipuk'.
I caught the Masterton starters before Eketahuna and Ken was maintaining a good pace so I just slotted in behind them, taking the bypass around Woodville and heading for Dannevirke. A bit north of there some flashing red & blue lights appeared up ahead as we came on to a passing lane and Nik eased off a bit, so I passed him, and a bit further on passed Tony & Michelle to slot in behind Ken. About 5-8 Km before Dannevirke, Ken opted not to pass a truck, so I took them both, thinking I would rather be in front of the big cruiser on the tight roads and I was soon taking Makirikiri Rd to get to the Weber road.
It was soon very apparent that a wet Mangahei Rd was not going to be a walk in the park and even with much care being taken, I found myself twitching once or twice, especially if I found myself on the paint. I still managed to maintain a reasonably good pace though and had taken my pic at about 0820 and was departing as Ken arrived at the CP.
From here the road widened and dried, so about 30 mins later I had enjoyed a jolly good fang to Waipuk' and travelled more sedately to the next CP in Waipawa and was departing for the anticipated fang up Argyll and Whakapirau Rds, because although I have known of this stretch for years, this was to be the first time I had ridden it.
With CP3 at Argyll East School taken at about 0900. and feeling in the groove, I was thumping up Argyll Rd when it all turned to shit as I entered a corner and realised it didn't quite shape out as expected so all of a sudden I found myself scrambling to get back on line, scrubbed off a shitload of speed, but drifted onto the gravel verge, kept it upright and about when I should of been back on the power, the rear wheel slipped off the bank!
Bugger! What a dickhead!
I was fine and the bike was unscathed but after a quick try, it was obvious that I wouldn't get it out by myself and at that time a young local arrived in his ute, confirmed it would take more than the two of us so he rang his dad to come down with a quad.
After 10 mins the Masterton team arrived, followed shortly by dad, No 2 son and the quad and within minutes the 300Kg ST Brute was back on the hard.
It was stuck in gear, but we got it moving, it came right and the pic at CP 4, only a few Km up from CP3 was taken at about 0940, but I was back on track, negotiated the rest of Whakapirau Rd and pulled out onto SH50.
There was ute approaching so I crossed onto SH50 and accelerated away, only to find I couldn't exceed 80kph! so I tried changing gears etc, pulled over to let the ute past, then puttered up toward turnoff to Fernhill as it got worse, finally giving up at the junction. Double Bugger!!
My day was done, so I sent a text to Brett and James.
The Masterton team and Steve arrived, I advised I was out and sent them on their way, called Ann then called the Roadside Assist to arrange a pick-up.
About two hours later we got the bike to Hastings Honda, (who were a bit confused as to the cause of my problems), I got it sorted, texted Steve to pick me up at Omahu Marae and started walking over there (as it didn't look that far on the map!! What a joke!
I hadn't realised how hot it had got... or how far it was, because I had probably walked about a Km, when a car pulled over and the two occupants offered me a lift and the driver advised, "aw shit, the marae is further from town than my place and it takes me about two hours to walk from there!" (I think I've already advised that I'm a dickhead)
Anyway, they dropped me at the marae and I settled down on the Our-Lady-of-the-Holy-Crossroads reserve to drink my water, eat my bananas and nut bars and have a snooze until Steve arrived at about 1530.
We scooted down to Dannevirke for a fill, where I put a skivvy and wet jacket on to stave off the cold, then made for the Backbencher, arriving just before 1900 after a rough ride over the Rimutakas. I'd been conscious that I'm a fat prick and I needed to try and be 'neutral' to make things easier for Steve and once we got to the hill, the wind was up so I tried to hunker down and get a bit closer in order to reduce the windage, but even then Steve got shunted right across the right hand lane as we turned a corner and the car in front had slowed down too much, so Steve passed him and the extra speed certainly helped.
I was a bit concerned that things would get worse once we had gone over the summit, but Steve's bike control and positioning were superb and we seemed to get through there without any further issues.
Steve was 5th back in and the rest of the night until a bit after 2200 was spent welcoming in the other riders and by that time we had heard that the hill was now treacherous and riders were turning back.
So it was another good event, but once again I find me being a bit grumpy with myself for my own stupidity. I had been cranking along, shedding minutes off my ETA, which at the time of my off, was down to 1645, but a moment's inattention could have proved fatal and I'm actually feeling a bit lucky to be just inconvenienced to not have the bike for a week or two.
I guess it's time to review what I'm up to and make some changes to attitude and application.
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!
As the title suggests ....this blog isn't about the NI800 ...but three of us did ride it on Saturday ....and that's all I have say about that ...except maybe that we did it as our final conditioning ride for the NI1600, departing from BP Mana at 0600 and arriving home at 2135, after doing a few kms.
After my last ride I decided I had had enough of of riding in silence with my Garmin 660 GPS, so I ordered a Garmin 595, plus 2 tyre valve bluetooth caps, then after receiving the items 3 days later, I ordered a case for the unit since it didn't come with one.
I registered it, uploaded the Garmin and NZ Open Source maps, dumped my music into it, paired it to the phone & Sena, then transferred the 800 route into it and had a play to familiarise myself with it....and I'm still doing that after my play on the ride.
It's different, but all good so far.
Oh yes, and on Wednesday, I took the bike in for its 102,000km service, as well as pre-GC Super WoF (I guess I should be calling that a pre-NI16 check) as well as fit the GPS cradle as I wanted to try it on the weekend and didn't have time to do it myself.
So all that done, three of us rode the NI800 on Saturday ...and we enjoyed it ...so hopefully the other 50+ entrants will too!!??
This blog is pretty much just about motorcycling ...but every now and then I might rant or dribble on about other things.