At last! ...Last week we were into the final countdown for the NI1600/800 event and there had been much printing (Rider Guides, Certificates, Rider Cards, Map Sections, etc, etc) receipt of T-Shirts, Badges and Patches, preparing other bits and pieces to take for HQ …and Friday morning we were off, Ann in a fully packed up car and me on the bike.
I left home around 0700, spent a bit of time at the office and got away from there at 0750, topped up on the cheap fuel in Levin and arrived at camp, after an unexciting scoot up SH1, at 1118 (overall average of 91kph) and Ann pulled in a few minutes later with all the gear.
After catching up with Riza, we went to the hall and started setting it up to suit our needs, I got the bike scrutineered, we pottered around meeting and greeting old mates and new initiates, met a rep from the local constabulary who was somewhat concerned about the hordes of filthy bikers descending on his patch, went for takeaways and finally got to release the routes at 1900, then spent the rest of the evening helping various bods work out their routes, fuel and answering questions.
Saturday morning was quite nice as the weather tried to lull us into a false sense of security (But I knew better and my wets were parked with my other gear, ready to don before the ride started). The camp was pretty ‘buzzy’ with about 110 bikes this year (two on the 800 carrying pillions) and the atmosphere was much like that of the old Rusty Rides …bloody marvelous …and we even had an international entry in the 1600 this year with PeteH from Aussy, who had done a lot of IBA stuff.
For myself, I was riding the 800 this year because we couldn’t get volunteers to act as checkpoint marshals at two of the manned CP’s, so a couple of us would head out late that night to attend to that. Originally we were to go to Te Kuiti for a few hours, but in the end thought it would be more important to man the CP at Z Dublin Street in Whanganui (from 0100 to 0800), but three days before the event, a massive slip closed our planned route up the Paras, so some quick changes were made to move the route to SH1 and the CP to BP Taihape.
I had no fixed plan in mind this year, except that I would start at the back of the field, ride by myself, at my own pace and see what panned out.
After breakfast, 0930 comes around pretty quick (for the briefing), once one has fueled, checked the tyres, packed the camera and sorted the GPS and it was quite refreshing after years of awful waiting for the 1500 GC and 1300 NI1600 starts. The briefing took about quarter of an hour, I put the wets on and it was soon 1000 ….damn, I still had 18 minutes before Group 7 would leave so I grabbed the camera and took a few photos, then fluffed around putting the ear plugs in, starting up the GPS, cooking on the bike for a bit, then noticing that our start group had closer to 20 riders rather than 11 (because some had held back to ride with mates) ….FFS….and that meant delays so I didn’t get to depart until 1023.
Did I mention that I was planning on a daylight ride? Well yes, I was planning to get in before 1930! …or cut the ride out in about 9 hrs, which would require a brisk pace and minimal stops for good progress. …So with me instantly into GC-mode, by the time I’d got onto the road, then along to SH41 and sneaked out while others were faffing around waiting for traffic, I had already passed about 6-8 riders ….and I suppose that set the tone for the day.
It wasn’t raining at all but the roads were wet in places so care was required, and the riders ahead of me seemed to be maintaining quite a good pace, but I passed a few more of them on the way to Kuratau Junction, then a few more along the Western Access road, where we did encounter short bursts of heavy rain as we approached Whakamaru and it was really nice to wave as I passed riders who had stopped to put their wets on! …*Sigh*…some people really are aresholes!
I was soon off the sweepy, quick SH32 and onto the sweepy, quick Wapapa Rd, which turns into a nice tight section as one approaches the Waipapa Dam. The road was wet but I was still making good progress until pulling up to about 8-10 bikes following an SUV. There’s not many passing opportunities in there but I did pass one chap, then couldn’t believe it as we came to a clear section ….and nobody was moving …..so I did! Passing all the bikes and the SUV and I was back in the clear to continue making my very good progress to the first CP at Korakonui School in the Wharepuhunga area.
As I pulled into the CP there must have been at east a dozen bikes and many of them were still there as I departed, GPS indicating that I almost took 45 seconds to park up, grab the camera, take the pick, pack the camera away and start moving again. (175Km done and it was now 1158)
Back on the bike, I slotted in behind MarkI, who was riding with ChrisA (Both Double Badger entries) the roads were still wet and 7.3 Km later we pulled up alongside BanditRider, ColinL and JohnG (more Dbl Badgers) at the SH3 intersection opposite the Te Kawa servo. What amazed me was how these very experienced Distance Riders turned left on SH3 after watching us cross onto Te Kawa Rd, but I suppose we all have the odd brain-fade on these rides …and it suited me immensely as these are three very experienced and efficient riders who effectively just waved me on through!!
Shortly after that, Mark had a moment (joys of a wet road), causing him to slow slightly, so I slipped past him and next thing same happened to Chris, so I found myself leading and since it was only 22km between checkpoints, within 12½ minutes of leaving Korakonui School, I was pulling into the Tihiroa Hall amidst what must have been 15-20 bikes …So another 45 second stop and I found myself pulling out behind Steve, Woody and Dave with what looked like about half of the other bikes still there, so I figured I must have been about half-way through the field at this stage.
I should mention, that up to this point, my friend Kate (the GPS lady) wasn’t talking to me. She hadn’t said a peep since I left and I figured that I knew the route, had the picture on the screen if I needed it and therefore, I should let the sleeping dog lie ….rather than try to wake it up and have it spit the dummy!
So I was now puttering along behind the boys, with Dave leading at a comfortable pace, listening to my music, the roads dried and as we entered Pirongia on SH39, the Wiltshire group pulled off (obviously for fuel for the teeny-tanker Stella was riding) so 3 more bikes were passed. Then North of Pirongia, the boys passed a couple of trucks, so I followed and as I’m about midway along, I notice the street sign for Te Pahu Rd …..Doh!! I was going to take that road!!
Oh well. I stayed in behind the guys and continued puttering to Whatawhata and around the corner to the next CP, New beginnings Church at the top of Te Pahu Rd. This leg was only 42 Km long, taking us 25 minutes, followed this time by a 55 second photostop, so the others were still getting off their bikes as I waved goodbye to take on the delightful Raglan Rd (SH23).
I attacked this road with a hiss and a roar because it’s one of the few roads in the country with a clean hotmix surface, fantastic curves and short straights with enough room and vision to pass when required …in other words, a bikers delight and I was being absolutely delighted!! …at least, I was for a little bit because about half-way along, the road got wet (it wasn’t raining though). Now on this road, that shouldn’t be much cause for concern, but what the hell, there was a proliferation of squiggly tar-snakes about an inch wide.
I didn’t think much of this at first, but then I clipped one and was most surprised at the amount of movement as a result, so from there on there was a slight reduction in pace and much care on the lines and avoidances of said snakey bits!
I still made good time out to Te Uku and turned onto H22, which I haven’t done for some years. Once again, the road was wet, but this one is narrow, prone to having loose grit on it and also has it’s share of slick patches, so now the pace really did slump. It would have been nicer in the dry, but I did still enjoy the ride and I managed to push hard enough through here that I didn’t seem to lose much time off the ETA.
I got to the next CP at Naike Hall, 63Km from the Church and that took 43 mins (a humble 87kph for the leg) and after another 50 second photo-stop, I was on my way to the next CP and fuel at BP Bombay.
This 53 Km leg was done in 36 mins, so more of the same pace, but the surprise was to come at Bombay.
I’ve done 550Km out of a tank of gas on the ST, but that was generally on State Highways, under the speed limits and with a locked wrist. One can get 500Km with a little care, but I’ve also had just over 400Km out of a tank, so the bike economy is very much related to pace and curves (ie when one is on and off the throttle). In this case, I was 334Km into the ride and the bloody thing took 22 Ltrs on board into a 29Ltr tank (that one can only get around 25Ltrs in). I suppose in short, one could say that I’d had a bloody good fang!!
After a relaxed 7 minute fuel stop, I got on my way again, made it onto the SH1 slipway ….then realized I hadn’t taken a photo!! …what a bloody dickhead!! Fortunately I wasn’t onto the single lane yet so I flipped around and went back, took a photo and worst of all, wasted a whole two minutes!! *Sigh*
On-On again and I was soon onto SH2 and those lovely 90kph zones with solid double-yellows! I really hate this road as it’s always chocker with horrid, arrogant, Dorklandeers, however, on this occasion, I have to eat my words because using the ST’s ‘presence’ (as you do), 9 out of 10 cars were moving over for me …and well ….the tenth ….I just seemed to get past somehow.
It was still slow going but 63 Km later I was embarking on a couple of the sweetest roads in the country, SH25A & SH25!
And what an absolute blast that was! The roads were dry, there was a bit of traffic, but nothing that really hindered my progress and the ST was in its element. ie. a 300Kg truck that handles like a Lotus. (Sorry if the analogy shows my age).
Anyway, the scoot down to Waihi was interrupted by two checkpoints, the first (CP6) at Opoutere School (437Km into the ride, so about halfway) and the 2nd (CP7) was 12Km later at Whangamata School. The ‘blast’ continued to Waihi, then got tempered by the Karangahake gorge (which is littered with double-yellows) then I was into the boring crap to Paeroa, across through Morrinsville, Mystery Creek, Te Awamutu and down SH3 to Te Kuiti (CP8).
This was the home stretch and SH30 was dry, clean and another of those sweet roads around the Island that is just a series of high speed sweepers, where one just dials in a pace, locks the wrist and sits there …or perhaps that should be ‘flies along’. Considering that the pace wasn’t far off that of the first stint up the Western Lake, the economy was a full 2 points better …I’m not saying the economy was good, but 2kph is 2kph and another 50’ish Km out of the tank! …But the smile ….that was from ear to ear! ….and the ETA was tumbling! So I was pulling up at Whakamaru at 18:02:33 and pulling out by 18:03:15, picture snapped, Cheshire-cat-grin still in place, a dry western lake road beckoning and me thinking, “Hmmm, I could probably do this in 8½?”
The last scoot down the lake and across SH41 wasn’t anything special, apart from being a bit quicker than my usual pace but I pulled into HQ at the Turangi Cabins at 1847 absolutely fizzing …and ready to do that again. What a buzz ….but there were no other bikes there!!??? Damn, I’d been wondering where the rest of the bikes were since New Beginnings Church, as I hadn’t seen anyone since then??
I took my last photo of the odo and checked in, faffed around a bit, had beer and eventually had a feed, sneeked off for a scrub and bed about 2200 and caught a couple of hours kip prior to the next phase of my night, ie CP duty at Taihape.
I was up before midnight and we got away shortly after (Brett, Ann and myself), arriving at Taihape a little before 0100. The weather was crap and man, was I glad I did the 800! Hehe, I did advise the 1600 riders at the briefing the night before, that, “although I appeared to be grinning, I was weeping for them on the inside” and sure enough, when the first guys started coming through around 0200, on faired bikes with top of the line gear …they were wet through!
We were trying to monitor their progress via Spotwalla, but that was very erratic and the job was a real bore so it was really fortuitous that our selection of CP’s was made on the basis of coffee & pies. It also made me feel really, really guilty about the poor bastards running the CP at Gull Paengaroa in 2018, because that 24 hour Servo turned out to be an unmanned card pump, and they were hunkered down on picnic tables, outside, with no refreshments whatsoever!
Last guys through at 0830, we finally left at 0900 to head back to Turangi and fart around for the rest of the day, then headed home on Monday.
It was a great weekend! We did have a few glitches and problems, but it generally went smoothly and I suppose the event continues to improve and evolve. I just need to do the 1600 now for my Double Badger!
This blog is pretty much just about motorcycling ...but every now and then I might rant or dribble on about other things.