What a day! Where to Start???
After the successful day last year in which we ended up with 19 riders and lot's of positive feedback, we thought about what had gone right and wrong in order to improve the event and over a period of time, thought about interesting prospects for this year’s route.
In the end, we decided that SH43, or the Forgotten Highway should be the focus of the ride and then it was a matter of filling in 1000Kms, getting there and back on roads that the riders wouldn't find boring and in the end, we thought we had a great ride that would be even better than last year. Other changes we made were to have ribbons tied to the back of the bikes so riders could identify each other and wouldn't be inspired to follow non-C1KC riders off-course, we organised to finish at Petone Working Men's Club which would provide a good place for food and refreshments afterwards, and as a last minute thing, we organised a badge for the event.
With our route and date finalised, ride instructions written, flyers placed and the event posted on the KiwBiker and Ulysses forums, it was sit back and wait for the registrations to see if the positive feedback from last year would translate into a bigger turnout. Naturally enough, the first response was from an excited SweetP and from there a steady stream of entries were received, right up until the day of the ride and we ended up with a field of 50.
The long range forecast for the day was good and during the week before the ride, I emailed the Ride Instructions out on Monday, was itching to go and finally 0500 Saturday 08 November was upon us. I lay in bed, listening to a couple of songs before getting cleaned up and away from home at 0530. The morning was very crisp for November (5°) but a clear warm day was promised for most of the ride, I'd checked the tyres the night before so just needed to swing by the supermarket to pick up some water and nut bars before heading up to Caltex Rimutaka, arriving at 0550 to fill-up, set-up and be ready for the first riders to pull in.
Sure enough, no sooner did we have the table out of Steve's van and they started filling up the area to the side of the forecourt, gassing up, getting odometers checked, buying badges, tying yellow and black ribbons to their bikes and chatting. What a crowd, it was awesome and I only remember seeing a few that I knew from previous rides, but I guess we were a bit preoccupied. By 0650, we were running out of time, but fortunately the badges had been sold (including all but one 2008 year bar), the odo's checked and we started the briefing by drawing the spot prizes. With that out of the way, I mentioned a couple of areas to be wary of etc, and we were off.
As per last year, I waited until the last rider was away to ensure no one was left straggling and we got on the road at around 0715, taking it easy as we headed up the Rimutakas. Once we started to descend, at times we would catch glimpses of the long snake of riders ahead and by the time we got to the bottom of the hill we caught the rear of the main group. Mike, the Rusty rider I was with at this time, latched on with the last couple of riders as I moved ahead from group to group until slotting in behind about 20 riders as they wound through the Masterton Bypass, across the Loop Line and up through Mauriceville before getting back onto SH2 just South of Eketahuna. At that point I slipped ahead of them to give myself a free run at the Pahiatua Track which offered the first blast for the day. I treat this road with the greatest of respect but managed to pass a few more riders through here, finally catching Ken (a Ulysses mate) and Alyson along the Aokautere Road as we headed for Ashhurst and up the Pohangina Valley.
These guys would sit on a nice pace, so I sat behind them and was enjoying the ride so much, we nearly missed the Pohangina Valley East turnoff, but that was made and we settled down to business and struck the first problem of the day. We arrived at a junction and Ken and Aly stopped and I stated, “we go right and stay on Pohangina Valley East Road”! “Well that's not what your instructions say”! Replied Ken......and I thought...... “Bugger”!!!
This was the only section of the ride that neither Steve nor I had checked and I realised immediately how the error had occurred when I created the instructions off the google map, not noticing that it took a short-cut. Oh well, I couldn't do much about it now, we were about half way through the field, I hadn't been on that road, so opted to check it out, rather than stay at the corner to direct the rest of the riders. Big mistake, this road was a few Kms less but 90% (about 15Kms) of reasonably loose gravel so we lost heaps of time. Fortunately many of the riders were following the Manawatu crew and took the intended route but quite a few didn't. Oh well, chalk that lesson up for next time.
We finally arrived in Apiti to find the pumps were open so Aly filled-up, Ken headed on and I enjoyed my first of many 'natural breaks' for the day, thanks to the cool air which was only now started to climb into double figures. That done and I led on for Rangiwahia and Mangaweka. and just before we got there, we caught up to the others as we were flagged down where one of them had a wee oopsie on some very loose road works. No damage done and we were now in a group of six as we headed on for a coffee stop in Taihape.
This wasn't a planned stop for me as I had only used just over half a tank but I topped-up with the others, enjoyed a pie and drink and we relaxed before finally heading out again on Spooners Hill Rd for Waiouru. Once again, I left by myself and settled in behind a half dozen other riders for a bit, before moving ahead. The mountain looked spectacular today with a full load of snow and crystal clear skies, so I was on the lookout for a good photo op', which I found just out of Waiouru on the road to Ohakune. I stopped to get the bike in the picture, then waited for a couple of riders to come by and I captured them as well, then Steve and Trevor arrived so I slotted in behind them and headed for the next sweet section of the day, Fields Track and the top half of the Parapara Rd.
We caught a group shortly after turning onto the Whangaehu Valley Road, swelling the numbers up to 12 and we snaked our way through at a leisurely pace, enjoying the scenery, but once we were on the Para's I didn't want to waste the opportunity for another blow-out so a couple of us made our way ahead of the group and nearing Raetihi, we set-up on a corner to capture the riders on film as they came through. That done we slotted back in behind and followed through to National Park where half continued on SH4 to Taumaranui while we took SH47 to Tokaanu then SH41 back to Taumaranui.
I was 2nd round the corner after Grub, with Bryce, Steve and Trevor behind me and we ramped the pace up somewhat, flying through to the Rangipo turnoff where Grub eased up slightly and I took the lead over the Ponangana saddle. We were honking and I was really surprised to see Trevor, keeping in contact on the ME109, with Steve having a good fang on his GS1100. I paused at SH41 (exactly half way on the ride) to regroup with Steve and Trevor, while Bryce and Grub headed on and we passed them while they gassed up in Tokaanu as we headed for Taumaranui at a more respectable pace, arriving for our next fill and lunch. Once again we were joined by Grub and Bryce and enjoyed a relaxing feed, drink and chat and a few other riders as they stopped.
It was time to move on once again and I led out but Trevor was still on the phone, so we took it easy for him to catch us as we pootled through Ohura and the next stop at Whangamomona. Just before the Tangarakau Gorge, everything turned to custard as Grub dropped back slightly and I found myself just riding with Bryce. I eased up as Bryce went ahead, and stopped for another photo-op but after a minute of two, realised something must be wrong and I headed back. I met Steve, who was looking for a house or cell coverage and he outlined that Grub had offed and needed an ambulance, so I went on to Tahora to raise the alarm while he headed back.
After getting through to emergency services and advising Nasty that her mate was down, I headed back, arriving just before the chopper and we had to wait as they set to treating Grub. Unfortunately, despite their efforts, he didn't survive and the three of us were finally able to continue our journey just on dusk. We were pretty shaken so took it very easy, stopping at Whangamomona to clean the visors and have a coffee before heading onto Eltham for a feed at Trevor's daughter's home.
On the way into Eltham I noticed that the ST felt a bit 'floaty' and odd but didn't think too much of it. After the feed and we were on the way to Hawera for gas, it was worse and I found I had to straight line the corners as much as possible, using all the road and after filling-up I checked the front before noticing the rear tyre was down a bit. On checking the pressure, I found it was down to 15psi and I'd chewed a fair chunk of life out of my lovely Storm so I pumped it up and we hit the road with the plan to check how it was holding up in Patea, but it seemed OK so we continued all the way through to the Gull in Wanganui. At that point it was only down by 3psi so while I pumped it up again, the others topped up their fuel and we got back on the road.
By this time it was 0030, the temp was falling back through 10°, we had been on the road for 17½ hours, were getting tired and the trauma of the day's events was starting to impact. We puttered off down to Sanson and SH1, I had 3 layers on under my corduras, was squirming to keep warm and I was noting the temp still falling down to 8° and finally 5° as I pulled into home at 0230.
I was so shattered and frozen, I just hopped of the bike and went straight up to bed but as Ann was away for the weekend, the bed was off and I had to grab her blow dryer to warm it up. It smelt like something was burning so I hopped in but was still cold and shaking so I grabbed it again and cooked myself some more, rang Ann to fill her in on the day, finally conking out at about 0330.
Sunday dawned another great day and I got on the phone to Ron and Jim. Ron had helped at Caltex Rimutaka in the morning and both he and Jim were at the Petone Working Men's Club to greet the riders and issue certificates after the ride.
I found out that only about half of the field had checked in and Ron had stayed there, sitting in his car after the place had shut, until 0130. So it had been a tough day all round.
The feedback has been generally positive though and having noted our errors again this year, we plan to organise another ride next year.
I'd like to thank all the riders who participated, all seemed to enjoy the day, albeit being a bit tough. Then the helpers, Cheryl and Ron in the morning who also took care of things after we left, Kari and her trailer for being oncall as the recovery vehicle if needed and Jim who helped out at the end of the day.
This year FMR Magazine sponsored us by producing the flyer for the local bike shops and putting it on the inside front cover of the last issue, NAC fronted with some promotional items for spot prizes and Affiliated Insurance Brokers provided the certificates and assisted in getting the badges done.
This ride is just a social ride and intro for many riders who have never sampled the delights of endurance riding, but the helpers and sponsors have all contributed to make this a popular ride and if the numbers continue to rise next year, we will have to look at how we can manage...or how many we can cater for.
Grub's demise was most sad, and put a big damper on the day, but these things do happen, there was no alcohol or speed in the equation and it was just an unfortunate event. All our best wishes and prayers go out for him and Kari.
Thanks all, it won't be this hard next year.
Some Stats for the day:
50 starters (2 with pillions)
30 finishers (or at least checked in - eg Steve, Trev & I managed 1000+ but didn’t bother trying to check in at 0230-0300)
6 ladies started this year (only 1 in 2007)
5 completed (and I put Elle’s withdrawal down to Mechanical failure)
Well done ladies
Hyosung 2 (both 250’s – 1 of the riders on a Restricted Licence)
1st & 2nd home were FJR’s, laying down the challenge for the ST riders to ease up on their coffee stops…..or sort the navigating and keep off the gravel.
As usual with this sort of riding, those that maintained a steady, continuous pace finished in a reasonable time.
40 badges (with 2007 & 2008 bars) were sold ($10 per badge and $5 per bar) raising $272 for presents to children with muscular dystrophy.
These blogs were posted on the KiwiBiker forum but I decided it was time for a change.