Three years between rides is a bit of a stretch, and I might be a bit biased, but God damn it, I enjoyed the shit out of the North Island 1600!!
The last few blogs have outlined the prep' and the weekend before the big event had me in a bit of a panic to fix the stebel horn because I new BrianH was going to be scrutineering the bikes and if he can pick up, that the rear tyre on a Beemer has been fitted back to front, he was sure as hell going to pick up that my horn was neither squeeking nor parping. What a mission!
I thought it was the switch contacts but stripping and disemboweling that proved fruitless so next thing the belly pan, lower cowl, inner cowl and right fairing had to be removed and a jumper lead from battery to horn had me jumping out of my skin.....bugger, I had a dud relay. Bike was booked for a service on Monday so old squeeker refitted, fairing replaced and Sunday saw an aux outlet fitted into the topbox so I could recharge the GoPro and remote whilst on the go. Monday saw a new Z8 replacing the 1/3 worn PR4, a new air cleaner to try to improve the economy and a super WoF ….and a new relay which I fitted that night and I was all good to go.
Bike was packed Thursday night and after pissing around a bit getting ready on Friday morning, I finally got away from home at 0843, and rode out of BP J'ville at 0858.....yipeee! I was off on an adventure.
The usual droll, boring, crap riding saw me exit from Levin with an average of 81kph, but now I had clear roads ahead and could wind up into GC mode (hmmm....I can't really call it GC mode any more but NI16 mode doesn't sound right ...so...) into GC mode and I had a date and a mission to get to Turangi by midday. Easy-peasy you might say, 312'ish km in 3 hours should be a doddle, but no, why would I go up SH1 when the Para's were just along a bit and I had 350km to do, so I cracked on. By 1023 I was slipping onto Speedy and Fagan Roads to bypass Sanson and the average was up to 92kph, then at 1052 I was negotiating Warrengate Rd for 96kph and I finally got onto SH4 at 1057, still averaging at 96kph.....Let the games begin!!
Brilliant weather, mint empty Para's, I was warmed up and I was in biker heaven! WooHoo, next thing you know I was in Raetihi by 1143 for a 105kph average up the Para's and 98kph overall and I finally arrived at the Turangi cabins at 1228...that was near enough to midday and I was soon checking-in (queensize bed doesn't leave much room in a cabin) and setting up the hall for the arrivals of all the punters.
Ann arrived in the car shortly after me and the rest of Friday was spent getting the bike scrutineered, shopping for the perishables for the weekend's menu, taking a few photos and chatting with other riders as they arrived. We went off for dinner at the truckstop after 1700, arriving back at the hall at just before 1900 to put up the map and start issuing the Rider's Guides.
It was a bit strange to be missing out on the excitement and apprehension associated with the unveiling of the route and having to plan and familiarise oneself with it, but it was sort of fun to see all the other poor bastards struggling with it!
…....and that was day 1.
Day 2 dawned crisp and clear and we dragged ourselves out of the pit at about 0700, I scrubbed and dressed casually (ie out of any bike gear and with jandals), breaked fast, I packed the bike and setup the GoPro and GPS, faffed around chatting with other riders and went off to fill-up and check the tyres at about 1100. Basically, it's always the same and killing time until the start is a pain in the arse, but I finally kitted up just before 1230, the briefing was briefed and the four of us (Mr & Mrs Hitcher, XP@ and myself) hit the road to man the 1st Checkpoint at Z Waiouru. (One of the changes we made to how this event was run was to introduce a combination of manned and photo CP's, with more of them to leave little room for shortcutting and this one ensured a rider couldn't take the easier Napier-Taupo road).
James & I finally departed a few minutes after Brett & Jane at 1247 and we enjoyed a quicker than moderate pace over the Desert Road arriving at Z Waiouru at 1323 and the 1st riders started coming through within 10 minutes. We should have been on our way by 1350, but alas, it transpired that a rider had had brake-pad issues and he was ½ hour late starting so Brett & Jane got on the way while James and I waited.
My initial plan was to leave Waiouru shortly after the last rider through, then try to work our way through some of the slower riders and capture them on the GoPro....but that wasn't going to happen now so when James and I finally got away at 1409, we had plenty of time to make up and that set the tone for our ride. I led out at a rather brisk pace, but fortunately, James seemed to be hanging back a little so sanity prevailed and we settled into 'spirited ride' instead of 'outright fang'.
It was hard not to let rip through here because the weather was great and the road mint and the Gentle Annie is such a great ride. It's like going back in time to the days when shearing sheds littered the landscape and there were cattle in some if the paddocks but they weren't the udder kind. It's also a great mixture of landscape with rolling hill country, speckled with small flat valleys and some rugged bush and forest.....and the road!!....it's mostly corners with a few straight bits to allow one to catch their breath!.....150km of mostly corners!!
We managed to catch the Hitchers and were surprised to see a half dozen bikes at Kahukuranui Marae (Omahu/Fernhill), we took our pix and pulled out after a couple of other guys but they kept going straight (towards Hastings) when we hooked off to stay on SH50. I tooted but I guess they needed gas and that was two more we'd passed.
SH50 is more good riding. It hasn't got much by way of corners though so the pace seemed to creep up a little and I don't know how but the average through here appeared to be 113kph??? Must have been an error in the GPS and the pace didn't fall off a lot on SH2 either. SH2 from Napier down to Masterton is pretty good riding whereby it's not totally straight but one can make really good time, which is aided by the fact that there's not quite the volume of traffic as elsewhere.
We took the bypass just before Woodville and scooted down through the Wairarapa, catching more riders (Dredsy-Mark/Whatastoner and his mate) going into Pahiatua (where the BanditRider was filling), but XP@ didn't think he'd make Masterton so we gassed in Eketahuna and slipped behind those we'd just passed. The skies to the south were looking extremely gloomy at this point and James suggested we don our wets, but I pointed out that we were heading more east and it was clear there. It was an unusually quick fill, taking only about 4 minutes, and we were soon taking the turnoff onto Faulkners Rd to take the diversion through Mauriceville for CP3. I love that road too!
Apparently, back in the day, the Mauriceville-Kaiparoro Rd used to be SH2 and although it's a minor country road, it's always mint, clean and a bloody good fang as one returns to Welly from a ride. There's only 4km difference and when you take the turn the ETA on the GPS jumps about 10minutes, but by the time we get back to SH2, we've usually only lost about 2 minutes.....and had a blast......so On On.
Through Masterton, out past Te Ore Ore and on to CP4 at Wainuioru School (more spirited pace) then around the Water Towers and through Gladstone. I did stop at this point to put our wets on, because it really looked crappy to the south now and lucky because as we turned to cross to Ponatahi Rd, the heavens opened and it absolutely pissed down. We caught Dredsy and his mate again and hello, no sooner were we pulling into Martinborough than the rain stopped and the skies cleared.
That was good so now we could open the taps for the scoot down to Ngawi. We encountered the first returning rider (IanF) before the turnoff and a quick calc estimated we were only about 40 minutes behind. More good riding and by the time we pulled into CP5, we were about half-way in the field on the road, 554km into the ride, it was 1915 and all was good in the world.
Within 3 minutes we were back on the road to head over the Hill (the Rimutakas) and CP6 at the Caltex. It was dark by now and just after we had filled and checked in, Steve rolled up after going home to put the liners in his pants and he joined us for the rest of the ride.
We pulled out of Caltex Rimutaka at 2041 and by the time we got to Pauatahanui I seemed to have 6 or 8 bikes behind me, but after endeavouring to achieve a 'spirited-no-brakes-ride' over the Paekak' Hill, we were down to four (I did have to jab the brakes a couple of times but!).....and now we had to endure SH1 up to Sanson! More of Friday riding, bypassing Sanson & Wanganui, although we did need to stop in Bulls for Steve to top-up, then a brief photostop at the Upok' Tavern for CP7 and it was up the Para's.
It was about this time I started to struggle a wee bit. The temp had dropped significantly, I was getting cold and a bit of fatigue was starting to set-in, probably enhanced by the brisk start, and I was finding I was having difficulty with vision and picking lines. It slowed me down a bit and we only managed to average 93kph up the Para's this time and I was squirming in my jacket to keep warm, I had the heated grips on and keeping a close eye on the temp gauge as dipped to 3°! (I seem to have a dread for black-ice these days & nights.)
We pulled into Z Turangi at 0034, 1,014km into the ride, I started filling when Ann strolled over and said, "You’re 4 minutes late!!" I was a bit tired and just looked at her a bit gobsmacked, but I guess she didn't see that as I still had my helmet on. As it transpired, James had been using his wee 'Ap' to check us through the CP's, as well uploading the pix to facebook. From that, Gremlin was able to estimate our pace and arrival at Turangi for Ann......and hence, my fatigue induced reduction in pace had us there 4 minutes late!! Yeah right...it should have been at least 7-10 minutes so get with the programme Gremmy!
I thought we'd spent about half an hour resting up at Turangi, but as it turned out, it was only 24 minutes when we followed the Hydes and their 4 man group out. Our 4th man had done a runner as soon as he had filled, but Pete joined us, so we were still a foursome as well. We scooted around Lake Taupo, took the bypass, then headed for Reparoa. We had been warned of roadworks along there and I found them!.....I was still doing 120+ at the time and I shit myself. There were a couple of cars coming the other way and one minute I was cruising along, then the next thing you know, I spotted that the colour of the road was about to change, 1+1 clicked and like I said, I shit myself. Sensitive guy that I am, I was concerned that I might flick a few stones up at the cars, but of more concern was as the bike transitioned from hard pack to looser, thicker crap and the front gave a bit of a shimmy, but I was quickly back on hardpack.....only to transition to even thicker, looser crap and the front shimmied even more and the back started to twitch in response as well.
I was just about to kiss my arse goodbye when I transitioned back to hardpack, then back onto the seal, the heartrate settled and we were back on track. The next BHM moment occurred on that road as well when we rocked up behind a big truck and one moment he veered off to the left, saved and settled, then the next he veered across in front of me, to the right, saved that and settled. I was a bit confused as to whether he was falling asleep or just trying to intimidate me, so when a passing opportunity presented I booted down to three and gave it death to get past him as quick as possible.
We were soon back on SH5, then turning onto SH38 and heading for Murupara. It was 0157 by now and we took the opportunity to maintain our quickish pace, arriving at Kopuriki Rd at 0215, took our pix, pissed around for 8 minutes, then headed for Awakeri. The going got harder for me through here because the road was narrower and humpier, so I would find myself rising with a black hole in front of me and I'd have no idea if the road was still straight, or about to swing right or left, then I'd peak over the hump and all would be revealed as the front of the bike dipped and the lights came back to the road. Consequently, I found myself hovering around the centre line and prepared to swing either way. Not really good form but we made it through and pulled into Z Awakeri at 0304....and I was frigging freezing.
We took our pix, I went for a stroll to see a man about a dog, then I stripped off my jacket to add another layer underneath and we headed out after another 15 minute break, but we were back on SH2 now, so the going was easier and we were soon heading into Tauranga when the dickhead that was leading took the Welcome Bay Rd. In my defence, I will just say that it was shorter and our mission was to do a minimum distance for the ride!!??
Out of Tauranga and staying on SH2 to Waihi, we got there at 0446, still freezing, still very tired, but still making progress. We filled snacked and rested for 33 minutes before embarking on the last two legs and the 250km run home. (Pete left earlier than us though) I felt much better after the break, enjoyed the run through the Karangahake Gorge and life was much easier for me after that as the roads straightened out through Paeroa, down to Matamata and the skies had lightened up by the time we crossed SH1 and scooted down Lake Karapiro to the Puketurua Hall at the junction of Pearson and Old Taupo Roads.
A mere 6 minutes and we were heading for Whakamaru and down the western lake road for Kurutau. It's easy to keep a steady pace through there and we were soon turning onto SH41 and into Turangi, pulling up at 0758. What a relief. The GPS was saying we had maintained a rolling average of 100kph doing 1613km in 16hrs 9mins road time and correcting for our CP duties at Waiouru, we managed the trip in 18.5hrs. We always expected it to be a 'fast' (easy flowing) route but it was still a good ride with the right mix of twisties and highway riding. I felt OK but apparently the eyes looked like pissholes in the snow and I had made hard work of the night sections....We had a ball but!!!
Photos were taken of odometers, we checked in, had a hearty feed, shared lies, some went for naps, but I just laid back and watched as the rest of the field came in, finally going for a snooze between about 3 and 5...or maybe 6, in the afternoon. Then went back to the hall for another feed and to socialise over a few beers.
......and so the inaugural North Island 1600 had been smoked.......but we still had to clean-up and get home.
Sunday night saw me thrust into a coma whereby I could have been sleeping on a bed of nails and I would have got a good kip. We awoke and arose about 0630 to start preparing breakfast and we'd been fed, cleaned up the hall, checked out and were pulling out of the holiday camp at 1003. Stretch was leaving as we were so he joined James and myself, dawdling over the Desert Road. Unfortunately a dawdle was a little too sedate for Stretch, so he passed us and had soon invoked a car to turn on theri lights and hang a uee. Naturally, I pulled over immediately but she didn’t want me, so James and I continued to Taihape for our fuel and coffee stop. Stretch pulled in a bit later and I couldn’t believe he’d got pinged when he had a car in front of him and two bikes behind!?
*Sigh*....oh well, thems the breaks and the vagaries of life. We continued on and because I had to go via Palmy to return some serving dishes to Robert Harris cafe on the square, James & I turned off at Mangaweka to take Rangiwahia Rd....and what a wee peach that is right now. By Kimbolton, all the cobwebs had been blown out and we settled back to our sedate pootle through Feilding and into the square, where we enjoyed another coffee with Barney, then headed for home, finally pulling into the office at 1403.
What an adventure it’s been. James dragged four of us together about a year ago and things have slowly fallen into place. We nearly pulled the pin due to lack of entries at one point, but stuck with it and although the field was a little light on entries, we budgeted conservatively and should make it through OK. The feedback has been positive and the other nutters like ourselves, that just want to get on their bikes and stay on them all night, seem happy to have a big ride back on the calendar. There were heaps of volunteers to help make it run smoothly and a big thanks to them all. I enjoyed the hell out of it.
I just have to get through the Capital 1,000 km Cruise next month, the TT2000 in Feb, and then we can start looking at something for next year.
And finally, I’d just like to share an wee anecdote for any that are considering the next NI16. You may recall mention earlier of tyres being fitted back to front and buggered brake pads, why, there was even one silly prat that turned up without a current WoF (but no more shall be said about that.....aye James). Anyway pads and tyres and 30 minute delays was same guy and that would be enough to rattle ones wits. We’re prepping to leave Waiouru and Beemer Boy says, “It’s just down to Vinegar Hill from here aye?” I look at James and James looks at me and I turn to the chap and say, “Yeah...Nah, that should be Spooners Hill Rd and it’s about 15km down the road.” And away he goes with us following a minute or two later. After installing his pads (and forgetting to pay for fuel) Beemer Boy ends up tacking on to our rear out of Paaekak’ and whilst stopped at BP Bulls he asks, “It’s just up to Turangi from here aye?” to which I reply, “Yeah....nah, that should be Wanganui and the Para’s, perhaps you should stick with us.” Which he duly did until sprinting from the blocks after filling at Turangi. One might think that that was the end of it, but no, there’s more!
I mentioned that we got in at 0800 and awaited the return of others, but when asking of Beemer Boy, there had been no report, until late in the morning I heard reports of someone calling from.....Napier.....&/or Whakatane....or maybe that should have been Gisborne, because our man Beemer Boy had ended up going through Waikarimoana!!!! Technically he didn’t complete the ride, but he did manage 1944km not completing....as opposed to my corner cutting 1613km. We were obviously too slow so he streaked ahead....and came in 4 or 5 hours after!!! The moral of the story is that in this type of riding, faster isn’t always faster.....and planning and preparation is everything!
These blogs were posted on the KiwiBiker forum but I decided it was time for a change.