A night ride was scheduled for Friday this week but after unseasonal snow on the Rimutakas and Tararuas earlier in the week, the weather was still crap so we called it off. Sunday was looking good and I considered a ride up to Tokaanu for a soak in a hot pool, but in the end and after sleeping in, I decided on a reasonable local ride.
The bike was set to go so I just had to get ready and leave to top-up at Caltex Kaiwharawhara, even though I didn’t have a fixed rideplan yet, apart from head North and use a tank of gas, so I was on my way to the Rimutakas by 1040.
I started out at the usual 110kph but as I got closer to the Hill that crept up a bit and the pace wasn’t impeded too much going over. From Featherston I stayed on SH2 and had a wee moment in Greytown where a stupid bitch pulled out from the curb about 10 metres in front of me. Needless to say the ABS was utilised and as soon as I was back under control and settled, I passed her reminding her in no uncertain terms that her mirrors were there for a reason. If she didn’t get the hint, it would have woken her up at least. With everything back to normal, I continued up to the Masterton Bypass, taking the Loopline, then off for some more exciting roads through Mauriceville, Dreyers Rock, Alfredton and back to SH2 at Pahiatua via Tane. The weather through here was a comfortable 15° and the roads were pretty good apart for the odd bit of loose stuff which did result in the occasional twitch on the rear end.
By this time I’d decided to do the Track, Gorge, Saddle then come back via the Wairarapa, which meant a return over the Track. I was getting a bit pumped and after the economy had peaked at 18K/Ltr, it was steadily dropping back through 17.5 as I decided to try and maintain a 100kph average and needed to pick it up as I was already well off that pace. This certainly made the ride more interesting as I headed over the Track with the wind getting up a bit, a little precipitation in the air and the odd patch of snow still on the ground near the summit. I had no problems though and was soon through Aokoutere and on my way to the gorge.
I haven’t ridden through the Gorge or over the Saddle for some time. The Gorge because it has double yellows all the way through and the Saddle because it usually has smatterings of loose stuff and I prefer the Track. Having said that, I passed about four cars just past the entrance and enjoyed a brisk pace most of the way through, so it was quite good and although the wind was up over the Saddle, the road was probably as clean as I’ve ever seen it.
At this point I’d done just over 270Kms and would need to do a bit more than heading straight back if I was going to use a full tank. As I travelled back along SH57, I contemplated my options and in the end decided to go back through Mangamaire, then in order to maintain a more exciting pace, I would go down Fullerton Rd and back through Mauriceville to avoid any revenue collectors on SH2. I flew through this section, continued into Masterton, then took Johnstone street out and onto Gladstone then Martinborough.
I managed to maintain a reasonable pace over the rest of the ride which was pretty uneventful, getting onto the last bar as I headed into Te Marua and I got back to Caltex Kaiwahara’ at 1550 having done 479Kms for the day, which translated into an average of 91.2kph.The economy was back to 17K/Ltr after dropping to 16.6 at one stage, but based on the fuel put in I calculated 18.67kpl which was pretty good considering, and the bike now has 76,075 Kms on it.
I’m not sure what came first, the ride-plan or the excuses for the ride, but Steve & I arranged a ride for today that would fulfill several requirements. We needed a pre-GC ride that would include a bit of night riding, we needed to check a couple of sections of the Capital Cruise to be run in November and we wanted to revisit the outstanding road that runs around the Kawhia Harbour from Piopio to Te Kawa. This road was a section of last years Grand Challenge and I remembered having a blast on it so we were in for a day filled with 1100Kms of fun….or at least that’s what we thought when we planned the ride and programmed to leave at 0200 on Saturday morning.
Early in the week, the weather looked good for Saturday, but by Friday it was crap so we put it off to Sunday and we were expecting a stunner of a day. I hit the sack at about 2030, conked out alright, but awoke around 2330 and had to try to relax and doze until 0100, so I only got about 3 hours sleep. I’d reinstalled the liner in my jacket, checked the tyres and gassed up the day before, so after a quick shower and kitting up, I was off for Caltex Rimutaka by 0130.
I expected it to be cold, so as well as my liner, I had a skivvy over my T-shirt, but when I turned the bike on, I was glad to see that it was 10°…….dumb bastard……the bike was still in the garage! We were to be in for a great day but what we didn’t count on was the clear skies overnight would lead to one of the coldest rides I’ve ever had and I had barely got 100metres down the road and was registering 1° so on arrival at Caltex I had to duck in for a cold-squeeze-induced natural break, put my glove liners on and donned another top.
We hit the road over the hill at 0200, with Steve leading out and headed up through Masterton where the temp lifted to 8°, but it soon settled back to between 1 & 3° all the way up via Pahiatua, the Track, Vinegar Hill and arrived for our first gas stop at Taihape at 0500. The cold-squeeze dictated that I dart for the dunny before filling the bike and my right hand was stinging as it thawed. I then spent a few minutes running hot water over it before attending to the bike and quaffing a pie.
After a chat and thaw we got away at 0530 and this time I led in order to monitor the temp so we could take care if it went sub-zero. The sky was beginning to lighten and sure enough, just North of Waiouru, the temp gauge flickered and a minus sign appeared, so I indicated to Steve to take care. It was a pity really because the temp crept down to -4°, then as we rode across the plateau, it dropped another 3° within 1Km and became so cold, it was hard to appreciate the magnificent vista when the snow clad Ruapehu and Ngarahoe glowed pink as the sun rose on them.
Nevertheless, we were soon in Turangi and heading up the Western side of Lake Taupo, where we encountered a group of 6 or 8 contrary sheep and I was so buzy grabbing handfuls of brake and clutch that I had no opportunity to warn Steve. He’d seen them though and like me, didn’t know which way to go would be the best option to avoid them, but we narrowly missed the sheep and each other before continuing on for Whakamaru and onto Waipapa Road. The sun had risen properly through this section, but it wasn’t that comfortable riding until we neared Te Kawa where we stopped for another top-up in preparation for the fun part of our ride.
We scooted across Te Kawa Road and were soon on SH31, down Harbour and Te Waitere Roads, then back through Te Anga, Waitomo and down a couple of back roads to Piopio. This is 160Kms of continuous twisty road and one of the most challenging and exciting rides I have done. As is the case with many NZ minor roads, some of it had sprinklings of loose stuff on it, and there are quite a few off camber corners so care was required, (I certainly didn’t remember those from the GC and perhaps it’s more pronounced when heading west on SH31), but most was in good condition and it was worth the effort to get up there.
After lunch in Piopio, we enjoyed the Awakino Gorge and Mount Messenger at pace as we headed for home with one more stop in Stratford for gas. After that we decided to bypass Hawera and I missed a turn so we ended up doing 10 – 15Kms on what amounted to a gravel driveway. Not the sort of road that ST’s and Hyabusas were designed for but apart from that, we sat a little over the limit all the way through to Wanganui. After that point, the odds of getting pinged are too high so we had to put up with our sore butts, sitting on 110, or a couple of kliks faster than the other traffic, as we filtered through it down SH’s 3 & 1, had our last little fling on the Paekak’ Hill and I got home at1725.
This was the first ride I can recall where I’ve encountered Turkeys on the road! That’s real ones, f..ing great birds with feathers and wrinkly old necks which normally got around in pairs….just like Steve and me. We saw heaps, but fortunately they didn’t pose any problems that one normally expects when encountering turkeys on the road, so I guess the only real turkeys on the road were Steve and me, and I apologise to all we encountered and harrassed along the way.
It transpired that we did 1236Kms for the day (a few more than intended), my butt hurts and I’m knackered, but it was an awesome day and great to do a big ride The bike is now up to 75,577Kms
It was my intention to go for a decent (1000 – 1100km) pre-GC ride today, starting between midnight and 0100 to get a bit of night riding in, then explore a few roads up in the Waikato, but as it transpired, events and the weather worked against me so I just ended up going for a local ride.
It was a great day when I got up shortly after 0800 with bright sunshine inspiring me to remove the liner from my jacket and after a light snack I departed to stop by the office at 0930. From there it was down to Caltex Kaiwhara’ to fill up, then on to Wright Spa Pools to get the water tested as I had just done the four monthly drain, treat the filters and fill yesterday.
By the time I got out of there and lit out for ‘The Hill’, it was 1030, the traffic wasn’t too bad and I puttered along within the limits until by Kaitoke, where I noticed a line of half a dozen cars and a few bikes, so I ramped up the pace to get ahead of them before the double yellows started. That done, my ride up to the summit was relatively quick, squeezing past a few cars along the way but shortly after the peak I caught up to a huge line of cars. They were crawling which made it easier to get past but the slow pace left narrow gaps between cages so one had to be careful. Never the less I took them all before the bottom (screw the yellows) then relaxed up SH2 to the Masterton bypass.
I noted the time at 1122 as I passed the Mobil on Ngaumutawa Rd and the temp was up to a very comfortable 18°. I cut across the Loop Line, opting to head North via Mauriceville and had a spirited ride arriving in Eketahuna at 1148 which is about when I would have arrived had I travelled up SH2 within the legal limit. Then it was just a short meander up to Mangamaire and over ‘The Track’.
Once again the pace lifted a bit but I was finding that I wasn’t riding that smoothly so I eased off a bit, but stilled enjoyed my wee fang over to Palmy, where after a bit of a look around the city, I headed back to Wellington via Shannon.
The traffic was moderate on SH1 but it was moving well and the trip back was hassle free, albeit a bit droll, so I finished the ride with a burst over the Paekak’ Hill, arriving home at 1430, having done 361Km for the day and with 74,268Km on the bike now.
It was a pleasant day but made me realise that I’m a bit out of condition and should do a few preparatory rides over the next month to get in the groove for the GC as my hip got a bit uncomfortable and at times I found my riding form was a bit sloppy. I’ve got a few roads up north that I want to check out so I guess that will be enough excuse to rack-up a couple of 1000Km rides and if we get more weather like today, I look forward to the next few months of riding……Yeah baby!!
These blogs were posted on the KiwiBiker forum but I decided it was time for a change.