I managed to rack up a few Km’s (about 1500Km) this week with a scoot up to Patea and back on Tuesday, then again on Friday, but returning Saturday and today was a coming together of 8 Ulysses Branches at Cheltenham.
Tuesday’s ride was to take Ann up to Whanganui to see her folks who had both been in hospital. It was a fleeting visit and we had to battle a gusty westerly crosswind, which was hard work as we’d get buffeted from both sides and on the return, the oncoming trucks were a bit of a worry so I resorted to cranking the speed up as we approached them to reduce the effects of getting slapped around.
Friday and Saturday’s ride wasn’t much better but at least the wind was steadier and not nearly as much effort was required to keep the bike on track.
Today was an early start, getting away from home at 0815 for a short stop at the office to grab a couple of things before heading to Caltex Rimutaka for a fill, getting to Brown Owl at 0850. There were already quite a few bikes there, we chatted briefly then I headed out at 0904 when Ken started the briefing. My plan was to get on the hill to photograph the others as they came up, which I managed to do with mixed success, managing to capture the side of the odd SUV rather than bikes cranking into a corner. I then caught the group in traffic on the hill and tacked on to the rear as TEC from Featherston to Masterton.
There were 14 bikes from Wellington and over 20 waiting for us in Masterton, the temperature was starting to climb out of the low teens, so I was glad I’d removed the jacket liner before departing in the morning. With such a large group, the pace would be quite sedate, so Steve and I decided a wee diversion through Mauriceville would be in order and we peeled off at the Loopline, enjoying a spirited ride. We were soon flitting through Eketahuna, on to the Track and recaught the tail end of the ride by the time we got to the first one way bridge just past Mangamaire.
The rest of the ride to Cheltenham was easy going and we arrived just after 1140Hrs by which time the temp was into the low 20’s and it was rather pleasant, meeting and chatting with Uly members from all over the lower North Island. The publicans had organised a Bar-b-Que lunch, the Masterton Branch, who were instrumental in organising the day, ran a raffle raising $155 for Muscular Dystrophy and all in all, it was well worth the effort with over 80 bikes turning up.
After finally deciding to leave, I went out to the bike to find Steve already getting underway, with a few others following shortly after but Woody waited for me to gear up and we hit the road at 1340, returning to Ashhurst and over the Saddle to Woodville for Woody to fill up. The Saddle and Track are never roads that one can push the boundaries on as they are always prone to having loose stuff and a marginal surface, but with the Gorge being closed for some months, both these roads are feeling the effects of large volumes of traffic. Even the detour on the Woodville side of the Saddle could do with a detour to avoid it.
Once filled, we headed south on SH2, taking the Pongaroa turnoff, then cut across to the Pahiatua-Alfredton road and took Route 52 through to Te Ore Ore. This is another road that needs to be treated with respect, but it’s in wonderful condition at the moment and we enjoyed an pleasant ride at a relaxed pace….although it was getting rather warm as the temp soared to 27°, so I lowered the screen for a bit more cooling.
Once we were back in Masterton, we went back to trudging down SH2 and over the hill. There’s always got to be one dipstick on the road and on this occasion I managed to find myself behind a pillock with no mirror in his wing. (My favoured tactic is to get just off the corner of a car with the ST lights in the wing mirror to encourage them to slide over and let me through). On this occasion, I figured that perhaps his sitting on the line and blocking tactics on the passing lanes had enraged some biker to ping the mirror, but in my case, I just took him and the next car (didn’t want him on my tail) over the yellows and left him to his little games. Woody is a good boy and awaited a more appropriate moment to pass, but that manoeuvre put me in my usual groove and with cars sliding across for me….well, I couldn’t leave them in the lurch so I just kept filtering past until I found myself in the lead.
Once I got to the top of the hill, I just slotted behind the next group and waited for Woody, then waited some more by the Caltex, to finish our ride along the motorway, getting home just before 1645, with the temp back to a more comfortable 21°.
The fifth Capital 1,000Km Cruise is now done and dusted with 36 bikes starting and 36 finishing. (one with a hardy pillion).
The route was an easy choice this year as it was rumoured last year that the Gentle Annie (Taihape – Napier Road) was to be sealed, so I prepared a route (along with a reserve) then once I saw from Banditrider’s Blog in July that this had been completed, I was soon on Mapsource to sort the finer details, finally coming up with a wee doozy that took in our new favourite road as well as one of our old favourites, the Forgotten World Highway. “Of course this is a ‘free-flowing’ route” I argued to our panel....who must have all been full of Tui at the time. Oh yes....Steve & I had to test ride the road with the Hitchers and Dave....and then I had to follow that up with an out and return from Napier.....just to be sure!
The rest of the organising was pretty cruisy, with an initial email being sent to all registered riders from the previous rides, threads placed on the KB and Uly forums, the poster was tweeked, printed and posted in the Wellington and Masterton bike shops, the Parrot ‘n Jigger OK’d to be the finish point, registrations taken, year bars eventually ordered, sponsored prizes obtained from NAC Insurance and certificates printed. The only real change this year was to accept a $15 donation at the time of registration and the badges were then free on completion of the ride.
The week leading up to the ride was a little anxious as the weather forecasts looked marginal, then dismal, then bloody great and finally not too bad.
My personal prep for the ride included a grand Challenge (900Km Friday & 1600Km Saturday) to finish the conditioning programme, then transfer all the kit from the red to the new black ST to make it ready for the eventualities that can arise on big rides into the back-of-beyond. (GPS mount, 1st Aid Kit, puncture repair stuff etc)
The alarm went off at 0500 Saturday morning, we were up an away at 0530 to be at the Caltex Rimutaka by 0600 to fill the bike and set up. I was surprised at how light it was at 0530 because in previous years it has been still dark after 0600, but it was a fresh 9º and when I arrived Gremlin was already there after riding down from Auckland(.....bloody nutter!!) and he and Steve were helping Ann set up the table. By 0615, I was fuelled and ready, riders were arriving to check-in and leaving when they were ready. We were greeting and chatting and by 0650, most had departed, but I waited for the last rider not to turn up and hit the road at 0706, a bit behind Gremlin, then Leber on the T’Bird.
I figured there was no hurry to catch the big cruiser because I’d soon be with him on the hill, but got quite a surprise to find when I did catch-up, it was a big square arsed adventure bike I was following.....hmmmm....yes, well I did know those big boys can go in the right hands!
We puttered up SH2, catching a Yellow Duc and followed him to Eketahuna, then upped the pace a notch through Pahiatua and around Woodville, via Bluff & Jacksons Rds, to Oringi, and onto Dannevirke. As we went up through Waipuk’ & Waipawa, I was surprised to see Gremlin standing on the pegs and sliding onto the back seat after only 200Km....then I realised that for him, it was actually about 900Km already! I was soon riding at a rather spirited pace in an effort to keep up along Pourere & River Rds. It wasn’t that Gremlin had sped up exactly...it was just that he never slowed down any and he was rocking along the centre of the left lane while I was taking a somewhat shorter, straighter line through to the first checkpoint at the Patangata Tavern, arriving at 0946 doing the 244Km at 91kph, the temp was coming up through 14º, the roads were sweet and life was good.
After only two minutes we had snapped pics and I had found a quiet spot to relieve myself before attacking Middle rd to the next checkpoint, 31Km down at the junction of School & Mt Erin Rds....another spirited burst from Mr G, and we were there in 20 minutes, averaging 92kph.
Another two minute stop and we were on our way again, cutting across Bridge Pa to Fernhill and onto the Gentle Annie. I was a little concerned about the economy on the new bike as my economy was only 16.5Km/Ltr at this point and figured it would be close, but at least I had the option that, if I hit reserve before Spooners Hill Rd, I could divert into Taihape and after that, I would be good to make Waiouru.
Once again, Gremlin maintained a pace that was sedate (within the allowable limits) but spirited in the context of a curly road as we pressed on, considerate for roadworks and loose grit with little time to appreciate the splendor of our surroundings as we were in ‘the zone’. The temp rose through 18º and I briefly thought that perhaps I should have removed the jacket liner, but we were climbing to the central plateau so I knew it wouldn’t last and just loosened the collar and dropped the screen slightly until it slipped back under 14º again.
We passed a few riders through here and it didn’t seem long before we were at the Taihape turn-off and I still had 2 bars on the gauge, so we pressed on for Waiouru with the gauge dropping to the last bar about half a Km from the turn onto SH1. It indicated 73Km remaining in the tank,
which I figured would be more like 40Km, but that was heaps as we only had about 17Km to go. I tucked in behind Gremlin anyway and we were soon taking a pic of the checkpoint at the Army Museum at 1203 before popping along to the Shell for gas lunch, having done the 162Km in 1:49 at an average of 89kph.
Since Gremlin was now 1100+Km into his ride, we made this a relaxed stop for nearly 45minutes with many of the riders we had passed along the way, coming and going, then we finally got back on the road at 1247 with Hawkeye in tow again (he had ridden with us off and on to this point). We had to pause at Ohakune for Gremlin to fix a ‘wardrobe malfunction’ so I took the opportunity of adding a special mystery checkpoint by taking a pic of the bike in front of the black carrot, then we picked up Leber as he paused to decide if Raetihi was on the way to Taumaranui, realised not, and slotted in behind us. We were soon flitting over the bridge and embarking on the Forgotten World Highway, but the weather at this point was looking marginal and the road was wet.
This road is a brilliant ride.....but not in the wet!! It has a proliferation of slick patches and I say patches because some extend right across the width of the road, so much care was required to pick lines that would provide some traction, or ride in such a way as to minimise the side-loads by straight lining across the marginal patch. It didn’t seem to bother Gremlin much, but I had assumed the lead now and was resorting to using ‘all’ the road, wherever I could, picking a line, using a camber, straightening across a slick...anything to minimise the possibility of stepping out. Also, I wasn’t totally confident in the wet grip of Bridgstone 020’s on the black, although, to be honest I was pretty happy with how they had been performing so far and the only time they did step-out was minor.
I had planned to pause to pay respects at the spot where grub had died a few years ago and we caught a group a few Km before that, so we just sat behind them and peeled of when we got to the spot where a cross had been attached to the fence. I could see Steve was still ahead of us as we were tying yellow & black tape to the C1KC bikes to make it easy to identify each other on the road and he had torn some off and tied it to the fence. I took a couple of pics and we moved on as hawkeye & Leber pulled in.
5Km down the road and we were into the Tangarakau Gorge, which is gravel, so I thought I shouldn’t hold up the big GSA in case Gremlin was succumbing to any of his dark urges and I waved him through. This did raise the pace a notch and we were soon back behind the group of 5.....no, make that passing them! It was yee haa....up and over the Tahora Saddle and roll into Whangamomona for the last checkpoint. It was now 1506 and we had done the 192Km at a reduced rate of 83kph, thanks to the marginal conditions and we were only stopped for 5minutes before moving on.
I resumed the lead again and it was bloody great because the roads were pretty much dry from here on so although I was a little wary, we enjoyed a nice pace over the Whangamomona and Pohokura Saddles, then onto easier riding as we approached Stratford and turned south on SH3. I tried to stay within the allowable limits as we trudged
down through the ‘Naki, took the bypass around Hawera from Eltham to Makoia, and although we didn’t need to fuel in Whanganui, I figured Gremlin could use the stop....after all, he was 1500Km into his ride now so another decent pause would be nice and he certainly looked a bit fresher 25 minutes later.
Gremlin lead out again from here, since we were riding through an enforcement ally (albeit at a very sedate and legal pace and not in need of the services of his trusty array of electronics), and by 1950 we had enjoyed one last wee fang over the Paekak’ Hill Rd behind James and Rayma and were pulling into the Parrot & Jigger. Bloody marvellous, we had enjoyed our 1003Km daylight ride (although a little further for the Gremlin) and could relax a trade lies over a drink and feed. Dougie had been in since 1800 and the last riders came in at 2230, so there was a fair spread on time (and Km’s for some), but all riders got back safely and with smiles to collect their badges, certificates and for some, prizes.
The ride included 2 starters from Palmerston North, 4 from Napier, 5 from Masterton and 25 from Wellington, with 1 coming back from Kabul to do the ride and 2 down from Auckland and Whangarei.
All seem to go smoothly (although the route didn’t quite meet the ‘free flowing’ criteria to have everyone back by 2030-2130....although not too far off), the riders enjoyed the ride and a bit of socialising over a drink and feed afterwards. Many thanks to all as we have raised nearly $450 to go towards purchasing presents for the Ulysses MD Riders to buy presents for children with Muscular Dystrophy.
Thanks also to NAC for sponsoring the spot prizes, the Parrot & Jigger for providing easy spot to park with watchful eyes over the machinery and Ann for her assistance checking the riders out and in.
Here’s to good weather, good roads and good mates! The new Black has 4416Km on it and it’s bloody tight compared to the smooth Red.....but I’m sure it’s nothing a few Km’s won’t fix!
These blogs were posted on the KiwiBiker forum but I decided it was time for a change.