This year was my 11th MDA run after missing the 2014 ride …and it still hasn’t lost its charm of being a great ride while serving a great cause to see some joy brought to the lives of some children afflicted with Muscular Dystrophy.
This year my involvement included sorting a budget and coming up with a ride plan, which was to be very different from all the other years I have been attending.
Last year would have been the worst (hardest) year because we had 5 schools to visit through the Wai’rapa on the Friday before provisioning and preparing a bbq for the Hawkes Bay children that evening, then we had 8 visits through Taranaki and Whanganui on the Sunday so didn’t get home until about 6pm.
This year we only had one school to visit on Friday and we didn’t have to work the Friday evening as it was catered for us, then on the Saturday we had lost out little man north of Taupo, but we had 10 visits to make on the Sunday. This really opened up the route options so Route 52 from Masterton to Waipuk’ instantly entered the mix and not having to travel the Western Access road was a relief because having moved the run forward a week, we would now conflict with the Round Taupo Bike Race, so two really easy days but we would be very loaded up on the Sunday.
Several options were considered and in the end we settled on a couple of weather-dependant choices that could be made on the day …and Friday was looking dismal! Sheesh, the end of November (a few days before summer), it was only 14° and looking decidedly gloomy over the Rimutakas, so I rolled out of Brown Owl with the thermal liner still in my jacket and my wets on. By Featherston it was looking clear, the temp was up a few degrees, so the wet jacket came off, then at Carterton with the temp still rising the liner came out.
At this point it was time for the ‘D’ on route and with it looking clagged-in to the west and clear to the east, Route 52 was the option of choice, so after pausing in Carterton to re-register the bike, then regrouping with the others at the fuel stop in Masterton, I led out through Te Ore Ore and Alfredton to Pongaroa, where we had a lunch stop. …and what a big burger that was!
From there we headed up to the Weber turnoff, then over to Porongahau and that bit of road is a bit marginal at the moment with a couple of sections where there are cracks in the road and damn, they have got weeds growing in them!! Once one is past Wimbledon the road does get wider and smoother for an easier pace and a couple refuelled in Waipuk’, but I wasn’t finished with them yet, we turned off at Waipawa to head for another break at the Patangata Tavern before finishing the ride with a jaunt across Middle Rd, then over to Bayview where we were staying the night. The temp leapt up to 24° through here so I even had to open the vents on my jacket.
We arrived at Bayview at 1630, settled in, showered up, chatted for a bit before kitting-up in Santa outfits, or in my case, my Pix-E cape and we were taken for a bus ride so that we could arrive back at the hall for Santa to make a grand entrance. That all went well and that was day 1.
I awoke pretty early and eventually arose at 0530 to what was shaping to be a cracker of a day in Hawkes Bay. I scrubbed up, put air in the tyres, fuelled, packed up and we had breakfast at 0700 for an 0800 start. We’d opted for the Gentle Annie route but a couple of the guys and the car took the Napier-Taupo option (which, according to MapSource, should have been about an hour quicker). Tiny from HB led us over to Omahu via Puketapu, then another couple of HB Ulys joined us there, but they were on cruisers and Trev led out at a reasonably brisk pace, so they peeled off once it started to get curly.
Once we started to climb, I had the GoPro set up and I captured the ride through the middle part where the temp dropped from 18° to 14° and I was really feeling the cold, but it wasn’t until we arrived in Waiouru for a fuel stop for Woody that I realised the vents were still open on my jacket from the day before …what a dickhead! At this point we were running 1¼hrs ahead of the predicted MapSource time so we continued on to Ohakune to have a refreshment stop.
About half an hour later we continued to Taumarunui where we filled, made our visit, relaxed for lunch, then continued up SH4. We got a bit of a fright through here when a cop going the other way turned his lights on after just passing us and we might have been 1 or 2 km over the limit. That pushed the heartrate up a bit, as we reviewed our options …19km to our turn-off – nah, …take the Ohura road – nah, take our medicine - *Sigh*!! But he never turned and then Trev advised that his detector device hadn’t activated!! That turned out to be pretty bad timing as he must have received an emergency call right as he passed us!
We soon took Ramaroa Rd for Aria and I had a blast through there, but Totoro Rd was as bad as it always seems to be, and then we were poised to enjoy the Awakino gorge…when it pissed down. Fortunately I had donned my wets at Taumarunui so I limped on at a nanny pace until about half-way through the rain eased so I was riding on a steamy, wet road, then at about three-quarters the road became more dry than wet. All in all it must have been one of the slowest transitions I’ve made through that gorge.
Awakino was time for another refreshment stop after which we continued to Urenui for more fuel for the tiny-tanks and to get supplies for the evening before finishing the day with visits to Waitara and Bell Block, after which we were then welcomed on to the marae before settling down for the night. …and that was day 2 done.
Well almost!! …I was awoken a few times by Mike who was snoring up a storm and I’d left my plugs in the bike.
By 0530 I’d had enough so I got up for a scrub, then go through the motions of tyres, pack etc before brekky at 0730 to get back on the road by 0800. The day was looking dismal and we even had a few dumpings before we left so everyone was fully kitted in wets as we went about our business of 8 visits for the day.
There’s nothing worse than getting on and off the bike in these conditions and sure enough, it transpired that after one of the visits I didn’t do my gear up properly and the moisture got in. Bugger!
We ended up making the visits in a real mix of conditions, but made quite good progress so we had time for a fuel and snack stop at BP Whanganui before our two visits there and the last one in Palmy, where we got dumped on big time before our work for the day was complete. We just had to make our way home and as one would expect, having left Palmy fully kitted, by the time I got to Opiki it was clear, by Levin it was nice and by Otaki I was starting to overheat …but I wasn’t stopping because I had an ETA of 1600 and I just wanted to get home.
The traffic from Shannon on got thicker and thicker with big queues at several places where I was glad I was on the bike and could just scoot along the line of cars. In the end I got home at 1603, satisfied that we had done a good job of bringing some joy to otherwise less than fortunate lives, satisfied that I’d enjoyed a bloody good ride and enjoyed a few jolly good fangs, and satisfied that that was pretty much me done for the year as far as organising rides etc was concerned.
I’m looking forward to a break.
Well that was another nice wee fang!
Apparently I have a problem when it comes to riding and creating routes for longer rides ….I like corners!
After all, let’s face it, I’m not one to throw my arse around or hang off the seat, but the subtle shifting of weight that occurs whilst negotiating a delicious string of lefts and rights does wonders to alleviate the aching-numb-bum that manifests when sitting for hour after hour in the saddle on a boring, straight state highway.
Anyway, I don’t know how it happened but after coming up with a route for this year’s 1KC (Sth) ages ago, I happened to revisit the route in MapSource a month or two back and, for some reason I can’t fathom, I happened to look at the anticipated duration of the ride and had one of those ‘Holy Shit’ moments! Mr MapSoruce was telling me that the ride was going to take 15 hours!
Of course, we all know that Mr MapSource is rather conservative when it comes to these things, but 15 hours!? “Hell”, I thought so grabbed the unit, dumped the route into it and doublechecked, a tad under 14 hours …bugger me, that wouldn’t do so I shared my discovery with the (NZDR) boys. I agreed to come up with a more subdued variant, but in the discussion, it also came to light that this was the 10th one thousand Km ride out of Wellington, so we figured, ‘what the hell, let’s keep the curly route and offer it to hard-arses as a treat …and call it the Super Thou. And so it was we came to offer an extension that didn’t add Km, just more corners.
…and yesterday we got to do it.
I set the alarm for 0500, but awoke at 0300, lay there, turned this way and that trying to doze and eventually turned the TV on to watch a programme I’d recorded and eventually got up at 0445 to scrub and get ready. The bike and car were already packed so we were gone by 0530 to get to Caltex Rimutaka at 0600 to set-up …and there were already riders waiting.
I gassed up, helped Ann sort the table and chair and lay out all the guff and after taking a few pix and everything looked under control, I advised that I’d get on the road, so I could get back as soon as possible to help with the check-ins on return, with a loose plan to do a sub-13 hour ride in ‘GC mode’.
And so it was that I embarked on my adventure at 0615 with the GPS registering an ETA back in Wellington of 1939. The weather was dry, but a coolish 11°, it was light but the sun was yet to rise and I could expect a good dose of sunstrike as I progressed over the Rimutakas and into the Wai’rapa. At last, I was into it and with the Rimutakas as our doorstep, I got to warm-up with a few corners …..sweet.
With little traffic and being on a mission, I had shaved a few minutes off the ETA by Featherston, a few more by Masterton, and then they began to tumble. I don’t think I’ve been out to Castlepoint for a couple of years but it is a nice road and I seemed to be in a good groove …that is, until I passed 30kph and roadwork sings as I approached a wee rise. I buttoned off to let the speed bleed off as I approached the crest, out of the shad and into the sunstrike, so I couldn’t see much apart from that the road was swinging to the right and before I could identify where the works and any grit was, both wheels were drifting left. It was one of those heart-stopping moments that is over before one has had time to make more than an insipient correction, and although one doesn’t tend to ease off at all, it was a good wake-up cool to be on guard and take more care.
I didn’t know if I was the first to leave the start at Caltex, or what time the Masterton crew were getting on the road, so I was constantly waiting and expecting to see bikes coming at me for the last 27 Km into Castlepoint, but when I pulled into the carpark for the first checkpoint pic, I knew I must be in the lead, but with turning onto Te Ore Ore Rd in Masterton at 0658, I figured there wouldn’t be much in it and half-pie expected riders to roll in as I took my pics, had a snack, relieved myself and generally wasted 4 minutes before turning for Riversdale.
Yay, I now had the sun behind me and within a Km or two I had bikes coming at me so the field were in hot pursuit, although maybe only a dozen or so passed by on the way to Langdale Rd. Much of this road is a narrow lane and once again I found myself drifting on grit I failed to see (and I found out after the ride that another ST rider managed to wash-out the front through here, doing a bit of cosmetic damage). All good though and I was soon pulling up at the Riversdale store, 180Km done in 1:55, it was 0910 and the gents enjoying a coffee and a chat at the store were probably wondering why the idiot that just turned up, hopped off his bike, grabbed his camera, took a photo and was gone again within a minute. They’d be more perplexed if they were still there in the next 20-30 minutes!
Heading out and it was hard to tell if Ken (the next rider behind me) had made up any time or not, but he had certainly made some time on his Masterton compatriots and all credit to him, I was riding briskly on an ST but he was on a cruiser!
More care, steady, curly riding and I was soon turning back onto the Masterton-Castlepoint Rd at Blairlogie and shortly after, I was surprised to see two riders heading out as that made them 120+Km and an hour and a quarter plus behind, already. From there, the road is a bit more open and flowy and as I turned onto Bideford Rd, I figured I would now have about a 10 minute buffer as most if the riders would need fuel before embarking on Route 52, but my first fuel stop wasn’t scheduled until Woodville. At this point, the weather to the north was looking dark and bleak.
The bottom end of Route 52 has a few sections where the trees prevent any sunlight from getting on the road and hence they are normally damp and green, so care is required, but it is one of those roads that one always needs to expect the unexpected, be it grit, slumping, damp green ooze on the centre hump, pine needles or other foliage littered in abundance, wandering sheep, rogue sheep, crazy sheep …or for me on this occasion, all of the above (except for the rogue and crazy sheep) plus a row of ducks who thought better of their intended crossing (must have mistaken the purr of the ST for a rampant cat)….and a bloody great, huge turkey which finally took to the air after I had diverted to the right lane! Oh yes, and then there was the wet paint! I hate it when an errant line encroaches on the centreline resulting in a twitch and I had a couple of those.
By the time I turned onto Bideford Rd, the ETA was down 40 minutes, to 1900 and after a careful but brisk transition to the next CP at Pongaroa, even though I had encountered squalls and wet roads and even considered stopping to don the wets, I had now shaved an hour off the ETA and the routine this time was, photo, nutbar, water, then put the wets on …and all this time, the whole two minutes of it, the three ladies gossiping outside the Pongaroa shop never missed a beat or even seemed to notice I was there.
Let the fun begin!
I was now heading in to Pahaitua then over the Track to Aokoutere and this part of the Wai’rapa is really wind-wracked. The westerlies seem to get funnelled by the track and they can be intense …and so it was on this occasion. I had turned head-on into a gale force westerly, but fortunately the ST has that big fairing and screen so apart from the bike getting buffeted around, I was relatively comfy. More care was required but!
I made more good progress though and realised it’s been quite some years since I’ve done this road, but it’s actually quite a nice ride. As I approached Pahiatua, I decided on a change to the plan. It’s only about 50km from Pahiatua to Aokoutere and up to Woodville, so I could do that on reserve (the last bar on the gauge) and I still had two bars, although I wasn’t sure how far into the 2nd-last bar I was ….and I needed a pee, so I opted to fuel in Pahiatua as I would still easily make my 2nd fuel stop at Z Waiouru. Shame on me thugh…refuelling an ST at only 358Km, but let’s face it, rolling on out of corners does suck a lot of gas on the 300+Kg machine …and there was that brutal headwind …ok, and the pace was fresh at times!!
So I enjoyed a leisurely 8 minute stop, pumping gas, paying for it, enjoying the relief of a natural break, woofing down a banana and a nut bar, before hitting the Track. At this point the rain was only occasional squalls, although the roads were generally wet and it was hard to say if the Track was taking me into the gloom, or if I was going to just miss it, so I left the wets on. Not that it mattered though because 19 minutes later I had done the 30Km at an average of 93kph, then wasted 2 minutes taking the pic and forcing another banana though the narrow gap in the helmet.
I was now in for a quick 10Km squirt up to SH3 before having to endure a 100Km grind up SH2 to Waipawa. I did get to wave to Palmy crew as they exited the Gorge though, and it was an easily achieved 96kph average, without exceeding the allowable tolerances. I did avoid the main road through Dannevirke though and encountered a huge wet-paint-induced rear wheel twitch as I tried to get around some twat dithering as he exited an intersection! Who needs the monitors to keep one on the straight and narrow!?
Waipawa reached and I was now able to lift the pace (just a little) for the 15 Km to Patangata, have a 1 minute photostop, then enjoy the delight that is Middle Rd. (another treasure that I haven’t done for a year or three), but I did cut it short, taking Mutiny Rd to get on 50A and across to Omahu to embark on the Gentle Annie. At this stage I should have taken off the wets because I did start to cook with the thermal liner still in the cordura jacket, and the wets on when the temp was hitting 20°, but I could be bothered as I expected I’d have to put them back on by Waiouru.
I thought the Gentle Annie was in much better condition than the last time I did it on the 2014 NI1600, but there were a few wet sections that required care to miss the slick patches and I was able to maintain a 94kph average through to the next CP at the double bridges over the Rangitikei River. This stretched into a 3 minute stop as I forced another banana through the slit and sought relief as I admired the view.
It only took 32 minutes for the 52Km to Waiouru for my fuel stop and there were a few 1KC (Nth) riders there as this was a CP for them and the 1KC (Sth) riders as they were all coming down from Turangi and we didn’t want to let them have the opportunity to slip down SH4 and miss the delight that is Fields Track (for some maybe). This point was around 630-660Km for both rides, so I suppose they were near the front of that Field (although no doubt well behind the northern lead rider)
I dithered for 7 minutes gassing, texting, then having a brief chat before moving on. This was a really strange section, because I texted home, advising 1745 as the expected ETA from Waiouru, however I expected to peel a chunk more time off that through Fields Track because the GPS tends to overstate the time through narrow winding roads, but I got a surprise to find myself losing time through Fields Track!!?? I’d forgotten how narrow it gets and how much nicer it is to ride with some other fool leading the way. I picked my way through though at a miserly 88kph avg, paused for 2 minutes at the bridge to get the statutory pic before hitting the final leg of the journey, just 254Km to go, …190Km of it trudging down SH’s 3&1.
It was more dry than wet now and as always, I really enjoyed the final curly gallop down the Para’s, before the steady-as-she-goes, stick-within-the-allowable-limits finish to the day.
At Levin I managed to make a call on the go (thanks to the Sena) to advise Ann I’d be in by 1730, so to wait for me at home and we could go to the Backbencher together ….in the car, as I’d had enough of the bike by this stage. Thanks to wearing the wets for most of the day, my inner thighs were feeling it a bit and I could feel myself getting a bit tight between the shoulders and around the neck, but what a bloody good fang! I contemplated how I’d ridden this ‘hard’ 1,000Km quicker than I normally ride a standard one and how nice it was to ride at a free pace on unmonitored roads, although, thanks to the corners, much of it was done going ‘hard-out’, but still well within the allowable limits!
We got to the BackBencher by 1800, but had to wait until 1845 before the next rider got in and I was surprised to find most of the Super Thou riders coming in before those on the standard offering, although these guys were all seasoned distance riders. It was nice to chat and listen to the tales and finally, the season is over for the NZDR year and I can get my life back. ….briefly before starting work on next year’s routes!
These blogs were posted on the KiwiBiker forum but I decided it was time for a change.