Thanks to a big tank capable of 400+Kms at uneconomic speeds and a hard arse to endure 22½ hours in the saddle at those speeds…I completed the RNGC 1000 mile ride plus 500km extension. That’s 2100Kms to mark the 21st anniversary of the event.
After last year's GC I was elated to finish in 21 hours and keen to make it an annual pilgrimage. I found I was even more motivated after starring in and viewing the DVD of last year's event and when Lee advised of the extension to mark the 21st Anniversary, I thought that would be cool to achieve. I had a quick chat to my riding buddy, Steve and we decided to apply for the extension and pay our $40 donation (on the basis that we probably wouldn't make it but if the weather gods were good and the route planner was kind, at least we would be able to attempt it, and if not, it was only the equivalent to a tank of gas lost)
In preparation this year, I had a couple of longish solo rides a month or two out, but had to limit my riding to keep my tyres to between 6 & 7,000Kms and in good condition for the event. During the week before I took the bike in for it's pre-GC check-up, a new Air cleaner and rear brake pads, gave the corduras a silicon spray and after studying the weather for the week, bought some pvc gear from the Warehouse and Rain-Off Gloves to ensure I remained cosy.
Steve had a bad ‘Off’ a month out and would not be coming so it was just Adrian (ST1300) and I who rode up together, departing Johnsonville at 1030 hrs Friday, travelling up via the Wairarapa, Gorge (a last minute adjustment after wind and rain put me off the Track & Saddle), lunch in Ashhurst, then on through Vinegar Hill and SH1. I wore my new 'wets' which seemed to do the trick as the fine weather in the Wairarapa only lasted until Masterton and from there on it was a mixed bag of rain and more rain. On arrival, we went straight through scrutineering with no problem, settled in and waited for 1900hrs when the route would be posted. I traced it out on my map then went back to my cabin to study and prepare for the ride. It appeared to be fairly straight forward, up to Kaitaia and back, but I hadn't been on most of the roads and those that I had driven on, was 30 years ago!!
Saturday was spent killing time before the ride. Breakfast, final preparations of gear and bike, wander around chatting until I could finally gear-up, get in on the Ulysses photo, get briefed, win a raffle prize and depart with the other green card holders in the second group at 1503 hrs. (Adrian was in the third group but not eligible for the extension so I went ahead and if he caught-up we would ride together). At this point I was entered for the extension but was doubtful I would make it, so would ride out, get as far as I could before the weather hit and then see what eventuated.
The first leg was from Turangi, out to Kuratau Junction, up the western arm of the lake and turning off on Old Taupo Road (just prior to Tokoroa) to the first 'Time Check' at Puketurua. I started off at about 120kph to ease into the ride, passed a few other riders, was caught by BanditRider & Blue Bandito in their Green mohawks, then about 10 or 15 Km up the western arm, we were passed by the leaders of the 3rd group as they fizzed along. About three or four minutes later, that was repeated and again and again until I latched onto a couple of other riders who were sitting at a slightly quicker pace than i had been on, and as we turned onto Old Taupo Road, Adrian caught us. We left the time check and followed a few riders along Pearson and Arapuni Roads into Putararu when the group got separated in traffic and we latched onto another couple as we turned onto Whites Rd and were sitting were sitting at 140'ish through SH's 28 & 29. It was a bit fast so we let them go when we finally got onto Old Te Aroha Road. That was quite a nice ride and we joined another group of 5 or 6 after they passed us and dragged us through Te Aroha to the first checkpoint at Paeroa. By this time there must have been about 30 riders in front of us and most of the other riders stopped here for fuel, but we just had our tickets clipped and hit the road at a sedate 110 – 120kph. That is until passed by a couple of quick riders and I threw caution to the wind. We slipped in behind them but Adrian got separated through traffic as we raced along SH2 for the Bombays, but I managed to stay with them until the heavens opened at dusk and we stopped in Orewa, them for Wet gear and me for fuel. That was good as I was able to thank them for the lift. I had worn my PVC's from the start, which was a good call in anticipation for the predicted weather, so I quickly fuelled, had the usual natural break, scoffed a banana and nut bar, swigged on the electrolytes and headed off for the next stop at Dargaville.
Back on the road, I eased back into the ride as a torrential downpour kept the speed down through Waiwera, to the turn off at Brynderwyn and it was all new roads from here. It was quite pleasant as the rain eased and I got the speed up to around 140 until about 5 Km's out of Dargaville when two more riders passed me, so naturally I tagged on, followed them into Dargaville, got clipped and left as they were gassing up....and now the fun begins.
The third leg took us to Kaitaia, via the Waipoua forest and Kaikohe. My first incident was about 20 km out of Dargaville when I was getting along at a brisk pace and noticed the distinctive odour of cowpoos. Within moments, as I was flying through a big right hand sweeper, I saw what appeared to be a 5 metre wide river of shit flowing across the road....but in truth it was probably only about 1 metre. Anyway, I had about enough time to say 1½ of the three Biker Hail Marys (BHM's) (Oh Shit, Oh shit, Oh Shit...or words to that effect), no time to react with any changes to throttle or brake and the front and rear had both let go. I would estimate a half metre adjustment to my lateral position before both tyres grabbed again and it all happened so quick I didn't even have time to pucker, and the sweat was already there from wearing PVC's in the balmy 14-17º. I skipped the rest of the BHM's and quickly gave thanks to my guardian angel, dad and other host of ancestors for looking after me when I was literally 'up shit creek without a paddle'!! That was the first of several such moments when the back twitched out on slick 'seal, wet paint, or other unidentified foreign objects that littered the road. I tried to avoid the slick patches but on one occasion, as I was travelling straight, I rode over a strip and suddenly the revs shot up as the back wheel started to spin and track to the left.....Hmm....more BHM's and thanks given.
I was soon enjoying the delights of the Waipoua forest!! Whoever said that was a great ride needs a frontal labotomy! It was wet, pitch black, and foliage blown off in the gale force winds littered a road that was as tight as a tangled kite string. I was down to a crawl and cursing myself for being a nana and expecting Cam and his mate to scream past me at any moment, but that didn't happen so I guess it got most of us. 20+ Kms I kept thinking, take it easy and just minimise the losses, which I did, was soon out of the woods, through a few more windy (you may read that with a long or short vowel) sections and I pulled into Kaitaia for checkpoint 3, and a much needed pit stop. Just as I switched off, Cam and his mate arrived and just as I was about to get ready to leave, Adrian pulled-in. I was really surprised to see him as I had been riding reasonably quickly, we had a quick chat and I headed on with the expectation that I would soon be caught-up......unfortunately that was to be a big....Yeah Right!
The next stage took us down through Kerikeri and Whangarei, across to Helensville and down to the service centre at Bombay. This stage was another mixed bag with the first part from Kaitaia to Wellsford being quite quick as in places the road had partially dried, but I was attacked by the odd vicious squall and on one occasion, I was hit by a gust of wind so strong that my PVC jacket burst open, taking out one of the domes that didn't want to let go. I paused in Wellsford to do it up and continued on through more windy roads finally coming out through Helenville and Kumeu, where I expected to get onto the motorway. I don't know what happened but the next thing I knew I appeared to be riding alongside what I assumed to be the western motorway under (re)construction, then was looking at signs directing me to Albany and Greenithe....Bugger!! Missed a turn somewhere so zipped through to Albany and got onto SH1 there. I don't know how much time I lost but as I got to about Manukau, I caught-up to Adrian and as we pulled into Bombay Cam and his buddy were just finishing their coffees. We had a few minutes here for another break and at this stage, we were looking like finishing at about 0800hrs.....he said as he reached for another Tui!!!
Adrian and I were finally back together and ready to attack highway 22 from Pukekohe to Ngaruwahia, nip through Otorahonga, on to Te Kuiti, out to Eight mile junction and over to Ohura. This proved to be the worst stage of the event and we came to understand why it was NOT designated 'State' highway.....it was a bloody goat track. Narrow, tight and more slick spots and downed foliage than you could shake a stick at. I led the way and would try to pick lines sticking to the centre mounds that appeared to have a bit of grip but invariably, I managed to get out of shape on a few paint lines and slick spots and aborted corners on several occasions. It's a bit hard to look 'through' the corner, which tends to drag the bike through a good clean line, when all you’re worried about is all the crap you have to avoid on the way through. That gets even worse when there is no line through because the lichen covered mound in the centre of the road is hemmed by lovely slick wheel ruts which in turn are nicely trimmed by wet, very slippery painted lines. Oh well...there was only 88 Kms of it!! We finally got out to Ngaruwahia and Adrian pulled over under a light. I wondered what he was up to as I continued down to the turnoff, having a quick check of the ride instructions as I waited there. It turned out, he realised he hadn't paid for his fuel in Bombay and called in to make arrangements for it too be covered.
We were now back on nice, albeit wet roads through Otorahonga to Te Kuiti where we decided to fill-up again. I knew I would make it to Turangi, but this would leave me half a tank to start the Extension and Adrian’s bike didn't seem to be running quite as economically so it meant there would be no worries for him about fuel over the last few Kms. We were now on the run in to the finish, but the Rustys hadn't finished with us. We still had the Ohura loop, and just like last year, it was wet. I adopted my best nana pace again because I don't like slip sliding away, and we endured another 80 odd Kms of bad lines, aborts and uncomfortable riding on roads that weren't built for ST's. That is, until a bit after the final check point at Ohura and I realised we had lost about an hour on the Waingaro and Ohura Roads. It was time to start taking a few risks and put the pressure on. Fortunately there wasn't any traffic and corners were cut safely, although as we neared Taumaranui, we did encounter a large milk tanker who was flying and if he had met us earlier, I would have been toast.....(more thanks to dad and friends)
We were finally out through Taumaranui, on to SH41 and a brisk pace through to the finish, although I did manage to overcook a corner, retaining just enough control and road to avoid an oncoming car....more BHM's, puckering and thanks. We arrived at 0907 18hrs 04 for me and 18 flat for Adrian, had time for a quick photo before checking in and out, being warned of severe wind and cold, donning my helmet again and charging off to Foxton and back on SH1.
It was soon apparent that this easy little jaunt would prove to be as challenging as the rest of the ride. I had to ride through an onslaught of wind and rain but mostly the wickedest cross winds I have ever experienced. Within 10 Km from the start my PVC jacket was again ripped open as I transitioned from a sheltered bluff, through a cutting and all the way across the exposed top, I had to run a gauntlet of highsided B-Trains which were whipping-up all the crap in creation from off the road and presenting it to me as a solid wall which had to be punched through. Now, with me on the ST, a moderate fuel load and a bit of luggage, you have a 400Kg missile that carries a fair bit of momentum. The problem here was, I would be riding with the bike cranked over at about 15-20° to maintain a straight tack and each of these behemoths set up a shelter belt, like the bluffs, that would cause the bike to lurch to the right. Not a problem, except, as you were correcting, you would hit the wall of filthy (with spray, dirt & turmoil) air stirred up by the truck, which would cause another wee shuffle for control. By this time I would have shifted from the left side of my lane to the centre and heading for the convoy of up to 10 cars in tow as I struggled to correct …and then I get hit by the crosswind again and have to avoid being blown off the road. I had to maintain a position on the road which would tradeoff between getting sucked into the oncoming vehicles and being spat off other side!! I found that by upping the speed and my momentum, these violent spasms were more controllable as unpleasant shimmies. (This improved my time somewhat as well) All was fine until around Hunterville somewhere and I encountered a pleasant chap coming the other way, in a white car with pretty blue and yellow patches and a lovely array of the most stunning lights. . I guess I was doing about 135 kph and went through the appropriate sequence of auto-reactions….Three quick BHM’s, the flight or fright response, another quick BHM, then hit the anchors and pulled over. I did my best to look very bedraggled and declined the offer to have seat in his car as I was pretty wet, then explained that, ‘I felt I had to maintain a safe speed to avoid being blown off the road. I was trying to keep the speed down but it had been a battle and I was a victim of the weather’. He had a look at my licence, must have thought that there must have been an element of truth in what this crazy-old-man-who-was-stupid-enough-to-be-on-a-bike-in-these-conditions, was saying…..and he let me go. Well….the following halleluiahs were a site to behold as I slowly set off again, ensuring the bike twitched appropriately at each new gust over the next Km or so…..but now it got hard. I filled up in Sanson, was soon on the Foxton straights, sitting with the traffic at about 110kph and was starting to encounter fatigue along with the steadier but nonetheless stronger and twitchy winds. I came up on two Canter sized trucks and the back one must have been well loaded, but the front one looked a bit light as the top left corner of the truck kept swinging into view. I moved across to the right and I’m sure the right wheels were on the verge of lifting so I quickly passed and left them to their troubles, arrived at Foxton Mobil where it was beautifully sunny and calm, had my card punched, heard there was one more nutter behind me, then hit the road back.
I was now upwind of the oncoming traffic and didn’t have to worry about getting sucked into them…I was being blown into them. On two occasions I was forced across the centre line and on a third, I was unable to gain control until I was right across the road and skipping along the solid white line. At times the bike actually felt like it wanted to lift and skip sideways across the road, so more BHM’s were said and thanks and praises offered up that nothing was coming the other way. I couldn’t cock my knee out on the upwind side to maintain balance and heading, due to an arthritic hip and the ST tank is as wide as I can spread-em. I therefore had to resort to throwing my whole body off to the left which would slowly cause the bike to ease back on track. Fatigue was now becoming a big problem made worse by the straight roads and lack of pace but I eventually made it back to Turangi at 1330, in one piece, 22½ hours elapsed and 2100Kms done. I had real difficulty getting off the bike and was totally shattered, but in that strange GC way, totally elated at achieving the distance within the allotted time. I staggered in to receive my GC bar, Extension badge, certificate and patches, a hearty Rusty Roast and sat around listening to other tales of epic battles won and lost over the preceding night.
I was pretty stiff across my shoulders and lower back from the stresses of riding the cross winds and trundled off for a hot pool before returning for a two hour nap. I was up again about 1830hrs, watched a bit of TV, then relaxed in the hall chatting with Adrian and Shafty and a few others that came and went, eventually hitting the sack at about midnight and slipping into a well earned coma for 6½ hours. It was still raining when I got up, showered, packed then headed over to hand in my cabin key and have breakfast. I bid my farewells and after hearing there could be snow on the desert road, I left and travelled at my usual nana pace through National Park and down the Paraparas.
I really enjoyed the ride home. There was some wind and scattered showers, but it was relaxing to putter along at 110kph and just cruise…..that is until I was entering Wanganui East and encountered another gentleman in one of ‘those’ cars as I was approaching the 50Km zone. I stopped and he asked me what the speed limit was so I pointed to the signs about 100 metres up the road and said I was just starting to slow for it. He then informed me that I had been in an 80Kph zone for about 3kms and asked to see my licence, to which I exclaimed, ‘Bloody hell, I’ve been dawdling along, you should see my economy gauge (which was on about 18.2 k/ltr at the time). He asked where I‘d come from and was heading for, suggested I must be a bit drowsy to have missed the sign and should stop and have a rest…then let me go. I thanked the gods, and promptly took his advice, heading for a coffee with Whanau. I finally got home, through another couple of torrential downpours, at about 1400hrs, economy for the trip home at 19.6k/Ltr (a big difference to the 16 I was getting on the GC run), 2,824Kms done for the weekend and 22,277Kms on the bike.
I believe there were 111 starters this year, 2 ‘Offed’ and 3 pulled out due to weather and 4 completed the GC plus extension (3 were ST’s I think). I’m sure to be a starter again next year, but I look forward to doing my third GC at a sedate pace…. I think 21 hours sounds like a nice target, leaving time for photo opportunities and relaxed stops for fuel, food and the camaraderie that is shared by bikers on a ride.
Once again the event was smoothly run by the Rusty Crew….sadistic bastards that they are…. It’s the wry smile and glint in their eye as they tell you about the route and impending weather that does it. But I love it and a big thanks to Lee and all the Rustys. Only 5,000 Kms left ‘til Christmas now…..then I can start counting down for next year’s GC…and maybe a Mini’s Return.
These blogs were posted on the KiwiBiker forum but I decided it was time for a change.