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
These blogs were posted on the KiwiBiker forum but I decided it was time for a change.