3 Strikes for the TT2000 and we were ‘In’!
Strike 1 – We got to do a 1,000Km ride
Strike 2 – We got to do 2 of them back to back
Strike 3 – It was in the South Island and we were due for a treat!
Sailings were organised and accommodation was booked for Christchurch and Nelson, tyres were good, the bike is always ready for a decent ride, we decided that a Bronze Flyer would suffice so we could approach the ride in a more relaxed manner and come Friday at 0725, we were ready to go on the Kaitaki, formerly known as ‘Pride of Cherbourg’, along with 40+ other motorbikes, some classics, all heading for various rallies in the South Island.
The forecast for the weekend was pretty good except that we were expecting to encounter a few showers on the way down to Christchurch, but our arrival in Picton was greeted with bright sunshine, dry roads and lots of cops…5 to be precise, between Picton and Blenheim and another 3 before Ward, so we proceeded south with due care.
By Kaikoura we were due for a little refreshment and paused to enjoy a pie in the balmy 26° and as the skies to the south were looking rather gloomy, I opted to don my ‘wets’ before continuing. This proved to be rather fortuitous as no sooner were we heading past the airport when we stuck our first wee shower of hailstones (about the size of marbles), but no problem, the road barely got wet…… however…….by the time we got to Goose Bay things were looking a little grim. Looking across the bay we could see a squall approaching quite rapidly and I quite literally, pulled my neck in when we got to within 100metres of the southern point of the Bay, and the front screamed around the bluff presenting itself as a wall of spray, hail and debris, stirred up by winds in excess of 100kph.
Some of the hailstones this time were about half the size of golf balls, or perhaps if I continue with the marble theme, they had matured to tombolas, and they were falling with such intensity that each hit was felt through the layers of gear and some were bouncing up from my chest and shoulders inside the helmet. I guess at this point, normal people would recognise the gravity of the situation and pull over but Steve and I aren’t that mature and besides, my visor fogged instantly so I couldn’t see much anyway, apart from the fact that the road seemed strangely white. This actually made it easier to follow and fortunately a couplet of droplets ran down the inside of my visor, so I could see enough to continue. I can’t remember why, but I ended up leading, we had slowed our pace to between 20 & 40kph and about a kilometer down the road I realised the white layer was a carpet of hailstones. This realisation only came as we turned onto the Hunderlees where cars ahead of us had formed ruts in the bed of ice.
I took the centre track and continued, getting showered in the wash from trucks coming the other way but as long as I stayed in the rut, the Avon Storms felt fine on the road and we even dribbled past a few cars. By now the blanket of ice was between 3 & 6 inches deep and then it happened...
As we eased our way up an incline, I noticed that there was a stream of water about an inch deep flowing down the rut and right at that moment it eroded a large iceberg into my path. Sure enough, before you could say ‘slip slop slap’ I had been, and the front was gone….Bugger me!! I was back to my feet in an instant, turned the bike off and waited for Steve to help lift it. (300Kg + ¾ of a tank..say 20Kg + luggage…maybe 25Kg + bike leaning downhill = toooo heavy) We got it up, he went round to drop the side stand and I was able to reattach the mirror cover and observe that the wing cover had shattered but the steel bar underneath had done its job protecting the rest of the bike. However, a rock or the ice had managed to bend the foot-brake up slightly and tear a wee chunk out of the black skirt just in front of where my boot sits. Whew, I got off lightly…my bottom rib hurt a little but!
We waved the cars past, mounted straight back up and continued on to find 6 or 8 bikers about a km further up the road, huddling under trees for shelter….we were still too dumb to stop!
As we emerged from the Hunderlees, the ice had melted from the road and we were now just riding in steady rain. I guess I forgot to mention that our balmy 26° had plummeted to 6° and although it eased back up to 9°, it wasn’t very comfortable as we pressed on. When we got into Christchurch, Steve cut and run for his motel to wring his undies out, while I headed for Hampton Honda to get the bike checked and straighten the foot-brake lever slightly. This done, I checked into the Thistle B&B, sorted my gear and headed out to spend the evening with mates, after which I filled the bike and was in bed by 2200hrs…..quite knackered!
I had set two alarms (cell phone and diary) for 0430, but I didn’t need them as I was awake by 0200 and thinking about the day ahead. I finally got up around 0415, packed up, checked the tyres and headed to the start by 0520, pausing in Hornby to put some air in the tyres. It was cool and as soon as I arrived, Steve informed me that we could go early, so by 0545 when we were barely out of Hornby, I realised that the T-shirt and skivvy I was wearing weren’t enough for the 3°, so decided I would fit the liner to my jacket when we stopped to take a pic in Rakaia.
That done, and glove liners fitted, we were soon following 3 other bikes to Methven and as their pace was rather brisk (to say the least) I let them ease ahead but kept their lights in sight so I didn’t have to worry about navigating. Pic 2 taken in Methven and we were now in the groove, heading for our first ‘flyer’ to Lake Coleridge, to photograph the bike in front of the power station. It was now dawn, the temp was still down and the cold squeeze dictated that a natural break was warranted before heading for the first fuel stop at Springfield.
At this time (0805) I needed to put another skivvy on, scoffed a nut bar and eagerly embarked on our first bit of good riding…Arthurs Pass. That was nice and all too soon we were taking the next pic in Kumara then witnessed a couple of fellow TT’ers chatting with a constable on the way out to SH6. That was rather good of them I thought, doing their civic duty and saving us the trouble so we could continue to the next ‘flyer’ without delay, which was a picture of the jetty at Lake Mahinapua, south of Hokitika. More straight and boring but we were doing well so being the hobbitses that we is, we rewarded ourselves with a coffee for elevenses, after our second fuel stop in Greymouth.
On, on….and I was now onto new roads for me. Up SH7 for a pic in Ikamatua, then across for another in Blackball, back out to SH6 and yet another pic in Punakaiki. SH6 proved to be another sweet piece of macadam with mint surface and rolling curves. The sort of road that lifts a biker’s spirits as he locks the wrist and just flows…..so much so that Steve flowed right on past Punakaiki and after much flashing and tooting, I finally had to pass him to get his attention to stop. Best part though…that road was so nice I thought I was lucky to get to do it three times…..tena choice Steve!
We were soon filling again in Westport before heading to Karamea and, although we didn’t need the points, we elected to sample the Denniston ‘flyer’ as it sounded interesting, “a boot scraper” they said, but not quite, as there was a bit of crap on the road and due care was required, but the view from the top was rather impressive. From here it was lots more boring straights until the Karamea Highway which was quite pleasant and we managed to maintain a fairly good pace, although I found the road difficult to read (It’s hard to tell if the mottled chip they use in parts of the South Island has loose stuff on it) on the way back out to our last fuel stop, once more in Westport.
It was now 1700 and with 265Kms to go for the day, we were looking at getting to Nelson by 2000, so Steve led out through the Lower Buller Gorge….more biker ecstasy!!! We dialed in at 120 – 130 and just eased on and off the throttle riding at pace on a mint surface. We picked-up a ZX14 along the way who let us pass then tacked on the back, then we had to take a little more care on the Upper Buller Gorge but we were soon winding our way through Murchison and the turnoff at Kohatu for the last pix of the day in Motueka. At one stage we passed one of those pretty cars and he could obviously see we were enjoying ourselves so he fired us a friendly flash with his lights and waved with his finger, but he must have had other things on his mind as he decided not to hang a U’ee and join us. None-the-less we were soon in Mot’, still fizzing and I asked the others if they’d like one last fang for the day by taking the Moutere Highway back to Nelson. I explained it was a little longer but would have less traffic and also less likely to have any revenue collectors, so that was decided and once again, I led out.
We scampered through there to get to Morley Honda in Wakatu at our estimated 2000, completing 1170Kms in 14¼ hours, checked in, then I retired to the Tahuna Beach Holiday Park where several others on the ride we staying as well. I went back out for a feed and filled the bike in preparation for another early start in the morning, let my son Lance know that I was in town, then collapsed into a coma……
……only to wake at 0300!
I lay around for awhile, mentally running the day’s route through my mind and finally gave-up and got-up to shower and pack. As I went to drop the key at the office, there was Lance so we chatted for a bit before I went to check-in for the ride.
The first section was to Takaka and back and this was more unsampled road for me, from Mot’ onwards. I was a little slow getting ready so we were about 5 minutes late getting away, but then, others were still arriving to check-in. This proved to be the highlight of the trip and set the tone for the day as I led out, recognizing a chap with a bloody great swath of dreads hanging down his back and riding an Africa Twin. We had followed him briefly the day before and he was a very smooth rider so I decided to latch on to him and hoped that the light in my mirror was Steve.
Sure enough, Dreads soon had us picking our way through the other bikes and in no time we started to climb on the most wicked series of hairpins, on a mint surface and the ST was purring….or perhaps that was me?? I was in the groove, I had a pace-setter and must have picked off another twenty odd bikes as the Takaka hill went on…and on…and on and up…and up …and up, the ST surging with power up the hill and rolling easily into the corners, laying flat as it flowed around the tightest of bends, the Avon Storms sticking to the seal like shit-to-a-blanket, never once twitching or giving rise to thoughts of ‘ease up’. It was just ‘yeehaa’ and ‘youuu beeauuty!!’
We crested the hill and by now it was just Dreads and me as we flew down the other side with him edging away. It was now time for my wake-up call as we hit a long (for the Takaka Hill) snakey section and I could see his tail light ahead of me as I straight lined through the kinks. All of a sudden I found there was no road ahead of me, but a larger kink and Dreadsy was luring me into a bloody great chasm!!?? Bloody Hell! Linked ABS brakes were fully deployed and the momentum of my 450’ish KG missile momentarily skipped onto the front wheel before the bike settled, sunk, bit-in and pulled up enough to flick through the larger kink and onwards down to the flats that led into Takaka and the statutory pic, the economy registering at 14.6K/Ltr. A couple of minutes later, Steve rocked in, we let the euphoria settle a bit…..then did it all again….and once again, tackled the Moutere Highway for desert.
By the time we got to the Whangamoas we had settled back to our normal pace and the days ride ahead, but still enjoyed that piece of road too, although I was a little concerned that Steve might not make Picton on the tank. Not to worry, as we weren’t doing the Portage ‘flyer’, we decided to go via Spring Creek and could always detour to fill in Renwick or Blenheim if we had too. Fortunately, that wasn’t required and by Steve easing up on the pace and hunkering down slightly more on the bike, we made the 340’ish Kms to Picton in under 4hours, filled up, shook down and got back on the road.
The next section back through Spring Creek and Renwick, then up the Wairau Valley was dead boring and it was a relief to get to Tophouse Road for some decent riding up to Belgrove. This was the first of our two flyers for the day and pleasant riding all the way through to the check point, fuel and a cooked feed in Murchison. We arrived at this half way point at 1235 and stopped for about an hour there as Steve enjoyed a rather large serving of pancakes topped with lashings of blueberrys while I had bacon sausages, tomatoes, mushrooms and eggs on toast.
With the body feeling revived we were ready to take on the Upper Buller Gorge again, snack a quick pic at Inangahua, got our pic snacked as we approached Reefton (fortunately form the front), then enjoy the hell out of SH7 as it meandered through to Springs Junction and the Lewis Pass which took us to the next check Point in Hanmer Springs. This was our last fuel stop with 265Kms to go via Route 70 for the last pic in Kaikoura and the run to home down SH1.
It was pretty uneventful as we controlled the pace, finally completing another 1170Kms for the day, but this time in just 13hours. Not bad I guess as on top of the hour for lunch, the other stops had to amount to an hour as well. We checked in, got scrutineered, bought our finishers packs and I got a collared T-shirt as well along with the Bronze Flyer Trophy. We then enjoyed a drink and sausage sizzle as we chatted to other riders before calling it a day at about 2030 and heading back to our digs for a well earned rest. Now I had stopped and come out of ‘the zone’, I was shattered.
I slept well, rising about 0700 to clean-up, pack-up and check the bike. I was doing the tyre pressures when I noted the way the tyres had worn and even the little ‘Storm’ etched into last centimeter on the side of the tyre had incurred some scuffing. It immediately had me feeling warm fuzzys about the previous morning’s absolute fang over the Takaka Hill and all the other sweet spots that we had enjoyed over the weekend.
All ready to go, I enjoyed a continental breakfast then hooked up with Steve before checking out some kit back at Hampton Honda. We then visited another mate in Christchurch, before getting back on the road for Picton at about 1300.
We had plenty of time so settled down to a slow pootle, spotting and stopping to chat to other riders we knew as we passed through Cheviot. By the time we left there though, time was a bit tighter so we upped the pace through the Hunderlees for the third time in the weekend. Then came my next big wake-up call.
We were on the decent about 6-8Km from Oaro and the coast, when we caught a couple of trucks and the second (front one) was quite long, so after nipping into the gap between them, I waited for my opportunity to pass. I happened to be in 3rd when I decided to go and got a few metres up the trailer when I spotted there was a van approaching. I backed off, realising instantly I’d be stuck in no mans land, or worse, the 2nd truck would take me out, so I planted it, aiming for the quickly narrowing gap between the front of the truck and approaching van. The ST burst past the front of the truck at about 130 and if the van hadn’t given me that extra bit of space, I would have been toast, not to mention whatever other collateral. Then, as soon as I had bolted from that situation I had to hit the picks to avoid Steve and set-up for the next corner which was now looming as they come up pretty quick at that sort of pace, to say nothing of staying clear of the two trucks following. I didn’t have time to shit myself but afterwards, I was totally pissed off with my lack of judgement. I chastised myself, BHM’s were said and we settled into the rest of the ride.
We had a pleasant boat trip back on the Kaitere and were chatting with another chap that had achieved a Silver Flyer Status on the ride and I noticed he was wearing his TT T-shirt, which had “I’ve done 2000Kms in 48hours” on the front. I thought, ‘that looks cool’ then got to thinking about previous rides and realised I’d done 2100kms in less than 24hours once…but hey, The TT2000 was an absolute blast. The organisation was superb and the route was primo. It was great to enjoy another foray into the south and enjoy some new roads.
I finally got home at 2140, 3113Kms done for the long weekend and 89,200Kms on the bike….absolutely shattered and totally fanged out…..but I still have a wry smile as I think of the Takaka Hill and Lower Buller Gorge…..not to mention SH6 through Punakaiki….and…..and!!!
These blogs were posted on the KiwiBiker forum but I decided it was time for a change.