Saturday, 25 January 2014

Pre-Brevet Shakedown No2

The second shakedown weekend was a last minute decision upon hearing the weekend prior that a road linking the Rainbow and the Acheron Valley's, through the Alma Valley was open by DoC for January and February.

Scott was super keen (as always) and he soon rounded up Andre (a fellow Brevet virgin) to join us. It also gave us the opportunity to check out one of the optional legs (as if 1100 kilometres wasn't enough!) in the Kiwi Brevet. Which was UP through the St James Cycleway ...

Leaving Christchurch early Saturday morning it was a quick drive through to Hanmer with only one coffee stop along the way, we saddled up and headed over to the bakery ... where else do you start a big ride!

With tummies full and pockets stuffed, we saddled up again and headed north over Jacks Pass, up the Clarence Valley until we got to the St James Homestead turnoff and turn off we did.

Quickly through Peters Lookout we started descending when a big pffffttttt came from my front tyre! Slowly coming to a stop, my tyre was spewing Stan's sealant at a great rate of knots ... just like Scott was descending in front of me! Andre was behind me and pulled over to help. It was obvious that a rock had sliced the side wall and we would need to put in a tube and boot on the inside of the tyre. Scott had reached the bottom of the hill and realised something was going on without him! Not one to miss out, he started back up the hill!

We were soon back on the track heading down into the Edwards Valley, up over Charlies Pass and into the Waiau valley, it was starting to warm up and we taking every opportunity to refill our bottles, we crossed the river a few times over the bridges, pushed on a few points, took in some magnificent views, rode through a group of wild horses and foals.

After five hours we stopped at the Lake Guyon turnoff in some shade and had a snack, feeling slightly refreshed we headed on up the valley and soon got to the bottom of Mailing Pass, from the bottom car park to the Pass is about 6 kilometres and climbs 810 metres. It soon ramped up and we spread out, finally all walking pushing our bikes up ... tired and hungry I was not in my happy place, in fact it was a pretty dark and deep hole!  I had never been so happy to make it to a top of climb before as I was then!

We bombed down the other side until we reached the Clarence River just near Lake Tennyson. We stopped  for a snack, lie down and to relive the climb! Well, we still had Island Saddle to climb which we could see and then an unknown distance to the turn off and find somewhere to camp. It was just on seven in the evening, so we threw our legs over and headed off when Scott's rear tyre went pfffttttttt! See doesn't want to miss out!

The tyre wouldn't self seal! So it was a tube insertion, not too major surgery but time consuming when you are tired. Ten minutes later we were back on the road again! Again we were climbing for once I wasn't trailing, must of been the Ems Power Bar I had just consumed, holding the sausage roll fueled Andre off until 100 metres from the summit when he jumped out of my slip stream and made for the top!

Regrouping, a quick look at the map, we headed off down hill 10 kms of it ... pure bliss ... huge grins spread across our dusty and grimy faces! We were soon at Lake Sedgemere Shelter our turn off just on dusk and 2900 odd metres of climbing behind us ... What a day!  

I set up my tent and tucked into dinner, it was not long before I rolled into my sleeping bag to stack plenty of ZZZZZZ's

Morning came around to quickly, but dawned another stunning day. Sunrise was beautiful , the coffee was even better!

By seven we were back on our bikes, riding through the Alma Valley, this was a quick 24 kms through to the Severn bridge. We soon saw the new shelters/toilets and information boards which are part of the National cycle way, we pushed along the rolling road down towards the Acheron/Clarence confluence and homestead at a reasonable rate.

This caught up with me a few kms later when the tank started to feel empty ... so stopping I dug out some food and feed the worms to stop them screaming! We cruised along beside the Clarence river until we got to Jollies Pass, by twelve we were back where we were 25 hours earlier ... the bakery!

The discussion was whether it was a one pie or two pie day? After 170 kilometres and 4200+ metres of climbing it seemed the most important decision to be made. These were scoffed in the shade of the trees on the lawn when the second most important question needed to be asked ... Where for coffee?

But that was side tracked when I noticed that my front tyre was flat again! So back to the van load the bikes in and a quick change into some reasonably clean clothes - coffee was back on the agenda!

A great weekend, with some interesting terrain, stunning scenery and bloody good company!

I thought I was 99 % sure of my kit before this weekend, but after another night in the tent, it's been given the boot and I have gone back to my bivy bag, probably only 1 or 200 grams heavier but won't flap about keeping me awake. I had been using my Garmin 705, the charge was only lasting 12 hours and would take four hours to charge when plugged into the wall, with navigation and pace being reasonably important  it too got the boot and I am know the proud owner of a Garmin etrex (again, I had one of the original ones years ago) on AA lithium batteries these last 3-4 days, problems solved!

With having been away for the last two weekends and the next two on the Brevet, this one has been spent at home cleaning and sorting out gear, getting last minute items sorted, along with a few chores.

I am sure this week will go quickly and Friday evening will see me arriving in Blenhiem ready for the noon departure on Saturday. I have mixed feelings, nerves, excitement, can't wait for it to start ... which will no doubt change to can't wait for it to finish! Moments of doubt ... can I finish! Can I finish within my goals!

What ever happens it is going to be a great adventure!

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Pre-Brevet Shake Down

Three weeks until the Kiwi Brevet starts ... I joined some friends Scott, Jo, Mark and Hana for an overnight trip up past Lake Sumner in North Canterbury for a bit of a shake down!

It would be a good opportunity to make sure everything worked as it should and that the gear choices were appropriate. The only difference was that I carried a Jetboil stove, probably an extra pound or two, but otherwise it was as close to what I am planning to carry on the Brevet.

Travelling with Scott ... it is compulsory to stop for coffee! no complaints from me :-)

We left Waikari and headed in land, initially on sealed road then a gravel road, which in turn became a four wheel drive track eventually petering out into a sheep track ... it was getting on in the day at this point ... so a decision about a campsite was made ... now with this group it couldn't just be "the next nice grassy spot we ride past" oh no it had to be "a spot on the otherside of the valley ... 2 kilometres ... 4 river crossings away!"

The campsite was guarded by swarms of man eating sandflies, these natives have a fearsome reputation for attacking naked human flesh on mass! Many methods of tactical avoidance were taken, basically fully covering up and sitting in the wind worked.

Morning came ... with flesh intact! The head of the valley had disappeared under a brewing nor westerly, packing we were soon on our way ... with a strong tail wind. At one point I was pushed along for nearly two kms without peddling - wahooo!

We cruised along making good progress, unfortunately the wind was getting stronger and at times we were being pelted with fine gravel ... not very pleasant! As we headed up over Jacks Saddle things weren't going to get much better, the wind was funneling through here probably gusting 100 kms an hour!

Scott slinked through, Mark followed but started to slide towards the telegrapgh pole and fence (I thought he was stopping to take photos, but soon realised there wasn't much control going on) Hana then demonstrated the aireal dismount with a double somersult with a half twist scoring a solid 9.5! I jumped off my steed to grovel my way around the corner trying to hang on my bike. Scott went back to help Jo.

Mark had picked up Hana and taken her out of the wind to attend to her scrapes and bruises. I unwound her carbon baby from the barb wire fence. A bit of attention to both and we were back on the road, both tough cookies!

Just over an hour later we were back at the vehicles getting change and looking for a fresh coffee!

A great couple of days out 147 kms, 2900 metres of climbing 8 hours 45 minutes of riding.
Thanks for Scott, Jo and Hana for sharing their experiences of the last Kiwi Brevet, plenty of good lessons shared

Pretty pleased to find that just about everything worked as planned! I had a couple of questions going into this weekend ...
One, do I need to go to a larger diameter tyre on the back? No, the 1.95 will be fine! I have a 2.25 on the front.
Two, are the tyre pressures going to be right? Yep, 30 psi is too much will try 26 psi.
Three, will the tent be suitable? I have a ultralight terranova laser photon elite weighing just under 800 grams! It is pretty good we did have some wind, I would think that I will need to choose my campsites carefully, protected from the wind. I have upgraded the pegs probably adding a 100 grams.
Four, do I use a camel back or bottles? I had trained with bottles all summer but have used a camel back extensively over the years. The result ... bottles and after a discussion I will carry a litre foldable bottle for those legs where I need extra fluids.

Other items which need attention, longer merino socks for evening wear, rear brake needs adjusting.

My bike is heading into the day spa for some TLC this week. Otherwise I feel that I am pretty set for that start on the 1st!

 Just got the good news from the day spa ... need a new chain, cassette, chainrings, jockey wheels, brake pads, bottom bracket ... the joys of riding ... you ride things wear out!

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Central Otago Rail Trail

The time finally arrived for Anja's and my own adventure to head south to the beautiful region of Central Otago, one of my favourites spots!

Anja arrived at work with her bike and gear, a little bit apprehensiveof the journey ahead. We left Christchurch about 10am for the 6 hour trip south on what would be a stunning day passing through the Mackenzie country with Mt Cook brilliantly displayed for us.

Finally arriving in the historic town of Clyde, once we had checked into our accommodation the Hartley Arms, we went for a wee walk around town to look at the buildings and find a pizza for dinner.

  We woke to rain ... how ironic we are in the driest area in New Zealand and hottest! Once packed we took the advice from the cycle shop we took the River track to Alexandria, this extended on first leg by four kilometres but was more sheltered from the rain and wind. An hour later we had arrived like a couple of drowned rats we hit the nearest cafe for a hot chocolate, it was still raining and I was getting pretty cold, so we went and found the local hunting and fishing store brought a couple pairs of polypro gloves and a thermal top for me and headed on our way ... next stop Chatto Creek! About half an hour out it stopped raining I had started to warm up.

Chatto Creek was our lunch stop and we headed to the pub, with the fire roaring and a great feed we sat there chatting to other riders, when the publican came in and asked Anja whether she would like to feed the lamb, next minute the lamb appears around the corner!

Once the lamb was feed, we headed off on our journey heading to Lauder arriving about 3 ish taking 6 and 3/4 hours (3 hours 40 of riding) to cover the 51 kilometres.

Anja arrived tired but happy with her achievement and I was one proud dad!

Staying at the Lauder Hotel, which had recently reopened we did our chores washing our cycle kit ready for the next day and tucked into a large country pub dinner ... it wasn't long before we were stacking the zzzzz's!

Day Two. With breakfast done and dusted, we jumped on our steeds and headed off in to a classic Central Otago day, absolutely clear skies, the sun was out and so was our grins. Today was our biggest day 58.5 kms, but would be our most interesting.

The Trust which operates the Rail Trail has done a great job putting all the history/information boards together and to keep everyone interested. We purchased a Rail Trail Passport which at every station we could get a stamp in it, this certainly was motivating!

We had tunnels and viaducts to ride through and over

One of the high lights of the trip was the stop at Hays Engineering, this property is run by the Historic Places Trust and is a stunning example of early buildings, workshops and lots of ingenuity!

Soon after leaving here we reached the highest point of the Trail from here it would be all downhill (well pretty much) it is pretty much half way too!

Lunch was at Wedderburn, made famous by Graham Sydney's painting. We pushed on to Waipiata ... not much pushing since it was an easy peddle in the sunshine!
We had spent 6 and half hours getting there but only 3 hours fifty of that we were  actually riding, Anja finished strongly and was meet by the Waipiata Man ...

... Staying at the Waipiata Hotel we enjoyed the hospitality and great food here ... we  discovered that our my Great Grandmother (Anja,s Great Great Grandmother) lived here Isabelle Dowle working for the Post Office (1905) and probably meet her Husband, Walter Webb (Creamery Manager) here. Isobella's father William Dowle was the Post Master here having arrived in New Zealand (circa 1887) from Gloucester, England. This was a surprise to us!

All of a sudden our journey had a lot more value to it!

Day Three, rolled around we packed up and headed out, the day was going to be our quickest with the 52.5 kms covered in three hours riding and stopped in Hyde for morning tea. Anja was flying this particular morning, the end was in-sight. We had one other stop along the way which was at the memorial of the 1943 Train Accident in which 21 lives were lost.

Middlemarch appeared on the horizon we had traversed 168 kilometres in three days had seen a whole lot of country we hadn't seen before, learnt about the history of the area, discovered some family history and made some too!

For me this was a special trip, to spend three days one on one with Anja, to see her grow in confidence, to share an adventure together ... it was a trip to remember! Can't wait for the next one.

We spent the night in Middlemarch, caught a shuttle back to Clyde to drive back to Christchurch in time for Christmas :-)