Wednesday, September 25, 2013

New skinny tread - Conti SpeedRIDE

I just picked up a new tire from Jville Cycles and its worth sharing. Its the Continental SpeedRIDE.

I initially thought it was a Cyclocross tire, but in fact its more of a trekking/touring tire. It has the same tread as the Continental Speed Cyclocross, but is 42mm wide instead of the CX legal 33. The only other difference is some very faint tread below the shoulder knobs, that is missing on the CX version.
These tires replaced some very worn cheap CST tires that I was commuting on but the difference in rolling resistance is very noticeable.

With an IWR (Inflation to Weight Ratio - I just invented that, I think) of 1.4  (70kgs/50psi) it rolls incredibly well on the road but is still very comfortable on the gravel.  Obviously in the mud they are going to be pretty hopeless, but they are not designed for that. 50psi makes them very comfy but another 10psi should liven them up a lot more if necessary.

I get the impression this is going to be a great tire on hardpack and dry clay so I am looking forward to trying it out in those environments. They were purchased for a ride from Rotorua to Taupo through the new Geothermal Wonder Ride, but a crappy weather forecast dealt to that adventure.  I saw them as an alternative to Sammy Slicks but the tread is not as aggressive as those so it may roll even quicker.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Cyclocross in Upper Belgium - 4 years on.

My Singular Kite, a very fun bike.
We are pretty lucky in Wellington, well Upper Hutt actually, with a great Cyclocross series put on by the crew from the Bike Hutt. The series actually started 4 years ago. The first race had but a handful of CX bikes and most of us were on MTB's of some kind. I opted for an old  single speeded Diamond Back until the next year's series where I used my newly acquired  Karate Monkey with Cross tires. It was great fun but the Monkey is a pretty hefty bike to shoulder with discs. The next year I put my back out in the very first race of the series and was knackered for the rest. At the end of that year I took delivery of a proper cross bike frame, a new Singular Kite. I quickly built it up and have done some awesome rides on it of both on MTB trails and on Gravel Grinding rides.

Cross racing is unlike anything else I have done on two wheels, and I have done quite a few different things. It doesn't have the cut-throat style of road racing, or the same kind of intensity as track racing. It doesn't feel as serious as MTB racing and there is a real camaraderie amongst the riders as they battle each other lap for lap, until one of them blows, and they often do blow. There is no sucking a wheel in CX. There is mud, and spills, but injuries are rare. And afterwards there is always a heart-felt hand shake from the competitor you have been racing.

Why Cyclocross is a good idea
1. You don't need to do a lot of training, races are all under 1 hour, doable with a bit of commuting and maybe some running to boost your cardio fitness.
2. It's great to spectate at. Friendly sledging and cheering is encouraged.
3. You can watch the other grades race as well and get to know those riders as well as the riders from your own grade.
4. Because of the flat nature of the courses its very easy to include a kids race into the programme.
5. No matter what bike you ride, you will be welcome. No one will look down their nose at you if you don't have the latest gear.
6. You can be deadly slow but you will never finish more than 1 lap after the winner. (Those are the rules).
7. When you are not CXing your bike will make an awesome commuter and adventure bike. You may even want to do some Brevet style riding on it. It will also pass as a road bike with some slick tires one.

A good thing about the Bike Hutt series is that we have some very good photographers recording the racing and publishing or putting videos on line. 

Craig has also published a Coffee table book of some of his favourite shots from the last two years racing. 2012 and 2013.

Check out one of Ricoh's videos.

The as always immaculately dressed Gav flinches as Marcel
monsters past and roosts all over him.  Awesome shot Ricoh.
Ricoh's Flickr stream

This year was the first year I have actually ridden a proper CX bike in the races and it makes it a lot more fun. I was actually planning to do a bit of training for the CX series this time around but we sold our house and moved into Wellington so there was basically no time. I had a race entry carried over from last years Night Time Madness night-running race so I thought I could probably train for that instead with a few lunch time runs.

A shot of the Harcourt Park final from Craig Madsen.

Here is my schedule in a bit more detail if anyone is interested. As I said it was a minimalist programme aimed at a running race, not Cyclocross racing.

Basically it was (weather dependant) 3 runs a week, one of them long and 3 commutes by bike on the flat. My commuter bike is a 2x1 with 50/36 - 17 gearing so it was mostly spinning. Before that, for maybe 2 months I was doing pilates once a week with 3 short runs and maybe one ride a week. Before that I was doing some pretty hard cross-fit sessions at lunch with one of my work mates. I am sure the core work is a great help. I think I got a far better return in my cardio fitness from the hill running as I would not have been interested in riding hard at that time of the year. The commuting was just enough to remind the legs that they needed to go around and around hard, once a week at a CX race on the sunday : )

M - Sa shift house
Su CX race 16th California Park

M 50 mins commute x2,
Tu 50 mins commute x2, 1.09hrs hill run
W 50 mins commute x2, 55 mins hill run
Su CX race 9th Moonshine Park

M 50 mins commute x2,
Tu 50 mins commute x2, 1.02hrs hill run
W 41 mins hill run
Th 1hr hill run
Su 2hr hill run

Tu 50 mins commute x2, 60mins hill run
W 2hr hill run
Th 50 mins commute x2,
Su CX race Nats round 9th O/A Blenheim

M 50 mins commute x2, 28mins flat run
Tu 50 mins commute x2, 38mins hill run
W 50 mins commute x2,
Th 2hr hill run
F 25min run
Su CX race 9th California Park

M 50 mins commute x2, 53mins hill run
Tu 50 mins commute x2, 39mins hill run
W 50 mins commute x2,
Th 2hr hill run
F 50 mins commute x2
Su CX race 8th Moonshine

M 50 mins commute x2, 42mins hill run
Tu 50 mins commute x2,
Th 1.38hr hill run
F 50 mins commute x2, 29min run
Su CX race 5th Harcourt Park

A word of caution, Cyclocross is a winter sport. If you put a lot of effort into it you may well find yourself feeling a bit fried at the time of the year you would normally be starting to get serious with some base training for your summer season.

See you next year.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Mainland weekender

A series of coincidences led to a sortee down to the mainland to compete in the Blenheim round of the Cyclocross Nationals on July 21.

De Snor, Alex Revell was keen to head down and asked if he could stay in the Voodoo Lounge. His fellow Revolution Cycles rider Geoffrey Notman had to head down south anyway to take photos for some painting he was doing, so it would have been rude not to fit in the race while he was there as well. For me it was a good chance to catch up with my family and bring back a motor scooter my brother had offered me, and obviously I would take part in the race too.

There was a taste of things to come when on the Friday morning as I was getting ready a particularly nasty quake rocked our house. It was a lot worse at my work where people were getting a bit more excitable, as is there job to. While I was sailing over the Cook Strait on the Bluebridge Ferry later on I got a text from my daughter saying another one had struck.

Alex roosts it up. Image from Sarnim Dean.
Things seemed to cool down for a bit that night while my brother shouted us out to tea at the Redwood Tavern. The next day, Saturday, like a couple of gun-fighters, Alex and Geoff rode into town rather than accept the complimentary Voodoo Lounge flat-deck-truck pick-up.

They checked out dads latest "eagle" and made themselves comfy in the Voodoo Lounge. It was the first time for Geoff but Alex had stayed before and after the 2012 Kiwi Brevet..

We tweaked the bikes for the next day's event and after a wholesome meal topped off with a complimentary bottle of wine left over from the Grape Ride three years previous, we hit the sack.

Around 7am on Sunday we were awoken by a sharp quake that knocked a picture frame off the shelf. Hmmm. A bit of a swarm thing going on here.

I had first heard of Mondo Kopua at the inaugural Kiwi Brevet in 2010 and he seems to have taken up the role of introducing CX to the locals in Blenheim. They were very organized and I think they also had a points system for the non-CX class where they got credits for things such as skin-suits, costumes and leg-shavings.

Image from
The course had some good technical bits and was quite a bit rougher than the manicured stop-banks and parks we are spoilt with in Upper Hutt, or "Upper Belgium" as its known. I was happy to be on my steel Singular Kite and wondered how much battering Alex and Geoff would have been getting on  their alloy Yeti's as they bounced over the myriad of cow-pocks that were in parts of the course. I don't usually race CX with gloves on, and this day was no exception but by the end of the event I had a very nasty blister from my cow-pock induced death-grip!

My speedy starts seem to be a thing of the past so these days I seem to be relying on a consistency that manifests itself in a 14 second spread on a long 7-8 minute course like this. Geoff and I were both racing vets men 45+ and I watched as he started putting putting a good 10 seconds a lap on me as he rode off leaving me to battle with the fastest ladies. Anja McDonald and Jenna Makgill were both riders I had heard about through mountainbiking and I knew technically speaking both of them would ride rings around me. Downhill, Cross country, fixed gear and Singlespeeding, these ladies have big reps, World champ and National Champs status across all codes, but I had no idea any of them were CXers. 

Me flying my Kite.
Check out the levers.
I busied myself at trying not to fall off on the slimy off-camber and after a few laps I managed to haul Jenna back probably courtesy of my running fitness, up one of the grunty walking climbs. It was common for me to come a cropper at least once a lap, and to fail at reclipping into my pedals as my crash point was usually followed by a pocky descent that was bumping my feet off the pedals. Sucks to be a nana!

The race was to be a bit longer than normal at 60 minutes plus 1 lap and eventually I pulled back Geoffrey and started catching a few more riders and lapping a few more. The "other" Mike Anderson from Stoke Cycles was just around the corner and for two laps I tailed him and Anja as Anja's lap times started to blow out. On the last lap I made a move and somehow cleaned the technical bit that was stymieing me, dropped Mike and ran past Anja on the next climb. Great I had it nailed. Unfortunately the last zig-zag proved too much for my nana-skills and I lost the front-end yet again and with my levers getting progressively lower with each get-off there was no way I was going to make the time back with less than a couple of minutes to go!

Somewhere along the way we caught Jut Bishop who I remember from back in the 90's as being the area's top MTBer. Its cool to see him still out there giving it a crack. 

Geoffrey Notman with his racing head on.
Alex was having it mostly his own way after his main competition, Logan Horn from Christchurch burped his tubeless tires twice on a firm part of the course, not that it meant that Alex slowed down at all, indeed he came a good cropper on the triple-set of stiles at the start-finish and scored a good haematoma for his efforts. It was great to hear some of Alex's tales from his CX racing in Europe last year.

We were late in starting the race so Geoff and I split ASAP when it finished to get out to his next appointment at Renwick where he was taking some shots for inspiration for his next series of paintings. Alex also took off so sadly missed the prize giving which looked particularly salubrious with some very nice bottles of wine and other goodies up for grabs.

After attending the Renwick Boar Slaying comp we realised what a completely fringe activity Cyclocross is by comparison. Thanks Mondo for lifting the profile!

After another wholesome meal from my mum I was contemplating jumping on my new scooter for its last ride on the mainland, to the ferry, when the next quake hit at 5.09. A 6.5 ! What a monster. I cant say I've ever been scared of an earthquake to that extent in NZ before. Suffice to say it was a busy week at work the next week.

We really enjoyed our brief shaky interlude down south and would recommend anyone to check out the CX events Mondo, Brent and his crew are putting on down there. We travelled via the Bluebridge Ferry which has free wifi and movies. Compare this to the Interislander Ferry where you have to pay for both of these, on top of a more expensive passage fee, plus The Bluebridge people had a half price deal on : )

Thanks to Sarnim Dean for the use of his awesome images on these pages. Check out the classic one below. This is Kim Swan (the one on the left ; ). She is a good friend of my fathers and has written many books on Pig-Hunting and horse riding.  For more on this theme check out Sarnim's pix in his Flickr feed.

Kim Swan, look harder, no, on the left !
Results here.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

When spray painting your dog....

When spray-painting your dog its important to mask out the eyes and ears. After applying a white base coat you can over-spray in the colour of your choice.

Simon and Dave discuss tactics
 This little doggie (Ducat) was very popular at the Wainui Worlds 6 hour event the other weekend. He pulled more chicks than a well-heeled dude with a 'Fat-bike" !

Four of us were riding with the Biketec Team, and our Team Leader Simon was doing double time on the Cycle Science Team. Our team consisted of Dave -  907 Fat bike. Chris - Cannondale Prophet and Simon had a Merida hard tail and a Transition Transam. I had my Karate Monkey and my Singular Kite, both running drop bars. There wasn't room for my fully in the end, and with the weather looking like it was going to be miserable it was probably a good idea to keep springy and pivoty things home in the dry.

Simon had been raving about his Transition 29er for quite a while so I was keen for a blast on it. I tried to encourage everyone to run the same pedals so we could swap about. One of the coolest things with teams racing is being able to try a different rig on the same course and compare it with the previous one.

Dave's Fat Bike was not idea for the conditons (no snow or sand to be seen) and I think the lap Simon did on it saw him come in with the reddest of all his faces on. I wasn't that keen and had my hands full with other bikes. Considering Dave's fitness he did bloody well to punt it around in the sticky mud.

Someone had to say it. Dave, your baby is FAT !

I did the first lap on my Karate Monkey with the Knard on the front and it felt like hard work. It does feel hard when you are not even keeping pace with guys who are supposed to be racing for 6 hours themselves, but ours was strictly a fun team so there were no big expectations. 

Airing up the Knard
 I eagerly grabbed Simons Transistion Transam for my next lap and was really impressed. Its the closest thing to a motorbike I have ever ridden that still had pedals on. It had a big-hit fork up front with a 20mm thru-axle and big fat Hans-dampf tires on it. It had monsterous bars, a tiny stem and it was very forgiving while also being quick handling. The geometry reminded me a lot of my Karate Monkey, with its shortish rear stays, but a quick check of the stats showed that it was a full pound heavier at 6.4 pounds, and the cockpit was a fair bit longer. This bike is bullet-proof. It was a real blast to ride for sure, but not ideal for the course we were riding on. Had the Spoon Hill section been in the mix this bike would have been in its element.

Karate Monkey and Kite

 My next lap was on my Singular Kite cross bike which I had just recently converted to single-speed. I was running a 34-18 gearing combo and it just flew up the climbs. It was the lightest rig by a long way at a sniff over 20 pounds. This lap was a real blast but I would have lost a bit of time on the lower Snail Trail on my 33mm tires.

When you are in a 4 man team you don't get that many laps, and my last one was back on the Monkey, this time with the Knard substituted for something weighing about a kg less. It was my best lap and I think it was a toss-up for which lap was the most fun. They were all different in their own way, but I am definitely a drop-bar fan at WTP. On these kind of courses you can run a pretty simple rig, rigid, drop-barred or single-speed and be giving away next to nothing.

In the end the rain cleared up about 30 mins before we started and the course held up beautifully, which apparently is more than you could say for the event it clashed with in Rotorua. The organisation was awesome and there was a cool very low-key vibe. It would be a great course to do a solo 6 hour on.

My lap times
1. Wasn't a full lap.
2. 26.57 - Transition Transam
3. 26.12 - Singular Kite Singlespeed CXer
4. 25.24 - Surly Karate Monkey

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

NZ Singlespeed champs 2013 - Pig and Whistle

Pre-race posers.
Last weekend was the New Zealand Singlespeed Nats. We loaded up the Camry with Cleetus, his family and his Fat Chance and went road-tripping to Rotorua, or Roto-vegas as its known. We must have got the last cabin in Rotorua as I had no idea it was a long weekend when I booked the unit 5 weeks out. It was by a fence, maybe 10 metres off the main road, and boy did those big trucks shake the house.

The company was good though and Cleetus's 2 year old Clem, and myself have a similar sense of humour.

The "help"
The Singlespeed champs is often described as the Rugby 7s without the Rugby, and its always a hard call as to whether you have more fun competing or watching. I had the Karate Monkey single-speeded with my giant Knard 3 inch tire on the front, and Matt had a new Eno rear hub on his vintage Fat Chance 26er hardtail. It was looking pretty nice. A failure with Matts tubeless set-up in the morning had us throwing in a tube at the last minute but other than that we were both very fresh and well rested from a lacking of training point of view!

We turned into the Waipa Mill entrance on the way into Rotorua and met up with Peter Colvin from Team RTD, (check out his pix!) he had just done a lap or two with Rosara someone and Gaz... I was all for taking the monster truck tire off the front of my Karate Monkey but Pete convinced me it would be superb, and it turned out it was. 

The race briefing was a laugh in its own right as the scary looking organiser (Rah) told us that if we had practised the course that was marked out the previous day, then we were sucked in badly. It was a decoy. The real course was marked in completely different markers : ) That was a blow to the hard-outs. Not that you can have a bad time riding any of trails in Rotorua. There are so many of them.

Race start: Images by Odile
Just to liven stuff up the organisers swapped the positions of all our bikes before our Lemans start so it was a bit like watching Zombies on crack as everyone panicked trying to find their steeds. Poor old Garth Weinberg got a very late start, but the riders made room for the man in the "Gimp suit" and before long the lead was his.

There was a fairly good representation from the Wellington/New Plymouth crew with some  minimalist costumes that caught the eye. Thomas Lindup seemed to attract a fair bit of beer on his ride which had a detrimental effect on his disc brakes. Jonny Waghorn's costume and his similiarly specced Singular Swift were also very well presented. Tom Lynskey had the Hello Kitty look nailed but was suffering from a bit of chafing by the finish.

Jonny Waghorn (The Flash) with his similiarly decked out Singular Swift: Image by Al Crossling
I had a great time dicing with fellow crusties Geof Blanc and Scott Emmens who I met during  the last Kiwi Brevet and their partners were fully into it with some great costumes and support (blood-bags, etc). See team US-Postal in Peter Colvin's photos, thats Scott's crew.

One thing I noticed that was completely different to the World Singlespeed champs held in Rotorua in 2010, was the design of the course. As Cleetus and I noticed the next day (sunday)when we stumbled across the old Worlds course, it had a very long climb in it. In 2010, this climb started about 20 seconds after you had just skulled your beer. Not good.... In 2013 you had a chance for your beer to settle before you got into oxygen debt. The new Nats course was a very user friendly affair with no heinous climbs, just a few short grunts.

Thomas - part man part Sasquatch. Als image.

I am not sure of the actual downside of drinking beer while competing, common sense would say it was a silly idea, but I don't feel that it hampered me in any way. I have no idea how long the race was because the only result they take is for 1st man and woman. The both of them immediately went under the "gun" as is compulsory for any winner, and within hours Garth and Erin were sporting new tattoos, Garth his 4th NZ champs one.

Lets hope Garth retires before he runs out of skin !

Dr Ferrari (Geoff Blanc) behind me making a move before pouncing down the nana line and getting in front. Luckily I passed him in the beer queue as he spent too much time savouring his Speights - the curse of the Southern Man.

Dicing with young Motorhead bogan for a couple of laps.
His gear was too tall for the gutty climbs but he got me in the end.
More links:
Al Crosslings Flickr site.
2013 Pig and Whistle NZ Singlespeed Champs Facebook page.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


Here are some first impressions of my new Knard 29+ 3 inch tire as fitted to my rigid Surly Karate Monkey. These tires are not supposed to be fitted on anything less than a 35mm wide rim, so the hell fires of damnation will likely rain down on me some time soon. The rim they are built to go with is the Rabbit-hole 50mm rim.

My rim is a Sun Ringle Equaliser. I have no idea how wide it is, but I am not someone who pushes the limits as far as bike handling goes, so hopefully the tire wont fall off. I have also run 2inch tires on Mavic Open Pro road rims with no problems, so take everything I say with a grain of salt. I have seen elsewhere were people have mounted them to Stans Arch rims to give them a spin. There were certainly no issues with setting them up on my rim.

This bike is currently set up for this weekend's Single Speed nationals so I thought I'd sneak in a few rides to see how it felt. I started with only 11 psi in the front. Going was tough initially up Belmont Road Hill into a head wind with the low pressure but got better as I changed direction into a muddy cow-pocked climb up onto the Old Coach Road. Traction was great, the front didn't dig in, so the rear didn't slip under load. I wasn't expecting that.

I was really looking forward to the slippery rutted descent down the Maranatha Bridle track. I usually hate this track in the wet, but I was surprised to ride it with heaps more confidence than I normally would have on my 26er fully. I was impressed. The tire soaked up all the bumps and didn't once slide off the camber. If I could have fitted one on the back I would have been flying. Back on the tar-seal decent and the tire was inclined to steer very straight and not want to wander off line.

A seriously large tube
This morning I did a bit of reading and saw where most people seem to be running them at 19 to 21 psi, so I put in 20 psi and found it to be responding a lot more rapidly with side to side movements, like a normal tire. It felt similar to running a normal 29er tire with about 25 psi in it. Of course you miss out on a fair bit of the cushioning effect.

I haven't yet ridden up hill with the higher psi but I'm expecting it to roll a bit faster. There is no doubt its a very heavy tire; reported to be 1270 grams for the 27tpi wire bead version. The tube itself is massive and feels like it weighs about 300 grams. I would have weighed the tire but couldn't find anything big enough to contain it : )

Here is the most information I have found from a person currently using the Knard in its two versions.  The post is by Nurse Ben.

About to head down the slippery rutted Maranatha track

On the tar-seal

Racing Ralph on the back, Knard on the front


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

BCGG Spartacus challenge

After the heat (and worry) of the lunch time challenge had died down I was quickly hankering for a semi-organised Gravel Grinder. The invites went out on Facebook as I already had a route in mind. The tour de grace was to be the Puketiro Road climb which links the back of Moonshine, via Bulls run road to Battlehill Forest Farm. I'd done it a few times while getting in some miles for the Tawhio Brevet and figured it needed a bit more exposure to the skinny wheeled (cx) brigade. It developed a name; the BCGG (Boganville Casual Gravel Grinder) Spartacus Challenge,  in honour of Fabian Cancellara (nick-named Spartacus) who was doing battle in Paris Roubaix later that night. 

I got a good response from some of my old Kiwi Brevet buddies who are typically always up for a challenge. Two Owens, an Andy, Rico from Iride, Dave and a special guest appearance by the only sub 3hour Karapoti rider alive today, or in the past, and most likely the future (Peter Reynolds). In lieu of Cleetus who was suffering food poisoning, Calum took over the seismologist slot and we had a quorum.
Moonshine shines
All riders convened at the Kelson lights in deepest Boganville and we hit the River Trail of redemption looking for gravel and hills ! A short stint of tar-seal and a dive under the Moonshine bridge and we were onto the Riverstone Roubaix which is a nice little Upper Belgium secret. We emerged from the fun little segment of single track and exited out on to Riverside Terrace proper and then rolled down to the bottom of Moonshine and ambled up the steep side, a ride I was appalled to hear Andy had only ridden once before.

Calum on Puketiro Road Climb
After descending the other side onto Bulls run road we hung a left onto the Gravel of Puketiro Road, and made our way to the top of Battle Hill via some awesome wide logging roads. Pretty smooth and plenty steep. 12% for 16 minutes. All was going sweetly until the first little piece of decent when the go-fast crew; 4 of them scored 5 punctures on one corner ! DOH! Novices.

The downhill proper was a blast as we snaked down the eastern most side of the Battlehill loop amongst the pines; the surface was good, a bit loose but dry and fast. We snuck out of Battlehill on the periphery of a horse gymkhana. We hit the tarseal for the Belmont Road ascent which takes you from Judgeford up into Belmont Regional Park. Its a nice farm 4WD trail, a much more pleasant route than the scary Haywards Road.

By the time we were descending onto Belmont's Hill Road it was starting to feel like it had been quite a long day. In truth it was only 4 hours but it was a value packed ride with only three short downhills in it. I went home to recover while the more hardy (younger) dudes did the right thing - staying up into the small hours to  watch Spartacus smash them all in Paris Roubaix.

Dave Sharpe replaces some lost carbs - featuring the official coaster/pennant

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Lunchtime challenge

Pete cranking out 500 metres up !

 This is a simple idea to get people out and about and maybe doing something for their health on April the 3rd 2013. The aim is to collect as much elevation as you can in your 60 minute lunch hour. You have to stop climbing after 60 mins and head back to work !

Don't forget. If you use Instagram then take a shot at your summit and sync it with your Strava.

This is NOT a race. It IS a lunchtime ride in a CLUB. You have to take responsibility for yourself and not take risks or in any way break the law. If you are out training on your "course" already, then you are probably taking it too seriously. Use commonsense. If it is wet - be very very careful, and think about riding off-road.

You will need two things.
1. The Strava app for your phone, Android or Iphone, or an equivalent device that will let you upload to Strava.
2. A 60 minute lunch hour.

I have created a Club you can join called:

It does not have the functionality of an offical Strava Challenge, but we can get a rough approximation due to the good work of a programmer in the US.

What next?
If not already a member of Strava you will need to join Strava.

When you ARE a member, follow this link and click on the Join button, you will now be in our club !

Because this is just a club it will record all the rides you do, from this point on. The cool thing is, we can look at the results of the "Club" via this webapp built by Chris Davies in the States. See here:!/24006

Because this is a work in progress new functionality has been added even today by Chris. He has just programmed in the ability for us to look at our "Club" content day by day. How? Just append the relevant date to the end of the link:!/24006/2013-03-19  How cool is that?

Here is the way to record your ride on April 3rd. Either put on a timer to stop you after 60 minutes of climbing, or "crop your ride" after you have uploaded it.

Ok, now get planning your route !!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Are Mcdonalds going vegan ?

People in cycling and triathlon circles in Wellington are used to seeing the Organic Athlete "Go Vegan!" kit that my buddy Matt wears a lot when on the bike.

Go Vegan !
Imagine his surprise in learning he is the new poster-boy for Mcdonalds in Wainuiomata! 

It looks a lot like someone has done a mural on the Wainuiomata Mcdonalds drive-through using an image taken without permission from my blog. So of course Matt is wearing his "Go Vegan!" kit on the side of Mcdonalds! 

Maybe Mcdonalds are planning a new Vegan range of burgers and Matt is the new face of the campaign?

Mcdonalds drive-through in Wainuiomata.

The original photo before it was flipped.


























STOP PRESS! While riding over in the Wainuiomata Trail Park today we checked out Mcdonalds and were pleased to see the offending "mural" was gone! That's great news. 24/03/2013

But wait, there's more ! Front page in the Hutt News and briefly Stuffs website front page too. 26/03/2013

Monday, March 04, 2013

Te Tawhio o Whanganui - not your usual Brevet

Te Tawhio o Whanganui, (a loop of the Whanganui) was the brainchild of John “Sifter” Randall. It's a very different beast from the only other “Dirt-Brevet” type activities I have been involved in, in that everyone has to stay at the same town each night, but the route they take is up to them. The starting and finishing point was in Whanganui and the towns in question were Eltham, Ohura and Raetihi.

Motua gardens, Whanganui - 02/02/2013 Te Tawhio O Whanganui.
What made these stop-overs so special were the great places we were able to stay in, and they seemed to get better as the trip wore on. The main difference in this event was that you were encouraged to take any route you wanted, there was no right or wrong way, and no incentive to get there first. This should have knocked any competitive urges for a six, but as is always the case, when you get a bunch of people together on bikes, it's not long before they will start pushing each other. The multiple choice option for routes also meant that depending on which route you took, you might use a completely different bike to another rider. There were many different bike formats involved including cyclo-cross and road. Myself, I opted for a bit of a change this time, forgoing my 26inch fully I went with my drop-barred Karate Monkey with the Freeload rack on the back. Not having to carry a bivvy sack, sleeping bag or sleeping mat meant that I had I could stow all my kit into the one drybag fastened on my rear rack.

Bill's well thought out set-up at Motua Gardens. Photo by Bill Brierly.

I admit to having limited knowledge of the areas we were going into, but with the new xmas present from my wife – a Garmin Etrex 20 GPS, I was hoping I could wing it and at least hook in with some other riders. Sifter and Bill (not-Gareth-at-all) Brierly had put some routes online so it was actually possible to just follow the dotted line if you were happy enough doing that.

My first GPS mishap happened as we tried to navigate our way out of Whanganui, me being a complete newbie, I had it on the wrong setting and the whole group of us missed the first turn! Novices. We were so full of excitement from our pre-event korero and couldn't wait to get started.

We settled down into a nice rhythm in the midday sun and headed as far off the main road as we could. There weren't too many course options for us on that first day, but as we hit our first patch of gravel that amazing feeling hit us. We instantly felt sorry for anyone not out there at that moment in time, feeling the crunch of gravel beneath their wheels. Bikes, gravel, scenery, friends - we were just getting started. There was a cool moist breeze coming off the coast at times, but by the time we got to Patea we were happy to stop for some serious refueling in the shade. It was also a chance to check in with some riders I hadn't seen since the previous years Kiwi Brevet, Stephen “Stealth” Butterworth, with two more Cambridge based riders in tow,  Matt and Michael, and Peter Maindonald who had shown me how to build some DIY fork mounted water bottle holders. On the approach to Patea I had noticed Sifter gesticulating as we passed a small graveyard, apparently the resting place of the famous Maori entertainer Prince Tui Teka. Poi E was the ear-worm of the day for those that realised the significance.

Getting close to Eltham, Mt Taranaki in the distance.

By the time we got to the days destination, the Presbyterian camp in Eltham we were really looking forward to freshening up, not so Sifter and Dave Sharp, they wanted to do another 50kms and 900 metres of climbing up to Dawson Falls on the flanks of Mount Taranaki. Myself, I was content with my 120kms, a refreshing swim in the waterhole next to our lodgings and a very large Pizza from Daveys Patch Pizza emporium. Next time I will get the medium!

Outside the Pizza shop, Ash and Pilsener were traveling mostly on the road but in no way were they afraid of the gravel.

Eltham to Ohura, 151.5kms, 3121 metres climbing.
Stealth's Cotic SSer. Photo by Bill Brierly.
If the Patea Maori Club's Poi E was the theme for day 1, then “Was not Was's” “Hi dad, I'm in Jail!” was the theme for day 2. The idea of staying in the “Ohura State Prison” fascinated me, but we had about 150kms to go first, but which way ? I could see the Sharpe Sifter express entourage might be going at a pace a bit faster than I would enjoy so I rolled out of town with a group that for most of the time consisted of Matt Peploe, Stealth, Michael Hoogeveen (all from Cambridge) and Peter Maindonald, Richard Davies, and Nathan Mawkes who was bristling with info from his recent Tour Divide excursion. These guys had a good idea of where they were going, and Nathan was kitted up with some state of the art gear recently road tested. Checking out peoples kit is always interesting, and while gears themselves are advisable, they are not compulsory. Stealth was riding his new rig, a Cotic single speed, but funnily enough, he was the only one of us to suffer from gear failure with his crank loosening off a couple of times early on day two. He chose his ratio well, either that or he made it look very easy, not once did he need to dismount over the four days. The only concession we made to him was to keep our top speed limited to 42kmh, at this point his legs would turn to butter and he would lose contact. The rest of the time he was usually at the front.

Heading in to the Bridge to Somewhere
The route we took was via Toko and Strathmore to the Bridge to Somewhere and hooking back up into the Forgotten Highway. It was the first time I'd done this kind of riding on dual purpose tracks. Hunters or four wheel drivers had inflicted their own kind of impacts on the tracks which tended to interrupt the flow a bit. It wasn't the kind of trail I'd been spoilt with from my South Island exploits, but it was different. We rode through a fair number of tunnels but were ready for a hearty meal by the time we emerged onto the Forgotten Highway at the Whangamomona pub. The pub was under siege by 4 different groups of two wheelers at the same time. A group of Harley riders, a group Japanese bike riders, a bunch of roadies who had just finished a race there, and us. A steady stream of Tawhio riders trickled in, from their different directions. We'd been warned about the woman running the pub's school-mamm demeanour before we got there, and she was true to form.

Photo-ops on the Bridge to Somewhere, Matt, Peter and Michael
Matt, Peter and Stealth.
 We refulled and ventured out again into the blazing sun. More tunnels, more gravel and eventually a fair bit of undulating tarseal. Still a relatively short day by Kiwi Brevet standards, at 150kms we were ready to welcome our new digs! I can only hope that if I ever have to go to “The Big house” its as good as this. As soon as we stepped inside the Ohura State Prison Grounds, our host Trudy was offering us numerous glasses of ice cold water. Water never tasted so good. She set up accounts for us to charge up any purchases, ice creams, drinks etc. We were given a tour and a bit of history of the place which was apparently a prison for low risk white collar criminals in its hey-day. Nice for some.

Another tunnel
We sat down in the large dining room to incredibly wholesome meals and marvelled at the various kitch art works on the walls, in particular the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The staff worked like demons to get us all fed and it looked like the whole family was involved.

Day 3, Ohura to Raetihi, 172.7 kms, 3266 metres climbing.
We thought we had cheated mother nature with 2 days of scorching weather, but as predicted (a week earlier) on the third day it started to rain. I was sitting at breakfast nattering away to Simon Kennet when I looked around and noticed we were the only two people left in the dining room. Cripes, time to hit the road. I rudely terminated the conversation and headed off, eventually catching up to Mathew Peploe on his Alfine equipped Yeti Big Top and Karin on her Cyclo cross bike. We rode in a pace line trying not to eat each others rooster-tail of water. Something was leaking into my eyes causing me intense pain, I can only assume it was years of toxins being washed out of my helmet by the deluge. We got to Taumaranui having ridden on the seal the whole time and called in at the Supermarket for supplies. We were wet, but not too cold, until I went inside to make a purchase. The air conditioning was on and I nearly had hypothermia by the time I got through the checkout.

Karin on her CX bike at the top of a rise
We picked up Michael Hoogeveen and Nathan and a few others at Taumaranui and after a stop at National Park for the worlds largest sausage roll and a coffee I shipped out with Matt and Michael who had a plan to do a ride called Fishers track before heading on to Raetehi. Matt had a crude map and I had the GPS, what could possibly go wrong ? Well, a lack of signage for a start, we found a sign which proudly proclaimed “you are here” and we were, so why question it. Suffice to say that for the next hour it was the only sign we saw, and while we found some magnificent views and a wicked climb that the Alfine's gearing was struggling with, we eventually realised we were in the wrong place. Michael talked with a local farmer who pointed out where we went wrong and we eventually found the real Fishers track, although we still saw no signs proclaiming it as such. The track itself was quite nice with some lush native bush better than anything I saw on the Forgotten highway.

This was not Fishers track, but it was a great climb with awesome views from the top.
We emerged at National Park again in time for a serious downpour. It was time to bring out the lights, as although it was only about 6pm, visibility was bad. I had my first ever “Coffee in a can” from a vending machine in the gas station there. Now I know what it must have been like as Tyler Hamilton felt a fresh blood bag infusing into his veins!

Peter Maindonald's rig. Photo by Bill Brierly.
I texted Sifter from the gas station to tell him to save us some tea and we hit the seal again. We had a massive tailwind and we soon found out that the Alfine on Matt's bike maxxed out at 48 kmh! My 26/36 chain ring combo on the front with a 11-36 on the rear was handling all extremes so far. Michael's Specialized sported a 42 on the front so he had plenty of gears, although on the few occasions he got into the little ring, it chain sucked badly. Strava tells us we did the 34kms in 59 mins.

We rolled into Raetihi to the Snowy Waters Lodge with 173 kms on the clock. We were served an amazing roast meal, with pudding, with an open fridge stacked with beers for our purchase. The hosts were once again incredibly friendly and they gave us a little talk about the work they were doing and their views on conservation and how it related to farming which they were also doing. The accommodation was top notch with comfy bunk beds and the hosts kindly ran all our clothes through the washing machine that night and the drier the next morning. Watching people trying to locate their matching pairs of Ground Effect socks the next morning was pretty funny.

Raetihi to Wanganui, 103 kms, 1720 metres climbing.
Matt's Alfine Yeti Big-Top minus gear.
The inclement weather was still about, but not quite as bad as it was the previous day. There was only really the one route to get to Whanganui, via Pipiriki. A few riders had to decided to do the jetboat ride from the Bridge to Nowhere, but the crappy weather and a dirty river put paid to that idea unfortunately. Some of the riders who were coming back north, after reaching the days goal of Whanganui decided to travel light, and pick up their gear on the way back through. It meant they could go a bit faster a bit easier. I'd never been down this road to Wanganui via Pipiriki and it was a very pleasant ride. Unfortunately it was just a bit wet for us to want to dilly dally about, which was a shame given the history of the area. Jerusalem looked very interesting, so I made a promise to myself to go back one day. Matt, Michael, Stealth and myself eventually caught up to Pat Hogan who we rode with for a while, eventually stopping for a pause at a Cafe in the middle of nowhere. Pat put down his bag of nuts to take some photos of tame pigs that had come out for a look. Too slow! Nuts and plastic bag were quickly devoured in a few seconds as Pat lined up the shot.

We'd picked up Geoff Tilbrook somewhere along the way and he was riding very well considering he had a broken finger and his Dr had told him not to do the event at all. There was one last hill that seemed to be called Gentle Annie, aren't they all. It loomed up at us laying down a challenge. This is your last chance. Stealth took off like a scalded cat on his singlespeed and spanked us to the top. I am sure that one was double points!

Karate Monkey atop the Gentle Annie climb.
It wasn't far too Whanganui now so we all formed a pace line, and careful not to exceed the Stealth limit of 42kmh we whacked it in the big ring until we got there. I'm not sure what the hurry was, but that's what happened. Geoff and I hijacked the handicapped peoples toilet to get changed and I was very glad to have some dry clothes to change into. With a very nice meal and a couple of coffees under my belt courtesy of the Big Orange Cafe I walked down the road and blew 1.99$ on a fresh pair of dry socks from Postie Plus. I was in heaven.

About an hour later my buddy Dirk turned up and we rode back to the car collection point and loaded up the MX5 for the trip back. All up we covered around 550 kms in two whole and two half days of riding. Not enough to inflict any serious butt-trauma, despite two dampish days.

I had a great 4 days, met some lovely new people and got a better appreciation of life in some of  the more depressed rural areas of New Zealand. We don't realise how lucky we have it hidden away here in the capital  - all the more reason visit the provinces and stimulate their economy. I estimate I had been on less than 15% of the roads we travelled so that was a major bonus.

Te Tawhio o Whanganui loosely translated means “A loop of the Whanganui”. Sifter has promised to move the loop further north for the next time, so it will be a completely different loop.

If you are new to Brevet/Bike Packing this might be the ideal event to cut your teeth on.

Strava stuff
 Day 4

Check out Te Tawhio o Whanganui open Facebook photo album pages, some great shots by Stealth and Pat, among others and some good bike set-up shots from Bill. 

Yes officer, we do have a number plate.....