Great night last night; Big Bike Film night feature “The Moment” (at the Academy Cinema) on the birth of freeride mountain biking. Amazing riding often captured with huge (by today's stds) cine/video cameras on neck breaking helmet cams.
My orignal plan to train in (so wouldn't arrive a sweaty puddle) and bike home was foiled by not feeling up to cycling thanks to an odd sinus/head cold thing I've had going on. Was mostly over it but decided to take it easy. Should have done it though, would have got home quicker!
The Aotea carpark was full so I ended up in Victoria St. The digital capacity signs in Nelson St made that decision painless.
It had over a hundred parks available when I entered but about half of those were consumed by idiots who can't park their stupid huge SUV/Utes and left the gaps between the next car/wall/column too narrow to park without climbing out the sunroof or back hatch to escape!
Got back to the carpark to find just one (of only two!) pay machine working and it wasn't accepting notes; card or coin only. Not a problem but card payments take about twice as long as cash, no paywave...
25 minutes in the line waiting to pay would have had me more than half way home on the bike!
The plan was to try and rendezvous with Mark Beaumont (who is cycling Around the World in 80 Days) as he approached Auckland Airport. But plans…
I headed out from home on a nice sunny Saturday morning. I had been following Mark’s impressive progress north, from Taupo this day, and he was on target to meet an evening departure from Auckland Airport to Alaska.
Instead of my usual scenic route I cut through the industrial area near the airport, taking the opportunity get a photo of RocketLab’s Electron launch vehicle display. A carbon rocket makes quite a good carbon bike stand!
After a short stop at the Airport Observation point I decided to head a bit further South. At this stage Mark’s live tracker (which turned out to be not so ‘live’) showed him heading up Great South Rd but still well away from Auckland.
The weather deteriorated rapidly; torrential rain, then hail, thunder and lightning! I stopped off at the Z station (orange circle on map below) in Wiri for a coffee while the worst of the weather passed over. I should have stayed there…
Mark was still coming up Gt South Rd so I went to the corner of Weymouth and Gt South (blue circle) to cover both the main routes North. It wasn’t until I saw Mark’s update disappear from spot 1 and appear at 2 that I realised he’d cut through Mahia Rd (red line) to head North up Rosscommon Rd. I should have stayed where I had stopped for coffee!
I did a sprint back to the airport and, although unable to catch him riding, did get to say hello and wish him well as he headed for the flight check in.
Pretty remarkable to think he arrived in Auckland just 49 days after leaving Paris via Moscow, Beijing, Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Brisbane, Invercargill, Wellington & Taupo. A massive push in Australia and New Zealand meant he arrived a whole day ahead of schedule!
As I write this Mark is halfway across America (Day 63, 14,222 miles ridden) and still on track for the record. You can follow his progress and support OrkidStudio — the education health charity he is riding for — at www.artemisworldcycle.com
I took the scenic route home from the airport and (typical Auckland) the weather cleared to make it a nice evening. I used the CX capability of the new bike to take to the tracks around the Manukau, near Ambury Park (photo below) as much nicer than riding through the industrial area!
By the time I got home I had ridden 108km. Less than a third the distance Mark had ridden the same day, about a quarter of his typical 400km/day on this challenge!
A fun bike ride, a fun drive, Formula 1 and brilliant weather made for a great ‘long’ weekend!
The Karioi Cycle Classic is a (mostly) gravel road ride from Raglan south along the Whaanga Coast and back on inland roads. It has 43km, 57km or 85km options, which all follow the same route out of Raglan, with different return routes from the coast.
I have driven the Whaanga Coast road before and it is literally world famous as a stage in the WRC Rally NZ. The chance to explore this area on a bicycle was not to be missed. I decided to make it a long weekend so could watch the Hungarian Grand Prix (which starts at midnight Sunday NZ time) and sleep in the next day.
It was my first time for this ride so I chose the middle 57km option and took my hardtail mountain bike. Last time I drove the road—albeit years ago—it was quite muddy, corrugated and thought weeks of rain would have churned it up.
When I saw the 87km peloton go past (as I left my motel headed for our start) I was glad I had not joined them as looked like rather serious racers. Although technically in a race I wasn’t going to be racing, just happy to enjoy the road, the scenery and get around within the 4 hour time limit.
I drove down from Auckland on Saturday and checked into the Raglan Palm Beach Motel. It is a bit out of ‘town’, by the estuary, and secluded without being far away. It bills itself as “classic 1970’s “Kiwiana” style self-contained Raglan accommodation” and it was great. Although evidently of that era it was clean, tidy and (with a non-70s heat pump) warm which would become an important factor!
After settling in I biked into town (a whole 1.8km with no traffic via the domain and footbridge) to pick up my race number (tied on with supplied eco-flax instead of plastic cable ties!) and get some groceries. Rather stupidly I had not put one of my many bike water bottles in the car (doh!) so a bottle of sport water had to do.
It was a lovely evening and after exploring Raglan village, a few years since I’ve been there, which is still nice I headed ‘home’.
On the way back I diverted a few km up the road to the coast to check the bike (and rider) were ok for the morning. It was a spectacular sunset; not often you see the Tasman Sea this calm!
Quite a few people were already there and I wasn’t the only one on a bike. A couple had CX bikes, similar to the Avanti I’d left at home, a sign of things to come.
Late Saturday evening I watched the F1 Qualifying, with Ferrari getting the front row! The motel didn’t have Sky but good Wi-Fi meant streaming was OK—beamed to the TV from my phone via my Microsoft Display adapter (like Chromecast but works with any app)—on the Sky Go app. It used to be terrible but worked well keeping me connected to F1 over the weekend.
A bit too much coffee, Whitakers 70% chocolate and, maybe, anticipation of the day ahead meant when I finally turned off the telly about 1:30am I didn’t get much sleep!
A fine ‘Race’ day
The morning dawned fine, still and literally (for a soft northerner) freezing. My phone’s reported “2ºc, feels like 0ºc” was no lie based on the layer of ice on the motel picnic table and kayaks!
It’s the first time I’ve worn a 200 Icebreaker merino thermal top, from the Tibet cycle wardrobe, under a cycle shirt all day in New Zealand!
Leggings, winter gloves and merino liners inside Sealskin, water/windproof, socks and a light wind/rainshell kept the cold at bay on the way into town for the start!
I started at the back of the 84 rider 57km pack. I wasn’t going to be racing and don’t really like riding in the middle of a group. The first few km out of town, with well traffic controlled but still open roads, were led by a pilot vehicle before we got the closed gravel roads.
The first climb was steady and no wind meant had to shed the wind-shell at the top as was getting too warm. The views were just stunning, full credit to whoever organised this weather after weeks of rain!
As the photos show the road was really good! I should have put my CX bike in the car!
The course follows the coast before heading inland. It was a real joy, and a first for me, riding on closed gravel roads. You could pick a line that best suited the heavily cambered corners without the worry of meeting a car coming the other way!
I remember standing on this corner (below) watching rally cars blasting past, having seen them come all the way up (or down depending which year) the valley from the coast. It is a great place to watch rally cars at speeds much faster than Robin on a bike could manage!
First sign of Raglan in the distance but this wasn’t the last hill. My Strava app recorded 1267m elevation gain over the day. By now it was reasonably warm but I couldn’t be bothered shedding the thermal as it was mostly downhill to the finish.
I was evidently happy to see that it was all downhill from this photo stop. The riders in the background are from the 43km event, all but a few of the 57’ers were ahead of me!
Some snaps from the finish and a packed prize giving later in Raglan. No prizes for me (81/84) but the ride had more than met my expectations.
Exploring the way home
After staying up until 02:30am Monday again watching the Hungarian Grand Prix I appreciated the motels offer of a late checkout. I was in no rush to get home so took a rather indirect route exploring the back roads between Raglan & Port Waikato. If I have been through there before I can’t remember it!
A mix of twisty sealed and smooth swept gravel (apart for a few km in the middle of being graded) made for a lovely drive. It would also be a great ride; maybe next year I should ride down to the ride!
Although a few clouds had arrived the weather was still great. Being a work Monday meant the roads, beach and river were largely deserted. A great way to finish a stunning weekend.
I had a “lifestyle leave” day off work today. It’s a great initiative where you ‘buy’ five or ten days extra holiday (with a pay reduction) to use however you want. Part of changing jobs is you go back to zero leave owing so it was a good way to get some extra discretionary leave.
For me that meant sitting up until 2:30am watching the Monaco Grand Prix, sleeping (some dozing) in until about 8:30am, a leisurely breakfast watching the America’s Cup and a bit of Indy 500 (recorded that morning), an afternoon bike ride, and evening dog walk.
I had intended to ride out to Piha, on the West Coast, as it is a lovely ride but rather too busy, with narrow twisty roads, in the weekend or on public holidays. However the remnants of a head cold meant the 3 x 350m climbs (there & home via Karekare) would have been a bit much so I just did a, much flatter, random Westie tour.
I tested out the cross country (CX) capability of the new bike a little by incorporating the Te Atatu foreshore gravel path, a loop through Massey checking out an option for my morning commute, and home via Swanson & Henderson Valley.
The Massey bit was trying a short park path from Huruhuru Rd to Redwood Drive that will avoid climbing Makora Rd. It doesn’t avoid a hill, Redwood is much steeper, but misses the narrow busy parts of Makora Rd (from the motorway off ramp to the right turn at the top) and Royal Rd motorway on-ramp traffic.
After I got home faced a CX bike dilemma. Do you leave the bit of mud picked up riding off path in Te Atatu (to give right of way to some walkers) as ‘CX cred’ or clean it? I cleaned it!
As Alfie had missed his morning walk I took him around the block this evening, lovely clear night!
It's no secret that New Zealand is blessed with an abundance of natural beauty. Anyone that's visited the country's South Island will tell you about the diversity of terrain, from soaring peaks to alpine lakes and from lush rainforest to open plains.
CyclingTips' Jonathan Reece and Andy van Bergen recently visited the region of Canterbury in New Zealand's South Island with photographer Tim Bardsley-Smith to ride the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail, a 300km mostly-off-road cycling trail from the slopes of New Zealand's highest mountain, Aoraki/Mount Cook, right out to the Pacific Ocean at Oamaru. This is the story of their journey.
by Jonathan Reece | Photography by Tim Bardsley-Smith