So, it ends: 10 months, 2 weeks (317 days) cycling or drive/cycling across most of New Zealand.
So many... there are 95+ blog posts... but a few highlights:
Expected, but unexpected
In many cases I knew what I was getting into, but sometimes it was the unexpected which added delight:
- Farewell Spit: I'd long wanted to visit but the combination of a small group, fantastic guide, and unusually calm, for the West Coast, weather made for an exceptional day in an incredibly special place. Loved my Takaka Rocks home too.
- Lake Dunstan: A fantastic trail, keep an eye on the Central Otago Gravelleurs Facebook if you are riding in the area.
- Skippers Canyon: I'd been there before but to have it to myself, all the tourist activity was still closed, was special!
- Great Lakes Trails: Loved them, especially the Waihaha & Waihora section.
- Podcasting: I listened to lots, expected, but also contributed to several 'Walk The Pod' episodes. Most were just 'what I see in front of me' style trip reports but one was an odd time related coincidence. Have tagged all my Walk the Pod related ride posts so appear in the Podcast category.
Some things were unexpected, surprising:
- Terry's Shed: A shed door in Dovedale, near Motueka, introduced me to a farmer I'd never meet, but I rode off knowing him.
- Moke Lake: The lake itself, the Bob's Cove Track swim stop, and returning, nineteen years after I first cycled there, to Bennetts Bluff, in eerily similar circumstances made a 'rest day' one of the most memorable.
- Clutha Gold/Roxburgh: A spectacularly underrated combination which deserve more acclaim. In addition to that meeting, independently on different trails, riders from Golden Bay who knew my Farewell Spit Guide and motel owners was so 'how small is NZ'. Lovely accommodation & hosts, the kindness of Alastair who tried to repair Giro (and rented me a substitute bike) was awesome too.
- Alps to Ocean (new) Lake Benmore section: I'd heard it was good but the new A2O Sailors Cutting to Otematata more than rivals the acclaimed Lake Dunstan ride. It was also great to meet and ride with Twitter friend Jason.
- Hokitika: The priviliege of being trusted to stay in huge historic B&B alone!
- Paparoa: Not the trail, knew it would be spectacular, but riding it at all. Wasn't sure I would, did, and then the spontaneous Tim Minchin made it 'Perfect'.
- Waikato River: Wasn't really expecting too much from these river trails but the variety of scenery and riding (path, gravel trail, single-track etc) on Te Awa and Waikato River Trails impressed.
- Timber Trail: A great ride I only managed to squeeze in, in May, as winter weather held off so long.
- Sleep: I always thought my terrible, if '8-hours' is a thing, sleep duration (5-6 hours/day) was down to natural night-owl tendency plus getting up 'early' for a normal workday. Turns out after ten months of removing the workday thing my 'avg bedtime' was 00:44 (about 30 minutes later) and 'avg wake-up' was 07:20 so about +30 minutes duration difference.
It wouldn't have been possible without support from:
- Family and friends; especially the Taylors for the intermittent overnight accommodation, airport drops and car parking in Christchurch.
- Ride companions on the legs I wasn't solo. My full time
- Bike service and rebuild help in Auckland, Richmond, Queenstown, Roxburgh, Ashburton, Christchurch,
- A Fiat fix via the Canterbury Fiat Lancia Club.
None regarding things I chose to do, a few about things I couldn't:
North Island: Missing Mountains to Sea, Northland, and East Cape/Napier
I initially planned to revisit Northland, Wellington (to attend the NZ Skeptics Conference) and Central/Waikato, Hawkes Bay, before Christmas 2021.
The Auckland Lockdown and COVID-19 related cancellations scuppered all that. The Skeptics Conference flipped to online only, originally hybrid, so attended it from home. I cancelled Northland, East Cape/Hawkes Bay/Coromandel and moved some of my planned central/lower North Island rides to around the South Island Road Trip.
By the time I was back from the South Island manged to fit in the rest the Taupo, Waikato and Timber Trail trails but not the Mountains to Sea. it was too wintery/wet to be a fun ride, since then it has been closed for repairs, hopefully opening mid-January 2023.
South Island: Missing the Greg Johnson 'rendezvous' & Old Ghost Road
When I scheduled the South Island rides decided I had to do Old Ghost Road with a group due to its remoteness, length (85km, 3 days), and because the DOC huts were booked solid. As it would be outside most people's holiday time signed up for an organised supported tour and pivoted my other West Coast plans around it.
I was having trouble booking accommodation around Hokitika for the other trail-West Coast Wilderness-so got a shuttle/accommodation package from 'Cycle Journeys'. That proved to be a good move anyway, I recommend it if you are considering the trail. Their organisation, support moving overnight gear, and add-on excursions were great.
Turned out Hokitika was booked as I would be there around the weekend of the Wild Food Festival. Was a little freaky to find the music line-up included Greg Johnson (the NZ musician who lives in Los Angeles) whose tunes played a part in kicking off this whole adventure.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 concerns, around gathering limits, led to the festival being postponed to March 2023 so although I was there Greg wasn't! I got a ticket to his Auckland 2023 gig (while passing through) in case don't get back to the festival this year.
Similarly, the Old Ghost Road trip didn't get the required numbers to be viable so I will have to go back for that. The upside of that was fitting in more time at Westport, Hanmer Springs and Picton as couldn't flex my flexible car ferry booking! I tried but Bluebridge were totally booked, nowhere to flex too, on the week before!
Totally! It wasn't cheap but I set a budget and without compromising anything along the way kept close to it. The travel costs (additional living expenses while away, fares & accommodation, car/bike operating etc) was about $25,000. On top of that there was obviously lost income (although not earning for two-thirds of the year meant a bit of income tax refunded) and paying the bills at home that don't stop when you're away.
In total: 7882km cycled, 172km walk/hiking, 6,034km driving on the South Island Road Trip.
I managed to break, loose, or damage a bit of gear along the way but nothing significant.
- One slightly skinned knee in the Upper Hutt Park fall
- One false alarm COVID-19 extended stay in Christchurch which turned out to be hayfever...
- -6kg weight lost in spite of eating whatever I wanted whenever. It was approximately -1 gram/km cycled!
The Car: Bravo 155 HGT (used for the South Island Road Trip)
- Enroute the Bravo just needed the errant airbag warning light reset after it was traced to a corroded plug contact and the rh fog light was smashed by a stone.
- Once home went in for a scheduled cambelt service and Warrant Of Fitness (WOF), roadworthiness, inspection. Apart from the normal service items (filters/fluids etc) it just required rear brake pads and the replacement front fog light fitted (while the bumper was off for the service)
- Rapid Rob didn't get a huge amount of use (~400km) as took the other two to the South Island. I really got En-Trance for the Old Ghost Road but glad I added a full suspension bike to my fleet. It was also handy having a bike at home for the periodic 'Auckland returns' as left the other two in the South Island.
- En-Trance and Giro were still riding OK from their Christchurch February Service, but both got a deep clean and (home) drivetrain service.
- The February Service fixed Giro's broken rear derailleur/front brake lever and En-trance's stuck through axle.
- In Nelson I had to get Giro's rear hub cones adjusted a (as needed cassette removal tools)
- Just 2.5 Punctures:
- Giro had two pinch punctures, Nelson & Queenstown, before I realised the Schwalbe G-One Speed Gravel Tyres needed more pressure than initially thought. They were great and were on for the duration.
- En-Trance had one puncture, but I watched its tubeless tyre self-sealing fluid fix it. Apart from pumping up pre-ride I haven't touched them, never even added fluid.
I love my Tailfin rack and Aeropack Trunk bag. It was on the gravel bike for every ride, so ~4,100km, and still is.
Sadly, operator error found its only weak point. The fragile cloth rear strap loops, which are only there to locate the strap fore/aft didn't survive a loose strap getting caught in the spokes when wheeling the bike. The bag is still fine to use, I just thread the strap through the alloy bracket. I let Tailfin know, thought might be useful if they update the design, and they offered free patches to repair but I decided didn't need them.
In my travels Giro picked up some impact damage on the right-hand seat stay and a minor tyre rub on the inside of the left-hand chain stay. I've no idea when the chain stay knock happened, sometime before Christmas 2021 I think, perhaps while loading the car or shoe strike while mounting/dismounting?
The tyre rub was from the Matakana Pakiri Leigh Loop as tried some tried some 34mm gravel tyres. They were a bit too wide (although sized smaller than the bulletproof Schwalbe 35mm Marathon+ I usually run) and on the clay gravel there wasn’t quite enough clearance to the chain stay.
Back in October 2021 I sent these photos off and was quoted a very reasonable price to repair the carbon frame. It was still ridable so decided to complete the South Island leg before deciding its fate. I got this bike ex-demo, was about half new retail price, and it has served me well. While a new bike was an option, 'Giro' was an instrumental part of the trip I'd just completed so decided to repair and keep it on the road.
* Required as frame is baked as part of the repair process, and I don't have the tools or skills for headsets and bottom brackets!
Dan worked his magic (a combination of technology and artistry) to make a seamless repair, refinish the frame clearcoat, and even replace the damaged seat stay stripe graphic.
After reassembly I have a seven-year-old bike, with over 18,000km under its wheels, that looks brand new.
As well as replacing my dead (my fault) Cycliq rear Fly6 light/camera I also got the newly released front Fly12 Sport light/camera. The old one still goes fine but will be relegated to my mountain bikes as prefer the quick release quad lock style mount of the newer lights (rather than GoPro style screw) for general riding, commuting etc.
The Fly12 Sport is great, love the video quality (can be up to 4K but I run HD) and, despite having better battery life, it is also smaller. The rear info screen is much better than the original's cryptic LED flash/beep combos to convey operating mode and battery state.