GLOBAL CYCLE EVENT

In a world increasingly preoccupied with throwaway materialistic things; where people are constantly busy earning money to pay for those things, or so their children can have those things;
This is the story of my dreams of travelling the world by bicycle. Because it's there. And because I dont want to die without experiencing the truly important things in life .

A sense of wonder and a sense of adventure.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Pre Xmas Stress; Not.

My tickets to Europe have arrived. So that's it I'm going. I don't leave until August next year so have plenty of time to think about it and to finish qualifying for the PBP cycle event.


I have done the 400km pre qualifier and the 200km and 300km qualifier. But still need the 400 and 600km under my belt. The reality of the situation is that I live for cycle touring and whether or not I get into the PBP has no influence on whether I go to Europe. My tickets in effect can't be cancelled anyway. 

As I look at the ticket dates I can see that I will be kicking around in or about Paris for three or four days waiting for the event to start. That's time that I could be cycling towards Northern Norway if I wasn't entered. But the PBP only happens every 4 years so want to make the effort to be part of it.

I'm still very conscious of cycling within the Arctic Circle in autumn so want to get started North as soon as possible. 

Last week I tried to organise a long distance ride of 300 km but ended up as a no show! It was just as well that nobody else bothered to turn up either or things could have been embarrassing. I dragged my arse out of bed in the end and rode my 250km loop telling myself that all was well and that I had better turn up for the 400km ride that I've put on the program next month. I not only need that ride for a qualifier but I'm also pretty sure that some other Audaxers will also turn up for it.


The Christmas frenzy is slowly winding up out there. I can hear the busy little bees zooming up and down along the road beyond our gate. Trying to find another gift to stuff in little Sarah's bulging sack and of course other things that they won't wait for the day for. Of course out on the roads the usual dim wit truck drivers and everyday autonom's continue to practice there selfish driving habits but with the added excuse that they are busy and stressed at this time of year so any smaller road user in their way just shouldn't exist.

My thoughts on that are that it's time for petrol and vehicle registration to go up again as there is clearly to many of them now on the road getting in the cyclist's way. Inconceivable as  it may seem, the price of petrol has just dropped again for the summer season! Encouraging more fat and lazy teenagers to get behind the wheel.

I bought my Xmas present a month ago and have hid it from myself in the garage. Obviously I know what it is and had to have a peek just to make sure that it was all there when it turned up ,but other than that I am prepared to wait for the day before playing with it.

That act of self denial apparently puts me in the more intelligent than average category. Sorry kids, those that can't wait and already have their Xmas gifts are now described in studies as the more mentally challenged in our society. You will grow up to be truckies and pram pushers.


My left crank broke off the other day while out on a recovery ride. It's not every day that a crank breaks and a first time for me. Once I'd picked myself up off the road and  checked that my top tube was unscathed from the whack that my balls gave it I had time to think about the excitement of this rare event happening to me. Almost S exciting as when my front forks broke a few years back. The end result from both these incidents was the same however.... A long walk home. I have to be honest about this and admit that eventually a motorist did stop and offer me a lift the rest of the way home. But it was unsolicited by myself. I wasn't too proud to refuse though. 

When I got home and the reality had finally set in that my 30yr old Campag cranks where toast I was much saddened and apprehensive about how to juggle finances in such away as to afford another set. Vintage Campag on EBay is an exorbitant price. I thought I'd try a long shot and put the word out locally first. 


Jim, a local cyclocross man had not one but a pair of cranksets that he agreed to sell for a fare price. A meeting was arranged and the deal done. In less than three days the Mercian was fully operational again and I have a spare crankset and a still undamaged right Hand crank.

And just to show that life doesn't totally revolve around cycling and travel I have included a photo of the new mini feijoa orchard I hope will be on line in the next year or two.

. A sure sign of Xmas in our parts is the flowering of these little devils. And the fruit is available from the gate everywhere in late Autumn. Once the grapes are finished and that's left around here are kiwi fruit and feijoas. I need to have a bit of that action.

Summers here and the darkest lens are now required in the riding glasses. In case you're wondering, no all these lens didn't come with the glasses. But old lens are often easy to adjust with a file to fit other frames. Variety is the spice of life.

Monday, 27 October 2014

To the Arctic.

Home life is never dull for 'Niel the Wheel'. Having returned home after completing my PBP pre qualifier my Adi informed me that she was going to do the Trans American Cycle Race ( called the TransAm for short) and then fly to Europe to follow me in the PBP before then doing a European cycle tour with me. 


Now like most people I dream from time to time that I can fly or save the world using my super powers, but most of the time, while my eyes are open, I would say that I'm a realist. As a realist I quickly saw this as a desperate attempt to be involved in everything cycling for 2015 with absolutely no way of financially achieving any of it.

I couldn't quite get my head around it all at once, having completed the 400 km 

event and then scootered back from Picton,I was a might groggy up top. 

I could see that Adi needed a goal, something achievable so I strongly suggested that she pick either Europe or the US and go for it. A wonderful fun filled cycle tour with me or a frantic slog across the US with only her bicycle for company. Of course she chose America. I should have guessed that shantytown America would top Paris every time.


So be it. I'm  proud of her for wanting to go out on her own . She always has been more competitive than I am and the thought of a racing / touring mix proved too strong for her. I'm excited for her and will follow her from the comfort of our lounge. It also means that I can look after the house and our 3 boys while she's gone. 

But most of all it means that I can plan my own cycle tour immediately after the PBP that has all the things I like in it. Namely hills , tunnels, and tough and slightly isolated terrain. Now Adi has told me that I am not allowed to further my adventures in Eastern Europe and Asia without her because we both want to do that. And I'm not suppose to go anywhere she hasn't been and wants to go because I'm already a bit ahead on countries due to my Sth American adventures. So things were looking like the med and South until I hatched a plan to go somewhere that I knew Adi would never want to tackle. 



A  place full of huge bridges, long tunnels, mountains, biting insects, rain, more rain and long slogs between towns. O and maybe a bit of snow in the late summer. Sounds good you reckon? Not to Adi. And that's why she has given me the green light to cycle from Paris to Honingsvag and back. 


Honingsvag is at the end of the world and a prettier place would be hard to find. It is situated north of the arctic circle and will mark my turn around point. Assuming I survive my pedal to Honingsvag I will then turn my wheels south through Finland and Sweden back to where my balls can thaw out in Denmark. The only thorn in my tyre over all this is the annoying fact that the PBP event doesn't start until the 16 August  and so I can't start my passage north until after this. ETA at the top of the world will therefore be in Autumn. 


If there is anyone reading my blog (such as this person) who lives in Hammerfest could you please tell me the likelihood of me completing this little jaunt north of you, and returning with all of my fingers and toes un-frosted . I can probably afford to loose a toe or two in each foot. My cycle shoes will then fit better. But I'd rather not loose too many fingers. Google tells me that you lucky chooks in Hammerfest are today enjoying a balmy autumn day of 3C falling to 1C tonight. My drink bottles won't freeze then. 

Adi is a dear, she is so keen to send me off to the arctic next year that she has already completed my itinerary and signed herself up for the TransAm.


Thermals , that's what I'm going to need. Lots of thermals. 

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Eat Me Out Of House And Home.

I  spend all my time dreaming about cycle rides and pretty girls. 

While I ponder gear ratios and spoke patterns those hard shelled little bastards are eating my house. Season by season they munch away trying to drill out my weatherboards like a 1970's break lever. I know they feel they are doing the right thing, rimu weatherboards are over engineered for their intended use. But as with brake levers I now prefer the smooth unadulterated look. Those little cannibals can piss off ,before my hair is blowing in the breeze while I sit on the couch.


But how to get rid of the little sods? How many holes in a weatherboard constitutes a replacement? One? Ten ? Building supplies staff weren't entirely sure on this one so I came back with mixed opinions and a saddlebag full of preservative and insecticide. I'm resigned to buying new boards where I see a grouping of holes (something resembling a borer village) but I can't see the point in replacing a whole board for your solo dweller. And I have done my homework. I have it on good knowledge that the little humpbacks can hide in there for up to 3 years so if I slosh enough deadly poison on those boards I take off , paint them all over and store them in the bike shed after 3 years cooling off they should be good to use again? Slosh , paint and squirt , that'll do it.

It's simple really, I just have to treat and replace boards quicker than the little dears can eat them. Should be easy.


My smart phone tells me I'm going to have a wet 400 km ride on Saturday. It seems very convinced that I will be a wet puppy. But I won't have a wet arse because if the heavens darken tomorrow I'm putting my mudguards on. Function over fancy any day .

My First Proper Audax Event.


The day is drawing closer when I will attempt my first 400 km event with the audax club. Last week my Adi and I had arranged to do a local 335 km circuit as training for our respective attempts at the 400 km event. We chose different days so that we could each ride it in our own way and also should either of us crash and burn then the other was at home to feed the fur babies and initiate any rescue mission required.


Being forever the gentleman I let Adi have first crack at it. She started with gusto at 4.30 am and had completed the hilly first third of it by morning tea time. I read on face book of her adventures while on the couch with my coffee and chocolate. By afternoon tea time she was still on track having fended off attacking magpies and battling a strong headwind. I sipped my coffee all the time wishing I was there. She was so lucky to be out there doing it! Here I was stuck on the couch reading all about it on social media like some sorry person. By dinner time and with the sun going down Niel the Wheel had just returned from the fish & chip shop to read that Adi had suffered mechanicals in the dark and had called it quits at the 235 km mark. She was apparently sprawled on the plush duvet of a Havelock motel awaiting the owner to deliver bubble and sweak. It now being late and with Adi arriving in a somewhat bedraggled state the owners did all they could to revive her. Next day she arrived home having completed the final 100  km of the journey. Looking a might glazed in the eyes but with a smile on her face she seemed to have not suffered in any other way. But looks can be deceptive , she had returned a changed woman. She was now in no doubt about the Paris Brest Paris. She said "you can stick getting up early and riding through the night, I'm not having a bar of it!"

The next day 'Niel the Wheel' was up ,not so early ,for his attempt at the 335 km around the block. Things went crocked right from the started when my preferred cycling app switched off 30 kms into the course rendering my later posting of it pointless. You can't brag about stuff like this if you don't have the stats to back it up. In the dark upon leaving I had also forgotten to start my cycle computer. This was a small thing discovered when I passed under a flickering street light. I'm not a morning person and little things like this can annoy me. As the sun came up I warmed to the ride and come morning tea I was ready for the magpie infested Wairau Valley. 


Bandits at 3 O' clock high! Bandit at 6 O' clock coming low and hard! The little shits had me on the edge of my seat for 90 kms. The finally came with one of the feathered cretins forcing me off the road and into a drainage ditch with his persistence .  Clearly he was enjoying every minute off it. I dragged my Mercian back to the road and cycled off into what was now a solid headwind being further attacked until he spied a novice tandem couple coming the other way and clearly felt he could inflict more damage hassling them. Leaving me in peace to tackle the headwind to my late lunch stop. Electronic data transfer once again let me down here and for the rest of the afternoon when I tried to post my experiences on face book. Poo Bum, 2/3 of the ride was done and I had failed to tell the world about it. 



While eating a plate of greasy fish & chips I consoled myself with the fact that bike and body were ambling along happily even if the wi if side was shit. While stuffing down my final greasy chips with the help of a double vanilla milkshake I made one final attempt to post something on the net and voila I was back in business. The final 4 1/2 hours of the ride was completed in darkness. I'd recently bought a Cateye 1200 front light though and the beam was so impressive that apart from almost throwing up at the top of a steep climb ,when my milkshake began to mix with the coke at the other end of my stomach , I thoroughly enjoyed the dark hours.

I dragged my now tired arse across the home doorstep we'll before midnight and having completed the 335 kms.


So I sit here now awaiting the actual event in 3 days. My marching orders have arrived via the randonneuring club and Adi has once again reasserted that she won't be doing it. The field looks like numbering less than 10 and the weather at best indication gives light rain. 

I've done my homework for this one, the cabins booked and my mudguards will be on standby.

Bring it on.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Foot Fungus

Im addicted now to my smart phone and it's Adi's birthday tomorrow so she's going to get one whether she likes it or not.

Talking of my Adi, she has been training consistently since spring arrived and can now handle a 250km ride. Paris - Brest- Paris pre qualification is just around the corner and I have jumped in and agreed to host a number of qualifiers in the Tasman area. 

My New Long Distance Mascot as Found.

I've put together a couple of rides that I think I could well regret . Rides that I could well find myself as the only entrant. The important thing though is that they will be qualifiers for PBP and I won't have to fork out dosh to travel out of town to qualify.

Happy to be Loved Again.&

In a months time Adi and I will enter a 400km event to pre qualify. She is naturally worried about how this will pan out for her and is going to take advantage of as much time as is allowed. 

I have the option of riding it with her or going at my own pace. I'm torn between being with her to provide support in the event that she may have a mechanical problem or to leave her to it. I'm erring on the side of just doing my own thing as that is the way we will be riding the PBP.

Last week , after two weeks of Spring sunshine ,New Zealand reverted to Winter rain and snow and I did virtually no cycling. I spent the week helping Adi get addicted to her new smart phone and roaming around the house identifying more areas of wood worm attack. By the end of the week I had ripped out a small section of rotten timber and repainted another. A mere drop in the ocean but enough to make me feel better.


House maintenance didn't satisfy my cycling head however so not being able to get out on my bike I set about tuning the engine. I cut down on my chocolate intake, increased my coffee consumption and reinstated my sit up routine. And after four years of treatment I am proud to announce that my foot fungus is finally in remission. I started treatment with creams when cycling the US in 2010 because unlike in NZ I didn't need to mortgage the house to afford the anti fungal creams. Toe by toe I have been driving the invader back. It's been a tough battle but with only two toes left infected , I will win the battle and banish that evil forever. 


My feet are a little wide for my Sidi cycle shoes so I think this aggravates the problem. I should get my left little toe removed because after a few years it damages the fabric in my shoe. I think little toes are a complete waste of space anyway when it comes to cycling. Babies should have a couple of their toes removed from each foot when their born so that later when they grow there's more room for the other toes and no chance of chaffing on long rides while out on the bike. Much the same way as my wisdom teeth were removed so that my jaw was not so crammed with teeth that I couldn't do up my helmet strap. Some things I've found happen naturally when you cycle a lot. My hairs rubbed off the top of my head from wearing my helmet too much and my nose has got bigger allowing me to cut through those head winds more efficiently. 

Monday, 4 August 2014

I'm Smart Phone Able.

Dear Blog,
 I know it has been a while since I have last written but the truth of it is that not much has happened in the life of 'Niel the Wheel'. I'm not saying that I am dissatisfied with my lot.  It has been winter and too cold in the morning to get up early and too dark in the evening to get out on the bike.  What is that you say? What about that time in between these times? That time between 10am and 5pm. Well , I'm pleased to say that I have cycled consistently throughout the winter in this period, usually going out for two or three 100km rides each week. The other days  spent not on the bike have been spent on the couch. I could give you plenty of excuses as to why I have not painted weatherboards, insulated walls and re piled but the bottom line is that I do maintenance on a 'must be done or it will fall down' basis.

Sweeping the Chimney.

I am prompted to write now though because I need the world to know that I may not be powering ahead at the moment but I feel that spring is nigh upon us here and that soon I'll be getting out on adventure rides again. Over the winter due principally to a total lack of dollars , Adi and I have stayed at home , preferring to save any spare money for a decent trip next July/August. I have occupied my time by working in the bike shop over the weekends and doing mundane chores about the house during the week. The sort of chores that get you nowhere. Chores like mopping , hoovering and cleaning the bathroom. Treading water type of things. Certainly not useful chores like insulating the under floor cavities. Just the other day I found myself scrubbing out the inside of the refrigerator, nuking the oven with alkaline sprays and sterilising the rubbish bins. For weeks now I'd been thinking that my Adi had been dropping farts in the kitchen while preparing dinner while all along it was the refrigerator smelling!
  In my last blog I stated that we would participate in the TransAmerican bike race. We have changed our minds. Adi thought that we were losing our focus of cycling around the world in favour of doing events in countries that we had cycled before. I cant argue with that. When we cycled across the US in 2010 I thought it unlikely that we would ever go back and here I was  last year cycling in the US again and then planning an event there again for next year. So we have come to a compromise , for 2015 we will do the Paris-Brest - Paris (subject to qualifying) but only after we have cycled there from Tiblisi in Georgia. That way we do another section of touring and I get to do a randonneuring event at the end.

Spring is Close But......
When Your Feet are Wet & Cold Nick the Locals Newspaper Covers.

We both have every intention of qualifying for PBP but time will tell if we have what it takes. Last week Adi set herself the target of cycling 500kms in the week. I knew that I was good enough for a 300km week as I usually achieve this with a couple 100km day rides and a 100kms of urban riding so told her that I would tag along. The weather wasn't the best but we did manage to both pull it off. I have to say though that my day off the bike sweeping the chimney, and doing the other forever mundane chores felt like a good break off the Mercian.


The week prior to this my new low rider rack arrived from Tubus and I spent a day in the workshop fitting it. This rack replaces my last one which broke on me in Nova Scotia last year. It was a crappy aluminium one made by Blackburn. The new one is stainless steel so I'm hoping to get more than the customary 10 000kms that alloy racks give me. Once I was happy with the way it fitted on the Mercian I then took it off ready for future adventures. My rear rack also broke on me last year coming out of the Canadian Rockies but unfortunately the bike shop up there was a bit limited on quality rear racks so I had to buy another crappy aluminium rack. This rack got me across Canada and may get me  from Tiblisi to Paris but I will get a Tubus stainless steel rear rack when I can next afford it.


'Niel the Wheel' entered the computer age in 2011 when he purchased his first laptop and started this blog. He quickly realised (since his mind is like a sponge) that the laptop was too big to easily fit on his bicycle and that he would shortly be going  cycling across South America and would need something more convenient to tap out script on and check on what his Adi was up to back in NZ. So after much discussion on the merits of an I Pad I bought myself an HP notebook. I couldn't afford an I Pad and in those days I didn't realise how bad those Israelis were, so there you go. So please don't blame me for helping to fund a terrorist state. The notebook continues to serve me well however and until recently I was happy to carry it in a pannier during overseas tours. But earlier this year I completed my first Brevet type event where travelling with minimal gear is the key to doing the big kilometres each day. I'd still like to communicate with the world however and increasingly you need to use the Internet to sort accommodation each day. To this end Adi and I decided that we needed to move to smart phones for our next overseas trip. It was then quickly agreed that because I was a lay about with nothing to do but cycle each day, and because Adi actually brings in more income and does occasional extra shifts , that she would get an i phone on her birthday next month, and I would have to wait until next year. Once again her logic was sound and I convinced myself that I didn't need anything more than my notebook anyway.

Now I'm Smart Phone Capable on my Rides.

That was until my bosses at AvantiPlus Bike Shop decided to give all their staff I phones! My Dad always used to tell me that 'everything comes to those that wait Niel'  and by joves he was right. So thanks to Jo and Mike I have moved into the smart phone generation and cant believe how fast I can now access my blog and face book. Not to mention all those cycling aps that are no doubt out there waiting for me to discover. I don't have that many face book friends (due to my hate of all car drivers, truck drivers, children and pit bulls) but that number is bound to reduce even further when I figure out how to work these aps and post numerous rides on line complete with pictures of the Mercian and I. So there is no excuse now. You should be hearing a lot more from me.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

The Shortest Day 2014.


The weather has  been pretty good the last couple of weeks as we approach the shortest day. But I wasn't born yesterday and realise that the worst weather is undoutably still to come. This time last year I was readying myself for my cycle ride across Canada. This year  financial restraints ( being tight due to spending too much on eBay and in Canada last year), has led to the regrettable decision to suspend all plans of cycling overseas this year. In some ways its lucky that we put the brakes on this year as, if we had gone away, I could well have wasted money cycling in Aussie instead of saving the money for something a bit more challenging. The down side is that it is hard to motivate myself to go out and do the decent miles required on my bike to burn off the chocolate consumed each day. I'm still however managing to do over 200kms on my bike each week which I'm happy with. It will get me through until September when I will ramp it up so that I can attempt some Randonneuring rides.

Winter aye, its tough. I wake up in the morning like a 'Kate Middleton' , to someone opening my curtains and asking me if I would like a coffee. Then its onto the couch to check out the latest philosophising on Face book. The regulars are on there posting snippets concerning things that others are doing that they applaud yet fail to attempt themselves. I grab my coffee and have too much chocolate with it while I contemplate what to do with the day. This usually amounts to housework,  garden work, or cycling. What else is there? I think if it wasn't for work at the bike shop twice a week I wouldn't have any other social interaction.
A lack of social interaction has its advantages. High among these is an ability to generally get through winter without catching those nasty flu-ey things passed on by kids and their caregivers. 'Touch wood' I haven't been taken down yet this winter. Getting bored at home has also enabled me to think more carefully about the Paris-Brest-Paris cycle event next year. This was my goal until I clicked onto the http://www.transambikerace.com/ site in order  to catch up with what the Adventure Cycling community were up to. I knew that it was about to start but it hadn't sparked my interest to any extent, since the first half of the course followed a route through the Rockies that Adi and I had completed in 2010. I normally don't see the point in re covering old ground when there's so much more of the Earth to cycle. I haven't however cycled east of Denver and following the first week of the race got me interested in competing myself next year. Convincing Adi was easy. I simply showed her the TransAmerican site and suggested that she could be the first Vet 3 woman to complete it. Whereas I have no real competitive head and am happy just to challenge myself, Adi likes a bit of glory. Within a week all thoughts of the PBP were gone for her and she was working out how she would pack her bike for the TransAm and what sort of tent she would need.
And just to make the decision even harder for me the Transcontinental Race will be on in 2015 as well. The Transcontinental runs from London to Istanbul. The http://www.transcontinentalrace.com/ starts once the TransAm has finished and conceivably a contestant could do both one after the other. Adi feels this is a possibility, but I think that airline tickets could well bankrupt us.
Adi ran over a domestic pig on her way home from work in the dark last week. Apparently it was sitting on the road and she failed to see it in the beam of her light. The impact caused no damage to Adi's bike but resulted in her needing a bit of emergency medical care on her elbow. She couldn't ride her bike for a week but suggested that I get the tandem out so that she could still exercise.

I hated the idea of getting our 1980's Geoffrey Butler tandem out because quite frankly it's a death trap. The brakes are shocking and the riding positions for both captain and stoker leave a lot to be desired. But I do like a challenge in the bike shed and I do like retro gear, so 3 days later I emerged with a tandem of renewed possibilities. After a 10km test ride I was sufficiently impressed that I spent another day in the shed and came up with a tandem that not only offers captain and stoker room to move and a somewhat aerodynamic position but will also stop when all 4 brakes are applied. And most importantly for me while using all 1970's and 80's parts. The character of the bike of course being paramount over safety at all times.

After a 60km test ride and much arguing over this and that we concluded that the bike was much improved and held some possibilities, but that tandem riding still sucked. In fact Adi says that it is not peace, harmony and all goodwill at all for us.
I think that Adi just needs to understand that the Captain is the CAPTAIN.
It was still a good way to spend Anti Procreation Day https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Advocacy-for-Anti-Procreation/250119691710353  but like the khombi, we'll put it back in the bike shed and see if it ever comes out again.