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, 31 August 2011

Done And Dusted.

There we are. The happy couple riding our tandem in the countryside.

Tandem Bliss?

That's it done and dusted. I can put the tandem away again until I have forgotten how positively awful it is riding a bike permanently attached to another cyclist with a  totally different riding style. That would be awkward enough but when you add to the equation a bike with virtually no braking ability, a saddle like concrete and a propensity to wander all over the road you can understand why I was shouting out at regular intervals "I hate this bike,I hate this bike. Tandems are for pussy whipped blokes".

And just to make matters worse. Of all the circuits Adi and I could have chosen today we choose the Wednesday boy's circuit! It was of course a big bunch that past us going in the opposite direction. I suppose it could have been worse. They could have come up from behind and caught me unawares.

Today's memories will fade and I'll look up at Geoffrey in the garage and think what wonderful workmanship look at those fillet brazed Reynolds tubes and that fine blend of French and English componentry. I might take that baby out for a spin." Help me get it down Adi." "OK Wheel, I'll make a picnic lunch".

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Romance Is In the Air.

Well, whenever you mention tandems to women their eyes light up and I'm sure they think of summer days cycling in the country with the picnic hamper on the back and their sole mate guiding them on happy adventures.

 Back in our early days together, Adi I'm sure, often decided that I was spending much to much time with my bike and not nearly enough time with her. I could tell when she was a little pissed with me spending time on my bike because she would be all over me,  right when I wanted to concentrate on more serious matters. One particular afternoon I had finally got my new bike frame and all accessories together and all I  needed was a day of uninterrupted cycle build time. No. A woman ignored will not let you rest. I soon learnt that you just have to be firm with them and explain that no one comes between Niel and his Wheel!

In those early days I think that Adi thought that  if her womanly charms weren't sufficient on there own to wean me off bikes then she could do it gradually by suggesting that we get a tandem. To make the trap perfect she ordered an English Bob Jackson frame set comprising multiple Reynolds 531 tubes of the finest Birmingham steel. One of the frame builders at the bike shop I worked at at the time offered to build it for her.That plan feel through when the whole cost of the operation became too prohibitive for her. (After all I was just a possible future hubby in those days). Not to be beaten Adi planted the seed of a tandem in my head and then on our first year anniversary we went to Christchurch where I was led into an old bike shop where a Geoffrey Butler tandem was happily hanging from the rafters.

Adi's eyes misty with romance gazed lovingly up while I happened to focus on a cabinet full of Campag Super Record components twinkling at me from the other side of the shop.

We went out of the shop that day with a brand new 53/42 chain wheel set that I thought would look the part on my Ron Kitching touring bike.

Almost Adi, But No Cigar.
Twenty years later and racked with guilt, that Geoffrey Butler tracked me down. (well not really racked with guilt). I turned up for work one day in the bike shop I was currently working at and who was there to greet me.. you guessed it Geoffrey in a very forlorn looking state. So forlorn that I hardly recognised him. The current owner had bought him on Trade Me and hadnot known  how to fix him when he turned up. The mechanic at the bike shop was looking for an excuse to get him out of the shop so I suggested to the owner that I could take Geoffery off his hands for what he paid for him. The deal was done and home we went.

Adi's eyes lit up and Geoffrey proved to be a good patient. It didn't look like he had been used much and after fitting a number of retro parts and a week of tinkering he was his old self again. Geoffrey, Adi and Niel went on a gaggle or two of 'romantic' outings and then it was back in the garage rafters for him. A place I think most tandems reside for long periods. A bloke can only take so much romance!

I got the hard word yesterday and he's out again getting shined up for another ride in the country.

'Don't Think I'm Getting Too Attached to You Geoffrey'.
Tomorrow I will once again remember why tandem riding sucks. But Adi will be happy and when Adi's happy, I'm happy.

I just hope we once again survive the ride. With old style Mafac brakes and an even older hub brake also manufactured in France ( Atom) the chances of stopping in a hurry are non existent. We will wiggle our way down the driveway and I will try not to think about the fact  that I am cheating on my  beloved Mercian.

Sunday, 28 August 2011


Another weeks gone by and I have logged up 400kms on the bike. O' and in case you are wondering 0 kms in the car as it it still in pieces. Really only two pieces. Car piece and engine piece, not together.
I am seriously going to try to get those pieces together in the not to distant future. By employing a mechanic you ask? Not likely! Pay someone else to do what you can do yourself is not in my nature.  As I've said before if a boy racer can fix an engine it's got to be pretty easy. I will however join the local VW club and re associate myself with the local VW repair shop to make the process a bit easier. After all these people dream about aircooled VW's for 20hrs of every day. Whereas my kombi has always been just a platform to get my bike and I to the next cycle event or holiday. Cant say it didn't help in pulling chicks . Adi liked it. Anyway I digress

400kms this week and its spring now. I know its spring because I have been able to get my legs out from under the bike tights. I showed my Lily white legs off this week with my white shorts.

Freshly Shaved Legs Out For Spring.
I made my best effort to go out on the Sunday bunch ride today. I checked the departure time in advance, setting the alarm clock, and putting the 'Sunday wheels' on my bike. All to no avail because as I heard the dawn chorus I decided once again that only guys with babies had to get up this early for cycling ( they only have a pass until noon then its back to fun family life) and promptly went back to sleep for another couple of hours. At lunch time when the others turn back into Mums and Dads I downed a can of spaghetti, an egg and a slice of cheese and headed out on what was to become a typical 100km roadie out and back. A ride lacking any real interest except the feel good aspect of knowing that 'Your Doing It' as the Americans would say and the anticipation of a coffee and hot shower at the end of it. Normally I'd throw in a bit of gravel to spice it up but my 'Sunday Wheels' wouldn't like that and my bike would get all dusty. I did however manage to fit in 10-20kms of cycleways. Cycle ways can be fun if you're in the right mood.

Plotting My Next Move on the Cycleway Underpass.

You can often spice up the ride playing dodgem with dim witted teenagers. This is particularly fun as they leave school for the day because their brains are still asleep and they are even more sluggish and usually don't notice you coming until it's too late. But today was Sunday and there weren't many around.
Playing chicken with parents and kids coming the other way is usually a Sunday special. Most parents haven't quite grasped the old keep Left rule yet so you can be fairly sure that they haven't instilled it in their kids either. What joy to get the Mercian cranking in top gear, barrelling down the cycleway on the left side (so you're legal in case of mishap) and watching people jumping in all directions as you rifle past. Ive been playing in this way with non cycling cycleway users for some time now and still my most prized memory is from a couple of years ago when I came around a corner to find a teenage girl lying on the cycle way either drunk or asleep or maybe just in a state of pre brain development. Anyway the pain in her arm once I had run over it will remind her not to do that again. I take my responsibility for educating people on cycleway etiquette very seriously.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Change In the Air.

I'm feeling pretty good mentally today after a few days of lack luster thoughts and indecision about things. Call it winter blues I suppose.
Every now and again I think you have to stand back and reassess your direction and make sure you are happy with where you are headed.Just as the financiers tell us that we all have to learn to live within our means and that the world economy has to readjust after 50yrs of greed, I have to sort out whats important to me and what is basically just silly wants or short term desires.

I did this a little while ago with regard to cycling. Making a  shift to quality retro bikes as opposed to giving in to the ever constant temptations to buy yet another piece of cycle equipment guaranteed to reinvent the industry. Luckily for me retro is in at the moment. Much I'm sure to the disgust of the cycling industry as a whole. Since its so easy for people to pick up a classy steel fixie or road bike if you know where and what to look for. Of course better bike manufacturers can always make you one using traditional techniques for a price. I shifted to retro because I had a garage full of old parts that I thought would keep me happily pedalling for years. And it has always made me feel good to reuse something. Part of this feel good feeling I see now is due to the fact that  more and more people out there can't fix things which makes me  feel ever so self righteous.
 I started to thumb my nose at the fuel companies by cycling , then to thumb my nose at the government with regard to the multiple taxes required to drive. I laughed at local bodies attempts to make money out of parking and other fines imposed on motorists. It was then inevitable that I would then thumb my nose at marketing companies trying to sell me the latest Toyota kid carrier. Or for that matter a bike company trying to sell me plastic or fibre bike components.


Steel Bikes Are In. But First get Someone Qualified to Check the Sizing.

The retro man was born. My change in cycling style was a very gradual thing. As was the realisation that I have to focus more of my attentions on Potter's-End's up keep. Its a biggish place and at the rate that I am currently pottering,  it will take forever to get on top of it. Something like the way we are bridging the gap between New Zealand's and Australia's  productivity.

So from today and more specifically after our next cycle adventure. I will be fully committed to  maintenance of home and  the lifestyle associated with it. It will be the Good Life re-visited with quite a bit of cycling thrown in for good measure. Because how else do you get around when trying to live off the smell of an oily rag. The catalyst for this change in thought was waking up yesterday to the realisation that we had another pet at Potter's -End. I don't know whether Bob invited him in or whether he thought we didn't have a mouse in the house yet so why not. Anyway there he was blatantly eating biscuits and sipping water out of Bob's bowl! Potters-End's outer defence barriers have been breached and it's up to me to find out where.

I Don't Want Another Pet.

The Global bike adventure is still on track. But there too there are subtle changes taking place that will ultimately determine the course of the adventure undertaken. Diane our lovely travel agent and Alex her partner are on their own adventure in the US. But when they come back in a few weeks time we will be sorting our visas and booking our tickets. The organisers of the Global bike race are deliberating as to whether having Adi following on the Vespa will proclude me from entering the adventure class of the race. So a back up plan is being drawn up late into the night down at Potter's -End. That way when Diane and Alex get back we will be on the drops head down bum up and it will be full speed ahead.

 The time of indecision, like winter, is drawing to a close.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

August Longesh Ride

I'm calling this the August Longish Ride because each month in the lead up to the Feb start next year I'm going to do a longer ride or rides to boost my fitness. Since I'm not that fit yet, this months longer ride is not that long.

My mother would call it long but then she's in her 90's. Adi's boss Jim would think it was long because he thinks driving the car is exercise enough.In fact Adi's boss Jim thinks Adi is far to good for me and that Adi should get a real husband that drives to work, takes her on real holidays where she can lie on a beach and go on regular shopping trips. At the very least he thinks the Lost breed should rough me up a bit. I like Jim he's got a good sense of humour.

As a very reluctant cyclist I will no doubt have trouble leaving on this ride which is why I'm posting my intent now. Next Tuesday I will down my can of Pam's Creamed Rice (see' Enhancements and Nutrition Section' of my blog) and head of on treadlie to Blenhiem via St Arnaud (alpine town) with kit for an overnight stay in a budget backpackers. With a bit of money in my pocket for fish & chips that night. I should complete about 160km's in that leg.

A Bit of Gravel Anyone?

The next day should be more interesting because after a can of Spaghetti and sausages I'll return along the scenic coastal Queen Charlotte Sounds route before  hitting the old gold miners trail of Maungatapu to Nelson. That should give me another 160kms or a night in the bush if the tracks closed. Incidentally a night up there would not be at all desirable as the locals will tell you there are unhappy spirits up that way.

Will need gravel tyres for this little jaunt and a bike that can carry more than just a spare tube. I think steel is the answer.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Winter Blues.

Only 300kms this week and winter is back again with a vengeance. As I write it is virtually snowing outside and I actually feel good because I decided not to go out on my bike today. However only 6 months to go before the start of the race and there is a slight pressure that I feel.

My travel agent Diane is off in the US on holiday and when she gets back we will have to start looking at applying for visas. Its not the warmest of places 'Potters-End'. Adi is going around complaining of a draft here or there. In 6months time we will be in a tent travelling across Europe and I'm thinking things will be plenty cold there! I'll have to pack the thermal tights, booties, gloves and beanie. To think this time last year it was 40+ C in Utah and after a good days ride I was cooling myself in the local mud pond with everyone else.

Life's a friend and a Pond.

I'll get over this inertia I feel. The cycling's on track and should crank up as the weather warms. I've tentatively planned my longer rides for the next 3 -4 months.

Hopefully all those unhappy disassociated youths around the world will have cheered up now they've got their big screen TV's and manged to score 100+ friends on facebook. I wouldn't want the London ones to be having a bad hair day or anything next Feb when I cycle through there. They're not nice when they have bad hair days!

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

The BoB Trailer

I was talking to John, one of the cycle reps that routinely visit the cycle shop, the other day and he showed some surprise that I was taking my BOB trailer on the around the world bike trip. He rightfully pointed out that having a third wheel behind my bike would no doubt slow my progress forward somewhat. Initially I gave little thought to this as I have been using my trusty BOB for the last 15years and it's always carted my stuff faithfully.

But later I thought. Has it carted my stuff efficiently or have I been fooling myself? Could the BOB be another one of these so called new inventions in cycling that is just a complete marketing fabrication sold to gullible consumers? It's been so long since I've used panniers that I'm kind of forgetting what they were like. I do remember that panniers made quite a bit of noise , that the whole machine flexed a bit when I rode out of the saddle and there was always the worry of breaking racks etc. I have to also acknowledge that all my other cycle tours have been with companions not hell bent on riding hard and as fast as I would have to in this event. After all you can't afford to dawdle too much when riding around the world . The cat will no longer recognise you on your final return and the bike shop will give your job to a freckly faced teenager who can ride down hills quickly and recite full suspension travel distances.

BOB Repairs.
So there I was repairing the BOB pondering on all this. BOB trailers are generally regarded as a robust worry free way to carry gear and mine has generally performed well. However I can't help thinking that (as in the case of many products) the BOB people obviously don't test there stuff in the field enough, or ask advise from the wrong people. Because my BOB had obvious defects which I could mention. But then what would BOB's research and development section do tomorrow.

By the time I'd re glued and sewn the bag handles on and laced the steel mesh under the trailer with stainless steel tracer (The mesh cracks away from the trailer frame after a time), I'd decided for my next trip I'd go back to panniers.

I think I will use the classic set up of low riders on the front and normal panniers on the back immediately saving myself 7kgs of trailer weight and the drag of that third wheel.

While I was punishing myself with these weighty issues Adi was busy doing a spot of pruning.

Adi Hard at Work.

I'm not quite sure of what the neighbour will think of Adi's pruning pile but I'm  sure that it will not go totally unnoticed. She's a busy little beaver. I hope she's got the energy for a bike ride tomorrow.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Vespa / Cycle to Picton

The day dawned clear and cool. The object was for me to cycle to the coastal town of Picton 130km's away and then back the next day. Normally a pretty easy undertaking but in winter it could have all gone horribly wrong if bad weather eventuated.

But no, the weather was spot on with no wind and happily no ice. Adi was to leave a couple of hours later on the Vespa and meet me for lunch half way there. I ended up leaving at 10am due to a lack of get up and go. Once on the bike though I felt good for an early season run. It really helped getting the heavy commuter wheels off my bike and putting on my sports wheels. Mercian just hummed along with the only nuisance being road sign men stopping me for road works. I don't like stopping for that sort of crap! I was a man on a bike with a mission. I did however have to stop to talk to a man with a 1961 kombi much like mine. After a quick sqizz at his splitty and being informed that my old bus was now worth 8x what I paid for it I was off again. I like my Vw because we've travelled together for quite awhile but really what sort of nutter would pay $40000 for an old van even if you can cook bacon and eggs in it.

Niel the Wheel by 2pm was beginning to get a bit peckish and Adi hadn't caught up on the Vespa yet. Adi was using my Vespa for this little jaunt because we thought her Vespa would be doing enough kms next year going around the world. I was worried she'd been delayed by police given the fact that I don't register my vespa. I don't register it because the authorities in good old NZ have taken it on themselves to try to tax scooters out of all existence. I however feel I'd rather pay the fine instead. So far I'm quids in. I do however warrant of fitness Grommet because I like a my motor to be top condition and safe at all times. And it's only small change for a wof check.
Adi on Grommet.

Adi finally caught up and a bit of nosh was had by all. I then finished the final kms to Picton and met my new nephew Rob. Who turned out to be a good chap and fairly well developed for a new nephew. After lifting me off the ground in a bear hug ( Aussies!) we headed off for a catch up as my brother had only mentioned Rob last year and we had 30 odd yrs unaccounted for. A bit too much drink and less than normal sleep made me a bit seedy the next day for my ride home. But with Rob's company for the first part it all went smoothly.

Early morning Ride with Rob.
We whizzed through the coastal bays totally unaware that at that time the great US had been DOWN GRADED!. What we were concerned about however was the down right shoddiness of rental bikes! Rob's bike wouldn't even stay in gear. As we see the US dollar fall through the floor and US petrol ( sorry Gas) prices sour we must think that there's always a bright side. One being that now Americans can enjoy the idea of getting out on their cycles more and two, that everyone else in the world will have cheaper overseas trips.

Great day for a Ride.

Adi once again caught up on the Vespa. She then got the jump on us over the next couple of coastal headlands before we reeled her in. Principally because she had waited for us to catch up. I think it's going to be hard yakker chasing that girl around the world next year. I suppose what doesn't break you makes you stronger.
Final Parting.
Rob had to then turn back. Adi and I continued on back to Nelson. The weather continued to be perfect and I hope Rob had a smooth ferry crossing back to the North Island.

Adi abandoned me next because she reckoned chicken woo and Bob would be hungry back home.

On my own I found some kind sole had poured me 3 glasses of wine and left me a bunch of flowers in the next bay. Nice but a block of chocolate would have gone down better. The worlds a funny place. It was national roast day but the roast was absent.