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.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

The 2014 Kiwi Brevet.

My Adi had planned an overnight cycle ride this week, and I had planned a couple of days of.. Not much while she was away. Just a day away from her planned departure and she hadn’t made any moves towards cleaning her bike or testing how all the essentials would fit in her bags. So I assumed that my couple of slothful bachelor days were in jeopardy.
Thinking that she may not go and that I would have to spend the night watching’ Lord of the Rings’ or ‘The Biggest Loser’ once again on TV I suggested that I could ride the first part with her. Just to see her on her way so to speak. This seemed to work a treat, with her now expected off to be at 8am sharp the next day. Just what ‘Niel the Wheel’ loves, early starts.

One of the Family got to Sleep In.

O’well I thought. I could be back by early afternoon, have a shower, peg out until dinner time, throw a steak and chips on then settle down to a Matt Damon movie, bliss. I might even tinker with my bike in the lounge. I might even leave it there all night so that I can continue tinkering on it in the morning. I’ll have a leisurely breakfast dining on porridge made the way I like it with lashings of cream and sugar. Premixed with salt of course.
The next day at the 70km mark, Adi goes left into a howling headwind towards Renwick another 100kms away (poor thing), and I should have turned around and gone home, job done. But do I? No I don’t. I didn’t because after you have spent 4 hours cycling up to 700mtrs, and you have the option of another way home, a route that offers more tail wind, two stops for coke and ice-cream, no traffic to speak of and a bit of Bianca Strada thrown in for good measure, what real cyclist could say no?
Not me. And to top it all off I had only myself for company!. There’s always a down side and it wasn’t the company but the fact that a quick calculation had the proposed circuit at 220kms and at some point I’d be sticking my nose into a pretty solid northerly wind. I thought I’d ponder on it at the local store while sipping Coke and eating a filled roll. My fate was sealed when the nice petrol pump / tea lady asked me where I was cycling and I blew my own trumpet by throwing the toughest circuit out there and then adding that I would be home before dark and would probably save at least two distressed animals along the way.

Clearly I couldn’t then just go home, and besides I’d bought too much coke and filled rolls so had to do the full ride or end up coming back 2kilos heavier than when I started.
I won’t bore you with the trip except to say it was everything I expected. Gravel road, headwind, back-country New Zealand. Scenically very pretty, but where does everyone go during the week out there? Nobody to be seen working on the land, no tractors in the fields, no kids being chased by magpies. Tadmor would make a good backdrop for an apocalypse movie. You would have to add a few corpses here and there, otherwise everything else would suffice. No chance for a coffee inTadmor for two reasons, the first being that if I took the time to billy up myself I was worried that I would be riding home in the dark , and secondly the town café looked like it had closed 20years ago. And unlike an American café that is still operating but only looks like it closed 20years ago, Tadmor store really did close 20years ago. The railway line, still visible in places as an outline across the paddocks closed a good deal longer ago than that. And I think the town may still be trying to recover. A lick of paint on some of the dwellings and an extended session with the weed eater might cheer the place up a bit.

Railway Platform Now Abandoned.

At the end of the day I did get home ½ an hour before sunset having ridden 220kms, and having not saved any cute animals, and after carrying my rattily cooker ‘Ken ‘and mug all the way without the time available to use him. I was happy with the mileage but the lack of coffee thing sucked.
The radio tells me its Christmas in less than a month and I can’t believe that for the first year that I can remember I haven’t organised my Christmas present! I can’t even think of anything I want. This is not good as I should be ordering it by now. It’s no big deal though, I’ll just postpone Christmas until I can think of something.
In the mean time until Christmas happens for me around here, I have got my summer cycling sorted. I knew that deep down I must be training for something with these long rides and overnighters, and it’s come to me! With the help of my workmate at the bike shop (who we will call Mitchell) I have decided to enter the Kiwi Brevet 2014 event.
 This is an 1100km ride on backcountry roads around the top of New Zealand’s South Island. Mitchell thought it would be good for me, and bless his sole has offered to swap days with me at the bike shop so that I can have the 5 to 6 days off that I will need to complete the event. It will be a bit longer for me because I’ll have to ride the 125kms to the start/Finish and the same distance home afterwards. I do know a few other people doing it and would consider bludging a lift if they didn’t already know that I get great pleasure in making derogatory comments regarding vehicle support.
Instead I will ask them all if they want to ride over to the start as a bunch and then make derogatory comments about vehicle support when they tell me they will be driving there. Note to self. Don’t miss the start Niel.

It's Hard to Improve on Perfection ,but for the Brevet, Maybe My Small Front Carrier.

So I now have two more overnighters planned in order to hone myself up for the event and to recky parts of the off road sections of the course. This event should really set me up for the summer and hopefully make qualifying for the Paris- Brest- Paris event easier next year.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Fried Sausages.

As expected, preparation for my overnighter went well right up until I had to get out of bed in the morning. The minimal gear was loaded into my rear saddle bag the night before and I dispensed with the front rack and merely strapped the tent on top of the saddle bag. I was a little concerned as to whether the stainless steel bag support could handle all this but put it out of my mind being more worried in the end as to where I would fit my eight fried sausages.
First Step. Clean the Mercian.

There is no way I would start on this proposed route without my fried sausages because there are no services until the 130km mark and this combined with the fact that the first 70kms are all uphill could lead to a hungry and grumpy ‘Niel the Wheel’ should he not have bangers and coke on-board. One drink bottle of Coca Cola and one drink bottle of water. Ample to get me up to 200kms in the hottest of conditions. And I threw in some Whitakers chocolate for good measure. A bit like Cadbury’s chocolate but with actual chocolate under the wrapper.

The Easy Part. Getting Ready the Night Before.

So a seven am start was decided by myself and the alarm set. I managed to have a troubled sleep not wanting to go cycling after all and managed to drag myself out of bed by seven .I was leaning on the toilet gazing absent mindedly into space by 7,05am, porridge in my tummy by 7.20am and then out the door bang on 8am.
Perfect. I know myself so well that the ruse of a seven start had fooled myself into starting at 8am which should give me the correct amount of time to get all the hills out of the way by lunch time.
Three sausages for lunch and 400mls of Coke. Seventy kilometres down and it looked like only 100kms to my destination for the day. I had five fried sausages, 200mls of Coke and a full drink bottle of water left. Plenty and that didn’t include the chocolate. I’d have to be desperate to eat that chocolate during the ride as I had told myself that it would be far nicer to saviour it in the tent at night.
Get Ya Sausages Down Niel.

I started this last 100kms with a light headwind but as time went on the wind got stronger. Two hours down the road and I was fighting a wicked headwind. Sick of the monotony of it I took shelter in an old shed and ate two more sausages and drank the last of the coke all washed down with a bit of water. Feeling a might sick of sausages by this stage I got back on the bike to polish off the last thirty kms into the dry wind. A further hour down the road I was overtaken by an orchard worker riding a bike, so felt I needed to force down sausage number six and a bit of water.
A Man and His Bike. What More Could You Want? Well, Maybe a Tail Wind.

A Kids bus Shelter. I Should Note all these Down for Future Audax Events.

After seventy kilometres of uphill and then another one hundred kilometres of, in my face wind pounding, I was happy to pull into Spring creek camping ground, throw up my tent and head over to the fish & chip shop.
“Two fish, two hot dogs and a scoop of chips thanks”.
Two hot dogs? What was I thinking? I managed to eat the fish and chips but couldn’t get through another two sausages even though they were battered and delectably salty.
In the tent that night I realised that I still had 2 tin foil wrapped sausages left. Adi had gone to a lot of trouble to boil, fry and wrap those little buggers but my dilemma was whether they would be safe to eat the next day. I had carried them all day in my jersey pocket. They would have been incubating at body temperature for over 12 hours. I should eat them in the tent that night, but I really needed them for breakfast. These challenges are sent to test the long distance cyclist. Reasoned decisions need to be made.
I couldn’t actually face another sausage so I ate chocolate that night in the tent and had the bangers for breakfast. Let the bacteria do their worst. It couldn’t be any worse than some of the Bolivian chicken I’d consumed on a previous trip.
I actually didn’t sleep well in the tent as it was a cold night and I hadn’t packed a sleeping mat. My pillow was great, no complaints about the sleeping bag or liner, but not only was I frozen from the ground up but I had sore hip bones from the hard ground. The Blenheim area must not have had enough spring rain for the soil to be that hard. That aside I was up bright and early at 10am for the return 170kms through the Marlborough Sounds and back to Nelson.
Homeward Bound.

A meat pie was put away for lunch and an ice-cream for afternoon tea. Things got even better than that as the light tail wind morphed into something pretty decent. I had sufficient energy to shout derogatory comments at the numerous trunk drivers on this section of the road and make up little ditties about lard arse motorists and shuttled school kids.
And to top it all off I was home at 6pm to catch the day’s news on TV.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Audax UK.

It’s here!

I am now a member of the Audax UK club. I have perused the handbook for 2013 and am ready to begin my training for the Paris-Brest- Paris.
My mudguards have been shined and my Mercian has been fitted with quick release type bolts so that I can attach the guards as the weather dictates. My entry pack contained AUK stickers. They looked like mudguard stickers so that’s where they went. One on the front and one on the rear. Tis a pity that few cyclists in New Zealand will have any idea what the Audax UK club is about. But there you go; it’s not up to me to educate the weekend warriors.

Campag Quick Bolts for Mudguards.

Today I have spent some time cleaning my bike after the last few weeks of long day rides with Adi. Tonight I will fit my front carrier and tomorrow I plan to head off on an overnighter that will have me riding two 200km days around a circuit that I’ve completed in previous years sometimes supported but usually by camping somewhere along the way. All my gear should fit in the saddlebag except my tent which will need to be strapped to the small front carrier.

I put this ride off last week because I was called into the bike shop to cover one of the guys while he supported his wife in the maternity ward. But this week the weather looks good. All I have to do is drag my arse out of bed at 7am tomorrow morning and be out the door by 8am. I will tell myself that this is extremely important because the only fish and chip shop on route is at 180km and if I don’t get there by 6.30pm it could be closed.

My brain is like a sponge and I have learnt from the AUK magazine that long distance cyclists like fish and chips. So I will eat fish and chips. I have also learnt that after a good days ride you don’t want to miss dinner as it doesn’t bode well for the next day’s ride. By 8.30pm I want to be at the campground with a full stomach, a drink in hand, and my tent up.

This will be a solo overnight as Adi is going to hold the fort while I am gone. She intends to do a local day ride of 200kms. Frankly her plan of cycling 100kms and returning home for lunch before then cycling another 100kms in the afternoon seems like a pretty tough mental challenge to me. Once home there would be no way I could motivate myself to go out again in the afternoon. I’m more of the drop me a long way from home with no bus money and I’ll happily cycle home type of a guy. Adi’s other plan is to do my 400km circuit ride next week, when I will be the emergency backup back at home. I particularly like this way of doing overnighters because I can ride at my own pace and eat all the rubbish food I like. I’m hoping to encourage one or two of my friends from the bike shop scene along on future rides. (That’s providing they can find a bike capable of carrying a bit of overnight kit). We will see. Last year Andy came with me and seemed to enjoy it? This year he is somewhat busy having bought the bike shop that I used to part-time in. Owning a bike shop has always appealed until I think about how much cycling I could do around work and realise it would be a big fat zero.

There she is ‘ready for the off’ as the UK types in the magazine would say. I’m not sure whether the bag support can handle all that?

On a Ride the other Day. My Sort of People.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

A New Focus.

So we have been back from Canada for a number of months and I haven't until now put pen to paper. While away I was blogging every few days and I suppose I needed a bit of time to get over the tour across the Canada's, a chance to clear my head before detailing day to day events again.
My head for writing may have temporarily left me, but my enthusiasm for the bike certainly hasn't this time around. While away I decided that I would definitely focus on long distance cycling on my return. I decided that I would make my new priority the Paris-Brest-Paris event in 2015 and I have put the ball in motion since I have been back to slowly get myself ready for that.
Initially on our return a number of important issues needed to be addressed. Firstly and fore mostly I needed to confirm that Mike & Joe at 'Avanti Richmond' still wanted me to work in the weekends. Cycle touring may be a thrifty form of holiday travel but 2 1/2 months living overseas still doesn't come that cheaply, so we needed an income on our return to pay it all off. Adi's bosses also needed her back so kindly re employed her. My beloved Mercian and Ken the cooker were next on my list for 'not negotiable' attention. Ken needed his third leg re brazed on, and the Mercian needed a new set of retro campag wheels constructed to replace the ones that self destructed in New Hampshire. I think it's important when running a retro everything machine , that you have at least 4 sets of wheels available at all times. Well actually its best with retro bikes to have n +1 +?. Where n is the part required on the bike for its operation plus another identical or better part in the bike shed. ? is another part that will do the job currently being searched for on line because you can never get what you need straight away. And frankly, lets face it, its fun searching and bidding for these priceless treasures.
Isn't it a funny thing that women really don't seem to understand this. And I can tell you that when my Adi reads this she will immediately think, that, because I'm "wasting all this spare change on old bike parts" that she can then justify tripling her contribution to the SPCA or Soi. dog in Vietnam.
Do our non fanatical biking partners not realise that we need these choice parts and not so choice parts to keep our and their bikes going!
Of course this reminded me that Adi's back wheel had fallen to bits in mid Canada as well, taking a lovely retro Italian rim with it. So I rebuilt her another set on our return.( But not Italian for her this time.)
Hey, hey , don't you think that. Its just that Italian is wasted on Adi, she really doesn't care. Shimano will do her proud.
Spring Festival Time.

Once again I digress. I decided while cycling each day in Canada that upon my return I would not only start doing longer rides but that I would join the Audax UK club, Kiwi Randonneur Club and the local cycle racing club, (Tasman Wheelers). I wanted to join AUK because they have a magazine, a wealth of knowledge and most importantly a long list of badges that I can somehow go for. This was important to me because in my younger days I must have been the only boy cub or scout that never got a badge. My crowning achievement coming not in the scouts but in of all things swimming club where I was awarded my aqua bear 1 badge for putting my head under without drowning. ( I since left that club without ever learning to swim). Later towards the end of my time in scouts I do recall getting a first Aid badge for putting a medical kit together.

Just in case anyone is wondering, the wet mark on the concrete is from me rinsing my mug.This randonneuring is thirsty work.

I will tell you now that I am committed to putting that embarrassment behind me by going for every conceivable cycling distance in the Audax UK club and achieving it. I will collect those badges and proudly peruse them when I know non of my cycle racing friends are looking.
Which brings me to why I have decided to re join the Tasman Wheelers. The bottom line here is that 'I miss them'. I've been out of the club for probably 7-8 years and I feel like I'm losing touch with the good old local roadies. It's true that most of them are totally dependent upon their cars, are never found cycling more than 50kms from the centre of town, and think that if they were to cycle on gravel road the metal could open up and they would never be seen again. But they are passionate about cycling in their own way and know how to suffer on a bike as long as the weathers fine, there aren't too many hills and they can drive home afterwards and have a hot shower and a glass of wine. And there's nothing wrong with that.
So I will race with them on my Adi's road bike. A bike that I will probably never mention again since it is made from some form of plastic fibre. A bike put together by someone who couldn't care less about cycling, in a country that regards cycling as something that only poor peasants now do. A country that will measure its wealth by how many citizen's can afford a car and the time to sit in gridlock for hours each day while breathing everyone else's exhaust fumes.
By Jove's it is easy to pedal though, and it would be pretty easy to justify cheating on my Mercian once a week if I could afford an Italian one. But if I ride my Adi's one its not like cheating at all because its not mine and I have no emotional attachment to it. The racing should also help my PBP preparation as I will have reason to shave my legs thus reducing drag over long distances.
I am joining the Kiwi Randonneurs club simply because its there, and I will need to complete a number of their long distance events to qualify for entry to the PBP 2015. I cant get badges from them and they have no magazine. In fact I'm under no illusion that on a number of the events I enter next year  may only have Adi and myself in them.

Look. No Batteries...
and 94% correct.

In true retro long distance style, I have my weather station out each morning and upon dialling a favourable daily forecast have already notched up a few 170km rides
Made in the UK. Hence a lot of Predictions involve Rain.

So there you have it to date. A new quest is on the horizon and I will blog as I go. 2015 hopefully will see me qualified and heading for Paris to compete. And being in the Antipodes, such a long way from Paris, means that I wont go all the way there just to do PBP. No. A tour of the Baltic beforehand might be the go. Nothing like a decent tour before the event to knock you into shape. Maybe up to the Arctic and cycle to Paris??

In the next week or so those Brits at AUK should get around to sending Adi and my entry pack out and I can study all the rules and regs set out in the Audax handbook. I will swear my allegiance to The Queen, Country and riding my bike over great distances unsupported. I will promise at all times to have my mudguards properly fitted and not to ever swear at an old person.