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, 31 December 2013

2014 ; New Year's Resolution, More of the Same.

It’s New Year’s Day and my thoughts again have turned to the Kiwi Brevet event in two months’ time. On checking the official site I notice that there are getting on for 100 entrants now. I think therefore that it might be time for me to enter. The cost of entry appears to be nothing.
 On closer examination it seems that I have to make a charitable donation to some cause or other. Luckily for us non giving people, they have made it easy by reducing the choices to just a few organisations. I don’t see the ‘Stop Humans Breeding like Rabbits Foundation ‘on the list or for that matter one of my favourites ‘The Society for the Decriminalisation of Child Discipline’. It’s not all bad though as the charities available are cycling orientated. The rescue helicopter option may even come in handy one day if I fall off my bike somewhere remote.
Looks can be Deceiving. Early Stage of the Porika Track.
 I have made ‘forced’ donations to that one in the past and continue to support them thanks to my long involvement with Westpac Bank. The Westpac helicopter continues to rescue foreigners who set off into the mountains and then get hypothermia and decide they’ve now had enough ,or pluck fisherman from the sea who after a beer or two and a quick ciggy then fall into the surf while not wearing their life-jacket. And when my investments once again come up for renewal and I look at the pathetic interest rate that I am to receive for the next 12months, I can at least feel warm and fuzzy in the knowledge that I am doing my bit to rescue un fortunates.
My last Kiwi Brevet practise just before Xmas went well and taught me a thing or two. After loading up my bike and heading out to do the Porika Track and associated gravel back country cycling I returned home the next day with at least three lessons learned. And in fact that 300km Porika /Braeburn and home circuit was so hard that I’m not going to mention what I learnt because fellow Brevet people may be reading this and hoping to learn stuff the easy way. The easy way being not going arse over kite down the Porika (because it’s so steep and chewed out), or getting virtually no sleep at the half way point because the ground was so hard and cold without a bed roll.
Shepherd's Hut.
I can share other useful points though like the fact that the fish and chips at Murchison are disgusting.  ‘Niel the wheel’s tip in Murch is to not spend more than $10 on fish and chips because they are so yuk that you won’t be able to eat any more than that. Financially buoyant   people will be able to stop at the restaurant but if you do that you may be riding into the wee small hours making up all that lost time, and who’s to say that some tosser won’t nick your bike when you’re in there wine -ing and dining your sorry arse.
Not giving any clues away, but the Porika is so rough that I will now triple wrap my tent due to the constant vibrations wearing through any coverings not made from bullet resistant weave. I took minimal gear with me on the trip but with the exception of needing a sleeping mat have decided in the interests of getting back to Blenheim in time( to get back to work at the bike shop) and with a smile still on my face, I’ll dump some other things that I thought were necessities.
I will now not take my portable barometer and weather station. Gone from the list is my brass compass.  There won’t be room for such luxuries as my combination ‘Browning’ stainless steel knife fork spoon (with integrated can opener).
Realistically now I can’t see myself having time sweet talk any locals, so will take no casual / party clothes. This will be strictly business. If it doesn’t involve me moving forward on my bike then it will not be on the radar.
I need one more overnight training ride to fine tune the bike and gear. More importantly I need to suss out the off road stuff around Reefton. Big River is an area I have never been and mentally I need to know that it’s passable on the Mercian. Even if I have to push or pull the bike through what I believe is the toughest part of the event, I’ll feel better when I’ve done it once. So in a couple of weeks I’ll ride on the road to Reefton 180kms, then the next day do the Big River and back to Murchison ~130km before on the 3rd day riding the long way home (another 180kms).
If I’ve got the energy after that I’ll do a day ride over the Mangataupu as like the other off road sections I fear that the Mercian and I may be doing it tough.
The Braeburn . Wet Feet and ................
...... Mosquitos
The photos attached have reminded me of what I learnt on the Braeburn trail. Firstly you realise how lucky you are to still be alive and operational after crossing the Porika Track. But other than that you learn not to ford the splashes at such a pace that you soak everything on the bike including yourself. This is because you will most certainly not have fully dried out by Murchison and will be frozen while you eat your greasy flavourless fish and chips. You’ve got to grin and bear it though. While you stuff it down you’ll be thinking, tasteless as this fast food is, it’s good for me. Full of salt and carbos and washed down with a litre of coke for electrolyte replacement.
Just what the doctor ordered.

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Maybe a Christmas Road Trip?

Let’s do something different for Xmas this year, Adi suggested.
Well I thought, we could go out a few days before the day and spend heaps of money at some bulk chain discount store, have lunch at a crap chain food place, then jump into the silver Toyota SUV and grab a Christmas tree on the way home. That would be different. On the way home if we feel a bit stressed we could drop the kids off at some toy shop to be baby sat while we grabbed a couple of espressos, drinking thoughtfully while trying to look cool. The way we looked before we had the kids. Back when life was full of options and before we had to make sure we had the family Xmas all paid off before the new school term started. Before late Feb when we would somehow have to afford Spank and Tiffs voluntary School contributions.
No Adi corrected, let’s do something different on Xmas day, not the days before.
So I thought, we could get up early and open the presents not carefully selected from the chain stores before piling into the silver SUV for a drive to the petrol station. Porning in Dads gold watch might just about raise enough for sufficient  petrol to get around all the festive meals but don’t forget your party hat. Stuffed to the gunnels and trying to get home without becoming one of the holidays road toll,  left wondering  where the day went and why you are not ecstatic at how the day went. After all you spent enough money on it, and you’ve got a bigger SUV than everyone else you’ve managed to engage in Xmas banter.
But no, Adi was correct. A bike ride to the beach and a little picnic would not cut the mustard this year. It needed to be different. Firstly, no pressies for ourselves, we always get ourselves something. And my god I’m sure I had an SUV in the bike shed somewhere. After finding it under some cycle gear it was just a matter of dusting it off and then we could zoom out to a community lunch or dinner probably both if I could only remember where the fuel filler was located.

She needed a wash down and a wax. Best done outside the bike shed, but the only problem was that our SUV hadn’t been used for a few years (5) so I couldn’t seem to move it. The brakes had stuck on. When you have a biggish shed this is not a problem. I simply washed, waxed and hosed down the vehicle in the shed. Plenty of time to rev her up and loosen the hubs later.
Ah, she looked lovely after that polish and buff up. Let’s load her up with all the days’ stuff, stuff that we would normally not be seen dead with. Chilly bins stocked full of food and drink, BBQ clothes, beach 
clothes, sun cream, picnic chairs, folding tables…. Poor clothes so we can get into the community dinner.

Turn the key and we’re off. Isn’t that what SUV’s are supposed to do? Nothing.  Hey it’s not like this on the ads. You turn the key and then you’re on the road with the wind in your hair. Spanky and Tiff are laughing in the back and we’re all gobbling up the kilometres.  Not a sound from our SUV. But then I realise that of course, after 5 years of no use I’ll probably need to throw a new battery in there next to the engine.
 No problem Adi.
I know the battery goes in there. In that vacant space next to the engine.

But first I have to figure out where the engines gone. Two vacant spaces in the back? I’m guessing that the bigger space is where the engine goes. And I now remember that I put it over on the South side of the bike shed about 3years ago. Yup, there it is, on that bench. Its needs a spot of reassembly, but I know that it’s all there, and that it just needs to be put back together. Four or five hours tops then we’ll be off.

Christmas Eve and I need to get my head around the best place to start. The car is nice and clean, so I have made a start. It’ll all go together a lot more smoothly if I have a rum and coke, maybe two, I decide.
We’ve got to be legal this year. Can’t just go out without bothering like we did when we were 20. I’ll need to be registered, to have paid my road taxes and have my warrant of fitness. Do you need an engine for that? I doubt it, after all its just revenue gathering.
I make a mental note to book a bit of Adi’s time and the neighbours because we’ll need to push or tow the wagon down to the garage so the correct papers can be stamped, and the road taxes collected by the government.
Bugger, they’ll be closed now. What was I thinking? Public servants cease to work at least a week before Xmas. They are at their desks in body but what’s left of their mind is already on holiday.

I suggest to Adi that there are a few hiccups with doing the family SUV thing this Christmas and she reminds me why I married her 25+years ago. She’s happy to jump on her bike and go off with me for a day’s exercise and adventure. And what’s more she’ll cook me turkey and crunchy potatoes for dinner. (The potatoes usually need another 20mins or so).
Maybe we’ll get one of those 2014 VW combis for next Xmas.

Don’t be silly Niel, just a poor copy of the original.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

A New Bike and a Box of Bits.

My Adi wants a lighter long distance bike. I don’t blame her really. Her GT urban / touring bike is not the type of bike to do effortless 12hour rides on. The day after her return from an overnight ride I was asked to convert her carbon road bike into an Audax bike. Her GT was described as too heavy and too slow. Initially I thought this would be a simple enough task given that the carbon Genius had the Ultegra triple set up we wanted making for relaxed gearing ratios. However we couldn’t get the more relaxed riding position needed for a long distance bike. In addition to this the Genius had no room for fitting 25C tyres, and certainly no room for mudguards should they be needed for a long wet event.
Carbon Verses Steel. Steel Raleigh is 500g Heavier.

So it was back to the drawing board. My suggestion of using my 1980’s Raleigh Panasonic Team bike and putting all the Ultegra gear on it, with some race wheels was quickly given the thumbs down. I might be the retro man, but my Adi is firmly in the 21st century where ultra-light is right. Adi and the Panasonic would never have seen eye to eye anyway. She hated the frame colour and the Raleigh refused to accept Adi’s choice of carbon bars and stem. As far as that bike was concerned it was Cinelli bars and stem or nothing at all. I had a set of 3T bars and stem that may have been acceptable to the bike, but not to carbon minded Adi. The deal breaker came once I had fitted the Ultegra group set and ascertained that a set of narrow mudguards would work, with race brakes and 25C tyres. Adi said that she’d consider it if we repainted the frame!

Over my dead body!

So I was on the phone to Mitchell at Avanti Richmond where I work, to see if he could find any old-stock cyclo cross bike for a good price. I thought a cyclo cross bike would meet Adi’s requirements of light but strong, with low enough gears, and the clearance for long mudguards. She wanted carbon fibre but the reality of the situation was that a carbon fibre frame would not stand up well to the rigors of overseas travel, and the possible need to combine a bike tour with a long distance event like the Paris – Brest-Paris.
Loading the New Bike at Avanti Richmond. There is a BOB Trailer Under there Somewhere.

Mitchell came up trumps with an Avanti cylocross bike with alloy frame, carbon forks, Tiagra 30 speed and enough other carbon fibre to keep Adi happy. And most importantly the price was right. A couple of days later and the Mercian and I were at the bike shop for the pickup and ride home. The previous days were spent disassembling the Genius road bike and cleaning all the bits ready for either selling (to fund the Avanti) or storing. Knowing full well that today’s junk is tomorrows retro I am very hesitant at selling the Genius carbon frame and American Classic wheels that make up most of the Genius bike. The Ultegra triple and other group set parts will never leave my possession. I may be a Campag nut but I also know quality and versatility when I see it. But the wheels and frame I will begrudgingly sell to help fund Adi’s Avanti. If they don’t meet their reserve I can always peel their labels off and use them at a later date.
15kms along the Cycle way and we were Home.

All this bike building just served to distract me from my training for the Kiwi Brevet. I was supposed to go on my next overnighter this week but have, due to a chronic lack of enthusiasm, postponed it until next week. I was hoping to use a poor weather forecast as an excuse to postpone but as usual the weather was fine. My bike also badly needs a new chain and cluster along with a new large chain wheel, making for a further delay. This is a job needing to be done before I go out of town again. The chain and cluster is easily sorted through work, but the Campag chain wheel is NOS. Fancy that! I’ve been soldiering on with it and had promised the Mercian a new one if it got me across Canada. It did, and I’m still using it.
Assembly in the Bike Shed.

While climbing out of the saddle today in the big ring the chain decided that it would rather be in the small chain ring and promptly went there. This action nearly had my nuts on the crossbar. At my age I don’t care too much about not having children, convinced even that it was the best decision of my life. I don’t however want to suffer the pain of doing my nuts in on the crossbar just because I was too tight to change my crank set. So it was down to the bike shed to put on one of the 4 pre loved sets that I have horded in my used but lovely Chain wheel set area. And could you believe it, none of them would fit without altering the bottom bracket bearing ! Bugger. After trying all my pre loved bearings I had to admit defeat or put on a Jap crank set. Shimano / Sugino both stored for a rainy day might be nice, but not on my Mercian.
More Bike bits.

Having found a near new / used ring on line, tomorrow will see if my bid will be successful and my nuts will be out of danger. Otherwise I can re jig bottom brackets to fit one of the others in the shed or rob Fort Knocks and buy a new carbon triple chain wheel set from Campag. , Then, in three years’ time, I would be looking for replacement chain rings for that on eBay. I may wait for a couple of years and buy the whole thing on eBay / Trade Me for a song.
So many options for the Campag enthusiast. But life would be easier if cycle component manufacturers produced stuff for more than 12 months before deeming them to be obsolete.

Adi is so happy with her new Avanti Audax that she thinks I should get a something similar and two time on my Mercian. A subject we were discussing while riding the local cycleway a couple of days ago. I couldn’t cover my ears while cycling so had to find some other distraction to make her desist from tempting me (La la la.. I’m not listening). Coming around a corner there was a seal sunning itself on the track. Cute seal, problem solved.
Relaxing on the Cycle way.

I may have a whole shed full of bike stuff, but there can only be one bike for me. Me and my M.U.M (Mercian urban machine) do everything together. I’d have been lost in the Andes or some similar hostile spot if it wasn’t for my MUM. Everything I own in the bike shed is just a spare part for my bike. I can’t say that I’m not tempted at times. I’ve ridden plenty of the latest models through work. And nice as they are I can’t imagine spending a lot of time on them myself.