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.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

I'll Call That A Fail.

The weather was not looking good for my 600km ride to Greymouth and back. But for some reason I wasn't getting overly concerned about it. I had booked the cabin in Greymouth and I suppose I was committed, so when my alarm went off at 5am and I dragged myself out of bed I simply went through the motion's. Half asleep I put my porridge on, had a shave, and packed my pre fried sausages. With the porridge shovelled in and an instant coffee slurped I was ready to manoeuvre the bike outside and get going. I couldn't hear any rain on the roof and I couldn't see anything through the darkness but I knew that rain was coming down due to the gurgling sound from the gutter downpipes.
Sure enough there was a heavy and persistent drizzle falling from the heavens, so wet in fact that I paused to put a cover over my leather saddle. A drenched Brooks saddle is a ruined saddle. I was off at 6am into the warm, dark tropical wetness. I don't mind riding in the rain but I do have a problem stopping in it. I really don't like stopping for anything when its wet. I find that when I stop I just start getting cold. I rode until daybreak at 7am and the rain just got heavier. Or perhaps it was just that I could now see it persisting down. I certainly couldn't complain about the wind, as there wasn't any. Because it was about 17C I was wearing my light rain jacket not wanting to overheat by wearing the heavier jacket that I had packed in case the temp dropped. The down side of the light jacket was that by 8am I was soaking wet and although warm enough on the ups I was getting pretty chilled whenever the road headed downwards.

Three hours South of Nelson,  I was having doubts as to whether the whole thing was going to pan out the way I had hoped. I just couldn't get the thought of stopping later that evening for dinner , and being wet and cold while I ate it, out of my head. I knew that after finishing the meal I would still have 80kms to cover in the dark and rain before reaching the half way point. I had then planned to have a sleep in the booked cabin and start back at first light. As I rode on the more I thought about the whole thing the more I decided that under these horrendous conditions I was unlikely to finish it within the time limit.
I stopped in the middle of nowhere, in  the fog and gloom, and started cycling in circles trying to decide whether to go on or turn back. After two complete circles I was on my way back telling myself that I was not going to beat myself up about it too much.  After all the weather was truly crap and everyone knows in my region that if its raining in Nelson you are not likely to ride out of it by heading West. I was for a while concerned as I rode back home that the weather may clear as I approached Nelson again but that was allayed as I descended the last hill towards the coast and found that if anything, the rain was falling with more vigour than when I left 5hours earlier.
I pushed my soaking bike back into the house, stripped off my sodden clothes, and jumped into the shower still pleased with my decision. Unbeknown to me, while I was soaping the road grime away Henry was eating my fried sausages.

What has been very satisfying is that for the next four days it has rained every day, flooding the local roads and creating havoc on the West Coast. During that time I have been on the couch with a book and a coffee telling Adi how lucky I was not to have carried on further. Four days of self righteously telling myself that this is no weather to cycle in was enough even for me. So with a bit of a prod from the better half on the fifth day of rain Adi and I where out on our bikes again.
The weather was still tropical and our 100km circuit contained a couple of options. There was a stay above the ground water option that Adi choose, or an option along the West bank of the Motueka River where the road and river became one at a number of different points. The later option was one that I wanted to complete not because I thought at that stage that it would  be more fun, but because a car driver coming the other way told me not to go on because the road was impassable. Well that was like a red rag to a bull. No car driver tells me that a road is impassable. What would they know? It's an effort for most of them to lift their bum out at the petrol station to re-fuel themselves and their vehicle. So into the flood water I plunged on the Mercian after first putting him into low gear. She was pretty deep and if I hadn't have been having so much fun I may have concerned myself with how much damage I was doing to the equipment.

Jolly Good Fun.

Today in the sun  while admiring my bike while it stood on the deck I notice that there is still water draining from the interstitial rim space. I have also today, had to strip down the headset and repack it with grease. Other than that though all else seems OK, even though it was up to its brake callipers at times.
I still have no firm plans on how much long distance cycling I'll be doing this winter. But come August / September I will need to regain the fitness  lost over winter and start training for Paris-Brest- Paris qualifying. I have thrown my 'cut down on sugar' diet out of the window and have now regained all the weight that I lost while cycling across Canada last year.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Randonneuring Starts & Daylight Savings Ends.

Daylight Saving Ends.
The clocks have been turned back and the evenings are darkening early. And due to a day of rain today, the first for a couple of weeks , I am writing my blog. A couple of weeks ago I sorted my aluminium mudguards as I described to you in painstaking detail. Painful was right you might say, so be it. For us full time cyclists as we go into winter, having a good set of guards is important , even in Nelson NZ.
Last week I also finally received the quick release saddle bag support that I had ordered. Adi had one of these on her bike and I was keen to get one to compliment one of my Brooks saddles that does not have bag loops. It is disappointing that the company making them has saved money by now manufacturing the rails out off aluminium instead of stainless steel. So if you want to carry a really heavy overnight bag the whole thing needs extra bracing from the frame. This doesn't bother me greatly because I have one of the original s/s ones for overnight rides but is an example of excellent product from Carradice being wrecked by cost cutting. I suppose at the end of the day at least they provide a bag support for their range of saddle bags unlike Brooks who produce the Saddles and the bags but nothing to connect the two together in a usable fashion. Clearly the Brooks guys don't actually cycle with fully loaded Saddle bags attached to their saddles. They wont want to hear this but like many customers I'm sure, having searched for a bag support for my 'Glenbrook' bag I have not only discovered the Carradice Bagman support but also the full range of Carradice bags. ( Which look pretty good).

The Off.
My bag support turned up in the mail just in time for my first official randonneuring event. This was a 200km circuit around our Tasman area. Adi had agreed to put it on for the Kiwi Randonneuring Club. Since she already had completed a 200km event I had to get the time off work to do it, otherwise she would have had two completed rides and I'd have none! Also with local randonneuring enthusiasts being limited at the moment to 2 it was also very likely that if I didn't enter  Adi would be doing it on her own. As it turned out I was a might surprised when the club president, Craig, advised that he would be doing it. This was fortuitous I thought because he could answer a few questions I had about qualifying for the Paris-Brest-Paris event next year.

Adi , Craig and I.
There Seems to be Plenty of Time in Hand on a 200km Ride.

All in all there were four of us doing the ride and I made the correct call in taking the time off work to support Adi as we had a social group of three throughout the 200kms and Gethyn, our roadie, up ahead going for time honours. The weather was spot on with plenty of autumn sun and no wind to speak of. Normally this time of the year I would be winding down for winter with no plans to ride more than one 100km ride during the week and maybe 100kms of commuting, but one thing leads to another and it appears that the club has a 600km event on the programme next month with nobody keen to host it. I have to say that i have never ridden further than 450kms in one go before and only in the summer months. My first thought when an email came through asking for someone to host this event  was, why would anyone want to ride that distance towards the West Coast at that time of year! I also thought a moment later that there would be no way I'd be mug enough to do it, especially since even if I survived, it was too early for it to count towards a Paris-Brest- Paris qualifier. That was before Craig told me that if I did host it, and survive it, that it would enable me to pre enter the PBP.
To be able to pre enter PBP would be very appealing.(I'd still have to do all the qualifiers next summer). To complete a 600km ride going into winter would be a personal achievement that would leave me with warm fuzzy's. I have friends that will say that riding from Nelson to Greymouth is no problem, a piece of cake. These people all too often seem to forget that you actually have to ride back again afterwards. They also often forget that you have to carry your own gear. things like warm clothes, lights, food etc. They seem to somehow factor out sleeping time and dinner stops. And most importantly they are almost exclusively people who have never actually completed anything like it themselves.
Luckily I have never given those sort of people much credence. They are the same people who say they have cycled across some country or continent but when you question them further you find out that they were on a package trip that had  so many vehicle pickups that they should have been given a concession card. The same people who will happily tell you that they competed in the da de da long distance event but forgot to mention that they were part of a 2 , 3 or 4 person team! I'm sure people like that are not only to be found in  cycling circles. The same types have probably climbed Everest with guides pushing them along from behind, placing their feet in pre cut holes and Sherpa's carrying all their gear.

Mercian Ready for a 600km Attempt.
I digress. I have a week to decide on whether to give the 600km Greymouth  Return a go,  am under no illusions that I will probably be on my own, and that until I get near the end, that it will be shite.
I'll need to buy some new thermal tights and put some skinny tyres on my bike. I must be getting my head around it because I have already ordered the tyres (Schwalbe 1.35's) so they should be here in a few days.
Randonneuring aside, I gathered some loose change together the other day and bought a pair of vintage Campag Hubs on line that some Muppet had unbuilt from the wheel while still  leaving the cluster and freewheel on. It's great that there are people out there like that, they're a hoot. It took me a couple of hours in the bike shed but I  finally had the offending freewheel off (in many pieces), revealing a lovely pair of spare hubs to be had for the price of a Big Mac and fries. I think I might just have enough Campag hubs to last me a lifetime now. The thing is though,  you can never have enough spares. That fact compounded by the knowledge that there are so many Muppet's out there with vintage Campag to get rid of leads me on.
With that thought in mind, if there is any one reading this who has got one of those 'horribly' heavy , old Campag cranksets with the now geriatric square drive, you know you deserve a carbon fibre one and I'll do you a favour by taking it off your hands.
My skinny tyres have arrived and I took them for a test ride yesterday to not only feel the speed but also to re check the calibration of my cycle computer. Craig from Kiwi Randonneurs has got back to me with the A OK to organise the 600km event.

I will check the weather forecast, book my motel at the halfway point , and then set off next week.