Bicycling: Don’t let age be a barrier to wonderful experiences

Since returning from our last trip I have been cycling sans Ruth each time I have headed out for a circuit of the countryside around Kerikeri. I was riding for the exercise and she was going through the usual post trip “I am over biking” phase. Not that I am one of those Lycra-clad bodies that you come across in annoyingly large groups while driving along narrow roads. I am the guy you have a bit of a giggle about and mutter “silly old sod”as you drive by.

This morning I suggested a longer cycle along the Coast to Coast trail which is a short drive out of the town.”Let’s do it” was the enthusiastic response and so we headed off for our 2 hour ride on a pretty warm summer morning. The positive response to the suggested ride was exciting on several levels.

Our ride today was in sharp contrast to the conditions we experienced on our “first ride” in 2011. Despite being high holiday season we encountered less than 10 other riders in the short 26km cycle.

Our “first” ride in 2011 – The Otago Rail Trail in the South Island of New Zealand – I distracted Ruth’s attention from the weather front chasing us up the valley – rain and very cold conditions were soon upon us on that first day. Despite the experience, we are still coming back for more.

The Karangahake Gorge in March 2013 on the Hauraki Rail Trail, North Island, New Zealand saw us prepping for our planned trip to Germany and France later in the year – it was very hot but very spectacular.
A few years ago the ride today would have seen us struggling up the slopes and cursing the heat. Today we cruised through the short 26 km with ease and even spied a new extension to the track which we have marked down to explore in the coming weeks.

Riding along, I did wonder why we deserted the bike in our youth. I had lived on my bike as a kid and had many adventures that I still remember today. No gears, only a chain brake and a chain that regularly came off. I think that was where my body became conditioned to crash landings, well the bones anyway, I have still not found a solution to skin being removed rather violently when you take a tumble over the handlebars.

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When “marketing” the next big adventure it pays to have a selection of “good-ride” images. A cool summer morning on the Saar river in Germany, good surface, good weather, “downhill”, all good Ruth box-tickers.

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Cochem on the Moselle river in Germany – magical riding country. Ruth was as close as you can get to Heaven while on a bicycle.
Getting back into the countryside this morning bought back the great memories of the many cycle trips we have enjoyed since our short cycling renaissance started in March 2011 with The Otago Rail Trail. We don’t want the gap between our adventures to be too long this time.

The bicycle allows you to experience your surroundings, stop when you please (no laybys, train stations or airports needed) and the travel from one destination to another is your travel experience. There is so much to enjoy between villages and towns (and in them) that most of us simply miss out on when using other forms of transport (other than walking of course). Better still, the cost is limited to the food and drink required to power your vehicle along the road.

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In any another form of motorised transport we would not have seen this chateau let alone sit in the quiet and enjoy it. Burgundy, France

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Meandering through the vines and villages on the Cote Du Nuits in Burgundy, France. Ruth shows her usual blistering pace on the “downhill” run.
We enjoy cycling together but it does take a little initial persuasion to get Ruth to participate. There are strict requirements that our next bicycle trip that must meet. The following is an extract of some of the questions that I will be asked under the beam of a high powered lamp, it pays to have some answers prepared:

Q: It is all down hill?    A:That is probably unlikely, but most of it is either downhill or flat – at least 99%. I thought Cornwall and Provence were large flood plains, I am doing better research now.

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Even downhill river rides have the odd diversion into a village on the sloping bank – Moselle River Germany. The villages were an absolute delight though.
Q: How far do we have to ride each day?  A: Nothing you can’t handle, you breezed through the 310km in Germany in 2013.  Some of those days were over 60km. Tip: When using an example use one that brings back really fond memories.

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Riding from Fontvieille to L’Isle-sur-la-Sourge in Provence, France. It was not a massive distance but the head wind (gale) made it seem much longer. However, we would not have got to see the farmer and his flock had we not been on the bike.
Q: Will we get lost like last time? A: Nope, I have the art of following written directions nailed now and of course we have our maps app. Those other times were only because the instructions were vague, especially in Burgundy. It was also very misty in Cornwall, hard to read the signs at speed.


Getting lost in Cornwall was easy but we got to find all sorts on interesting places, fortunately the rain had eased the day before so we did not have to ford this river in a flooded state

Q: You will probably fall off your bike again, I worry about you sometimes!  A: I don’t deliberately hurl myself off the bike. Provence was an act of god, you can see his hand in the video below. Truro was the rain, the cobbles were slippery.

Q: Will it be hot, cold, wet, windy?  A: I don’t think so but hey you have biked in 30+c temperatures before. That heat in Provence was because the flat tyre delayed our start, in Cambodia and Vietnam you hardly broke into a sweat.

After biking around Angkor Wat in Cambodia any future rides will seem like a “walk in the park”
Q: Will I have time for shopping? A: There are many towns that we will be passing through, you will be “shopped out” by the end of the first day.

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Most villages have a market and parking a bike is never the same problem as a car.
With any bike ride (or hike), the answers are never black or white. Rain, heat, cold, wind, blackberries, stinging nettle, hills, dust, can appear when you least want them to. In the end, it will all be part of the adventure, the memory of getting drenched by freezing cold rain on the first day of our first ride has not put us off going back for more. The advantage of biking when you are older is that you quickly forget things especially as you are less likely to take photos of the less enjoyable moments.

There are a few feel-exhausted images but they are buried in deep in the computer drive. Ruth resorts to interesting ways of cooling down – top Provence, bottom – Angkor Wat   (see next image also)

Ruth trying to reduce her temperature at the end of the Angkor Wat ride
As I mentioned, Ruth usually finishes each ride vowing that it is her last but as we flick through our photo collections on the screen in the lounge, I look for the little (disguised) misting of eyes, it is at that moment that I starting looking for our next adventure.

Guess what I am doing when I finish this blog?

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Pretty bridges were a feature of the quiet lanes we were biking on in Burgundy-2013

The riding was very different in Vietnam, here we are making away across the islands adjacent to Hoi An in central Vietnam. To get off the beaten track in Vietnam and Cambodia (2015) you do need a guide. We were lucky to strike several “groups” that consisted of us and another couple.

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Be prepared for any weather. After a chilly crossing of the Golden Gate bridge, we were bathed in sunshine as we rode through Sausalito and onto to Tiburon in June 2015.

We are usually “freedom” riders but with a little luxury thrown in, we get our bags transported to the next destination. During a bike and barge ride of the Netherlands and Belgium (2015) we found ourselves riding in a group. We met some great people but did miss the freedom of stopping when we wanted to. Vietnam and Cambodia were the same but the small groups did give us more flexibility.

Sometimes we don’t even have a bike ride planned but if the opportunity exists we grab it. While staying in an AirBnB in Galway in Ireland the owner said we simply must bike out to the bog. We got an insight into the part the bog plays in keeping them warm during their damp winters (and from our experience, summer as well) and saw a part of Ireland at a slower pace.

Now we had never had this experience on a bike ride before. Transporting our bikes across the river on little more than a dugout canoe. Hoi An – Vietnam 2015

Cycling from Napier towards Cape Kidnappers in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand in 2014. There is still a lot of local riding to be done.



  1. Loved this post and coming on the ride with you both through heat, cold, rain, up and down hills….We especially like the imagined questions Ruth would ask as very familiar to Beth quizzing Joe. We’re looking forward to all you future rides.


  2. You two have some great photos & no doubt memories. Great to see you on the bikes again in your new/next adventure!


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