Breaking the cycling barriers – slowly

Our Dawes Folders got us back into biking but with a lot of caveats.

In 2009 we made a rather misguided return to the two wheeled mode of transport after  more than 40 years of ignoring it. We purchased two Dawes folding cycles with the rather poorly thought through objective of transporting them around on our launch (Agnes) and using them for shore excursions. Neither of those things happened but we did start riding the bikes regularly. However, our riding style was very conservative and boring.  No hills, minimal road riding and of course the Dawes folders were not cut out for riding our bike trails. In effect, they gave us a little exercise on local paths.

Following our first multi-day ride along the Otago Rail Trail in 2011 our cycling has undergone a slow but steady evolution where each of the mental and physical barriers that we had applied in the begining have slowly started to be broken.

Ruth at the begining of both the Otago Rail Trail and our riding adventures. 

Distances were the first to tumble but with time no longer our enemy (on a trip – it still is with regard to everything else) we don’t need to have long days in the saddle so we try and keep our daily range under 60km.

Deutches Elk at the junction of the Mosel and Rhine. 330km down and around 500 to go.

Cycling on roads became a (reluctant) casualty of our self imposed barriers but with each year we have become a little more confident. We still avoid very busy roads where possible but won’t kill off an itinerary simply because we need to spend a little time on such a highway.

It cannot get much worse than this – Ruth battles the heat and the traffic in Chaing Mai, Thailand.

The hills have been conquered by getting electric bikes and we have gained even more flexibility by going back to folding bikes. We can more easily use public transport connections and we don’t have to worry about the additional (expensive) carrying gear for the car.

In Cornwall in 2015 this type of country nearly caused a divorce. In Taranaki 2018 Ruth was passing me. 

Our recent ride around Taranaki combined many of these elements, the five day ride was 99% on road, we carried our own luggage and tackled 1,410 metres of hill climbing.

2018 turned out to be a far busier year that we were expecting. On returning in March, from our travels through Australia and South Eas Asia, we found that our year became consumed by unexpected domestic events, especially the latter half. Adding in our end of year cycling in Taranaki and the Waikato, it all seemed a bit of a blur. We are just enjoying our longest period at home for some time, three whole weeks and it has felt like a holiday.

While the last few weeks have felt like a holiday as a volunteer track builder we have no employment contracts and work continues regardless of heat or holidays.

But next week we are off again for around 6 weeks. Camping with grandchildren for a week then a few days to get our cycling gear sorted for probably our most ambitious (or foolhardy) adventure yet. 27 days that will take us from Auckland to Wellington.

At around 600km, it is not our longest ride but it will certainly be our remotest. Through territory that we will (mostly) be travelling for the first time and the 4,380metres of hill climbing will test our little bike’s battery capacity (or worst case, our little legs).

We are using our 30litre North Face bags that we acquired in Siem Reap for this trip. They seem to work with the horizontal layout on the carrier and are supposed to be almost indestructable – maybe we will put that claim to the test. 

There are no bike shops for a long section of the trip (200km) which meant that I have needed to upskill my bicycle mechanic skills. Mechanical skills were not a natural attribute that I was blessed with at birth so that has been a challenge. There is a tyre lever on the roof of our house to prove how frustrating it has been.

We don’t want to carry too much gear on the ‘folders’ so have paired down our usual travel kit from around 11-12kg to around 7kg (including spares and tools) – no scope for multiple wardrobe options. We managed less on our cycle around Taranaki but that was only for five days.

We were able to carry smaller bags on our Taranaki ride but 27 days requires a little more gear than five (but no room for much more)

Camping after a days cycling is not in our cycle play book so accommodation with something resembling a comfy bed, with linen supplied, has been a pre requisite. Given the remoteness of many of the areas that we are travelling through, that was nearly a trip breaker, especially when trying to find it at appropriate intervals along the route. Booking it was often a challenge (no or AirBnB listings in many paces) and emails were usually not answered while follow-up subsequent phone calls were a little strange. But I think we have a bed at each destination.

Meals may not be guaranteed and arranging these will be work in progress during the trip. There are very few dining-out options (in some places none at all) and not a lot of scope to carry our meal needs. There is the odd store along the route but who knows what they may stock – it will be interesting and maybe we will shed some of that festive season weight gain. The hosts at two remote destinations have included meals in our arrangements.

Cash still seems to be king in the remoter areas so we need to make sure we are carrying enough – there are no ATMs for at least 200km.

screen shot 2019-01-11 at 4.41.32 pm
The last day of our ride is the most challenging from an elevation perspective. I showed this to Ruth and she wondered how we would stay on our bikes on the really steep bit.

If we make it to Wellington we will throw the bikes (and ourselves) on the tourist train that runs to Auckland. Our final ride will be up the hill to Ruth’s daughters – at least that is on a dedicated cycleway.

I will post on our progress when that is possible. The route is detailed below – orange lines are cycling – blue are bus connectiond:

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