GLOBAL CYCLE EVENT

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.

Monday, 4 August 2014

I'm Smart Phone Able.

Dear Blog,
 I know it has been a while since I have last written but the truth of it is that not much has happened in the life of 'Niel the Wheel'. I'm not saying that I am dissatisfied with my lot.  It has been winter and too cold in the morning to get up early and too dark in the evening to get out on the bike.  What is that you say? What about that time in between these times? That time between 10am and 5pm. Well , I'm pleased to say that I have cycled consistently throughout the winter in this period, usually going out for two or three 100km rides each week. The other days  spent not on the bike have been spent on the couch. I could give you plenty of excuses as to why I have not painted weatherboards, insulated walls and re piled but the bottom line is that I do maintenance on a 'must be done or it will fall down' basis.

Sweeping the Chimney.

I am prompted to write now though because I need the world to know that I may not be powering ahead at the moment but I feel that spring is nigh upon us here and that soon I'll be getting out on adventure rides again. Over the winter due principally to a total lack of dollars , Adi and I have stayed at home , preferring to save any spare money for a decent trip next July/August. I have occupied my time by working in the bike shop over the weekends and doing mundane chores about the house during the week. The sort of chores that get you nowhere. Chores like mopping , hoovering and cleaning the bathroom. Treading water type of things. Certainly not useful chores like insulating the under floor cavities. Just the other day I found myself scrubbing out the inside of the refrigerator, nuking the oven with alkaline sprays and sterilising the rubbish bins. For weeks now I'd been thinking that my Adi had been dropping farts in the kitchen while preparing dinner while all along it was the refrigerator smelling!
  In my last blog I stated that we would participate in the TransAmerican bike race. We have changed our minds. Adi thought that we were losing our focus of cycling around the world in favour of doing events in countries that we had cycled before. I cant argue with that. When we cycled across the US in 2010 I thought it unlikely that we would ever go back and here I was  last year cycling in the US again and then planning an event there again for next year. So we have come to a compromise , for 2015 we will do the Paris-Brest - Paris (subject to qualifying) but only after we have cycled there from Tiblisi in Georgia. That way we do another section of touring and I get to do a randonneuring event at the end.

Spring is Close But......
When Your Feet are Wet & Cold Nick the Locals Newspaper Covers.

We both have every intention of qualifying for PBP but time will tell if we have what it takes. Last week Adi set herself the target of cycling 500kms in the week. I knew that I was good enough for a 300km week as I usually achieve this with a couple 100km day rides and a 100kms of urban riding so told her that I would tag along. The weather wasn't the best but we did manage to both pull it off. I have to say though that my day off the bike sweeping the chimney, and doing the other forever mundane chores felt like a good break off the Mercian.


The week prior to this my new low rider rack arrived from Tubus and I spent a day in the workshop fitting it. This rack replaces my last one which broke on me in Nova Scotia last year. It was a crappy aluminium one made by Blackburn. The new one is stainless steel so I'm hoping to get more than the customary 10 000kms that alloy racks give me. Once I was happy with the way it fitted on the Mercian I then took it off ready for future adventures. My rear rack also broke on me last year coming out of the Canadian Rockies but unfortunately the bike shop up there was a bit limited on quality rear racks so I had to buy another crappy aluminium rack. This rack got me across Canada and may get me  from Tiblisi to Paris but I will get a Tubus stainless steel rear rack when I can next afford it.


'Niel the Wheel' entered the computer age in 2011 when he purchased his first laptop and started this blog. He quickly realised (since his mind is like a sponge) that the laptop was too big to easily fit on his bicycle and that he would shortly be going  cycling across South America and would need something more convenient to tap out script on and check on what his Adi was up to back in NZ. So after much discussion on the merits of an I Pad I bought myself an HP notebook. I couldn't afford an I Pad and in those days I didn't realise how bad those Israelis were, so there you go. So please don't blame me for helping to fund a terrorist state. The notebook continues to serve me well however and until recently I was happy to carry it in a pannier during overseas tours. But earlier this year I completed my first Brevet type event where travelling with minimal gear is the key to doing the big kilometres each day. I'd still like to communicate with the world however and increasingly you need to use the Internet to sort accommodation each day. To this end Adi and I decided that we needed to move to smart phones for our next overseas trip. It was then quickly agreed that because I was a lay about with nothing to do but cycle each day, and because Adi actually brings in more income and does occasional extra shifts , that she would get an i phone on her birthday next month, and I would have to wait until next year. Once again her logic was sound and I convinced myself that I didn't need anything more than my notebook anyway.

Now I'm Smart Phone Capable on my Rides.

That was until my bosses at AvantiPlus Bike Shop decided to give all their staff I phones! My Dad always used to tell me that 'everything comes to those that wait Niel'  and by joves he was right. So thanks to Jo and Mike I have moved into the smart phone generation and cant believe how fast I can now access my blog and face book. Not to mention all those cycling aps that are no doubt out there waiting for me to discover. I don't have that many face book friends (due to my hate of all car drivers, truck drivers, children and pit bulls) but that number is bound to reduce even further when I figure out how to work these aps and post numerous rides on line complete with pictures of the Mercian and I. So there is no excuse now. You should be hearing a lot more from me.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

The Shortest Day 2014.


The weather has  been pretty good the last couple of weeks as we approach the shortest day. But I wasn't born yesterday and realise that the worst weather is undoutably still to come. This time last year I was readying myself for my cycle ride across Canada. This year  financial restraints ( being tight due to spending too much on eBay and in Canada last year), has led to the regrettable decision to suspend all plans of cycling overseas this year. In some ways its lucky that we put the brakes on this year as, if we had gone away, I could well have wasted money cycling in Aussie instead of saving the money for something a bit more challenging. The down side is that it is hard to motivate myself to go out and do the decent miles required on my bike to burn off the chocolate consumed each day. I'm still however managing to do over 200kms on my bike each week which I'm happy with. It will get me through until September when I will ramp it up so that I can attempt some Randonneuring rides.

Winter aye, its tough. I wake up in the morning like a 'Kate Middleton' , to someone opening my curtains and asking me if I would like a coffee. Then its onto the couch to check out the latest philosophising on Face book. The regulars are on there posting snippets concerning things that others are doing that they applaud yet fail to attempt themselves. I grab my coffee and have too much chocolate with it while I contemplate what to do with the day. This usually amounts to housework,  garden work, or cycling. What else is there? I think if it wasn't for work at the bike shop twice a week I wouldn't have any other social interaction.
A lack of social interaction has its advantages. High among these is an ability to generally get through winter without catching those nasty flu-ey things passed on by kids and their caregivers. 'Touch wood' I haven't been taken down yet this winter. Getting bored at home has also enabled me to think more carefully about the Paris-Brest-Paris cycle event next year. This was my goal until I clicked onto the http://www.transambikerace.com/ site in order  to catch up with what the Adventure Cycling community were up to. I knew that it was about to start but it hadn't sparked my interest to any extent, since the first half of the course followed a route through the Rockies that Adi and I had completed in 2010. I normally don't see the point in re covering old ground when there's so much more of the Earth to cycle. I haven't however cycled east of Denver and following the first week of the race got me interested in competing myself next year. Convincing Adi was easy. I simply showed her the TransAmerican site and suggested that she could be the first Vet 3 woman to complete it. Whereas I have no real competitive head and am happy just to challenge myself, Adi likes a bit of glory. Within a week all thoughts of the PBP were gone for her and she was working out how she would pack her bike for the TransAm and what sort of tent she would need.
And just to make the decision even harder for me the Transcontinental Race will be on in 2015 as well. The Transcontinental runs from London to Istanbul. The http://www.transcontinentalrace.com/ starts once the TransAm has finished and conceivably a contestant could do both one after the other. Adi feels this is a possibility, but I think that airline tickets could well bankrupt us.
Adi ran over a domestic pig on her way home from work in the dark last week. Apparently it was sitting on the road and she failed to see it in the beam of her light. The impact caused no damage to Adi's bike but resulted in her needing a bit of emergency medical care on her elbow. She couldn't ride her bike for a week but suggested that I get the tandem out so that she could still exercise.

I hated the idea of getting our 1980's Geoffrey Butler tandem out because quite frankly it's a death trap. The brakes are shocking and the riding positions for both captain and stoker leave a lot to be desired. But I do like a challenge in the bike shed and I do like retro gear, so 3 days later I emerged with a tandem of renewed possibilities. After a 10km test ride I was sufficiently impressed that I spent another day in the shed and came up with a tandem that not only offers captain and stoker room to move and a somewhat aerodynamic position but will also stop when all 4 brakes are applied. And most importantly for me while using all 1970's and 80's parts. The character of the bike of course being paramount over safety at all times.

After a 60km test ride and much arguing over this and that we concluded that the bike was much improved and held some possibilities, but that tandem riding still sucked. In fact Adi says that it is not peace, harmony and all goodwill at all for us.
I think that Adi just needs to understand that the Captain is the CAPTAIN.
It was still a good way to spend Anti Procreation Day https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Advocacy-for-Anti-Procreation/250119691710353  but like the khombi, we'll put it back in the bike shed and see if it ever comes out again.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Winter Fiddling.

It tis the season for staring at my bike and pondering upon what improvements can be made. Winter is a time of frustration when morning temperatures are too low for comfortable cycling. I try not to get out of bed until the sun is up and the frost has melted. The inside house temperature has still not reached 10C but if I'm lucky the cats have left me a space in the sun on the veranda and I can warm myself there for a minute. Time  sufficient enough  to contemplate cooking myself some porridge back in the house.With my  porridge consumed. and back on the veranda with my coffee and cycle mag. I'm once again thinking about cycling adventure. The thought hasn't escaped me though that although it's a balmy 16C in the sun on the deck. as soon as I step into the shade I'm back down to 4C.
I know that below 10C I would need to don full gloves, booties and my winter training jacket if I wanted to venture out for a circuit on the bike, so I do the next best thing and get the Mercian out onto the deck next to me and ponder on improvements while things continue to warm in the garden.
Nearly the Shortest Day.

It's pretty hard to make improvements to a bike that you have owned for years and have cycled all over the place on. A new piece of equipment may present at the bike shop or on-line, but to fit it I would be forced to remove something else which has served me well and has sentimental value. My friends in the cycling world don't generally understand this as they seldom have their bikes for more than a year before the next new model has been purchased. Or they're the sort that really don't give a toss about what they ride so battle on unknowingly until their bike is either stolen or disintegrates, non the wiser as to whats available out there.
On this particular morning though I was excited because I had decided a week ago to finally remove my XTR v brakes and install the Campag cyclocross canti brakes that I'd bought myself for Xmas a couple of years ago. I was sad because the v brakes had taken me faithfully across many continents and down some wicked descents in the Andes and Rockies, but had started grabbing a bit, which unfortunately for them, was enough reason for me to persevere with my plan of a full Campag hybrid bicycle.
The new Campag brakes came with some flat bar brake levers, but I didn't like them much. Low and behold, what did I spy on eBay ? Only a pair of retro Campag mtb brake levers from the 90's. They were being sold in Poland. Now Poland to me, having never been there rests alongside Romania or the Ukraine .To my mind being one of those countries where you buy $200 dollar brake levers and never see your money again. The sort of place where you go on line to find a girlfriend and she asks for a few thousand dollars so she can buy you some inter flora flowers, and then you never see her again.
My Adi wasn't home at the time, the images of the levers looked stunning with beautiful curves and the Campag logo standing out in its brilliance, so there you go. I hit the 'buy now' button, the money was gone and I was left with a warm , nervous feeling, and trying to work out how I was going to explain this little deal later to my sweetheart.
The next day at the bike shop I confided in Jacob as to what I'd been up too.  To his credit he didn't  judge me, and even felt that I might see my brake levers turn up. Younger and more trusting than I am obviously. When I finally managed to break the news to Adi she not only thought that I had lost $200 bucks, but that we would probably be fleeced of thousands more from our account. The poor dear, she doesn't deserve the additional stress of living with a Campag addict. The next day she was off to Christchurch for a bit of key hole surgery on her problem knee.


To keep myself busy while she was gone and to put on a positive front, I decided to do some of my own key hole surgery on the Mercian in anticipation of my levers arriving from Poland. With a total disregard to my $2500 hand built frame I drilled a neat hole through the upper seat tube so that the rear canti's could work without the need for an additional brake bridge. Now I would never try this on a carbon fibre frame but I've been around long enough to know that you can easily get away with it on a steel frame. In fact about 20years ago I drilled a hole in a steel Guiericotti frame to install a chain hanger and that frame is still going strongly. Much to the horror of a couple of bike mechanics where I used to work , I once drilled a hole through the middle of an alloy stem to avoid the use of a cant brake bridge on that bike as well. That stem is still going well and no matter how I tried to explain that that was the way it was done in the late 70's, my mechanic mates still looked un-impressed.
 Back in the 70's we drilled everything!
Correction. You never drilled anything with Zeus written on it. That gear couldn't even handle the companies own drilling. The Chinese only made bikes for playing on , (some things haven't changed) so you wouldn't try to lighten that stuff.

Adi arrived back from hospital a few days later, a box of bubblys being a cured woman, and just in time to see my parcel from Poland land in the letter box. The postie couldn't believe the number of stamps that it had on it , Adi couldn't believe that it had arrived at all and I couldn't believe the weight of it. I thought picking it up that it couldn't be just a pair of brake levers, they must have forgotten to take the rest of the bike off them! My next thought while ripping open the packet was that they'd sent me sCampag  motorbike levers. Solid enough to use on my Vespa if they didn't work with the Mercian.
I made all the right noises about Adi's knee op and then I was done in the bike shed for the next two hours installing my beauties. it was dark when I returned to the house  with my bike all smiles, to be informed by Adi that they where the ugliest brake levers she had ever seen. Two days later at the bike shop Mitchell my workmate for the day concurred with Adi. Stating that he had never seen such horrid levers. What would they know? Mitchell's only been around since the 80's. Mitchell though being forever helpful took a picture of them and placed it on Facebook so that others could tell me how much they appreciated the flowing lines and many features that my levers possessed.
By 11am the world usually seems a warm enough place for me to get on my bike and do 100kms. But by 4pm things are cooling off and I'm glad to be home as temps once again fall towards glove and bootie levels. This will be our lot until September and spring daylight hours and temps will allow for longer rides. We have decided not to go away overseas this winter and save our dollars for qualifying for the Paris-Brest- Paris event next year and a two month cycle tour of Scandinavia prior to that. People tell us how expensive Scandinavia is. And it probably is to most , but not anyone used to living in good old NZ. I don't think we will notice much difference in the price of things when we finally get there.
And to those who think i just eat , sleep and bike ....
I do gardening too.
This time of year it seems everywhere I ride people have got feijoas for sale at the gate for $3 a bag. We at 'Potter's-End' have got a miserable feijoa tree that never delivers any fruit what so ever. And since I have loved feijoas since my student days and am too tight to buy others fruit , I have done a bit of clearing and am in the process of planting 8 of my own trees. And they had better be better than our last tree (which I got free from the neighbouring orchard). Three chestnut trees have been removed to make space and have been thrown on the winter bonfire.

If there's one thing us rural NZers like doing on a clear, sunny winter day its having a big fire. Then once its going you can throw everything on! Clippings, logs, pallets, plastic furniture past its use by date, in fact our neighbour got so excited she threw part of her caravan on.
Enough catching up on my blog, its time to jump on the bike and cycle to Richmond for some chocolate and licorice. My chocolate consumption has exceeded my weekly allowance recently so at times I need a mercy dash to restock supplies. My problem being where to steal the money from. I'm forbidden to use the plastic cards at the moment so I'll have to rummage around in the house for some loose change.
I settle on a small pile of dosh with 'hair' written on it. Adi's hair looks great so I'm sure she wont need this and I can't see any money earmarked for 'Niel the Wheel's Incidentals'.
Before I go , have a chuckle at this;
They are blaming the abysmal Queen's Birthday road toll here on foreigner's! New Zealand the land of the most courteist and safe drivers in the world....year right.

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.

https://goo.gl/maps/LDxId

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

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Autumn Amble.

The anticipated cyclone turned out to be a fizzer. Just as well because I was committed to cycling to Christchurch (450kms) over the following two days. I was rostered at the cycle shop on the day that cyclone what's its name, rolled through town. Cycling in the rain to work and back I saw not another cyclist. Most kiwi cyclists have yet to discover the joys of commuting by bicycle and still more have yet to realise that bikes can be fitted with mudguards and are not water soluble. More realistically though they probably have some notion of it, but prefer not to dwell on it because the rain gives them yet another excuse to use their car during the week, and keep their cycle for the Sunday sunshine ride or Saturday race around the block.
The bike shop was quiet with the punters not wanting to brave the weather. This gave me time to once again ponder the delights of the Mercian hanging in the workshop. My battle scarred mudguards I decided would at some stage have to be replaced. I'd procured these German Esge guards many years before while working part-time at another bike shop. They'd been thrown in a cupboard by a mechanic with little need for long guards on his down hill mtb and as the major clientele of this shop were mtbers of one form or another, there the guards stayed. Waiting for someone who used his or her bike in all weathers to retrieve them. Waiting for someone who appreciated the need to keep clean and dry throughout the winter while riding their bike everyday. Waiting for 'Niel the Wheel' to grab them before they were crushed by some heavy handed armour clad down hill rider with hairy legs and baggy pants.

But now having served me well and having been repaired countless times I was thinking that I'd like to replace them with a set of alloy guards. The problem with them stemmed from their plastic nature and their lack of resistance to heavy handed baggage handlers while being flown from one country to the next. I have them set up so they can be removed relatively quickly but they still take some knocks. Over the years I suppose plastics harden and the UV sun in New Zealand is not kind.
So a new set of hard wearing alloy guards was next on my wish list. I search the normal stockists for such a thing and come up empty handed. ( No surprises there.) I turn my sights to the more boutique suppliers making practical gear for real cyclists but find that the gear is firstly ugly, secondly expensive, and finally made in Asia.
So once again I turn to my favourite supplier (EBay). I find English Bluemels alloy mudguards, NOS. They will fit the 26" wheels of my bike, they look awesome and they are new from the 1980's. Thank you EBay. But the price! $$$$$$$$$$
I don't care about the price though because nothing for a bicycle can ever cost as much as a car or kid. The next day I went down to my bike workshop to check out a pair of similar guards that I had stored there from a 27"/ 700C touring bike. Yes I decided , I wanted those in the 26" size for the Mercian. Can you believe that upon trying these 700C muddies on the bike for looks, I came to the conclusion that they would fit the Mercian perfectly saving me the $$$$$$ for the ones on EBay!
Life's a joy isn't it.
Don't be Fooled by the Scenery, the Sand flies around here Take No Prisoners.

I'm forgetting the topic for this blog however. By the next day the rain and wind was gone and I was off on my 200km ride to Reefton. I was still suspicious of the weather so left my old long guards on. Anticipating a tail wind from the x cyclone saw me very despondent when the first 100kms turned out to be a head wind. I was having a slow death until I forced myself to stop at Owen River Hotel for two ice creams and a huge Coca Cola. The wind finally died before I did and later having had more lollie water and some solid food I finally hit my form cruising into Reefton in the rain but with good spirits. I'd booked a cabin at the camp ground for the pricely sum of $25. It's great to see that some places still aren't trying to extract a King's ransom for everything. You do have to go out of your way to find them though.
Keeping an Eye on my Bike & Chubby Cheeked Truckers in the Background.

The next morning I started my 250km ride to Christchurch in persistent West Coast drizzle. I felt good though and at the 40km mark I stopped for breakfast and while I ate it the sun came out. Twas great to be out eating my high calorie junk food while watching Truckee's playing with their trailer units, all the time tucking shirts in to try and keep their bum cracks from showing. I can't really report much about the following 150kms of central South Island cycling except to say that the scenery was pleasant and the weather agreeable. I've cycled this route so often now that it has become quite predictable. Lunch at the 200km mark involved scoffing down more energy drink and a pie. I knew that time would be tight so I got going without delay. Although I carry lights I wanted to be all done and dusted by 8.30pm when the sun set. Traffic volumes increased as I neared Christchurch and with it a disproportional number of retards in bigger displacement Fords and Holdens. (Cars that I believe will soon be consigned to the scrap heap in Aussie where they are still manufactured, but not for very much longer).


I was in my cabin by dark and with a full tummy, having feasted on fish & chips 10kms up the road.
The next day I met up with Adi, and while she cycled back home to Nelson, I packed the Mercian into the rental car that she had arrived in and drove home.
East Coast.

And the net end result of this 450kms over 2days ... A gain in weight due to too much junk food and a decision to just give up on my evening sit-ups. Evening sit-ups that I had been doing since coming back from cycling across Canada last year.
What's the point? Next spring I start training for Paris - Brest- Paris. In fact if winter gets too boring  Adi and I may have to jet off somewhere cheap and get some early miles in.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Autumn is Here.

Autumn Cycling Blues.
In an Attempt to Enjoy my Commute on the Cycleways more, I have added a Horn. I can now Scare Pedestrian's Better.
Autumn is here and we have a big fat anticyclone covering New Zealand. Calm settled weather with no rain to speak of. Great cycling weather you might think. And of course you would be correct. The temps although not hot, are pleasant and there is no wind to speak of. But as for sun, there's not a lot of that with the Tasman Province covered by cloud. Anti cyclonic gloom they call it. It fits my mood. I'm uninspired. I know that winter is around the corner and having reached  a good level of fitness, and having held it long enough to complete some worthwhile summer rides I wonder now if I should bother trying to sustain it into the winter. Maybe I'll just sit on the couch with a coffee and a bit of chocolate each day until I revert to 'Niel the Wheel Plus'. That's the winter version of me that can happily ride 100kms but not a lot more because he's carrying  five extra kilos and there's really not sufficient daylight for more kilometres anyway.
My objectives for the summer have been met. I have trained myself to ride 200km plus day rides without any problems and have familiarised myself with what it will be like next spring when I start trying to qualify for the Paris - Brest - Paris.
I have a few niggles though. One of these is the fact that my Adi is on the Kiwi Randonneur club list as having ridden an official 200km event and I have not yet ridden any official event. I am a member with no brownie points. I am one of those poor buggers who join things but have not contributed to the faith. I could blame the fact that I work in the weekends or the lack of available funds to travel to the events ( which are scattered around New Zealand) but the truth is that I have not made the effort to attend a meet and Adi has.
Another thing that prevents me from couching out until next spring is Adi's desire to host a randoneurring event around Nelson. I suggested a few weeks ago that we use my favourite 200km plus circuit. Good she said, but we will need to ride it again to get all the distances for the  Q sheet. I was now a little concerned that I might not be able to complete it. But good old Adi got me up early, fed me bacon and eggs and shoved me out the door almost on time. She then hopped on her bike and we were away. Four hours later when I was finally getting in the swing of things Adi then told me that this circuit was way to hard (masochistic hills, and a patch of gravel) and that she was going to change the course. "No way I retorted,   this is my favourite course and I've warmed into it now".
We agreed to part company. She headed off with the pen and paper to take notes on her new improved course and I continued on the 'Niel the Wheel' extravaganza. And since I was out and the weather at the time was good I threw a few extra bits in making up a 260km loop and not getting home until dark. The result of the whole thing though is that we are hosting for the randonnering club Adi's 200km ride next month and I need to be fit enough to complete it. If I don't do it she will then have two official club rides under her belt and I will be a sorry arse with none!
I suppose I could say at the moment that even though summer is winding down and I'm lacking a bit of get up and go, Adi is all the motivation I need.
Her final plan this month is to ride 450kms home from her Knee specialist appointment in Christchurch. She plans to spend 3 days doing this next week. But in order for the whole thing to work she needs someone to drive the rental car home from Christchurch. I suggested that I could keep the home fires burning while she sorts all this out and cycles home. She suggested that I could cycle down to Christchurch and drive the rental home. The thought of this actually appeals to me. I could cycle down in two days. Two 200km + days sounds pretty good to me now. But that is only because right now I am on the couch. Next week I will be getting up at 7am to start cycling South.
Of course I 've said I'll do it. By this time next week I will have completed my first day and I really hope its not raining. It wont be nice riding South in the rain. A quick check of the long range weather forecast seems to indicate that the tail end of a cyclone is on the way. I have to do it though because the rental car, and cabin for my overnighter have been booked.
What Fun. A Bike Work-stand Like the Pros.

It was my birthday a month ago and I decided to indulge myself with a cycle related gift. Just to be different you understand, I got myself something that would be useful to Adi as well. I ordered a cycle workshop stand from the bike shop. And since this gift to myself cost more than the gift I got Adi for her birthday I promised her I would get cracking on all the little jobs her bike needed and I had put off. (But only once the stand arrived).
Well, it took so long for this stand to arrive that I risked having my birthday with no new cycle gear!!!
Adi, bless her heart, realising that disaster was about to strike and not being able at short notice to procure me a pair of crochet cycle gloves, that she knew I needed, managed to get me a crackingly good long distance bike book.
Two weeks after my birthday the stand finally arrived. I'm not mad because I got two presents.
Today we mortgaged the house and got a load of wood in for the winter (A figure of speech to indicate how much it costs to stay warm in New Zealand). I stacked and Adi was a complete tosser all day. I have learnt over the years that when stacking firewood you have to allow sufficient air to pass around the pieces in order for them to dry out. To that end Adi and anyone with a German or Swiss passport is refused permission to stack in our woodshed. Wood must be stacked in a slapdash manner to ensure good drying. Winter hasn't even started yet and Adi is already getting itchy feet. So I'm not sure how much of the firewood we'll get through.

 Three days ago my wife was mulling over another 'Around the World Cycle' attempt. Yesterday she admitted that this would not only cost too much but it would involve too much hassle housing the cats and other home logistics.
That reality is that we have been cycling around the world since 1988 when we first straddled our bikes and headed for Tasmania. But I think Adi will have to head out somewhere before the end of winter. She cant help herself and I'm certainly not going to say no to a mini winter tour in Aussie or Malaysia. Adi hasn't cycled across Aussie so I think she wants to sort that. I'm certainly not going to cycle across the Nullabor again so it will have to be top to bottom or maybe bottom to top?
The neighbours are harvesting the grapes. So there must be a cyclone coming. Nice grapes they are too. Much too tasty for wine. They do leave a sticky residue on the inside of your saddle bag though. I've learnt not to stuff too many in at any one time.