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, 14 May 2015

Pre TransAm Service.

Two and a half weeks now until Adi the 'Vespa Chic ' heads across the Pacific to Portland for the start of her big ride across the  US.  She doesn't appear nervous at all. In fact while I was out last week on one of my cycle rides I spent some time contemplating this and actually started feeling nervous for her!
I think she's actually really looking forward to ditching me for an extended period.

There was a bit of a panic this week when hunting travel insurance for her. I tried the crowd we usually use and the quote came out at $500. Not content with this I tried again only to get a figure of $1400 ! Admittedly this was insurance designed for full on competition.  Since the TransAm is not regarded by the organisers as a race and since the 'Vespa Chick ' is not signing up for a race , we settled on normal travel insurance suitable for an unassisted solo ride across the States.
The final on-line order of cycle bits turned up at the gate yesterday so I spent today doing the full workshop service on Vespa chick's bike. Her bike is only a year old but in that time she has done a fair number of long day rides and more than a few mini tours over the last summer. So I am replacing all consumable items on the bike. New tyres, tubes,  cables , transmission bits , brake blocks, you name it . In addition to that I have greased and adjusted all bearings and checked that everything else is tight. I won't be there to help her with maintenance so hope this will suffice to get her across America. She is under strict instructions to not let any bike shop touch her bike unless it is unavoidable.

It's not that I don't trust the work of other mechanics , it's just that I don't want them working on a bike that needs to run faultlessly for extended periods. I'm sure they are more than capable of fixing a weekend warriors bike. A bike like that falls under the category of sports equipment, such as a tennis racket.
Serious bikes fall under the class ' transport' and need to run in all weather conditions and are depended on to get the operator to the next destination without assistance. There's no room for 'quacks' to be working on these machines. It's no fun to be 30kms from the nearest habitation on a wet cold evening and finding that some idiot mechanic didn't tighten your cranks sufficiently.
Anyway to try to avert any unscheduled stops in the middle of nowhere ( and there's a lot of nowhere when cycling across America) for the Vespa Chick I spent the day today servicing her cyclocross bike. It all went swimmingly I might say. In fact when I pulled the rear hub apart I discovered that the Chinese man or woman who assembled it a year ago lost count of the number of bearings that should have gone in the drive side and somehow misplaced one. Only a small error you might say and certainly not a sack able offence but one that could have had the Chick walking through Kansas instead of cycling. Some of those States are mundane enough even at cycling speeds, you don't want to be reduced to walking through them.

I'm very pleased with the tyre choice. We could have used Continental Gator skins or such like , but that would have necessitated a tyre change and service halfway across. As previously mentioned I wanted to try to get the cycle all the way with no pit stops so opted for Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres. But narrow ones at 25cm. These tyres are heavier but I really wanted to minimise  the chance of the chick having to fix flats. We will see, but I know these tyres will do the distance. They may be heavier but she won't need to take a spare tyre and will need fewer spare tubes. ( Famous last words).
Tomorrow I'll put the final touches to it and then it has a couple of weeks to settle down before a final cable tighten and nut check. Then we'll have to partially disassemble it for the plane flight. I know that Vespa Chick can reassemble it as I've watched in awe as the disassembled bike has been slowly reassembled by her in the lounge with only the odd piece on backwards or not at all  :#

Thursday, 7 May 2015


The earth shock here a couple of days ago. Initially I stood frozen to the kitchen floor my chocolate spread sandwich clutched in my hand. A sharp creak from the ceiling beam had me heading for the door however and once outside I once again stood motionless waiting for the next shake , the one that would render all the recent work I'd done on the house pointless. It didn't come however so I headed back in to rescue my chocolate buttys from the house flies. Bolted to the coal range is the house earthquake monitor. Every home should have one and mine was reading force 1. Number one ball bearing had come out of its rocker indicating that I hadn't imagined the shake. I'd hate to be here if no. 3 , or more came adrift.

My tickets have arrived in the mail so come mid August I will be standing in Helsinki with just my Mercian for company and my trusty compass pointing me north towards the Arctic. I've checked Helsinki on Google maps and there looks to be a reasonable campground in town. I will be very jet lagged when I get there as the flight from New Zealand goes all over the place. I arrive at about 4 pm so will then have to assemble my bike and stagger towards the campsite. I'll stay a couple days in the capital until I feel human enough to head into the northern environs.

The east side of the old house is now under my scrutiny. A quick check revealed more wood borer Infested timber. About the only part of the front facia not infected seems to be the verandah.  So I removed the climbing vine from it and have repainted and attached a proper gutter to it. Getting enough gutter and spouting home to span the 11 Metre length could have been problematic had I not bought a bicycle canoe trailer last summer. The 3 Metre lengths proved no problem with this trailer and I'm guessing that when I start ripping out Infested weather boards I'll be able to bring them home from the timber yard in this way as well.

 After a full mornings work installing the gutter I was pretty pleased with the finished product. I thought I deserved a break so went off to tinker with my bike in the garage for the rest of the day. Just as dusk was falling I returned to the house to perform a working test on the new drainage now that the glue had all dried. After all an expert spouting installer like myself knows better than to pour water into a system that is still dying. Rain was forecast for later in the week so a test was deemed sensible. It was just a matter of pouring a bucket of water in the far end and watch it happily discharge down the downpipe. I poured it in and nothing happened..? So I poured another bucket in and still nothing. A third bucket showed me where the problem lied. Clearly back in 1879 the builders had constructed the house on an angle. There was only one thing for it. I had to reposition the outlet to the other end of the verandah... problem solved and the water poured out to perfection. Nineteenth century workmanship clearly not up to 'Niel the Wheel's' standard.

Autumn weather has been kind to us in Nelson. Just today we had fine weather and a temperature of 21C. Yesterday it was raining but at 95% humidity and 19C it was hardly cold. Winter will turn up sooner rather than later though so it was just as well that Murray the firewood man finally delivered the wood today. Stacking a truckload of wood into the shed takes the best part of a day but when it's done you  get a satisfied feeling knowing that you can sit next to a crackling fire when it's frosty outside.
 The gum takes so long to dry out though that it will probably be spring before it's ready. I could start burning the borer Infested weather boards until it's ready I suppose. Perhapes I should attempt to go through the winter without heating to prepare myself for a Scandinavia Autumn. N

Monday, 20 April 2015

More Borer!

I feel that I am back on track again concentrating on what I enjoy most. And that would be long distance cycling In new environs. I spent last week chatting to my travel agent Di about changing my flights this year from Paris to Helsinki. I have definitely decided to not ride the Paris-Brest- Paris In favour of my cycle tour of Scandinavia. If I fly Into Helsinki In southern Finland and head north I may just get to North Cape , Norway without getting my arse frozen too much.

I'm still waiting for her to confirm my tickets , but It looks like It will happen. Not doing the PBP also means that the pressure Is off for trying to stay fit through the next 3 to 4 months of winter here In NZ. I'll continue to try to cover 200 to 300 kms on my bike a week but wont get too distressed If Its not achieved. The weekly riding will be more about keeping the winter flab at bay than trying to remain cycle fit. Once I get to Finland and start cycle touring north I'll get fit enough quickly.

I'm finding motivation for cycling this autumn easier with Adi training for the Across America event. She leaves In 6 weeks and If I can mirror her weekly averages until she goes that will keep me fit until winter. Then I'll just grovel through as best as I can until I go.
I took a couple of fine days last week to paint the north facing verandah. It was looking a bit untidy from frequent chicken poops and bicycle grease splatters. Its now looking clean and sparkly white. Future bird poo may be less visible but the grease from cycle cleaning may become more of a problem. I may have to repaint It a shade of brown. Anyway Its done for now and I can  move on to the borer Infested front of the villa.

Clearing vine from the front verandah has helped to show what I'm In for. Lets just say that I'm glad I bought a canoe trailer last summer because I think It will be hauling new weather boards during the winter to replace the bug Infested ones on the house. I'm not quite sure at this stage how to get some of those cover boards off.

O good , a distraction. My new retro cycle gloves have arrived.....

Monday, 6 April 2015

Easter 2015

It's Easter weekend and changes are In the wind. Obvious changes Include the loss of daylight savings time and the heat of summer. My enthusiasm for early starts and 250km day rides has gone with the loss of the extra daylight and trips to the beach with the canoe have also been postponed until next summer. My fitness Is good and I'm still happy to crank out 150km rides but my thoughts on competing In the Paris-Brest-Paris race next August have turned to thoughts of doubt. I still have to complete a 600km qualifier before the end of Autumn and although I feel I'm fit enough, I'm questioning whether I really want to do the Paris event enough to go through with the 600 and the winter training required to stay fit enough for the August start.

My thoughts on my upcoming tour of Scandinavia however have not faulted and my new Mercian bike frame has In the last month or so proved to be as comfortable and versatile as Its predecessor which Isn't surprising really considering that they were replicas of each other. I'm happy now also with the new colour and have asked the local Brooks Importers to get me another Brooks saddle from England. The saddle that I have ordered Is of a colour that I think will suit the pearl white of the frame better than my current brown and black saddles.
Alright, the real reason Is that a friend of mine broke his Brooks saddle so I sold him one of mine and then as I was reordering a replacement for that the I just happened to spy this other one... It'll take  month or two to arrive. How do I pay for this saddle fetish you may well ask?

No problem, I have that covered too. Just yesterday while out cycling In the southern ruralness of the Nelson area I spied a shiny somewhat foreign object In the grass verge at the side of the road. I thought at the time that It was probably another piece of chromed plastic commonly associated  with the junk that normally falls off autos as they speed by. But It had an odd shape that caught my eye and I thought It deserved a second look.....
This lovely shiny Jaguar bonnet mascot I first thought would look good next to the other trinkets on the bookshelf .

That was before I realised that If I combined It with the other old car mascot that I found many years ago, and Is still kicking about, that I could raise enough for my piece of leather saddle bling. And how satisfying flogging of auto parts for something really useful. I bet that weekend classic car buff was pissed off when he got home from his tear -up In the country to find that piece of his motor missing.
I realise that I cant go on like this , buying things and storing them in the bike shed, so I am having a clean out. From now on the emphasis will be on pottering on the house and throwing out all useless junk. In the next year anything considered to be of no Improvement to my life will go for sale second hand or to the tip. The house needs a big de clutter so that there Is room for travel and cycling stuff.
Junk of to the Second Hand Store.

The ultimate goal will be minimisation In all things except leather saddles.

Monday, 9 February 2015

The M.U.M is Dead.

The M.U.M is Dead , Long Live the M.U.M
My previous blog was all about playing at the beach and getting through Christmas with the minimum amount of distress. I achieved an A+ in both of those topics but unfortunately February has not been as forgiving.

My first failure was in the 600km event that I entered as my final qualifier for the Paris -Brest -Paris. Having done a post mortum on why I managed to complete only 120 kms of the 600km event , I can with assurance put it down to over confidence , or as we say in this part of the world "being too bloody cocky".  Through being "too bloody cocky" I had decided to cycle the 1oo kms to the event the day before and sleep the night in a tent. Not a good idea as I got no sleep due to the hard ground and the fat guy in the neighbouring caravan snoring his head off! The next mistake was packing my tent up on the morning of the event and instead of leaving it at the campground I put it on the front rack and entered the event with it, intent on using it at the half way point. The next mistake, taking a front rack at all ....what was I thinking! And all the other stuff packed in the rear bag, such as ; a sleeping bag, sleeping roll and silk liner. A tooth brush and credit card were useful items but I should have stopped there. To be honest though at the end of the day my head just wasn't in it. My bike was fine (but more on that later) and physically ( in spite of the lack of sleep) I was ok.
We started in warm tropical like rain and by the time I got to the 120km mark ,( which just happened to be the closest point to home), the weather was hot and sunny, and I was telling the organiser Craig that I just couldn't be faffed and was going home. The reality of the situation, and something that I hadn't fully comprehending at that time, was that I was overloaded and wouldn't have made the distance even if I had plugged on. If gravity hadn't got me then the lack of sleep would have.
So now I have still to do the 600km qualifier. The next and only local one is out of the question,  its the busy time at the bike shop and I cant get the time off. Also the event is part of a series and I cant spend the time or money doing all of them. My last chance to qualify will be a 600km circuit in the North Island in late April. This will be on unfamiliar ground, through what looks like tough country, and in Autumn. I'm going to go for this but I'm going to lighten the load, put my best wheels on, and use the credit card for a few luxuries such as a bed the night before and at the halfway point. The organiser doesn't know it yet but I'm going to attempt to stick with him as he knocks these rides out regularly, and i think pretty much without failure.

And now to my Mercian..... what can I say, last week my world was thrown into complete caos. While cleaning my bike,( the bike that has served me faithfully for 7 years standing watch over me as I slept in  rat infested hovels in Bolivia , llama huts in Peru, and the bike that got me out of the cayman infested Pantanal)  I discovered had cracked. The bike that had carried me across Australia, Canada, Vietnam and the US was fatally fractured.   I could send him back to Mercian Cycles to be repaired and repainted but the cost of the freight would be prohibitive and who's to say that when he got home he wouldn't shortly develop problems in another tube. I thought about it for the day and then  decided to strip him down , clean him up and hang him in the bike shed. A constant reminder to the fun and loneliness we shared together. He can hang next to three other frames that I have also ridden to death.

Id be telling a lie if I said there weren't  tears as I removed all attached components, but there you go, nothing lasts forever.This was something I said to the Mercian people seven years ago when I commissioned him. At that time they gave me a questioning look when I also commissioned a spare ( M,U.M 2, or to possibly be called 'Step Mum') Now that spare has been pressed into service.

So my 7year old spare frame has been built up and i hope will continue to carry me around the globe, starting in Scandinavia this year. Later in the year I will contact Mercian Cycles and check that they still have my M.U.M blueprint. I will tell them that their frames are only good for about 150,000kms when 'Niel the Wheel' rides them and that they'll have to start building me another spare. I'll tell them I am mildly unamused and I have calculated that at the rate that their frames break down I will need to put aside about $1 per day to be able to travel in the class to which I have become accustomed.
I'm going to have to end now as I'm too sad. I'll finish by saying though that M.U.M 2 or my new' Step Mum' has built up into a fine thing and I am happy for her. In time we'll bond , but I'm still sad and having trouble growing attached to something so transient. I'm not even sure I'll clear coat her paint work. Whats the point , she's just going to die and leave me in 7 years.

ps. I bare no disrespect for the craftsmanship of the Mercian builders as they do a lovely job. Its the raw materials that are at fault. Reynolds Tubing may have built structural components for Spitfire fighters back in the day,  but then what was their life expectancy? Serious cyclists need something tougher than steel.

Monday, 12 January 2015

Roll on 2015.

Another year has begun and Christmas is done and dusted. I'm pretty pleased with myself for not wasting any money over the festive season. I managed to get a week or so of covering work at the bike shop so could afford my Christmas present and the costs of my next qualifying event for Paris-Brest-Paris.
Working for the ten days up until Xmas and having to deal with the frenzy on the roads was enough to put me off Xmas for the next three years to come. But you do have to get your priorities right and a month before I had ordered the gift to myself on line and on the day it was waiting in the garage.

Once uncovered and with a little tweaking, it was ready for the road. The one thing I lacked here when years ago I sold the last of our modern cars to finance a cycling trip overseas ,was a means to get my canoe down to the beach 10kms away. I toyed with the idea of getting a very short wave rider type of canoe that would fit on the BoB trailer but then I would have the hassle of selling our two bigger canoes. The idea of getting a proper canoe trailer cemented itself when I realised I could also use it for bringing over sized items such as weatherboards back from the hardware shop. A hunt on-line showed the wicked prices for these overseas. But wonders never cease and I located a New Zealand engineer that could make me one for $250 !  When it arrived just before Xmas I of course had to check that it was all there and in doing so was very pleased with the quality.
In a couple minutes I had the canoe on the trailer and it all hitched up to the Mercian. I have to tell you that I wasn't looking forward to going in to battle with the NZ motorist as I pulled it all to the beach. There are back ways that I can take but unfortunately I have to mix it with Mr 'Testosterone' and Mrs 'Don't hold us Up' in a couple of places. I also wasn't unaware that the Xmas/New Year road toll last year was 7 and already this year we were up to 16. The whole package had very stable and predictable handling but did stick out to the side by an xtra 500mm or so. Something that I knew would prove daunting to Mr & Mrs Autobottom.

 I found that on the flat I could comfortably sit on 20km/hr but that the drag was easily twice as much as with my BoB trailer. The ride to the beach is all flat and after 10kms or so I was there in one piece. Ignorant motorists stared as if they'd never seen anything like it but I was not subjected to the intolerance that I had expected. Some vestitude of the festive spirit or perhaps the calming effect of a glass or three of wine still in their systems I expect.
Once I'd got home and had unpacked I realised that the iphone that work had given me had got salt water on it and was acting in a somewhat erratic way. The next day was a hard 400km PBP qualifier that I'd hoped to plot using the iphone.
Takaka Hill a Few Years Back. Not Much has Changed.Still an Epic Climb. Still too many Motorists.
 The ride was brutal over the Takaka hill range and back in the heat. But all  I could think about was how my smart phone wasn't working. It refused in the end to respond to any touch commands and the following day once I had recovered from the ride I threw the whole phone into a jar of methylated spirits in a desperate attempt to get the salt water out of it. Once the bubbles had stopped coming out of it I left it to dry in the sun and then switched it on. To my amazement everything worked perfectly although with a somewhat purple tinge a left over side effect from the meths. Not to be beaten I then drowned it in clear Colemans Spirits. Things were a bit clearer now but the WiFi wouldn't switch on? The cure for this suggested Utube was to blow torch the phone and then let it cool down. The blow torching went beautifully , cooling down in the freezer took some time, but too no avail , WiFi would still not switch on although to be fare to my efforts the phone was no worse.
With that iphone consigned to the dustbin a friend at work said he'd sell me his old iphone for $80. So I'm up and running again and determined to be more careful with this one. It's a bit doggy but I cant justify the hundreds of dollars for a new one. You can see that I'm totally addicted to them now though and when I need another, I have decided to by the oldest model iphone that you can  buy new.
Later this week I have the final 600km qualifier for PBP to complete and it looks like rain. We need the rain, but what a bummer because in an effort to save money and hold steadfast to my principles of unsupportedness I have decided to ride the 100km to the start of the event and then home afterwards and to sleep in my one person coffin tent at the start / middle and finish. Ive got 40 hrs to complete the 600km. The others have all booked accommodation for the rest stop but I will settle for a patch of flat ground somewhere at the 350km mark. These things always sound so easy when you plan them on the couch. Think of the time I will save not having to check into a motel or having a shower. I'll also have to carry the tent , a sleeping bag and other bits and pieces that can only serve to make me stronger. The whole thing is easily justified until you actually have to do it. I just tell myself that it cant be any harder than the Kiwi Brevet that I did last year. In fact when it comes to unpleasantly hard cycle camping I have a whole host of experiences to draw from. You have got to feel sorry for people that haven't suffered like a dog on the bike and have nothing to bring to mind when they need cheering up.

Next week I'm going to invest in a solar charger for my iphone and cycle light. The idea being that when I'm cycling in Europe later this year I can freedom camp as much as possible while still maintaining the charge in the phone. This will be the first time that I will solely  rely on my smart phone for communication and blogging. I can save a lot of weight by not taking the netbook and its charger. But I think that buying a credible solar charger is not as easy as looking at a couple hundred reviews and putting your money down. I think there are a lot of charlatans selling fake and totally ineffective solar chargers out there. I'm resigned to the fact that I will have to buy it from a local store and not on line, just because no matter how much research you do on a particular model, the nagging doubts are still there. The store will have to take it back if it proves ineffective ( cross fingers). It would of course be easier to make the choice if they knew something about the products they sell. A, "we've not had any come back" only goes so far to reassuring the customer. And they wonder why they are losing sales to the on line stores. The on line stores are telling me that they have 200 satisfied customers and 20 customers that think the product is shite and will never do business with the company again. I don't want to be the 21st. I'm going to go with one called the Solar Monkey Traveller. Here's hoping that I can attach it to the rear rack of the bike and in the course of the day it will charge the phone.

Had a nice paddle at the beach today. The over-spenders where all back at work and the children and carers where confined to the shallows. Frolicking among the waves and surfing in on the swells was all going swimmingly until I en counted a dead and bloated whale drifting down the beach. The smell alone drove me ashore where I promptly packed up my kit, hitched the canoe and trailer onto the back of the Mercian and headed home. I might have been able to provide a picture had I not decided to never take my phone canoeing again. At the rate of drift I would say that the whole smelly mess would be washing up amongst the paddlers in about 40minutes. By then I should be back at home with an alcoholic beverage.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Pre Xmas Stress; Not.

My tickets to Europe have arrived. So that's it I'm going. I don't leave until August next year so have plenty of time to think about it and to finish qualifying for the PBP cycle event.

I have done the 400km pre qualifier and the 200km and 300km qualifier. But still need the 400 and 600km under my belt. The reality of the situation is that I live for cycle touring and whether or not I get into the PBP has no influence on whether I go to Europe. My tickets in effect can't be cancelled anyway. 

As I look at the ticket dates I can see that I will be kicking around in or about Paris for three or four days waiting for the event to start. That's time that I could be cycling towards Northern Norway if I wasn't entered. But the PBP only happens every 4 years so want to make the effort to be part of it.

I'm still very conscious of cycling within the Arctic Circle in autumn so want to get started North as soon as possible. 

Last week I tried to organise a long distance ride of 300 km but ended up as a no show! It was just as well that nobody else bothered to turn up either or things could have been embarrassing. I dragged my arse out of bed in the end and rode my 250km loop telling myself that all was well and that I had better turn up for the 400km ride that I've put on the program next month. I not only need that ride for a qualifier but I'm also pretty sure that some other Audaxers will also turn up for it.

The Christmas frenzy is slowly winding up out there. I can hear the busy little bees zooming up and down along the road beyond our gate. Trying to find another gift to stuff in little Sarah's bulging sack and of course other things that they won't wait for the day for. Of course out on the roads the usual dim wit truck drivers and everyday autonom's continue to practice there selfish driving habits but with the added excuse that they are busy and stressed at this time of year so any smaller road user in their way just shouldn't exist.

My thoughts on that are that it's time for petrol and vehicle registration to go up again as there is clearly to many of them now on the road getting in the cyclist's way. Inconceivable as  it may seem, the price of petrol has just dropped again for the summer season! Encouraging more fat and lazy teenagers to get behind the wheel.

I bought my Xmas present a month ago and have hid it from myself in the garage. Obviously I know what it is and had to have a peek just to make sure that it was all there when it turned up ,but other than that I am prepared to wait for the day before playing with it.

That act of self denial apparently puts me in the more intelligent than average category. Sorry kids, those that can't wait and already have their Xmas gifts are now described in studies as the more mentally challenged in our society. You will grow up to be truckies and pram pushers.

My left crank broke off the other day while out on a recovery ride. It's not every day that a crank breaks and a first time for me. Once I'd picked myself up off the road and  checked that my top tube was unscathed from the whack that my balls gave it I had time to think about the excitement of this rare event happening to me. Almost S exciting as when my front forks broke a few years back. The end result from both these incidents was the same however.... A long walk home. I have to be honest about this and admit that eventually a motorist did stop and offer me a lift the rest of the way home. But it was unsolicited by myself. I wasn't too proud to refuse though. 

When I got home and the reality had finally set in that my 30yr old Campag cranks where toast I was much saddened and apprehensive about how to juggle finances in such away as to afford another set. Vintage Campag on EBay is an exorbitant price. I thought I'd try a long shot and put the word out locally first. 

Jim, a local cyclocross man had not one but a pair of cranksets that he agreed to sell for a fare price. A meeting was arranged and the deal done. In less than three days the Mercian was fully operational again and I have a spare crankset and a still undamaged right Hand crank.

And just to show that life doesn't totally revolve around cycling and travel I have included a photo of the new mini feijoa orchard I hope will be on line in the next year or two.

. A sure sign of Xmas in our parts is the flowering of these little devils. And the fruit is available from the gate everywhere in late Autumn. Once the grapes are finished and that's left around here are kiwi fruit and feijoas. I need to have a bit of that action.

Summers here and the darkest lens are now required in the riding glasses. In case you're wondering, no all these lens didn't come with the glasses. But old lens are often easy to adjust with a file to fit other frames. Variety is the spice of life.