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.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Anyone For A Cruise?

Day 9.

It poured down all last night but I’d seen the weather forecast and knew that it would clear. So I mucked around a bit since I only had 110kms to go to the ferry. I didn’t need to be at the terminal until 5.30pm.

I had a chance to leave soap suds on a number of different wash hand basins in the motor camp and have an extended morning shower. Then it was off to the Levin McDonalds for breakfast. A breakfast I would rather forget. The main reason being, to post my blog and give the rain a chance to ease off.

Then it was off down the coast into a slight headwind. I used to spend a lot of time as a teenager cycling this coastline and it has plenty of memories for me. It’s also where I met Adi for the first time. So between the two of us we pretty much sorted out all the great places you could park up for a bit of ‘let’s get to know one another’. In those days I owned a sports car. The things you have to do to catch a girl’s eye. Women aye. They won’t even look at a guy with a bicycle, but get a sports car and your battle is almost won.

Lovely backcountry Church.

As I approached wellington I tried a few cycle ways but they were as crap as I remember them. Invariably you go off course or the condition of the seal cuts your speed by 10km’hr. And of course you have to weave between the kiddies and dogs. I know this area and I still went way off course.

I still got to Wellington with plenty of time. So I zoomed around the CBD annoying the locals and pretending not to know English. Once I was sick of that I went to MacDonald’s for an ice-cream and to use the internet. Unfortunately this time the joke was on me because school was out so I had to listen to cackling teenage girls for an hour only then to find out that the Wellington CBD has free Wi-Fi.

Now I wait for the ferry. Sailing conditions MODERATE they say. Is moderate all your dinner on the deck or just so green you can’t face eating anything?

I don’t know what it is but sometimes I find New Zealanders hard to understand and I live here. I really don’t know how foreigners cope. Two examples today were firstly when I pushed my bike onto the ferry and the guy said “over there on the knots” I mean what the hell does that mean. Luckily I already knew where to put my bike so I put it there. But later I figured out that what he must have meant was ‘put it over there where there are ropes to tie it to the wall’. All I can assume is that knots is sea talk for ropes! The other example was cycling along earlier in the day when I approached a stop go man and it looked a bit dodgy up there so I  looked for reassurance from stop/go man because he had the sign in neither the stop or go position. He said “you’re right mate” Now NZers all know that means go for it. But any person from another country would be thinking ‘yes I’m ok but do I go or not?’

The New Ferry ( Currently Broken). Mines Parked Behind.
I ended the day on the ferry and it was a calm crossing so my roast chicken, backed potatoes and diced veges stayed down. I have to say ferry food has improved over the years. The ferry cliental hasn’t though. Apart from the fact that a good proportion on board were truck drivers, (you can imagine my joy at that. They’re trying to kill you on the road during the day and then you have to sit down and share chicken with them at night.), there also seems like a higher than average number of social drop kicks on ferry crossings. It’s certainly not the image that the Interislander company projects in their advertising. I didn’t see any young upwardly mobile couples sipping wine on the deck. Just patched bikies and what looked like the rest of their extended families.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Sweet & Sour Tonight.

Day 8.

Today was probably the easiest of the whole trip. The weather was predicted to be wet but for most of the day I had sun and tail winds. By lunch time the winds were strong enough for me to probably reach Wellington by dark if I had wanted to camp at the ferry terminal a day early. But I knew where the camp ground was in Levin so I decided to stay here and then cruise easily to the ferry tomorrow since I had already booked the passage. The wind that I had today is the predominate wind on this coast and it just goes to show how much it was holding me up on the way up to Taupo.

The Sign Says it All. Tail Wind!

Nothing remarkable happened today except that on arriving here in the rain I apparently put the Two Gay Girls in the wrong place and the camp superintendent asked me to shift it. I later saw signs in the kitchen and TV lounge advising cyclists that bikes in rooms would not be tolerated due to past experiences with grease on things. If only this camp hillbilly could be made aware of some of the prestigious hotels in Europe that my Mercian has resided in over the years and that most cycle tourists contrary to popular belief are not short of a few dollars. They are just usually more careful where they spend the dosh.

Anyway I do recall last time I was here leaving quite a bit of grease in the shower and environs but never in a room. Might book one next time and have a good bike cleaning session.

That’s better I can hear myself think again. Two Dutch people talking in the kitchen and the whole room was reverberating. I don’t know who would be louder two Dutch people or three teenage girls.

The Manawatu. Cow Country.

I’m having Chinese tonight all though it took a bit of getting. I pointed at no.11 and said “that one thanks”. To which the Chinese man rattled off a sentence I really couldn’t make one word of. Then the Chinese woman rattled off another sentence I couldn’t understand although I think they were speaking English. She then came over and pointed at the menu and I once again pointed to no. 11 and said “that one thanks”. I really didn’t care anyway they could have given me anything and it all cost the same. I’m not even out of the country yet and some things are a struggle!

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Not Many Once Again on the Sundays Boys Ride..

Mini Tour Day 7.

It's Sunday and I bet all those cyclists that could have come on my little mini tour up to Taupo and didn't will be kicking themselves now. The reason being that it is a picture perfect day for the start of my ride back towards Wellington along the central plateau.

M.U.M looks great. Mountains are kind of nice too.

Whereas my roadie friends will be doing their Sunday training rides around suburbia I am zooming past non extinct volcanoes with a light tail wind and not a care in the world. Almost not a care in the world. I did notice after the race on Saturday that my rear tyre has taken a bit of a hammering and I'm hoping it will get me back home. (Another tyre will blow the budget that I have so far managed to keep).

Anyway the weather today was perfect and I managed to knock off 150kms by 3pm with stops. I could have kept going but the problems with that would be two fold. The first being that I would be camped behind a bush on the main road somewhere instead of the quiet little motor camp that I am currently in and secondly I would arrive at the dreaded ferry terminal early. I am just not that keen to get back on the Cook Strait ferry.

The other Volcano.(NZers know what I Mean)

Much as I want to be back in my beloved Adi's arms I just know its going to be Southerly gales when I get back to Wellington and my dinner will be ending up all over the deck.

Talking of Adi. When I first started this mini tour (the first one that I have ever had to blog on) , I thought that fitting everything in to a day would be the problem. And true enough that is tough. But much harder will be putting up with my cooking for extended periods. I knew there must be a reason for man to take woman on adventure holidays. I'm getting used to stodgy rice but I'm going to have to have a break from it tomorrow. Maybe Chinese.

Mt Nghera.. ..Call it Volcano 2

I got passed on the road today by all the weekend bike racers and although a number tooted and acknowledged me by and large once you put a rack , mudguards or bag on your bike you cease to exist to your average 'race'. I was thinking also as I cycled along sports cyclists are a bit like weekend boaties  once you get 50kms from a main centre or out of sight of land you really see them unless they have vehicle support. So today once I hit that magic number from Taupo there were no cyclists to be seen except in cars going by.

Shame really because today's ride was so much nicer than yesterdays wind blasted ride around the Lake.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

9011 Week End Warriors.

Race Day.

The day dawned clear and windy. In fact it was extremely windy to the point of being dangerous. Over 9000 cyclists most hell bent in doing their best possible time and a road littered with wind blown vegetation was a recipe for disaster. And no doubt there was disaster for some. But Niel the Wheel and M.U.M sailed around without a hitch. I still don't know my time since it really wasn't a race for me. Just another hard 160km on the bike . Lets face it your never going to do a race time on a touring bike. Even one stripped of mudguards and carriers. It didn't fool anyone with more than one comment suggesting that I could have at least taken the stand off.

And Still They Come In.

Having got back to Taupo without incident I immediately crashed in the tent before realising that not only had I got to vote for the Government, but also reconfigure my bike for the trip back tomorrow and also get dinner! All before prize giving at 6pm.

Back Home After the Race.

After the race I bumped into some of the Nelson group racing and they offered me a trip back in the van. Last time I cycled up about 10yrs ago I would have accepted the offer but this time I feel pretty good and am almost looking forward to the 160kms I expect to do tomorrow. I just hope its a tail wind. You can always hope.

I didn't win the car at prize giving and I'm absolutely gutted. (yeah right)

I'm cooking dinner now and the weekend warriors are busy packing their kids and bikes into the back of their RVs.

Pre Race Preparation.

Next Day

I forget what day it is. It's the day before race day and all the weekend warriors are in Taupo with their oiled legs and sparkly clean bicycles.

The motor camp of course is full of them as well. Its good to talk to them about cycling in general. The most interesting among them are doing the long distant events and I had a good chat over dinner to a couple from New Plymouth who are doing the twice around the lake and have to start at 2am tomorrow. Its finally quiet in the rec room now that all the little kids gone back to the camper vans or where-ever they put them after 10pm.

Come dawn the RV and bike brigade will be out test riding their bikes up and down the drive and showing off their race numbers. I'll be stuffing my face with smoked sausages and trying to figure out how many bananas I can get in my jersey pockets. I don't want to overstock because its just 160kms without luggage and plenty of warriors around to draft off. nothing worse than mushed bananas in your pockets.

Secret Stash of Cash in Seat Post.

The weather looks good for Sundays ride back down the North Island towards Nelson. I really would like to get a tail wind after such a hard couple of days up.

Dropped into McDonald's today to post my blog and actually managed to get onto the Global Bike Race face book site only to find out that all sorts of stuff has been happening regarding the organisation of the event. I didn't have enough time on line to get my head around it all so will have to tune in whenever possible. Might even have to pay for a bit of wifi time so that i can check my emails which I've not been able to do at McDonald's and check GBR site.

Well that's that then, its into' The Gay Girls' and then up early (if I can manage it) for race day.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Wrong Turn!

Day 4.

I made a major cock up today by going the wrong way!

The day started with pouring rain so I thought I'd flag it all together because the central plateau is not a nice place in wind and driving rain and i have a day up my sleeve. However at 10am the rain had cleared mostly so I was off. I got to the high point at National park and the wind came around to my back and i was literally laughing. In fact laughing so much that I missed my turn and kept heading Eastwards instead of westwards! Twenty kilometers later I'd realised my mistake. Funny though because normally realising I had gone the wrong way would have quite annoyed me. But I think I may be having too many energy drinks because it didn't seem to phase me.

If I'd realised then that to get back on track I'd have to go over a hooer of a pass i may have been more concerned. but cycle tourings like that what you don't know is coming never obviously daunts you.

Since I'd left late time was a bit critical but luckily the wind was still behind me as I approached the 130km stage and found myself on the race circuit that I will be doing in a couple of days. the circuit goes around Lake Taupo.

It was at that stage that I caught up with one off the super enduro riders who was doing the 1600km challenge around the lake. That's 10 times around the 160km circuit. He was going through a bad patch so I tried to cheer him up. But I suppose being caught by a fully laden cycle tourist doesn't help your morale when you're riding a tri bike. I may see him in the race when I start the single lap on Saturday. I'll have to shout some encouragement. He needed to slow down for a feed so I took off for my destination of Taupo.

I didn't make it though due to my wrong turn. I'll have to polish off the rest tomorrow. Tonight I'm cooking myself stodgy rice. Its got to be good to carbo load and since i could only get a biggish bag I'll be rice for a few nights I think.

Hard Day.

Day 3.

Thought I'd have an easy one today. Yeah right.

After a good nights sleep with 'the two gay girls' I was up and then on the bike at 8.30am. Not bad I thought because I'd actually been able to achieve a few things that up until now I haven't had time for. Namely cleaning my teeth ( I forgot my toothbrush), shaving my face and fungal creaming my feet (a must as my washed socks are never dry by morning so its wet feet).

A Victim of NZ Drivers. The White Bike

My easy day on the bike certainly wasn't. The sun was out for most of it but the rest can best be described as gale force head winds, up hill for pretty much the whole time and then finished off with the last 1okms in driving rain. Eight hrs of hard cycling has got to be good though. I only hope it stops raining by morning because last time I cycled through here ten years ago it sleeted the whole way across the volcanic plateau and I dame near got hypothermia . It was late November then too.

I was pleased to witness a bit of high country mustering. Raetihi the town I'm staying in continues to slowly disappear into the earth with more rotten and empty shops than occupied ones. Its still got a long way to go before it approaches the sort of decay that I witnessed among small towns in Nevada last year.

And a special note to Adi. I'm still on budget because I've not had time enough to stop and shop! Maybe tomorrow the sun will come out and I will have time for a leisurely did in a hot pool along the thermal plateau.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Where's McDonalds Please

Day 2

Today was a long one and it's not over yet. There's just not enough hours in the day at the moment so my blogging will be limited until I can either learn to cycle faster , not eat or buy a room and a meal for the night. The last option is not an option as I'm also training myself to keep to a budget that adi has set me.

So here I am in Bulls at the motor camp cooking my dinner , blogging and hydrating and its 8.40 pm. Could'nt get potatoes tonight but did manage fresh salad and meat again. Baked beans will have to be a spud substitute.

Nice Day  for a Coke.

Eight hours in the saddle today and 3.5 hrs on the retched ferry. I had to get up at 5am! That was a real ask for the 'reluctant cyclist'. Anyway I completed the 160kms planned and had some nasty wind to contend with.

I've come to realise that campervan drivers and motorcyclists must be bored out of their heads most of the time. They always wonder over to ask the odd question and just look like they need entertaining. Cant blame them really. It's just drive coffee, drive coffee all day.

If I could just make them useful putting up my tent or washing my socks! It all has to be done.

Spot the Bored Motorcyclists.

If I can get to bed by 10.30pm tonight I might get 8hrs sleep.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Fully Loaded Training


Well this time I have a fully loaded touring bike .

I expected rain but luckily not only did it clear just before I left home but the expected strong head winds died and then came in behind me to help me along. Actually it was just as well because the weight of the bike took a bit of getting used to and I didn't leave home until mid day.
My First Coke and Icecream.

Anyway 130kms and I'm here at Picton. Tomorrow I have to get up at 5am to catch the ferry to the North Island. I loath this trip on the ferry. I invariably end up chucking up the last nights dinner and breakfast. While everyone looks on in pity. Why don't they just piss off and let me suffer in solitude. It may not be that bad a crossing. But it can be. Cook Strait is one of the roughest in the world at times. The wind funnels through between the North and South Islands and this combined with the depth of the water mean that you need proper ocean going ferries.

Dinners cooking as I write this. I am coming to realise that the cycling part of this training is going to be the easy part. It's the cooking , washing of socks and making camp and then blogging that is going to be the challenging part.

That'll do for today sweet potatoes and steak await. And I managed to pick up a real vegey salad. There you go Adi man can survive without woman.

Friday, 18 November 2011


I'm hoping to do some reasonably big kilometers next week. Starting tomorrow with the Sunday Boys Ride and then carrying on into the week with my ride to Taupo for the around the lake sportive event.

So the Mercian was down in the workshop getting some much needed attention. If you're interested you can read about it in the Workshop section.

There's rain predicted for Monday. But then who gives a toss because this time I'll put the mudguards on.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

The Plan for Next Week.

Here I am the computer beginner Niel the Wheel preparing his blog entry on a new little netbook that I got for the race next year. It’s a cheap as chips HP netbook. But hopefully it will do all I want in terms of searching the net and keeping everyone informed of my journey. So Adi will have the laptop at home and I will have this little baby. All I have to do is find an endless supply of McDonalds or other free wifi places to send my ramblings from.
Adi managed, through writing to the Around Lake Taupo people, to get me free entry into this year’s race. So next week I am going to cycle the x number of kilometres to the race camping as I go , compete in the race and then cycle the kilometres back home again. My idea is to do this as I would in the Global race next year .ie freedom camping as I go and trying to do blog reports when I can fit them in on the little net book. I’m going to have to treat it a lot better than I treated my cell phone a couple of weeks back when I decided to do two days touring in torrential rain and drowned the cell phone.(luckily it has recovered). I will use camping grounds at Taupo itself because I have to turn my touring bike into a sports bike to do the race and then reconfigure it again afterwards. I also need somewhere with a bit of security to store my stuff for the day.
It was great of Adi to once again come through for me in getting the free entry. I was contemplating cycling up and doing the circuit anyway but now I’m legal. I also have Kevin from overseas to thank because he couldn’t make the event this year and so contacted the organisers and asked if they could pass on his entry to a deserving individual. So thanks to Kevin and Adi.
I plan to cover about 160km per day on the way up and back. My bike will be fully loaded so it should be a good test. So far nobody I know has expressed interest in coming with me. I can’t quite understand that. I mean where’s the adventure in just riding around the lake?
I’ve officially finished at the bike shop now so I suppose I will be getting most of my cycling bits and pieces via the internet although I know that  Mike at ‘Avanti Nelson’ will help me where he can.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Now I Can Play With 'Two Gay Girls'.

They have arrived and I spent the afternoon trying this and that. Please read all about it under my Equipment section.

Fully Erected.

Monday, 7 November 2011

I think I've Stuffed My Cell Phone.

When I first started cycle touring we didn't bother with cell phones. In fact we didn't bother much with communication at all. We sort of got on our bikes and disappeared off the radar  between generally 2 to 8weeks. However in the really early stages of my cycling life, when I was 12years old (that's 4 or 5 summers younger than some of the competitors on the Global Bike Race), we were required by our parents to phone home every night and had to find a phone booth to do it. In those days you could find a phone both pretty much anywhere.  The receiver had generally been cut off and some one's dysfunctional kids had usually jammed the wrong size coins in the slots making it useless.

So phoning home was a pain in the arse. Often requiring more effort than cooking a slap up meal of baked beans and sausages.

Well some things never change. Phoning home on my little trip a couple of days ago was also nigh impossible in the 21st century.

Setting Off.

As mentioned in my previous blog I set myself the target of riding my 3/4 loaded touring bike the 210kms to Westport and then back the next day. These ideas always sound pretty good when they go through your head. But the problem is once you have mentally said, 'ok Niel lets go with that' you have made a commitment to yourself and if you don't do it you feel like shit.

Well firstly the weather for the week wasn't looking that flash and Westport is situated on the incoming front side of South Island, NZ. And secondly once I'd loaded up the bike with the low rider bags , Brooks handlebar bag and full rear saddle bag, M.U.M was feeling pretty chunky.

Knowing that Adi wouldn't like what I could turn into if I didn't go, I took what I thought was the lesser of two evils, grabbed a sunny morning and headed off.

Thirty kilometers into the ride and the sun was gone and things were looking decidedly grey.Well the next 100kms can only be described as torrential rain. Not that warm either, as I struggled into the Murchison cafe and ordered lunch.

My mood was not improved by the fact that the only free range toddler in the place had  taken a liking to me and my bike. Luckily for me I had a wall with a pane of glass between me and his food caked face. Ignoring them has always worked in the past and it didn't fail me this time except that his attention immediately shifted to my bike. After about the 4th attempt world child no. 6billion, 900 million and two, managed to pull my bike on top of himself. Well at least my chain got a wipe and it was a soft landing for my Mercian.

The afternoon cleared up! I rolled into Westport in pretty good time and got the coffin tent up after downing dinner. Usually on these sorts of rides I find the first day  is OK but its the next day when you have to ride another couple of hundred and the third day that things get really grippy. I have to say on going to bed in the coffin I was feeling pretty smug. I thought just 210k's home tomorrow and I can feel happy with a 620km week.

Luckily I wasn't so cocky as to sleep in a bit. Because being a reluctant cyclist I can easily sleep in. No, I was on the road by 7.30am . Luckily I was because it was one of the most unpleasant 210kms I have ridden!

Before the Storm Hit.
I loaded a soaking tent onto the bike (after heavy overnight rain) and a wet sleeping bag which had absorbed a kg or two of water due to the coffin like nature of the tent. ( You are never far from nature in that tent). The first 5kms of the ride were not that bad with just light to moderate rain. The next 215kms can best be described as living hell alternating between driving rain, driving hail,and just bad driving from logging trucks and stock freighters. (Where I think the IQ of the driver rates not a lot higher than that of his passengers).

I love the Brooks gear on my bike. If you read my blog a bit you will know I 'm a Brooks man. But I have to say you have to be a pretty enthusiastic type to ride your Brooks stuff in conditions like that.

My leather bar end tape absorbed there own weight in water.
My leather H/Bar grips absorbed at least 3 x their weight in water and threatened to expand to a point where they popped off the end of the bars.
Leather saddle, ditto, even with its nylon cover.
My H/Bar bag topped things off by not just doubling its own weight but soaking my cell phone making it impossible to call home for assistance.

I wouldn't actually have phoned home for a lift because its against my principles ( and anyway we sold our cars and the hobby kombi still has its engine on the bench), but it would have been nice to tell Adi the nightmare conditions I was cycling through.

One interesting point I've noticed in extreme conditions is that you often make pretty good time because to stop is to die of exposure. One other interesting point is that the Sam Browning catch on the Brooks H/bar bag is impossible to undo when your fingers have been in frequent hail showers for the last 8hours. So short of opening it with my teeth my bag was holding onto the cold fried sausages that I put in it. I think Sam Brown  must have cycled only in a temperate climate.  With frequent stops on sunny afternoons for devonshire teas.

In a couple of weeks I'll head out on a 10 day mission to the Lake Taupo 160  Challenge and will have a new net book to keep dry during that trip. Hopefully I'll have better weather. I'll certainly use a tent that I can sit up in. But not 'The Gay Girls' I want to save them for the trip overseas.

So not a tidy week but 620kms is 620kms. I feel happy with that.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

I've Ordered 'Two Gay Girls' for My Trip!

With a bit of luck the 'Two Gay Girls' should arrive next week because I put my order in yesterday and they advised that if I paid on Thursday they'd send immediately.

I'm excited because at the moment I'm having to make do with a single person and its really just a bit of a squeeze.

If at this point you're not sure what I'm talking about I suggest you please read the page on my blog headed 'Sponsors' and then all will become clearer. Never totally clear as nothing in my life is totally clear.

Once they arrive I'll set them up and take a picture for the blog so you can all see what will keep me comfortable for the expected 6 months that I 'm  away. The picture below is what I expect things to look like.
Two Gay Girls and my Personal Trainer Karyn.
I've done my research and I'm hoping the 'Two Gay Girls' offer me plenty of leg room in addition to somewhere to store my stuff. We'll see next week.

My friends Jane and Karyn have been very supportive of my journey so far and I really appreciate it guys. Whenever I've been  cycling overseas I'd always try to send Karyn a txt or two to make her envious and maybe get her to drop tools and think about getting overseas on her bike. It hasn't worked yet but that wont stop me trying.

Karyn is a qualified  Personal Trainer and I asked her last week whether she'd be my official trainer for the Global Bike Race and she said yes. That's after waiting sufficient time for me to think that she  thought I was a lost cause and how to get out of it diplomatically.

I tend to do things my way though so will probably not ask much of my personal trainer. I spent today in the workshop fine tuning my front rack and panniers for a training ride tomorrow, or the next day, to Westport. And then camping overnight in the single person tent that I dubbed the coffin last trip. I'll then turn around and cycle the 200kms back home again. Hopefully this trip will start tomorrow if the rain stops for long enough.

Getting Ready for another Overnight er.

Last week the race organisers contacted me and advised that my colour for the race would be brown. This means that on the official race website where all the riders progress will be logged I'll have a little brown cyclist representing me. Lets hope the little brown cyclist doesn't spend too long in one spot!

Global Race Positioning of Riders. 

It will apparently look something like the picture above. Except the little brown cyclist is heading Eastward. So if you see this during the race let me know because Adi's course is for me to go Westwards. Luckily my bike has a built in compass so I should be right.

I have no idea how this all comes about so I hope someone explains this before the start.