The day of my final brevet training ride dawns and it’s blowing a gale. Clearly this wouldn’t be a problem if it was looking like a tail wind. But alas the gum trees at our home are bent over the other way and the thought of riding 200kms into that sort of a headwind causes me to despair. These feelings of anguish are quickly alleviated by cursing the weather Gods and turning over in bed while burying my head in my soft pillow.
The relief is short lived however as the mental torture of knowing that you are using the gale as an easy excuse for not starting the final training days of the Kiwi Brevet 2014 sink in. But really I continued to ask myself throughout the day, would a normal person let a little wind stop them, would they? The wind just continued to grow throughout the day to the point that my softy roadie friends were using it as an excuse to not do the Tuesday evening World Champs. By that stage though I had decided that I couldn’t face another day of guilt. I would leave on my mission tomorrow regardless of the wind. The mission was to ride 200kms to Reefton the first day camping the evening there. Day 2 would see me doing the mountain bike trail between Reefton and Big River and then on to Waiutu. Then riding back to Reefton and on to Springs Junction. The final day would be another 200km circuit home. I reckoned that if I felt perka after this then I’d be ready for the actual Brevet in 14 days’ time.
Wednesday dawned and the wind was against me but light. I dragged myself out of bed knowing that although I didn’t want to go there was no way I could live with myself if I piked. The problem of course arises when you set yourself these challenges. As is always the case, you set these challenges when you are either zooming along on your bike feeling like a million dollars or you are sitting on the sofa with a coffee thinking about what one could do on a lovely summers day. The reality off getting up on a not so great morning and doing said challenge is often a different thing entirely.
Anyway I was off on day one half an hour early and in sunny weather I fort a light wind all the way there. I arrived pretty much bang on time although the last 50kms saw me hit the wall a bit due to the last food premises on route having gone out of business the month before. A friend later saw me cycling while he was driving back home in his car. “You looked like you were making hard work of it Niel”.
“It’s called pacing myself for continuous effort while carrying a load!”
|Having the Bike was a bit of a Waste at this Point.|
Sticking my head out of the tent on day 2 and the weather was not looking too flash. Gone was the sun and wind. This had been replaced by a muggy, calm grey day. I grabbed a few filled rolls from the corner shop and headed into the hills with all my gear. The first 3 hours were spent riding along a rough 4 wheeled drive road as the weather deteriorated to heavy rain and increasing mist, as my Mercian and I climbed further into the hills. This was terrain that I had never been in before and I was relieved that not only could I ride it but also that it was easily navigated. I wish I could have said the same for the next 3 ½ hours that were spent hauling my bike along a tramping track that was so slippery I could hardly stand up on it in the wet weather and this combined with the fallen trees, awash river beds, slick tyres and camping gear on the bike made for virtually 100% walking. I like to always look on the bright side though and in this case ( since there was definitely nothing bright about the weather) this being the fact that the trail was pretty easy to follow and that the bike was holding together nicely , up until the point where the rear bag support parted company from the bike proper. A good excuse for a late lunch and a bit of Kiwi fix it saw things back to normal.
Then after what seemed like a full days biking or in the case of roadies, a Grand Sportive, I was out of the bush and onto a forestry road that would lead me out and back to civilisation. The problem here though was that the track came out at a T intersection that was not on my map. One way clearly lead out and back to a shower and evening meal while the other led most definitely up onto a rain lashed range , down into the next valley and then nowhere. Ah you ask, how could I know where the wrong path led?
Well I’ll tell you.
I could only know because that is the way I went. Up onto the range to what was an abandoned mine and then down the other side to a stack of beehives only then to be confronted with a dead end. I had to at this point tell myself that this is why I was reconnoitring the course ahead of time.
|Waiutu was as Un- pleasant as it Looks.|
It was still raining when I arrived back in Reefton looking so filthy that I had second thoughts about how to present myself to the campground reception for check-in. The day’s course required me to go on another 60kms and then freedom camp but sanity prevailed as freedom camping while this filthy is just stupid. I made a mental note at this point to take full length mudguards during the actual event if the weather looks shite. A clean bike is a happy bike and clean camping gear works better in my book. I would also have to say that South Island grit is particularly abrasive on bike parts and bum cheeks. No amount of chamois crème will help if you have a teaspoon of quartz dust missed up with it. Full mudguards if the weather looks bad.
After 70kms of cycling and another 20kms of hauling I was back in my tent listening to the rain drumming on the nylon.
Day 3 caught me sticking my head once again out of the tent and being welcomed by a sunny day with what looked like a light tail wind for my 200km ride home. I started off quietly optimistic about the wind, pedalling along with the constant grumble of an under oiled, overly gritty transmission and the occasional complaint from my front wheel bearings.
(Second mental note; new transmission for the event and grease and replace bearings. Take oil.)
The tail wind increased in strength throughout the day to the point where not only did I get home well ahead of schedule but while doing so the constant presence of lazy mindless motorists failed to raise my hackles to any degree until near the end of the day when some silly biddy asked me if I needed a lift because of the wind.
|Day 3 was a Gift.|
I tried to explain to her that a potential problem with the wind is really dependant upon which way you are cycling at the time and in this case it was behind me. But really at the end of the day you are really wasting your time trying to explain these things to motorists as they are a breed apart and will never understand. You are best to keep the conversations short so that they can speed on their way to their next fast food outlet appointment leaving you in peace.