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, 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.