Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Cycling Inverness to Brighton: a video diary

Hunt Brand Manager Josh Ibbett recently flew up to Inverness in Northern Scotland and cycles home as preparation for the up coming Transcontinental race. Watch how he battled the rain, wind and hills in this self filmed video and learn what its like to ride 625miles in 2 and a half days:

Tuscany Trail 2016

580km around the beautiful Tuscan hills and mountains in the early June sunshine. That’s what I imagined when I entered the Tuscany Trail and I wasn’t far wrong. There was certainly hills and mountains, mainly of the super steep variety, the trail was indeed 580km long and the Tuscan countryside is fantastic. However, as one might expect, it rained! Not a gentle shower, this was full on biblical rain.
I lined up at the start in the Piazza in Massa alongside over 500 other riders to tackle the Tuscany Trail. The rain had momentarily paused to at least allow the spectators a dry experience however normal service was assumed as soon as the race started.
My race tactics were to pedal and not stop. As obvious as that might seem not many people generally try and complete the trail in one hit with no sleep. I had pretty much ruled out any sleep with my light equipment and bike setup. My brand new Mason Titanium prototype was packed with the bare essentials, warms layers, a rain jacket, a stash of Torq energy products and (much to my annoyance) a pair of shorts and a tee shirt I had to carry so I could wear something clean at the finish and on the flight home. I had deemed by Bivvi bag as too much extra weight so had decided to leave it at home, my compromise was a Gore rain jacket with a hood that I could sleep in if required.

The first part of the trail wound its way up through the mountains. At times the trail resembled little more than a stream as the torrent of water continued to fall from the sky’s and cascade down the hills. After the first long climb I found myself alone, perhaps a good indicator that my form is coming along nicely. My bike of choice was a gravel bike and I knew that I would be at a disadvantage in the mountains compared to those who had opted to ride a Mountain bike. I knew if I could stay in contact with the leaders in the mountains I stood a very good chance of being faster in the second part of the race.
I was briefly caught by one rider in the valley between mountains, my pre-race disorganisation meant that I had forgotten to by fresh batteries for my GPS so I dived into the first open shop I found. However once back on the climbs I soon found myself alone and out the front of the race.
As evening drew in and I made my way out of the mountains towards Florence the rain began to ease. A quick stop next to a food cart overlooking Florence drew some funny looks from the selfie stick toting tourists and provided my first proper meal of the day, a toasted panini and 4 croissants. Heading into the night the rain finally stopped and I began to cover ground quickly as the trail began to incorporate Tuscany’s famous Strade Bianche.
Despite the continual rain for a large part of the day I had made the schoolboy error of not drinking enough. This came to a head somewhere in the early hours of the morning when my stomach decided enough was enough and evacuation was the best possible solution. Thankfully in the absence of any loo roll I discovered that a Croissant I had saved for later was wrapped in a napkin so the emergency run into the bushes ended in a relatively civilized manner.
Re-hydration was now my priority so I backed off my pace and drank as much water as possible. My stomach was still a little sensitive, however I managed to keep fueled with the help of a few Torq Energy gels. I made it to Sienna around 4am just in time to see the last of the Thursday night party goers staggering home. Thankfully dawn broke soon after and I took the opportunity to have a brief sleep. 5 minutes later I was rolling again, my head feeling remarkably fresh after such a short ‘sleep’.
The sunshine finally began to make and appearance as the morning progressed and I was even forced to stop and apply sunscreen!  By this time I had switched into energy conservation mode, I had figured my lead was over 2 hours so all I had to was finish the last 120 miles without incident.
As I neared the summit of the last long climb of the race I was beginning to regret not fitting an easier gear. I was contemplating this as two large dogs bounded out of the bushes and onto the rocky track I was climbing. They didn’t seem overly aggressive and I shooed them away and thought nothing more. A few seconds later I felt a sharp pain on my right calf and as I looked down one of the dogs had charged me from behind and bitten my leg really hard. I could feel that this was serious and adrenaline charged through my body as I shouted profanities at the dog as loud as I could.

My leg was extremely painful and I struggled to put pressure on it. Instinct kicked in and I staggered with the support of my bike up the track to the closest road which fortunately I could see above me. I flagged down two passing touring cyclists who immediately sprayed the deep puncture wounds with antiseptic spray and helped me to the small town.
I now found myself going from a commanding lead to scratching from the race in an instant. There was no way I could continue and it was obvious I needed medical attention. I had made my way to a local restaurant who called an ambulance for me. I had no idea where on earth I was and as I was carted down to the local hospital in the back of the ambulance clutching nothing but my frame bag. My bike had to be abandoned at the restaurant and I hoped more than anything that I would be able to get it back!
I had no idea of how much time elapsed between the bite and finally being released from hospital. My body clock was out of tune due to the missed night’s sleep and the events of the day. My wound were deep enough to require 7 stitches and once the adrenaline had stopped coursing through my body I found myself unable to walk.
It’s at this point that I must extend my deepest thanks to Olga and Andrea, the organisers of the Tuscany Trail. As soon as they heard about my situation they came straight to the hospital and were there to meet me when I was released. I don’t really know what I would have done had they not been there. I was unable to walk, didn’t really know where I was and my bike was 45minutes drive away. Thankfully they helped me find my bike, found me a hotel room and found me food. They even arranged for my safe transport back to Pisa for my flight by their friend Rocco so again my thanks go out to all of you.
The Tuscany trail is a fantastic event, dog bites excluded, and I will certainly be back in the future. I would recommend it to anyone. Personally it was a little disappointing having to pull out in the lead but as with all endurance events to finish first, first you have to finish. I proved to myself that my form and fitness is there, maybe had I been a little more alert when needed I would have finished.

The Dirty Reiver 200km Gravel event

Had a 200km event consisting predominantly of gravel Forrest tracks been suggested a few years back many people would have laughed. I mean who would want to ride around gravel tracks on a mountain bike for 200km? The answer: not many!
Yet here were are lined up at 7am at the start line of the Dirty Reiver a 200km gravel race or ‘non-competitive challenge’ in the eyes of the law and relevant insurance companies due to the Uk’s restricting land access policies. Not only are more than 200 people lining up for this non-competitive challenge race, the vast majority of them are lined up on wholly inappropriate bikes!

How the cycling world has changed in the past few years. Gravel riding is now very much on trend and a whole new genre of bike has developed specifically to tackle such terrain. Who even needs Mtb tyres and suspension when you can ride a specially designed fully rigid gravel bike? I mean they even design special gravel tyres that roll fast and don’t grip so well on the corners for that adrenaline inducing mid corner drift!
My cynicism towards gravel bikes is in actual fact just jealousy. My much anticipated Mason ‘Adventure Sport’ Bike is yet to arrive and so I find my self-lined up on my trusty Mason Definition Road bike once more. I’ve managed to squeeze some 35mm Schwalbe G-One tyre on to my AeroLight disc wheels and have fitted a compact chainset to help with the hills.
The temperature was struggling to make it about zero as we began the event. My meticulous clothing selection was abandoned after a night sleeping in my van in -2 degrees with snow falling. Tight fitting Windproof Gore clothing was supplemented with the very thickest of winter training jackets in an attempt to keep warm as I stumbled around at 5:30am eating cereal out of the box due to a forgetting to pack a suitable bowl.
Much to everyone’s relief the sun was at least shining when we started and as we non competitively sprinted up the first climb of the day feeling began to return to numb extremities. After the first few miles I found myself riding alone just dangling off the back of the 2 lead riders. I wasn’t climbing as fast as them and was reluctant to dig too deep too early so settled into my own rhythm. After around an hour of riding I was caught by Rich Rothwell. I’ve ridden with Rich for years so was happy to enjoy a bit of company and share turns riding in the wind.
At the first check point we spotted George and Joe, the early pace setters, up ahead on the expansive Northumberland landscape. Although we could see them dangling tantalisingly close ahead we could not close the gap and our attention was soon diverted by an extremely rough downhill section. Although this would have been nothing on a Mountain Bike the skinny tyres and lack of suspension made this section quite tricky. When riding a gravel bike, particularly on inappropriate terrain, one of the key skills is to keep the bike in one piece whilst trying to conserve energy. I imagine this skill set might also be quite useful when riding a bucking bronco and as we rattled to the bottom of the hill and back onto tarmac we both breathed a sigh of relief and compared notes on the state of our bikes and aches in our hands. I must say the Mason coped admiralty with the rough terrain and my super light Aerolight disc wheels remained round and true, result!
Rich and I entered the 100km checkpoint together happy to top up on food and water. I had been feeling a little flat for the past half hour so was in need of an energy top up. Unfortunately it was at this point that I realised that most of my Torq Energy gels had rattled out of my jersey pocket on the super rough descent. Luckily the check point was extremely well stocked with food so I took the opportunity to slip a couple of chocolate Brioches into my pocket and stuff my face with as many Jaffa cakes as I could.
As a local rider Rich knew the area well and took great pleasure in informing me when there was a particularly nasty climb approaching. The climb out of the halfway check point was the focus of much of Rich’s local knowledge. He took a great deal of pleasure in informing me that the climb dragged all the way to the top of the valley we had entered and that we couldn’t see the top yet. Fantastic news especially given the relentless gradient, particularly rough surface and of course the inappropriate bikes. Even better was the fact that my chain had begun to jump off of the small chain ring when in the top half of my cassette meaning that I had no choice but to push a hard gear to keep forward momentum. All conversation stopped apart from the odd comment on how particularly grim the climb was.
Upon finally reaching the top and after dropping my chain another few times I decided to stop and see what the problem was. The issue it seems can be wholly blamed on the extremely rough rocky descent previously mentioned. It appeared that I had lost a chain ring bolt which was causing a kink in my chain ring so I cursed that rocky descent for undermining my inadequate mechanic skills. After checking all the other chain ring bolts were tight I set about trying to catch Rich who had continued riding onwards.
By this time the face full of Jaffa Cakes at the checkpoint had been converted into energy and my legs were feeling pretty fresh given the distance covered. Now as this event is ‘not a race’ it would have been particularly unfair to catch up with Rich and then try and drop him. However given the circumstances and my inability to use my easiest gears I was forced to pedal extremely hard up the following hills as we approached the start of the final 50km of the course. Due to my forced hard uphill pedalling I managed to create a gap to Rich and as we entered a fast road section. I decided it would be best to be a gentleman and sit up and wait so we could ride together. I then changed my mind a split second later and put my head down and pedalled as hard as I could!
The gap back to Rich dangled around 30 seconds for what seemed like an eternity and eventually the elastic snapped. I pushed hard over the last long climb of the day and whilst preoccupied with Rich chasing behind I stumbled across Joe fixing a rear wheel puncture in the middle of the track. I pondered the irony of Joe puncturing his Mtb in a Gravel event and then smiled to myself as realised that had this actually been a race and we had actually been racing I would now be in second position.
My second position lasted for a few miles before a particularly nasty section of track. The wet slippery and rough sandstone climb was particularly uncomfortable and not helped by a lack of easy gears. Keeping any sort of momentum was particularly hard and I could only watch as Joe breezed past me easily on his Mtb.

Cresting the final long climb we entered the final part of the course, a long fast descent off the hill followed by a lap of Kielder water. By this time the sun had disappeared and been replaced by a passing hail storm. I kept glimpsing Joe in the distance so pushed hard on the pedals trying to close the gap. The final few miles flew by and despite a brief ride through a full on blizzard and a few more dropped chains the finish line came into view. I wasn’t able to close the gap to Joe despite my best efforts and finished just under 2 minutes behind, frustratingly close after the over 8 hours in the saddle. The fastest time was set by a flying George Budd, just over 10minutes ahead and Rich finished just over 5 minutes behind.

Overall the event was fantastic. Who knew racing, erm I mean riding, inappropriate bikes around the gravel tracks of Northumberland could be so much fun. The event team run by Paul Errington did a fantastic job, the course marking was excellent, the check points well stocked with food and the numerous marshals happy and enthusiastic. The weekend was thoroughly enjoyable however I think that my road bike now hates me!

Cycling to Eurobike: Uk to Germany

Hunt Wheels brand ambassador Hamish Paine recently cycled across Europe with Hunt Wheels brand manager Josh Ibbett. See how he got on in his video of the trip and read his report below:

Have you ever made a deal, then walked away unsure about what on earth you’ve got yourself into?  That was exactly how I felt when Josh locked in that I would join him to ride unsupported from Calais to Friedrichshafen in southern Germany for Eurobike, a journey of over 600miles.

Previous to setting out on this adventure I had only ever ridden over 100miles once, had never bicycle toured before, was using a borrowed bicycle I got four days before we departed and most importantly did not know what I was in for! These key ingredients made me realise that this was not going to be a typical tour.  After sponging off Josh’s knowledge gained from his experiences during the Transcontinental race and cycle touring through Asia and New Zealand I stood a greater chance of arriving in Friedrichshafen without never wanting to ride a bicycle again. Despite all of this negative energy, I knew that I was stubborn and arrogant enough to complete the tour.
The feeling of rolling out through the ferry doors in Calais and knowing that all I had to worry about for the next four days was riding my bicycle was like no other sensation I'd experienced before. I would quite literally eat, sleep, ride, repeat for 4 days. Prior to this trip I realised that all of my riding revolved around returning home for dinner, work or whatever else there maybe, ultimately restricting my riding without me knowing.  However, this felt like complete freedom, knowing that I could theoretically ride anywhere I wanted and not worry about a thing and perhaps that was why the first few miles felt so great.
I now have a love hate relationship with northern France. It is essentially a dead flat plain which is great for chewing away the miles but sports rather monotonous scenery and the French appear to never open stores after midday.  However Josh and I made good ground, both taking turns on the front and rolling the cranks over in the cool of the late evening until we reached the Belgian border. After a quick celebratory beer and mars bar for supper (a great combo) it was time to look for a spot to bivvy.  One thing I learnt quickly was that Josh loves to 1) find the most cheeky bivvi spot possible to settle in for the night and 2) find it quickly.  A compromise was made to not sleep in a small roadside church but to rather sleep in a hedge beside an ultra busy road.  I don't know what Josh was complaining about but I had a brilliant night sleep, he on the other hand spent all night wondering if the cars and trucks were going to run over us.
Waking early, we made a crazy dash to the nearest bakery, bought way too many croissants and then high tailed it into Roubaix with the goal to sneak in and do a few laps around the velodrome.  Thinking it would require a fence jump or a bargain with a security guard we were both surprised to see that the gates to quite possibly the world’s most famous velodrome were wide open. Good times, now for the cobbles.

One thing is for certain; the cobbles look a lot smoother on the television than in real life. Taking on Le Carrefour de l’Arbre, Camphin-en-Pevele and the infamous Arenberg made me feel like my teeth had rattled out and I was almost certain to puncture, however my Hunt wheels stayed dead true and tyres inflated, happy days!  From here we  more or less skipped over the border between France and Belgium. The mercury was touching 35 degrees centigrade and Josh was struggling with the heat a little but I felt like I was back home in Australia so that changed things up for a while until we reached the shadow of Huy late that evening.  Having ridden around 140 miles on and off cobbled roads all day the legs were not feeling too great, however, the Muur du Huy made certain that we were now well and truly broken. A quick beer stop and spin to the next bivvy just let everything sink in and allowed me to contemplate how tough the next day was going to be.
After our Duvel night cap we had to find a bivvy location.  As previously mentioned, Josh likes to be a bit sly where he sleeps. Read between the lines here; make sure nobody is still in the house before you plan to sleep in their backyard.  After a quick sprint out of the back yard and down a country road a quick scout around a soccer pitch revealed a dugout which would prove to be sufficient accommodation for the night.

Day three of the tour was emotionally mixed.  If anybody tries to tell you that Belgium is flat they are wrong, very wrong.  The morning started with a number of low gradient but lengthy climbs that found me shifting into granny gear more often than I wanted.  On a normal spin, I would think nothing of it, perhaps even enjoy the rolling climbs, however, constantly in the back of my mind I could not stop thinking about how bloody far it was to Germany, or even the end of the day for that matter. I discovered that not getting mentally caught up with the distance proved to be a significant challenge for long distance cycling,  the distance is the devil and I couldn't shake it no matter how I tried to distract myself.  Not even the nosebleeds worked!
Josh worked out that if he fed me and made sure I was drinking coca cola I would be sweet for the next few hours as long as I didn’t forget to eat. This is why I think Josh is so good at races such as the Transcontinental, he is extremely methodical in his approach to refueling. Crossing over into Luxemburg we stopped for a good three quarters of an hour, the longest lunch break of the entire trip, for a massive burger. We had been battling a huge head wind for the past two days, I was hardly having any turns at the front anymore and quite frankly was in a place I didn't want to be. The combination of a full stomach, pockets full of Haribo and waffles as well as the marble smooth roads of Luxemburg made the morning slog disappear and turn into some of the best riding I have ever done.  That was until the rain started when we hit the German border.

Being Australian I don't ride in the rain as often as the Europeans and Josh was now in his element.  Nonetheless, still on my Haribo and burger high I found myself enjoying riding in the rain.  However, spending five hours riding wet, knowing that there is a soggy sleeping bag to jump into isn’t the most inspiring situation. We found a Hotel that was a little out of budget and we certainly received a few stares as we ate dinner in our cycling kit. Once washed and dried we headed straight to a warm comfortable bed.
The rain had not stopped over night and continued to fall in the morning.  Reaching Baden Baden at the foothills of the Black Forest was a small milestone for the trip and certainly made dealing with the rain a little easier. Up until this point Josh’s navigating had been essentially flawless only missing the occasional intersection by a few meters however, the next challenge ahead was an autobahn tunnel.  Having less than a meter of footpath with a concrete wall to one side and cars travelling at light speed to the other is not the greatest place to be. After the autobahn tunnel incident it was smooth sailing through the Black Forest.  With its challenging climbs and even more challenging descents it made for a great afternoons riding. We decided we would again stay in a hotel that evening. Our gear was a little too damp to have a good nights sleep in and the rain was not looking like it would pass anytime soon. An evening spent in a Baiersbronn Hotel, with quite possibly the least helpful staff ever, gave us a chance to dry everything out and look forward to the final stretch to Friedrichshafen.
A few route changes were made to avoid a couple of climbs that were certain to break our legs and at this point I was quite surprised at how good my legs were feeling. Yes, they were toast but it was as if they were getting use to the continual riding. Once we left the Black Forest, it was as if Friedrichshafen was around every corner. Despite this, Josh admitted that he had made a slight distance calculation error and we needed to cover an extra 30 miles. He said that he knew he made the stuff up on day two but was not game enough to tell me out of the fear of his own life; fair call.

Reaching Konstanz on the boarder of Germany and Switzerland was a huge relief and meant there was only 20 miles to go until we stopped in Romanshorn to catch the ferry over to Friedrichshafen. Simply enjoying the final few miles was a lovely way to end the trip. It finally meant that I would never have to hear Josh say “okay lets crack on” any more and rely on Haribo as a staple source of fuel.
Arriving in Friedrichshafen was a little absurd, simply not having to ride a bike any longer just felt a little unusual and being able to rest for as long as we wanted to was fantastic and warmly welcomed. The kebab and beer marked the finish line for Josh and myself and now it was on to the next challenge; surviving Eurobike!
Cheers for the support received from Hunt Bike Wheels for providing wheels and riding kit, Charge Bikes for allowing me to ride such a nice bike ideal for this style of riding, Fabric Cycling for components and mum for being a mum. You can follow my exploits on Instagram @hamishpaine  

The First Big one: Bike packing in New Zealand

The first big ride of the year. We all have to do it, to push the boundaries of endurance and to push out into the discomfort zone. For some it’s the first century ride of the year, it may be hitting the 3 hour mark and for others it’s just about heading out into the unknown and exploring. Whatever the target distance or time,  it is the boost we need to test our fitness and begin the process of building towards the year's pedaling goals. The first long ride sets the benchmark, ascertains the limits and gives focus for the coming months.
Hunt bike wheels secialized 6fattie
Personally my cycling goals are based around bike packing races, multiple days in the saddle riding across counties, countries and continents living off instinct, sleeping in hedges and eating whatever presents itself. Therefore my first Big One of the year tends to be my first weekend of discomfort and suffering!
I have been lucky enough to be based in New Zealand for the European winter months and have enjoyed plenty of sunshine, mountains and mtb trail riding. However, although I had been riding plenty duration hadn’t really exceeded the 2 hour mark and a large percentage of riding had included taking advantage of the Gondola in the Queenstown mountain bike park. Although great fun, great for improving bike handling skills and a great workout for the whole body but I decided that as I was targeting long distance races I probably should do some actual pedaling.

The second weekend of January presented me with a perfect time slot for the first ‘Big One’. I found myself in Christchurch with a free weekend and a GPS file for the Petite Brevet, a 300km off road Brevet route around the Banks Peninsular south of Christchurch. This was an area I was keen to explore so decided to use it as an excuse to get out and ride.
Typically the weather was less than ideal. Rain showers had been forecast however I decided that New Zealand rain would probably be warmer than British rain so set off anyway. Riding out of Christchurch into the port hills offered fantastic views of what was to come, mainly cloud shrouded hills. Despite the cloud the temperature and humidity were high enough to prove uncomfortable. My body was settling into the rhythm of riding all day and a quick lunch stop was enough to top up the energy levels as the road conditions deteriorated into gravel and the gradients increased. It’s fair to say that the Banks Peninsular is anything but flat. Afternoon turned into evening as I repeatedly climbed up into the clouds and then dropped back down into valleys. Although it wasn’t actually raining the humidity in the valleys, clouds on the hills and general amount of water on the ground ensure I was totally soaked.

Civilisation was also hard to come by and the small villages that I did pass through were all but deserted and shops were certainly out of the question. Even finding fresh water was a bit of a challenge, the streams we flowing fast and were dark with dirt washed from the hills. In the end dehydration was beginning to kick in so I took the chance to top up my bottle at a clear looking stream and generously applied chlorine tablets. The murky result in my bottle was enough to see me through to night fall and the town of Little River.
Little River was shut. Any hopes of a warm meal before bed were dashed so instead I treated myself to 10 Jaffa Biscuits and a wash in the public toilets. The weather was forecast to deteriorate overnight so rather than push on back into the hills I decided to spend the night sheltered in the veranda of the local rugby club.

I awoke with dawn and continued on my journey after another meal of Jaffa biscuits. The forecast rain was yet to materialise but as I crested the first climb of the day and dropped down a long steep valley to the coast the heavens opened. I’m sure Little Akaloa Bay is a fantastic place with beautiful views, however on this particular day it was obscured with low cloud and rain. Stopping briefly to take a photos resulted in uncontrollable shivering despite wearing all my clothes so I set off back up out of the valley hoping the climb would help warm me up. I was warm by the summit but after descending down into Okains Bay my body was even colder than before. Taking shelter in the porch of the village hall I ate some food and decided on a plan of action. Should I continue on my planned route or cut my losses and head directly home? I opted for the latter with common sense prevailing over valour.

A full cooked breakfast in the town of Takamatua gave me enough energy for the 40mile ride back into Christchurch and the rain even lifted as I rode closer to the city. I was a little disappointed that I didn’t complete my planned ride however the first Big One was now out the way. 12hours riding over 2 days in the rain fuelled by Jaffa biscuits is a tough one to kick it all off but now it’s done. The miles are in my legs and my body and mind are primed for more to come in the rest of the year.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Bike packing New Zealand: South Island

 South island here I come.
Some times you just have to turn around and ride back to take a photo.

 The South island has some pretty fantastic scenery, this is Perelous Sounds
 Finishing a days riding at the beach in Nelson. Its a hard life this bike packing malarkey.
 The road goes on, Southwards and into the mountains.
 Lake Rotoroa, bliss.
 Murchison Church, possibly the most unusual bivvi spot of my trip. It was late and the door was open as I passed so I decided it would be good to sleep under cover. I'm not religious but some times you do have to wonder... that night was minus 2 degrees, if i had bivvied out i would have frozen. Maybe the door was open for a reason?
 Some bivvi spots aren't quite so glamorous. This was the classic ditch under a bramble bush in the rain option.
 Arthurs Pass, the main pass across the Southern Alps. Fantastic views guaranteed... apart from when you cross it in a rain storm.
 Unlike the Western Side of the Alps the Southern side was bathed in glorious sunshine, perfect for a spot of sun burn. The landscape in New Zealand in incredible.
 Next stop was Christchurch to visit more friends from home. Christchurch was devastated by an earth quake. It was my first time in an earthquake zone and the damage was sobering.
 Crusaders! Being a tourist watching the rugby, Crusaders won.
 Back in to the epic scenery.
 That's Mount Cook in the background, the highest peak in New Zealand.
 This its my favorite picture from my trip, its only an irrigation canal, but the sky is epic!
 The sky was on fire as I rode up Flanigans pass. It was a little sketchy and more of a hike a bike than a ride. Not easy with a fully loaded bike.
 Another classic bivvi spot, the combine harvester bivvi. I was lucky to find this just in time to shelter from a massive electric storm
 Lake Wanaka...
 ...the tourist classic photo, the lonely tree.
 Riding up the Crown range, by this point i was massively regretting my 1 x 10 drive chain choice. At least taking a photo gave me an excuse to have a rest.
 For the record i don't agree with selfies... but some times exceptions have to be made.

 After 3 months on the road my trip had to come to an end, Queenstown was home for the last week.

The weather turned on the last few days of my trip as the first Snows of the winter fell. It was time to go home back to the norther hemisphere and back to spring. New Zealand is an incredible country and there is still plenty more to see, my flights back are already booked! Bring on the winter.

Monday, 26 October 2015

Bike packing New Zealand : North Island

After a weeks 'rest' in Sydney I was exhausted. I landed in Aukland and hit the road after a morning looking around the city. City life, isn't really for me so I was keen to escape and see what NZ had to offer.

Chasing shadows...

My first night camping was on the Seabird coast. It was the first night camping and a shock to the system. For some reason I presumed that sleeping in a sleeping bag liner at night in the NZ summer would be warm... it wasnt!

En route to Tauranga in the Bay of Plenty

The Mount, Tauranga, Bay of Plenty

Our family friends emigrated to NZ ten years ago. I was great to catch up and go for a spin in their speed boat! 

Next stop was Rotorua. The second half of my trip wasn't just about touring. I wanted to explore the world class mountainbike trail New Zealand has to offer and Rotorua was at the top of the list.

At the top of the trails in Rotorua, by this time the beard was sprouting and getting quite scruffy. I was proud though, it marked a landmark achievement for my baby face!

Heading South to Lake Taupo I spotted this graffiti, its like they knew I was coming!

The north island has plenty of geothermal activity. This stream is boiling hot!

I arrived in Taupo pretty exhausted so did some touristy stuff including taking this photo of Hauka falls.

Some times you just have to sit back and admire the view.

Back on the road or in this case off road! I cycled the Great Lake trail around Lake Taupo and then onto the Timber trail.

 The Timber Trail is a fantastic ride through remote ancient woodland. There are numerous suspension bridges across steep valleys that often sway as you ride across.
 A trail side bivvi on the Timber Trail. I learnt a valuable lesson, Possums like stealing food! A cheeky Possum ate my race cake as I slept, I was thankful they don't have bears in NZ
 After a long 3 days riding I decided to have a rest day... instead of resing I ended up hiking up Mount Ngauruhoe...
 ... otherwise known as Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings films.
 Suns out guns out!
 Onwards and South Wards. The next stage was the Mountains to Sea trail through the Whanganui National Park.
 I couldn't complain about the sunsets in new Zealand
The Mountains to Sea trail ends abruptly at the Whanganui River in the middle of nowhere...

 ... the only way out is by Jet boat, great fun! As you can see the other passengers were loving it.
 The Whanganui river... not bad!
 A highlight of the trip was riding into Wellington Harbour at sunset... I'm a sucker for a good sunset!
 I happened to arrive in Wellington at the same time as the Kaproti Classic, New Zealands longest running Mtb event.
I finished in 11th position in the race. I was pretty happy after a 40hour week on the bike and a 20mile hike on my rest day. Now i needed a proper rest before hitting the South Island.