Mountain Bike Heaven

Feb 19 and 20

We left Papakura heading for Te Aroha – 144K’s but not much climbing. It would be a day of flat peddling through pastureland and along the seacoast. It seems that the terrain here is constantly changing every 15 minutes of every day. There are a few sore behinds in our group as we have started out our journey with some pretty long distances meaning a lot of time on the saddle. Quentin is having problems now and I am hearing it from a number of other riders. Of course, I have mentioned Lee’s problems earlier. She is taking a couple more days off and then will have a rest day in Rotorua. I have been holding up well that way but I have been having some soreness in my right knee. Perhaps some tendonitis from overuse. My bike does not have real good climbing geometry so I do put more strain on it. I’m going to re- measure my seat height on our day off to be sure that that is not contributing.

The ride itself went well at least until the last bit. Bridget, Scott, Quentin and I started out together but Quentin took off after lunch since his behind was not good and he wanted to get done and off the bike as soon as possible. Bridget left us at 100K. She was going to visit friends from her Africa ride who lived in town and she would spend the night there. It was at this point that Scott and I turned off the road and got onto the Rail Trail for the balance of our day. They have very small gradients since trains don’t do big hills. However, they have frequent little bridges and quick turns around barriers to allow for crossings for cattle, farm equipment, roads and other trails. So there is a lot of speeding up and slowing down. We are enjoying the ride tho. Going across one somewhat tricky little barrier turn and quick down, the rear end of my bike slid into something and I felt and heard a sharp little collision against the back of my bike. Two seconds later I knew I had a flat tire. The little collision was hard enough to break the bead on my tire then pinch the tube. Scott didn’t notice and kept on trucking. I pulled the tire off and got out a new tube to get the process going. Four farmers had pulled up in the field next to me on a couple of pieces of machinery and volunteered their help. After explaining that it was kind of a one man operation, they pulled out their lunches and proceeded to be entertained. The old boys had a variety of tips for me, friendly chatter and questions about where I came from. I had a little trouble getting the bead back on the rim. Scott had returned and leant his hand to the final part of the effort and I was back in business. Off we went again.

Arriving in the small town, we pulled out the map to help locate our hotel. A bicyclist stopped beside us and offered to help. He was from the tourism bureau and was on his lunch break. Of course, this meant a tour of the town before we were brought to our hotel door. Nice guy, he was busy giving us the full line about the virtues of town and how we should enjoy it. Scott was thirsty for a beer. We did find out that the lush beautiful rainforest covered mountain just above town was a downhill mountain bike paradise. I could see why. Steep sided and heavily wooded, it would make glorious runs for those crazy people who fly fast through trees down mountainsides.

Since the truck was not there yet with our bags, we found Quentin and headed across the street for the Tavern for a couple of beers. Q is a shy guy who is slowly opening up to me. Bridget is his only friend so far. She knew him because he was on the same Cairo to Capetown ride through Africa. I did find out that he is retired, had been with the special forces in South Africa, and lived just north of London. I would say he is in his early fifties or late forties.

That evening Lyndsay had arranged a group dinner at a local restaurant. We had fun as a group but the dinner didn’t turn out so well. We waited almost two hours to get our food. Keeping hungry cyclists waiting, especially when it had been arranged the day before, will not make them happy. I sat next to Vince, one of the organizers of the trip. He is a gregarious larger man full of nervous energy and great stories. He has no patience for waiting for anything. His son Michael had been helping by driving the vehicle and helping out at lunches. He had had to return home the day before. I learned from Vinnie that his son had been one of the best downhill mountain bike riders in the world. He had come in 23rd in the World Cup and had started racing when he was 13. He was now 26 and had had to move on with his life but still did compete occasionally. It is a dangerous sport and requires amazing strength and reflexes. Vince told me that Micheal’s mother was very athletic but I could also see that Vince had been a hell of an athlete too. Then Vince told me that the best racers in that sport were dyslexic and Michael was too. I kind of looked at him funny and he declared that dyslexia helps you see around corners. It was hard to not start laughing but Vince was dead serious. Not long after this, Vince ran out of patience, cancelled his meal and took off for the hotel. Probably was happy to have a couple more beers for dinner. Beer is a complete food group on its own. Vince is an engineer and is in charge of the mechanical well being of the ferries in the ferryboat system here in NZ.

The following morning I took off with Scott biking the 107K’s to Rotorua, a real outdoors and adventure town. Bridget was a little late coming in from her friends so Quentin waited and Scott and I left at our usual time, around 730. It is nice scenery but not spectacular. We had many turns, moving from small quiet roads to busier highways (still small roads compared to our freeways). Lindsay has done a great job routing us mostly on quiet pathways. We got to the lunch stop at 930 am so we had little interest in eating sandwiches and had breakfast at a cafe instead. Sometime in the afternoon, Horst rode up beside us. He is an extremely athletic German who has raced in big biking competitions and it shows. His technique is so close to perfect that he seems just like a model of efficiency. He is a project manager of an automobile component firm who sells their units to car manufacturers around the world. Their largest buyer is Volkswagen so we had a few laughs about VW’s current problems. Horst is fun and doesn’t take himself too seriously despite his technical approach to cycling. He wanted to ride behind me to see if he could learn something. I just started laughing. We rode up a big hill together and he told me that he was so surprised that I could do it and still talk normally without getting winded. I must be in great shape. I still just laughed. I know I worked harder than he did.

We pulled into the hotel and were somewhat surprised to find Bridget and Quentin sitting there waiting. Scott, Horst and I had stopped in at a Blueberry shop for about a half hour, so that is where they had caught and passed us. Bridget said “We peddled so hard to catch you and now here you are – how did we not pass you somewhere?” They had left at 8. Bridget looked perhaps a little hung over from her last night’s party – she did say that the second bottle of wine perhaps should not have been opened.

2 thoughts on “Mountain Bike Heaven

  1. That was a nice long and interesting post, Buck. I can just see those farmers sitting there and “helpfully” advising your tube change. You also seem to have learned the advantage of doing your cycle touring in a country of British orientation, where the important Beer/ale/stout food group is regularly available at strategic intervals!

    1. Hi Tom! I actually drank a whole bottle of beer the other day. Usually it is only half and then I’m full. Some of these Kiwi barkeeps look at me cross-eyed when I order a glass of wine. You should be here traveling along – it’s great.

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