Tuesday, 5 January 2016

A Well Rounded Cycle Tour

The last hill!  As we turned up towards home, dropping to the lowest gear to grind at the pedals nearly left us in shock.  Not ten minutes previously I was thinking of suggesting to Jo we bike to Aromana to top up our total km :)  The odometer said 271, and I was keen to break the 300km, however I thought I might be pushing my luck?

Either way we had completed a fantastic round trip, which we started three days ago.  And we were unsure if we would even be able to pedal out of Port Chalmers on the first hill before we started.

 Our First Hill = Success
Day 1 we set off in a blistering cold breeze from home.  Down the hill, dressed lightly as we knew were about to launch into our first serious hill climb, with no warm up.  By the time we had made the top of the hill, we were chuffed - we could climb hills fully loaded.  This gave me confidence in the remaining trip, however I knew we still had some gut busters after Middlemarch.  The intention was to cycle up to Palmerston, across to Macraes, Middlemarch, then round to Outram and back home in three days.  Our first tour on the tandem.  :)

Being up the front on a Tandem has its perks, drawbacks and a large sense of responsibility.  Coasting down to Waitati, up front you break all the wind.  Oh my gosh was it cold!  OOOOOOOOHLAAAALAAAAAA.....  Jo thanked me for breaking all the cold wind..  It must be all worth it then :)

I admit, I love doing the driving part, dealing with the gears and brakes and finding the best line for our ride.  I am so lucky that both Jo and I accept and like our positions on the Tandem.  There are no arguments, just harmony in where we are and how we ride.  The skill up the front is choosing the correct gear for the terrain we are peddling on, ensuring I don't burn our brakes out on a steep decent, and keeping a good line, not getting distracted and ensuring we don't meet a nasty pothole or wander off the road in a momentary lapse of reason.
 The Never Ending Climb
However being up front comes with a hefty responsibility.  Jo puts her full trust in me.  We both know that if we come off it will be messy.  As we are hurtling down our first hill, in the blistering chill, I open up a conversation to Jo about, 'what if the brakes fail plan?'  Jos quick response was - 'Lets not think about that!  My response was, 'let's think about that', so I respond how I will deal with it and we both decided it will happen all too quick, so she need not worry about it.  It was going to be a quick ditch the bike on the deck!

When I bike on my own, your only issue is 'you' and what you might collide with if it goes pear shape.  Biking on a tandem has the shared sense of responsibility and I am 'super' cautious with the knowledge of caring for my tandem buddy.

Along the coast road from Warrington is a stunning ride, rising up and down with the gullies and ridges of the landscape.  Finally we are greeted with a friendly wave and hello at Simon Middlemass' place and a fresh coffee.  We did chat about camping there, but there was no question, we were carrying on.
 A Welcome Coffee and Chat with Simon
Through stunning Karitane and out onto the main road.  If we worked harder we could have broke 50km through Waikouaiti - a speeding ticket on a tandem is almost thought of as a trophy.  At Palmerston, ice creams and lunch were a highlight.  Finally it was starting to heat up and off came the jackets.  The plan was to cycle through to Macraes and find a place to camp.  We made the turn off and looked at the profile of the hill to climb.  At that stage we were rather tired.  After much debate, we managed to convince ourselves to go the long way.

Well..... the long way it was!  Remember we had both not cycled for two months.  On top of that Jo had four months off work with concussion with no activity, then a couple of weeks of some work activity, then travel to Costa Rica and Nicaragua with World Challenge - with less activity she has done all year.  At 90km, we decided to stop into a farm house for water at Morrison.
 Camp Site at Morrisons

What a wonderful lady!  In true kiwi style, we were offered a cuppa, refreshed our water supply and offered to stay in the paddock across the road on her land.  I can only wish that other people would do that and I will always endeavour to welcome others the same way if I can.

We hit the hay pretty early and once out for a midnight leak - the stars were amazing.  It is the beautiful thing about getting away from the city light pollution, you realise how incredible the night sky is, and just how small we all truly are.

Day 2 dawned cloudy and fresh again.  We hit the cadence vibe, and found ourselves climbing, breathing heavily up Brothers pass, past Pigroot Hill.  Once we had cleared the hills it was a quick ride to Kyeburn, where we rested in the late morning sun.  It was too tempting to snooze off, so we saddled up again and proceeded to dance again softly on our peddles, charging forward to Middlemarch.

I had forgotten about the climb through to Hyde.  The only way to describe it is ..... 'Grunt'.
Into Middlemarch our minds were swimming towards fresh coffee and yummies.  And so we did!  Yumbooos!

It was the heat of the day so taking some time out to digest and avoid the main heat was the plan.  Often a good technique in cycle touring when its cooking out on the tarmac.
 Resting up from the Intense Heat
Later we hit the road.  Hmmmm, a head wind, stifling hot, and one hell of a hill to climb out of Middlemarch.  In fact 'up' and 'up' went together on this one.  Jo unfortunately nearly ran out of go go, but getting off was not an option.  Just push harder!  We cleared the top to descend to Deep stream where we thought we would take a hiding camp site.  The pine trees that were to be our salvage... had been felled!  Pooh!  So after a brief feed we climbed up to make Clarkes Junction Hotel where I suggested we ask for a piece of grass to camp on.  Not what we planned, but the owners were wonderful.  So a great piece of grass, beer and a steak meal made up for all the sweat.  The owners were super friendly and very welcoming. - by the way they are selling if your interested?
Clarkes Junction Hotel
Day 3: Cruising on a sunny day across the penny plain of Otago, takes your breath away.  The expanse of land, space and tussocks, while travelling self contained with your buddy on a tandem is simply amazing and words don't even come close.  The descent into Lee stream was fantastic and the climb out although it made us work hard, was not really too desperate.  22km of mostly down hill to Outram rewarded us on our efforts of hill climbing.  Fresh coffee at the Wobbly Goat cafe and a yummy saw us on our way to Mosgiel - Dunedin's own Hollywood - well the sign at least?  We decided to follow the cycle trail back into town, and was welcomed with a stiff Northeaster.  We stole ourselves for a smoothie then hit the road towards home to close the loop.

Cycling up that last hill...  at the 271km mark, we had spent the journey mostly focused on peddling.  Tandems when loaded are pretty slow up hill.  On average we travel between 6-9 km/hr.  Remember you have two body weights plus two persons lot of equipment - of which you have to be frugal anyway.  However on the flats you can hike along at 30 - 45km/hr easily, sometimes 50km/hr.  Downhills can be fast too, however the panniers provide plenty of wind resistance.  Our top speed was 77km/hr.  Our first day was 90 km, second day we travelled 109 km, then we finished off to top the 272.5km total back at home.  Cresting the final hill, in reflection, I would liked to have stopped off for some swims, however each day we did not finish peddling until about 1800 or later so maybe we did not have the time.  Next time I will plan to do this?  I am scheming our next ride already.

Andy Thompson

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