Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Ill met by moonlight sweet Gumtrees

Yesterday was a gorgeous day, however I had taken a pile of work home with me for the weekend so I couldn’t bike to work, it’s a bit difficult with 2 A4 ringbinders and a box of paperwork. I was feeling ambitious so threw my good bike on the back of the car, and my helmet with light attached and SLA battery into a bag of clothes and headed off to work with the intention of riding up Rapaki after work.
What a great plan. The weather was good, just a light noreasterly and a few wee clouds and still pretty warm when I started. My goal was to get to the top of Rapaki in under 40 minutes, which would be a first. As I went up, the sun went down and I could really feel the weight of the battery in my backpack. Still, it was good training. I made good progress up the hill and felt pretty strong by the time I reached the plateau before the final big push to the top. There weren’t many people around initially and by the time I was on the last stretch I had the hill to myself and a big moon shining down on me. It was just brilliant. I made it to the top in poor light and 36 minutes and felt very pleased with myself. I hadn’t stopped once. I took a few minutes to enjoy the view of the city with its lights coming on while I ate a muesli bar and put my jacket on.
It was dark enough for my blinding light so I flicked it on and headed off up the road. I really pushed up the road as I didn’t want to spend anymore time than necessary on the tarmac at this time of night. The road was deserted though and I only saw one roady going the other way the whole way round to the Traverse. Now I was in new territory. I’ve never ridden the Traverse at night and neither has Pete so I was feeling a little apprehensive and excited. Doing new things is fun. I didn’t get off to a very good start on the Traverse, picking a shocking line through the rocks at the entrance and having to get off immediately. Feeling cautious after this I was off on the singletrack. It felt as narrow and scary as the first time I rode it. Also sometimes the track would completely vanish from view as the tussocks reflected my light back at me. However I took it easy and walked a couple of sections and had an amazingly brilliant time. Who says you need speed for an adrenalin hit?!
I only met one other guy out when I was there and he seemed concerned about my well-being, I must have had big eyes or something, because at that point I was feeling fantastic, having found my flow and just enjoying being out in the hills at night. It was so freeing.
At the end of the Traverse I flew through the short section of forest and stopped for a look at the insane see-saw over the fence that is the entrance to Brake-free. Not for me, and certainly not at night. So I whipped over the cattle stop and came back round for a quick play on the berms and tabletops of Brake-free. It’s so cool, I wish I could actually jump. From here I had two choices, down the boring old 4wd track or down Gumtrees, the beginners Downhill track. I’ve ridden Gumtrees twice and its super fun. Gnarly drop off over cattlestop followed by nasty rock garden and then tight rutted corners all the way down. Pretty damn steep too. Obviously there was no choice at all and off I rode down the drop off and abruptly came to a stop halfway through the rock garden. Hmmmmm, perhaps I’d bitten off more than I could chew? Oh well, no going back now! I walked a fair bit of the first lumpy bit and then lost the back end of my bike in the first corner. This was much tougher by torch light. Walked a few more corners and then hit a rut I hadn’t seen and end up lying on the bank slightly winded, but not really worse for wear. I managed to get my foot unclipped and dust myself off and continued down. I actually managed to ride most of the rest of the track from there, but my heart was really thumping by the end. I probably rode about the same amount as the first time I tried to ride it so it wasn’t too bad.
The rest of the trip down the hill in the dark was pretty uneventful, although even riding the 4wd track by helmet light is freaky as you can’t really tell exactly what the ground is doing so you need to make sure you’ve got your weight right and trust your tyres and suspension to get you through unexpected challenges.
I’m feeling pretty tired today as I don’t seem to sleep well after a big ride in the evening, but I can’t wait to do it all again soon before the weather gets really cold.

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