Thursday, December 22, 2011

Longest day - awesome

Well I didn't get better, but I did ride my bike all day and it was brilliant. I'm shattered now and since a picture is worth a thousand words here's a link to all my pictures from the ride.

Thanks so much to everyone who donated, we raised almost $3500 for Arthritis NZ and that's fantastic. Have a merry chrimble.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Am I Cursed?

You may remember that at the start of the month I recounted my festive season mishaps and illness and boldly declared that this year would be different. Now, if you were me, and like me were writing this from your sick-bed after being laid low with a nasty summer cold, you might feel a little put out. Perhaps even feel like you were being punished for tempting fate? Well I kind of feel like that, but buggeration! I’m not going to let it stop me taking part in the Longest Day Ride tomorrow.

Currently I’m trying every home remedy under the sun to get rid of my hideous germs. Garlic pills, Vitamin D, C, and B. An immune system boosting herbal remedy. Gaggling salt water. Drinking a mixture of fresh chillis, garlic, ginger, orange and honey, simmered and blended. Panadol. Sleep. Positive visualisation. Fresh fruit and veges. Plenty of fluids.  So far I still feel like complete bollocks.

So I have come up with two alternate plans for tomorrows ride. The I’m still feeling a bit rough and shouldn’t really smash myself plan (A); and The I felt like utter crap but I’m pigheaded and will not let down the people who have donated to me plan(B).

Plan A involves no fun Port Hills action, but a sift between McLeans and Bottlelake (still with breakfast at the duck pond) and maybe an extended visit to Orana Park. I still intend to be out for the duration of the ride.

Plan B involves not taking my MTB at all, but spending the whole day on my Duchess cruising around the central city and documenting the Gap Filler initiatives, and various other signs of our city’s recovery from the earthquakes. I hope to still be out for the duration of the ride but will pull the pin if a feel like fainting or anything silly like that.

To say I’m gutted that my awesome ride is in jeopardy is an understatement. But it seems that this is my lot for the festival season so when I wake tomorrow at 5am and get ready to get on my bike at 5:45am I’m prepared for things not to be ideal. For now I’ll keep drinking my tonics and think positive and pack my dry bag tonight. Wish me luck. I really need it!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Excitement vs. Fear

On Saturday I went for my last “training” ride before the Longest Day on Thursday. 80+kms out to Leeston and back on my roadie. I had a disgusting headwind on the way out and first half wasn’t fun at all. I headed out to Leeston because it was my niece’s 12th birthday party so when I got there I devoured cakes and sausage rolls galore and felt much better.

After a couple of hours it was back on the bike and zooming along with a lovely tailwind. I was quite worried that the fickle wind would have turned on me, but it hadn’t .  That made the ride back home much easier, but I have to say riding a long distance on the roadie is not for me. My butt and sit-bones  were killing me by the end of the ride and my back wasn’t exactly over the moon either.

I was pretty happy with how my legs felt at the end so now I’ve done all I can do riding wise in preparation for the big day. And I’ve tarted up my bike with my Freeload Rack and some orange gerbera’s I had lying around (they’re the flower Arthritis NZ use for fundraising); and ordered a new higher stem for added comfort – to go with my bar ends.

Today I planned out my route around food stops and now I’m feeling a little afraid. It’s looking like 160kms and I’m just not sure I have that in me. I’ve built in some riding that I can trim out depending on how I’m feeling, but my plan involves being out at McLeans Island towards the end of the ride and I’ll have a long way to come home if it all goes pears. I’ve worked out a rough timetable which has made me feel a bit better about it. Manageable chunks and all. If anyone wants to meet up for any portion of the ride my plan is below.

5.45am Leave Home
6.30am Finish feeding ducks at the quarry.
7.30am Rest above the pylon on Kennedy’s Bush just after Siberia flat
8.30am Bottom of the Nun
9.00am Leave Brake Free
10.00am The Brewery for big feed
11.00am Lunch at the pier stock up on food.
12pm Skinnies and resting
1.30pm Spencer park for ice cream and flying fox
3pm Kaiapoi café for food, stock up for later
4.30pm Back at Old Waimak bridge after doing Kaiapoi Island
6pm Mcleans Island carpark. Cruise to Orana park carpark to look at monkeys and rest
7.30pm Burrito Bros in Papanui
8.30pm Hagley Park and a sift round the Red Zone
9.11pm Home and dead.

I watched the 3D fly through, which was pretty cool, and took 30mins! That’s a lot of riding. My plan is to keep everyone updated via facebook, for my friends and Twitter, for those who aren’t.  My twitter profile is . I’ll be posting photos and updates throughout the day so you can all share my pain.  I’ll be checking my txts and facebook regularly as I’ve bought myself a chunk of data for the ride and will be extremely appreciative of any feedback I get, especially from 4pm onwards. I’m pretty such my spirits may be flagging somewhat by then.  So from now till 5am on Thursday morning, I’m going to eating well, sleeping, resting and packing my gear. And of course, soliciting donations for Arthritis NZ at

Wish me luck! I’m going to need it.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Look Ma! No Brakes!

Disclaimer: The author of this blog in no way condones riding bikes that are not safe. Unless you want to. Then it’s your problem and you are as silly as I am.

A couple of weeks back I finally got my little ghetto singlespeed back from my lovely friend’s large garage where it’s been vacationing since I got chronic fatigue. Unfortunately the reason my back brake was playing up before this enforced retirement was clear when we wheeled it out into the sun. My rear brake cable had split and the  rather horrible liquid that is Dot brake fluid had leaked all over the left crown of my crappy forks, very effectively removing all traces of paint. Bugger.

Now I know that somewhere in the depths of our overstuffed garage there is a spare back brake just waiting to have its destiny fulfilled, however a couple of exploratory missions have failed to find it. Until yesterday when I finally found the bugger, but then was too lazy to fit it before going for a ride. After all, I had a perfectly good front brake and I was only going to McLeans Island – what could possibly go wrong?

I’d decided that I’d do a couple of the 15km loops on the singlespeed to see how my legs were feeling in the lead up to next Thursday (more on that later). The reason I wasn’t too worried about having only one brake at McLeans is I’m not actually fast enough to need to brake anywhere on the track. This track has been the place I’ve learnt to corner and now I can confidently ride the whole thing without so much as a zephyr of brake applied. Of course it’s nice to know I have the option when barrelling down the stop banks, but apparently what you don’t know won’t hurt you.

The first loop went fine, if a little slow, having ridden 50kms on the roadie in the scorching heat the previous day. However when I got to the end and applied my front brake to stop nothing happened. Well, something happened. My brake level travelled to my grip with no resistance whatsoever and a small fountain of brake fluid squirted out of the reservoir onto the ground. What didn’t happen was any slowing of any sort. Bugger.

So I circled around to drop my speed before applying my foot brake (that’s a foot on the ground in layman’s terms). So now I had no brakes at all. I have no idea when the pesky screw that keeps the fluid safely in its reservoir shook loose, I hadn’t touched my brakes at all on the first loop. With that in mind I decided a second loop would be fine and decided to trust my cornering skills. And I’ll tell you this. Riding around with no brakes, knowing that you have no brakes, makes you corner really really well.  I didn’t ride any slower this loop, in fact it was significantly faster now that my legs were warmed up. What I did do was sight my line clearly and commit to it fully and it was so good.
Of course now I need to sort out both brakes because I wouldn’t even consider riding my singlespeed to the shops or round McLeans in the evening or at the weekend (when there are lots of other people there) without brakes. I may be able to control what I do, but chaos ensues when others are around.

And now for the portion of today’s post where I pimp the Longest Day Ride and endeavour to convince you, my loyal readers,  to sponsor me in this madness. 

I’m sure many of you think of Arthritis as an old person’s disease, and to some degree you are right. The great majority of people who suffer from this are older. In fact if you are a cyclist and have had a serious injury involving bone or joint damage you can look forward to having it in your future. I have it already thanks to my old knee injury.

However young people, and I’m talking really young people, also suffer from this debilitating disease. When I was little, 6 or 7, we lived in Palmerston, just north of Dunedin. Our neighbours there had a son slightly younger than me, Andrew, and a baby daughter, Melanie. Of course, because Melanie had the same name as me and was a cute blond baby I was very interested in her. Unfortunately when Melanie was 2, just after we arrived, she developed chronic juvenile arthritis.  It was terrible and the memory of what she and her parents went through is still with me. I can clearly see in my mind’s eye her terribly swollen knees and elbows. I can still hear her screaming as her parents carried out the clearly painful exercises of her joints they had to do to ensure she wouldn’t lose mobility. It was really hard for a 7 year old child to understand what caused this pain, but at the time there were ads on TV explaining that arthritis is like having shards of glass in your joints. The image of a bone with sharp spears of glass sticking out of it is what I saw whenever we were at the neighbours playing and Melanie was in a bad way.

We didn’t keep in touch with this family when we moved away, but I can tell you that Melanie Sloan has made a huge success of her life and dedicates much of her time to helping others. I can tell you this because she’s received multiple awards for her courage and caring and the details are all over the interwebs.

Melanie’s story is one of the many reason’s I’m going to push my body through all sorts of pain next Thursday. No matter how bad it gets, and it will get bad, it will be nothing to what Melanie and thousands of other sufferers go through every day. And without the amazing work that Arthritis New Zealand does their quality of life would be severely diminished. So please, if you can spare as little as $5, please go to click the Donate Now button and pledge some money to me, Melanie Dunlop. Or any of the other mad buggers doing this ride. Thanks.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The first day of summer

Yesterday was the first day of summer and I decided to celebrate and to signal my intentions to karma, that this year I shall ride my bike a lot over the summer months. This is because over the last 3 years I have not ridden my bike much at all over the summer months.

26th of December 2008 – nasty broken elbow requiring surgery and subsequent 3 month recovery. No riding.
22nd December 2009 – high speed crash on the Bowenvale 4wd track resulting in sprained ribs front and back. Very little riding for 2 months and all of it painful.
19th December 2010 – mystery tummy bug which mutates into pleurisy (WTF!) and then becomes chronic fatigue syndrome. No riding, walking and very little being out of bed for 5 months.

This summer will be different. There will be so much riding done I will have ridiculous tan lines and calves of doom! I will not be injured or fall ill. I will ride my bikes.

Zealous rant over, I’ll compose myself now.

So yesterday, being sunny and gorgeous, seemed the perfect day to get out on the bike and see what my legs had in them. After all it is only three weeks till the longest day ride when I’ll be riding from 5.45am till 9.11pm to raise money for Arthritis New Zealand. Go here to donate money to my cause I’ll publicly proclaim my undying admiration for you right here on this blog!
I’ve worked out I’ll be riding at least 120kms over the insane 15 ½ hour period so a little warm up ride would be in order. I decided a jaunt up Kennedy’s Bush, along the Summit Rd, down Gebbies Pass, back to Tai Tapu and back into town, home. The plan was to stop at the Blue Duck Café in Motakarara for some lunch and a nice flat sift home. Of course you know what they say about the best laid plans.

In the glorious sun I really enjoyed my first full ride up Kennedy’s Bush in a year. My legs felt good and I took it easy knowing I had a long ride ahead of me. That said I made the decision near the top that I would ride all of the tricky steep last section. And amazingly I did. Sure I had to stop 5 times, 4 because of exploding lungs and legs, once because of poor line choice; but I did ride the whole thing. Something I’ve only ever done one other time in the 5 years I’ve been riding that track. Now my aim is to the ride the whole thing without stopping before winter comes.
The top of Kennedy's Bush
At the top I stopped to enjoy the singing of the Skylarks, the smell of the broom in bloom and the view over the city to the Alps. Plus a well-earned roast beef sandwich. Then it was back in the saddle and out to the road for the long tarmac section of my ride. There was still plenty of climbing to do before I got to drop down to Gebbies Pass, but I really enjoyed it. Especially since last time I rode this section of the Summit Rd it was completely fogged in and quite scary with no visibility.
Time for a sammich
I stopped briefly at one of my favourite places on the Port Hills, Sign of the Bellbird, to eat the rest of my sandwich and a nut bar to fortify me till my planned lunch stop at Motakarara. I was so relieved to see the ruins of the old tearooms still standing and enjoyed my chat with an English couple visiting NZ. Then it was back on the bike and up and up and away. The drop down to Gebbies was brilliant, steep, tight and fast. Unfortunately on Gebbies itself I caught up to a fully loaded sheep truck so I was on the brakes with a nose full of stench the whole way down. Boo.
The view from the Summit Rd over Lyttleton Harbour, stunning.
At the bottom my tummy started rumbling and I began to fantasise about what sort of delicious treats I would avail myself of at the Blue Duck. As the tailwind pushed me along I tried not to think about the fact that it would be a gusty side/headwind once I turned for Tai Tap. As I pulled up to the intersection where the Blue Duck sits I was overjoyed to see a large number of vehicles parked outside it. I had had a sudden thought it might not be open as I got close. Relieved I pulled into the car park only to be greeted with a large “Closed till early December” notice on the door. All the vehicles were tradesmen refitting the café. Bollocks.
Inside the old tearooms at Sign of the Bellbird
 There was nothing else for it but to get back on my bike and head for Tai Tap. I knew I was in trouble though. I really needed food and another 10kms into a headwind was going to leave me feeling pretty rubbish. I kicked myself for not packing extra food, flicked my speedo to distance rather than painful time and got on my way. The ride to Tai Tap was not fun, however the ever distracting mental arithmetic of “If I’m currently going x k’s per hour and I have y k’s till food, then it will take me z minutes to get there, and that’s really not that long” kept me going. I’m sure many of you will have employed this technique in the wind.

I reached Tai Tap with screaming legs and feeling rather light headed and ordered myself sugary treats and a sugary beverage to power on for the last 20kms home. Sitting in the shade I was slightly disappointed, but not surprised, to note that I had gone past the point of being able to eat and struggled to get the food down. I ended up wrapping up my gorgeous looking double decker afghan (yup, I’m going through a phase) for later consumption.
Treats! Get in mai belleh!
The rest of the ride was a mental game over the pain, predominantly in my gluts. I had bonked, but was determined to make it home and employed that age old classic – making a deal – to do it. I told myself once I got to 50kms I could have a lie down and I did. Lying in the shade of gum trees on a stream bank was heaven. The air smelt of warmth and gum trees and water. I was almost glad I was so tired or I wouldn’t have got to enjoy this lovely moment. Back on the bike I slogged into the wind until I reached Halswell where I stopped for a Cola Popsicle in the shade. Just the last push I needed to get home.

It was a great fun ride, but I now know that the 22nd of December is going to wreck me good and proper. But it is for a good cause so I’m still up for it. And don’t forget – donate here If you’re a mountain biker carrying injuries, there’s a good chance you’ll need the services of Arthritis NZ in the future. I know I will.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Wharfdale ride – Brilliant!

Much of my riding lately has been of the commuting and roadie-ing variety, with a few bursts up Huntsbury for good measure. So it was with great excitement that my hubby and I set out towards Oxford on Saturday to attempt the Wharfdale. I say attempt as we have tried to ride it once before, about 3 years ago. That was a horrific nightmare which ended up with me completely scared out of my head and not getting very far up the track after almost falling down a large bank.

This time I was feeling quietly confident that both my skills and fitness had improved enough to make the ride a fun challenge. Things seemed to be in our favour when we got to the second ford and it was low enough to drive the little car through. Yay! I shouted earning a “Please use your inside voice” frown from my hubby. This meant cutting out a lot of yucky thick shingle road climbing to get to the car park.  Once there we quickly unloaded, checked our bikes and headed off into the gorgeous beech forest.
We’d picked a perfect day. It was warm and sunny with barely a breath of wind. The track was in good nick with no windfall blocking our paths and mostly dry surfaces. As we climbed we encountered plenty of DOCs deadly wheel eating water-bars. Some of these are fine, the right distance apart that a bike wheel rolls over it nicely. A lot of them aren’t and require a bit of front wheel lifting to avoid an over-the-bars experience. I managed to have two rather amusing slow speed otb experiences. The first, unfortunately was right in front of a group of trampers who were having lunch. A water-bar, full of muddy water was in front of me and I was momentarily distracted by the sight of 10 people sitting, watching me approach it. Hence I did not lift my front wheel. And to compound issues the water-bar was deceptively deep under that muddy grey water. As you have no doubt guessed my front wheel dropped into the water-bar and did not move forward another centimetre. I, on the other hand, continued on my merry way without my bicycle and came to rest on a rather soft moss bank. Win! Except for the embarrassment factor.  All I could do was laugh at the ridiculousness of my crash, get back on and cycle through the group with a cheery wave and a hello!
My second endo was even funnier. Once upon a time the Wharfdale had little bridges over the many streams that cross the track (so I’m told). Unfortunately they were all removed after the terrible Cave Creek accident. Now there are a lot of rather steep-sided little gullies. Feeling quite confident I eased my way down a steep one, thinking I could see an ok exit line. Once down in the gully though I quickly realised that there was no way my bike would defy the laws of physics and my front wheel would not go up the other side. So at the bottom I stopped and tipped forward gracefully onto my face. It was hilarious, although when I asked my husband, who was following me, he said it didn’t look funny at all.
Those were my two crashes on the way up and they didn’t dampen my spirits or confidence in the slightest. I loved the gradient of the climb, I loved the narrow twisty track, I loved the tree roots and rocky sections. I loved the challenge of it. I even loved the crazily deep mud bogs. Sure I had to get off and walk a few of the unrideable step-ups and step downs and almost all the stream crossings, but I didn’t care. Sure there were a couple of hairy spots where I had to walk my bike down the track or push it up, but I didn’t care about that either. I just loved being in the gorgeous beech forest, out in the mountains, having an adventure.

The thing is, I’ve never really been able to get out into the amazing native bush and mountains we have in NZ because of my bung knee. And until now, I think it’s fair to say, I haven’t had the skills or fitness required for these backcountry missions. So it was a bit of a revelation to me to ride the Wharfdale. I knew it would be good, but for me it was a whole new level of love for my bike.

When we got to the saddle we were both feeling quite jaded and even the addition of delicious afghan biscuits was not enough to convince us to push on to the hut. So we headed back out. So Much Fun. Well apart from the 3 or 4 pushing parts and the bit where I started in the wrong gear and toppled to the wrong side of the track (luckily I was caught by two little trees and only have a racing stripe on the back of my arm to show for my near miss). I felt completely at one with my bike and even got the knack of lifting my front wheel up over the water-bars of doom.  The whole ride was awesome and when we got back to the car park we were both covered in mud and absolutely exhausted.

Now I’m completely obsessed with doing more challenging rides like this. I can’t wait to get out into the backcountry and experience the stunning landscapes that are right on my backdoor step.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Terrifying Scarecrow? No, 4wd track madness!

In case you hadn't worked out from my obscure reference in the title today's blog post is brought to you by Worsleys; the track with ruts that could easily swallow a clydesdale (which I'm reliably informed is the standard unit for measuring rut biggerness). For those of you too young to understand the reference to terrifying scarecrows, well there once was a TV show starring Jon Pertwee as a scarecrow that could remove it's head and put a different one on, depending on what the situation called for. His name was Worzel Gummidge and seeing him screw off his head and replace it traumatised many a young child in the early 80s.
Anyway, onto the topic in hand. Last week I rode up Worsleys for the first time. I've heard many tales of steepness and gigantic ruts so I've always been too scared to head up it. However since I got sick I'm all for trying new things and Worlseys was high on my list.

I was pleasantly surprised that the climb up the road was easier than expected and soon (well 20 minutes later, I didn't say I was fast) I was starting to negotiate some little ruts, only about a foot deep. Quickly the ruts became valleys and choosing the correct path became crucial. 4wds have really hammered this track and in places I was deep inside a mega rut that had become a mini canyon. And it was fairly steep in places. But I loved it. Having to focus on my line the whole time meant I didn't get a chance to think about how sucky riding up a hill can be. Better yet, I could actually do it! I didn't fall off once, even when the line I chose narrowed down to little wider than my wheel I kept on up. Sure I stopped lots. But I only walked a couple of little bits where I'd completely picked the wrong path.
Some of the easy, mini ruts.

So by the time it leveled out before the last climb I was grinning. Even though I knew the Bodybag was coming. And then it was in front of me, rising quickly to almost vertical (ok that's a gross exaggeration, but it is stupidly steep). Luckily the ruts had subsided back to sensible levels. After a rest and a mental setting of goals I was off. Up, up, up, and walk. I made it over halfway up and I was really stoked with that. Flying Nun was just a few metres on and I decided to push the rest of the way to ensure I had enough legs left to enjoy that sweet, sweet track. And sweet it was.

The Bodybag - aptly named, impossible to photograph adequately
By the time I got home my legs were wasted and the next day they still hurt. Good. Worsleys is definitely going to become a regular ride for me. It's fun! (What's happened to me?)

Monday, October 31, 2011

18 months is too long to be away from Hanmer

Luckily there is a silver lining to being away for so long and that is being blown away by the awesomeness of the trail development that has gone on in that time. Hubby and I were lucky enough to spend a couple of days there before Labour Weekend. Unfortunately when we arrived it was pouring with rain and trying very hard to snow. This meant I was slightly apprehensive about the state of the tracks the next morning when I headed out for a "quick ride".

Snowing hilltops from Red Rocks
I had all the intentions of just sifting along a couple of the easy tracks and then meeting up with my hubby in the afternoon to do some more. It turns out that my lack of self-control extends to not being able to stop riding when faced with such a brilliant array of singletrack goodness. The first thing I noticed as I zipped along Easy Rider was the profusion of excellent signage. And although this track was a little puddly in places, overall it was pretty dry considering the previous day's deluge.
Ahhh, the view from the top of the road is lovely

Soon I was crossing the road and heading up Mach 1. Last time I rode this track it was a nice little climb with some nice corners and lots of wee stumps in the ground. My how it has changed. The deadly little stumps are almost completely gone and the track has been extended massively. No longer do you pop out on the forestry road and have to slog up to dog stream. Now you cross over the road and continue on lovely forested singletrack right into the Larches Picnic area. Then you're on either Dog Stream (as I was) or for those who like a climb, heading up Joliffe Track.
Swamp Track has some lovely corners...

Having enjoyed Mach 1 so much I decided I wanted to ride Red Rocks and being a little on the unfit side (cough, cough, very unfit) I decide a gentle cruise up the forestry road was in order. Once a Red Rocks I had a gorgeous view of the snow blanketing the hills around me. The climb up Red Rocks knocked my lungs about a bit, as usual, but was so worth it for the fun, slightly slippery and a bit technical descent. I was grinning like a loon at the bottom and hungering for more single track.

.... and some amazing drainage. Seen in full action here.
Back on the road I saw a sign pointing to a track I'd never seen before, Western Link. Yay! Exploring new track for the first time is fun. This was a fairly fast, flowy, straight forward track through the trees which cut out the road and deposited me at the base of Timberlands (now a walking track, yay), Swamp Track and Swoop. I investigated Swoop for a bit, but as I suspected it would be better going the other way. Onto Swamp track and it was a fun, gentle climb with so great corners and amazing drainage. In fact water was pouring off the side of the hill and the track was perfectly dry. I stopped a couple of times to clear the drains and help some little puddles drain. I just want to say to the Hanmer Trail Pixies -- you guys rock!

My favourite Hanmer track
Swamp Track dumped me out near the top of Swoop and within sight of Yankee Zephyr. Ahh, Yankee Zephyr, too good to resist. Tank track has been logged so a nasty road climb followed and then I was on the wet forested part of YZ. It was gorgeous and then I was out on the hill side and speeding down the gully. Such sweet perfect corners, such fun, so much smiling.

A little bit of water in this stream on YZ
So I ended up riding almost everything instead of a little pootle. Luckily the amazing new hydrotherapy pool at the hot pools pummeled the pain out of my legs. A great trip to Hanmer and I cannot wait to go back.

Back in Christchurch I decided last week to attempt Worsley's for the first time. But that is a story for later, like tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Racing? Sort of.

On Sunday I did my first "race" in 18 months. It was the final of the CSC's Short Track series and it was so fun. Held on Siberia Flat on Kennedy's Bush it was 20 minutes of lung searing, leg smashing awesome and I was super stoked with how I went. And when I say how I went I don't mean where I got in the race (I was lapped by a child), but how my body felt during and after. This was the first time in aaaagggeesss that I really pushed my body as hard as I could and on the start line I didn't really know what would happen. In fact I was quite prepared to pull the pin if things felt bad. I certainly didn't want to send myself back to being bed ridden.
I had a great ride at Bottlelake with a mate on Saturday and that gave me the confidence to push during the race. Saturday was a great blast with lots of hard out sprints and then some skills practice on the skinnies. It seems that my loss of fitness has meant that I'm now riding inside my skillset so that I'm actually feeling more confident on the bike than ever before. I feel I have control over what my bike is doing now, rather than just being along for the ride some of the time. And that's how it was on Sunday at the race.
The singletrack flew by. Andre at Hub Cycles has recently tuned up my suspension and my bike was running like a dream. It was super responsive through the singletrack, flowed down the bumpy down hill (even when I was blasting brake-free) and pedalled great back up the hill. I was aiming for 3 laps in my 20 mins so was really happy to easily get 4. In fact I think I might have almost squeezed 5 in if I hadn't stopped to help a fallen rider at the start for a couple of minutes.
And now I'm off to Hanmer to ride sweet sweet singletrack for 3 days, weather permitting. I have to say, looking out at the storm that's raging right now, there may be a lot of sitting in hot pools and doing homework and less riding than I would like.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Under the stern face of Aoraki

My husband and I were very spoilt to be shouted a weekend away at the Hermitage at Mt Cook this weekend. And boy was it a great weekend to be up there. We awoke on Saturday morning to snowflakes floating against the window. It looked gorgeous. Luckily after a stupidly large buffet breakfast and some lazing around our nice room the weather cleared completely and it turned into a glorious sunny day.

Not a bad view from the room
Hubby and I were going a separate ways as my dodgy knee and hip isn’t up to the sort of strenuous walk that he, and the rest of our group were planning on doing. For those who know Mt Cook they headed up to Sealy Tarns. I cunningly took my bike with me and after rugging up against the biting southerly breeze I headed off to the Tasman Valley.

The ride into the valley is ok, on a gravel road that wide enough to avoid the various tourist buses, camper vans and cars. I had the wind behind me and was enjoying the stunning scenery so it was a leisurely ride. Not long into it I had to stop and remove my coat and leg warmers as I was broiling alive.
A glorious day in the high country
Once I got to the car park where the walks start I veered off to the left and followed the unmaintained 4WD track the heads up the valley. This was a fun and challenging ride with lots of loose rocks between fist and head sized to negotiate on the ups and downs. I didn’t notice it on the way in, but you’re constantly climbing as you get deeper into the valley. It was so silent in the valley. I didn’t see anyone else the whole time I was in there and the only sounds were the occasional bee and the battle cries of the Skylarks. It was bliss.

As I got further up the valley the track merged with the river bed and I was in an avalanche zone, evidenced by the streak of thick snow and pointy boulders I had to push my bike over. It was a bit freaky looking up at the steep slopes on my left and wondering if something was going to come sliding down. Finally I couldn’t really follow the 4WD track anymore, it was just loose rocks and boulders everywhere with no clear path. I decided it was time to take a look at the glacier after coming all this way. I hoped I was close to the toe.
Icebergs a plenty

After a quick scramble up the little ridge that separated the valley from the glacier I was sitting on a huge boulder looking down on the glacier and listening to amazing sounds of it breaking up. It was pretty dodgy on the ridge, having been undercut by the glacier. I took some photos and as much as I wanted to stay and see ice break off I didn’t feel safe. The last thing I wanted when I was alone was to slide 100ms down into icy melt water. After a careful descent down the ridge I pushed on up the valley a little longer before giving up. I didn’t want to sprain an ankle or something equally silly while I was alone.
Slightly dodgy ridge
Heading back down the valley was an outstanding ride. Plenty of bunny hopping off rocks, loose turns and general rocky fun. It has taken me an hour and a bit to get up the valley from the car park, but it only took 10 minutes to get back and I was grinning like a mad woman. Unfortunately the ride back out to the Hermitage was horrible, with a cutting head wind and lots of dusty traffic. My legs were pretty grumpy about the whole thing too.
The ride back down the valley was fun

Mt Sefton at night

Then next day hubby and just did a little walk up to Kea Point to watch a few little avalanches and take photos of the freaky face I’d seen in Mt Cook when the snow cleared on Saturday morning. It was a little disconcerting having this stern visage watching over us the whole weekend. It was a scorcher on Sunday and I managed to get sunburnt before we piled in the car and headed home to more horrible earthquakes. I would definitely recommend a little ride up the Tasman Valley if you’re in Mt Cook. It’s not super technical, but the scenery is awe inspiring and the rocks make it challenging enough that you have to pay attention the whole time.
Can you see the face just below the front peak?

Monday, September 26, 2011

The smell of blue gum leaves under wheel…

…. Is wonderful. Especially when that wheel is a little bmx wheel. I recently discovered that a lovely group of lads has built a pump track out the back of Pioneer Stadium. When I first heard about it I was a trifle apprehensive that it might be a bit full on for and to honest it is.

I took a spin around it this morning and the bumps are big and hard to pump on so there was a lot of pedalling going on. I’m sure for those more experienced in the art of pumping it’s great, but I found it really hard work. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed it, but I certainly didn’t get my flow on today. However I’ve decided this is a good thing. You see this pump track is 5 minutes ride on my BMX from my house. So I have no excuse for not going there most days. In fact I could actually go to work via this pump track (well it’s a little in the opposite direction to work, but only 5 minutes so it doesn’t matter), and get a few laps in before the mindless drudgery.

That means that fact that I struggle with the track is a good thing. Lots of practice on it and hopefully I’ll become a better rider. I’m pretty sure I’ll become a much fitter rider. My legs currently feel like jelly!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Introducing the Duchess

As I mentioned in my last post I sold my Jamis to fund the purchase of a commuter bike. As my health slowly started to improve I really wanted to ride places rather than being trapped in my car, but I wanted something comfy, something I felt relaxed on, something I could take shopping or cruising in the park and something I could wear a dress and heels while riding. And after much searching I found my dream commuter. The 3 speed Linus Dutchie. A HUGE thanks to the wonderful Dave at Velo Ideale (here in Christchurch). Go see him if you want a lovely utility bike!

She's soooo pretty.

She’s a beautiful creature with sleek, flowing lines, leather grips and a 3 speed internal geared hub. When I ride her I feel like a princess! Since I got her I’ve treated her to a few important upgrades. I was lucky enough to win a blogging competition with actual prize money so I was able to get myself a gorgeous Brooks saddle and a detachable wicker basket. I love both greatly. The saddle is so beautiful and so comfortable (despite the dire warnings I received about butt destroying doom) and the basket compliments the bike perfectly. I’ve been taking great pleasure in biking to Mediterranean Foods and picking up yummy treats and a bottle of wine and popping them all in my basket. Then a brief cycle through the disaster zone that is the ever-shrinking central city (well, not through so much as along the edge of) and I’m home with a smile on my face.

Panniers are classy on the outside.....

Biking to work is a joy every day. Although when you’re sitting upright on a bike any head wind is a slight challenge. There has only been one thing I’ve longed for. I’ve got some lovely touring panniers that I use for doing the grocery shopping, but they are big and bulky and I don’t like leaving things in them when I’m in a café or wandering the shops (the few we have left). So I’ve made myself a set of classy shoulder bag style panniers. They fit my laptop and double as a great handbag, unlike my basket which isn’t really ideal as a handbag. on the inside. Also with handy pockets.

Not bad as a bag.
Making these babies has been a mission and I would never ever recommend that anyone attempt to sew anything more complicated than a table cloth out of oil-skin fabric. Nightmare. Broken needles, bent pins and hours of frustration. The panniers look great, but I’m still not convinced that the effort was worth it. Well, I’ll see when I head to work.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The year that wasn't

I'm almost embarrassed to post here again. It's been over a year! But I'm getting back into biking and for me writing and biking work beautifully together so it's time to start this baby back up. So what's happened in the time that's elapsed since my last post?

Well, no entry for the McLean's 6hr for a start. Not enough money to pay for race entries. And then just over a month after my last post.... EARTHQUAKE! A real one, not just a little rattle, a full on 7.1 shake that threw me out of the bed, knocked down a brick wall in our then back yard and destroyed a lot of property in Christchurch. At the time we all thought this was as bad as it got. We moved house, which was a little stressful as it was very difficult to get insurance.

I started a new job, started volunteering at the awesome charity Dog Watch and started renovating our new hovel. Then in December I got pleurisy, most likely due to the black mold living in our hovel, and all the rubbish I'd been inhaling during the renovation process. Cue a month in bed. Slowly but surely I started feeling better and then the now famous February earthquakes.

These were terrifying, life changing events and nothing has been the same since. We had now water for over a week, but we were very very lucky that our house, friends and family were all fine. Unfortunately the trauma of it all, the sadness at all the lives loss and the sense of upheaval caused by losing the heart of my city caused me to get even sicker. I developed Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I couldn't ride my bike, I could barely walk up the stairs. All I could do was sleep for hours and hours. I'd get light headed, nauseous, breathless, forgetful and on the worst days I incoherent and couldn't even string a sentence together.

It was the most difficult, frustrating time I've even been through. First the earth betrayed me by jumping up and destroying my city, and then my body betrayed me and stopped working. From the 18th of December last year till sometime in June I couldn't do anything. Since June I've carefully be building up my fitness, doing more hours at work and finding myself again. While I was sick I had to give up a lot of things, all biking, my volunteer work, renovating, I had to drop one of my Diploma papers and I pretty much lost myself.

Now I'm coming back. And so's this blog. I've changed my priorities a bit. I've sold my beloved Jamis (insert tears here), to fund the purchase of an absolutely stunning commute bike (more later). I've ordered a Freeload rack with the plan of cycle touring around the South Island and I've realised that I need to slow down a bit.