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?)