Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Revolve Spring Fling cycle tour, sort of

Wellington is an awesome place to live and ride, and a major part of that for me is the extent to which the mountain bike community is advancing the "sport" through community initiatives.  The range and scale of trail-building projects around the city is one part of this - and I'm proud to be involved.  Another, more recent phenomenon, is Revolve - a "down to earth cycling club for women".

One of the two leaders of this project is my dear friend Ash, and over the last few years, with her buddy Marjolein, she's built up what, from the outside, seems to be a community of women riders who are positively fizzing about the range of bicycle-related opportunities.

While there are few Revolve events I can participate in (I've swung a couple of rides chaperoning Kaitlyn), being excluded is a great excuse to help out as a volunteer.  So, when I was asked to join Ranger Steve in a support-wagon for Revolve's "Spring Fling Cycle Tour", I agreed (with pleasure) and started plotting a bit of riding for myself.

The Spring Fling's format would see the women overnighting in Martinborough and then Lake Ferry in the southern Wairarapa.  There would be MTB and road options, and most of the group would head over on the Friday morning train, returning to Wellington on Sunday.


I had a shoulder appointment on Friday morning, which gave me an excellent excuse to ride out to Martinborough.  After a couple of tedious hours in a queue (luckily with a brand new Spoke magazine to read cover-to-cover), I'd finally been seen ("oh, you're riding already?" asked the registrar upon seeing me in full roadie kit - I didn't tell him about Day Night Thriller two weeks prior), and left with a physio referral for my troubles.  

I stopped at iRide for a quick bit of lunch, before mounting up.  My sexy Colnago was raring to go, and I was keen to open it up.  Steve had most of my gear with him, but I still had a back-pack with bits and pieces I'd forgotten to give him, some tools, rain-gear, and of course my Spoke magazine.

There was a southerly wind blowing, and I was both pleased to be underway finally, and looking forward to seeing my friends.  The Colnago's 53-tooth front chain-ring was glistening, and I was running my "race wheels".  The upshot of all that was I hauled out to Petone, and then up the Hutt Valley.  My legs started to object as I neared Totara Park, and I finally watched my average speed drop below 40km/h after the 30-odd km up-valley from Wellington.  Great progress!

I stopped briefly at the Caltex for a bit of fuel before getting underway again.  My legs, feeling a little smashed from the drag-race from town, grizzled vigorously at the foothills at Te Marua.  One lake was completely empty, and I was tempted to stop for some photos.  I didn't, for fear of never getting going again.  

The Rimutakas themselves weren't as bad as I was expecting.  Not as steep as the Te Marua climb, the considerably longer hill ticked along nicely, and a good rhythm was only broken by a puncture in a gravel section just below the summit.  

I had a fantastic ride down the Wairarapa side, with clear road the whole way down.  My legs came back to life too, and I knocked out the final 18km to Martinborough in just under 30 minutes.  I'd managed the 75km ride from Ngauranga (where I'd finally remembered to click my rarely-used GPS unit on) in under 2.5 hours riding-time!  Not bad with a 600-odd-metre climb in it!

When I turned into the Martinborough camp-ground, where I'd stayed on a similar trip a couple of years earlier, then were a bunch of familiar faces to greet me.   It was cool to hear about the various rides of the day (MTBers had ridden from Upper Hutt via the Rimutaka Incline...

...and roadies from Masterton via a few hills!) and have a very satisfying shower.  Ash and Steve had set up a tent for me, and all was good in the world!

Soon enough, there began the mumbles about pre-dinner drinks.  Steve and I had been expecting to fend for ourselves, but accepted the invitation to join the women without hesitation.  We all enjoyed a decent feed at a Thai restaurant, and slept well after exertions of the day.


The next morning began with a shared breakfast, and before long, the intrepid MTBers were ready to set off on their crossing of the Aorangi Range.

Steve and I had a couple of functions to fulfill during the day - the most important would be relocating the women's overnight gear to Lake Ferry.  While the revolvers got organised to ride, we packed Steve's wagon.  Some women had been staying at another rider's home a kilometre or so away, and once we'd collected gear from there, we found a decent-looking cafe, and enjoyed a second breakfast, the newspaper, and the opportunity to catch up!  

I grabbed some lunch for us from the local supermarket while Steve retrieved some beers from the camp-ground communal fridge, and then we headed south.  We were soon unloading a not insubstantial pile of suitcases and back-packs into room #3 at the Lake Ferry Hotel.  None of the bags were large, but the weight of some had us scratching our heads as to their contents.  Sewing machine?  Bag of cement?!    

Once that job was done and the key returned to the main desk, we jumped back in the vehicle and drove onto the beach, heading East.  Our map showed a route along the beach towards Cape Palliser, but after a kilometre or so, the track petered out, and we turned around.  We soon got to the end of the Aorangi Crossing - where we were expecting 12 intrepid MTBers to appear sometime before dark.  They'd left Martinborough at 9am, and we figured they'd be a while, so decided we'd sneak in a bit of sight-seeing.  

It was about 30km to the Cape Palliser lighthouse - our destination - but on the outskirts of Ngawihi, 5km short of the lighthouse, Steve's phone started hollering.  We stopped, and soon learned that one of the roadies had been caught in a wind gust on the western side of Lake Wairarapa, and needed our assistance.  We duly cancelled our sight-seeing mission, warned the poor woman we'd be a wee while, and turned around!  

At least the drive in itself had been cool.   The coast line is remarkably rugged, and at one point the road traverses what's obviously a very unstable cliff.  Despite feeling very remote, we were only an hour or so from Martinborough, maybe two from Wellington.  I enjoyed the sense of remoteness, which felt at odds with the regularity with which we passed people: fishing, walking, or like one couple I glimpsed among a stand of native bush, sitting on deck chairs in the sun.

We had a couple of stops before we reached the wounded roadie, mostly to try to respond to the urgent calls for help.  By the time we reached her, we thought we had another [wo]man down, and so once we had her on board, we set off to find her compatriot.  We'd just passed through Kahutara when the penny dropped - we already had rescued the "second" wounded rider! No harm, no foul, and we were soon heading south again.

We passed the roadie bunch just before Pirinoa, and when we stopped to fuel up (on diesel and ice creams), the bunch grew by one.  It was good to see the wounded rider climbing back on the proverbial horse.  It was still blustery out, but the final kilometres were uneventful, and no doubt confidence restoring.

The women took full advantage of the "van of awesomeness" and Steve and I set off from Pirinoa with bottles of wine, and chips and dip which had been liberated from the store.  We dropped these off with the advance party - a few had ridden a shorter road route to Lake Ferry - grabbed the bike trailer and my Colnago, and made our way back to the end of the Aorangi Crossing.

We got there just after three, nattered for a bit, and then decided it was time for a nap - thinking about all the riding being done around us had clearly taken its toll on us both.  Around 4pm, we both jolted awake at the sound of voices.  We were both disappointed to see unfamiliar faces.

It was obvious we weren't going to get back to sleep, and some chocolate brownie sealed that deal.  In dire need of something to wash it down with, Steve disappeared out of the truck, and came back a few moments later with a couple of coronas and a lemon.  He grabbed a knife out of the glove-box, and we were soon sporting ear-to-ear grins as we touched bottles and enjoyed the first slug of beer! 

Those downed, we decided we'd go for a walk up the track a bit.  As we made our way up a steep and rocky 4WD road, I fired up the photos I'd taken on my Aorangi Crossing trip all the way back in December 2008. The time stamps on my photos gave Steve and I a baseline for an ETA for the group, but how much slower than "hauling" they were going, we weren't sure.  We walked as far as the paddock where I nearly got trampled, and then turned back. 

Back at the vehicle, we had a nosey around the wood-shed we'd parked next to.  I found an axe, and a chopping block, so started to split wood to while away the time.  We were starting to get nervous about the women, and the impending loss of daylight.  No sooner had I jammed the axe against a nasty knot, than we heard a cheery greeting from the gate yonder, and there was the first of our revolvers.  Whoop whoop!

Nearly nine hours had passed since they set off from Martinborough, but you wouldn't have known it from the demeanour of the women.  They were all smiles, and Steve and I were filled in on the day's events.  We started loading bikes onto the trailer, and as soon as it was full, Steve took off with his truck filled to the gunnels with happy women!

I didn't have to wait long for the next arrivals, and I told them Steve would be back soon!  Ash was the last to arrive, having suffered a pair of punctures (to add insult to the injury of an earlier pair).  I for one was relieved to have everyone in, especially after I'd helpfully (?!) suggested the Aorangi Crossing would be a potential route!

Yo!  Welcome back!

Beefcake, dude, what's with the punctures?!
True to form though, she was just as exuberant as the others had been.  I fetched a corona from its hiding place in the woodshed, and handed it to her, and before long it was doing the rounds!

We headed down to the road, and before too long, Steve was back.  We loaded up, and were soon back in Lake Ferry.

The All Blacks were playing the French in the room next door while the last of us finished off our meals.  Eventually, it was time to hit the sack - I had a tent to myself, and had a better sleep - not only did my borrowed mattress hold air, but I didn't have to worry about kicking Leigh in the face!


The following morning was tough, mostly on account of daylight savings kicking in.  What looked like 7 on my watch felt like 6.  But, I was keen to get back to Wellington to see Kaitlyn.  It was wet out, so I left Lake Ferry after a quick breakfast wearing a coat and overtrou. 

The ride up to Featherston was into a bit of a head-wind, and the rain never really made up its mind.  I took my coat-sleeves off for a bit, then back on again, then off again.

Just before Kahutara, I saw a familiar face going the other way - another Alpine May GPS route in production, it turned out.  Just around the corner, I found myself stopping at the start line of a race.  From the funny-looking helmets, I deduced it was a time trial event, and a 2-up time trial to boot.  I was a little bummed to be on my lonesome, so after giving the next pair a 100m head start, I headed off after them.  

I hadn't been feeling particularly flash, so this was a nice incentive to make some progress.  Bike Hutt's Mike Anderson shot past in the opposite direction, and pretty soon Dave Rowlands and Dan Waluszewski came by me, I sped up a little, but didn't want to piss them off so made no attempt to jump on.  My efforts started to take their toll, and the rain had eased, so I made a brief stop to shed my jacket.  I'd just got going again when Steve Chapman and Mike Sim rolled past, and I tailed them at a polite and slowly increasing distance.  

Pretty soon, the turnaround came, at which point I was back on my own.  But, great progress had been made!  I stopped at Featherston for a coffee, and just as I had ruled out any of the counter-food, the woman at the counter suggested some scrambled eggs.  Bingo.  

Before too long, I had a hot meal in my belly, and was saddling up again.  The climb over the Rimutakas was pretty benign, and much better than I'd been expecting - the steep pitch at Te Marua had been the worst after-all, and all in all, my "granny gear" of 39x25 hadn't been too bad.  The descent was fine, though I took the unsealed section near the top pretty slowly, a couple of times pulling over to let cars through.

I had a bit of a fright at Te Marua when hitting a bridge with a nasty seam across the road.  After slamming through the top side, I managed a wee bunny-hop on the down-hill seam saving myself another mildly disturbing millisecond.  

Soon after leaving the Caltex with a full bottle of water, and some food in my pocket, I started staring anxiously at the very large black clouds to the south.  By Silverstream bridge it was starting to spit, and as the rain began in earnest I started to think about catching a train home.  I was just adjacent to the Manor Park station when I realised a train was just pulling in.  I screeched to a halt, jumped over the armco barrier, then tip-toed across the north-bound rails, jumped clumsily onto my bike and hollered at the guard leaning out of the rear carriage.  "Go to the front" he shouted back, and gesticulated ahead "er, don't leave yet".  A minute later, I was handing over some cash - a bloody good trade I thought.  As I sat watching the rain pelt against the windows, I thought about the women who'd be heading around the south coast from the Wairarapa to Eastbourne.  After the experience of the day before, I knew they'd be sweet, despite being a bit wet and cold. 

The roadies ready to bust a move from Lake Ferry

Leigh leads the way through the mess spewed out of the Mukamuka Stream
Progress was fantastic, and less than 30 minutes later, I was rolling out onto Lambton Quay.  I didn't feel bad about taking this easy option - the hill had been good quality riding, and I'd been on the bike for a little over 3 hours and 85km.  I'd only have grovelled home into the wet head-wind - there was no fun to be had in that, and plenty of opportunity for injury.   20 minutes after jumping off the train, I was jumping into a shower, and another 10 minutes had me collecting Kaitlyn, only half an hour or so behind schedule!    


All in all, it was a cool weekend, with some decent riding quality in it, some great company, and a small sense of adventure.  I was super impressed with the MTBers - that Aorangi Crossing was getting tougher and tougher in my mind as the day wore on, and I was fully expecting some very broken and pissed off women.  But, not at all!  Despite at least one having apparently more gear than I took on the entire Kiwi Brevet, they'd made great progress over some at times demanding terrain, AND, had finished with great big smiles on their faces.  Stellar!  It was cool to hang with Steve, as always, and I think we both enjoyed doing our bit towards making the weekend a success.  

If you're a woman, live in Wellington. and have even an inkling to ride a bike, you should at the very least be on the Revolve email list.  Contact info@revolvecycling.co.nz to sign up to a weekly newsletter, or check them out on Facebook.  There are women just like you itching to go riding with you, they are super friendly, and very cool.  And, we're all lucky they're out there.

Thanks to Revolve and Ranger Steve for an awesome weekend!

1 comment:

  1. This is a beautiful story, Sifter. Biking, friendship, a trace or two of foodie detail, and not too much danger. A mother's heart is glad.