Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Thanks Team!

On the eve of heading off on one of my biggest cycling adventures yet, I thought I'd take some time to acknowledge some of what's got me there...

Was this the beginning?

Perhaps without realising it, you readers are integral to my enjoyment of cycling.  As I made my way somewhat slowly through the Makara countryside on Sunday afternoon, I tried to articulate to myself what I'm about to articulate to you.  I concluded that there are three critical things which synergise to make my experience of cycling greater than the sum of its parts:  the physical process, the creative outlet of the blog, and the sense of community those two things engender. 

Riding a bike can be at times very difficult.  We're not always mentally or physically up to the task, and that can be very frustrating.  We've all had to dismount on a climb, out of breath, clamber down a nasty looking bit of singletrack, pull the pin on a ride half way through, or even before getting out the door.  We've all wished we were lighter, and we've all wished we had more power.

On the other hand, we've all had glorious rides, sometimes when we least expect them.  There are days where things just click, and hills seem somehow shorter, the corners less tight, and the descents are more about fun than fear!  I'm glad these magnificent rides aren't ever-present.  Otherwise, we might not know to appreciate them so.  Totally aside from the increased sense of wellness a bit of exercise facilitates, it is nice to have that post-ride buzz as we reflect on what a damn cool thing it is we do!

Good ride, perhaps?

I'm not sure how long ago I realised that I have a second hobby, namely, writing.  Initially, details of a ride would clutter my brain until I finally typed them out, at which point it would be almost like they were never there!  Writing was a cure!  More recently though, it has provided me a way to enjoy a ride (usually, but not exclusively) well beyond it finishing with me firing a whole lot of gear into the washing machine.  As I type, I relive the ride, usually from start to finish.  I might initially remember only a small detail, but as I begin to write about it, the whole episode will come back, and my fingers will strain to keep up with my recollections.  Good experiences become even better, and bad experiences take on a new shape.  Things that totally sucked at the time become an interesting paragraph or two, and maybe worthwhile after all.  Perspective is also gained - what might have been an ordeal out on the trail is being recounted from the comfort of my home, and I'm reminded that life is good.  A bad memory soon becomes a good one. 

I've also learned to write for the enjoyment that it brings, not because I must.  A ride calendar does not have an associated blog calendar.  I have no rules about what must be blogged, and what can't be.  Posts generally take a few hours to put together, and take some emotional energy, and I'm careful to not let them become a chore.  I take a similar approach to writing and "training", fitting both in when I can.

I was once talking with someone about a long ride I'd done, and they asked "what was the hardest part?"  I replied, without thinking, "deciding to do it".  Tramping, rather than riding, gave me the most insight into how under-utilised our bodies are.  We've evolved to be capable of remarkable physical feats, remarkable at least in the modern sense.  It probably wasn't that many generations ago that a day's physical toil was commonplace, rather than something astonishing.  Suitably fueled, and with a few warm up rides, a day on the bike is surprisingly manageable.  What is harder won is the confidence to give something a try.  And, the imagination to come up with that "something".

While I love writing about rides as an outlet, I also hope that someone will read something they find motivational.  I don't regard myself as a particularly talented rider, and while I wouldn't wish the circumstances which dramatically affected my riding on anyone, it is worth remembering that remarkable endeavours on the bike (relative to wherever you're at) are within anyone's grasp.  Escalating things may take some work, but even that work can be a hell of a lot of fun.

There are a bunch of blogs I read avidly, and as I read, there are times I simply can't wait to get out on the bike and realise some of those sensations the words portray.  Hoping that someone might find my words similarly motivational adds to my overall experience of whatever it is I'm describing.  That makes me want to get out again and write some more. 

My own confidence has grown with the benefit of two amazing friendships.  Simon has been the most amazing riding buddy and training partner, the third I've had, but by far the one that has stretched me the most.  Mike Lowrie got me into the sport, and Rich Martin helped me through the years where it would have been easy to ditch MTBing altogether.  Simon and I became close friends while both on the Makara Peak Committee, once we'd realised we were both Survivor addicts.  Five and a half years ago, he and Sarah welcomed me into their home, and witnessed a transformation of sorts: 12kg fell off me over the space of 3 months, culminating in a 40 minute reduction in my Karapoti PB.  Simon and I notched up a fair few hours of riding that summer, and every year since, and through our friendship my riding's been pulled in directions I never really dreamed possible.

While Simon's overseen my physical transformation, Oli has been implicitly along for every ride too.  The total faith I have in my machines is largely due to the attitude he has towards his job.  When I set off on a mission, my only worry is whether I'm up to the task.  When I collected my Cape Epic rig from Oli the other day, his "come and get it" txt read "It's ready for anything", and its true.

And, so it is that with these two men in my corner, when I set off into the unknown, I know I'll be OK.  The blog helps me accept that a true adventure is not totally predictable, and that adversity, if it rears its head, will make for a damn cool tale!  This is surprisingly empowering. 

I don't travel that often to races, but I have really enjoyed connecting with riders from far afield.  Often the icebreaker has been this blog, recognition triggered by my Roadworks jersey of course.   Meeting and forging friendships with the likes of Tim Mulliner and Stephen Butterworth has been a great highlight of travelling to ride.  And, of course Megan, with whom I'm about to share this next amazing chapter.

My connection to the Wellington community is different, and they're a very motivating bunch.  There's an amazing volunteer culture in the city, and as a result, we've almost constantly got new trail to ride (and better interconnectedness to boot - ironically it's much easier to get to know someone while trail building than riding).  There are events and inspirational performances aplenty.  And, there are genuine attempts to build a strong community, with the likes of Bushlove and Revolve reminding us all that it needn't be overly serious all the time.  It is not at all hard to meet up with like-minded folk whether its over a beverage, burger, or bicycle (or, less poetically, a grubber). 

Finally, I also get great strength from you guys (reading this right now!), many of whom I suspect I've never met, but whose feedback, well wishes, and comments have added yet another dimension to my riding.  It is totally humbling, and yet, I'm so very glad you enjoy reading my words, for whatever reason. 

A constant presence in my life is people amping about cycling, and it's damn infectious.  And, even on the dark days, there are shafts of light coming at me from all angles.   It doesn't take me long to get drawn back into the fold, and long may that last.

So, that is it in general terms.  The reinforcing mechanism of a physical activity which, even when solitary, can be shared, keeps things fresh and enjoyable for me.  And, on the eve of heading off to one of the world's biggest cycling events, feeling motivated to ride is critical.

The journey to this point has been made easier and more enjoyable by many people, but some deserve special thanks.
  • Major sponsors, Kashi Leuchs of Yeti NZ, and Mitre 10 MEGA.  I'm honoured to represent you at the Cape Epic and beyond. 
  • Team sponsors Oli Brooke-White of Roadworks Premium Bicycle Repairs, Jack from Extreme Gear who supplied us with sweet Camelbak's for the ride, and Adidas eyewear for the sharp sunnies which even came in orange to match our jerseys.  Mel and Zeph from Black Seal, whose support has been fantastic, has made my life as bicycle operator much easier!  Also, the guys at Cycletech, whose response rate to our emails and orders has been off the hook.  My most recent request was for some LG Neo Power bibs (which have proved to be an awesome choice), and they arrived the very same day...  Cheers men!
  • I continue to be inspired by the exploits of Simon, T-Rex, Dave Sharpe, Alex Revell, and Clive Bennett, among others.  Lovely guys who love riding.  
  • My dearest friends, who've always got my back.  Jo, Simon and Sarah, Oli, Ash and Steve, you all rock my world.  Thanks for keeping me tip-top up top!
  • The Friday evening crew: Alex, Oli, Andy, Owen, Simon, Tor, Tom and Thomas, Dean, Richard, Selwyn, Mike, miscellaneous sifters, and of course Jonty for his unfaltering hospitality.  Sometimes hanging out with you fellas is the thing I look forward to most in the week. 
  • Riding buddies:  Lunchtime crew, Ash, Steve, Rich and Jeremy - we gotta start getting out again!  The Wednesday Worlds bunch, particularly Joel and Tosh, with whom I've learned a lot about my strengths and weaknesses this year.  Leigh, Leif, Hamish, Ash and Steve:  WORD! 
  • My sweet family who keep encouraging me to ride despite occasional accidents!  Especially my beautiful daughter Kaitlyn who misses out on time with her Dada when I go riding.  I love you my girl, more than anything in this world. 

As I've slowly but surely knocked things off the "To Do" list, my excitement has started to build.  Megan and I had dinner with Oli late last week, and as we parted, she said "See you in Cape Town".  Oh, hells yeah! 

Last team meeting in NZ!

I've got a few more days in Wellington, and a few more rides to do to sharpen up before a nice cruisy week in Cape Town acclimatising. I did a personal best on the Tip Track last Thursday, a day after hauling myself up Mt Climie after Simon.  I have a stunning Yeti ASR5C which fits me like a glove, and goes like a cut cat.  My legs are good, and in no small part thanks to you guys, my headspace is fantastic.  I can't wait to bring the noise. 

See y'all on the flip-side...


  1. I love you so much dada! And I know that everything will go awesomely in South Africa!!
    I have loved reading your blog,and am definitely looking forward to your write-up afterward...

  2. Even without your kind and humbling words about your cantankerous old mechanic that brought a tear to my eye. I am starting to think your writing should be more than a hobby...

    It goes without saying that I wish you the very best of fortune for the Cape Epic, and I hope you know how much I thank you for taking me along on your amazing journey.

    Travel safely, brother. Arohanui, Oli

  3. You need to write a book about the build up to this adventure and the adventure it self!!

    Good luck Sifter I hope you really enjoy it:-)



  4. Great to have you representing JR, you'll do us proud.

    Kia Kaha!


  5. Im very honoured!, Safe travels Sifter, cant wait to hear all about it.

  6. Have a good one guys! Take LOTS of photos!

  7. I haven't been reading blogs for a while, to try and conserve the required focus and endurance to handle your upcoming Cape Epic tales.

    Good on ya, John. Best of luck to Little & Large on this mega challenge!