Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Montana Judy rolls again!

Patience is not usually my strong suit, but when it came to getting Kaitlyn out mountainbiking, I knew it was of utmost importance.

Going back a few years, my wee five-year-old was barely able to fit on the Phillips trailer-bike when we bought it from Mud Cycles.  Nonetheless, I would take regularly take her to school on it, unhitch it and leave in the school's bike rack, only to meet her at 3pm and hitch it back up to my old beater MTB.  We'd head down South Karori Road and up Koru.  We'd stop at the Skills Area, eat afternoon tea, and read a few stories.  Then, we'd typically head down St Albans (this was pre Lazy Fern).

Over time we became more adventurous.  We dabbled with the Skyline, and once Kaitlyn fell off the back of the bike when I lost control climbing a steep switchback.  Another time, I almost gave myself a hernia heading up the 4WD track from Parkvale Ave, only to try again on the Snakecharmer at Makara Peak a few weeks later - also far too steep!  Soon we'd been through Missing Link, Aratihi and down Zac's and Varley's tracks. Most of my riding outside of commuting was with Kaitlyn, and it was both a relief and an absolute pleasure to get out.

Inevitably, we entered a couple of events.  We did a couple of rounds of the PNP series - Mt Vic and Makara Peak.  The start line was great - while I fumbled for my second pedal, Kaitlyn was putting the power down and driving us off the front of the Rec-Men's bunch.  Once, I went the wrong way, and the little person out the back told me so.  Not just a back-pedalling passenger any longer.  We were racing as a team, and it was something we both seemed to be enjoying immensely.

Mt Vic, in our matching ensemble
Our riding progressed, and soon we were heading down SWIGG and Starfish, and did the Orongorongo Track on an evening ride organised by Tama Easton.  Our ride lengths crept up too:  a four hour ride through Salvation and Long Gully to Wellington's south coast, returning through Happy Valley and the bottom of the Roller-coaster was good effort.

We took the "bikes"on a road trip, and spent half a day riding from Taupo's Spa Park to Aratiatia Rapids and back, before heading up to Auckland.  On the return drive, we were both tired from sitting in the car for so long. When I asked Kaitlyn if she wanted to go straight to the motel, or stop for a ride, she surprised me.  We spent an hour and a half exploring at Craters of the Moon.  It seemed we were both happy to spin our legs a bit.

As the time passed, Kaitlyn grew and I started to struggle a tad in the control department.  Her trailer hooked up high under my seat, and any sideways movement from her threw my front wheel around alarmingly.  One of our last hurrahs was the 2008 Karapoti Challenge, and one of my favourite riding experiences ever. 

Getting set to smash the Karapoti Challenge tandem record
We joined the Kennett Brothers team later that year at the Wild Wellington relay, but it really was time to break up our happy team, and the trailer was passed onto Oli and Bodhi, and more recently Tor and Freya.

Fun faces!
During this time, Kaitlyn had learned to ride on her own - first on a 12" wheeled bike, and then on a 20" Avanti Spice.  She was able and willing, and we enjoyed reasonably regular laps of the perimeter track at Karori Park.  We had a couple of visits to Makara Peak, but it was soon apparent that Kaitlyn really wasn't enjoying herself.  The 3km climb up Koru was too tough for her, and even when she did get to the top, she was so pooped, that sometimes steering didn't get the priority it deserved.

Kaitlyn's hot-line!
A few things were at play:  her tiny bike weighed more than my fully, and our dear friend Oli was soon tasked with a weight-loss plan.  He managed to trim a bit off it, but some of those modest gains were offset by a mega-range cassette put on to give a better climbing gear.  The bigger problem was that Katy's expectations were all a bit skew-whiff.  She'd ridden these tracks before, had had a lot of fun doing so, and while she'd contributed to the climbing effort, her old man had never been too fussed when she'd soft-pedalled a bit.  Now, the climbs sucked her will to live, and progress was slow.  She was restricted to a fraction of the tracks she'd already experienced, and it was just too damn hard.  I hated to see her so frustrated, and so clearly not enjoying something we'd both loved.  Riding was put on the back-burner.

Aside from a couple of modest rides along the Hutt River, we didn't get out much, and when Kaitlyn did ask to go for a ride, she really just meant around Karori Park.  Whenever I suggested checking out the Kid's track up in the pines, she usually declined.  A couple of times I forced the issue, but she struggled both on the climb and descent.

While not putting much effort into the riding, she sure as heck was putting effort into growing, and by late 2010, the 20" bike was looking way too small.  We had a couple of casual looks around at local bike shops, and I started thinking about whether or not to buy at 24" wheeled bike.  My problem was, I had no confidence that if we did get one it would be used, and the thought of going through the whole retail palaver a couple of times in quick succession didn't excite me.

I chatted to friends about it, and one, the lovely Ashley Burgess, aka Wonder Woman, mentioned she had a steel hard-tail frame gathering cobwebs in a basement.  Kaitlyn is well short of Ashley, and while it was a tempting offer, I didn't quite believe it would work and it all ended up in the too hard basket...

Wonder Women rides CX

A couple of months later, I had Kaitlyn on Valentine's Day, a Sunday, and suggested we join the Frocks on Bikes ride from Oriental Bay to Island Bay.  She agreed, and while we were both a little nervous about the distance, riding on the road, and the pace, we were otherwise perfectly calm about the whole thing.  I left Katy with my parents, locked her bike at Freyberg, then drove to Berhampore, parked up and rode back to Freyberg.  Kaitlyn joined me soon after, and we sifted a bit, enjoying the frocks, and what was a lovely summer's day.

We gave ourselves a head start, and after a long wait at Point Jerningham, the group came by, and we slotted in.  I rode just behind Kaitlyn where I was able to shelter her from traffic, and call out hazards and encouragement to her.  She was clearly nervous, and astride a bike that was way too small for her.  It was incredibly twitchy, and it made me feel pretty bad about her predicament.  When the bunch stopped at Lyall Bay, we pressed on.  Over the small rise at Princess Bay, we had our only descent.  As I watched my wee treasure and was dismayed by her body-language (is Dad there? Is that a car behind me?  Did Dad say something?  How much further?).  Despite looking completely nervous, she nonetheless called out "Dad, I'm having a great time!"  She may well have been telling the truth, but I could see that on a bike that actually fitted her, she'd be having a much nicer time.

Fortune smiled on us, and Ashley was at Island Bay when we arrived.  True to her earlier offer, we were soon organising collection of Kaitlyn's pre-loved bike.

A few days later, Kaitlyn and I wheeled a fairly sorry looking bike from Marjolein's house back to our home.  A bunch of bits were in a supermarket bag slung over the stem.  I was soon scouring my own basement for bits.  While the frame and fork were in good nick, we'd be needing a fair few parts to get this baby running again.

I spent the rest of the afternoon cataloguing and cleaning bits.  I had only two rim-brake wheels, both Mavic rims on XT hubs.  The rear was a D521 downhill rim built by Oli years earlier to withstand my then-95kg blunderings, perhaps unnecessarily burly for Kaitlyn's needs, but the tubeless rear I had was disc-only.  I salvaged a short stem from my old Ridge Rider which had been the first bike of a workmate's husband but had been returned when he upgraded.  I had a couple of old cranksets and BBs, a set of SRAM Gripshifts which had been NZ DH legend, John Kirkcaldie's, and an X-9 rear mech which hadn't made the transfer from my Epic to Flux Turner.  Degreaser and a toothbrush were well employed that afternoon!

When the weekend arrived, I headed to Revolution Bicycles for a bit of assistance.  One week before Karapoti was not the sort of time to be burdening my dear sponsor with this job.  While I know he would have loved to help, a couple of small tasks were much better handled in the weekend from my end, and I was happy to avoid putting him on the spot when he was elbow-deep in Karapoti and Ironman steeds.

A couple of hours later I returned, and Jonty had transferred my headset from the Epic, and put a new-old-stock XT front derailleur on!  Great to see Kaitlyn's reputation commanding such quality!  That sorted, I headed down to Simon's place, where he and I set to work.  It was a lot of fun working together assembling the bike - Simon's like family to both Kaitlyn and I, and for he and I to be working side by side on such an exciting gift for Kaitlyn was choice - and a bike no less!  Everything went perfectly smoothly.  Ashley's cranks were shorter than the set I'd cleaned, so we transferred the rings over, and all the other bits and pieces went on as intended.  Simon tuned the gears, and we were soon admiring a complete bicycle!

Ready to Roll!
I didn't have to wait too long to show it to Kaitlyn, and "would you like to try it" got the anticipated response!  To paraphrase a little, the look on her face was like "are you fucking serious, let's go!!!!"  We were soon doing laps of Karori Park, stopping only to get the seat height correct.  I didn't imagine "DAD, I LOVE MY BIKE" which of course was music to my ears.

The shake-down lap!

While previous suggestions to venture into the pines were inevitably turned down, today was different.  No hesitation at all, and soon we were at the picnic tables overlooking the park.  "How was that?" I asked.  "Hard", she said.  But, she'd pedalled it all.  I pointed out that this bike has three chainrings, and the smaller one was easier than the middle one she'd been using!  That's my girl!  She didn't ride the Snake particularly well, but was far and away more confident than ever before, and gave everything a good nudge.  

No begging was necessary the following weekend, and we had a blast around the Koru and Lazy Fern loop.  Kaitlyn was loving the gearing, and I suspect the lighter package than what she'd previously been stuck with.  The only condition the bike had come with was that she had a name: Montana Judy was rolling again!

A short rest stop!
A terrible photo, but a sight that warms the cockles of my heart!

When we got home, we didn't even go inside.  Both bikes were flung on the back of the car, and we were soon spectators at a women's criterium in the CBD.  A bit more riding followed, and as fortune had it, we found an icecream shop!

Kaitlyn, Flux Turner and Montana Judy
We've since been getting out more often, and I've heard exclamations of joy more often than not.  The bike has seriously boosted Kaitlyn's confidence, and is a much better performer than she's used to.  I like thinking of it as a 29er for a 10 year old!

I'm bloody glad I held off when I did.  It would have been such a shame for Kaitlyn to develop an irreversible aversion to such a wonderful pastime.  I'm also so happy that Kaitlyn's inherited a bike with such a fine pedigree.  I know that she values the bike much more than had we simply bought one off the lot, has a well-founded sense of privilege, and enjoys riding it more as a result.

And no doubt Kaitlyn will continue to benefit from Ashley's generosity.  Not only does she have this wonderful bike, but she lives in a city with a thriving women's cycling scene, due in no small part to Ashley's efforts with Revolve Cycling.  "Down to earth cycling for women" indeed, and what a great opportunity for my growing girl who has been around people enjoying riding their bikes for longer than she can remember.


  1. Fantastic stuff!!! Happy trails, Kaitlyn :D

  2. Great post, and so lovely to see you and Kaitlyn managing to get your bike mojo back with the help of Montana Judy! Lovely...

  3. Awesome read with Emily at 3:30am... Much to look forward to!

  4. Great read Sifter!, its really cool to be able to ride with your kids, I love it, cant wait to get Alex off his 20inch and onto a proper 26 MTB with real brakes, he cant wait either.

  5. dear miss kaitlyn,
    i think it's time you wrote your own post...go on, tell your story :)i couldn't have asked for a better life for Montana Judy. Here i thought she was going to be 'retired', but clearly with you on her, she is just starting her adventure!

    have fun chica!

    ps. you still owe me a ride.