Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tim's dirty weekend in Wellington

Long time, no post.  I suppose it's that time of year really, when even regular-folk fall victim to glumness that comes with the cold, wet weather and the short days.  I've certainly been no exception but despite far too many dark weeks in a row, I've managed to keep the legs ticking over.

One thing that did perk me up a few weeks ago was a message from my good friend Tim Mulliner asking whether or not I'd be up for a visit.  My response:  "shit yeah!"

I met Tim only a couple of months after I was given his book "A Long Ride for a Pie" for the second Christmas in a row by my dear Ma.  I didn't click when I ticked him off the Kiwi Brevet list at the cinema in Blenheim, but within about 10 minutes of riding together in the back roads between Hope and Wakefield on the second day of the event, my brain eventually dug out the connection.

Tim and I rode together for a fair few hours that day, and on each of the days that followed, to the extent that he was probably the single rider I spent most time with - more even than Simon.  Tim hosted Simon and I at Le Petit Brevet last November, and since the devastating quakes in his home-city of Christchurch, he and his wife Tina have had an open invitation at my place.

Consequently, it was with some delight that I urged Tim to book those flights, and as the weekend got closer, a ride-plan for the two of us started to take shape.  Tina would be in Europe at the time, so Tim would be accompanied only by a mountain bike.  He told me he'd only ever passed through Wellington with a touring bike, so a good old-fashioned single-track frenzy was in order.  I was keen to put together a schedule which would showcase the wonderful variety in this fair city.

Tim arrived on schedule on Friday evening, and it was straight back to mine for some curry and plenty of gas-bagging.  Then some sleep - we had a big weekend ahead of us!


We suited-up pretty much straight out of bed, and we were out the door by 8am.  We shot down the road, and within a few minutes had traded the hum of knobly tyres on tarmac for the sweet sound of Makara Peak.  Perhaps the jewel in Wellington's MTB crown, this purpose-built park now boasts over 30km of singletrack, designed and built for mountainbikers, by mountainbikers.  Not a bad place to start!

We cruised up Koru, through Sally Alley and Missing Link, and onto Aratihi.  We'd not eaten before heading out, and with energy levels starting to wane a bit, we decided against a Nikau Valley loop - next time!

Tim tries to work out where we are!
Keen to get home for some food, we rocked straight down the 4WD road onto North Face, where we found very many puddles.  God damn the water was cold!  JFK and Smokin were in good order, and we finished off with SWIGG and Starfish.  

Back at mine, we smashed back some coffee, cereal and toast, and then got ready for phase 2.  Tubes, a pump and a pack of cameo cremes were among the important goodies in my backpack, and I insisted we pack some dry clothes for the afternoon's stop. 

We headed back towards the Makara Peak carpark before peeling off towards Salvation which took us up onto Wright's Hill.  We paused briefly at the summit to admire the 360-degree views over Wellington and its surroundings.  We worked our way south around the fenceline, before dropping into Long Gully.  A good tail wind ensured fantastic progress, and it was cool to blast side-by-side along the wide gravel road.  

Pretty soon we were overlooking Cook Strait, and an impressive bit of rough sea where presumably the currents collide.  

Awesome view to the south
The descent to the coast was a scorcher, and we were soon at Devil's Gate.  I can't remember what comment I made to Tim in reference to the huge seal lying just in front of it, but his response made it clear he hadn't yet identified the seal!  I hope he wasn't assuming the smell was coming from me!

After a quick bite to eat, we were soon pushing our bikes up the two steps at the bottom of the new Red Rocks track.  Last time I went up there, I was having my legs torn off by Tim Wilding - today, it was Tim Mulliner's turn.

We rode most of the climb to the ridge, but both succumbed to the loosest section.  We made the mistake of looking up the track when we got onto the ridge proper - the first section is a real grovel, and goes for ages.  When I went through with T-Rex, we met a group at the top of the steepest section, and mercifully stopped for a natter (and a bit of recovery!).  No other riders meant no rest, and soon the effort was starting to wear me down.  

On one of the last steep pitches before the top, my left foot shot forward out of the pedal, and I gave my calf a good whack.  Just the excuse I needed to get off and walk for a bit! 

It wasn't much slower pushing, but once again I had to watch a Tim ride away from me at the top of that damn climb!

From Red Rocks, we snuck onto the almost-complete Barking Emu to begin our long descent into Aro Valley.  The south-facing sections of track were very muddy, but anything with a bit of sun on it was dry and fast.  Before too long we'd hooked into a wet Carparts Extension.  At the bottom of Carparts we jumped across onto the Rollercoaster, and weaving our way around the new jumps, took that through to just above Denton Park. 

Highbury Fling was next, then onto the Planet Ride connector to Transient.  I got a bit confused by the myriad of tracks, and eventually stopped and told Tim we'd gone the wrong way, adding that he shouldn't feel at all responsible!  We'd seen Dan on Highbury Fling and stopped briefly to talk to Chris and then the indomitable Kev on Transient.  Kev had been walking down the track away from us, and recognising him, I called out "RIDERS" in the most annoying voice I could muster.  I laughed at his obvious bristle, and enjoyed watching the recognition come over him.  Kev is one of Wellington's finest!

A little bit later we saw Richard from the Tāwhio, though I'd failed to recognise his partner Hannah who we'd passed a few seconds earlier.  Was a busy bit of singletrack, and we'd made slow progress!

At the bottom of Transient, we made for Pirie St, with only a brief stop en route to organise our lunch date.  I toyed with the idea of blasting up Adelaide Road, but a bit of dithering later, we soon found ourselves at the top of Pirie St.  We cut through the playground and were soon on the Mt Vic trails, cruising south down the ridge to meet Ash.  The three of us were soon enjoying a big feed at the Chocolate Frog in Miramar, though we almost didn't make it - Tim had been so focused on the SUV that was about to smash into us from Evans Bay he hadn't even noticed the orange zephyrometer at the corner there!

Just as we were about to leave the Chocolate Frog, it started to piss down - luckily we only had 100m to ride, and much of that under shelter.  We locked our bikes outside the very new and very snazzy Roxy Cinema, and tried to make ourselves look a bit presentable.  My muddy shoes safely stowed in my backpack, and a pair of shorts on over my filthy trou, I strolled inside in my socks!

The next couple of hours were spent chatting, supping beer, and watching Pedal Driven "a bikumentary" which documents the struggles between the US Forest Service and freeriders.  A good mate of mine Ben Wilde had organised this fundraiser for the awesome Miramar Trail Project.  Ironically, one of the few areas in Wellington we didn't ride.  Apart from the coolness of the company and occasion, I really enjoyed a town councillor's description of MTBers - to paraphrase him, "they come, they ride, they spend money, and they're too rooted to make trouble at night".

After the film was over, we headed to La Boca Loca for a bit more conversation and refreshments, before eventually saddling up, and riding over to Newtown.  There we had another stop, and sifted with Ash, Steve and Leif for a bit, neither of us that keen on the remainder of the homeward journey.  While pre-breakfast laps of Makara Peak are a perk of living in Karori (albeit one which I very rarely enjoy), the ride home at the end of a long day is sometimes the last thing I feel like!

Eventually, it was time to man up though, and after a quick detour to Leif's to borrow a functioning light for Tim, we were soon on our way.  We were soon at the bottom of Transient, and despite very muddy bikes and tired legs, we were here to ride!  Highbury Fling followed, and then along the fenceline to the Karori Tunnel. 

At the top of Chaytor Street we turned into Standen Street, and into the Karori Cemetary.  We were soon on the Cemetary Trail, and were blasting along until I clipped a tree and tumbled down the bank!  I landed on a bunch of old foliage, but luckily the impressive cracks we heard were only old branches snapping under my 90kg bulk.  Mildly embarrassed, but feeling lucky, I scrambled back up to the track, retrieved my bike, and we were soon underway again.

We really should have stopped for a cameo creme on the way up to Skyline, but instead we soldiered quietly on.  The 4WD track at the start of the farm was much much much steeper than I remembered, and I was dreading the wind up on Skyline.  We were in luck though, and not only with the wind.  The track had been very recently graded, and the cows hadn't been on it since, so it was a smooth, and poo-free ride through to the final singletrack section which took us to the top of Wahine.

At the bottom of Wahine I contemplated a lap of the Kids' loop, but couldn't quite face the extra effort.  Soon, we were home, and tucking into toast.  We'd arrived just after 10pm, and a rugby game was on telly.  We had a couple of hours to kill before the Tour de France coverage started, and after only 15 minutes of rugby I remembered all the cycling I'd recorded, and we were soon watching Paris-Roubaix, and the bizarre actions of Fabian Cancellara as he pulled the pin on his chase of the leaders, and any chance of victory.

By the time the tour started (Stage 9 to Super-Besse), we were both seriously flagging, and we only lasted an hour or so.  We finally saw sense at 1am, and disappeared off to bed.


We had a 10am ride date, but before that we had plenty of work to do.  Coffee and food was one priority, but second to giving our bikes a bit of love.  They lost a few pounds each as we cleaned debris from some of Wellington's finest singletrack from the various nooks and crannies.  Steeds glistening, we managed to sneak in the final minutes of the Super-Besse finish, before putting the bikes on the back of the car.

We were joined by Simon, and Jo Goudie, and headed out to West Wind - Meridian's wind farm overlooking the Cook Strait. Simon and I were organising a mountain bike orienteering event for the following weekend, and Jo had kindly agreed to be our first-aid-certified chaperone.  Tim was...  essential mapping support!  SCORE!

As with my first ride in the facility with Ranger Steve, Simon's first ride was also in fantastic conditions.  We were treated to blue skies and excellent riding conditions, with a suitably impressive landscape thrown in for good measure.  Good timing from Tim's point of view, and as host, it was cool to be able to jack this up!

Looking south from the yet-to-be-opened public carpark

We rode the two tracks built by Meridian to Simon's design - ironically Simon's first time on the track, which had been built over a year prior and had been unused since.  The views over Cook Strait were stunning, and well worth stopping for.

Looking west past Te Ikaamaru and Ohau Bays

The singletrack starts off in pine forest, but soon is out in open farmland, before diving into a gully with native bush.  The final section of track is hand built, rather than machine built, and is a nice way to finish.  The valley track that I'd really enjoyed with Steve a month or so before had really cut up in the winter weather, and our bikes weren't looking too flash by the time we hit the valley head at Opau Bay.

We took the track along the beach until it ended under a massive pile of driftwood, where we stopped for a snack, and to soak in the remoteness of it all.  You certainly feel miles away from anywhere, despite the massive turbine on the hill above. 

Back at Opau Bay, we split up - Tim and Simon taking the track up the ridge while Jo and I rode the access road. We met at the top, then spent a few minutes poking around the old WW2 bunkers above Makara Beach before heading back to the car.

We dropped Jo off at her home, and farewelled Simon, before chugging back a bit of toast and jumping back in the car.  We met Whacko Jacko on schedule at the Railway Station, and were soon unloading the car at Wainui MTB Park for the final leg of Tim's whirl-wind visit.

Leif arrived alone, which had us scratching our heads a bit until Ash and Leigh arrived, already sporting a bit of mud here and there.  I felt a bit dumb for not turfing Tim and Jack out at the Wainui Rd summit - shows I've not done enough shuttling!

Steve and Hamish were there too, and we were soon hooning up Jungle Jim.  I came round the corner to find Leif looking rather dazed after taking a header into a tree.  There was more carnage to come, as Steve's rear derailleur assploded.  He and I had gone into West Wind earlier in the week, where he'd discovered a busted cable.  It had been replaced, but obviously without an investigation into what had caused it to fail.  The damage was significant, with the derailleur snapped and torn out of the dropout...  Eeek!

Steve turned back, while the rest of us carried on and road down Snail Trail.  At the Wetland, we decided to go check up on him.  With some fatigue in my legs, and a whole heap of great riding under my belt, I'd decided I'd send Steve out on my Flux, but when we got to the cars, an alternative plan had already been hatched.  Hamish had his jump bike in his wagon, so Steve was soon riding this singlespeed, no-front-brake-having monster up Jungle Jim.

We took Labyrinth through to the top of Spoonhill, where I insisted Steve and I swap bikes.  We traded shoes too, and I was soon nursing the jump bike down the less steep sections, and running next to it in between.  The closest I came to a crash was while running after almost tripping on the front wheel which lurched towards me off a slippery root.   I was amazed at how much I could ride though, but quietly wished for my Flux!

We were soon back at the carpark, and set to hosing the bikes off.  There was quite a queue for the hose, and by the time all the bikes were cleanish, very dark clouds had gathered overhead, and rain was imminent.  As a consequence, Tim dodged book-signing obligations, and we barely had a chance to say our goodbyes before the heavens opened.

We drove back to Wellington, and to my parents' place in Strathmore to join them and Kaitlyn for dinner.  Katy and I were soon after dropping Tim at the airport, bringing to a close a pretty action-packed schedule.  As we said our farewells, Tim divulged he was already planning the return fixture in Christchurch - I can't wait!

I lost track of the hours we spent on the bikes, and gave up trying to tally the track we'd ridden (lengths from tracks.org.nz for Saturday totaled over 40km, excluding the road, and long gully, and Mt Vic, and Skyline...).  We'd also managed to pack in a fair bit of socialising, and a nice mix of company for the riding.  Saturday's effort(s) had been at a solid yet sustainable clip, but had set us up nicely for the group-rides on Sunday.

It was cool introducing Tim to many of my riding buddies, particularly given his inspirational cycle-touring and their thirst for adventure.  I was proud to introduce Tim to Kaitlyn and my Dad, and it was also fitting for Tim to meet the woman who'd been compelled to buy his book for me not once but twice!

We and our bikes got filthy, many times over, but hot damn, what a fine weekend!