Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Final Countdown to the Tour Aotearoa

Natural beauty in abundance on a recent shakedown ride
In less than 10 days, a rag-tag group of bike packers will converge on Cape Reinga with a single goal in mind; to eat sleep and ride their way to Bluff. The route is a spawn of Jonathan Kennett’s work on the NZ Cycle Trails, taking in the scenic highlights as it winds its way from north to deep-south.

When the idea was first mooted I was always going to be a starter and now with the ride imminent my excitement has reached fever pitch. While final preparations have had the pleasant distraction of a new baby Maxwell, I’ve managed to stick loosely to my plan and pull everything together physically, mentally and gear wise with a few days to spare. We’ve actually been blessed with Max’s 3-4 hour night sleep cycle, but the 6 hour minimum stipulated for the Tour Aotearoa will luxurious by comparison!

BLAAT (Bike leaning against a tree)
My bike setup has seen some incremental improvements from the steed used in shorter rides such as the Big Hurt and Cloudride here in Australia. Some lightweight carbon aerobars have dropped half a kg of weight, and coupled with curvy Carver MyTi bars give a range of hand positions to keep tingly fingers to a minimum. A refined K-lite dynamo system will allow me to choose between possum dazzling illumination or USB charging at the flick of a stem mounted switch.

What the wind gets to see
For tires I’ve gone with sketchy/fast Maxxis Tread Lites, and I replaced some aging XT brakes and cranks with some shiny XTR stuff which will probably only be shiny for the first few days.
Newcastle’s Bike bag dude has sewn up some uber-light bags including the maiden ‘fast’ ride for a cavernous frame bag, allowing me to run a huge bladder in lieu of bottles.

What I get to see
My trusty Rohloff internally geared hub remains with my years of trying to kill it leaving no scars, while the Ground Effect clothing including cat/dog proof Anti-Cyclone and Exocet shorts wee always going to be first on my packing list.

Having been through the motions of a ride like this a few times, my mental state has been relatively withdrawn, and only now as I pore of cue sheets and ambitious daily itineraries does the enormity of the task at hand sink in. While I’ve got some of the best form in recent memory over short distances, I’m very much relying that I’ll settle into the old groove of long days in the saddle.

A unique challenge of the route is the requirement to string together a number of ambitious distance goals early in the ride, and only if all goes to plan will we be able to make the ferry sailings. Packrafting could be a backup option but my kayak weighs more than my bike and gear combined so I’m planning to  take my chances with the ferry!

Pack rafting - not really an option for the Tour Aotearoa
To see how it all pans out keep an eye out on Instagram @whalleyollie where I’ll endeavor to make regular posts, and you can track the adventure at