On Sunday I took the first ride in ages that didn’t have any constraint except my attention span, and I set off intending to run out of gas just after cresting the last uphill.
When I say run out of gas, I don’t mean the way a vehicle does - suddenly, with no warning other than the petrol gauge, rarely consulted until after the engine dies. Or even the way an e-bike does, instantly, when the battery stops being your friend and becomes an inert lump of chemicals and electrodes that weighs as much as the rest of the bike and does nothing at all now it’s dead.
I mean that slow and irreversible malaise that sets in after a given distance or period of time that is not always easy to guess at.
To make things interesting, I start at the bottom of a brilliant downhill trail, which means that, come what may, I am going to have to get myself to the top of it so I can descend to the van.
The plan uncoils itself as I drive to the place we call The Black House, on account of a little shack which used to be black when places around here started to get names appointed by mountain bikers. Its current colour is irrelevant. It will always be The Black House, even when the house itself is no more.
The plan is to go all over the forest sampling my favourite long downhills, via a selection of long uphills. There will only be one place where the gas gauge needs to be accurate. At the top of a dreary grovel to a high point, I can look within and see how much is left, then cop out and sidle across the top of the forest to the last downhill, or take another dive down a trail I love and be back at the same altitude as the van, but on the wrong side of the hill.
On that critical climb I get into a race with a jeep load of shuttlers. They don’t know it’s a race, or they may have got themselves loaded up a bit more quickly. They win, but not by much. The competition does two things: burns a pile of calories, and the close-run result produces a feeling of confidence that makes me take the singletrack down without even stopping to look at the view.
On the big climb back to the summit I get passed by an e-bike with a fully functional battery, and curse the rider. But I get to the top, eventually, and make the most of the run down to the van.
Running on empty.
I have a friend who finds solace in baking, and she is very good at it. Fairly often, she produces a batch of something good, and has the habit of texting the availability of fresh baked goods in case I am in the region. I almost always am, or can be at short notice. To my delight, a text announcing Anzac biscuits arrived as I was sitting in the van after rinsing off in Lake Tikitapu.
Couldn't have timed it better. Amazing how five Anzac biscuits is exactly the right thing to insert after a big day in the woods, like a recharged battery only tasty.
IMAGES BY GRAEME MURRAY