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May 2013

Six hours in a cold jungle is no joke

290513HeadA doctor, a dairy farmer, a distributor, a designer, and a Department of Conservation manager walked into a bar.
There. I have always wanted to start one of these things like that. But that is not what happened. Actually, they went on a voyage of discovery, to scope out a possible bike adventure for future development.
The mission coincided with the first really wintery weather, and while the week before had been bad, the day in question was forecast to be heinous. However, plans had been made and there was vague optimism in the forecast, so the trip was on.

When I woke up at 2.15am it was pissing down.

By dawn the sky had large patches of blue and as we headed out of Rotorua (in which direction I can not divulge, and it doesn’t really matter: there are potential mountain bike adventures at all points of the compass) we started talking about a possibly nice day. As long as we ignored the steely sky to the northwest, which looked capable of delivering almost anything.

It did. By the time we ditched a car at the finish point, and clambered into another to be delivered to the start, the unfortunate Doctor and Dairy farmer (who drew the short straws) had ridden up the significant climb to the trailhead and into a dusting of snow.

As always, once we were in the trees, and immediately onto a hectic trail, the temperature became irrelevant. And then the sun came out. For about 5 minutes. Huge views, mad trail, and nearly 1000m of jungle downhill meant a good day whatever happened - and nothing untoward did. By the time we had really steady rain we were already as wet as we could get. A few rivers to wade were only a problem because I keep my phone in my shorts pocket. Carrying a bike with the left hand while hitching the right pants leg above the waterline with the right makes walking on slippery boulders in cycling shoes about as much like multi-tasking as I can manage.

By the way: even a solid downpour on the road ride to the car didn’t penetrate my pocket enough to really wet my phone. With their water resistant finish and pocket location, Nzo shorts are good for this type of stuff. My TQ Peanut tights were only semi-damp, and both parts of Baselayer set worn at once under a decent rain jacket made slithering around in the bush for the best part of a day an almost comfortable experience.
Sooner or later we were back in dry kit, the heater was cranked up, and the ride was being dismantled and reassembled, and compared with other outings as we drove home.

Perhaps the best part of a successful expedition was that it was inspired by a Department of Conservation that is interested in making mountain biking part of the back country menu.

Seems like a long shot with such a complicated setup, but if anybody wants to come up with a middle section and punchline to my opening sentence, bring it on. If its really funny we’ll immortalise it in Nzoland, and send you a t shirt.


This is the future we've been waiting for

GMuz&MarceloLast century, I worked for many years with a futurist. He applied his considerable intellect to figuring out what might come next, so we could be ready for whatever it might be. He passed away about 6 years ago. We miss having him around, but its the stuff he has already missed out on that really amazes me.
I thought of him when I took this photo with my phone, and stuck it on Facebook for the benefit of others less fortunate. To be able to take a high resolution photo in a forest using a phone, and publish it to the web right there in the woods, would have struck my old colleague as sci-fi.

This stuff was definitely around 6 years ago, but now its in everybody's backpack.
And that got me thinking about bikes: my favourite uncle set me on the bike-riding path. He was a skilled bike technician, an expert wheel-builder, and was very engaged with bikes of all types. He stepped off the planet in about 1982, so his last impression of a state-of-the-art bicycle was a 12 speed road racer. The idea of a bike with a reinforced plastic frame, 150mm of highly tuned suspension at both ends, hydraulic disk brakes, and a seat that can change height on the fly, weighing in at about a kilogram or two more than the latest road racer of his day, would have been as far-fetched to him as the idea of a forest with miles of purpose-built trails for bike-riders.
Even less likely: as we rush into the future with all this new stuff, one of the people in the photo I posted was riding a one-speed hardtail with rigid forks, by choice. With a twist: his frame and fork is made of high-tech carbon fibre.
He was wearing Nzo Sifters: a basic pair of shorts with a simple design, sewn together by hand, like shorts have been since somebody cut the bottom off their long pants. But the fabric, stretch polyester/nylon weave with a water repellant finish, makes the shorts fit like the 21st century things they are.

Its time for hoodies: we new-fangle an old-school idea by printing one for you personally: if you think that Banzai print would be better on black, let us know. We can do it.


Hitting a nerve

Here is a funny thing about being a small online bike brand in the sunny South Pacific: if we don’t send out an email pretty regularly things go quiet.
So we try to get one out every week or so, and most people on our list don’t seem to mind.

Here is another thing: some emails disappear into the ether without a ripple. Its like yelling down a mineshaft.
Others get a definite echo. The ones that get the most reaction are a win-lose: we get more replies (really! people write back!), and we get more unsubscribes.

We can’t tell beforehands which ones will elicit a response - maybe it depends on time of day, or day of week. We are not very scientific about it.

Last week’s effort touched a nerve - we got a lot of messages about road safety, and not just from New Zealand. The road safety aspect of riding a bike is very much on people’s minds. The family of the recent crash victim featured in TVOne’s story got in touch with some good ideas: there will soon be an action we can all get behind regarding a law amendment to put more onus on drivers in any vehicle vs bike accidents, and a hikoi is planned to deliver the resulting petition to Wellington.
Imagine even 5% of New Zealand’s cyclists taking to the road at some point in that venture - it would make a huge statement.

We were sent some interesting data by Cycle Action Waikato - excerpts are on this page - turns out there really is strength in numbers. Here is what bugs us: if all this readily available information is correct, why is our transport ministry not flat out facilitating cycling for commuters?

It's good bang for buck.

Off road, we are also gathering strength:
check out Trail Fund NZ. This is an independent project supporting the development and maintenance of publicly accessible, environmentally sensitive and sustainable mountain-bike accessible trails in New Zealand.
Trail Fund will help crews all over the country to get the best out of their trail building efforts.


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