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January 2016

85kms is a long way, 170 is more than twice as far.

The actual frothing watercourse I nearly fell into. The actual frothing watercourse I nearly fell into.

Some weeks before last weekend’s Nzo TrailBlazer my friend Gayle had the bright idea of ferrying a vehicle to the far end of the 85km trail, riding the trail from the south, camping out, and then racing back on the Sunday. This would deliver multiple payoffs: seeing all the scenery from a new perspective, spending two days riding the trail instead of one, and having a slightly quicker getaway after proceedings were completed on race day.

I signed on, but modified her plan to include the deluxe accomodation of our little caravan, with its fridges, cold beverages, and enhanced food options.

This plan also included Glen, who was down for a couple of days in the forest.

We cruised up the generally ascending southern 30kms or so at our ease, stopping to read interesting historic info-boards, having snacks, and even a sit-down lunch, marvelling all the while at the numbers and variety of other bike riders we were meeting. Camping and lodge accommodation opens the Timber Trail up to a two-day trip for just about anybody: young and old, family groups, loaded tourers, everybody.

If you have ever asked a car driver about road conditions, particularly regarding hilliness, you will understand how the plan went astray. A driver will look puzzled about road conditions, and may offer advice about where there are ice creams, but it a rare car person that knows what a cyclist means by hills. Same goes for a mountain biker who has only ridden a trail one way.

We knew we were in for a generally uphill ride, but after we crossed the amazing Maramataha Bridge about halfway through there are a series of long drags that I had forgotten about, which get steeper as you go north, and the hardest arrived at about the same time as we ran out of water. It was hot, and we side tracked on foot to a stream to stick our heads in the water and refill a bidon. About then Gayle wondered aloud whose idea this had been.

The trip took a good deal longer than my guesstimate, but all in all, a good day, if a little longer and tougher than anticipated. We were not the only people to attempt this out and back approach. Roadie legend Jack Swart was tooling up for his upcoming Tour Aotearoa, and he rode north on Saturday on a fully loaded touring rig. Natalie and Erin took a bit longer than us but looked feistier afterwards. Both Gayle and Natalie were on cross bikes, which made going uphill marginally faster and going downhill a terrifying battle for control.

A stunner of a night in the campsite getting close views of tuis, kereru, long tailed bats, etc, and a solid sleep followed.

The real effects of our long day were not revealed until we started climbing the first section of the race route on Sunday.

Both of us knew immediately we were in for a long day and parted company to wrestle our demons in private. I promised myself while climbing the only serious hill on the return voyage that when I got to a stream I recalled I would stop and douse my head in it, and eat my lunch. That deal was the only thing that kept my slow progress up the climb from stopping altogether.

I arrived at the stream and found I had misremembered that too. The water would need some clambering to access. And while my legs were still turning pedals, they were not about to start clambering this late in the weekend.

A crippling bout of cramp hit both of them at the moment I was trying to balance on two large rocks. I staggered around on the various stones trying hard not fall in, trying to stop laughing, and sort of wishing somebody else was there, because if I lost the battle with gravity it was going to look pretty funny, and it would be a waste if nobody witnessed it.

Not falling in the stream was the pinnacle of my day’s performance, and finally getting my head wet and my ham & cheese ciabatta bun eaten was an enjoyable anti-climax.

I paused in the middle of the last big bridge to enjoy the view, the cool breeze, and not pedalling for a little while, and Gayle happened along.

Our mate Leisa won her class, but only after knocking herself out in a crash within cooee of the finish. She arrived at the end a bit confused, and with a bit of bark missing, and headed for hospital straight after prize giving.

The finish line, a cold drink, a dip in the Ongarue School pool, and a lie down on a shady patch of grass: these simple things were hard to imagine being better.

260116WP3 Me, ready for the fray. By which I mean colour coordinated.

260116WP4 Deluxeness. In that very caravan are cold beers, chilled wine, and other necessities for life on the range.

260116WP5 Gayle gets ready for the ride north, She ditched the very cool handlebar bag for the race. That bike is a lust-worthy sled, but I was happy not to be on it during the long downhill sections.

This is the car we call Jim. It was happy to overnight far from its friends, all alone, so that we could get a lift back to Pureora. This is the car we call Jim. It was happy to overnight far from its friends, all alone, so that we could get a lift back to Pureora.

Gayle pauses in the tunnel part of the Ongarue Spiral, an amazing bit of bush engineering from the old days of logging the Pureora. Gayle pauses in the tunnel part of the Ongarue Spiral, an amazing bit of bush engineering from the old days of logging the Pureora.



Save or it didn't happen

Hauling my carcass down Eagle vs Shark at a speed others would find soporific. Hauling my carcass down Eagle vs Shark at a speed others would find soporific.

I have a confession.

Much as I have slagged the entire concept in the past, I have begun to record my bicycle rides on an electronic device.

More often than not.

It has become so habitual that if for some reason the episode is not recorded and uploaded as I expect, it sort of feels like the ride didn't happen.

This is obviously pathetic, and I may need to see somebody about it. Maybe my doctor, who is possibly more besotted with mountain biking than I am, and as far as I know doesn’t use a ride analysis device. Although she could, now I think of it, as a general early warning system for her patients’ condition. All the app would have to do is start uploading blood pressure and cholesterol as well as segments and average speed, and the doc could advise dietary improvements or medication at the same time as giving kudos!

But I digress. Obviously measuring the progress of a bike rider though a forest by hijacking his telephone is about as accurate as figuring out distance by counting pedal strokes.

That my PR (personal record, an achievement that gets a little virtual chalice awarded to my phone) might be twice the duration of the current leader’s is fine as long as somebody else took twice as long as me. For all I know, the leader cheated.

On the other hand, the  person I was way faster than may have stopped for a nap.

What is really disconcerting, and this has happened to me twice in the last two weeks, is meeting a friend out in the woods, and riding a trail or two with them to confirm that they are definitely much faster than me.

Never mind, I say to myself, this is not a race. I am having fun, and so what if (insert insulting word here) can ride away from me as if I am walking. It’s all good.

Then I get to the bit where I fish the phone out and press 'Stop'. Then 'Save'. Then while I peel off tomorrow’s laundry my phone calculates my dubious awesomeness and presents it, with graphics, to validate my ride. And there it is!

My ride down the trail I got left behind on is a PR for me!



We don't know how lucky we are



It is easy, when living in a little lifeboat on the edge of the earth, to feel like a lot of other places have a more exciting offering.

We have just spent a great couple of weeks showing some American friends around our local patch, and it is interesting to see what we see every day through fresh eyes.

For a start, we have a lot of places to go riding. So do they, make no mistake, but ours are so easy to access. We think they found it surprising how many options we have so close to home, with access to trails no problem.

The other thing we don't have to think about is 'illegality'. We don't burgle walking tracks very often, but if we do the worse we can expect is the hairy eyeball from a hiker or two, but to be honest in thirty years of occasionally riding a walking track I have never personally experienced even that. I did see an altercation once between a mate and a ranger, but it was more funny than anything else, and once we had talked them out of hitting each other there was no further action taken. Apparently where our visitors come from there is a bit of animosity between user groups, but worse, there are rangers with the power to write out tickets with a $300 fine attached.

We don't have poison oak. We do have blackberry, but it is easy to avoid, or harvest and eat. We don't have mountain lions. Or bears, snakes, or even racoons. We have rabbits, and hedgehogs. Really prickly ones.




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