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September 2016

Chance meetings



One of the very good things about going for a bike ride is that anything might happen. There will definitely be some sort of bike riding, but there are endless other possibilities.

Among the nicest things are chance meetings.

Recently I popped out into one the great meeting sites (the big, dusty intersection of five roads, a water pipe and its associated tap, a psychotic drinking fountain and the grand finale of Hot X Buns). A man and two kids were gazing at the trail map sign, so I dropped in on them to clarify any confusion they might be having.

The question was Corners, how do we get there, and will these little guys like it?

Being a weekday, and not a school holiday, the bus was not running. The only way to get there was to ride. Or walk. Up the poetically named Direct Rd. Accurately named as well, it takes as few deviations as possible in getting traffic up a steep ridge.

I touched briefly on the nastiness of Direct, and described the part of Corners within their reach well enough that the kids were sold.

Being a weekday, and not a school holiday, I then asked the kids what they were doing out in the woods when they could be getting educated (or bored stiff, depending).

They were proud to tell me they were in the middle of a year-long roadtrip with their proud dad. And Mum, in a caravan, armed with the Kennett’s bible and a similar book about surf spots.

They were literally having the time of their lives, and the old man didn’t look unhappy either.

What an awesome thing to do with your kids, if you can get away with it. Come to that, without kids would be good too, if you can get away with it.

I don’t know how they got on climbing Direct, nor whether they felt Corners was worth the effort, but I bet they will remember their day in the forest longer than they would have recalled whatever happened had they spent the day in a classroom.

This week I had another chance meeting. I plodded up to a junction just as a mate pedalled up to it from the other direction. We rode along together for a bit, comparing notes on the state of the trails and general business, then parted to follow our respective routes.

An hour later, as I dawdled up a gentle climbing trail in a recently clear felled area, I spotted a lone figure high in the distance, silhouetted against the skyline like an Indian in a Western movie. He was far enough away that I could only just make out his raised arm, before he dropped away from the ridge out of sight.

The almost full moon was directly behind him, and while I didn’t have time to fish out my phone for a snapshot, I did ease off pedalling for a moment to and squint at the scene.

It might have looked like the image at the top of this message. Or not, doesn’t really matter. That is how it looks in my memory, and it will stay there longer than the evening news would have if I had stayed home.


Lights off, somebody home



Spring. Daylight saving is just around the corner, and already it is possible to get in a ride after work. Milking the last drops out of a day becomes the target as soon as it is practical.

It might require doing the last couple of trails by radar - it still gets dark pretty early - but the opportunity is there already to cut a few tracks without needing any lights.

The process nearly always means finishing in twilight. The sun has disappeared over the ridge.  It's chilly. The people who haven't got an early leave pass from work are still heading out with lights on their helmets. Start the engine, get the heater cranking while the damp kit gets exchanged for dry. Throw the helmet, gloves and shoes into their box, and slot the bike alongside. Get it all done before it's really dark: definitely Spring.

You still have to be sensible about it: we got a phone call on Monday evening from a new immigrant to town, who was calling from up on the Mamaku plateau. Our friend was on her road bike with a flat headlight battery. When the sun goes down up there, it is as dark as the inside of a cow.

Her partner would be at home, but that is out of cellphone reception, and our friend had no recollection of her new landline number.

I knew the number (see above re cellphone reception).

We texted, she called, her partner rescued, all good.


Revised wearable map available now



The Nzo shorts project we have been immersed in for the last six months shows promise at last: it has been a long time coming, but we are now confident we are on track to present some really great new shorts…

Meanwhile, my life-long experiment in physical fitness continues. My thesis will be on how long it takes an average person to get back in to the same shape he/she was in before ceasing all superfluous exercise for repeated periods of various durations, factoring in gradual loss of faculties due to advancing years, with a small allowance for imaginary benefits delivered by a constant upgrading of exercise equipment (bicycle stuff).

I will publish the results from a 24 hour care facility when I am beyond delivering meaningful results, or Mars if our most realistic long term retirement plan pans out.

The latest episode has been the usual crushing disappointment. A minor health niggle, a virus, crap weather, the Tour de France, and the Olympic Games created a perfect storm of excuses to break my usually rigourous winter riding schedule of getting out thrice a week.

I had hoped that no bike riding for a month would lend a sparkling freshness to my return to the forest. No such luck.

Before the lay-off I had a rare streak of hot form. I rode a singletrack climb with a woman I know who can ride rings around me and most other people. If I can engage her in a conversation about something that interests her, and I can make sure my end of it only requires a single syllable, uttered every sixty seconds or so, I can stay within earshot of her for sometimes 3 minutes at a time. Only a month ago, we talked about nosebleeds for almost the entire ascent of Sidewinder, a nasty kilometre of grovelling that pays off in downhill options.

After my layoff, on the same trail, I talked with my demons, at walking pace, until I had a nosebleed myself and had to stop. Unlikely, but true.

Five rides into bashing myself into shape, and feeling more than halfway back, I accompanied a non-mountain biking visitor on an early morning hour of trails, just to show him what it is all about. He took my flash bike, I rode the singlespeed. He may not ride offroad, but he is a very good triathlete, and I spent an hour on the rivet in one gear keeping up with him.

Later on, I couldn’t help sneaking out again, it was such a stunner of a day and the forest has started to feel like summer.

Note to research folder: 6 rides do not amount to enough preparation to support two rides in a day, especially if one is on a singlespeed.

Another short layoff is required.


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