Long distance training—for the North Island 1600

I’ve been inspired by John Maroulis taking off on his ST each weekend to condition his butt, and his bike, for the North Island 1600.

After my tribulations in February, I’ve had a slow recovery. My wrist has been the biggest impediment, not my leg. Several years ago I rode a NI1600 with a leg fracture—after all, the whole thing is done sitting down so it wasn’t a problem. The wrist though…different matter, and given it’s my throttle hand it’s kinda important that I do some practice to see how far it’ll last.

I bought a mint 2011 Yamaha FJR1300 since my BMW was written off. I’d always wanted one, and bought it sight unseen, and without a test drive.

It’s taken a lot of getting used to. For a start, it’s scary in the wet (compared to an adventure bike) and it’s very heavy on the throttle (four cylinders compared to two I guess). Plus, the suspension seemed all out of whack. It was only pleasant riding in a straight line. Well, we know that there won’t be much straight line riding in a NI1600, not if Long John Silver is designing the course.

Each weekend I’ve been taking the bike out for a spin, and slowly building up strength in my wrist, and in my butt, and mentally. I registered for the NI800 and the NI1600 because I didn’t know which one I’d be well enough to complete. As of yesterday, I’m going the whole hog. 1,600km here we come.

Rides for preparation:

Early on I did many Haywards Hill loops. Really, that’s not conditioning for anything, but for me, it was just nice to see how the bike handled, and to try it out on some corners. Must have done that ride maybe eight or nine times.

Also did a ride to the end of the Kapiti Expressway and back home. This was easy—remember I talked about straight lines—so I felt more confident. I think the weekend before I had gone to Paekakariki for a coffee (not over the hill).

As my confidence grew, and my strength was returning, I did the Pahiatua Track loop, heading up SH1, over the track and back to home via SH2. Things were going OK.

A couple of weekends later I suggested to Stretch that he accompany me on a ride up SH1 and over the Saddle Road then back to Wellington. See what I’m doing here? Moving ever so slowly further afield. That was a relaxed ride, despite the fact that we descended off the Saddle into the thickest fog/mist/drizzle. By Eketahuna it had cleared but we were both bloody cold, and damp.

Three weeks later, I decided a night ride would be worthwhile. I hadn’t done any night riding on the FJR so needed to test the headlights in the hope I wouldn’t have to add auxiliary lighting. I left on a Saturday night at 10 pm and rode to Wanganui and back. Got home about 2:45 am. The headlights were great—no need for auxiliaries.

Then yesterday I thought, something a little bit longer. The weather was not wonderful leaving Wellington, and I wondered about heading up SH1 and doing a quick blitz around Mt Taranaki. But there was a hint of blue sky over the Remutakas so I headed that way instead.

I left home at 8 am on the dot, and filled up in Dannevirke at 10:15 am. I needed to be home around 6 pm as my boys were singing in a choir recital at 7 pm. Could I zip over to Taupo, and back down the middle of the island, or maybe do the Gentle Annie? I didn’t think so. Instead, I took SH50 to Bridge Pa, zipped across to Paki Paki, then did Middle Road through to Waipukurau. Called in to surprise my 89-year-old Mum. Had a chinwag and a sammie with her then headed south to Porangahau, then through to Wimbledon, then Pongaroa, and on to Masterton.

I have too many demerit points to speed so I kept the throttle steady at around 108 kph when I could. By the time I got home, it was 5:15 pm and I’d done 659 km. I felt pretty good.

My Hawke Bay preparatory ride for NI1600

I’ve also improved the suspension set up by returning the bike to ‘standard’ on everything (the chap that used to own the bike only rode 2,500 km a year and always two-up). Feels so much better going into corners. I’ve been talking to KSS in New Plymouth about upgrading the suspension, and I’m sure it’d be great, but I’m going to delay that until next year when I have the money.

So, I’ll be letting the team know that the NI1600 is a go.

Later this week a lot of my gear that was on the BMW is being returned to me—things like my Garmin mount, two sets of gloves, my RAM mounts, and the biggest essential—my Airhawk II seat cushion. Can’t wait to see all this stuff.

Fingers crossed the weather plays ball this year. See you all in Turangi.

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