Seems like I’ve had a lot of unfinished business lately. I was looking forward to riding again after my accident on the 2018 TT2000. I had a new (second hand) FJR1300 to replace the BMW R1200GS. My recovery from a shattered wrist, and a fracture in my femur wasn’t at 100% but it was good enough to hop back into the saddle.
So, I enrolled for the NI1600, and the NI800 not knowing which one I’d be up to completing when the ride came around in October 2018. I also enrolled for the Distance Riders 1K ride, and in the Ulysses Longest Day. I was looking forward to all of it.
First up—the NI1600. Most of my regular readers (all two or three of you) will know that I did approximately 12.5 hours of that ride before colliding with a sheep on the outskirts of Wairoa, at 1.30 am. What a bloody palaver! I could not believe my rotten luck. The FJR ended up in a ditch, and I ended up nearby with damage to my ribs, and a small fracture in my ankle. It could have been worse. I could have ended up like the sheep—reamed up the middle and dead.
After making a scene in this small country town, with two police, one fire truck, one ambulance, a town siren, and onlookers, plus a few fellow long distance riders helping out, I spent a long and very painful night in the ICU (otherwise known as a hospital room) at Wairoa Hospital. I was nursed—and I mean this in the loosest sense—by a woman who was so large she needed a medical trolley to help her stand up. It’s hard to find decent staff to do the night shift!
I was x-rayed in the morning by a radiologist from an Asian country who sniffed and cleared his throat continually, and then, as he walked back to push the ‘button’, let off a ripper of a fart. I wasn’t that sick or ill, or sore not to notice any of this.
Long story short—the FJR was a right-off, and I had a few months recovery ahead of me. My NI1600 came to an abrupt halt; there would be no 1K ride the following month, and there would be no Longest Day. All I could hope for was to be fit enough to do the TT2000 in February 2019.
I hate missing out on a badge, especially when it’s a cloth one. I have carefully sewn all my ‘patches’ onto my Goretex jacket, and I wear them with pride. I’ve never missed a NI1600 since they started, and I wasn’t about to let this one get away.
The TT2000 was successfully in the bag, completed without incident, and so all I needed to do was look for a weekend to complete the 1600. That happened on 27 April 2019. I left my house in Wellington at 4.30am on Saturday morning, and headed to the Windfarm in Wairarapa—this would be my Start / Finish as it was the closest checkpoint to home. I got there and took my odometer pic at 5.52am (I’m aware that the pic says PM – it’s wrong).
The weather forecast was looking good for the whole ride – very little rain, but more importantly, no wind. The ride out to Riversdale was pleasant, as was the windy 7km through to the Langdale intersection. I was having trouble with my phone charger and my phone was losing charge. It died before the beach but when I got to Langdale I swapped charge cables—yes, I had a spare. No further problems until the ride through to Wairoa.
The ST1300 does (for me) around 500km on a tank of gas. I was hoping to get all the way to Bayview but it was not to be. Made a stop at Ongaonga and just put a few litres of ’91’ in the tank to get me through to a decent stop north of Napier. At the Ongaonga General Store I was accosted by a local gentleman who wanted to have a chat about my bike. He had an old FJR1300 for sale for $3K but couldn’t find a buyer. I made a polite but quick exit and continued north.
Bayview seems to be a regular checkpoint on the NI1600 and on the Rusty Nut rides prior. On the ride in October 2018 the gas station attendant had warned us about the goats on the road to Wairoa. We were wary of them but never saw any. Just a sheep, later. So, this time I filled the bike up—with 98 octane—bought my first pie of the trip, and a cup of coffee, gobbled it all down, and headed out. The ride through to Wairoa was uneventful, temperature around 21°C.
Wairoa did not tempt me to stop. It has a gang problem and this was evident when I drove past the bakery on the main road just before the bridge. A bevy of youth, all wearing at least one item of red clothing, congregated outside. This was no place to stop.
Riding through the Waioeka Gorge was a delight. There was no other word for it. I had done this in the dark on my first Rusty Nuts Grand Challenge when I came across a Ducati rider on the side of the road. He’d come off his bike after hitting the debris from a rock fall. I still can’t understand how I navigated through that without hitting anything. This time, no incidents. I couldn’t remember it being as long as it was. I think it’d have to be my ‘new’ favourite road.
Because I didn’t have my NI1600 booklet (it was lost in the melee of the crash) I was mainly relying on the GPS coordinates that I had, as well as a gallery that Phil Biggs had posted on the Distance Riders Facebook page. I hadn’t printed anything out, so I wasn’t sure that the Matawai Pub was the correct spot, but I took the pic and continued on.
Paengaroa was an extended stop for me as I’d been riding for 14 hours. I tried not to think about the distance I needed to ride to get home, suffice to say it was a bloody long way, and it’d soon be dark. I filled up, bought a ‘healthy’ filled roll, a Fanta (God, I love a good Fanta when I’m thirsty), some more water, and a few Picnic bars.
I got to ride along the Tauranga Eastern Link Toll Road at a legal 110 kph. I hate to admit it, but I love that road. Stretch and I did it a few years back in the most brilliant conditions. Similar experience this time except it didn’t seem to be as long to ride. Mental note to self: remember to pay the $2.10 toll when I get home.
Tauranga. What a crazy place! For a town that small it sure does have a lot of roundabouts. But, WHY THE F$#K do they put traffic lights on them? It just defeats the purpose. I don’t want to disparage old people but I think they may be the problem here. It seemed to take forever to get through, so I was damned happy to hit the Kaimai Ranges and get out of the BOP.
No more stops until Te Kuiti where I took the pic—not sure if that was a checkpoint or just a fuel stop based on the route I had planned when I had the FJR. Better to be safe than sorry. The ride through to Turangi was cold, and when I left Taumaranui, a little damp. I never experienced the back tyre slipping on tar with the BMW, but I know that Long John Silver often talks about this phenomena. Well, it happened to me on SH41, to the point that I became a very wary traveller. It was well and truly dark, and difficult to see if the road was wet from recent rain, or just from evening dew. Whatever, I held on and made it through to the Turangi Holiday Park at 8:20 pm.
I left Turangi without food, even though I had considered stopping at the Burger Fuel. I decided to press on and eat, as well as refuel, in Taihape, at the BP. I recommend the BP pies. I usually go for the New York Peppered Steak, but it appeared that everyone else had beaten me to it, so I filled my face with a Steak and Cheese. The ride through to Cheltenham was fraught with danger at every turn, at least that’s what it felt like. The roads through the northern Manawatu are not made for night time riding, no matter how good your lighting is.
Heading through to Rangiwahia and the Pohangina Bridge was slow going for me. A lot of possums, one of which I came very close to hitting. Again, I wasn’t confident that the ST would run one over without incident. The BMW was OK cos it had height and I had successfully slaughtered possums on that bike. The other issue was the road appeared to have been resealed and then not swept, and in the dark it was really hard to distinguish between what was clear and what was risky. It was slow going.
I had decided to head over the Pahiatua Track, instead of the Saddle Road. The Saddle is such a bad road, regardless of the efforts they are making to improve it. I felt much more confident that I knew the Track better and so that’s where I headed. Once onto SH2 I breathed a sigh of relief that I was on very familiar roads.
I made it back to the Windfarm arriving right on 2:00am. The wind was terrific as you’re exposed to a nor-wester just before the entrance to the carpark. That was really the only wind I had to content with on the whole ride.
Made it back home at 3.30 am on Sunday morning, having ridden around 1,800 km all up in the 23 hours. I was dog-tired when I pulled up to the garage, and struggled to keep the bike upright as I fossicked in my pocket for the garage door opener.
But, I think I’m sold on the ST. It’s a very comfortable ride, and even in moderate rain, I remained dry with the huge electric windscreen shielding me from the elements. Apparently, I’m not getting the fuel range I should expect, so this weekend I’ll check the air filter. It’s either that or I’m an inefficient rider. It could be both.
Hopefully this ride will count so I can get that coveted NI1600 cloth badge. I have the T-shirt, and I’ve ridden the route one and a half times, so I reckon I deserve it.
If anyone is interested I run a Garmin 590LM, and a Samsung S7 Edge which runs Bubbler for Spotwalla tracking (as above) as well as Geo Tracker for a backup track recorder. Geo Tracker gives good stats on elevation, route, speed, averages etc. It’s a good tool to make sure you’re sticking to your targets.
I can’t show you the stats page as it may incriminate me, but my moving average was 89kph for the trip, over the 1,700km that I recorded.