I’ve had two long rides only one month apart. First, the North Island 1600 (1,600 kms in less than 24 hours) and now, the Super Thou (1,000km in 14 hours).
Super Thou sounds easy, right? I worked out I needed a moving average of 71.5 kph which is 4.5km faster per hour than the NI1600. That’s with no stops for fuel or food. My tank is only 17 litres, and I can only do around 320km per tank.
With stops my average moving speed needs to be a lot higher than 71.5kph. In fact if I have 1.5 hours of stops (taking photos at checkpoints and getting petrol) means I need that average to increase to 80kph and that’s just to make it back dead on time. No wiggle room. Not a sausage.
Still I thought, this is easily doable. I always complete a 1600 ride with a few hours to spare. What’s so difficult?
Well, the issue with this ride was it was a ‘special’ ride, celebrating ten years of the 1K ride for charity. It was billed as being ‘technically challenging’. Definition of a technical ride = a lot of corners. A lot of corners!! You need a good riding technique to maintain that required moving average over roads which are difficult (for me at least) to ride fast on.
The main requirement for the Super Thou was that was that every rider attempting it had to have previously completed a long distance ride – either a Grand Challenge, a NI1600, or a TT2000. I qualified, but it didn’t mean that I was going to be any good at it. If I’m honest I’m not a very technical rider. More a ‘hop on and go rider’. I’m certainly not fast despite the fact that I already have two speeding tickets this year.
The ride began from the Caltex Rimutaka. Departure was between 6.30am and 7.00am. I arrived at 6.40am to find the forecourt empty except for Anne sitting forlorn and alone over by the main door. I wandered over.
“Where is everyone?” I asked.
“They were all here before me and I arrived at 5.30am!”
Bugger me I thought. I’m already at the back of the pack, and I haven’t started.
I got my blue and white plastic thingamy bob and tied it to the handle of my top box. I pulled out of the forecourt at 6:39 am. Off I went up the Rimutakas. It was a nice early morning. First stop was Castlepoint.
I had fuel in the tank and decided I should fill up in Masterton on the way to Castlepoint. I took the bypass through Masterton, and filled up at that little Mobil. The route that way is a little quicker than tootling through the main Masterton roads.
Heading out to Castlepoint was pleasant. No rain, and no bright sunshine. I pulled up at the checkpoint at 8:23 am. There were three riders there from the 1K ride as well as James Riley who came over to say hi. I had left the run sheet on my kitchen table so was going on my memory of what the photo check points looked like. I wondered if that first carpark was the right spot as the lighthouse looked too far away. I took a tiki tour to the end of the road and got a back up photo from there.
The three 1K riders, and James had left by the time I returned. James and Monika Smaling had just left before me. I caught and overtook Monika on the way to the Langdale Road turnoff. James waited at the intersection for Monika to catch up as I headed off along the track to Riversdale.
I overtook the other three riders who appeared to be riding very gingerly along what proved to be a patchy ill-formed, but ‘technical’ track. I arrived at Riversdale Beach store at 9:08 am. Andrew Thomson (I think it was him) was at the store fiddling with his GoPro. Monika and James arrived as I took off heading for Pongaroa and Checkpoint 3.
Because I’d got petrol back in Masterton I thought for some strange reason I’d make it through the next two checkpoints before filling up at the next logical stop which I figured was Woodville. Yeah right.
By now I was riding completely alone, and maintaining a nice clip (for me). I had a few hairy moments not concentrating. The road was greasy, and there was loose grit on a lot of the corners. One bend I came around on the wrong side of the road, not at a great speed but it gave me a fright. I arrived in Pongaroa half expecting to see other riders. No-one. It was 10:43 am.
I was starving so went into that welcoming store (not) and bought the second-to-last mince and cheese pie. The woman who served me had no conversation. I expected she might have mentioned that there were a lot of motorbikes passing through this morning, but no. She took my $4, I sat at a table, gobbled my pie and buggered off.
The road from Pongaroa to Pahiatua was greasy. It had been raining – in fact at times there was a light drizzle. I often think I’d rather have it pissing down or not raining at all. Greasy roads are unpredictable, and sure enough every now and then I’d hit a shiny tar spot and do a little sideways shuffle.
I quickly realised that I wasn’t going to make it to Woodville and that I’d need to re-fuel in Pahiatua. In fact, I was worried back in Pongaroa that I didn’t have enough gas in the tank to even get to Pahiatua.
The Pahiatua Pongaroa road exits onto State Highway 2 north of Pahiatua. I turned left and realised that I needed to go all the way through town to the BP to refuel which added time to my ride. Refuel happened at 11:38 am. I still hadn’t had my self-inflicted one coffee for the day. Grrr.
Headed over the Pahiatua saddle. Near the summit I passed James Riley heading in the opposite direction, obviously having completed his Aokautere stop and then deciding to go back over rather than through the Manawatu Gorge. (This was confirmed on Facebook a couple of days later).
I arrived at Aokautere at 12:08 pm. I quickly took my snap and legged it towards the gorge. I love that road so was happy even if going back over the saddle proved to be the quickest option.
Made it all the way to Dannevirke before my coffee cravings got the better of me. I stopped at the best looking café I could find. There are a lot of bad cafés in Dannevirke and I didn’t want to waste my only coffee for the day on some shit in a cup. I wandered in and discovered the barista had tattoos. Surely that’s a sign she’s going to make a decent flat white? I was correct. I sat on a park bench across the road and ate a muffin and drank my coffee as icing sugar from the muffin sprinkled down my front. The time was now 12:43 pm.
The roads from here are very familiar to me. My 87 year old mother lives in Waipukurau and it was her birthday the next day. I had already decided I couldn’t stop to wish her happy birthday for Sunday, so snuck through the heavy traffic bypass in Waipukurau to avoid detection.
Arrived at Patangata Tavern at around 1:50 pm. I did a piece to camera for my video and was further waylaid by an interested spectator who wanted to talk about his riding exploits back in the ’70’s. I politely excused myself telling him I was on a “Mission from God” and that I was already behind time – by about 45 minutes so far.
The ride along Middle Road was beautiful. The landscape is wide and, well, it’s just bloody nice. Popped out onto State Highway 2 near Paki Paki at around 2:15 pm.
I needed more petrol to get me across the Napier Taihape road. I haven’t learnt my lesson here. There are very few petrol stations to the east of Hastings. I rode past the prison and out towards Fernhill, then along State Highway 50. The lack of fuel meant I needed to head into Taradale meaning I rode past the Gentle Annie turn off (bugger) to refuel, then did a U-turn and rode all the way back to begin the ride to Taihape. It added around 15 minutes to my ride.
I love the Gentle Annie and have ridden it many times. I rode it once years ago from Taihape to Napier when there was still that 25km of gravel. It was a terrible ride. The gravel was on the steepest sections of the road, and there was nothing more terrifying that coming down what felt like a 45 degree slope to a tight right hander on a very badly formed road and having no idea how to stop, or slow down, or even get round the corner. I’m a little bit better now, but 10 years ago it was scary.
Heading East to West is a really nice way to do it. There’s something very remote about that part of the country. A good place to commit a murder and hide a body. At the time I rode through there were at least two dodgy looking 4WD vehicles parked on the side of the road with dodgy looking inhabitants clearly up to secretive and murderous deeds. I ignored them and kept going.
The ride across the plateau towards Taihape is stupendous. The sky was big and angry looking. It felt like I was riding between rain clouds, dodging the wet. That wasn’t to last. The rain started, and it kept going – so much so that I looked for shelter to pull over and put my rain-suit on.
Emerged onto SH1 around 4:23 pm. For some reason, and I might be right, but then again maybe not, I decided to ride quickly through Waiouru and approach Fields Track via Whangaehu Valley Road instead of Waiaruhe Road. Now with the benefit of hindsight I realise that was a folly. Whangaehu Road had about eight kilometres of road works which slowed me down a little and made the trip a little bit longer. I made it to the Checkpoint at the beginning of Fields Track at around 5:00 pm. In retrospect it felt a lot longer than that.
From then the trip down the Paraparas, through Whanganui, then Bulls and Foxton was pretty uneventful. The wind on the Foxton Straight was as bad as it usually is – unpleasant but not unexpected. Still wary of traffic cops, and without a radar detector I tried to keep behind a speeding Ford ute but the strong westerlies put paid to that and I lost him and so was forced to reduce speed to just above the legal limit. I was glad of that as there was a cop positioned on the side of the road just north of Foxton.
I arrived at the Back Bencher at 8:18 pm a little bit buggered and behind time, but within the fourteen hour time limit. Anne gave me my badge, I said a few words to John, and then left to head home and watch the fireworks at 9:00 pm.
I reckon I’ll be a little better prepared next time. I’d had a shit of a week at work before the ride, and while it’s no excuse I could have done better on my organisation of fuel and rest stops. Luckily I have video to remind me of what I can’t remember, and exploits of others recorded on other blogs to relive my own experiences, even though I was (I think) around two hours behind others.
I’ll be back next year for another challenging ride. If we’re not challenged then we’re not learning are we?