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Jeff’s Bike – Jeff’s Bike Blog: Some Tour Aotearoa links

Training for the Tour Aotearoa
 For some of you preparing for a bikepacking event is a bit new. 3000 kilometres is a long way, but the more prepared you are, the more fun it will be. There is a saying that goes “any plan is better than no plan”.

Looking at Kiwi options for bikepacking bags/mounts

Tour Aotearoa 2016 – bikepacking the length of New Zealand…
The Tour Aotearoa was a vehicle for the organiser Jonathan Kennett to introduce a new cycle path from the northern most tip of the country to …

Jeff and Nils, at Pouto. Photo Matt Dewes

Nil’s bike – Tour Aotearoa 2016
Like me, Nils van der Heide lives in Wellington, and yet I only met him once before the 2016 Tour Aotearoa. His bike was a bit different to most, …

Tour Aotearoa Sports Illustrated Bikini edition – 4 different rigs
Feb 14, 2016 … Building a bike for the Tour Aotearoa is not that easy. With the TA just around the corner ( feb 21 for wave 1) we have finally got to the pointy …

Joes bike – Tour Aotearoa 2016
I met Joe Jagusch while waiting for someone else to finish the Tour Aotearoa the other day. I was impressed by his inventive bike build.

Tour Aotearoa 2018, a short re-cap.

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Jeff’s Bike – The Internet, social media and the Kiwi Brevet

 The following is a brief story of my introduction to the Internet and its impact on the Kiwi Brevet via social media.

My first introduction to the “Net” came in the late 80’s where I became aware of email at my work-place, and then the Usenet. The Usenet was a bit like a series of  “bulletin boards” where there were topics of interest for people to join, or even create, like and alt.binaries.misc. There was a strict etiquette and FAQs, and pecking orders with a user-base that was either from an educational, science or military background, as these people were usually the only ones with access. This lead to the idea that the  people using this “thing” were relatively intelligent. There were no trolls as such, but there was the odd bit of “flaming”. FAQ and Flaming were probably terms that came out of the Usenet.

The Mosaic Browser home page

This content was all viewed on the command line… you know, white or green text on a black background. The first web browser wasn’t yet available and most people were viewing this stuff on monitors hooked into main-frame computers because there weren’t that many PC’s about.

Many workplaces eventually shifted to PC’s and in 1993 the first web browser “Mosaic” was available.

In those days the world wide web was so small that there was a list of new websites each week, and even an Internet yellow pages was published annually.

VORB forum

Out of the world wide web came web-based forums, and Paul Kennett started the NZ mountain bike forum on  and later on Tama Easton started VORB. These forums were a lot more accessible and easier to use than the cryptic Usenet or bulletin-board type affairs and the Internet soon became frequented by people less likely to be nerds, but still keen on sharing and learning new things.

In 1999 I discovered Pyra’s Blogger, and used it as a CMS (content management system) for a few sites. Kashi Leuchs (NZ’s top MTBer) and the Wellington Vets Cycling Club to name a few.

Blogger by Pyra, before Google

Blogging became a bit of a “thing” but I didn’t start doing it myself for quite a while as I didn’t think I had anything to say that anyone else wanted to hear. Eventually my fear of strangers knowing stuff about me passed but I still didn’t put anything on it about my family.

Web-based Forums on any number of themes ruled for many years, and then in 2004 a thing called Facebook arrived. Most people didn’t “get it” to start with and figured it was a place where “people without actual lives” could hang out. In 2006 Twitter was the new kid on the block and once again it took a while to figure out just how to use it and how to get the most out of it, as a “reader” or “poster” and the delineation between the SMS part of it and the internet part of it added another layer of confusion.

All of a sudden no one was worried about privacy anymore. In 2007 the Iphone launched and then in 2010 fortunately Instagram appeared on the scene as an app to enable Iphone users to share their images. Android users had been able to share photos since 2008 but there wasn’t a personal “stream” available for them, and Instagram for Android followed later.

With the advent of tablets (the Ipad) in 2010 the emphasis shifted totally from a web base to an app base with increasing numbers of the people using phones and tablets to get their information fix instead of their desktops. In early 2014 Mobile internet usage passed desktop usage in the US.

Blogging was being replaced by Tweeting, Instagramming and Facebooking and SMS texting was being replaced by snapchatting, vibering and gchatting. The line between cellular and internet based networks was becoming blurred. In a few years time I imagine the new users wont know how to distinguish between them.

1993 Mosaic web browser launched
      1999 Blogger
           2004 Facebook
             2006 Twitter
              2007 Iphone
                 2010 Instagram
                 2010 Ipad

Q. How useful are these new “media” as a record of our lives; who holds the information and is it accessible by us, our friends, or only the clients of the “media platform”?

I can go back to the Usenet archives and find every silly question I asked in the late 80s; I am sure I could  go to the Vorb forums and find similar things. (NB, Google seems to be looking after the Usenet archives at the moment. Maybe we should be worried.)

In 2002 Google brought Blogger from Pyra and it became part of the massive Google information gathering empire. Every thing I ever posted on Blogger is still out there and probably by virtue of its association with Google it is all completely searchable. Blogger have dropped the ball as far as keeping up with their “Blogging” competition but they were probably thinking that Google + wasn’t going to be so slow to catch on.

How searchable is your content?
How searchable is Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram? I’ve heard Facebook is used as an example of poor usability so it is possible that I am just not skilled enough to find something I saw an hour earlier on FB, let alone a week later. There is no doubt that Facebook itself knows where everything is but that is for them and their clients to know. Maybe that will change?

On Twitter, it seems it is searchable using tags, and you can just scroll down a person’s feed for as long as you can be bothered until you get to the end of their timeline. Instagram is similar although Instagram is an example of the shift to a complete mobile (phone and tablet) focus. You cannot (officially) upload photos to Instagram via the desktop, or search Instagram via the web directly, although you can browse a persons “stream”. Currently there are 3rd party sites (like ICONOSQUARE) that will allow you to search Instagram, but that’s not to say that this feature will remain if Instagram pulls their card, like Twitter did to companies using their API. You can search Instagram via hash tags or users on the mobile app, but not on the desk-top.

An example of the rapidly changing face of Social media can be seen over the last 5 years since the first Kiwi Brevet.

The first Kiwi Brevet’s web presence  started as a blog using the Blogger platform in 2009, and was promoted using the VORB Mountainbiking forum. For this, and the next Kiwi Brevet, riders shared their experiences by writing their own blogs, many of which are still linked to via the Kiwi Brevet blog.

For the 2nd Kiwi Brevet in 2012 there was less talk on the forums, but it was still the go to place for  information, along with the actual Kiwi Brevet blog which became a portal of sorts. More individual rider blog links were added. The event organisers used Twitter to share news and updates and riders were encouraged to tweet using the KiwiBrevet hash tag.

For the 3rd Kiwi Brevet in 2014 the VORB forum got a lot less use and and Facebook had taken over as the method of sharing progress during the event. With linked “apps” it was possible to post to a Blog, Facebook and Twitter simultaneously. The blog was also populated with news as it happened and riders were still blogging about their experiences afterwards.

For the 4th Kiwi Brevet in 2015 Facebook and Instagram had taken over pretty much from the VORB forum. Despite the unwieldiness of Facebook, it had the numbers and for the people who could figure out how to do it, they could follow their friend’s progress, or befriend the organiser and follow his commentary during the Brevet. Instagram was also very popular using the KiwiBrevet tag, and the use of a 3rd party aggregator meant that people who were not actually on Instagram could also see the posted images that were uploaded. The blog was added to with news as it happened as usual.

The big losers in 2015 were the forums, and Blogs. So far in 2015 we have only 3 known blogs. In 2015 there were over 261 Instagram posts, but only 7 Twitter posts. It looks like people have opted for the quick and easy, formats Facebook and Instagram, with Instagram being the only one that offers a useful record from an outsiders view point, provided they know how to use a hash aggregator. It would be difficult to say how many comments or views Facebook has had.

There is an element of gear-freaking in Bikepacking so the rider/gear profiles have been very popular on the Kiwi Brevet Blog, although hits have come down over the years as people become more comfortable with finding their gear selections. Page views on the 2012 profiles are at 16,000 hits, which has dropped down to 5,600 for 2014 and 3,169 for 2015.

               Year VORB posts VORB views Blogs Tweets Instagram posts
2010 825 59,317 7 0 0
2012 465 33,480 8 85 0
2014 296 18,000 8 7 17
2015 30 3,174 3 8 261
The Blue-dots that the blue-dot junkies follow for 4-8 days in February!

One thing that has remained steadily popular and has done more than anything to spread the bikepacking phenomenon are the spot tracking websites that allow people to watch the rider’s progress via the GPS trackers that they carry with them. The followers; known as blue-dot junkies, can share in the excitement as their loved ones ride on into the dark, or take wrong turns down no-exit roads! It also gives a level of protection to the riders as they are able to press a button on the device if they are in peril.

Without the spot-trackers the Kiwi-brevet would have had limited interest as a spectator sport. In 2015 a different spot tracking service was used to previous years.

Things change quickly in the Social media world and we don’t know what is around the corner, but I cant help but think that we need something less cumbersome and more open than Facebook to build the community for these events, if you know of anything that is out there give me a comment or email me via the form. It would be nice to take back control of our content.

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Jeff’s Bike – Kiwi Brevet kit evaluation 2014

Here is some gear geekage and ramblings from my 2014 Kiwi Brevet, recorded in no particular order. A few people have asked for a list of kit, but lists are pretty boring so here are some of my views on different bits.

Ayup with the large battery

I used the older Ayup lights with the weaker bulbs and run them with the multi-strength battery (on low) to draw even less power. If Ayup made a light with a single bulb I would probably use that instead. For the 4 and a half days of this years Kiwi Brevet I used only 1 and a half of the smaller Ayup batteries, although I also had another of the larger batteries spare. This was riding to the letter of the law and having 6 hours a day resting. Lighting demands for Bikepacking are not great, because generally you are not going that fast. If you had to have only one light, as I did, its best mounted on your head as it can be a big help when setting up and breaking camp in the dark, as it often is, when you are riding 18 hours a day : ) In a world where the electrical items you buy can often end up as landfill within months, the Ayups are the most resilient piece of electrical kit I have ever owned. The lamp and large battery above was purchased in 2008.


Garmin Etrex 20

My Garmin Etrex 20 was great and with judicious usage I only went through 1 set of batteries which died in the last few kms of the last day. The Etrex 20 was recommended to me by Geoff Blanc after the 2nd Kiwi Brevet because:
1 – It has the longest burn time of any modern GPS, (25 hrs).
2 – The batteries are replaceable, (I used 2 x lithium AA’s, the same as my camera took). It is not the most intuitive GPS at first, and it does not have all the flash online connectivity of the later models, but it does the basics well. The best comparison would be like comparing your old Nokia bar cell phone to a modern smart phone. You know which one is going to have the better battery life and be the most robust.

Spot trackers
The spot tracker I had used the AAA lithiums and for me lasted the whole 4.5 days. I had another set spare.

A simple one bought from Cash converters running on AA lithiums, same as the GPS.

Samsung Galaxy S2 with a spare $35 chinese battery bank, good for maybe 1.5 charges. Probably for weight and bulk reasons a couple of spare phone batteries would be another option. The phone was really there for social media purposes, email-to-blog/FaceBook/Twitter and got very little usage.

As you can see there are a lot of batteries in there, and batteries are heavy. If you were not interested in recording your trip you could save a fair bit of weight. Maps are also heavy and take up a lot of room as well, so if you have faith in electronics then you can save on some bulk. I think Thomas Lindup went fully electronic with an Iphone with solar powered battery-pack, as did Simon Morton, and a few others experimented with solar charging with differing degrees of success.

The bulk of it
Look at a loaded bike, visually at least half of the luggage you are looking at is your sleeping kit.

Sleeping bag, bivvy sack and bedroll on the front. The rest on the back.

Tent/bivvy sack, sleeping bag/liner and sleeping roll/mat. Its a lot of bulk and usually takes up one whole end of your bike. If you are confident in your pre-booked accommodation and your ability to get there  (be wary of accommodation anxiety – stress caused by trying to meet a predestined location at a certain time)  you can drop all this kit. That is not something I would do or recommend, but for a seasoned campaigner in a hurry, or a novice on a cruisey schedule it is definitely an option. Part of the allure of Bikepacking for me is the idea of being self sufficient, but that’s just my take. If you are not as fit, then credit-card touring is a great way to get started. Even if you are traveling light you should still have an emergency blanket, rain coat and a puffer jacket in my view.

I have a bit of a phobia about getting saddle soils (a boil) so I always take spare shorts, and a top, and antiseptic soap, and wash the used clothes each evening alternating with fresh ones. Some people don’t bother, but many of them have their own special “procedure” to insure that nothing untoward happens in the nether regions. Apparently there has been a lot written about this area but I haven’t come across it yet, if I find anything I will link to it. Veteran Endurance record holder Jay Petervary did the Tour Divide on the one pair of shorts….. I also met several people doing the Kiwi Brevet who did not even use any chamois cream !


The famous Brooks B-17 .
Is it all it’s made out to be?

How much you enjoy your bike packing experience can often come down to how well your butt reacts. It’s pretty hard to train for the kind of a work-out its going to get, because issues don’t really start until after a couple of days. Unless you are doing two-day training rides you are not really going to know what to expect. One thing that seems to be consistent, 95% of the people using the Brooks saddles seem to have minimal problems, if any. Either that or they don’t want to admit that the expensive heavy saddle they bought is a dud!  It appears the most popular Brooks saddle is the B-17. The weight of these saddles is what puts most people off them, and not surprisingly, at around 500 grams that’s about double the weight of most saddles. But put another way, its only about the weight of a small water bottle. And if it means you don’t get a sore bum then I’m pretty sure at day 3 you’d be happy to have one.

Brooks saddle owners do tend to rave about them a bit and Brooks try sell the whole Olde Worlde british culture of the bicycle thing. It’s a bit like having pet Seamonkeys. You have to feed them the special Brooks proofide and put on the special seat cover in the rain etc. I’m not sure how many people actually do this  : )  Everyone has a favourite saddle but in my experience so far, after 3 days most bums are mincemeat. I will be trying a Brooks next time. I recently brought a Brooks Swift, and after the breaking in period, going back to my original brevet saddle, a Specialized Toupe, I couldnt believe how terrible the Toupe felt, and that was my second favourite seat to my Fizik Gobi !

Rigid vs hardtail vs fully. I have have tried both extremes, twice in the Kiwi Brevet I have used a 26inch full suspension bike, (Santa Cruz Superlight) and this last time I used a rigid drop-barred 29er (Surly Karate Monkey). No matter what you use, at some stage, someone else will always be on a better option. They all have their pros and cons. As I get older I am thinking the plushness of a fully has its advantages, and next time I will be on a fully 29er, although a hardtail 29er would probably be just about as good.

The hard-core bikepackers tend to favour fully rigid 29er bikes because they are lighter, and potentially simpler, but New Zealand has some terrain that is a lot more fun on a suspended bike, and I personally have never felt that having a heavier bike slowed me down in any way. I think there has to be a pretty big weight differential between two bikes in order for it to make a difference. While there are some steep pinches in the Kiwi Brevet, its not like you are grovelling uphill for 3 hours at a time in your granny gear. One way of limiting weight is to not carry so much water. This is the exact opposite of what I do. I will have 3 or 4 bottles and they will be full most of the time. Not that intelligent, but safe. This contrasts with my Kiwi Brevet riding partner Brian who would take minimal water on, because he was confident in his ability to pick safe streams to drink out of, and would even go as far as to not full his bottles up at the bottom of a climb if he knew there was a stream on the other side. Knowledge is power : )

See below some bike weights from Team Voodoo Lounge. All of these guys had done at least one Kiwi Brevet before except Calum, and Simon, and Simon doesn’t muck about and did hours of gear testing, research and tire squeezing.

18 kgs. Thomas, rigid, carbon
20 kgs. Andy, hardtail alloy
21 kgs. Jeff, rigid, steel, drop-barred
22 kgs, Calum, hardtail, alloy
22 kgs, Simon, hardtail, alloy
27 kgs, Tor, rigid alloy.

These weights are “dry” for bikes, minus the full water-bottles and and back-packs people might have been wearing, but with all bags attached. From memory all the bikes were 29ers. Compare these weights to Dave Sharpe’s disc equipped Carbon Cyclo-cross Hakkalugi which weighed in at 12.4 kgs. It takes a very motivated person to want to ride hours of gnarly single-track on 33 millimetre tyres though. The plus side is when you hit the gravel or tar-seal its game-on!


Salsa Woodchipper, trimmed .

I think Tor and Simon were running Jones H-bar styled set-ups while everyone else was on more standard flat-bars, except for my Salsa Woodchipper drop-bar. If you were to ride 1000kms in 4-5 days with just a set of flat bars, then there is no doubt you would do some damage, at least temporarily, to your hands in the way of numbness. A sensible bare minimum is a flat bar with bar-ends, but a very good addition is an aero bar which can also be used to tie a front bag onto. Basically you just need a couple of different positions to rest your hands. A drop-bar or a Jones H-bar offers many positions and the Jones bar has plenty of mount points for electronic gizmos and bags. On a drop-bar you will have to run road-style brake/shifters while on a Jones you can run standard MTB stuff. There are a lot more variations in handlebars out there today than there were a couple of years ago. For drop-bar usuage SRAM is actually the best in my view, as all their road kit has the same cable pull as their MTB stuff. Shimano on the other hand seems to have gone out of their way to make stuff incompatible between road and off-road on their later stuff.

Tyres are a very personal thing and can be the cause of much frustration.I saw several people who suffered catastrophic tire delaminations. This shouldn’t happen, but if it is ever going to happen, it will happen on the Kiwi Brevet where you are exposed to all kinds of wildly varying terrain. Be wary that some tyres are not supposed to be used with tubeless sealant in them. I was very very happy with my Stans Ravens which are a very light tire that roll amazingly fast. To look at them offers no clue as to their speed and grip. I wouldn’t choose a tire based on weight, but rolling resistance can be a big thing. My only gripe was that I spent so much time making my non-tubeless rims, tubeless-ready, and to then suffer a sidewall pin-prick puncture in the North Bank rock garden. Remember that tubeless tires only really self-seal on punctures that happen on the “bottom” of the tire, not the sidewall.

One set-up that really impressed me was that of Peter Maindonald who ran UST rims with burly UST tires that he could air up with a hand-pump. No risks there. Obviously you always take a couple of spare tubes and a pump that wont unwind your tubeless valve-cores when you undo it. Either that or you make sure the cores are done up tight. Some people will take one full size tube and one a 26er which are a lot smaller and lighter but will fit in an emergency. I always take two tire boots made from old road tires and usually end up giving one to someone else.

Peter Maindonalds rig. Well-specced and it felt very balanced and light.

The unforeseen
I had a few issues, some of which were possibly my own fault. I used a set of pedals that were not really up to the task, and when one of them imploded while riding up the steepest sealed section of the course I was very lucky to salvage my ride due to the kindness of a local at Arthurs Pass. Had I been riding shimano SPDs I could have just plonked on one of his, but I wasn’t. I was on Crank Bros Candys so I was more than happy to throw a flat pedal with toe-clips on my left side and get moving again. The next day in the technical single track of the Wharfdale I was unlucky to flick up a branch which snagged in my drive-train and mangled my rear derailler. Fortunately my Karate Monkey had horizontal drop-outs, so I was able to single-speed the frame and do the next day and a half in one gear at a time. If I was on my Santa Cruz Superlight, I would have just torn off my hanger, which is a sacrifical point on those frames, which would have saved my derailleur. I always travel with a spare hanger. You’d be silly not to if you have the option. The adaptability of the Karate Monkey definitely saved my butt for sure. There are emergency derailler hangers that can also be packed.

For the first time ever in the Kiwi Brevet I got really bad Achilles pain. I still dont know why. I was probably fitter than I had been before but there were too many variables. An extra 70kms riding a day. Different pedals, a different bike, different shoes, different bars. It started on day two so it wasn’t the toe-clip or the single-speeding to blame. It took me 3 months to recover fully, doing stretches twice a day, so you don’t want to go there.

Old tried and true stuff
The bullet-proof  Freeload rack. Unbreakable. The 3/4s Thermarest sleeping mat was rock solid, although I lusted after Steves one, which looked like this. It was insanely light and looked as comfy as hell. Brian pointed out that his cheap foam bedroll was a lot lighter than mine, but it also stuck out in the air a fair bit creating a bit of drag in my view.  My simple bivvy sack did its job but we were lucky to have good weather.

See below Simon’s tent which folded down to nothing and did not stick out in the wind too much when packed on his bike.

Simon does a tent test pre-brevet. Tor and Thomas give advice. It looks a lot more luxurious than my bivvy sack : )

Til next time!

If you want to know more about the event that inspired the Kiwi Brevet, (the Tour Divide), then follow the trackers here as it the main event is happening right now. 27/06/2014. There are currently a couple of Kiwis in the top 10. The gossip can be found on the forum here.

If you are interested in doing the full length of New Zealand equivalent to the Tour Divide in 2016, then go here

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Jeff’s Bike – Kiwi Brevet 2014 long player

Surly Karate Monkey

The Kiwi Brevet is an 1100 km cross country event designed to give people an experience similar to what its creator Simon Kennett had when he first did the Tour Divide. This years was the third, and possibly last unless someone else steps forward to organise it. There is also talk of a length of New Zealand (LONZ) Brevet in 2016 if there is interest.

In the past years I have ridden with a group of friends and had an amazing time. Laughs aplenty and time to take heaps of photos and even do a bit of blogging on the run. This time I was keen to go a bit faster, and if necessary ride by myself. I found this idea a bit scary but you don’t know if you don’t try. The other main difference this time was that I was riding my drop-barred 29 inch Surly Karate Monkey, instead of my 26 inch Santa Cruz Superlight full suspension bike of the two previous Brevets. How would it stack up? Rollability of the larger wheels vs the comfort of full suspension.

Team Voodoo Lounge, Calum, Tor, Simon, Thomas, Andy, Jeff

On the way over from Wellington on the Blue Bridge ferry Michael Norris and Kirby Knowles introduced themselves to me. They’d over come from New Castle in Australia and were on fullies with some pretty flash but light-weight kit. I warned them about day one and what the KiwiBrovet guys from 2010 said about the Port Underwood climbs. They were not scared as they had done plenty of big hills in Oz, and Kirby was a highly ranked 24 hour racer back in Oz. We ended up having them around for Pizza and beers at the Voodoo Lounge on the friday night. We had a full house with Andy King, Tor Meulengracht-Madsen, Calum Chamberlain, Thomas Lindup and Simon Morton. We’d opted for a big cooked brekkie that morning and everyone pitched in, with Simon making an amazing coffee brew with his “coffee in a billy” style skills.

Heading to Port Underwood, day 1. Calum, Andy, Jeff – Photo from Bike-Fit Marlborough

Day 1. Blenheim to Wakefield Domain
I was outside Bikefit Marlborough picking up some last minute things when I noticed a small note my daughter had hidden on my kit. It was a lovely way to start the day. After the usual photo ops we were led out on the way to Port Underwood. I watched Dave Sharpe make his move and opted to hang back and catch his followers later when they blew up! Ha ha. I don’t think many riders there knew what Dave was capable of. I hit the bottom of the hill and poured on the gas. I was riding with Simon Kennett, Steve Halligan and David Drake until Davids tire went bang in a most spectacular fashion. I carried on and diced with Steve for some time until I got away on the last tarseal decent, 4 very steep hills later. I was cruising through Waikawa Bay when I saw the Red and Black livery of the Revolution Cycles crew. It could only be Thomas…. I gassed it up and screamed STRAVA!!!! into his ear as I blew past. When I finally stopped laughing we continued riding to Picton where we did a very quick stop and picked up some extra water and drink. Apparently international adventure racer Nathan Faave cruised by while we were restocking.

Thomas and photo-ops at foot of Mangatapu

Thomas and I worked together through the Queen Charlotte Sound and Havelock where we passed Cliff Clermont replenishing supplies at the foursquare. We got to Pelorus and stocked up some more just in case. The Mangatapu was in great condition and we reached the 750 metre summit at around 7.30 pm I think, with Cliff catching us on the way. He was climbing really well but we nearly recaught him near the summit.

Thomas and I were both on rigid bikes so the very rough decent into the Maitai Valley before Nelson was less fun that it might have been. As we carried our bikes over the final gate we were joined by David Drake, Steve Halligan and Brian Alder. Brian said he knew where we could get good Kebabs if we wanted to follow him. Great idea. We put our heads down and I had a bit of a crash where I wiped out on the gravelly centre line of the road and went into the bank. No major problems, but my first crash of many.

While eating my Kebab I could see that Brian had similar plans to what I had. Press on a bit further and get a bit of a jump on the rest who were likely to be staying in accommodation offered by locals who were doing the Brevet but wanting to stay in their own houses. I was thinking of Golden Downs, as apparently was Nathan Faave, but we opted for the relatively known luxury of Wakefield Domain where we bivvied out and had a good nights sleep with a toilet and water tap nearby. Somehow we had cranked out 199kms since lunchtime in Blenheim.

Day 2. Wakefield to Big River hut Waiuta
I think we rolled out at 5.30. And we quickly got into the groove. We started pretty hard actually,  and Thomas, who had not had a good nights sleep in his bivvy sack, (no sleeping bag) and is not a morning  person by any measure soon got dropped on a roller. I felt a pang of sadness as I looked behind to see him disappear into the background, a lot like Sandra Bullock looking at George Clooney disappear in Gravity ; ) We got to St Arnaud and were just about to leave when David Drake and Russell Shanks turned up. Russell quickly fueled up and joined us while David went looking for a coffee. Russell (from Pleasant point Timaru) was a tank on the flat and we all traded turns until we hit the Porika track which was a really good gnarly climb. I am pretty sure Steve cleaned the entire climb while I struggled a bit with the last couple of hundred metres. My descending sucked as my rigid bike tended to bounce off the trail which was particularly rough this time on the run down to the Braeburn track. In the previous Brevet, running in the opposite direction, Dave Sharpe had all but cleaned this side of the Porika with only one dab.

By the time I got off the fast and fun Braeburn Track the others were gone so I switched on my GPS and followed the coloured line. I was riding by myself and loving it. It was very hot and I was keen to get back to the group so as soon as I got to Murch I grabbed some food, downed a 600ml bottle of iced coffee milk and took off again. I rounded the corner and heard the others yell out at me from a nearby cafe. They were having a sit-down lunch. I tried to join in but I suddenly felt very queasy as the milk sat heavy in my stomach.

Brian Alder, Cliff Clermont, Steve Halligan

Nothing much happened as we rolled out through the Matukituki, on through the Maruia and Rahu saddles and descended into a head wind into Reefton. Compare this to previous times where we were chased by a baby deer, and were treated to Jonty demonstrating how to clean his teeth while riding while the others sparked up their cleats on the descents! Maybe we were too old and boring? The average age for the 4 of us was 45 after all! We had a good stop at Reefton for fish and chips before we went into the Waiuta with the aim of reaching the Big River Hut. I admit to sucking quite badly on the final push into the hut. I was really missing the added traction control you tend to get with a fully and I was completely bushed when we snuck in at around 11pm. 270+ kms that day. A pretty tough day with a fair bit of climbing I reckon.

Day 3. Waiuta to View Hill Domain

Steve, Cliff and Brian at Ikamatua

We had a late start and snuck out at 6am because as Brian said, it would be difficult to see well in the bush. I rode for about 4 metres before doing a classic endo down the bank which started the day with a laugh. It was a shame to be riding the Waiuta so early in the day with poor visibility, its just so beautiful in there,  but the track was in great condition, especially compared to the first Kiwi Brevet in 2010 where it was many people’s worst nightmare. We got through the Waiuta ghost town with no major dramas and the guys seemed impressed that my grandfather was the butcher there and my mother went to school there. Just how old was I? Before long were were at the Ikamatua pub stocking up and checking in on our phones. It appeared that overnight Thomas had caught and passed us as we lay sleeping, and Nathan Faave had blown his rear hub and had detoured to Greymouth to get it fixed. We didn’t know if he was ahead of or behind us. We were doing the gravel section between Stillwater and Jacksons and trying to guess who was responsible for the crazy tire tracks that were meandering all over the road. We found out eventually when we spied what appeared to be a bunch of old clothes on the side of the road. It was Thomas, sleeping on the roadside. He’d missed the Big River Hut where we were staying, tried to sleep in the bush which was too cold for his kit, and wrecked his tire bead. He was whacked. We tried to convince him to back track to Greymouth to get a new tire but he elected not to, wrapping his tire and rim in insulation tape and soldiering on. He eventually got as far as The Wharfdale before his wheel eventually broke.

Thomas wakes after a nap on roadside.

There were dramas aplenty in store for me as we were riding up the Viaduct in the Otira Gorge. It was a stinking hot day, but we had a cool tail wind, so not all was bad, until my left pedal sheared off. At first I thought I had unclipped but Steve pointed out that my pedal had broken off and lay centimetres from the edge of the drop-off. I slid it back on and pedalled while forcing my leg in so that it wouldn’t fall off again. Obviously not a sustainable option. We pulled in at Arthurs pass. I was quite calm considering that my Brevet was about to come to an end. I guess I didn’t have excess energy to waste on being angry. Probably the same feeling you get when you look out the window and you notice the engine just fell off the aeroplane you are flying in. I went up to the manager, Debbie and inquired about buses, and if she knew of any locals with bike nous or spares. She mentioned a local guy Ian who was out on a hike, but she would text him for me. I sat about, thinking that it was probably not going to amount to anything so concentrated on the idea of a hot shower and a comfy bed, and maybe cheering on some other riders until the bus came the next day.

An ex-pedal. Better to fail riding up than down.

In the mean time Nathan Faave had turned up, and he stocked up with fizz and icecream and all the other good stuff. That meant that up until then there was only Dave Sharpe ahead of us. Dave was in a class of his own and travelling light and fast. He was miles away and we had never thought for a second that we could match him. My team, Brian, Steve and Cliff said their goodbyes and I chatted to Nathan as he refuelled. I asked him about the feasibility of riding on a flat pedal, should I find one, and he said that in adventure racing they always take a spare pair of flat pedals for exactly that scenario.

After a while Ian turned up. He was the guy that Debbie had mentioned and he said he had a few bikes and he might be able to help. He asked if he had time for a coffee. I said we had all the time in the world as right now my ride was over. A short while later we were in his crib where he showed me a selection of three bikes which I could borrow the pedals off ! What a guy. I opted for the one with platforms and toe-clips and before long I was out of there. I was super motivated. It was great to have a second chance, and with a good tail wind I was smashing it. I’d done enough time trialling to know that one person can be almost as fast as a team of inexperienced ones and I had hopes of taking some time out of my buddies up the road. I actually met Nathan Faave at one point, stopped on the side of the road. It turns out he’d had a swim and was yapping to Coast to Coast legend, Richard Ussher who had been travelling the other way in a car.

I got to the Sheffield Pub around 9pm to find that the guys had only been there about 10 minutes. They got a bit of a shock when I walked in the door. After a burger and fries and jug of raspberry and coke we gently tootled off to our designated bivvy spot, the View Hill domain that we used in the very first Kiwi Brevet with Laurence and Guy from Ground effect.

Day 4. View Hill domain to Fowlers Pass hut
The View Hill domain was a great bivvy spot and really warm. The concrete toilet block had heated up like a giant heat sink, and the Wharfdale track was in good condition, apart from some wind-throw at the far end of it. As usual Brian and Steve pulled away from me in the technical stuff, making the most of their fullies on a great track. We had left Cliff at the Sheffield Pub the previous night for a more civilized experience. Unbeknown to any of us, Thomas had nearly caught up yet again and found the “Hedgerow Hilton” shelter belt outside the pub and was bedded down in there for a while during the night. That explained the cryptic “I found it” text that turned up on  my phone.

Single Speed mode

More drama came about about for me halfway through the Wharfdale, the tell tale graunch of a trail-side stick being flicked up into my drive chain. I stopped pedalling straight away but the damage was done, my rear derailleur was now looking very sad, and there was a large section of twisted chain. There was only one sensible option. Single-speed it. I cut out a section of chain with my chain tool and rejoined it with my power-clip. The Surly Karate Monkey’s horizontal drop-outs meant that it was pretty easy to take up any chain slack and I was also running slow-release bolt on skewers which meant I could nip them up pretty tight.  I was good to go in about 15 – 20 minutes I guess, and was impressed to see that Brian and Steve had come out looking for me, no doubt worried that I was over the bank, having seen me crash a couple of times already in their presence. I suggested that at this time we should cease being a team as I couldn’t see myself keeping up with them with just the one gear.

The rest of the Wharfdale was pretty slow with the fallen trees and the first part through the Lee Valley was very comfortable on my new gearing which was about a 36-23. It wasn’t hard to keep in touch with the others and on the way out of the Lee and through McDonald Downs I tried to attack the hills in true single-speed style but didn’t think that long term it was a good option. I still had a long way to go so ended up briskly walking the steepest climbs rather than break myself, or pull my wheel, or both. As always the long grovelly flat gravel sections that eventually hook you into Hurunui were mentally really hard. It was as hot as hades and I ended up getting water from a farm house to get me through. The others had been gone for quite a while as there was no way I could stay in touch on the fast downhills exiting McDonald downs.

Steve Halligan, on a hill, somewhere near you.

For the final run into Hurunui I had a massive tail-wind so stopped to re-jig my chain-line for some more top-end speed. It helped but I was still spinning like a nutter. My power link was too tight to undo to take out the one more link I needed to get my smallest gear. A stop for more food at Culverden and the final run into Hanmer was underway. You could have knocked me down with a feather when Cliff turned up behind me. He had had a cruisy nights sleep at the Sheffield pub, probably about an hour away from where we bivvied and blasted through the Wharfdale in an amazing time. He’d also picked up some “trail magic” from a farmers wife who recounted the story of another Brevet rider she’d helped out in 2010. It was James Dick who had torn off his derailleur in the Wharfdale! Cliff and I traded pathetic turns as we grovelled along with Hanmer as our next destination. That road from Culverden to Hanmer I hate with a passion. As in 2010, none of the locals actually knew how far it was to Hanmer. 20 mins in a car was about the best you could get out of them.

What, me, scared of dehydration?

Arrival at Hanmer was a relief. I think it was about 8.30 pm and I must have been in a confused state. I saw lots of riders walking around, all cleaned up talking about big meals they had just had, or were about to have. They all seemed in good spirits and I couldn’t understand why. I had thought that they were pulling the pin, but they were just finished for the day! I was keen to go on as there was heaps more riding left in the day once I had a feed of chips and restocked. It turned out that Brian and Steve hadn’t actually been there that long and purely by chance I ran into them again as we started on the steep Jacks Pass climb. Reunited. One thing I will say about Brian. He had done his home work. There were about 3 huts that he and (local) Steve knew about in the next 20 or so kms after the top of the pass. He had reccied the Maruia Saddle in his wife’s VW Polo and he also knew a lot about photography. There was an amazing sunset above Hanmer as we spun up Jacks Pass and I suggested we stop to take a photo. “Nah, the best time to take a photo is about 6 minutes before it looks good to the naked eye” said Brian. I asked him to keep an eye out for any further opportunities that he might observe later on ; )  I changed my chain from the 24-34 back to the 36-23, slicing the end of my finger in the cluster as I did so,  and that’s the gear it stayed in for the rest of the Brevet. The undulations were nasty but it was worth it to get half of them out of the way that night. The Fowler’s Pass hut, as rudimentary as it was, was a welcome stop, some time before 11pm.

Day 5. Fowlers Pass hut to Blenheim

Rainbow Valley

There was more of the nasty corrugations when we left at around 5 am the next morning but eventually they ceased and the Rainbow Valley was at its finest. A truly beautiful spot, but best done on a fresh butt. I had to walk Island Pass but it wasn’t that much slower than riding.

I eventually lost the other guys when I pulled my rear wheel on a small riser, and it was all downhill at speed after that, so I didn’t really expect to see them again with my limited gearing.  I got myself a bit confused as I neared the end of the Rainbow where
the trail split into gravel and tarseal, and knowing the Kennett-bros
predilection for gravel I started down the gravel choice, then changed,
then went back… then re-read the instructions and went back to my
normal route. Twit.

The manic spinning, then standing up, in an inappropriate gear was having a bad effect on my right achilles. The North Bank section was particularly brutal. I’m not sure what I was expecting, the older trails were good enough, it was just this newly laid base course gravel, for logging trucks that was real nasty. Big fist-sized goolies that really hammered you, and without the scenic aspect to distract you from the pain! I walked most of the Northbank climbs as my gear was just too tall. I thought about changing it, but foolishly believed respite was soon to come! I passed aussie Troy Szczurkowski who had changed over to the Brevette option, through the Northbank as he recovered from a double puncture. I soon had one myself that was to prove quite critical. The sealant failed to seal the tiny cut in the sidewall so I put in a tube.

Somewhere in the Rainbow

Some time later Troy caught and passed me back and I felt terrible. I was pedalling hard but going no-where into a head wind along the now more exposed North Bank. I stopped to look down at my drive chain. I think that when I reset it after my puncture it must have jumped up into a larger cog on the back. There was so much tension on the chain It wouldn’t go backwards and I couldn’t even move it forward by hand. I had been pedalling in squares and it felt like something was going to snap.What a twit. I reset the tension and it was like I was on turbo! I had been down abut 40% in power for the last 2 hours not knowing why. The things you do when your are tired.

Steve Halligan – Rainbow

After a quick stop in Renwick for an icecream and drink it was head down for the final stretch home. That last 10kms from Renwick into Blenheim seemed like the longest 10kms I had ever travelled. The remnants of my team had only been aat the finish for an hour or therabouts, so they must have been as blown as I was. It was great to be met by my family and have my first wash in 4 days and sleep in a real bed at the Voodoo Lounge.

The Kiwi Brevet is a hard thing to quantify. Each of us it had done it differently. Dave Sharpe had a demanding plan that he had to adhere to to make the finish. He travelled fast and light with pre-booked accommodation  and averaged over 340kms a day. You have to have faith in yourself to ride like that. Nathan Faave had the confidence to go long and hard into the night and sleep where-ever he landed when the big hand hit twelve. 6 hours a night compulsory sleep is like a school camp for an Adventure racer like Nathan. Brian, Steve, myself and for a large part of it, Cliff rode as a team, not by design, but because we met up at the gate at the end of the Mangatapu and were able to ride at a pace that we could all deal with for 18 hours a day. Other riders take great pains to ride alone as they don’t want to benefit from the efforts of others. That’s their choice too. Brian and Cliff had both just come off the Great Southern Brevet. I am not sure how you recover from that. I am not sure how I would recover from one Brevet, let alone two. Nathan Faave covered 276kms a day, we covered around 264kms. In the past when I have travelled with my Revolution/Voodoo Lounge buddies, rising late, taking lots of photos and riding side by side, talking the whole time, we have covered around 200kms a day. I can tell you it was a lot more fun, but this time it was about going for longer, not necessarily harder, just longer. For the record that cut about a day off. 4 days, 6 hours 19 mins, compared to, about 5 and a half days both previous times.

A Karate Monkey looking for TLC !

Brian was on a Scott 650B fully with aeros and Conti tires, Steve was on Specialised 29er fully with fast rolling Scwhable Mondials, Cliff was on a Cannondale Scalpel and I was on my rigid drop-barred Surly Karate Monkey with Stans Ravens. I have used Ravens in all three of my Kiwi Brevets and this was the first time I have punctured.They are a great tire but they are very light. I have never been a big fan of tubeless tires and when you spend all that time setting them up properly and you get a tiny side-wall tear that wont self-seal then you wonder why you bother.

There were at least 4 of us present who have done all three Kiwi Bevets. Pat Hogan, myself, Nathan Mawkes and Peter Maindonald. You can learn a lot from guys like Simon Kennett, Nathan and Peter who have now all done the Tour divide. I was impressed with Peters set-up which seemed very comprehensive but also very light. He runs UST rims with heavier UST tires, without sealant. They air-up with a mini-pump and look fast and robust. There were a few cases of tires delaminating on the ride – not what you want, and there is a good chance that tubeless sealant is the cause. Some tires dont play well with sealant.

For me the jury is still out on rigid 29er vs 26er fully. My butt came through in about the same state as it did on my fully in previous Brevets, not pretty. I do know I had 4 crashes in this Brevet compared to 1 in the last 2 combined, maybe it was fatigue? I am keen to try a Brooks saddle though. I didnt see anyone with a Brooks owning up to bad “butt-trauma”.

So thats about it for another Kiwi Brevet. I think the take home message is, “its what you make it”. If you are keen on the idea of the “LONZ” length of New Zealand Brevet then you should definitely get in touch with the Kennett bros and express your interest. Thanks again Simon for bringing this concept to New Zealand.

Pengu says, see you next time!

Post script. Kirby and Michael from New Castle pulled out when Michaels back flared up. They detoured to Greymouth I think and went touring in a rental car. In typical Aussie style they “did” half of the South Island in about a day. I hope you come back another time guys and do it a bit slower. It was nice to meet you : )

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Jeff's Bike Kiwi Brevet

Jeff’s Bike – Jeff’s Bike Blog: Days 4 and a half

I snuck out of Hanmer on day 4 in the evening and stumbled upon Brian and Steve
also heading up Jacks pass. I had moved my sser to hill climb mode,
24/34 so had no problems with the gradient. Riding the 1 km from the fast food shop to the start of the trail was pretty funny though. At the top I was able to
move it back to a more usable 36/23 with the sliding drop outs to take up my chain slack, and we
got stuck into about 20kms of headwind and corrugations. Joy. The relief at finding the hut was intense as the trail was completely hammering our trail worn butts. There was more of the same when we rolled out at 5.45 am the next morning but eventually the corrugations ceased and the Rainbow Valley was
all good. I did elect to walk Island Pass! I got myself a bit confused as I neared the end of the Rainbow as the trail split into gravel and tarseal, and knowing the K-bros predilection for gravel I started down the gravel choice, then changed, then went back… then re-read the instructions and went back to my normal route. Twit.

I had lost the other guys when I pulled my rear wheel on a small riser, and it was all downhill at speed after that so it I didn’t really expect to see them again with my limited gearing. The manic spinning, then standing up, in an inappropriate gear was having a bad effect on my right achillies. The North Bank section was particularly brutal. I’m not sure what I was expecting, the older trails were good enough, it was just this newly laid base course gravel, for logging trucks that was real nasty. I walked most of the Northbank climbs as my gear was
just too tall. I passed aussie Troy who had changed over to the Brevette option, through the Northbank as he recovered from a double puncture. I soon had one myself that was to prove quite critical. The Stans goo failed to seal the tiny cut in the sidewall so I put in a tube.

Some time later Troy caught and passed me and I felt terrible. I was pedalling hard but going no-where into a head wind along the now more exposed North Bank. I stopped to look down at my drive chain. I think that when I reset it after my puncture it must have jumped up into a larger cog. There was so much tension on the chain It wouldn’t go backwards and I couldn’t even move it forward by hand. Twit. I reset the tension and it was like I was on turbo! I had been down abut 40% in power for the last 2 hours not knowing why. The things you do when your are tired : )

After a quick stop in Renwick for an icecream and drink it was head down for the final stretch home. The remnants of my team had only been there for an hour or so, so they must have been as blown as I was! It was great to be met by my family and have my first wash in 4 days and sleep in a real bed at the Voodoo Lounge. Will be heading down to Seymour Square soon to check up on the guys. Go Team Voodoo Lounge. Simon Morton is having a blinder ! Thanks to the Kennett bros and Mondo and Pat and everyone who lent a hand in putting it on yet again.

See below a few of the things that got me through my hardest Brevet so far.

The phone number of Ian at Arthurs pass Cafe who lent me a new toe-clip pedal
The sliding drop-out on the Surly Karate Monkey
Lezyne multi-tool for adjusting rear wheel tension and position.

A lovely note from my oldest daughter Ash, which I found on the front of my bike about 30 mins before we started at Seymour Square 🙂

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Jeff's Bike Kiwi Brevet Voodoo lounge

Jeff’s Bike – The wrap, Kiwi Brevet 2012

Team Voodoo Lounge, some of these
people are real, some of them are not

Strange things happen in the Voodoo Lounge. Its a comforting place, but beware when your guard is down, the fridge is full of beer, there’s a roast in the oven and the massage chair is waiting to caress you. One of us began speaking “in tongues” during the nights after our Brevet was over. A kind of falsetto voice with an English accent. Who was this “persona”, and what was it trying to tell us? Could it have been someone from the Maungatapu murders trying to speak to us? Jonty spoke of his fear of white mans tapu when we slept at the murder site two years ago on the previous Brevet. Was it someone trying to contact us, because we just bowled through in a rush this time, without paying our respects? In the previous Brevet many of us were completely bushed, and Murderers Rock was the only flat place to bed down between Pelorus and Nelson. We spent a lovely night under the stars. This time, coming from the opposite direction, it was cold, and a little foggy so we didn’t stop. Maybe this nightly communication was in some way related . Check out the harrowing account of the 
murders  and the grisly execution that followed.    

Thomas understands the importance
of getting the hole-shot

The Voodoo lounge comes with a freezer, fridge, toilet, showers and a small kitchen, along with a TV, and a garage with ample room for bike tinkering. This year I did a big fry-up at about 5.30 on the morning of day one, cooking in the garage, baked beans, bacon and eggs. I can’t recall what Matt ate. But it wouldn’t have been the bacon, ditto for Jonty who also has hi ethical and religious standards in relation to eating dead pigs. I think it set me up well for the day, and I also had 6 cheese, baked-bean and salami toastie pies secreted on my person. These lasted me 3 days and were a welcome change from muesli bars, and more muesli bars. Carrying two full water bottles on my bike and 3.0 to 3.5 litres of water on my back at all times meant that I never run out of water either, while I observed plenty of other people who seemed to be skimping in order to save a bit of weight. I also had a spare half bottle on the back of my rack which came in handy a few times at the end of a long day, for some of my ridding buddies.

I do have a bit of a fear of the “bonk” so I pretty much ate constantly the whole time. Standard stuff that I learnt from the previous Brevet. Pies, chocolate milks, muesli bars, and way too many lollies. In fact my tongue still hasn’t recovered from the lollies. I think it was the Blackballs I bought at Reefton that did the damage. I always had two bottles of Powerade (from Gas stations) in my cages, and the Nuuns tablets in my camelback. No wonder I didn’t get any skinnier.

Camera bag attached to back pack

The late addition of two cut down water bottles attached to my handlebars were great for storing my wind breaker on the left, and muesli bars on the right. Easy access all the time was a bit of a theme for me this time, and I didn’t want anything on my back except water and the day’s maps. Next time I think I would look at a vest, instead of a full jacket. The weather was so good I had no need to even get out my rain jacket, and arm warmers and a vest would be a pretty good combo. A Revelate Gas Tank could have replaced all my little zip-tied add-ons a lot more cleanly, but they were lying about the shed, and they were free.

I reckon if you are going to have so much fun, and go through so much beautiful scenery it would be silly not to take a few photos. My camera from the 2010 Brevet died after some water exposure on my daughter’s Duke of Ed trip, so sourcing a new one was at the back of my mind. I spied a mint one for $29 at Cash Converters one day so snapped it up. Its no use having a camera if its not accessible so I built a system that allowed me to access it with one hand while it was mounted in its case on my right lapel. It had a safety cord and was very easy to extract from its case, and turn off and on one-handed. Think about this if you are shopping for a camera. One-handed operation is a must. I have a better camera at home, but the on button is too far to the other side, and every part of its surface is a button or a slide or something that turns something off or on. Too gadgety by far.

Getting connected

I spent a fair bit of time setting this up. My idea was to do a quick blog when we had some down time or when we were doing our text-in locations. For the most part it worked, but I am guessing with a few delays. These days, with an Android phone all you need to do after you take a photo is to press-hold on it and you are given a list of ways of sharing that image, from Twitter, Facebook, email, Blogger etc etc. I had an email-to-blog address that would send anything to my Blog and at the same time also post it on Facebook, and Twitter. Plus if I tweeted (txted) anything, the tweets would also go to my twitter feed, my blog, my facebook and the Kiwi Brevet twitter feed. For the less technically inclined people I had their email addresses designated in my blog settings so that they would automatically get my updates in their email in box. There is a limit of ten people on this.

My body went great. Not even a bonk, no sore knees or muscle strains, a slight numbness in my right fore-foot, probably a result of some last minute cleat surgery but my butt was not that flash. I am not sure what the problem was with my nether regions, but I reckon it was even worse than last time, despite having good quality chamois cream and shorts, and having well and truly gotten used to my saddle. Maybe I need to try one of those big fat Brooks saddles? Most people who used them seem to think they were great. Not everyone, but the majority.

Click for a blow-up

The bike was brilliant. Faster rolling 29 inch wheels would have been better, but you travel at the speed of the people you are with, and 9 times out of 10, you end up at the same place each night. Speed is rarely an issue. Comfort is. The Superlight is a great bike to ride and with aero bars and a Freeload rack on the back I cant imagine a set-up that would suit me better right now. I have to admit, the new 29er Santa Cruz Superlights look awesome. I had a small slow leak on the rear Stans Raven that I needed to add air too a couple of times. In the future I might sacrifice some wheel resistance for a tire with more grip, as the Raven was pretty hopeless in the Wharfdale track and through the Waiuta, both tracks being quite wet. These should have been the best parts of the Brevet, but for many they weren’t. Carrying a full load obviously doesn’t help either! Everywhere else they were mint.

My bike is essentially my cross country race bike with aero bars and rack attached. 23.5 pounds in race trim, but 39.8 pounds loaded, without any full water bottles on board. If you add up two 750ml water bottles and a 3 litre camelbak, you can see that there is a lot of weight in carrying your water. I was scared for my 28 hole wheels at times, but I am sure there are guys fatter than me riding on them more aggressively than I was.

Wharfdale – Photo from Andy

The course
It was great, and doing it in reverse was a fun way of letting me enjoy it again. I suspect the original direction (counter clockwise) is the more natural one for the flow of the trails. Good weather and tail winds the whole time were the order of the day. Thanks heaps to Simon for thinking it up and holding it, as he promised would at the end of the first one, every two years.

Write it down this time, 1st to 9th Feb 2014. You know who you are !

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Jeff's Bike Kiwi Brevet

Jeff’s Bike – Jeff’s Bike Blog: Final day – Kiwi Brevet

Around 120 kms I think. 7.30 to 1.10pm

Jonty woke up and looked pretty damn groggy. He said he was missing the usual 8 hours sleep that he needs to function adequately. It was no surprise then when that when the Lone Ranger turned up to chastise us about our non-legal camping spot that the responses to his accusations were less than cheery. It turns out that there was a proper camping ground, we just didn’t find it. It also turned out the Matt did! Apparently he turned up some time after us, only a couple of hours I think, and by virtue of his superior tertiary education he found the correct place to camp. It was out on the grass and of course he got covered in dew which wasn’t so good. We only found all this out later.

Queen Charlotte Drive

Nathan had already done a sneaky depart while we were waking up at around 6.20. Then Peter Maindonald rolled by, having bivvyed at the bottom of the Mangatapu descent. He mentioned that Matt, Nathan and Thomas had all passed him in the night! Wow. We had already lost 4 places while were were asleep ! (Not that its a race). 

Alex climbs

We hit the road at around 7.20 is my guess, the earliest departure we had the whole time. I was super motivated as I knew all the roads we were about to ride, with the exception of Port Underwood, which I had ridden on the previous Brevet, and really enjoyed. At Jonty’s suggestion we ordered short blacks at the Havelock cafe because they take the least time to make, and snacked on a few buns and supplies. Peter Maindonald was there having his daily eggs benedict. Peter took off a few seconds before us, and he didn’t seem to be mucking about. We caught him on a little climb a couple of minutes later and didn’t see him again. 

I was feeling good, maybe the best I had the whole time. Even my butt felt better. The Queen Charlotte Drive was a blast and we got to Picton in short time, brought some more water and coke, gave Jonty some time-out for an expresso-ablution and hit the hills that make up Port Underwood. Man that first one just went on for ever. It was beautiful. It was sunny and hot with a cool damp sea breeze that was going in our direction. 

A nice bay, not sure which one

There were 3 or 4 hills, I cant remember. They went up, they went down, the way all hills do. The scenery was awesome. Unfortunately Alex’s knee was giving him a hard time and he lost contact on the 2nd to last hill I think. I was thinking that Nathan could have been close, but figured he wouldn’t be doing his usual stopping every 2 hours for a leisurely break on the last day. At one point Jonty hallucinated that he saw Nathan sitting in the shade on the side of the road up ahead. Maybe it was hotter than we thought? 

I was starting to gap Jonty on the climbs, but I knew he would get back on again on the descents which he was doing way faster than I could. On the last hill I did get away a bit and put my head down, I knew that if I could get down on the Rarangi straight I could see if there was anyone for me to run down. Sure enough I saw a dark figure 500 metres up ahead so I reeled them in. It was Scott Emmens. He was pretty much blown, and we hadn’t seen him since our one hour rest stop at the Molesworth Station water point on day one. He said that Nathan had been through about 10 minutes earlier and so had Thomas ! I had no cue-sheets as I had given them to Matt days earlier when he lost his, but Scott had cue-sheets AND a GPS !  We cruised along until Jonty turned up and we all rode back together. This GPS lark is so easy it seems wrong! 

Another  pretty bay in Port Underwood

Up ahead we saw another rider that Scott recognised as Thomas, so we formed a paceline and shot past him at 50kmh screaming like banshees, for a wind up. We slowed right down but he didn’t seem keen to join us. We didn’t realize he had yet another flattie and a  shagged tire and had been riding on the rim for ages and continued to do so until he got too Blenheim. 

We made our way into the finish at Seymour square and Nathan Mawkes and Geof Blanc were there to meet us, with my family turning up a few minutes later. Its always an anti-climax at the finish, so having someone there to meet you and shake your hand is always nice. I feel bad about not being there when Matt turned up but I figured he was going to have a hard time on the hills and unfortunately the dial-up at my parents place wasn’t doing a great job with the trackers. Matt did awesomely. With less fitness than last time he managed his exercise induced nausea really well and was rarely more than a few minutes behind when we stopped at the top of any particular hill.

Bandolero Bill

It was another great event by Simon, although I have to say I think the original direction is the best. Once again we were incredibly lucky with the weather. We had some awesome bivvy spots, almost always had a tail wind, unless we were going downhill when we had a headwind on a few occasions. We had great company and all of us finished. Most of our butts were in worse shape than when we started, but its hard to get everything right eh? 

Voodoo  Lounge Proprietors. Thanks heaps! 

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Jeff's Bike Kiwi Brevet

Jeff’s Bike – Jeff’s Bike Blog: Day 5 – Kiwi Brevet

200kms, a big climbing day. 8am to 11pm.

Day 5, around 200 kms, Murchison to Pelorus. We all managed to roll out at 8 oclock with a brief brekkie stop at the cafe at Murch. The lady behind the counter was one of the friendliest we had met. Its refreshing to meet nice people when your butt hurts, you are tired, are about to wolf down a greasy pie and they talk to you like they are genuinely interested in what you are doing. We headed up the Mangles Valley at a reasonable pace but some how dropped Thomas who was having a “I dont like mornings” moment. We had decided to give it a bit of stick on this day, and it was likely that it was going to break apart a bit when we hit the Porika track which was a seriously heinous push. In fact, looking at the altitude map, it appears we had around 2000 metres of vertical climbing on our plates for the day, a fair bit of it actually walking. I was amazed to see Alex ride about 60% of the Porika, even with a knackered knee and tight achilles tendons. Apparently Dave Sharpe cleaned it all but for one dab. 

We caught Nathan Mawkes part way up the Porika, and Peter Maindonald on the decent. If there was an award for the most improved rider from the previous Kiwi Brevet it would go to Peter. The first one took him 9 days. This time he was on a 5.5 day schedule and he was armed with some serious kit. A carbon forked rigid 29er and all the accoutrement’s. I am so impressed at how these rigid 29ers descend, he wasnt giving away much to me, if anything on my 26 inch fully.

The piece of road from the road’s end to St Arnaud, although tarseal, seemed really hard. Aparrently it was false flat. It certainly messed with our heads, as we had been looking forward to it for ages, and imagining a fast downhill descent finishing with pies and chocolate milk! We fueled up at St Arnaud and rolled over Kerrs Hill, through Golden Downs and eventually got onto 88 Valley Road. We passed the two single speeders Stephen and David as they dealt with a recurring puncture. This stretch also seemed to take a long time. It was hot with a head wind, and a fair few climbs that seemed to have skipped my memory banks form doing it in the opposite direction in 2010. Plus my arse was in agony. At this point the Team Voodoo Lounge contingent had been whittled down to myself, Jonty and Alex, who never complained although he was obviously in pain. 

The navigating of the cycle lanes after Wakefield was not a lot of fun, but better then mixing it with the 4.30 rush of traffic as people made their way in and out Richmond, one of the biggest growing towns in NZ. We were pleasantly surprised to meet Chris Burr on the trail and he advised us on where we could find a nice place for Pizza and Beer!!! YUM. But before we got there a car pulled over on the side of the road and some kids jumped out and offered us fresh Banana and Chocolate Muffins! It was awesome. We have no idea who they were or who they were supporting but it was surely appreciated. 

We eventually rode into Nelson, after a warning from Chris about how cyclists were public enemy number one. He was later to be proven correct with as bigger displays of moronic behaviour as I have seen in any boganised area in New Zealand. The Pizza and Beer were awesome and we were also met by my Cuz, Paul McNabb who had been watching our approach online. I did a quick grocery shop while waiting for the Pizzas and we took off, probably less than an hour after we arrived. It was probably around 5 or 5.30 pm as we headed up the Maitai in search of our next destination, maybe Murderers Rock on Mangatapu, or Perlorus. 

The new alternative trail to the Mangatapu track was well worth the deviation, as it was rideable, and dry! Unfortunately Alex got a sidewall cut that we had to sort out with a boot and some duct tape just before the caretakers house. I was happy to be using all the crap I had in my tool kit. Duct tape, valve stem tool, and a few other things all came in handy at different times. It was a coolish night so the climb was a lot easier than it would have been during the heat of the day. As we approached the summit it was well and truly dark and we had a quick stop to send a text to Matt to tell him where we thought we might be camping, and to put on some more clothes for the long descent down onto the Pelorus side. This was less fun than it might have been as we had to form a sandwich formation with Alex being the meat, as he had no lights. After the descent the next 13km gravel segment to Perlorus seem overly hilly at that time of the night and I think we were all pretty damn happy to stop there and bivvy up. Unfortunately we couldn’t find the official tent camping site, which was just as well as it turned out to be crap. I found a dry spot in the bush and we slept the sleep of the dead, and were only awakened briefly by the arrival of a late night addition to our camp. Nathan had caught up, with Thomas in tow. Thomas carried on, to who knows where, while Nathan settled in with us.

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Jeff's Bike Kiwi Brevet

Jeff’s Bike – Jeff’s Bike Blog: Day 4 – Kiwi Brevet

200kms, 7.30 to 11.50 pm
The Otututu River

Day 4. About 200kms. I’d finally eaten my way through the 6 cheese, salami and bean toastie pies I had made in Blenheim on friday night, so I would have to pay more attention to my diet. Matt and I decided we would head off a bit early from Blackball as there was no doubt Jonty and Alex would catch us, and poor Andy was still in his Hilton sick-bed. If we had known how long the day was going to be we would have risen even earlier. It was a beautiful morning on fast rolling west coast roads. We headed for Ikamatua and on route we rode past the Pike River turn off. At the Ikky store I got chatting to a local who knew my Nana and the infamous Aunty Murtle who passed away last year aged 105. I thought about hiding all the sour snakes in the shop to wind up Jonty but apparently he was into more healthier things when he made his purchases. I was more impressed with his diet than anyone else I came across the whole time. When we all caught up at the Brevet’s end Andy told us a story of how, when he was doing his shop at Ikky, he was sitting outside refueling and he watched a train slow down and stop opposite the shop. The driver jumped out, brought a chocolate milk at the shop and hopped back into the cab and was on his way. 

Blackwater enroute to Waiuta

We cruised up the lovely quiet country roads into the old Ghost town of Waiuta were my mother went to school. Theres not much left these days so after a quick look at the accommodation which was all locked up we hit the Waiuta trail proper. Before long Matt and I came across Thomas who had discovered that his latest puncture was proving difficult to fix since his tool bag had sprung a leak and his tire levers were awol. Matt kept going and I lent Thomas mine until he had at least beaded the rim. While he worked on his wheel a Bellbird tweeted vociferously less than a metre from our heads. I have never been so close to one in the wild. 

Matt in the Waiuta

It was easy to see that a heap of work had been done on the Waiuta track. There were no more of the treacherous creek crossings that we had experienced last time, but unfortunately the track was wet, and once again our semi slick tires were as good as useless with a full load on. We rode and walked for several hours until eventually Alex, Jonty and then Thomas caught us near Big River. We decided to have a bit of lunch and Thomas pulled out a flask full of whiskey! Big River was a lot more fun and from memory there was a bit of competitive descending going on which resulted in another flat for Thomas. 

Before long we had exited the bush and hit the shops at Reefton for more pies, choc milks and supplies. Not sure why but we seemed to spend around 2 hours mucking about in Reefton.

Rare bush goblin

The Rahu saddle was the next stretch, but it took a little while for Thomas to find his legs. Eventually his legs and sense of humour returned and from that point on the day just got sillier and sillier. Sparking up the cleats on the descents was the new cool thing, after Jonty demoed brushing his teeth while riding. After descending the big hill into Springs Junction there was a strange encounter between Jonty and a very wolf-ish looking cat, which he proceeded to stroke – with a piece of cardboard, so he didn’t get ring worm !

The next piece of road had us ending up on some tarseal where a new game started. The idea was to be the last person standing still wearing their sun glasses. We had already stopped to put on our lights so it was getting pretty silly. I can’t remember who won in the end, I wasnt playing. 

Hoodlums on the road

It was a shame because when we hit the Maruia Saddle it was pitch black, apart from a near full moon, and the silly games continued,  with Thomas, whose legs had returned in full, attacking Jonty til the summit . I was riding sensibly with Alex who didn’t actually have a proper head light with him. The last 30 kms into Murchison seemed to take for ever, with more little pinch climbs than any of us remembered, but the road surface was the best kind of gravel there is, as someone else suggested, like fine talcum powder. We rode for quite a while with our headlights off, under the light of the moon. It was pretty damn cool.


We hit Murch at 11.50 and I went about finding the Camping Ground we booked from Reefton. I went around to the office. Rang the number and listened as the phone went off in the house and I heard the guy stumble out of bed !  The keys were in the doors and the lights on. Excellent. 

We were very disappointed to find that we had to pay for a hot shower, but once again Thomas impressed with his ingenuity by putting hot water from the hand basin into his camelbak and inverting it for use as a camp shower. The last I saw of him that night he was walking around like a skinny sasquatch wearing a jersey upside down on his lower torso while his bike pants dried… hanging off his aero bars, over the heater in his cabin. Hmmmm. Luckily he had a cabin to himself.

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Jeff's Bike Kiwi Brevet

Jeff’s Bike – Jeff’s Bike Blog: Day 3 – Kiwi Brevet

8am to 9pm, 210 kms
Alex adds some air

Day 3 (around 210 kms)  from Sheffield to Blackball was hopefully going to be a bit
easier, given that most of it was on sealed roads. We decamped from our
pine needled paradise and headed out for Springfield in search of
pies.The food at the Springfield Cafe is always good, and there weren’t
so many of us that the staff were completely overwhelmed as we
experienced on the last KB. Luckily we all remembered what we ordered
and then shot next door for more provisions for the road. As we were about to
leave Jonty asked if I would share my “Sour Snakes” with him. I meanly
replied that he could only have one, so he decided to go and buy his
own. We said we would carry on slowly and he could catch up. 5 mins
later there was no sign of Jonty so we decided to carry on. The road was
fast and at some point we started on the Porters Pass. This was a
pretty steep climb for the tarseal and I think we took the time to stop a
few times to air up my leaking rear tire and oil Andy’s chain. It was
spitting lightly so the steep descent was a bit scary for us guys with
glasses on who were experiencing about 10 metres visibility. After the
rain cleared and we picked up our usual tail wind some time later we
stopped for a snack at the top of a big climb.

Cleetus arrives
Matt appeared over the
horizon and hot on his tail was Jonty ! Up until  that point we didn’t know if Jonty was in front or behind us. It turned out that I had bought the last
packed of Sour Snakes in the shop, and Jonty had turned the wrong way
for a while and was headed to Christchurch!  Luckily he ran into an old
buddy of his who confirmed his error. Its a small world. It was nice
travelling across the divide, but the descent down the Otira
Gorge reminded me why I bonked when doing the KB from the other
direction. It was bloody steep, especially on a rear tire that has been
leaking a bit of air.
Retro jacket moment

Eventually we hit Arthurs Pass and indulged in some over priced
pies, chips, chocolate milks and the usual confectionery. We were half
expecting to catch up to Nathan Mawkes who we had been leap frogging
pretty much from day 1. Nathan tended to ride a bit slower and take a
few more rests. No sign of Nathan although we met Mark Watson whose
partner Hanna was doing the event, and we also met Ollies girlfriend. We
were approached by a lot of people who were interested in what we were
doing which was cool.

Before long we were on the road again and heading for Jacksons.
Sons of Anarchy- Season 2
managed to snag some junk food there and were pleased to hang a right
and hit some less frequented roads. Apparently this move eluded Thomas
Lindup some many hours earlier and he had ended up riding to Kumara and
back ! The roads in this area were smooth and fast. Even the gravel was
nice when we got to it. The best time of the day to be riding is the
evening, but we enjoyed our relatively early finish at Blackball at
around 9pm. It seemed like everyone was there. Dave Sharpe and the
single speeders, Nathan, even Thomas in his bright yellow puffer jacket,
looking like a demented Big Bird – apparently bivvying in a hedge
somewhere since the room rates had gone up since our previous
Somewhere out the back of Moana
Although the kitchen was closed at the Blackball Hilton the chef whipped us up some very
nice sandwiches, and even managed to build one acceptable to our
resident vegan who was doing way better with his eating than on the
previous Brevet. A beer and raspberry and coke later and it was time to
wash our spare shorts and prepare for the next day. Unbeknown to me poor
Andy was up all night with a bad belly. Was it the chicken pie or a
hard day ? We never knew, but Andy stayed on the next day until he
started to feel a bit better.

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