Last week I told you all about day one of my awfully big bike ride: as much of the Rimutaka Cycle Trail as I could manage in 24 hours. And I promised you pictures, which the absence of rain made possible.
The morning of December 31 dawned nice and early. At least I presume it did, it usually does at this time of year. And I’m usually still asleep when it does. I had every intention of getting up early and setting off somewhere between 9 and 10 am, but in all truthfulness, it was the first night we’d spent in our own bed in a week, and it was rather lovely to not wake up in one of our mothers’ spare single beds or on the single mattress on the floor beside it! In the end, I started pedalling away from Maymorn station at 10:58 am.
I’d had some misgivings about the first section of the second part of the trail. On day one, I’d already cycled all but the last 6 km before, and I had also previously cycled the Rail Trail. It’s 7.5 km from Maymorn to the start of the Rail Trail, and I’d had this sudden thought that maybe it would involve hills. It did. I’d barely made it past the first gate (why are there so many gates on this section, and why are some of them impossible to navigate through? I had to LIFT my bike OVER one of them) when I was confronted by a sharp gravel incline. I did the only sensible thing for a lady on a heavy bike with few gears who had not had a chance to warm up yet, and I got off and pushed, hoping all the way that it wasn’t going to be like this the whole way. It wasn’t, but there may have been one or two other spots where I also got off and pushed. None as intimidating as the first though. I’d estimated that riding through this first bit would take me 45 minutes, and when I hit those hills I thought I might have severely underestimated! I was almost bang on though – it took me 49 minutes.
A tip for this section: at 4.5 km you’ll come to a T-junction. The sign for the cycle trail points back towards SH2, and yes, this is the way you want to go, even though the sign in the other direction says it goes to the Rimutaka incline.
I had my first check-in with Ryan in the carpark at the start of the Incline trail. I ate half of one of the sandwiches he’d made for me, applied some more sunscreen because it had come out nice, and took off again.
I estimated 1.5 – 2 hours for this section. I was a little surprised that it took me as long to bike to the summit as it had the last time I did it (in pouring rain), but then, I was probably a bit more fatigued this time, being the second day of riding.
I’m pretty impressed with myself that I managed to bike from sea-level to this!
Waiting for me at the top was this little fellow, who was hanging out in the loos.
For those of you not familiar with NZ insects, it’s a huhu beetle. The grubs are a traditional delicacy – not that I’ve ever tried one!
And just to prove I was really there:
I stopped long enough for a loo break, photo, and a quick chat with a couple of people who I’d passed, been overtaken by, and passed again on the way up. It was all very friendly up there on a sunny day like this! Then I was off again.
Almost as soon as you leave the Summit, you hit the longest tunnel on the trail. Oh, I forgot to tell you that there were tunnels! One on each leg up to the Summit, then a few more on the way down. This one had a warning that you used it at your own risk. I didn’t take much notice of that sign, I figure it couldn’t be that dangerous on the National Cycle Trail. By the time I got to the other side, I was starting to think that it had taken me a while to go through. Turns out that it’s 584m long! The other side was pretty enough for me to stop and take a picture.
Not long after this you get a lookout:
Just around the bend from here there is another tunnel, then alarming signs warning you to dismount and push your bike for the next bit. Yeah, everyone I passed on the other side coming up towards me was doing this, even the very seasoned looking ones, so I think it’s probably sound advice. I certainly followed it!
From here on in, it’s all downhill. I’ve never actually done any mountain biking, and this is apparently Grade 3 stuff, so I just took it really slowly so I could stay in control. It took me longer to do the 6.5 km downhill than it did the 10.5 km up!
As I got towards the carpark it dawned on me that I’d just ridden my bike over a mountain (in my head there may have been an expletive in that sentence).* By the time I got to the bottom, I was totally ready for lunch.
We had a bit of a sit-down, I had a bit of a stretch, ate some lunch, refilled my hydration pack, reapplied sunscreen and all those sorts of necessary things. I was certainly ready for the break at this point, as I’d just cycled through this:
After lunch I set off on the third leg of the trail, down to Ocean Beach, another 35 km (I’d just done nearly 25). We made a plan that Ryan would set off in the car about an hour after me, and when he caught up it would be time for the next check in.
This leg was not without its trials. A few kilometres in I realised that the little voice on my phone hadn’t said anything for a while. So I took note of my surroundings so I could identify them later on google maps, and started the counter again. With the same results. Turns out that turning GPS off over lunch, and not restarting the app again afterwards was a bad idea. It said I had good GPS, but it didn’t track anything. Eventually I worked this out – and later used google maps to fill that part of the ride in.
After about 45 minutes fatigue was really starting to set in. Some of my muscles were starting to scream at me, and my gears were playing silly buggers. I knew it wasn’t long until Ryan would catch up with me, and I started to think seriously about what my goal was. If I made it to Ocean Beach, I would have done 105km, including the extra 10 km from home to Petone. At the rate I was going, there was no way I was going to do that before 4 pm. I decided that the sensible thing to do at that point was to ride until Ryan caught up with me, tell him I was going to ride until 4, and that would be it. At least then I would have seen how far I could ride in 24 hours.
When he did catch up with me, I stumbled off my bike, and across the road to a shady patch of grass. I literally lay prone on that grass for 10 minutes, almost unable to move. I discussed the change of plan with Ryan. He was a little disappointed, because our initial plan was that he’d drive down to Ocean Beach, and then cycle to meet me, and then ride the last few victory kilometres back with me. We decided instead that he’d drive on 5 more km: that I’d pull that much more out of the bag. He did this, biked back to meet me, and rode the last km with me. I managed to hit that 5 km just a couple of minutes after 4… exactly 24 hours after I set off.
You want to know the biggest irony? Hitting the wall, and then this happened:
Yep. That last kilometre was the fastest one. Of the WHOLE TWO DAY ride. (I actually made it through 19.5 km of this 35 km stretch, but the GPS incident did funny things with the graph when I merged the data.)
Ryan decided that we couldn’t turn around without making it to Ocean Beach, so at this point he took over the baton, and cycled down to the beach while I drove the car. Between us, we rode from Petone to Ocean Beach. What a team!
I’m quite glad that I didn’t do that last bit really. There was a bit of a hill. And then a bit of an extremely steep downhill bit. The sort you drive down very carefully. I will be back to tackle it again though. I’m going to do the bit I missed out, and add in the fourth and final leg back to Wainuiomata.
Oh, and the answer to the big question: How far can I bike in 24 hours?
I’m happy with that. No, it’s not 100km in one day, but it also wasn’t on a road bike on the flat. Did I mention that I RODE OVER A MOUNTAIN?
Sure, had I got up a little earlier on the second morning, and had time for more breaks, I might have made it to 100 km on this ride, but I didn’t, and I didn’t, but there’s always next time. And of course, there’s doing it all in one calendar day, without 8 hours sleep in the middle. I think I’ve got my objective for the next few months sorted (GrapeRide is on the 5 April. 101 km).
*It later occurred to me that maybe it didn’t really qualify as a mountain. I did check the definition of mountain: according to Wikipedia in NZ it tends to go by steepness, but in the US it is a peak over 1000 ft (errr, well, last week that’s what it said. The entry seems to have been edited in the interim, and apparently that’s an historical definition now, and there is no official one, but when I rode over it, it said it made the grade!). At the very least, I did ride through a mountain range. Give me that at least.