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Riding the Rimutaka Cycle Trail – Day one

A couple of years ago to took up cycling (again) as a form of rehabilitation. When I started my year of productive non-employment in mid-2011, one of the things I wanted to do was get myself back into shape. The means of doing this that I’d chosen was the Couch to 5 km programme from Cool Running. 4 weeks into that however, and I discovered that my ankle injury from late 2010 wasn’t going to let me do it. Months of physio, sports medicine, injections and other interventions later, it was clear that I needed to keep my ankle moving, and cycling seemed to help rather than aggravate it. By the start of last year I’d seen one of my friends increasing posts on the cycling she was doing, and felt pretty inspired by it.  By that point, I’d already achieved my initial goal of cycling into Wellington (20km) a few times.

My bicycle
This is my bike. It is pretty, and it is comfortable.

I started to look for some challenges to keep me going (cycling there and back wasn’t providing enough of its own incentive). I decided to sign up for the GrapeRide, but I was realistic about what I could achieve in 3 months, and went for the 42km option.  At that point I also decided that by the end of the year, I’d be capable of cycling 100km in a day.  Now, as we know, I didn’t quite make the GrapeRide, but it certainly gave me motivation to keep going on my bigger goal – and I still plan to sign up for the 101km version this year. I also decided somewhere along the way that I was going to earn my new bike – putting a dollar into the budget for every kilometre I cycled. I can’t quite remember when I made that decision, but I tracked 1022 km of cycling in 2013 (I suspect there may have been a few unrecorded trips), so that’s my budget.

Now: did I do it? Did I cycle 100km in a day in 2013. Well, yes and no.

If you read my post yesterday, you’ll know that I’m more about the journey than the goal, and that I’m open to taking side-trips along the way.  When I decided to aim for 100km in a day, I thought that I’d be buying a road bike sometime in the first half of the year, and that I’d be doing that ride on nice flat to moderately undulating tar seal roads. I didn’t end up buying a new bike in 2013. I kept riding my Avanti Discovery 8, with its heavy internal gearing (that you can change when at a standstill) and its top speed of about 25km/hr on the flat, with a tail wind. And then, in October, they officially opened the Rimutaka Cycle Trail, which passes within a few hundred metres of my home. That settled it. I had to do the trail.

Then the shop got insanely busy, so the only riding I could do was the occasional ride into work. I half-heartedly hoped that maybe I’d get a chance to get in some 40-60km rides while I was on holiday in Canterbury for Christmas, but lack of a bike was a stumbling block. Then, a couple of days before we came home, I thought to ask my hubby when our flight home was. Turned out it was at lunchtime on the 30th, and so my plan hatched. I’d do my best to get in the 100 km over 2 days, but still within 24 hours.

Rimutaka Cyle Trail: section one – Petone to Maymorn

My phone was a little flat when we got back home around 2pm. As it’s my tracking device, I had to give it a chance to charge up, and I used that time to read through the information on the official website. The trail itself is broken up into 4 sections: 35km from Petone to Maymorn, 25km from Maymorn to Cross Creek, 35km from Cross Creek to Ocean Beach, and finally 18km around the South Coast. The last section I dismissed, as the site said that section still wasn’t complete (although I heard on day two from some fellow riders that it has actually been open for the last couple of weeks), and because the first three sections add up to 95km as it is.  Now, there was no easy way to split the first three sections into two 50km chunks, so I decided that I’d bike from home down to Petone to make up the extra.

So, at 4:03 pm on 30 December 2013, I set off on my ride. The weather was alternating between sun and light showers, and a little rain never hurt anyone (in fact, last year I learnt that it’s really quite lovely to cycle in a little rain, and that life is so much more pleasant overall if you are able to put your head up and smile as you walk in the rain).

I took a little bit of a convoluted route down to Petone wharf, clocking up just over 10km by the time I got there. There is no selfie of me checking out the map at the start, because as I got there, it started to rain in earnest. As in torrential bucketloads. I pressed “Pause” on my tracker while I looked at my map, and the rain pressed “Stop” for me. I texted Ryan to let him know I was at the OFFICIAL START point, and the rain added in extra nonsensical words for me. Ryan texted back to say he would understand if I wanted picking up sooner than expected.

I decided to press on though. It did pass through my mind as I hit the 20km point, which coincided with where I’d turn off to get back to my home, but I decided that every kilometre cycled then was one less kilometre I’d need to cycle the next day.

Map and statistics from Day one of my ride.

In the end, I made it all the way to Maymorn Station, which is the end point of the first section. 45.56km if you include my ride to get to Petone Wharf. Not bad considering that I’d never actually cycled over 40km in a single day before, and the last time I made it that far was actually back in March.

If you’re thinking of doing the trail yourself, I have a few tips for this first section:

  1. Give yourself plenty of time. I’m used to cycling at around 20km/hr, but that’s on sealed routes, and most of this isn’t sealed. You’ll see my average today was nothing like that.
  2. When you get to the Kennedy Good Bridge, turn off the trail where the seal ends. There’s another path that crosses the road and then swings up to the bridge. From here cross towards Avalon Park, and a few metres after the intersection you’ll see a path heading North along the top of the stop bank. This is a cycle path, you’ll get yourself another 5km or so of paving going this way, you’re only a few metres from the official trail for most of it, and you’ll actually get a better view of the river from here.
  3. It’s possible to get yourself a few hundred metres of extra paving on the section between the turn off to Stokes Valley and the bridge from SH2 at Silverstream, but this section is actually really pretty and fun if you stick on the trail.  It’s also the first bit where you’ll need to use your brakes and gears.
  4. Through the back of Harcourt Park is where the trail starts to get a bit less “ride in the park”. You don’t need a mountain bike – I’ve proved that, but there were a couple of sections where I did get off and push for safety, as there are some tight turns, rough spots and steep drops down to the river. I was riding alone and towards the end of the day, so was being extra cautious. When I rode this bit with Ryan a while ago I think I only did this in one spot.  There are also two or three spots where my 8 gears didn’t cut it for the uphill, but these are usually less than 10m of riding.
  5. When you exit Harcout Park, you need to turn left and head for the footpath at the end of the parking bay. I couldn’t see the next sign, and stopped and tried to work it out from what I could see of the maps on the website on my phone. It feels wrong, because you’re heading towards the Akawatere Valley, and away from Te Marua/Maymorn, but it is the right way.
  6. A couple of hundred metres on, you head down to the river bank. A bit of it is actually riding in the riverbed, or, as I like to call it, pushing your bike. Maybe if I had a mountain bike, I wouldn’t have needed to, but it’s pretty rough here and the stones and rocks do move. It’s followed by a steep bit, and after a few twists and turns, you end up on a grassy bit.  It may be possible to cut straight to the grassy bit by riding along the road for a couple of hundred metres or so, but I haven’t investigated that yet.  From here on in you’ll be riding on grass for maybe a kilometre or so, broken up by a bit of a path through bush. It was getting towards dusk by this point, and there were roots across the path, so I dismounted and pushed through some of that.
  7. Once you reach the road, you’re nearly there! Just another 2 kilometres or so, you go up a hill and you’ll be at Maymorn.

All up, it took me just over 3 hours and 20 minutes. That includes a couple of toilet stops (there are plenty of conveniences along the way). The rain probably made it a little slower going, but by the time I’d done 26km it was easing up, and at least the path wasn’t too dusty!

I’ll be back with Day 2 later – stay tuned, ‘cos I actually have some photos to go with that post!



Illustration of a tauhou or waxeye perched on a twig of kōwhai.

Tēnā koe,
it’s nice to meet you.

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