This was the earliest start I can remember, up at 0530 and the plan was to hit the road at 0630. Breakfast was a feast of Baked Beans with submarines (sausages), and a tin of creamed rice. I once again left the others to finish preparing and slowly crept down the main street and toward the hills. This was the first morning I’d class as being cold, donning the arm and leg warmers for the first time. The day was clear and the sun was going to be roasting by the time we hit midday, so I was glad to get most of the climbing done early. We regrouped at the foot of a solid climb at the start of the Braeburn Track. As we progressed, I felt pretty good, and managed to ride with Stephen at first, then somehow caught Dave. As I spotted the crest, I let off all my steam and sprinted to the top, as much as a surprise to me as my companions. The descent down to Lake Rotoroa was another sweet gravel slider, with some stunning morning lake views. I was in good spirits, soon to be dampened by the sight of gradient of the Porika Track. Dave proceeded to spin up it, the only course of action for the singlespeeders to walk. And what a walk that would be. The surface was loose and steep, ofter requiring line corrections. As a person who rides with one gear offroad fulltime, this is the kind of slope that seems impossible. I don’t remember riding anything like this in my previous life as a gearie, but it may just be possible. This was the first time I wish I’d had gears. This and all the flat stuff I’ve conveniently forgotten and recovered from.
Just over 40 minutes later, we ended our push, delighting in the news that Dave had just ridden all the way to the top, our educated guess being that he was the only one to have done so (corrections welcomed). A refuel later and we were descending, the details escape me, but I think it was fun, the push up the other side dominating my memories. Back out on the open road, we were treated to a serving of false flat that didn’t register as such, but made me question my condition. Being passed by a motorbike in the opposite direction with the throttle wide open didn’t help matters. After some more die straight road, a kink for a bridge, then another die straight road, we finally hit some curves. Somewhere before those curves, I dropped back and caught some fresh head space. The “St Arnaud” sign was cruelly placed at the town boundary; did they think this place would grow? A few kilometres later, I reached the service station, again greeted by D&S. A pie (sorry to all those how missed out, but the OAP tourist before me took 2!), a mega slice of carrot cake, some bumper bars, a few cookie times, and a ginger beer made for a great refuel stop. I sat on the grass and ingested my loot. Dave returned from the café across the road with his signature quad-shot short black (espresso). We discussed the route to Nelson, the hard part behind us. It was downhill from here to Nelson, loosing 600m of altitude on the way. Cool. Let me give you one piece of advice. If anyone says “It’ all downhill from here”, they’re wrong. I know Dave regards 100m vertical ascents as insignificant, and while road climbs are relatively easy on a singlespeed, they do inflict mental anguish upon arriving at their feet. In this a lesson, don’t think about hills, just ride whatever falls before your wheels. On this stretch, Dave disappeared over the horizon – or was that one of those hills – leaving Stephen and I to cruise toward Nelson. At some point, on a scorched piece of bitumen, Stephen’s tyre had another meltdown. This was not good news. I’m not sure on how many times we tried to repair it, but eventually the patches were finished, and there was no discernable cause to the randomly appearing holes. A few people stopped to say hello, and eventually Peter caught us again. He kindly offered to lend a 26” tube, maybe kiddy wheels would be his salvation after all. After a mammoth struggle with a seemingly invincible tyre lever, four hands, and a lot of swearing, the bead finally popped on. I quickly texted around to ask everyone to cross their appendages, and Stephen began to pump. Mercifully the tube held air, and it seemed like we would be able to ride again, having spent about 1 ½ hours trying to do so. No matter, we were rolling again, the legs taking some time to adjust to their new role, we made decent progress. Tyre pressure was carefully monitored, stopping a few times to do the squeeze test, but eventually it was left to do its thing. The Eighty Eight Rd was a beast, more hills and supremely hot conditions. At Wakefield, we picked Peter up again, enjoying his company on the ride through the suburbs of Nelson, negotiating the maze of cycle paths. The ride in seemed to take an age, however the ride around the seafront was splendid, with the cliffs still baring the scars inflicted by the recent storm. Our mission was now to get to a bike shop before closing and shoe Stephen’s bike with new rubber. The door was locked, but we managed to look desperate enough for someone to assist us. They were awesome. Within 20 minutes, Stephen had a new tubeless tyre and a renewed sense of security. Result.
I just had to. I was alone and bored of the false flat blacktop. Just outside St Arnaud, formerly home to a good pie, sorry to all those that missed out!
The start of the puncture fixing marathon :(
As we cruised through town, searching for food, we spotted a Pizzeria, asked for directions to a supermarket, found it, stocked up on food, then returned to pick up a pizza each. We sat on the school grounds of Nelson Central School, and ate pizza and drank beer. I guess it was about 7pm when Nathan and Thomas rolled up. They’d filled up on pizza and were heading for the Maungatapu Track. At this point I was keen to join them, but for a few reasons I didn’t. The decision to stay in Nelson was the most difficult I made during the brevet. Most people had continued into the setting sun, attacking the slopes of the Maungatapu. Of course, I had no idea what lay ahead, but I felt I could carry on, and stop when I was ready. I guess the delays of the day, the warm summer evening and the competitive spirit – one I’d been conscious to ignore until now – were all adding to the desire to ride further. I was pretty close to saying goodbye to Stephen at the gates to the Matai Motor Camp, but I guess the camaraderie we’d had during the past 5 days was what won me over. It was too late in the ride to start treating it as a race anyhow, so I may as well enjoy the rest of it. Time to kick back.