In a world increasingly preoccupied with throwaway materialistic things; where people are constantly busy earning money to pay for those things, or so their children can have those things;
This is the story of my dreams of travelling the world by bicycle. Because it's there. And because I dont want to die without experiencing the truly important things in life .

A sense of wonder and a sense of adventure.

Monday, 9 February 2015

The M.U.M is Dead.

The M.U.M is Dead , Long Live the M.U.M
My previous blog was all about playing at the beach and getting through Christmas with the minimum amount of distress. I achieved an A+ in both of those topics but unfortunately February has not been as forgiving.

My first failure was in the 600km event that I entered as my final qualifier for the Paris -Brest -Paris. Having done a post mortum on why I managed to complete only 120 kms of the 600km event , I can with assurance put it down to over confidence , or as we say in this part of the world "being too bloody cocky".  Through being "too bloody cocky" I had decided to cycle the 1oo kms to the event the day before and sleep the night in a tent. Not a good idea as I got no sleep due to the hard ground and the fat guy in the neighbouring caravan snoring his head off! The next mistake was packing my tent up on the morning of the event and instead of leaving it at the campground I put it on the front rack and entered the event with it, intent on using it at the half way point. The next mistake, taking a front rack at all ....what was I thinking! And all the other stuff packed in the rear bag, such as ; a sleeping bag, sleeping roll and silk liner. A tooth brush and credit card were useful items but I should have stopped there. To be honest though at the end of the day my head just wasn't in it. My bike was fine (but more on that later) and physically ( in spite of the lack of sleep) I was ok.
We started in warm tropical like rain and by the time I got to the 120km mark ,( which just happened to be the closest point to home), the weather was hot and sunny, and I was telling the organiser Craig that I just couldn't be faffed and was going home. The reality of the situation, and something that I hadn't fully comprehending at that time, was that I was overloaded and wouldn't have made the distance even if I had plugged on. If gravity hadn't got me then the lack of sleep would have.
So now I have still to do the 600km qualifier. The next and only local one is out of the question,  its the busy time at the bike shop and I cant get the time off. Also the event is part of a series and I cant spend the time or money doing all of them. My last chance to qualify will be a 600km circuit in the North Island in late April. This will be on unfamiliar ground, through what looks like tough country, and in Autumn. I'm going to go for this but I'm going to lighten the load, put my best wheels on, and use the credit card for a few luxuries such as a bed the night before and at the halfway point. The organiser doesn't know it yet but I'm going to attempt to stick with him as he knocks these rides out regularly, and i think pretty much without failure.

And now to my Mercian..... what can I say, last week my world was thrown into complete caos. While cleaning my bike,( the bike that has served me faithfully for 7 years standing watch over me as I slept in  rat infested hovels in Bolivia , llama huts in Peru, and the bike that got me out of the cayman infested Pantanal)  I discovered had cracked. The bike that had carried me across Australia, Canada, Vietnam and the US was fatally fractured.   I could send him back to Mercian Cycles to be repaired and repainted but the cost of the freight would be prohibitive and who's to say that when he got home he wouldn't shortly develop problems in another tube. I thought about it for the day and then  decided to strip him down , clean him up and hang him in the bike shed. A constant reminder to the fun and loneliness we shared together. He can hang next to three other frames that I have also ridden to death.

Id be telling a lie if I said there weren't  tears as I removed all attached components, but there you go, nothing lasts forever.This was something I said to the Mercian people seven years ago when I commissioned him. At that time they gave me a questioning look when I also commissioned a spare ( M,U.M 2, or to possibly be called 'Step Mum') Now that spare has been pressed into service.

So my 7year old spare frame has been built up and i hope will continue to carry me around the globe, starting in Scandinavia this year. Later in the year I will contact Mercian Cycles and check that they still have my M.U.M blueprint. I will tell them that their frames are only good for about 150,000kms when 'Niel the Wheel' rides them and that they'll have to start building me another spare. I'll tell them I am mildly unamused and I have calculated that at the rate that their frames break down I will need to put aside about $1 per day to be able to travel in the class to which I have become accustomed.
I'm going to have to end now as I'm too sad. I'll finish by saying though that M.U.M 2 or my new' Step Mum' has built up into a fine thing and I am happy for her. In time we'll bond , but I'm still sad and having trouble growing attached to something so transient. I'm not even sure I'll clear coat her paint work. Whats the point , she's just going to die and leave me in 7 years.

ps. I bare no disrespect for the craftsmanship of the Mercian builders as they do a lovely job. Its the raw materials that are at fault. Reynolds Tubing may have built structural components for Spitfire fighters back in the day,  but then what was their life expectancy? Serious cyclists need something tougher than steel.

Monday, 12 January 2015

Roll on 2015.

Another year has begun and Christmas is done and dusted. I'm pretty pleased with myself for not wasting any money over the festive season. I managed to get a week or so of covering work at the bike shop so could afford my Christmas present and the costs of my next qualifying event for Paris-Brest-Paris.
Working for the ten days up until Xmas and having to deal with the frenzy on the roads was enough to put me off Xmas for the next three years to come. But you do have to get your priorities right and a month before I had ordered the gift to myself on line and on the day it was waiting in the garage.

Once uncovered and with a little tweaking, it was ready for the road. The one thing I lacked here when years ago I sold the last of our modern cars to finance a cycling trip overseas ,was a means to get my canoe down to the beach 10kms away. I toyed with the idea of getting a very short wave rider type of canoe that would fit on the BoB trailer but then I would have the hassle of selling our two bigger canoes. The idea of getting a proper canoe trailer cemented itself when I realised I could also use it for bringing over sized items such as weatherboards back from the hardware shop. A hunt on-line showed the wicked prices for these overseas. But wonders never cease and I located a New Zealand engineer that could make me one for $250 !  When it arrived just before Xmas I of course had to check that it was all there and in doing so was very pleased with the quality.
In a couple minutes I had the canoe on the trailer and it all hitched up to the Mercian. I have to tell you that I wasn't looking forward to going in to battle with the NZ motorist as I pulled it all to the beach. There are back ways that I can take but unfortunately I have to mix it with Mr 'Testosterone' and Mrs 'Don't hold us Up' in a couple of places. I also wasn't unaware that the Xmas/New Year road toll last year was 7 and already this year we were up to 16. The whole package had very stable and predictable handling but did stick out to the side by an xtra 500mm or so. Something that I knew would prove daunting to Mr & Mrs Autobottom.

 I found that on the flat I could comfortably sit on 20km/hr but that the drag was easily twice as much as with my BoB trailer. The ride to the beach is all flat and after 10kms or so I was there in one piece. Ignorant motorists stared as if they'd never seen anything like it but I was not subjected to the intolerance that I had expected. Some vestitude of the festive spirit or perhaps the calming effect of a glass or three of wine still in their systems I expect.
Once I'd got home and had unpacked I realised that the iphone that work had given me had got salt water on it and was acting in a somewhat erratic way. The next day was a hard 400km PBP qualifier that I'd hoped to plot using the iphone.
Takaka Hill a Few Years Back. Not Much has Changed.Still an Epic Climb. Still too many Motorists.
 The ride was brutal over the Takaka hill range and back in the heat. But all  I could think about was how my smart phone wasn't working. It refused in the end to respond to any touch commands and the following day once I had recovered from the ride I threw the whole phone into a jar of methylated spirits in a desperate attempt to get the salt water out of it. Once the bubbles had stopped coming out of it I left it to dry in the sun and then switched it on. To my amazement everything worked perfectly although with a somewhat purple tinge a left over side effect from the meths. Not to be beaten I then drowned it in clear Colemans Spirits. Things were a bit clearer now but the WiFi wouldn't switch on? The cure for this suggested Utube was to blow torch the phone and then let it cool down. The blow torching went beautifully , cooling down in the freezer took some time, but too no avail , WiFi would still not switch on although to be fare to my efforts the phone was no worse.
With that iphone consigned to the dustbin a friend at work said he'd sell me his old iphone for $80. So I'm up and running again and determined to be more careful with this one. It's a bit doggy but I cant justify the hundreds of dollars for a new one. You can see that I'm totally addicted to them now though and when I need another, I have decided to by the oldest model iphone that you can  buy new.
Later this week I have the final 600km qualifier for PBP to complete and it looks like rain. We need the rain, but what a bummer because in an effort to save money and hold steadfast to my principles of unsupportedness I have decided to ride the 100km to the start of the event and then home afterwards and to sleep in my one person coffin tent at the start / middle and finish. Ive got 40 hrs to complete the 600km. The others have all booked accommodation for the rest stop but I will settle for a patch of flat ground somewhere at the 350km mark. These things always sound so easy when you plan them on the couch. Think of the time I will save not having to check into a motel or having a shower. I'll also have to carry the tent , a sleeping bag and other bits and pieces that can only serve to make me stronger. The whole thing is easily justified until you actually have to do it. I just tell myself that it cant be any harder than the Kiwi Brevet that I did last year. In fact when it comes to unpleasantly hard cycle camping I have a whole host of experiences to draw from. You have got to feel sorry for people that haven't suffered like a dog on the bike and have nothing to bring to mind when they need cheering up.

Next week I'm going to invest in a solar charger for my iphone and cycle light. The idea being that when I'm cycling in Europe later this year I can freedom camp as much as possible while still maintaining the charge in the phone. This will be the first time that I will solely  rely on my smart phone for communication and blogging. I can save a lot of weight by not taking the netbook and its charger. But I think that buying a credible solar charger is not as easy as looking at a couple hundred reviews and putting your money down. I think there are a lot of charlatans selling fake and totally ineffective solar chargers out there. I'm resigned to the fact that I will have to buy it from a local store and not on line, just because no matter how much research you do on a particular model, the nagging doubts are still there. The store will have to take it back if it proves ineffective ( cross fingers). It would of course be easier to make the choice if they knew something about the products they sell. A, "we've not had any come back" only goes so far to reassuring the customer. And they wonder why they are losing sales to the on line stores. The on line stores are telling me that they have 200 satisfied customers and 20 customers that think the product is shite and will never do business with the company again. I don't want to be the 21st. I'm going to go with one called the Solar Monkey Traveller. Here's hoping that I can attach it to the rear rack of the bike and in the course of the day it will charge the phone.

Had a nice paddle at the beach today. The over-spenders where all back at work and the children and carers where confined to the shallows. Frolicking among the waves and surfing in on the swells was all going swimmingly until I en counted a dead and bloated whale drifting down the beach. The smell alone drove me ashore where I promptly packed up my kit, hitched the canoe and trailer onto the back of the Mercian and headed home. I might have been able to provide a picture had I not decided to never take my phone canoeing again. At the rate of drift I would say that the whole smelly mess would be washing up amongst the paddlers in about 40minutes. By then I should be back at home with an alcoholic beverage.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Pre Xmas Stress; Not.

My tickets to Europe have arrived. So that's it I'm going. I don't leave until August next year so have plenty of time to think about it and to finish qualifying for the PBP cycle event.

I have done the 400km pre qualifier and the 200km and 300km qualifier. But still need the 400 and 600km under my belt. The reality of the situation is that I live for cycle touring and whether or not I get into the PBP has no influence on whether I go to Europe. My tickets in effect can't be cancelled anyway. 

As I look at the ticket dates I can see that I will be kicking around in or about Paris for three or four days waiting for the event to start. That's time that I could be cycling towards Northern Norway if I wasn't entered. But the PBP only happens every 4 years so want to make the effort to be part of it.

I'm still very conscious of cycling within the Arctic Circle in autumn so want to get started North as soon as possible. 

Last week I tried to organise a long distance ride of 300 km but ended up as a no show! It was just as well that nobody else bothered to turn up either or things could have been embarrassing. I dragged my arse out of bed in the end and rode my 250km loop telling myself that all was well and that I had better turn up for the 400km ride that I've put on the program next month. I not only need that ride for a qualifier but I'm also pretty sure that some other Audaxers will also turn up for it.

The Christmas frenzy is slowly winding up out there. I can hear the busy little bees zooming up and down along the road beyond our gate. Trying to find another gift to stuff in little Sarah's bulging sack and of course other things that they won't wait for the day for. Of course out on the roads the usual dim wit truck drivers and everyday autonom's continue to practice there selfish driving habits but with the added excuse that they are busy and stressed at this time of year so any smaller road user in their way just shouldn't exist.

My thoughts on that are that it's time for petrol and vehicle registration to go up again as there is clearly to many of them now on the road getting in the cyclist's way. Inconceivable as  it may seem, the price of petrol has just dropped again for the summer season! Encouraging more fat and lazy teenagers to get behind the wheel.

I bought my Xmas present a month ago and have hid it from myself in the garage. Obviously I know what it is and had to have a peek just to make sure that it was all there when it turned up ,but other than that I am prepared to wait for the day before playing with it.

That act of self denial apparently puts me in the more intelligent than average category. Sorry kids, those that can't wait and already have their Xmas gifts are now described in studies as the more mentally challenged in our society. You will grow up to be truckies and pram pushers.

My left crank broke off the other day while out on a recovery ride. It's not every day that a crank breaks and a first time for me. Once I'd picked myself up off the road and  checked that my top tube was unscathed from the whack that my balls gave it I had time to think about the excitement of this rare event happening to me. Almost S exciting as when my front forks broke a few years back. The end result from both these incidents was the same however.... A long walk home. I have to be honest about this and admit that eventually a motorist did stop and offer me a lift the rest of the way home. But it was unsolicited by myself. I wasn't too proud to refuse though. 

When I got home and the reality had finally set in that my 30yr old Campag cranks where toast I was much saddened and apprehensive about how to juggle finances in such away as to afford another set. Vintage Campag on EBay is an exorbitant price. I thought I'd try a long shot and put the word out locally first. 

Jim, a local cyclocross man had not one but a pair of cranksets that he agreed to sell for a fare price. A meeting was arranged and the deal done. In less than three days the Mercian was fully operational again and I have a spare crankset and a still undamaged right Hand crank.

And just to show that life doesn't totally revolve around cycling and travel I have included a photo of the new mini feijoa orchard I hope will be on line in the next year or two.

. A sure sign of Xmas in our parts is the flowering of these little devils. And the fruit is available from the gate everywhere in late Autumn. Once the grapes are finished and that's left around here are kiwi fruit and feijoas. I need to have a bit of that action.

Summers here and the darkest lens are now required in the riding glasses. In case you're wondering, no all these lens didn't come with the glasses. But old lens are often easy to adjust with a file to fit other frames. Variety is the spice of life.

Monday, 27 October 2014

To the Arctic.

Home life is never dull for 'Niel the Wheel'. Having returned home after completing my PBP pre qualifier my Adi informed me that she was going to do the Trans American Cycle Race ( called the TransAm for short) and then fly to Europe to follow me in the PBP before then doing a European cycle tour with me. 

Now like most people I dream from time to time that I can fly or save the world using my super powers, but most of the time, while my eyes are open, I would say that I'm a realist. As a realist I quickly saw this as a desperate attempt to be involved in everything cycling for 2015 with absolutely no way of financially achieving any of it.

I couldn't quite get my head around it all at once, having completed the 400 km 

event and then scootered back from Picton,I was a might groggy up top. 

I could see that Adi needed a goal, something achievable so I strongly suggested that she pick either Europe or the US and go for it. A wonderful fun filled cycle tour with me or a frantic slog across the US with only her bicycle for company. Of course she chose America. I should have guessed that shantytown America would top Paris every time.

So be it. I'm  proud of her for wanting to go out on her own . She always has been more competitive than I am and the thought of a racing / touring mix proved too strong for her. I'm excited for her and will follow her from the comfort of our lounge. It also means that I can look after the house and our 3 boys while she's gone. 

But most of all it means that I can plan my own cycle tour immediately after the PBP that has all the things I like in it. Namely hills , tunnels, and tough and slightly isolated terrain. Now Adi has told me that I am not allowed to further my adventures in Eastern Europe and Asia without her because we both want to do that. And I'm not suppose to go anywhere she hasn't been and wants to go because I'm already a bit ahead on countries due to my Sth American adventures. So things were looking like the med and South until I hatched a plan to go somewhere that I knew Adi would never want to tackle. 

A  place full of huge bridges, long tunnels, mountains, biting insects, rain, more rain and long slogs between towns. O and maybe a bit of snow in the late summer. Sounds good you reckon? Not to Adi. And that's why she has given me the green light to cycle from Paris to Honingsvag and back. 

Honingsvag is at the end of the world and a prettier place would be hard to find. It is situated north of the arctic circle and will mark my turn around point. Assuming I survive my pedal to Honingsvag I will then turn my wheels south through Finland and Sweden back to where my balls can thaw out in Denmark. The only thorn in my tyre over all this is the annoying fact that the PBP event doesn't start until the 16 August  and so I can't start my passage north until after this. ETA at the top of the world will therefore be in Autumn. 

If there is anyone reading my blog (such as this person) who lives in Hammerfest could you please tell me the likelihood of me completing this little jaunt north of you, and returning with all of my fingers and toes un-frosted . I can probably afford to loose a toe or two in each foot. My cycle shoes will then fit better. But I'd rather not loose too many fingers. Google tells me that you lucky chooks in Hammerfest are today enjoying a balmy autumn day of 3C falling to 1C tonight. My drink bottles won't freeze then. 

Adi is a dear, she is so keen to send me off to the arctic next year that she has already completed my itinerary and signed herself up for the TransAm.

Thermals , that's what I'm going to need. Lots of thermals. 

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Eat Me Out Of House And Home.

I  spend all my time dreaming about cycle rides and pretty girls. 

While I ponder gear ratios and spoke patterns those hard shelled little bastards are eating my house. Season by season they munch away trying to drill out my weatherboards like a 1970's break lever. I know they feel they are doing the right thing, rimu weatherboards are over engineered for their intended use. But as with brake levers I now prefer the smooth unadulterated look. Those little cannibals can piss off ,before my hair is blowing in the breeze while I sit on the couch.

But how to get rid of the little sods? How many holes in a weatherboard constitutes a replacement? One? Ten ? Building supplies staff weren't entirely sure on this one so I came back with mixed opinions and a saddlebag full of preservative and insecticide. I'm resigned to buying new boards where I see a grouping of holes (something resembling a borer village) but I can't see the point in replacing a whole board for your solo dweller. And I have done my homework. I have it on good knowledge that the little humpbacks can hide in there for up to 3 years so if I slosh enough deadly poison on those boards I take off , paint them all over and store them in the bike shed after 3 years cooling off they should be good to use again? Slosh , paint and squirt , that'll do it.

It's simple really, I just have to treat and replace boards quicker than the little dears can eat them. Should be easy.

My smart phone tells me I'm going to have a wet 400 km ride on Saturday. It seems very convinced that I will be a wet puppy. But I won't have a wet arse because if the heavens darken tomorrow I'm putting my mudguards on. Function over fancy any day .

My First Proper Audax Event.

The day is drawing closer when I will attempt my first 400 km event with the audax club. Last week my Adi and I had arranged to do a local 335 km circuit as training for our respective attempts at the 400 km event. We chose different days so that we could each ride it in our own way and also should either of us crash and burn then the other was at home to feed the fur babies and initiate any rescue mission required.

Being forever the gentleman I let Adi have first crack at it. She started with gusto at 4.30 am and had completed the hilly first third of it by morning tea time. I read on face book of her adventures while on the couch with my coffee and chocolate. By afternoon tea time she was still on track having fended off attacking magpies and battling a strong headwind. I sipped my coffee all the time wishing I was there. She was so lucky to be out there doing it! Here I was stuck on the couch reading all about it on social media like some sorry person. By dinner time and with the sun going down Niel the Wheel had just returned from the fish & chip shop to read that Adi had suffered mechanicals in the dark and had called it quits at the 235 km mark. She was apparently sprawled on the plush duvet of a Havelock motel awaiting the owner to deliver bubble and sweak. It now being late and with Adi arriving in a somewhat bedraggled state the owners did all they could to revive her. Next day she arrived home having completed the final 100  km of the journey. Looking a might glazed in the eyes but with a smile on her face she seemed to have not suffered in any other way. But looks can be deceptive , she had returned a changed woman. She was now in no doubt about the Paris Brest Paris. She said "you can stick getting up early and riding through the night, I'm not having a bar of it!"

The next day 'Niel the Wheel' was up ,not so early ,for his attempt at the 335 km around the block. Things went crocked right from the started when my preferred cycling app switched off 30 kms into the course rendering my later posting of it pointless. You can't brag about stuff like this if you don't have the stats to back it up. In the dark upon leaving I had also forgotten to start my cycle computer. This was a small thing discovered when I passed under a flickering street light. I'm not a morning person and little things like this can annoy me. As the sun came up I warmed to the ride and come morning tea I was ready for the magpie infested Wairau Valley. 

Bandits at 3 O' clock high! Bandit at 6 O' clock coming low and hard! The little shits had me on the edge of my seat for 90 kms. The finally came with one of the feathered cretins forcing me off the road and into a drainage ditch with his persistence .  Clearly he was enjoying every minute off it. I dragged my Mercian back to the road and cycled off into what was now a solid headwind being further attacked until he spied a novice tandem couple coming the other way and clearly felt he could inflict more damage hassling them. Leaving me in peace to tackle the headwind to my late lunch stop. Electronic data transfer once again let me down here and for the rest of the afternoon when I tried to post my experiences on face book. Poo Bum, 2/3 of the ride was done and I had failed to tell the world about it. 

While eating a plate of greasy fish & chips I consoled myself with the fact that bike and body were ambling along happily even if the wi if side was shit. While stuffing down my final greasy chips with the help of a double vanilla milkshake I made one final attempt to post something on the net and voila I was back in business. The final 4 1/2 hours of the ride was completed in darkness. I'd recently bought a Cateye 1200 front light though and the beam was so impressive that apart from almost throwing up at the top of a steep climb ,when my milkshake began to mix with the coke at the other end of my stomach , I thoroughly enjoyed the dark hours.

I dragged my now tired arse across the home doorstep we'll before midnight and having completed the 335 kms.

So I sit here now awaiting the actual event in 3 days. My marching orders have arrived via the randonneuring club and Adi has once again reasserted that she won't be doing it. The field looks like numbering less than 10 and the weather at best indication gives light rain. 

I've done my homework for this one, the cabins booked and my mudguards will be on standby.

Bring it on.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Foot Fungus

Im addicted now to my smart phone and it's Adi's birthday tomorrow so she's going to get one whether she likes it or not.

Talking of my Adi, she has been training consistently since spring arrived and can now handle a 250km ride. Paris - Brest- Paris pre qualification is just around the corner and I have jumped in and agreed to host a number of qualifiers in the Tasman area. 

My New Long Distance Mascot as Found.

I've put together a couple of rides that I think I could well regret . Rides that I could well find myself as the only entrant. The important thing though is that they will be qualifiers for PBP and I won't have to fork out dosh to travel out of town to qualify.

Happy to be Loved Again.&

In a months time Adi and I will enter a 400km event to pre qualify. She is naturally worried about how this will pan out for her and is going to take advantage of as much time as is allowed. 

I have the option of riding it with her or going at my own pace. I'm torn between being with her to provide support in the event that she may have a mechanical problem or to leave her to it. I'm erring on the side of just doing my own thing as that is the way we will be riding the PBP.

Last week , after two weeks of Spring sunshine ,New Zealand reverted to Winter rain and snow and I did virtually no cycling. I spent the week helping Adi get addicted to her new smart phone and roaming around the house identifying more areas of wood worm attack. By the end of the week I had ripped out a small section of rotten timber and repainted another. A mere drop in the ocean but enough to make me feel better.

House maintenance didn't satisfy my cycling head however so not being able to get out on my bike I set about tuning the engine. I cut down on my chocolate intake, increased my coffee consumption and reinstated my sit up routine. And after four years of treatment I am proud to announce that my foot fungus is finally in remission. I started treatment with creams when cycling the US in 2010 because unlike in NZ I didn't need to mortgage the house to afford the anti fungal creams. Toe by toe I have been driving the invader back. It's been a tough battle but with only two toes left infected , I will win the battle and banish that evil forever. 

My feet are a little wide for my Sidi cycle shoes so I think this aggravates the problem. I should get my left little toe removed because after a few years it damages the fabric in my shoe. I think little toes are a complete waste of space anyway when it comes to cycling. Babies should have a couple of their toes removed from each foot when their born so that later when they grow there's more room for the other toes and no chance of chaffing on long rides while out on the bike. Much the same way as my wisdom teeth were removed so that my jaw was not so crammed with teeth that I couldn't do up my helmet strap. Some things I've found happen naturally when you cycle a lot. My hairs rubbed off the top of my head from wearing my helmet too much and my nose has got bigger allowing me to cut through those head winds more efficiently.