Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Longest Night Ride 2014

For the last 3 years the Inspiring Riding  team have been doing an all night ride on the longest night of the year. I hadn't felt fit enough to tackle one of these missions previously, so hopefully with some residual fitness from the KiwiBrevet  four months earlier and nothing bigger than  a 35km ride since, I'd be up to it.

We all congregated at the Beach Road Deli in Paekakariki for a pre-ride wood fired pizza and espresso. A dozen souls in all.
Pre ride sustenance
A look at the bikes on show revealed a predominance of cyclocross bikes (like road bikes but built to be ridden off road) a few MTBs and one touring bike. 4:58pm was officially dusk, so around then we headed off on the beachside trails through Queen Elizabeth Park to Paraparaumu. It was here that I found myself upside down in a flax bush, undone by some soft sand, fortunately the only crash of the whole ride. The next stop was to be the Tuatara brewery in Paraparaumu, we made it after riding around most of the town following some dodgy navigation. I got myself a tasting tray, samples of 4 of their finest beers, some of the more finely tuned athletes among us packed some beer for later in the ride.

Suitably fortified the next step was the Akatarawa Hill Rd, a windy narrow link between Waikanae and Upper Hutt, fortunately it's not too steep. The weather was quite mild, with no sign of the predicted rain and a northerly behind us it got hot quickly, it was a little odd at 9pm in the middle of winter to be overheating. The only other person we saw on the road that night was a spectator shouting encouragement  from his driveway, one of the Coastal Crew who had done a similar ride the night before. We regathered at the top of the hill and zoomed down to mine for banana cake and a hot drink. We lost two of our companions at this point who decided they had had enough and headed home.

The next phase was the Rimutaka Incline, the pre-tunnel rail link between Wellington and the Wairarapa. We had our only clear skies of the night at Tunnel Gully so we turned off our lights and took in the star scape. We were again assisted by the Northerly on the ride to the summit. At the summit the gas cookers came out, coffee was brewed, baked goods and chocolate were heaped up in the shelter for general consumption. The earlier purchased beer appeared as well, but strangely, no one really seemed that keen. Things were starting to cool down a bit, so extra layers were added in preparation for the descent to Cross Creek. We bid farewell to another of our companions at this point. The ride down to Cross Creek was one of the few times on the ride that my suspension and fat tires came into their own.

The Summit in Daylight
What followed was a 30km slog into what was now a Southerly along the Western Lake Rd, skirting Lakes Wairarapa and Onoke, unable to stay with the shelter of the bunch I rode most of this section on my own. Physically I found this part off the ride the most difficult, a stop to repair the only puncture of the night was a welcome respite, the cruelest trick was the 100m climb at the end of the road that felt many times higher.

The section of 4wd track between Ocean Beach and Orongorongo Homestead was a grueling 5 hours of washed out stream beds interspersed with soft sand, rocky track and locked gates. The wash outs often involved 1-2m drops in and out of the stream beds and the dark made it difficult to pick up the track on the other side. Along this section three of the faster riders parted company with the rest of us, understandable as the more waiting around you did the colder you got. The sun rose on our left as we approached the end of the coastal trail.

Me, in the trough of my circadian rhythm. Photo stolen from Inspiring Riding. 

I had lost sight of Paul and missed a turn in the track, somehow I got ahead of him and didn't make the rendezvous at the Oronorongio River bridge, assuming I had got it wrong, I pushed on to the bridge over the Wainuiomata River, still no Paul. Not wanting to head back into the wind I changed my socks and waited for the others to catch up. 

The final section is the ride from Baring Head to Days bay, a short sharp climb to bypass the  private land and then graded gravel road past the lighthouses and shipwreck back to the gate at Muritai Rd. A cooked breakfast at the Pavilion Cafe in Day's Bay is followed by a ferry ride back to Queens Wharf, then a quick ride back to the car.

Would I do this again? Probably, a ride like this needs to be considered as a complete experience. Physically and mentally it's a bit of a roller coaster, there are certainly times when you question whether this is where you want to be, and other times when you feel great. Good company, a shared sense of adventure, humor and a cooked breakfast make it all worthwhile.

A big thanks to Paul for organizing the ride and to those I shared the night with.