First Official Day of Biking

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Saturday, Dec.15 was to be the official departure of ActiveSteve from Auckland to points unknown. Well, I sort of knew some points that I would hit. My first little while will be spent in the Northlands of New Zealand, as far as Cape Reinga, the northernmost point of New Zealand. Some say this area holds the most challenging biking, and if I could make it there, I’d make it anywhere. However, before I went anywhere, there was the matter of getting things packed up. This would prove to be a little more challenging than anticipated. I awoke shortly after 8:30 on Saturday, and dragged Kevin out for breakfast before starting the packing. Read on for my exciting first day.

Well, my trailer had seemed so massive when I picked it up, and I had visions of oodles of extra room for all my things held safely within it. Well, I don’t know if if shrank in the meantime or something, but I had a rude awakening when trying to pack it. The massive duffle bag I had sort of fit in it, but there wasn’t room for all my things in it as well. So, I had to get to work on slimming the load. I got rid of a bunch of my clothes, of which I had only a little to start with. Next to go were running shoes, a running bottle, and a day pack (I had 2). Once these things were stuck in my bike box, I was able to sort of get everything in the trailer, and cover it up. Well, except for my Pelican Case with all my fragile electronics!

Good thing Jody got me that thing for my birthday. I’ve ended up having to keep it strapped to the top of the trailer, exposed to the elements. Luckily, it’s made for just such challenges, so I feel pretty comfortable having it out there. In fact, it’s already taken some damage, but that’s for later. Once all things were packed and lashed, I was ready to roll. Kevin took a quick shot of me for posterity, and I rolled out of Cranbrook Mews for at least a couple weeks. I know it’ll sound obvious, but the first thing I noticed was how damn heavy it was to haul that junk around. I’ve already decided when I’m back in Auckland, I’m stripping more weight. Next to go will be my camp stove, pot, place setting, and fuel cans. I just don’t think I’ll ever be that far from being able to get take-away. Even if I am, I’ll get food I don’t have to cook. I’d ditch the sleeping stuff, like tent, sleeping bag and thermarest, but those I still think might come in handy.

Anyway, back to the bike ride. Since I had a slow start, I decided that the first day would take me as far as a place called Helensville, a mere 60km away from Auckland via the back-ish roads. It was the right call. Even getting out of Auckland was pretty annoying and challenging. I had to go all the way to downtown, then take busy streets out to a bike path leading out of Auckland. After a while, I lost the path, and had to ask for help finding my way. Ironically, the road biker I ran into is a fellow who splits his time between Toronto and Auckland, and owns the Italpasta Racing Team. He’s also great friends with Kiwi Mike, who is a well-known Ottawa chap at the Cyclery in Ottawa. Again, small world. He led me out for a while, then pointed the right way to take. A wave and a thank-you and off I went again.

Shortly after finally clearing the Auckland hurdles, I was on the 16 heading to Helensville. There, I discovered the joy of hills. I kid. It’s pure misery when you’re hauling so much weight. Granted, the grade on these hills ranged between 8 and 11%, so I did have a reason to curse. Also, as many have pointed out, the roads are narrower, there are no shoulders, and drivers aren’t always so nice. I’ve been told now that North Island in particular can be hellish. I agree. I’ve already had it up to here. I’ve also already managed to wipe out and flip the trailer. However, that wasn’t anyones fault but my own. I was biking along a steep street, when there was these sort of two curbs on either side of the lane, presumably to act as some sort of passing barrier. Somehow, my left wheel of the trailer hit the curb, and then managed to flip over, this caused a chain reaction, pulling me down into the street. Ouch.

The worst part was trying to recover the bike. With all that weight, it is very unwieldy to get the trailer back upright. A driver was nice enough to pull over and was going to offer help, but by then, I had the trailer back up, and waved them off, telling them I was okay. Physically, I was, and as a bonus, I learned a bit more about how to control my load. However, I now had a little tear in the trailer fabric, little chunks taken out of my Pelican case, and a damaged wheel skewer on the trailer. It looks a bit out of alignment now too, which really sucks. As you might imagine, if you have a 2 wheel trailer, having one wheel not track straight is a real drag, literally! Oh well, I pounded it into as straight as I could, and kept on going.

Helensville seemed to take forever to get to, and by the time it did, I was definitely ready to call it a day. I’d only travelled a bit over 60km, but with that weight, it was very hard work, the stats on the map tell the story, and has lead me to reconsider my overall game plan. However, I’ll give it another few days before fully deciding what to do. My stay in Helensville was great, for 32 NZD, I got a shared room to myself, in a place more like a bed and breakfast. They also had a Spa, so I had a beer and a soak later in the night. I got some groceries, and made a mini-feast for myself to refuel. Tomorrow is a new day, and I have to push harder to see how things go. Anyway, I’m tired, so time to go to bed.

Driving on the wrong side of the road is also going very well for me BTW, I have no problems anymore. I’m being careful, so please don’t take my above little misadventure as me being risky. I have as many safety features going on as possible, and when traffic gets particularly hairy, like with big trucks, I’ll sometimes stop biking and wait for them to pass. I’ve decided a wipe out at high speed going downhill would truly suck. Well, onward and upward, talk to you all soon, virtually.

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