Mountain Bike Magazine SANI - Autumn 2018 - Page 162

LAST WORD Google it”, I told myself, when passing the famous Fox Glacier at midnight. At the start of the 13th day I still had 340km to go to Bluff, including the two highest passes of the tour, and a slow steam ship ride across Lake Wakatipu on the TSS Earnslaw. The task seemed impossible within a day and I had all but given up on my original target. Evaluating my options, I thought I’d stop in Mossburn, 200km down the road, and complete the final 140km to Bluff the following day. As I started climbing the first pass At Lake Rotoroa on Day 8, 1 800km in. Right: On South Island, 2 000km in, a seriously tough section of rocky, muddy single track. RAD RIDE TOUR AOTEAROA IS AN unsupported, single-stage event from Cape Reinga in the North to Bluff in the South. Riders must follow a set route, navigated by gps, and complete the ride within 30 days. Where and when to stop, refuel, rest or sleep is up to each rider to decide for themselves. The route, predominantly gravel and forestry roads but with a healthy dose of both tar road and technical single track, aims to keep riders as far off the beaten track as possible. It accumulates 36 000m of elevation over its length. Since this is not technically a race, most riders take the touring approach, finishing in 20-30 days. My goal was not to take in the sights – I needed to go as fast as I could to get back to Cape Town before Katie arrived. I was also keen to test my own limits, and equipment set-up, in a long- distance endurance event. I did the math and booked my flights allowing for 15 days in total. Knowing that a technical problem or severe weather (New Zealand often experiences cyclones) could easily add a day or two, I set my mind on a 13-day target, allowing for two days leeway. That would require averaging 230km and 3 000m of climbing per day. I am not a particularly fast rider. Recreationally fit, yes. Sub three hour Argus, nope. I knew I’d only achieve my target if I was consistent and time efficient. Assuming I’d be able to average 15km/h with the loaded bike (carrying about 8kg of gear), I’d have to be moving for 15.5 hours a day with 8.5 hours for sleeping, eating and mechanical stops. Setting off from Cape Reinga at 10.30pm in order to ride Ninety Mile Beach by moonlight and low tide was one of the highlights. The rest of North Island was less forgiving, with steep climbs over typical Lord of the Rings terrain. Scattered between stretches of rolling farmland were purpose- built trails set deep in the When Zane De Decker’s pregnant wife Tam, gave him a card for his birthday, he was sceptical. Turned out, she had signed him up for the ultimate #radride, a 3 030km bike-packing adventure across New Zealand. mountains: the 80km Timber Trail, for instance, is a beautiful section of single track through thick forest, traversing a mountain range. I quickly fell into a good rhythm. The evenings were warmer than early mornings, so I generally rode until about 2am and then wild-camped in my Bivy, usually finding a low tree, shed or abandoned farm house for some extra shelter. A six-hour stop to eat-sleep-eat and then back on the bike by 8am when the sun started to rise. Stocking up on supplies was easy as the route is scattered with small, rural towns that generally have a good coffee shop and café. The days ticked by. The simplicity of riding all day and only having to think about which tree to sleep under next was really fantastic, a great sense of freedom and relaxation (of the mind, that is!). Although I did manage to take in some sights along the route my tight schedule meant a lot of night riding. “I can early that morning, my body felt good, too good. How can this be? I had obviously not ridden hard enough, which I thought was a pity as I was out here to test my limits. I quickly changed plans deciding to ride straight to Bluff as hard as I could. I called my wife to let her know that I’d be riding through to the finish. She quickly did some research for me on the best places to stop for food and where to get new batteries (my Garmin was dangerously low). By now she knew what I needed and when, and operated a slick HQ from Cape Town. This included advising on upcoming terrain, good rest spots and even pre-ordering takeaway burgers for maximum efficiency. It turned out to be a great last day: I arrived in Bluff at 4am, in a howling gale, still in search of my limits. It might be a solo ride but this one was a team effort. Now I’m back at home waiting for the new member of the team to arrive! We w an n a h e ar ab ou t your #radride, email paul@electricink .c o. za 162 | MTB | rad ride