I realise that my blog posts are largely devoid of photographs. I just don't have a good camera. I'll work on it ok?
Melanie and I rolled out to Raglan on the 11th of June for a stab at the Karioi Classic ride.....without the competition. The emphasis was on 'riding' the roads the Classic follows around the mountain and it was definitely not intended to be a race.
It was to be my first ever 'long' cross country style mountain bike ride. I've knocked out a few k's riding the trails at Whakarewarewa over the last two and a half years but had never done any sort of significant distances that required plenty of pedaling. With the limited amount of time I have to ride and the inevitable drive that is required to ride a mountain bike I had decided that I would take the quality option and get to Vegas as much as possible. It was time to break out.
Our day started out seriously foggy so we lit up and readied to hit the road. Just as we were about to roll out of the carpark a parade of NZ Army tankers rolled in. It was pretty impressive to see so we stopped and took pics... or Mel did and we got on our way again.
The ride takes on about 45ks of sealed and gravelled roads around the back of the mountain and then back up the coast. The ocean views are incredible. Our first uphill was less than a kilometre from the carpark and proved to be pretty long and arduous for an amateur like me. I was wishing I was riding my roadie that's for sure.
We made our first stop about half way up to take in the view and stretch out a couple of tight muscles. It was a good warm up climb and we hit the gravel just around the bend for more and more climbing. I was begging Mel to stop again at the top of yet another climb and had to stretch and throw back a couple of dinosaurs. We were 8ks in and I was seriously considering throwing in the towel. My back hurt, I was sick of riding up hill and didn't know how to handle the tight left hand bends in the gravel... what an amateur!! I didn't tell Mel that though. She whipped her laminated directions out of her back pocket - this is one ORGANISED chick - and said we would be turning right only another 1.8ks up the road into Ruapuke Road... and in my head I went "Oh Hey!! That's the beach - and it's not far from Raglan and I haven't even warmed up until I am 10k into a ride!!" So I felt WAY better and was all like "lets go!!". When we finally got to the top of the hill we stopped to have a chat beside a paddock with a huge cow with massive horns on it's head in it. It just stared at us the whole time and the dog at the house across the road barked it's little heart out at us.
Some downhill - FINALLY - and I was hopeless on the gravel. Mel took off at a rate of knots and all I could think was "keep it rubber side down!!" I managed to get the hang of it and had a blast. Until the next uphill. There seemed to be quite a few. So we rode gravel roads with a little bit of sealed road in between and stopped for the odd catch up and dinosaur at the top of the big hills and took time to soak up the amazing views over the Pacific.
We carried on churning out the revolutions and after the 10k mark I had an absolute blast. It was so much fun and I felt really, really good. When we reached the Ruapuke Beach driveway was decided we would roll out to take a look at the beach. We pushed our trusty steeds over the sand dunes to about the half way spot between the beach and the carpark and I was thinking "man, this beach i'nt that special!" I said to Mel "I don't want to go all the way out there now and so we parked our bikes on some beach plants and Mel took a photo. Mel's chain fell off when she picked her bike up and she said "better take a look at that when we get back to the carpark" and so she did and her chain was loose so she whipped out her trusty tool (seriously - I didn't even pack a spare tube!! lol) and undid a couple of bolts and shifted her bb and talked about some other mechanical stuff that went over my head. Something about gears not working properly and I said "Mine are a bit noisy when I change" and in my head I went "Oh... that's probably not good... I should get that looked at." Mel is a mechanical genius and I would be lost without her. Or I would probably find someone else to annoy with my stupid questions. :/
We rocked out of that carpark and over this little rise and I was thinking "fuck.. I have no legs!! What's up with that?" Pushing a bike over sand dunes is not conducive to biking - at all. Mel said all this out loud which was good. I'm glad I wasn't the only one. We had a pretty serious discussion about the house up on the hill which was quite ugly in our eyes and we wondered to each other what they were trying to achieve when they built it. The conclusion was that they were aiming for a Tuscan look but the place needed a balcony or two. And then there was the hill. OMG - really... It just never seemed to end. I know that there were quite a few downhills as well but they went so fast... and the uphills didn't!! And it was so easy to forget about the down bits.
There was this one time when we rode downhill past a Yoga retreat taking the opportunity to have a chat and the Yogi was at the gate planting her gateway plants or something and so we discussed Yogi's and my urge to shave my head and for some reason we both happened to look up from our front wheels at the same time and let out an identical audible moan at the view of the hill ahead. It was pretty hilarious. But we slogged up that one and many, many more for quite some time.
The carpark at the entrance to the Karioi Track looked like an inviting place to stop and we rode out to the viewing platform to take in the view (as you do) and Mel took some more photos while I quietly shat my pants at the height of the platform and secretly checked that it was anchored securely to the cliffside. I was pretty happy to get off it actually. Mel didn't seem bothered. I think I mentioned Cave Creek to her and she said something soothing back to me. Engineer talk most likely. I was beyond help really.
I'm not sure how far into the ride we were. I do know that this point seemed to be the start of what seemed like an endless sealed road downhill. We whooped it up all the way down to the Manu Bay lookout, through a waterfall running over the road, considered and discarded the idea of riding along the beach back to Raglan and slogged it out up the last hill back into town.
It was a good ride with good company. I was stoked to get to the end of it still feeling good but wondering how long it was going to take for my face to return to it's regular colour. And I was HUNGRY!! 48km of riding a new way gave me a whole new passion for cycling. I'm so pleased I have bikes in my life. I want to get stronger and faster and make more time to ride!!! Bikes are awesome!!
Last stop before heading home was at the Shack. I ordered the dal fritters and they were bloody good. Mel got the chicken roti and it was ho hum.
A special mention needs to go to the people driving cars along the roads we travelled. They were awesome. The roads are narrow and windy and they were extremely patient and friendly no matter whether they were approaching or passing us. It was awesome to experience.
The verdict is - I loved it!! And I can't wait to do it again. Next please!!!
Mel just happened to have posted her blog while I was writing this. It has pics. Read it here