This one time I tried to ride from home in Mount Maunganui to Morrinsville, a distance of 94 kilometres.
I estimated an average speed of 25kph so thought the ride would take 4 hours.
My wife and I were meeting her family for lunch in Morrinsville at 12, so I set off at 8am, and she was to follow in the car, leaving at 11am.
Upon setting off it became immediately obvious that this estimate was not conservative enough. The head wind was vicious. And even on the flat, before I began my climb of the Kaimai ranges, I was struggling to maintain an average of 20kph.
However, I dug deep and persevered.
Half way into my ascent of the Kaimai ranges, the weather turned nasty. The warm spring day become a harsh winter day.
It rained. I got soaked through (I was only wearing my bike shorts and shirt).
The wind got stronger. I was almost buffeted into traffic on a couple of occassions.
The temperature plummeted from 19 degrees to about 5 degrees. My breath was frosty.
It got foggy, I was actually in the rain clouds.
That’s when I got worried.
Huge logging trucks were coming up behind me and I didn’t have a fluro vest on, so they couldn’t see me through the fog until the last minute. I had 5 centimetres of cycle lane to myself. Sometimes zero.
Even though I was still putting a big effort into my ride, it wasn’t enough to keep me warm. I started shivering.
I was in real trouble.
I looked over into the sheep farms beside the road and imagined grabbing a sheep, lying down on the ground and plonking the sheep on top of me to keep me warm.
I started looking for a farm house that I could seek shelter from, but all I could see was muddy farm roads. I had no idea how far along these roads the farm house might be, and I would have to walk in my cycle shoes with cleats.
Finally I saw a big red sign on the side of the road with a tarseal driveway. The sign said “Farm Kills”. I hoped this farm would be quite the opposite; my lifeline.
I rode past a few farm sheds up to the farm house. I wrenched my frozen fingers off the handlebars and dismounted.
I knocked on the front door, hoping it would be flung wide and I would be warmly welcomed in (emphasis on the “warmly”!). I envisaged a steaming shower and sitting around infront of a roaring fire in a dressing gown sipping cognac while my clothes were washed and dried.
Alas, it was not to be.
No-one opened the door. The place was deserted.
Apart from a vicious attack dog that was alerted to my presence and came racing around the corner of the house to bark at me.
Actually it wasn’t particularly vicious. And I beyond giving a damn. I walked around to the verander of the property and had another knock on the ranchslider door just in case. No answer.
I sat down on the veranda exhausted but thankful to be out of the rain and wind. And after a few minutes the dog joined me.
I called my wife (thankfully my cellphone was still working despite the rain), and told her to leave a little early so she could pick me up on the way to Morrinsville.
As I was sitting there waiting, I noticed a herd of deer at the fence. They stared curiously at me. I stared wearily back at them.
So that’s it.
My attempt to ride over the Kaimai’s failed that day.
But I learnt a few valuable lessons for a later attempt:
1. Don’t even bother leaving if there’s going to be a ferocious head wind the whole way
2. Wear a fluro-vest even if it’s the middle of the day
3. If the weather turns to shit, quit.
4. When estimating the time, add at least 50% to the normal speed estimate
And I did have another attempt 3 weeks later. And this time, success! It took 5 hours, at an average speed of 18kph. My average during training rides is about 30kph so this gives you an indication of the difficulty.