2 weeks to go

Yep, I’ve foolishly signed up to ride a bike from Cape Reinga to Bluff. It didn’t take much arm twisting actually…

3000km of road, gravel and mountain bike track. Tour Aotearoa is a “Brevet” organised by the Kennett Brothers and according to the rules of the brevet, can be completed on no less than 10 days and no more than 30 days. We are planning for around 25 days, but steady and enjoyable is the goal.

4 mates… Vaughan, Scott, Eddie and Fraser will be at the start line

We will have plenty of company as there are almost 1000 riders leaving in waves of 100 per day starting from the 17th Feb 2020.

1 week to go

Things are getting real now… last minute details are being attended to. The bike is booked for a final service on Monday and I’m officially tapering 🙂

Mentally this has been much more difficult to prepare for than anything I’ve done before. Harder than Ironman! Mainly because of the duration. I’ve never tried a cycling event that lasts a month, covers 3000km and requires such a sustained effort every day (who has???).

The physical challenges of preparation for a cycling only event seems easy by comparison to the mental challenge of getting ready.

I’m pretty sure that my friends are getting TA preparation discussion fatigue!

Hopefully that will all fade away on the sands of Ninety Mile Beach next Saturday.

I’m eagerly anticipating the journey and the opportunity to ride in new places and make new friends.

The Bike

Post Tour, I’m often asked about my gear choices, so I thought I’d post some info about the bike.

I bought a Focus Raven 29” hard tail off trademe.  It has 2x gearing on the front and is a fairly light carbon fibre frame.  Nothing unusual, but very practical for the purpose.  I thought about gravel bikes and custom builds, but for $900 it was a solid and economical choice.  With hindsight it was a great decision.

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Here’s the bike as I bought it.

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I changed the bars to Jones Bars, which is an excellent choice for comfort and provides an excellent place to attach bags and equipment.

Aero bars are highly recommended for comfort and position flexibility. Jones bars were trimmed as the originals are very wide! Some comfy grips added too.

Sleeping bag in a dry bag, sleeping mat, wet weather gear and some food in the front roll bag.  Tent attached here too.

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I was very pleased with my “cockpit”

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The final including a rubber phone holder and a bluetooth speaker for some tunes on the road!


Side view on a test run to Totara Reserve – showing the Pack’n’pedal rack and drybag on the back and the frame bag.  That’s the Big Agnes “Fly Creek” tent in the background.

The Thule pack’n’pedal rack was amazing.  Solid, light and I had no issues despite some serious bumps along the trails.

The frame bag is convenient for quick access, but don’t overfill.  If it bulges out it can rub on your calf and cause a nasty abrasion!

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Here is the bike 4 days into the tour.  2 bottles in cages on the front forks and one in a bag on the jones bars.  I used inner tubes to bungee the bottles onto the forks.  Without the extra grip the bottles tended to bounce out at the worst moment!

Top tube bag for snacks etc.

The saddle choice was a Brooks Cambium C17 Carved.  It was a great choice.  I had no problems with saddle sores or abrasion.  Just make sure you give yourself time to adapt to the new saddle.


Here is the full kit I took (excluding 2xbib shorts and 2x cycle tops).

I took plenty of small light dry bags to pack thing in.  Much better to have separate bags for things like toiletries, clothes or electronics than to always be fishing around for what you want in one big dry bag.

The day has come

Rain… bugger! Usual pre-race day nerves. Stayed last night in Ahipara, and spoke to several riders fresh off the beach. They had nothing bad to say about riding on the sand. Time to head to Cape Reinga!

Day 1, 90 mile beach

106km, 370m climbing, 5:00 ride time

First day done. The beach was amazing. Longest ride in a straight line ever for me. Assisted by a strong NW wind we were having a blast on the smooth sand.

Checkpoint photo no1

The last 10km of sand were softer and the wind had swung to the south making the for a big finishing effort to the day.

Day 2. Ahipara to Kauri Coast – Tane Mahuta

At the start line we had a rough goal of 120km per day. Today we got a rude awakening as to how tough that goal will be. We left Ahipara at 7:30am and arrived at our campsite 140km later in the dark.

On the plus side, although tough, I loved every minute of it. Riding through Waipoua Forest and stopping at Tane Mahuta was very special.

Control photo 3 Tane Mahuta

At the end of the day we were getting seriously tired and hungry with no certanty of food at our motor camp destination… and then in the middle of nowhere came the Donnelly’s Crossing cafe… Setup just for TA riders.. Trail angels! Coffee cart, all kinds of food. Big plate of Nachos with heaps of sour cream YES PLEASE.

Trail angels

The campsite was full of cyclists

Last few km in the dark

Day 3 Kaipara to Auckland

An early start as we had a ferry to catch. I got the big breakfast in Dargaville. It was big!

The ride down to Poutu Pt started well, but it was hillier than I expected and eventually became a rough logging track. The bikes (and riders) took a beating!

First view of Kaipara harbour

In our concern not to miss the ferry, we arrived 3 hours early, and the ferry was an hour late. It was great to have some down time (first of the trip I think). We swam in the sea and bought food at the camp ground

The ferry was slow. It arrived in Helensville at 11pm

4 of us decided to ride to Auckland. What a blast riding the quiet roads under lights. Definately one of my highlights so far. In bed soon after 2am

Day 4, Auckland to Maranda

I met the boys at Mt Eden Cycles and we did the tough climb to the top of Mt Eden

Photo checkpoint 5

Through South Auckland and on to the Hunua ranges. Some big climbs in there…

The goal was Maranda on the Firth of Thames and a swim in the hot pools… Even though it was only a bit over 100km, the heat and the fatigue from the big day yesterday made it hard work.

The campground was packed with TA riders. A shower, a beer, fish and chips and a long soak in the hot pools… The end of a great day.

Day 5, Maranda to Matamata – Hauraki rail trails

Can you believe we’ve covered over 600 km already!

Almost all gravel riding today on trail trails. The day started foggy

After an hour of riding we stopped at a cafe for an excellent breakfast… Then on to Te Aroha and finally Matamata. The trails were a change from anything we’ve done so far, but essentially boring. Nice to be away from the traffic tho.

Control point photo 6