Sunday, September 25, 2011

Let the summer of excuses begin

It was only a matter of time.  I woke up this morning with the intention of going on an early-morning bunch ride.  When I looked out the window at 4:45 AM and saw that it had been raining, I immediately went back to bed.  Summer has only just begun, and already I can't face up to the prospect of riding in the heat, the humidity, the insects, the road grime, and the mud.  However all is not lost for summer cycling – in just one month Jer and I are headed off on tour to the South Island of New Zealand.

Sounds like a plan
When we first booked this trip in January, it seemed impossibly far away.  We had tons of time to get it all sorted out, so there no point in worrying too much about it.  But now with the trip so close, the next month is going to hold a lot of furious last minute travel planning.  Planning what to take, planning where to ride, planning how far to travel each day, and planning where I can stop for ice cream.

The route we'll be taking is still pretty vague, but we will definitely be starting at Christchurch and spending a day or two exploring the Port Hills and surrounds.  From there we'll pedal straight down Highway 1 to Geraldine, then inland to Lake Tekapo, and over Lindis Pass to Wanaka, before arriving at the town of Clyde.  There begins the main event of the ride, and the whole reason we put this trip together - eight days on the Otago Central Rail Trail.  I first learned of this 150km cycling, hiking and horse trail about two years ago, and since then it has completely captured my imagination.  I used to live and work in an old gold mining town here in Australia, so the moment I started reading about Central Otago, I felt an instant affiliation with the place.  I've not even been there, but just learning more about the trail has turned me into a historical railway buff over the past few years - hence my recent rides to the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail and the Yugar Railway Tunnel.  We won't just be sticking to the trail, we're planning on exploring many of the interesting towns and sites that make up the intriguing history of the area's gold mining heyday.  It looks like Central Otago will tick my big three boxes  - isolation, old stuff, and mountain views.  And my interest in all things nautical will even get a workout, when we visit the remains of a crazy old gold mining submarine.  From the rail trial we'll be heading down to Dunedin, for a few days of exploring the Otago Peninsula, before packing up our bikes and heading home.  Just researching the area gets my heart rate elevated, which is probably good for my fitness, as I'll be looking for every excuse not to ride in this Australian heat over the next month.

Operation: Preparation
Fortunately, I do a lot of long rides, and have been for a few short tours over the winter, so I'm reasonably satisfied with my bike setup - which is rare for me.  I'll be able to leave most of my bike preparation until a week or so before departure, which will only involve cleaning, servicing, rebuilding wheels, and a few small modifications.  

Physically, I'm on track - I learned my lesson after being a bit underprepared for my last NZ cycling  trip.  I now have a better handle on NZ cycling nomenclature and know that when a local rider tells me something is an "easy climb", what they actually mean is I'll be grinding up a vertical wall in granny gear for an hour.  The mountainous terrain sure does breed tough riders!  It's going to be a bit challenging to stay motivated in the lead up to departure, but I should be able to begrudgingly crunch out my daily training rides for the next three weeks or so.  

The bit I'm finding quite tough is the mental preparation - trying to shift from flat out race mode, into holiday touring cruise mode.  When I ride here in Brisbane, it's usually in the early morning, and I'm in a rush to get back home to beat the heat, spend time with  family, or get out of the traffic.  Over the past year Jer and I have also developed a habit of turning every ride into a race, which doesn't exactly make for the most relaxing riding.  This boy racer attitude isn't going to work on a slow tour in New Zealand, and I spend probably four hours each day telling myself that the longer I take to get places, the better my tour will be.  Sounds like an easy enough concept - but after years of trying to pilot two wheeled contraptions from A to B as fast as possible, it's a concept that's taking some time to sink in.

This tour has been a long time coming and it's something we're very excited about.  The clock is ticking...

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