Saturday, 30 March 2013

Margate Rivulet Track, Allens Rivulet Track and Stringy Bark Gully (Belbins)

It must be Easter, because for the second day in a row I found myself parked outside a church (admittedly the same church as yesterday) preparing for a ride.

I was determined to make the most of my weekend, despite being locked in to being close to home, and so I set off today to do some micro-explorations of tracks that I haven't got to before because the rides weren't really long enough to justify a visit on their own.

First up was the Margate Rivulet Track which I thought might make for either an interesting add-on to the Nierinna Rivulet Track, and that was why I found myself back at the end of Nierinna road, beside the church, heading up the hill.

The start of the track on Rollins Road was pretty easy to find, though the trail itself does follow what feels like a private driveway for the first hundred metres, however there are plenty of comfort signs to assure you you're going the right way.  The track then becomes a greenway (or what I call a greenway, by which I mean you're just pedaling through a grassy area with no track) running down beside a house and then comes to an unsigned junction.  I took the right (or really straight ahead) option and dropped down a short hill and found myself cycling across a paddock.  I was only certain that I had come the right way when I crossed to the other side and found a bridge and signage for the track.

The track after that just meandered around some paddocks and dropped out at the end of Brook Lane.  Total distance would have been under 2kms.  I backtracked to the first junction and tried the left hand junction which was a bit more interesting as it ran through some nice paddocks and alongside the rivulet before dropping me out on the Channel Highway at the bottom of Margate from where it was only a few hundred metres back to my car along the other side of the rivulet (on the Sandfly Road).

Quite honestly, it was a nice ride, but not one you'd get excited by.

Next stop was the short section of the Allens Rivulet Track starting at Platypus Bridge which I thought might be a nice bit of an off track detour before heading up to the Kaoota Tramway Track.

I was torn over using this track as an option for my proposed loop ... the first section is just like riding through a paddock, and overall it was very short, but on the up side once you cross the creek it was really nice cycling right under the cliffs ...

... but it wasn't fun riding as again you were basically riding on grass which is slow riding ... not sure it was something I'd want to ride before heading up a big climb ... it was a definite maybe.

I then decided to end the day on the other side of Hobart out at Stringy bark Gully at the end of Belbins Road (near cambridge) where I wanted to check out some riding options before completing my track notes for rides in the area.

I planned a short ride:  pretty much straight up the gully and then testing two pieces of single track: the top most piece of track which runs down the southern side of the gully for about 450 metres, and the switchbacks on the northern side of the gully (about half way up the gully) which I wanted to try and ride up.

Both sections of track were great and after the slow green-way riding of earlier today it was wonderful to get onto some fast and technical tracks.

It's just a shame I got a bit carried away heading down one section, ending up in a superman impression as a soft edge just disappeared under my front wheel and I found myself flying over the handlebars.

Ouchy, but still a good day!

Friday, 29 March 2013

Horses, Dogs & Bikes

I fully believe in the idea of sharing trails and I'm very cool with that ...

When a mountain biker rides a trail I think it's good that we give way to walkers and horses (and heck depending on where you are ... bears).

That works for me, and I fully respect that there's places we're not allowed to go (yet).

Similarly, when walking, I think it's cool that we're expected to stay in the middle of the track, no matter what, and that's what I do.  No matter what.

And when walking the dog, I even get that I have to pick up after them in a little plastic bag ... I don't like that, but I do it and that brings me to my question ... who makes the rules up for what horse riders should do when it comes to their droppings?

Re=enactment ...
I mean I get that it's probably even harder for horse riders to find tracks than it is for us mountain bikers, but today when riding down the Kaoota Tramway Track and Nierinna Creek I found myself dodging more horse manure than I did rocks or logs ... and I'm not sure that's right.

I'm not sure at all, but I'd like to think there's a solution ... I'm just not sure what it might be.

Nierinna Creek Track

The sun was just poking it's head above the hills as I pushed off, turned left onto Sandfly road, and got ready for the first little climb of the day which I was sure would get my heart and lungs working.

I had had great plans for this Easter weekend (I mean five days in a row - that has to be used well), but then I found out at the last minute that my dad's health had taken a turn for the worse, and suddenly my plans seemed a lot less important.  In fact they seemed irrelevant.

But I still needed time to clear my head, so I'd decided to go and ride the Nierinna Creek Trail, which is now legally open to cyclists.

But needing a proper ride, I decided to do it the long way, so instead of just heading straight up Nierinna creek, I parked near the church at the bottom of Nierinna Road and headed off along Sandfly Road for about 4kms before turning left onto Allens Rivulet Road and heading off towards Kaoota, or more specifically the top end of the Kaoota Tramway Track with the plan of circling back and just riding down the Nierinna Creek Track.

I needed to ride because I needed to think and I needed to sort out my head.  I didn't know how I felt - I was a bit numb, lost, disbelieving, sad and regretful, but I hoped that through riding I might find some calm.

So I rode.

It was a beautiful morning to start with, though as I worked my way into Allens Rivulet the temperature dropped noticeably because the suns rays were yet to move the cold air-mass that had settled over the valley.  I love cycling through Allens Rivulet which is one of the reasons why I think I chose to ride down here this morning.  This is also one of the places that Dad and I would roam when I was younger and he'd take me riding on my motorbike. this was part of my extended home.

I passed a guy out shoveling manure into a wheel barrow.  We exchanged greetings as we briefly entered and then exited each other's lives.  It felt good to interact with another human being on this beautiful morning.

Just before the end of Allen's Rivulet you cross Platypus Creek Bridge and start to climb.  I needed this climb.  I needed to find the rhythm, the balance where I could just turn the wheels and drift.  Not too fast, not too slow.  Not at a pace where my legs tired too quickly, but hard enough that I was working.  I was looking for the zone where my brain could switch off and my mind could wander.  It's a feeling I only really get when I'm cycling alone by myself like this, not having to worry about anything or anyone else around me.  It's a kind of peace I don't usually experience.  A calm.

But maybe the mornings climb was too perfect, or maybe it wasn't long enough, but I found myself distracted and absorbed by everything around me and before I knew it, I was at the top of the climb and riding off onto the Kaoota Tramway.

At the start of the track I turned on my GoPro thinking I'd get some good footage, but 30 seconds down the track it simply fell off, and rather than try and fix it, I just chuckled to myself, threw it into my backpack and that was the end of that.  This mornings ride was really for me anyway, not to show or share with anyone else.

I love the Kaoota Tramway ride, particularly in this direction where it is mostly downhill, and I started to think of the possibilities of putting a second route up on for the shorter loop I was doing today.  I knew it had a lot of overlap with an existing route, but it was such a different ride in this direction.  Just so long as the Nierinna Creek Track lived up to its promise I decided I'd add it to the site.

However, sometimes riding is just so much fun I forget the reason why I've chosen to ride, and that's what happened as I cruised down the old railway line just enjoying the challenge of the terrain and the crispness of the morning around me and before I knew it I was at the end of the track and plunging down the road, past the chicken farm and I was at the top of the Nierinna Track.

Here comes the new, here comes the fun  ...

Or not ...

I've seen comments on raving about this track, and I was fully expecting it to be pretty technical riding (because the track notes said it was) but I didn't expect it to be this technical.  This was a walking track.  Sure some of it was fun (and quite scenic) but there were too many stall points for me and there's nothing more frustrating when expecting a fun, technical downhill descent to instead find yourself cycling 30 metres, stopping, cycling 10 metres, stopping ... you get the idea ...

The good (OK, great) bits
The sucky bits ...
I cycled down several sections of steps, but you could already see quite a few places where cyclists have ridden around the steps beginning an erosional process that will only get worse over time.  As much as I wanted to ride these drops, I couldn't contribute to those lines so had to suffer the ignominity of pushing my bike down several sections of steps.  It broke my heart.

Down towards the bottom (after crossing a road) the riding gets a bit easier, and once down past the second bridge the last section is really easy, but even with that said I'd be nervous about sending a beginner or even intermediate rider down this route as it would take quite a bit of skill to ride and enjoy at the same time ...

The bottom section is all grass
I pulled back up to the car about two hours after leaving (a lot of that spent on the Nierinna track) and then I remembered ... I'd come here to clear my head and sort through my emotions before going to see my dad, but somewhere along the way I'd just started to ride and enjoy the moment I was in.  I hadn't even noticed when it had happened, or in fact that it had happened.

Maybe that was a good thing, maybe it wasn't.  Ultimately it didn't really matter ... my ride was over and I had somewhere else I wanted to be ... deep breath ... time to go.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Bike Count 2013

Ah .. the annual greater hobart commuter bike counts ... every year I make different versions of the same mistake.

I get up (no, that's not the mistake), I think to myself ... "one cup of coffee won't hurt" followed by some variation of  "ah what the heck, best make it a double shot." or "if one won't hurt, nor will two ..." (yes, that's the mistake).

Note: Not the actual cup of coffee.
About fifteen minutes into the bike count, I then start to think "Hmmm ... I could do with getting rid of the coffee about now", then, with very little else to distract me, I spend the next hour doing nothing but think about how good it would be to get rid of that coffee, and inevitably I spend the last 30 minutes of the bike count squirming in the car hating myself and thinking that maybe that coffee cup could do with a refill if you know what I mean.

I know, you'd think at my age I could have figured this stuff out by now, but apparently not.

I counted at the same intersection as last year and was quite excited when I got back to work and compared counts to see my official count increased from 46 to 66 cyclists.  I mean Woo Hoo ... that's a 43% increase, but then I read my own blog from last year and realised that actually 61 cyclists went through my intersection last year ... there were just 15 who went through slightly too early or slightly too late, so that's only a five person increase which is really just a statistical discrepancy.  Boo Hoo.

What I did notice this year was the real variation in bikes.  I think I counted four electric bikes, three folding bikes and one guy who was riding his kids BMX.

Hmmm ... not such a good photo.
The other thing I noticed was that if my little intersection was anything to go by, then commuter cycling in Hobart is going European ... very few cyclists were wearing Lycra, in fact many were dressed smart casual and quite a few were on relaxed commuter bikes.  I think about half of the cyclists who came up the steep hill from Regent Street were just happily pushing their bikes up the hill so as not to break a sweat ... it was very cool.

However, to the depressing part of the count:  For the first hour (7am to 8am) I also counted the number of cars that went through the intersection.  The count was 14 bikes to 736 cars ... I think that makes cycling movements through the intersection just under1% of all vehicle movements.  Sigh.

But the cyclists looked way cooler than the motorists, so I'll think of us as the elite, the trend-setters, rather than just another minority.

PS. I stopped counting cars after 8am simply because regent street became gridlocked after that and it was just impossible to count them.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

New Zealand - Trip Summary & Cyclists Tips

As I can't do it on this blog, I've posted an interactive map of our New Zealand cycle route over on

Travel Tips for Cyclists (or what I wish I'd known before I went)
  1. Camping is more expensive than we expected.  At most of the campsites we stayed at they charged per person and there were no 'tent sites' so we usually paid $40 - $50 per night just for a tent site for the two of us.  Accommodation could often be found for just $20 more.
  2. Internet access was pretty good.  McDonalds everywhere had free WiFi.  Many of the tourist campsites we stayed at used a single provider that provided a good deal (24 hours, 100GB download limit for $5).  Others however had a provider that charged by the MB (10 cents per mb) which I really didn't like.  The YHA we stayed at offered free internet for members.  The promised free wifi on nakedbus didn't work.
  3. We had no problems transporting the bikes by public transport.  The airport buses, ferries, nakedbus and airport shuttles were all happy to take our bikes in bike bags, and although several said they would charge extra for bikes on their websites, only one did.
  4. The ferry to Coromandel links with a complimentary bus service which was happy to take our bikes (in bike bags) into town for free.
  5. As usual you should always check (politely) when people give you advice on which route to take whether they have actually ridden it on a bike themselves.  A motorist often doesn't notice little things that a cyclist will ... like hills.
  6. two pipe clamps (see picture below, purchased for $2.50 each) can stop a bike seat slipping down.
  7. seemed to have much better priced hotel deals than and
  8. If you meet someone like Judy, take her photo.  You'll want it to remember her.
  9. Supermarket food was often more expensive than we expected.  In the end we ended up eating out most nights as it wasn't much more expensive than buying the ingredients and cooking them ourselves.
  10. Yellow cyclist signs mean you are at the bottom of a big, long steep hill (actually, I'm kind of glad I didn't know that).
  11. Despite warnings about 'crazies' everywhere we went (referring to drivers), on the whole motorists were pretty darn good.  The main risks were the people in small cars and large log trucks.  Bridges were also a hazard due to road narrowing and no shoulders.
How to fix a slipping bike seat post ...
... and finally, they serve coffee and hot chocolate in buckets in New Zealand, so enjoy it.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Travelling with bikes

Bicycle touring is a wonderful way of seeing a place ...

It gives you the time to enjoy where you are and to see things most others miss.  You get to know every hill (the ups and downs) and feel the wind in your face or behind your back.  It is a way to experience everything around you as you are fully committed to the elements.  It is graceful and slow, but exciting and adventurous as you never know what is around the next bend or when you will get to the top of that hill.
Yep, 95% of the time I love bicycle touring, though admittedly sometimes only in retrospect, not in the actual moment of cycling.

The five percent that I hate is usually very heavily correlated to when the bikes go into their bags and they have to be hauled around on buses and planes...

Bikes don't travel well when they're not on their own two wheels, and after our trip over here Kim threatened on several occasions to just break down into a girly crying fit if it meant I'd carry her bike for her on the way back.

That said, today we managed to drop off the rental car, catch a bus back to the YHA to get our bikes (noting that I just walked in the front door with a helmet in my hands and said "May I have the key to the bike room please" and they handed it over), ride out to our hotel and get our luggage, ride back into town, break down the bikes and gear into their bags, load them onto a bus to Auckland, load them on a second local bus to the airport, get off at the airport and get onto a courtesy van to our hotel ... and it all went without a hitch.

In fact in the whole two weeks we've been here, we've only been charged once for carrying our bikes on public transport (and it was only $9 for the two bikes, and in fairness the driver did go out of her way to help us get the gear on and off the bus).  Even Jetstar gave us some leeway on our baggage (we were about 5kgs over our combined 60kg luggage limit and they didn't bat an eyelid once in any of the four times we checked onto a flight).

That's pretty incredible.  Usually you have to go through at least one big argument about excess costs when travelling with a bike.

For anyone who is interested, both Kim and I used a Ground Effect Body Bag for carrying our bikes.  Kim's bike fits into one of these without even having to remove the handlebars - just the pedals and front wheel.

Whilst there is a lot to be said for the good old bike box for protecting your bike on a plane, and I just have to sit and drool at some of the more beautiful bike bags that others get to use, the reality for me is that Ground Effect's Body Bag is an ideal touring bag as it is extremely light (1.3kgs) meaning it doesn't impinge on my airline weight allowance, and it can be folded down into a small bag which fits into the bottom of one of my panniers and hence carried with me so that when I get to the end of my trip I don't have to go searching for a new bike box ... something I once wasted two days in South Africa doing.

This time we also both carried an extra foldable duffle bag with us to carry our gear around when not on our bikes.  Kim had a big red Denali bag from Anaconda which she easily managed to throw all of her panniers into, and I had a smaller Kathmandu bag, but I had to take my gear out of my pannier bags to get it to fit.

We also would carry our handlebar bags and one rear Ortlieb Pannier onto the plane as our carry on luggage (I used a Ortlieb Backpack Carry System for my rear pannier which I picked up cheaply at a throw out sale many years ago and Kim just used the shoulder strap to carry hers).

I also took a Kathmandu Foldable backpack with me on this trip which weighed and packed down to next to nothing and was very useful when off the bike to just throw my expensive gear and carry it around with me.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Being a tourist ( Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland) ...

I have a bit of a confession to make ... as much as I've loved this cycling trip, I've also been feeling like there's so much of New Zealand that I've missed because we've been travelling so slow, and of course on a bike you have to make the effort to get everywhere...and that wasn't high on the agenda.

So today, we hired a car and went all tourist on the Rotorua region.

The Mandatory Self Portrait at the thermal pool.
The plan was to hit the thermal features in and around Rotorua (OK, my plan had been to drive over to Hobbiton, but as mentioned in a previous post, girlfriend wanting mud massage apparently trumps boyfriend wanting to go and visit Lord of the Rings movie set ... I still don't get how that works, but I'm assured by Kim that it does).

So we got picked up in our mighty machine by Nicola from Pegasus Car Rentals only to find that our vehicle of choice today was of make and model unknown and a tad older than I expected (with 180,000kms on the clock). 

Our mighty beast.
We were also to discover that it didn't quite have enough power to both drive the engine and the air conditioner above 84kms an hour ... above that speed, the air con just shut down and the car became a speeding furnace.  Fortunately, I think it's top speed was only 94kms an hour (and that was when going downhill) so this wasn't really a problem once we'd figured this little glitch out.

So, with our mighty beast in hand we headed straight over to Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland (note that: this wasn't a park - it was a wonderland) to see the marvel of the Lady Knox Geyser which to my geological delight, erupted at exactly 10.15am everyday.

10:14:58 seconds and waiting ...
Now, just as background here, back in my younger days I spent a month or so in Montana working with the Montana Conservation Corps building tracks and stuff, and near the end of the month I managed to contract giardia (apparently drinking from mountain streams wasn't the great idea it seemed at the time).  The upside of this little accident was that the doctor prescribed that I spend a week just relaxing and when I mentioned this to one of the trip leaders, he was like "Darn ... well we're heading down to Yellowstone National Park for a week, you're welcome to just come and camp with us, we'll cook your meals and you can just chill out and relax in the hot springs".

Thus was spent one of the best weeks of my life, soaking in hot springs and ice flow rivers and generally just exploring the geothermal wonders of the park.  Seriously, if its not on your bucket list - add it.  If I didn't live in Tasmania, Montana would be one of the next places on my list to live.

So with that background, and having spent a day watching Old Faithful (which I now see you can watch online), you can imagine how less than impressed I was with the following events:

1. After forking over our $60 for our tickets, we were told by the ticket seller "Oh, I should tell you she's (the geyser) not performing at her best right now" ... No, I thought to myself, that's something you should have told me before you sold me the tickets.

2. Finding out that two cups of coffee and two sausage rolls cost $18 ... I thought this was Wonderland,  not  Movieworld?

3. (and most importantly) arriving at the geyser (30 minutes early to get a good seat) to find out that in fact this is not a natural geyser like Old Faithful, and that in fact it is not really a geyser at all ... The darn thing was built by prison work crews in the area decades ago to wash their clothes in, and the reason it goes off so faithfully every 24 hours is because they pour some sort of catalyst into it to make it do so.

Fecking ripped off.

However, we had handed over our money, so we duly took lots of photos and then drove back to the main thermal site and wandered around there for an hour or so taking lots more photos wherever there was a sign telling us that we were looking at something.  Yep, today I was a good tourist.

After this little experience, we still had a few hours to kill before Kim's massage extraordinaire experience ... so we drove back to Rotorua and ... wait for it ... we spent 2 hours driving around all of the souvenir and electronic shops looking for presents for the Monsters.

We even had lunch at Burger King.

I am the Tourist King. 

After checking into our hotel (and almost crying about the three wasted nights we'd just spent in that hell hole of a youth hostel when we could have been staying at the Mercure for the same price), Kim finally got delivered to her Mud Bath Experience from which she emerged two hours later a happy, relaxed Kim ... though I'm still trying to reconcile that with her threats to murder the two stupid women in the showers next to her massage room who talked and shouted the whole way through her massage somewhat ruining the experience.

So after all that, I have to admit it was kind of nice that night as we sat in some restaurant called the Kurious Kiwi eating over-priced, over-cooked steaks on a bed of mildly warm chips to look back on the day and realise that maybe I hadn't missed out on nearly as much as I thought by not taking the tourist route on this trip.

Yep, I felt very good about that indeed.