Tuesday, August 23, 2011

BRR Brown Sugar Shuffle

My riding plans for Sunday started out as being a little pootle on the Connie with Brian. The trouble with this was that I would miss the Back Road Riders latest ride - the Brown Sugar Shuffle. Ah well, can't do them all eh? Well as it turned out Brian's plans changed and he couldn't make it on Sunday so after he let me know I quickly got the DL out of the shed and sorted what needed sorting before taking off to meet the rest of the guys.

In Feilding I pulled into the BP to fill up the bike only to find Al there already and getting stuck into one last coffee before the ride. His DR was also sporting a very sensible farkle in the form of a new 18.5L tank which not only gives him a far better range (he rode past several garages without stopping on the ride) but also is see-thru so he can check out the juice situation easily.

From Feilding we took the short and boring (10km and 1 corner) ride to Cheltenham to meet the rest of the riders. After waiting about 15 mins we only ended up with the five of us: 2 V-Stroms (one of each), a DR, a Transalp and of course Graeme on his Beemer.

Right about here I'd like to put in a decent map showing our route but after turning off on Haynes Road and then Beaconsfield Valley Road, Google Maps starts to get a bit lost and refuses to accept that there are roads where we went. The map below is from Google Earth after importing my GPS tracks and unfortunately I cannot get enough detail displayed on the screen to show all the fabulous back roads (mind the moos on the road) we took. This obviously means that we had a ball navigating our way on some great gravel until popping back out onto SH54 (Vinegar Hill).
Squiggly blue line
After crossing SH1 we once again managed to find some more gravel (after some reasonably quick tarmac) to take us through Watershed, Tiriraukawa, Rongoiti and Mataroa. All of these roads were in good nick and the only real hazards were stock on the roads (Mama goat was proudly showing us her two beautiful kids - who had no idea what to do when 5 noisy bikes came past) and fine chip on the tar. This section brought us back out on SH1 just North of Taihape so we turned right and rode into Taihape for lunch.
We shuffled on in here for lunch
After such a great ride in the morning I was really keen to see what the after was going to offer and I have to say it really topped the morning ride. No sooner than we had got back off SH1 we started climbing up Pukenaua Road and started noticing some white stuff on the side of the road.
Onwards and Upwards
After a brief stop for photos and a frantic attempt to get the GoPro recording (failed) we continued on up and turned into Ridge Road which took us up even higher and into more and more snow.
Interesting parking
Yep, still winter
After another quick photo stop we really got into some interesting stuff. There were big snow drifts crossing the entire road with the only path through being the wheel tracks of 4WD's. This meant that the snow we were riding on was packed very hard and actually ice. Another issue was that the tyre tracks were only a tyre width wide (funny that) and this meant that anything low on the bike and wider than the track was dragging in the drift. We had to really ride quietly through here and I think that Graeme and I on the big bikes possibly had a slightly harder job here. In a couple of places I had the rear wheel spinning in search of traction and then was trying hard to slow down on the ice without a rear brake (the lever was buried in the snow somewhere and my legs were "paddling" in the drift) and without wanting to touch the front brake.

Now I don't want you to think I'm complaining about this - I was having an absolute ball (sweating in the cold too) and it was some really fun, exciting riding. I only wish the damn camera had been going...

Once out of the snow we were back on good gravel and apparently snow continued to fall of my bike for about the next 10km as we took in Koeke Road. I think it was somewhere in here where I must have given the guys following an interesting show when we rode through some very slippery mud on top of clay. First the rear wheel went out on my (I think it may have locked up under engine braking) and then the front got in on the act. It was a bit of a scary moment as the bike got pretty out of shape but I managed to gently persuade the bike towards some gravel at the side of the road and then all was good again and I tried to ride off like nothing had happened while the old heart also came back to normal.

With my undies still in good condition we then took in Pohonui Road before turning off the gravel and onto Turakina Valley Road and another quick photo stop by a waterfall.

Water a tumbling
Turakina Valley road took us safely back into Hunterville where it was time for another drink before the ride home. Here we lost one of our number as he was required elsewhere and we tackled a circuitous route (all tarmac) back home. Even got the camera going again...

I finally got home just before 5pm with an empty fuel tank and some great pictures after one really great adventure! An outstanding day out on the mighty DL!
More pics here.

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