Tuesday, October 11, 2016

2016 NI1600 - behind the scenes...

This weekend was the third running of the NI1600, (1,600km in 24 hours) but for all sorts of silly reasons (well, they definitely feel silly now) I had decided to skip this one.  But rather than sit at home and wonder how everything was going I decided to volunteer to help out on the event.  The bosses requested my help in Turangi so after knocking off a little early on Friday I headed North...

The ride up was fairly average with some heavy rain over Vinegar Hill, more wetness around Taihape and a fairly damp Desert Road too.  I didn't hurry, stopping for fuel and warm gloves in Taihape before carrying on.  There were definitely a few slippery places and the below section (picture actually taken on the way home on Sunday) was "interesting" in the wet.

Slippery when wet...
In Turangi I checked into my cabin and started catching up with everyone before we all wandered off for tea in town.

After tea it was time for the route reveal - what all the riders were champing at the bit to see.  This time there was a bit of change too.  In order to try to attract more riders into distance riding, the team were putting on two rides: an 800km (in twelve hours) and the famous 1,600km.

The big boys' and girls' route
After plenty of yarning and receiving my orders for the next day I headed off to bed somewhere around ten.  Most of the others were also doing the same, the riders hoping for a good night's sleep but if they were anything like me before the ride, probably not getting it.

During the night the temperature plummeted and I froze in my sleeping bag.  I ended up getting up and adding more layers but still didn't have a great sleep.  I gave up on sleeping, getting up just before 6 and hitting the kitchen early to try to help out.

In the kitchen, the Boss (Ann) put me to work as we started to get the breakfasts underway.  By 7 the first of the early risers was in for a good feed and the rest were not far behind.  By 9:30 everyone had been feed and 36 NI800 riders were lined up getting their ride briefing.  I also had been able to sneak away to get some snaps of the bikes waiting patiently for their workouts.

Make sure you check that bloke's spokes!
All shapes and sizes...
Plenty of green machines
Two slightly different options for long distance riding...
Sexy little 300 ready for a flogging
Law being laid down to the NI800 riders
After their briefing the very keen 800 riders commenced their suiting up and formed up for the official start.  They were let off in small groups and I managed to catch them (all but one I think) as they tore off on their mission.

After watching the NI800 riders get on their way there was still a two hour wait for the NI1600 riders until they too got their briefing and finally got underway.  A couple of BRR riders and a certain blogger were just three of the guys patiently waiting for their getaway...

NI1600 Briefing
Once again I tried to nab all the action from the start as the NI1600 riders were also let off the chain in small groups.  Great to see the thumbs up from Nev as he hit the road!

With both rides now in full swing we had time for a bit of a break and to monitor things as best we could from HQ.  Alan, Mike and Teresa were manning the phones and computer to keep a good eye on things and we spent the time chatting about past rides and guessing on how things were going.  We did have some entertainment when one NI800 rider got himself lost and well of track - listening to one side of his conversation with Alan was pretty funny but no so much for poor Stretch on the other end of the line.

The predicted finish time for the fastest of the NI800 riders was around 7pm so well before then we started preparing meals.  We also started receiving the odd NI1600 update when James went live on Facebook a few times - pretty neat being able to be kept in the loop as it all happened.

Not long after 7 the first two riders did indeed roll in and had great things to say about the ride.  They'd managed to stay dry all the way around and had a blast.

Here they come...
Nearly ready to lower the landing gear...
They were quickly "processed", receiving their badges and certificates and shortly after a hot meal.  From here on more of the riders started arriving but by now they were starting to ride in the dark and a very light drizzle.

At one stage a small group of riders came in and started telling us the story of the little XT250 riding in the event.  They were more than amused that they had caught and passed it a number of times but never spotted it pass them back...apparently it was also receiving quite the workout...And then...

The XT that could!
The XT came in just outside the first ten but the rider was fizzing!  She had had a ball, just finding the night riding a bit tricky with the teeny-tiny headlight.  Additionally, there had been the odd navigation issue and the XT had done nearly 1,000km.  Apparently, they will also go at least 20km on reserve at full throttle...

As it got closer to the 10pm cut-off we were still missing a few of the NI800 riders and were also starting to here more on the progress of the 1600.  Just before 10 a group of 3 NI800 riders (including one GN250) pulled in with very little time to spare and that was it - anyone in after that wasn't going to get their badge.  In the end a few missed out (including Stretch who was still MIA) having possibly not quite understood what they were undertaking when they left...

I hung around for a while longer hoping for more info on Stretch and also the NI1600 progress but eventually hit the hay just after midnight.  About half an hour or so later I was woken by my next door neighbour arriving in - yep, Stretch was back in town...

I had set my alarm for an 06:30 wake-up as that was when I was needed next but was woken up just after 6am my an SV1000 arriving - yep, the first of the quick NI1600 riders had landed just over 17 hours after setting out.  By the time I'd got my act together Glen on his S10 and a 'Busa had also rolled in.  They were a little damp as they'd been ridding in some reasonably wet rain for the last hour of the ride.  I took a quick photo and they were off inside to claim their badges and warm up with some hot tucker.

Glen parking up next to a quick SV
Not too long Colin and John rocked in on their GS's with John apparently performing a very stylish (no, he didn't drop it) dismount to end his first NI1600.  I quickly caught up with them before returning to kitchen duties - I had puddings to prepare!

John starting to remove wet gear.

Colin getting the all important final odometer reading.
Things then got busy for a while as we fed some riders breakfast (NI800 over-nighters) and some meals (the NI1600 mob) and also tried to listen in on some of the stories.  Apparently the route was a doosey and the weather mostly ok until near to home base (for the faster guys mainly).  There were also plenty of tales of deering-do, punctures, critters, navigational issues and close scrapes.

If my memory serves me correctly, Phil came in somewhere around nine and had a big smile on his dial.  He also passed on the meal and set off on the trip home to add another 300 odd km to his 1,600...

Phil and the mighty FJ (240,000km under its wheels)
 Eventually I had to pack up my gear for the pootle home and the only ones missing were 3 riders (including Nev) some of who had issues and were assisting each other back to base.  No word on whether they earned their badges or not yet.

And so, after farewelling the team it was my turn for a quiet little ride home.  The traffic South of Turangi was quite busy but the weather quite nice in a grey sort of way.  To give me something to do I turned on the GoPro to nab a few pics.

Ok, so the road wasn't always busy...

This time around there were no fuel stops needed and I had a magnificent run in the dry over Vinegar Hill.  I'd post the video but perhaps better not...

And so ended a bit of a different NI1600 for me.  It was definitely different seeing the riders off and not suiting up with them but it was pretty neat to get to know them better and hear their stories as they came in.  I also got a very good idea of the amount of work the team go through to put on such a great event.  I reckon that setting the route must be the easiest thing they do...working out all the other logistics must be a nightmare!

Thanks once again for having me John, Mike, Brett and James.  And man what a fantastic job Ann did organising the kitchen gang!  Hopefully I didn't just get in the way...

Now, about next year...


  1. excellent write up and pics Andrew - thanks for taking the trouble

    1. No probs Stephen, going to see you there next year?

  2. That's a terrific post Andrew - thanks for the memories! Watching your video of the start brought back all the butterflies and nervous anticipation of past rides. Also, all the personal stories and big feed at the end with all the other riders which goes to make that event rather special.

    I also remember freezing in one of those cabins and getting very little sleep which wasn't good before such a long ride. After that, I always stayed in a nearby motel!!

    I often wonder how some of the US Iron Butt competitors would cope in NZ as a lot of their rides are on interstates of course. Pretty easy compared with our back roads!

    Thanks again, that was great.

    1. Glad it brought back memories Geoff - maybe we'll see you there next year?

      We had plenty of time to yarn about past rides during the down time and I think it was Mike or Gremlin who mentioned that we had had a yank over at some stage to do one of the GC's and they reckoned that 1,000km in NZ - 1,000 miles in the US...

      I like it that our events include back roads...I'd be worried about falling asleep with too much SH1 or motorways etc...

  3. Must have been really weird for you to volunteer for the event this year.

    I can't imagine going that distance on a little XT. Kudos to that rider.

    Thanks for sharing.

  4. Weird alright - and hard work too!

    Are you a starter for next year? You can borrow the Tenere...

  5. Thanks for the write up Andrew. Honestly, I'm not a fast rider but I feel like I go fast enough - I can't see how those riders do that ride in 17 hours. That's nearly an average of 100kph = radar detectors, and break-neck speed. Me, I'm interested in the journey and in getting home in one piece! :-)

    1. No probs Alan. Glad you had a good ride and added to your badge collection!