Thursday, July 29, 2021

Gravel Gallivant

Gosh darn it, there's been nowhere near enough riding this month!  Between bad weather and a winter cold there's just been too many feeble excuses to stay home and hunker down.

Well, on Saturday, Colin and I finally fixed that.  A very loose plan was formulated a couple of days out but then on Saturday we decided that rather meeting at my place, we were going to meet in Pahiatua instead - this saves Colin a wee side-trip and a mauling from my dog.

So, while out walking the wild animal, I did some complicated maths and worked out when I needed to leave home in order to arrive around in Pahiatua the same time as Colin.  

I ended up leaving home at around 8:15 and after picking my way over a mostly dry Pahiatua Track attacked my first short stretch of gravel on Tararua Road.

Right away I noticed that the newish Shinko on the rear wasn't quite as good as an E-07 when there was a reasonable amount of gravel on the road.  It took me a while to get my eye but I really enjoyed the short warm-up as even though there was a touch of fog around, the sun was starting to shine through it and the day was definitely starting to look promising.

My maths proved to be reasonable as I arrived just early enough to beat Colin in the race to fill up and grab a coffee.  The only thing we needed to sort out was which way we should go...

Decision making

In the end it was easy.  Due to our route over we had missed the opportunity to head South along the ranges to Eketahuna before starting our loop out East and up to Pongaroa and back to Pahiatua. So, we simply reversed our course and tore off towards Makuri, mindful of the wet and possibly frosty roads.

The scoot through the reserve was not too bad actually but as we neared the turn-off (actually not a turn but you do get off the "main road") there was plenty of frost in the paddocks.  The sealed section of Coonoor Road was similar so a bit of care was taken on those damper looking shady corners.

Once we hit the gravel, frost and the possibility of ice became less of a concern and I could continue to get my head around the new tyre.  The gravel wasn't quite as nice as when we came through driving four wheels to rescue a kitty-cat but it's a fantastic ride up to the Lime works.







After a brief pause we were back into and I really enjoyed the drop down the hill - especially as someone had put some gravel down over the previously really slippery clay sections.  At about 3:45 in the video below you can get a peak at some of the awesome views out to the East and a bit of an idea of how high up we were.

We took our normal gravel back towards Pongaroa until I missed a turn (I realised straight away but knew the road would eventually get us nearer to Pongaroa) and took us onto Manuhara Road.  It ended up being a good find...


When we rolled into Pongaroa it was only just after 11 so we'd made pretty reasonable time but with our next section being a fair way from civilisation (coffee), we decided to park up and have a quick drink and snack.

The next leg started with a taste of Coast Road before turning off onto Marainanga Road and what was probably our most fun section of gravel for the day.  We didn't muck around much until our photo op stop.







Dropping down the hill we took it a bit more slowly and then turned onto Huia Road where things got a bit more interesting.  A grader had been through recently and stirred up the surface a fair bit.  There wasn't much actual gravel and in places things looked quite muddy so the speed limits were fairly safe.


Riding South on 52 we encountered a couple of groups of bikes out enjoying the brilliant day, the first group were even enjoying some of our side of the road while the other group of sports bikes appeared to be travelling fairly sedately.  

Along the way I had my own bit of excitement with a hawk.  It spotted me bearing down on it and decided to that it should lift-off and make itself scarce.  Trouble is, they aren't exactly quick at getting airborne and this one also thought that he'd exit stage right - right into my path that is.  Luckily I managed to read his mind and went into evasive action, missing the feathered fiend.  Colin reckoned that the hawk still crashed and burned but was able to get back up and get out of the way of the KTM.  The hawk is probably still wondering what actually happened and how he's still flying...

Our next bit of gravel started just out of Alfredton on Bartons Line and was in a lot nicer nick than that freshly graded stuff and arriving in Eketahuna we commented for probably second or third time about how we seemed to running ahead of schedule...




With all that extra time on our hands we managed to squeak in another drinks break before that last gravel haul up to Mangamire.  The very last section had a reasonable amount of gravel on it so it kept us on our toes until the end.


A quick zap over the Track again and the ride was done for me.  Home by just after 3:30 while Colin had a few more k's to nail back to Waikanae.  Damn nice ride on a perfect day!


Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Cutting loose

It's safe to say that we've had some fairly unfriendly weather the last few weekends and I've been too much of a wuss to head out and possibly drown.  But, on Saturday I threw caution to the wind and disappeared mid morning to get in a quick ride on the Mightiest of Mouses...

After pumping 9L of go-juice into the WR I raced a Harley up Tremaine Ave (well, not really, but I'm sure he was worried) and headed for the nearest gravel on Watershed Road.

Once again, the wet weather had left the gravel in great condition and once I got my eye in, the little bike was soon being given the type hard love that it prefers.  And yes, I like that skinnier/taller rear!

Crossing over Valley Road, I got back onto the gravel on Zig-zag road before dropping down into Pohangina via Finnis Road.  This was all part of my cunning plan to tackle that always fun short stretch of gravel on Pohangina Road through to Totara Reserve.  This is always fun whether on the WR or the Tenere.  Look at how much the WR loved it:


Next up was a little bit of seal before the delicious gravel returned for a great little strop through to Makoura Road.


At the river I had planned to get an artistic shot of the best little 250 in the world parked in the river but the river was running a bit higher and there was no nice little beach like there was last time.


Back on the bike, I made my way through to Apiti and then started heading back via Ridge Road.  

Up high, on the ridge I could see some dodgy looking weather off to the South so the little bike was kept busy as we tackled more great gravel.  The BMW GS going the other way surely just saw a blue blur as I whizzed past and was probably lined up at the local Yammy shop first thing Monday morning with his credit card at the ready...

At the Finnis Road turn-off I took the wrong turn (again) which meant that I was off the gravel far too soon and had to "slab" it back into Colyton and then home.  Looking at the tyres I think I must have had the bike in motard mode...


Loving this tyre!


Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Murupara Meanderings Part 2

So after a chilly night in our chilly motel (perhaps we should have left the lights on for the extra heat) we topped up the tanks on the bikes and made for the Forgotten Highway.  

This was another change to our plans and was due to the accommodation shortage taking us a bit further away from our planned Sunday jump-off point.  Never mind, the FH is always a great ride...

Overnight there'd obviously been the odd shower but it was a lot warmer so no frosty bits to worry about as we headed West towards Whanga.  But man, the roads were pretty slippery in places anyway - the shiny tar combined with crap covered wet roads really did curb our enthusiasm.  It wasn't until we hit the gravel that we got some better grip...


Out the other side of the tunnel and roads started to become a bit dryer and while I did have a wee look for another gravel loop, we stuck to the main road before stopping in Whangamomona for coffee and a fantastic scone.



Hitting the road again, the slipperiness factor was starting to reduce and we finally saw another couple of bikes coming the other way - both adventure bikes naturally.

Further up the road we came across an interesting sight crossing (I think) the Strathmore Saddle.  A whole heap of itty-bitty scooters coming the other way and parked at the summit having a breather.  Not sure what they were up to - there have been a few charity scooter rides lately but they could just have been nutters...

By the time we hit Stratford the roads were pretty dry but we actually had a few (very few) spits of rain - the only hint of cloud moisture for the whole weekend!

From Stratford we turned South and carefully cruised on down to Kai Iwi where we turned inland again to go in search of gravel.  Rangitatau East Road is always a good ride and the gravel was pretty much perfect.  There was so little gravel on the road and it was so hard packed that I actually treated it a bit like seal with gravel on it ie. perhaps with more caution than it warranted.  Still a mint ride in to the Kauarapaua Road turn-off.


Kauarapaua Road may be a bit slower but it is really neat.  It's a pretty narrow and slow road that eventually takes you through to the northern side of the Whanganui River.  For some reason I didn't get it all on video but you can see Colin and I taking it pretty quietly, looking out for traffic and also treating the sometimes slippery road with a wee bit of respect.


By now both the bikes needed a drink and the riders needed a late lunch so a stop in Whanganui pretty much ended our great weekend of riding.  Colin turned off at Sanson and I puttered on home to Palmy to unload and go break the dog out of her doggy motel.

One awesome couple of days riding some neat roads in perfect winter weather!

Tenere looking happy with itself



Shinko looking good with just over 1,000km under it


Friday, June 11, 2021

Murupara Meanderings Part 1

Last weekend was a long weekend and those are purpose designed for getting out for a decent ride.  And so, we had to and now I'd better waffle on about it...

Initially we had big plans for eating up all three days and covering some serious ground but in the end we dialed it back to two days so that we could leave some excitement for another day.

An early start planned for Saturday morning meant that the dreaded alarm clock didn't get turned off and I was nearly ready to go when Colin rolled up at just past 6:30am.  Luckily he needed a caffeine top up so I had a bit of time to finish organising myself and gearing up for a slightly chilly start.

Crossing over the Saddle the sun was slowly getting up after its winter morning lie in and we had a neat view of a foggy morning in Woodville.


Someone already having fun early into our adventure


So yeah, it was a little chilly once we dropped down into Woodville but this just got us warmed up semi-used to a bit of a chill before the main event...

After a quick stop at Dannevirke for fuel, we trundled up SH2 and onto a much cooler SH50.  I had my heated grips up as high as 75% (where I usually don't go above the first setting - 40%) and was trying to keep all my fingers tucked in out of the cold.  It was definitely cold enough for us to need to keep an eye out for frost on the side the road (plenty of that) and use that to warn us of potential ice.  

I was also keen to check the temperature on the dash but didn't want to take my hand off the hot grips to push the button - yeah, it was cold.  I eventually manned up and did press the button but the lowest temperature I saw was 3 degrees and I know from past experience that the gauge reads high (1200cc heater near temp probe).  Colin saw lower than that and had ice warnings come up so it was reasonably chilly alright.

It warmed up once we got closer to the Bay but by Taradale we needed a bit of a thaw out so managed to find a cafĂ© for a coffee and a bakery to pick up some supplies for lunch later on up the road.  The coffees disappeared very quickly.

Another short stint got us to Bay View where we topped up the tanks early as we were heading into the middle of nowhere and you can never have too much fuel when you're out exploring there.  The next little sprint got us out over the hill and down into Tutira where I decided that we needed to try and get a decent picture of the lake.  Not the best photo spot but hey, it shows we were there.

Yes, it is actually winter...

Further on up the road, just past some of the best sweepers in the North Island, we hit Raupunga where we turned off SH2 to explore what turned out to be some simply stunning roads through to Tuai and then the Waikaremoana Road.

Putere Road starts off as some nice windy seal that flows through pine forest until all of sudden you pop out into more open farm country with absolutely stunning views.  You need to keep an eye on the road though as when we went through there were goats everywhere, including one that leapt off the bank just as I slithered past him on a dodgy bit of seal.




The last time I'd been through this way was on the V-Strom with the BRR and it was a tad drizzly so I completely missed this next amazing view!

Yep, a stunning lake hidden out in the middle of nowhere!

Lake Rotonuiaha

It turns out that following Putere Road further will take you past another couple of smaller lakes and along the river until the road runs out - we may have to investigate further...

Just down the hill a bit the road became a bit more shady so the tar was a little slippery in places but that didn't last as the tar soon ran out and put us onto the more grippy gravel as we turned off onto Waireka Road.

The gravel through here was in fantastic condition - a far cry from the soup last time:

Soup, or is it porridge?

All through here we seemed to be either climbing or descending and after a neat set of switchbacks (checkout the video with a mess on one corner where a logging truck lost his load) we dropped down onto the bridge over the river.




Carrying on through some really stunning country it was wasn't hard to find a place to stop and take pictures but if we wanted to get anywhere we had to try and limit ourselves...



Hopefully the video can give even more of an impression of just how good this riding was.


The end of that video and end of Waihi Road spat us out onto the Waikaremoana Road.



Our trip through to the lake was nearly as good as the ride from Raupunga with more great gravel and little traffic.  The road was also a tad windier and it does pay to watch the bits that look slippery - sometimes they are...





At the lake it was time for that lunch we'd bought in Taradale and it was just marvelous to discover that the contents of my thermos hadn't completely ruined our tucker.  No coffee for us though...

One thing that is great about the ride through here is that you really get to enjoy some long stretches of gravel but the closer you get to Murupara the more open the road becomes and there's even the odd sealed section.  And you always have to watch out for horses...




Here's just a "little" bit of the ride:


In Murupara we stopped for fuel and then had a bit of a hunt to find our shortcut to Taupo.  The shortcut is on forestry roads and to say that these are good is an understatement.  While the first bit was seal, when the road finally went to gravel there was no need to lift off at all.  Unfortunately I couldn't possibly publish the video so you'll have to make do with some screen grabs...




Oh, alright, here's some video from the last slow section:


The forestry roads spat us out onto the Taupo Road and from there we cruised through to Turangi and then over the hill (mind the ice grit) to a chilly Taumarunui where we parked up for a chilly night in a chilly motel.  At least the Thai tucker was good and we had enjoyed a simply superb days riding!  Winter riding doesn't get better than this!