XenaCommanders Place

"Participating in Life"

Distance Riders North Island 1600 - 2016

It has been a while since I participated in a long distance ride...  Looking at my records I think it was in 2011 when I did a Rusty Nuts Motorcycle Club Grand Challenge...   That's 1000 miles in 24 hours.   Something happened to the organisation and they didn't hold any more..    I do enjoy the long rides..   The peak ride was the 2010 Super Tour riding 10,000 km in 10 days.   What can you do to top that..?   so the urge to do another one wasn't strong.

I did keep in touch with a couple of riders and found that a new organisation had formed and they started to hold endurance rides again.   Early this year I get an email saying the NI1600 (the grand challenge equivalent) was being held in October...  I filed it with a "I don't think so"...  
Xena... My BMW R1150RT has had some issues...  I had to replace the ABS Pump and a Starter Motor ...   at great expense..  So she was fit and healthy again..  so no mechanical excuse not to do the ride.  Now I just had to convince myself...  These rides are NOT EASY...  they are a challenge for sure.

I happened to meet up with the Distance Riders out on a weekend run and joined them for a day ride..  That whetted my appetite again so I signed up for the 2016 NI1600....   Deep Breath...

Preparation

 This year... being semi retired and living mostly in Turangi I initially decided I was going to approach this ride with some preparation.... But of course life happened and I had to travel again for work...  So the long rides I was planning went by the by.   One shouldn't just turn up for one of these marathon rides without hardening the body to riding.  Which I was later reminded about...
Checking the bike over I see she needed new tires... So the week before the ride I rode Xena up to Auckland and got a few hundred kilometers up...

A couple of days to go I got thinking.. As you do...   Why am I doing this..?   Why does anyone want to sit on a motorcycle for 20 plus hours...?  Probably pouring with rain..  blowing a gale... freezing cold... on dark and lonely roads...?
There is no right answer really..  Most normal people see it as crazy...  But endurance riders see it as a challenge..  I consider myself in that group.. It is a physical challenge sure..  But for me...  mostly it is a challenge in self management... I wanted to prove to my self that I can still do it. 
I would approach this ride like I would a 30 day meditation retreat..   Moment by moment.. 

The Night Before

Fortunately these rides are planned to start/finish in Turangi..   This is a great advantage since I live here..  So after I took Xena for a short ride to get her all warmed up I rode into the holiday camp and signed in.   I got the Starters Card and went out to have the bike scrutineered.     I found that ex Rusty Brian Diesel was still involved with this new organisation and he went over the BMW with a magnifying glass..   These guys are more thorough than the vehicle testers at VTNZ....    which is great as you want to know that your bike is safe enough to do the distance.   Xena passes inspection ...  the Starters Card is signed ...  Licence/WOF/Rego checked and we are all set to go.

Riders were starting to trickle in..   Given I had not done any rides for a few years I didn't recognise anyone..    This year they are running a NI800 for the first time..   a shorter ride to encourage new riders to get a feel for an event like this.   A great idea.    I did talk to a few before returning home.   Nothing else to do until 7:00pm when the ride route is posted.

I walked back over to the camp at 7:00pm and got the Riders Guide and saw the route for the first time... Gulp..!!!

 

 It did look familiar..  I think in 2007 we went up as far as Kaitaia...  but then the road to Cape Reinga wasn't all sealed..  So now we can get there without riding gravel...   which these rides avoid...   With the route and guide in hand I returned home and loaded the route into MapSource and loaded my GPS..   Problem appears later as my maps are so old they led me on a side track..!!
So 9 checkpoints...  4 of which were manned the rest required a photo taken of the bike at the checkpoint.

Off to bed for an early night...  Yeah right...  I always have difficulty sleeping before a big ride.. This was no exception so pretty much a sleepless night..   or just snoozing now and again.

 Day of the Ride

I decided to eat well before the ride so made myself a bacon and egg breakfast..  Likely the riders were being fed well over at the camp.. 
I took Xena down to the local BP and filled her up and decided to head to my favourite coffee stop in Turangi.

 James's coffee trailer down by the bridge makes great coffee..  I don't drink much these days as it keeps me awake but of course today I needed that help so had a good strong long black.   Loaded with caffeine I headed to the camp for the start of the NI800.

I'm not much of a photo taker...  but I did take a few shots before the start...  On the ride I only take the required pics for checkpoints..

 So many bikes...  all shapes and sizes..  mostly big tourers...   It was nice to see some women were here to ride..  

 Jo parked next to Xena..  I had a chat..  she rides often with a group from Gisborne and is brave riding this Yamaha XT250 around the 800 km course.

 NI800 Starts

 10:30am is the start of the NI800...   Organisers hold up a coloured card and the riders in that colour group ride forward and are cleared to go.

 First card goes up...  Riders start to leave.

 

 Jo starts off on her ride...  Good Luck..   I didn't see her again until I nearly got back from my ride when I saw her ride out of Turangi on the way home likely after her ride.   Hope she enjoyed it.

Once the 800 riders were off I headed back home for a big Steak lunch..   two big meals will hold me for the ride..  I will snack only while on the ride for the sake of time.XC all fueled up..  I loaded Xena with the necessary items..  GPS..  spare batteries...  torch... toilet paper...  warm clothes... bananas...  nibbles...  chocolate....  Route Guide.   All set...    Off to the camp.

 NI1600 Briefing

12:00 was the time for the briefing before the ride..   giving road conditions on route..  any weather issues... checkpoint details...

 Green T Shirt officials in this organisation were tech savvy and read notes from a laptop which recorded the whole event...   Riders soak up all the info...   Nothing left to do now but wait for start time.

 1600 riders in wait mode...  for me the worst part of the ride...

  time to swap stories..

 Xena waiting patiently...  I even gave her a wash so she looked all shiny....    a few miles will change that.

 NI1600 Start

 Scheduled start for the 1600 was 1:00 pm...   The first job on the ride was to take a pic of the bike odometer

  Xena was approaching 70k so will roll over on this ride...    All set to go..  Now of course I didn't get to take pics on the start line..   Other volunteers were taking photos...  so if I get to see any I might post them here later if permission is granted.. 
I was in the yellow group scheduled to leave around 1306 when the yellow card is held up... 

Riders were started in groups going in 3 minute gaps..   I was in the third group.. 

The yellow card goes up and I ride forward...  Rider 25...  acknowledged and I am cleared to ride.   I start the GPS up and am off...
I turn right out of the camp and head right onto SH41...   This was the route over to Taumaranui and TeKuiti which I took going to Auckland this week..  So I was recently familiar with the road.
Weather was good...  (fingers crossed)  and forecast to get worse over night..  we will see..

I am a solo rider by choice..   I have ridden in groups before and consider it unsafe for me...   I am happy to ride with others if they have a similar style of riding to me..   On these long rides it is common to latch on to someone else..    Lets just see what happens..

This first leg was to get to TeKuiti BP...   So with familiar roads..  I cruised and got into the rhythm that comes with these long rides..  I seem to get into a groove. 
I decided not to fix my iPod wires which had broken so chose a quiet ride so I can concentrate on what I am doing.  
I have a routine when riding...   I don't watch the scenery passing...  I don't do a lot of thinking.. I am just working towards the next corner...    Placement on the road...   lookout ...  execute the turn...
Next corner...  Placement...  lookout.....  execute...
Next corner... Placement... lookout...  execute...
Finding the rhythm of the bike...
I am not a speedster..  I don't speed much at all these days..  I can't afford the fines.. lol..
The faster bikes whizz past me...  often with a wave...  I know I will see them again on the ride..  Usually at a petrol station...

I know the key to these endurance rides is not speed...  It is constancy...  keep stops to a minimum and keep riding.   If you could keep riding without stops you only need to do and average of 67kmh...   but with stops you have to watch your moving average.   I had set that up to be on view on my GPS...  so this first leg I wanted to get that moving average up...    So I rode a constant 100kmh.. - 109kmh
By the time I pulled into TeKuiti BP my moving average was up around 95kmh.

 

Checkpoint 1 - TeKuiti  BP     Time arrived:  14:34    Distance Traveled:  152 km   Stopped: 6 mins

The station was busy...  I didn't need fuel so took the required photo...  and got the volunteer to sign my card. Texted TK my progress...   and I was off again at 14:40  leaving a lot of bikes who had already passed me to likely do so again...

Turning back onto SH3 I headed north again..   passed again by the speedsters...   I settled into my rhythm again... turning left onto SH37 through Waitomo Caves onto Te Anga Rd...   Now we hit some serious bike roads..   they are twisty just the way I like it..  but it does drop the moving average.   I am not fast on twisties but I am constant.. and ride each corner like any other..   The big BMW is heavy so I have to pull her around the tight corners...  calorie burning stuff..   

Bikes stop passing me so I must be in my own space.   faster bikes ahead..  slower bikes still behind.
I did pass one guy on a big BMW LT I think...    He seemed to keep pace with me on the twisty bits.. So maybe we will end up riding together..

Over the hills...  down onto Kawhia Harbour Rd and stopped for the second Checkpoint...

 

 Checkpoint 2 - Kinohaku Hall     Time arrived:  15:35    Distance Traveled: 221 km  Stopped: 1 min

Finding the hall was easy as there was a bunch of bikes ahead of me..   just as well as I haven't seen this hall before..   The fast riders were just about to leave as I pulled up...   This was a pic stop only so took the required pic..  the big BMW pulled up and I had a quick word with the rider (name unknown)...  all good.. wished him well and departed after texting TK my progress..

 The next leg was much longer...    Continuing on the Harbour Road and passing a lot of police cars and incident van outside a crime scene which I later found out about on the news...  Not a nice story.  We rode past the crowd on the side of the road and continued up the twisty roads onto Ngutuni Road...  and left onto Ormsby Rd and into Pirongia...   Familiar roads allowed speed to increase the moving average that had dropped markedly on the twisites.

Xena has a large fuel tank and on a cruise I can get 440 km from her...   I couldn't get to the next checkpoint in Orewa on the tank so I had to plan a fuel stop.   I was going to go to my favourite Mobil station in Drury but by the time I was getting to Ngaruwahia I had to change plans..   pulling the bike around the twisties obviously had drained more fuel..   So going north of Ngaruwahia I crossed the river at Rangiriri in company with a couple of other bikes and found we couldn't just turn onto the new expressway..   we had to do a tikitour towards TeKauwhata before allowed to rejoin the expressway...  oh well..  Extra k's...

I decided to pull off the expressway at Mercer for fuel

Fuel Stop - Mercer Service Center     Time arrived:  17:27    Distance Traveled: 378 km   Stopped: 9 mins

 A quick fill up...  and toilet stop..  text to TK  and I am off..

Back on the motorway north...  few corners.. but lots of traffic the closer we got to Auckland the traffic got worse...  Of course end of school hols didn't help..   

I ride a lot in Auckland so am pretty confident about how to get across the bridge efficiently..   So with lane swaps and a bit of lane splitting I was over the bridge and heading north.    I seemed to have picked up another bike who followed my lane changes...  I guess he figured I was a local...
Off the motorway at Silverdale before the Toll road and along the Hibiscus Coast Highway into Orewa.

 

 Checkpoint 3 - BP Orewa     Time arrived:  18:36    Distance Traveled: 473 km    Stopped: 14 mins

 The checkpoint at BP Orewa was busy with bikes as usual...  I managed to get to talk to the volunteer marshal on duty..  Nice guys..  they do a great job...    Took the required pic above...  I didn't need fuel for the bike but I was getting a bit peckish... so I ate a banana and some trail mix I had on the bike...   That's better..
A few bikes arrived while I was there and some had left..  So I loaded up again after Text to TK...  

I left with a couple of other bikes and rode north to Waiwera...  over the bridge and up the hill and back onto SH1 towards Whangarei...   
Traffic split me from the faster bikes so I was on my own again... Traffic was slow in patches so I passed when I thought safe... 

My body was starting to protest... sending pain signals...  I had been getting tendonitis in my arms recently and now they were really protesting...   Also my weak point was usually my knees on these rides but they were fine so far...   but my neck was giving me serious concern...   sharp pains indicating I was pinching nerves somewhere...   Oh well..  nothing to do..  As my practice teaches me...    this too will change...  So I just watch the sensations come and go..  relax as much as I can on a bike moving at 100kmh and keep going.

The next Checkpoint was up in Kaeo at a BP station that was pay at pump...  and it only served 91 octane...  So I had to calculate where to get fuel enough for me to get up to Cape Reinga and down to Kaitaia again..
So I picked a Caltex Station in Whangarei...
Riding up the Brynderwyns and over the other side...   Road works slowing things down a bit in places... not much you can do in these situation. 
I rode into Whangerai in company with a couple of other bikes...   and spotted the Caltex that I had put in my GPS for fuel stop..   But it was on the other side of a divided road so had to do a U turn and go back....

Fuel Stop - Caltex Whangarei     Time arrived:  20:19    Distance Traveled: 604 km    Stopped: 9 mins

Another quick fuel stop..   Top up Xena's tank..   empty my tank... (never let an opportunity go by...)
A quick text to TK of progress...  and reset odo..   And off we go..   I should have fuel enough to get to Kaitaia.

Heading north of Whangarei I got into trouble..   My MapSource maps didn't have the new roads going out of Whangarei so the GPS directed me to turn down the Kamo Road...    I didn't notice until I saw the message make a U turn..  Buggar...  what to do..  So I turned around and turned right onto the Kamo Road...  then of course I realised what I had done...   So I turned around again and went back the way I was heading...  Wasted 5 minutes and gained a couple of k's but I got it sorted..  Thats the cost of not buying map updates...   Oh well.. 

It was well past sunset now and completely dark.. It was good to get out of the city and into the country roads to Kawakawa and then right onto SH10.
Traffic was light..   I kept running into Fonterra trucks and night is trickier to get past them...  they usually blink their indicators when its clear...
It was 8 hours since the start...  I was still feeling alert..  no sleepiness at all..  coffee was working..  My body was protesting ... arms ... neck...  back...  but I pretty much ignored it all...  keeping in the routine of riding..   turn...  turn...

My iPhone has an app that keeps track of the paces I take each day...  and I later found out that it recorded every turn on this ride..   Stats later.

The dark roads got quieter and quieter as I passed the Kerikeri turnoff and continued on SH10..  I knew I was up in the Bay of Islands but it didn't matter on this ride..   It was all black..!!!
I continued on and rode into Kaeo and located the BP station...

 Checkpoint 4 - BP Kaeo     Time arrived:  21:49    Distance Traveled: 719 km    Stopped: 1 min

 This is an all night station but the building is boarded up with ply...  Interesting...
So a quick stop while I took this pic...   and sent a text to TK..   (which didn't send)   The Fonterra truck I had passed earlier drove through...   Oh well...

On my way again of course I quickly caught up to the Fonterra truck and had to pass again...  No sign now of any other riders... haven't seen a bike since Whangarei...
The ride at this time of the night sort of melds into an experience of movement..   no major incidents.. no memorable moments...  just cruising...  turning... turning...

Up past the Mangonui turn off..   through Coopers Beach..  no sign of traffic...  Cable Bay..  just as quiet...
This was it until I reached Awanui...  and turned right onto the Cape Reinga Road...
I haven't been on this road since well before it was sealed at the top...  So I figured they would have straightened it out...  but pretty soon I was in 45kmh corners... What the..?   oh well...  thats what we are here for..   They straightened out and I continued up expecting to see bikes come back from the top.
I did see a few small groups.. but not many so I figured I must be doing ok...

A badly signed patch of roadworks appeared quickly so I had to brake pretty hard and fast before I hit some nasty lumpy gravel...    Negotiated safely...  whew...

Of course it was getting late so lights were few and far between with little traffic on that road.    But of course the road does come to an end...   I parked up and took a pic of Xena not knowing what the Archway was...

Checkpoint 5 - Cape Reinga     Time arrived:  23:43    Distance Traveled: 888 km    Stopped: 10 mins

I was parked in front of the toilets...  and it wasn't until two Honda Goldwings turned up and parked in front of a structure that looked like an arch that I didn't even see..   Oh well ...   So I moved Xena over for a better pic..

 I had already had a feed of trail mix and chocolate..  and made use of the toilet before my colleagues turned up..  So snapped the arch above and jumped on Xena for ride south.   Note how bright the lights are on the Goldwing...  VERY...  as I find out later.

 They ride south over the same ground seemed to go faster as I knew what to expect..  Even the patch of road works came and went...  Fuel was ok..  I was starting to feel a bit tired but not drowsy..  

I saw bikes riding north..   quite a lot of them..  so I knew I must be in the middle of the pack somewhere.. 
Kilometers passed..  I kept to my routine..   turn...  turn...    not thinking..   breathing..   turning.. 

Past the Awanui corner I had come from and on to Kaitaia...  cruising into town trusting the GPS will locate the Mobil station for me...

 

 Checkpoint 6 - Mobil Kaitaia     Time arrived:  01:14    Distance Traveled: 1003 km    Stopped: 12 mins

 This checkpoint was manned by the three marshals in pic...   nice people doing a great job to support a bunch of riders riding around in the middle of the night..  It is very appreciated...   I fuelled Xena up as she was running very low...    I also had a sausage roll to get some stodge inside me...  a quick text to TK along with the ones that didn't send in Kaeo and the Cape...    so that should stop her worrying...
Just as I was about to leave the two Goldwings pulled in..   Likely I will see them again..

I cruised out of Kaitaia noting that my moving average was  87.5..   Not bad but could be a little better...
I remembered the twisties that are south of Kaitaia... so that wasn't going to help the moving average much..  I ran into them and started working the corners..  pulling Xena over on each turn...  You can't be sleepy on these roads.. you have too much work to do..
I was busy ..  my own speed and in my mirrors I see very bright light coming up behind me..    the two GoldWings had caught me up...   they sat behind me for a while their lights dazzling me in my mirrors...  
So I slowed.. pulled left and let them pass..  

Good riders..  they pulled those big bikes around those tight turns much better than I could..   So they went on ahead of me.   I tried to keep up with them but their rear red lights were just as dazzling especially with the flashing brake light feature..!!   Lol..    So I slowed down and let them go.   

I was back in the dark with the occasional glimpse of them way ahead...  
I cruised on.. out of the twisties and on the straighter roads..   I just rode my own ride...
Then I started seeing the bright lights in the dark ahead..  Seems I was catching up with them on the straighter roads..   we rode on in company...    I didn't get too close because of the lights...  But we arrived at Twin Bridges Checkpoint in company.

 Checkpoint 7 - Twin Bridges     Time arrived:  02:48    Distance Traveled: 1116 km    Stopped: 3 mins

 I parked Xena with lights on the required feature...  the sign..   Snap as Goldwing was departing..   A quick stop this time.. and off we go...
Continuing on south on Mangakahia Road... right down to SH14 at Maungatapere doing a jink onto Otaika Valley Road...
I kept close to the Goldwings...  I was getting a bit weary so it was good to have something to focus on and follow..  Specially on these unfamiliar roads...  Going onto straighter roads I did note that their speed had dropped too..   Maybe they were a bit tired.
We got to SH1 south of Whangarei and headed south along road we had come north on..  

I thought I would wind up the moving average a bit so passed the guys on the GoldWings... and took off...  Not a great idea as their lights are so bright..  I had to move quickly to try to get them out of my mirrors..   But to do that I would have had to speed beyond what I would normally do..  so I just cruised again till they caught me up I think south of the Brynderwyns...  I followed them in to Wellsford where we had to turn onto HW16.

One of them missed the turn and the other waited for him...  So I kept going on my own pleased to be away from those bright lights.  HW16 is familiar to me but haven't been on it for a while..  and not at night.. 
I haven't seen so many signs...   Arrows pointing the direction of the turns..  what is this...?  for novice drivers..  Crazy on full beam you see >>>> > > >  <<<<   < <   everywhere..    I must be getting tired...
just focus and follow the road..    turn ...   turn....  turn....   these corners are going to run out soon.

Past Kaukapakapa...  then turned onto Peak Rd...   More work on twisty roads...   at least they keep me awake..  I had no idea where I was..  Just following the GPS...  turn ..  turn... turn...  and ran onto HW16 again at Kumeu and into Z Station checkpoint.

 

 Checkpoint 8 - Z Kumeu     Time arrived:  05:15    Distance Traveled: 1322 km    Stopped: 10 mins

 I was getting tired and needed a burst..  so scoffed the two bananas left in top box...  and munched on nuts and raisins...   Sent a text to TK and said I would pop in to Greenlane for a coffee if she was up...  Of course she was..     The Goldwings turned up so had a catch up then loaded up and off I went..

Familiar roads..  Auckland Western motorway..  so I cruised pretty quickly to Greenlane where I enjoyed an espresso coffee...  and she had even made porridge...   so enjoyed a quick breakfast..

 Breakfast Stop Greenlane     Time arrived:  05:44    Distance Traveled: 1351 km    Stopped: 16 mins

 It was great to have some hot food and hot coffee...  The caffeine will get me home.   I was going to stop and meditate for some energy but I was afraid I would just zonk out and not be able to ride..   So I opted to keep going.   

The final stop was in Bombay BP so it was an easy run down the southern motorway...  I cruised down starting to feel the effects of the coffee start to kick in.

 

 Checkpoint 9 - BP Bombay    Time arrived:  06:21    Distance Traveled: 1393 km    Stopped: 9 mins

 Final checkpoint...  I fueled up Xena enough to get me home... Checked in with the Marshal and took the required pic above..   I noted that there were a number of riders relaxing..  and also saw the Goldwing guys still there...    But I didn't want to hang around..  I will relax when this is over..  Last leg.
I dialled up the last route on the GPS ..  saved track and off we went...

I travel from Auckland just about every week so know the road like the back of my hand..  The instructions said make your own way to Turangi.. and gave a couple of suggested routes...
But I just followed my normal route...

Cruising down Waikato Expressway until Huntly through to Taupiri and turn left onto 1B to the Cambridge bypass...   It was still early so traffic was not too heavy...   Still no rain but I see dark clouds to the south... Hmm...

I approached Gordonton and wondered if I should stop for a toilet break..   Coffee has that affect...  But I cruised past... I know the toilets on this route..  Maybe Karipiro..    But no the urge wasn't urgent...
Maybe Tirau...  No not yet...  cruise on..   Maybe Putaruru...  not yet...   I think I made a mistake..  I cruised on keeping focus on the next corner...  and not the bladder...  20km to Tokoroa where I often stop...
Watching the clouds roll up from the south I knew I was going to get wet.

I cruised into Tokoroa and stopped...

 

 No photo needed but decided to anyway... once I had dashed into the public loo and wrestled with the gear...  Whew....   Note to self...  Don't wait so long...

 Toilet Stop - Tokoroa Public    Time arrived:  08:13    Distance Traveled: 1561 km    Stopped: 12 mins

 Comfortable again... I nibbled on trail mix.. and off we go again..  the last leg..   I said to myself constantly.. This is it.. be careful..   Concentrate...   The most dangerous part of the ride is the last leg..  Feeling weary although hyped up with coffee I decided to go down the western route...   As soon as I rode out of Tokoroa the heavens opened up...   Heavy rain...   Oh well..  cant complain.   With good gear on I knew I wouldn't get wet but the roads became slippery so had to ride carefully....  my helmet would fog if I closed it up..  and if I cracked it open which is what I normally ride with it leaks onto the inside of my visor...  so visibility wasn't great...

But keep riding..  turn...  turn..  there can't be many more..
Getting close to Turangi up by Omori I saw a blue bike xt250 ride past...  Jo was on her way home..  Wonder how she did.   Rain eased a bit as I neared the Waihi twisty bit...  so rode carefully down to Tokaanu and on to Turangi Finish Line...

 I climbed off Xena...  and asked a passing rider to take a pic...    So a selfie of a hairy ... tired .. old biker who has just ridden to the top of the island and back....  Done..

I took the required pic of the Odo...  Went inside and signed in as finished..  had the checkpoint photos checked..  and was given the finishers pack which contained a certificate...  a cloth badge and a metal badge.

 What we do for a badge...  I will put them on my leather vest with the many others... and will be a reminder of another great ride..
A hot meal was also provided by the wonderful organisers... even table service...   and Pudding..!!  Yum...  Thank you folks for organising a great event.    I won't sign up for the next one but I will likely be back.

For the statistical people I took a pic of the GPS for records...

 Distance Traveled by Odometer:   1684
 Distance Traveled by GPS:             1641
 Maximum Speed Reached:              124  likely passing someone who sped up on passing lane.!
 Moving Time:                                 18hours 33mins
 Stopped Time:                               1 Hour 57 mins..  

 Moving Average:                            88.4 kmh
 Overall Average:                            79.9 kmh

 

 The GPS track of the ride... 

Another great ride..  Thanks to all who took part to make it a success..  If I mentioned you in this blog and I don't know your name please let me know and I will put it right..

I look forward to more rides in the future.. 

Stay tuned

XC