Gravel Bashing

Postby Rik on Thu 9/Apr/15 1:32pm

So I was at a loose end this Easter, my usual cluster of riding buddies where off doing other things, what to do? It was about 10pm Thursday evening when the idea popped into my head that this long weekend, and more specifically the next two days, would be the prefect time to embark on a two day epic with an overnight stay. I'd bought some Sammy Slicks months ago with a view to exploring some gravel road on the commuter, and the annoying digs from my conscience about the fact I had done nothing with them yet where getting more and more frequent, time to shut them up. A few flicks of the tyre levers later and my tyres had grown in girth and now sported knobs.

The bike also sports mounts for a rack, but I don't own a rack. So sleeping equipment had to be attached (lashed would be a better word) by means of the ever indispensable bungy cord.
I planned a route out around Lyttleton Bay up over to Pigeon Bay and onto Akaroa for the night. From there I had a few routes in mind for the return, the final choice depending on how I felt. All of them however would culminate along the Little River rail trail, a personal favourite because it's flat and the last section meanders along the banks of a river. A very nice way to wind down after a hard ride, or, at the very least the scenery distracts from the pain in legs.

It was 10:30am by the time I finally got in the saddle on Friday morning, after a leisurely continental breakfast and final packing I was ready to go. Already the Garmin was showing 21 little oh big cees. The late start put me on the climb of Kennedys Bush with all the other late risers. It seemed really busy, but only because of my odd overall pace. A moments lazyness in the garage had me look at my crankset and conclude that my 1x front chainring would suffice, there was no need to remove the crankarm and fit a granny ring. Now, out on the battle field, it was very obvious it was not sufficing. When the gradient was such I could pedal, I had to pedal like billy-o to keep it spinning, and when the gradient stepped up, I had to get off and walk and get passed by all the people I'd passed earlier.

It felt so good to reach the top and cruise along Summit Road and down 'The Bastard'. Whilst sat at the bottom, it was decision time, turn left down the hill and commit to the original plan A and on to Akaroa (or as far as I could get into the hills).
OR
Turn right down the hill and explore on the flat.

It took the consumption of an entire muesli bar to weigh the pros and cons. The conclusion being, with my current gearing, plan A would involve a lot of walking up hills and therefore not arriving at Akaroa or arriving there late and in the dark. Flag that, this was supposed to be fun, turn right. Plan B

So the plan morphed into, rail trail to Little River, lunch, them back along the railtrail to home. To replan an assault on the Plan A course another day, but with proper equipment.

Half way along the rail trail and two hours out from Breakfast it was definitely time for brunch and a sit down.

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Bike setup
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Railtrail - Long and flat


From brunch, it was a quick spin to Little River for Lunch. I had plenty of savouries in the back pack, what was needed here was something sweet. Lemon cupcake never tasted so good. Still with a long way to go, I didn't hang around savouring the rest. Probably should have hung around a little longer. In my rush to get out of town, I'd forgotten to top up my water. I was 2Ks out of town before I'd realised what I hadn't done and had to double back.

Upon getting back to Lake Ellesmere. I'd never been along the spit before, so this had to be the best chance ever to go and have a goosey gander. As long the inlet hadn't been opened, I'd be able to get the long way around the lake and back home to my own bed for the night. If the inlet was open, then I had a long round trip to get back to here, this would be a 40 kilometre wager I hoped my legs had enough funds to pay if I lost.

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very, very straight
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Lolly stop


The ride down the spit was long and very,very straight. As you ride down there and the land mass narrows so too does the road, the surface withers away aswell. From seal, to nicely graded, to farm track, to struggling to distinguish the tyres tracks from the sheep tracks. Infact, often the sheep tracks gave a smoother ride than the 'road'. I think it was at about the half way point that my boredom addled mind concluded that I had some stark decisions to make when I reached the end. If I could get through, then I was going to get home in the dark, not the end of the world because I had lights, but I wasn't looking like the funniest option. If I couldn't get through then there is no way to get back home on what lighting I did have. I would have to camp out.

I knew I was getting closer to the end because the the trail/road was getting softer and softer. Until inevitably things got too soft to pedal through. A quick jog up the bank revealed the beach and surf. There was still about a kilometre to go down the beach, but I could see the houses on the other side. I started the long trudge along the beach, The tide was in, so there was only dry sand left on the beach, I zigzaged up and down the beach looking for some firm sand to ride on, but there was nothing. After only 100m of this I reached the futility of it all, it was a lovely evening, I'd lugged this tent and sleeping bag around most of the day, just bloody stop an use them. Decision made, I turned around and looked for a nice secluded spot to set up camp. It was pretty windy and the most protection I could find was tussock grass, so I pitched next to a fence and bungied the tent to it.

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Room with a view
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Sunset
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Moonrise


For the last hour of the day, I just lay resting in the tent, watching the free show of a glorious sunset whilst behind me a near full moon rose up for the follow on act. The moon mean't it wasn't the darkest night to sleep through, but the skies were clear and the night warm enough to just lay there with door open and gaze upon whichever stars had the brightness to stand up to the moon in a 'shine off' comp. It wasn't the best of sleeps I've ever had either, I can attest that using your padded shorts liner is no substitute for a proper sleeping mat.

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Orange Moonset
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Sunrise


My pre-dawn alarm soon came round and I was up in time to see an amazing orange moon set (never seen one of those before) and was all packed and loaded and on the road at first light. It was another 20 minutes before I saw the actual sun peek over the top of the Port hills. I had one bottle left of water to ration myself on till the next water stop. The combination of sun-strike and road corrugations was doing nothing to help my dehydration headache. If the next cafe at 30Ks away wasn't open, I was in for a tough time till I could get to the next food/water stop. Thank my luck stars (from lastnight) it was open. I went through two table bottles of water, and after that and a toasted sandwich, the rest of the ride home was an unmemorable delightful breeze.

So conclusions where:
I definitely what to do this kind of riding again, I had a blast.
I definitely need to fit a granny ring if I want to add some hills into the mix and still have fun.
The Kaitorete Spit is a pretty remote place even though its only a couple of hours cycle ride out of Christchurch

Day one route


Day two route
Rik
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""Cities are becoming more rational again, after the folly of car-centric planning," Colville-Andersen"
Member for: 9 years 4 months

Re: Gravel Bashing

Postby mfw on Thu 9/Apr/15 8:40pm

Great bikepacking story Rik :thumbsup:

Padded shorts for a sleeping mat :lol:

How many museli bars did you get through - looks like you were travelling (very) light, did you have a backpack / camelbak?
Need a frame bag by the look of it...
And a better camera next time? :p

If you look on the bikepacking forums there's threads on sowing machines (no pun intended), the serious guys make their own custom bags, was tempted to have a go myself...
mfw
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Member for: 9 years 11 months

Re: Gravel Bashing

Postby Rik on Fri 10/Apr/15 3:00pm

Yep had an aquapack but it just had:
arm warmers, jacket, 2 spare tubes, multitool, 2 sandwiches ,2 small bags of lollies,1 muesli bar, wallet, keys(+minimag +swissarmy) and a phone. What else do you need, If theres one thing the petite brevet taught me, is how little you need. Did forget painkillers, the headaches where quite distracting at times

I had not expected it to be so hot (30) so the phone lens got a bit perspired on, sorry.It was only when I got home I realised the shocking quality of my photos. Misted lens make it look more romantic I think
Rik
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""Cities are becoming more rational again, after the folly of car-centric planning," Colville-Andersen"
Member for: 9 years 4 months

Re: Gravel Bashing

Postby Slim on Fri 10/Apr/15 3:42pm

Ha, didn't realise that was you. I was the one chatting to you when you came back to Little River Store to fill your water.
Slim
Member for: 14 years 2 months

Re: Gravel Bashing

Postby Kev on Sat 11/Apr/15 9:00am

mfw wrote:And a better camera next time? :p


I was was quite reassured by the thought, "If he had run out of sandwiches and muesli bars, he could always eat the potato he was using to take the photographs"

I kid.

Epic writeup. How wide/heavy is the tent. I'm (very slightly) tempted to try something similar but I'm afraid my 2/3 person tent would be too big to carry around, even on the rack.
Kev
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Member for: 8 years 1 month

Re: Gravel Bashing

Postby Rik on Sat 11/Apr/15 3:14pm

Slim wrote:Ha, didn't realise that was you. I was the one chatting to you when you came back to Little River Store to fill your water.



Ah Slim, nice to meet you, One of the cheeky yoofs accusing me of merely riding around the carpark :lol: had me chuckling to myself, a good way down the road.
Rik
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""Cities are becoming more rational again, after the folly of car-centric planning," Colville-Andersen"
Member for: 9 years 4 months

Re: Gravel Bashing

Postby Rik on Sat 11/Apr/15 3:22pm

Kev wrote:How wide/heavy is the tent. I'm (very slightly) tempted to try something similar but I'm afraid my 2/3 person tent would be too big to carry around, even on the rack.


The poles are the widest bit at 60cm so slightly wider than roadie drop bars, but less than MTB flats. I've pared the weight down to 1450g buy ditching everything I don't need, like guy ropes, all the internal bags and only carrying 4 pegs.
Rik
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""Cities are becoming more rational again, after the folly of car-centric planning," Colville-Andersen"
Member for: 9 years 4 months

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