Best Laid Plans
Cromwell 30th December 2012
Christmas is done, and I’m keen to be back on my stead before the New Year.
I first set about swapping my ever-faithful Schwalbe Marathon tyres for Continental Travel Contacts.
These I’ve dragged all the way from the UK, so I’m dam well going to use them! Not the best idea I’ve had, just been a pain hauling the extra weight, but more importantly, the space they take up in my rear panniers (folding type).
My plan being to explore the lakes and mountains on them.
While I’ve arranged a kind of workshop in my brothers garden, let’s give the bearings an inspection, along with adding a dab of fresh grease too.
I estimate the bike has done over 2500 km’s on these wheels with the original shop grease. So, cleaned out, and added some Dura Ace grease. Expensive stuff, but quality.
The other critical moving part being the headset, needs a peek too.
I’m not running some expensive unit like a Chris King etc, so I’m also carrying spare-sealed-bearing units (2 x pairs). On inspection, these seem to be fine, so again, a clean and re-grease to-boot.
So here we are, a re-greased bike and new spankly tyres. Lets rock!
I set off up the Kawarau Gorge from Cromwell to Queenstown, stopping about 10 km’s out of Cromwell at Goldfields panning and jet boating layup. Already the traffic on this narrow, winding road is overly excessive. Everyman and his dog is out this pre-New Years weekend!
After some photos, I hit the road once more.
The traffic is now just plain nuts. I’m not feeling comfortable at all with it’s proximity. I stop to take stock as to whether I carry on. It’s another 40 km’s of this to Arrowtown, destination for the day.
It’s not always an easy thing to turn around, but one thing I’ve learnt as a pilot, if one has any doubt, don’t go or carry on. It’s not clever, and taking any kind of risk with two-ton vehicles squeezing past behind at speed is plain stupid. It’s like waiting for the shark attack, you won’t know about it! Especially when its holiday makers who will not be used to their cars/camper-vans and the road. We turn around. It feels right.
The next day I make headway, and attempt my route in reverse. The road snakes through the small village of Bannockburn. Quaint.
A small task now of climbing up the Nevis; 4WD country. So expecting my new tyres to pay back.
The first indication of what I’m heading for is this below!
We march on as anything is better than vehicles circling me.
A few 4 x 4 past me on the ascent. The climb is steady, but not too arduous, and I’m still in the saddle, just!
A German guy catches up with me as I dispense with a bit of air from my tyres, and then promptly replace the air with what I manage to let escape! He’s amazed I’m attempting the Nevis with a laden bike. I’m having my own doubts too, but don’t tell the Bosch!
It all then turns pear-shaped! The road (more track really) goes nearly vertical. The bicycle now becomes a true push-bike in the sense, as that’s about all I can manage. Even with good touring shoes (Gearne Vega’s) with Vibram soles, I’m slipping under the loose dirt.
After finding shelter out of the wind, I indulge a spot of lunch. Along with taking shots of the valley below and Cromwell. I would struggle to get a tent up in this, with also the possibility of losing something to the wind, never to be seen again.
I then meet my fellow German cyclist as he’s on the way down. He’d been attempting another route from the peak back down, but said it was too windy with the cliff dropping away. I’m not even at the top. He also says the top is blanketed in dark cloud and blowing a hoolie (my words not his!)
Once again, bugger this, and I start my descent.
Now, with the sheer gradient plus a weighted bike, my brake blokes and rims take a hammering. Also, my pannier racks and fittings feel like they’re going to snap with the undulation under tyre.
In hindsight, not quite my best idea!
For once, very glad to be off the gravel and the sweet-sweet sound of bitumen. A leisurely ride back to Cromwell ensues. Bliss!
Cromwell 31st December 2012
Lesson here: Don’t be too keen to jump onto any 4WD track on a laden touring bike. It might be fun, but at the expense of what? Worn rims, snapped pannier racks Tubus, expensive things to replace and I wouldn’t be able to attain like for like out here.
The Travel Contacts were fine, but I feel my Schwalbe’s, with a bit of air let out would’ve performed as good, if not better.
The Travel Contacts are 1.75 thickness compared to the Schwalbe’s 1.5. With the Contacts I did notice a bit of wobble with weight at speed on the front. The Schwalbe’s certainly hold the road better and definitely give more rigidity to the wheel with their wire rim, compared to the folding Continentals.
The Schwalbe Marathons are duly back in their rightful place. I hope to sell the Continentals through ‘Trade Me’ here in New Zealand (equivalent to eBay).
So where to now?
Well, the next day I had an offer of nine-days work back at the The Catlins backpackers in Owaka. So there I’ll head in due course. Why? well it seems like a plan!
I’ll NoT discuss my route, as I seem to have trouble keeping to a route plan! My cycling touring history is littered with it, ‘Cornwall‘ as an example! So miles first under tyre, then yarn about it afterwards!
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