Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Inaugural ride of the “Folding Goldies”

Just over a week ago, we received an email from Alastair Smith (I mentioned him in my blog post of 6 July) , announcing the formation of a new group – the Folding Goldies. “Now that I've acquired a Gold Card and a folding bike, I'm forming a group of people who can take advantage of these to do trips in the Wellington Region”, he wrote. He’d even created a new website for the group.

He suggested an inaugural ride, which would involve taking the 10:35am train from Wellington to Upper Hutt, cycling down the Hutt River Trail back to Petone, and then taking the train back to Wellington.

That sounded like a great idea. We emailed back to let him know we would love to take part, and that we would catch that train at Petone, as it is easier for us to park there than in town.

The date suggested was last Friday, which turned out to be freezing cold, windy and wet! Under normal circumstances, we wouldn’t have ventured out on a day like that. But we had committed to it, so we bundled ourselves up in multiple layers of clothing – thermals, merinos, parkas – and headed down to Petone.

From the bottom of Ngauranga, we could see that the brisk southerly was whipping the harbour into choppy peaks, and the Hutt Valley was shrouded in low cloud.

While waiting in the car at the foreshore carpark, we watched as the waves splashed onto the shore. Rain slapped on our windscreen. A large group of seagulls hovered above the surf. They seemed to be trying to fly into the wind, but were making no headway at all. I questioned our sanity to be going out riding on such a miserable day. But we braced ourselves, pulled out the bikes and rode the short distance to the Petone Station.

Petone Railway Station (photo by John)

As we boarded the train, Alastair greeted us with a cheery “Welcome!”, but then we had to get off again, because the designated cycle area in that carriage already held three bikes (the maximum allowed). Luckily there was another carriage that had room for our bikes. We could have folded up our bikes, and had them in the same carriage as legitimate “luggage”, but going to the next carriage was simpler.

Once off the train at Upper Hutt, we posed for the inaugural group photo. The turn-out was a little disappointing: apart from us and Alastair, there were only two others – John B and Russell. Still, it’s a start; let’s hope the next ride will include a few more people. And as Alastair mentions on the website, people who do not own either a folding bike or a Gold Card are still welcome to join the rides. In fact, Russell was riding a regular-sized mountain bike. It was interesting to see the other folding bikes: Alastair’s was a “Tern” and John B’s was a “Dahon”.

Well wrapped against the elements. From left: Désirée, John P, John B, Russell, Alastair
(photo by John)

As we had done this ride before, John led the way through the Upper Hutt streets to the River Trail. We joined the trail near the Totara Park Bridge, where traffic lights make for a safe crossing of SH2 (River Road).

Fortunately, by this time, the rain had almost stopped, but the cold wind persisted. The gravel track was quite wet still, and there were plenty of puddles to negotiate (around or through). Our bikes and trouser legs received a good dose of mud spatters.

I was surprised at how leisurely the ride was. I was expecting these three very seasoned veteran cyclists to set a blistering pace, but thankfully they were not in too much of a hurry. We didn’t make any stops, except when we had to manoeuvre our bikes through pesky gates. No photo stops either, though John rode ahead and took a few photos of us as we were riding past.

John B, Russell and Alastair on the track below the Eastern Hutt Road near Stokes Valley
(photo by John)

We turned off the River Trail at Avalon Park, and pedalled through suburban streets to get to Janus Bakkerij in Lower Hutt for our lunch stop. We’d been cycling for just under two hours. The café was very busy, but our lunches and excellent coffee were delivered quite quickly. During lunch Alastair decided that, as he was going away for the weekend, he had better take the train back to Wellington from here rather than from Petone. Conveniently, a train was due to leave in ten minutes from Epuni Station, just down the road. The other two ended up doing that too.

Lunch at Janus Bakkerij (photo by John)

So that left just John and me. We finished our coffees, then biked back to the River Trail, and completed our ride to Petone. We rode 32 km in all, and despite the rather inclement weather, it had been very enjoyable. It was good to meet some other cyclists too.

Alastair has put a link to more photos in his post-ride report, on the “Folding Goldies” website.

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