Thursday, 25 September 2014

Folding Goldies ride - Waikanae to Peka Peka

Yesterday we went on another Folding Goldies ride. This time, the plan was to take the train to Waikanae and ride to Peka Peka, and back, and return by train before the 3pm deadline (so we could use our Gold Cards, and travel for free).

We had a fine-ish day for it, though quite windy. But compared to the rain, hail and bitterly cold southerly gales we had on Monday, this was bliss. We boarded the train at Takapu Road, and were met by Alastair – the instigator of the Folding Goldies – and Daryl. John B would meet us in Waikanae.

It takes an hour to get to Waikanae, and the time was pleasantly spent chatting and comparing folding bikes. Daryl, who is rather tall, has a folder with quite large wheels, and an enormously high seat (or so it seemed to me). He and Alastair were talking about his “Animal”, and I thought “is this a nickname, like calling a motorbike ‘The Beast’?”. But it turned out that the brand name of this bike is actually “Airnimal”, and it comes with its own suitcase for easy transport (with room to spare for clothes and other paraphernalia for a longer trip).

I had a look at the website and it seems to me to be rather less convenient to fold than ours, as you have to take the front wheel off, and then attach it to the wheel mount after you’ve folded the frame, and you have to take off the handlebars as well. But Daryl seems to enjoy it – he uses it as a commuter bike all the time, and hasn’t needed to fold it yet.

At Waikanae we were met by John B, who had biked up from Paraparaumu, where he lives. We briefly debated whether we would ride the north or south bank of the Waikanae River, and where to stop for morning coffee.

Group photo at Waikanae station – from left: Alastair, Daryl, me, John B (photo by John)

We decided on the north bank of the river and coffee at Waikanae Beach village. I noticed that Daryl was wearing a sunhat rather than a helmet – he has an exemption certificate which allows him to do so. (Bicycle helmets have been mandatory in NZ since 1994, and violating the law can result in a $55 fine.) Note: See Daryl's comment at the bottom of this post.

And here we go (photo by John)

We pulled to a brief stop when Daryl had to answer a phone call from work: “I’ve taken the day off to go for a bike ride in Waikanae” we heard him say. Good to get your priorities right!

Daryl takes a phone call. He’s looking quite sartorial in his suit, sunhat and white gloves!
(photo by John)

From a ride along here a year ago, I remembered the north bank track having to go through a stretch of private land where the track deteriorated to a narrow rut through grass, but we didn’t strike that this time. It must have been where the construction site for the new Expressway is now.

I took some photos through the fence surrounding the site. Some of the steel mesh reinforcing cylinders for the enormous pillars for the bridge were lying on their sides, and some had already been installed with their flared collars.

The reinforcing for the pillars to support the Expressway bridge

One of the installed pillars and its flared collar

At the estuary of the Waikanae River, the whitebait season appeared to be in full swing. At intervals along the edge were people minding their nets. I tried to take some photos of these idyllic scenes, but my camera misbehaved. I had three tries, and the ‘picture’ came out completely blank each time. I fiddled with the settings, then gave the camera to John to see if he could solve the mystery. He tried to take a photo and it worked fine! Aargh! that is so annoying, when something misfires for me, but then it works fine for him, without him actually having to change anything!

This is John’s photo of the whitebaiters. I reckon mine would have been better! (photo by John)

We stopped for coffee at the Long Beach Café on Tutere Street. We were amused at Daryl's way of discouraging any attempt to nick his bike: he simply took off the seat post and took it with him into the café.

Daryl's "security system" (photo by Alastair Smith)

After a leisurely coffee, we headed off towards Peka Peka. There was a strong nor’-westerly blowing, and it was a bit of a slog to ride into it. Before the Pharazyn Reserve (which used to be oxidation ponds but is now being restored to wetlands), we diverted off the road onto a short track that led through the sand dunes, with an option to end up at the beach. We kept on the track that ran more or less parallel with the road to Peka Peka. It was a bit more sheltered from the wind, but it did go up and down quite a bit.

The track through the sand dunes (photo by John)

Despite the headwind, it didn’t actually take us very long to get to Harrisons Garden Centre, where we had decided to have lunch. John B just had a cool drink, then left us as he was biking to Otaki, where he had to attend a meeting. He said he would have to ride on SH1 for a couple of short stretches. That would not appeal to me very much. I feel safe enough now to cycle on quiet roads, but a state highway, without much of a shoulder, would worry me.

Peka Peka Road, approaching Harrisons (photo by John)

Lunch passed very pleasantly with talk about bikes, electric bikes and places people had been cycling – both in NZ and overseas. Alastair has recently invested in an electric bike, which he wrote about on the Cycling in Wellington website, and since then John has been reading up about them, so there was a lot of information to be exchanged.

The ride back to Waikanae was great, with the wind now behind us. Alastair had thought we could perhaps ride on the hard-packed sand on the beach while the tide was out, but upon investigation, it turned out that the wind was whipping up the sand and making things unpleasant.

Anyway, as it was nearly 2pm, I reminded the guys that we didn’t have time to muck around if we wanted to catch the 2:30 train back to Wellington. So we pedalled along at a fast pace. Daryl rode ahead and we soon lost sight of him.

To save time, we rode along Te Moana Road, instead of along the river track, and the last 500 m – up an incline! – were a race against time. Alastair, John and I got to the station with only one minute to spare, and expected to see Daryl there, but he was nowhere to be seen. The train left without him. Alastair managed to get hold of him on the phone, and it turned out that he had taken the river track, and got to the station too late. He caught the 3pm train back and was still able to use his Gold Card.

On the train there was more bike talk between John and Alastair but I tuned out for a bit as I was feeling really tired. I did notice, while idly looking out the window, that there was quite a haze over the sea and that we could only barely see Kapiti Island.

It had been a nice ride (29 km), and enjoyable social time. We discussed where we could take the next Folding Goldies ride. Alastair suggested taking the train to Upper Hutt and riding the Akatarawa Road to Waikanae, and train back from there. John is keen, but I’m not so sure. It will involve a fair bit of climbing. “No more than one or two kilometres of uphill walking”, said Alastair. Yeah right! That’s 1.95 km too much to my way of thinking. But John suggested we go and drive the route sometime, to see how bad it really is. And check out Staglands for lunch, of course!


  1. The Cycling in Wellington Blog is back, with the eBike article:

    1. Thanks Alastair. I've amended the blog to that effect.

  2. Wonderful account of a great day Desiree. Thank you!

    1. Thank you. I'm assuming you are John B? I can't tell from your photo.

  3. Daryl asked me to add this comment on his behalf:
    V G Dizzy, if that's yr high-class nick-name! I got the 3pm from Waikanae. Still free

    And he added: Also to explain - Not wearing a helmet is a statement that passing the helmet legislation is not an excuse to do nothing substantial about cycling safety, eg building bikeways.

    And: Wearing good quality clothes is also a statement that cycling is high-class. To many people transport is more than getting from A to B, it's about being seen to get there in style, eg a Bentley.