Sunday, 26 October 2014

Folding Goldies ride – the Akatarawa Road

On Thursday 23 October, we went on our fourth Folding Goldies ride.

As planned, we rode the Akatarawa Road, from Upper Hutt to Waikanae. For me, this was a really ambitious ride. If we hadn’t been involved with the Folding Goldies, I probably would never have done this. And John does a fair bit of egging me on. It was not an easy ride, and I am moderately proud of myself for having biked it, even though I did have to walk some stretches.

The plan was to take the train to Upper Hutt, bike the Akatarawa Road, stopping off at Staglands for lunch, and take the train back to Wellington from Waikanae. John and I boarded at Petone, as it is easier to park there than in town. Though returning on a different line meant that we would have to take another train back to Petone, to get back to the car. We weighed up the pros and cons, the other options would have meant a much earlier start, and we are not exactly “early birds”.

We were met on the train by Alastair, Russell and Daryl. Two of the folding bikes had already been folded up, to make room for our bikes. I ended up folding mine too, when another cyclist came on board at a later station. Lyn, who lives in Paraparaumu, would be biking up from the Waikanae side, and would meet us at Staglands in time for lunch.

From the Upper Hutt Station we biked to the Hutt River trail, and to Harcourt Park, at the far end of which is the start of the Akatarawa Road. There, we stopped for a group photo. Daryl, still without helmet, but not wearing his trademark suit this time – "it would be too sweaty a ride for a suit", he said.

No MAMILs here! From left: Daryl, Alastair, Russell, John, Désirée (photo by John)

The Bridge Street bridge over the Hutt River

The early stage of the Akatarawa Road is quite sedate, though I was surprised at how many cars and trucks passed us. But soon we were into the countryside, and the road started to climb.

Initially there were quite a few cars and trucks on the road (photo by John)

An old farm shed

We rode past Bill Tito’s place, and John liked the sign outside his property, especially his admonishment to the speeding “bar”stards. I’m glad we didn’t meet any of those on the road. Bill Tito is a renowned specialist in repairing/restoring old books and documents. We occasionally see his advertisements on TV, and he sounds like quite a character.

Bill Tito’s sign (photo by John)

The undulations in the road were quite manageable most of the way to Staglands, thanks to the modification John had made to my gears. The ups were not too steep, and the downs were a nice relief. Even so, I was the slowpoke of the group. Russell and Daryl were way ahead of us, and I think Alastair stuck with us out of kindness.

The road up to Staglands was not too steep (photo by John)

The Akatarawa River, from the bridge
We met this cheerful fellow in the middle of nowhere

It took us nearly two hours to get to Staglands, and by then I was well and truly ready for coffee and lunch. My legs were certainly feeling the effects of the climb, and I was glad to sit down on a chair rather than on a bike seat! Russel, Daryl and Lyn, who had arrived by this time too, had already had lunch and were onto their second coffees. They took off ahead of us, after we’d agreed to meet up at a café by the Waikanae Railway Station.

The driveway out of Staglands is steep enough to warrant a warning to motorists!

Before leaving Staglands we turned on our tail lights, just as a safety measure, in case of cars coming up behind us. But in fact, no cars passed us at all on this stretch.

We had to climb for another four kilometres to the highest point of the road. And this was the steepest and most testing part of the ride. My leg muscles were already fairly knackered, and even the not-quite-so-steep bits were a test of endurance for me. I had to step off and walk quite a few of the uphill stretches, as my legs simply would not do it on the bike. Ah, but the bits of downhill were lovely. John was very patient, and either rode very slowly behind me, or at intervals, rode ahead and waited for me to catch up.

I biked some of it … (photo by John)

… and had to walk some of it (photo by John)

The downhills were a soothing relief. Note my tail light for safety (photo by John)

I felt triumphant when I finally made it to the top! (photo by John)

Before tackling the even steeper downhill run to Waikanae, we donned our parkas, as it was kind of misty/drizzly at the top, and the wind was cold, soon to feel even colder with the speed of freewheeling down the hill.

I had been worried about the downhill, because I would have to tightly grip the brakes, putting pressure on my painful thumb joints. But John adjusted the angle of my handlebar so that I was able to keep my thumbs around the bar, rather than on top (which is how I usually ride on the flat), and still grip the brakes.

Wow! It was such an exhilarating ride down! It was six kilometres down to the valley floor. I didn’t quite freewheel all the way, being worried about coming a cropper, but I think we did about 30-35 km/h. Alastair must be used to such runs, as he soon whizzed past us and we didn’t see him again till we got to the station.

John loyally stayed behind me, to keep an eye on me. I know he would have loved to pass me and hurtle down like a bat out of hell. He reckons he used to do 80 km/h down Ngauranga Gorge with a strong northerly behind him in his younger days. But today he said that I was going like a rocket, and couldn't catch me up! Ha!

Actually, the strong northerly headwind that we'd had to struggle uphill against, provided quite a bit of resistance on the way down. Which was good in a way, as it kept us from careering out of control.

It was still a bit misty round the top of the hills

We stopped at a look-out point to take a photo, and when we got going again, I found that my chain had come off. I don’t know whether it had come off when I stopped, or whether I had been bombing down the hill with the chain off! John restored it, but by the time we got to the bottom of the hill, it had twice come off again.

Fortunately there was a nice wide grassy verge where John could effect repairs. It was the same problem we had on another ride – a plate on the chain was splayed – but this time, he had the right tool with him, so it was soon fixed.

John had the right tool this time

Having got to the bottom of the hill, this was not the end of the ride yet. We had another five kilometres to go before Waikanae.

It was another 5 km down this road to get to the station

From here, it became a race against time to get to the station to catch the 3:00 pm train back to Wellington. Never mind meeting the others for coffee at the agreed café. We actually didn’t see the café as we raced past, and got to the station with just a couple of minutes to spare.

But the others weren’t there! I was trying to ring Alastair, to tell him that we were on the train, and not to wait for us at the café, when they all turned up. Whew, made it in time!

Back at Wellington Railway Station, we caught the next train to Petone (we could no longer use our Gold Cards, of course), and headed home.

What a day! Forty-two kilometres all up, including 20 km during which we climbed 350 m to the top, and a crazy 6 km downhill run, dropping nearly 400 m (there is a profile at the bottom of this link, courtesy of Alastair). My quads were knackered, my calves on the verge of cramp, my hands crippled, but I was feeling very pleased that I had actually DONE IT – biked the Akatarawa Road!

Then, in the evening, I went to my regular Scottish country dancing club night. I could have done without that, feeling as I did, but as I am the only person with a key to the hall, I couldn’t get out of it. I had a good time anyway, as I always do when I go dancing.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the blog, Desiree. Don't worry, my speed wouldn't have been any faster on the way up the hill!