Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Martinborough Charity Fun Ride

Last weekend, on Sunday 1 November, we took part in the Martinborough Charity Fun Ride. I had heard about this yearly event from a friend, Karen, who had taken part in it last year, and was doing it again this year. 

I looked up the website, and thought it looked like an interesting challenge for us. I checked the regulations, and found that electric bikes were allowed. But seeing the photos of all these impressive looking cyclists in lycra, I had a few questions, so I fired off an email to the organiser, Graham Evans, asking him “is it only for seasoned cyclists in lycra and all the flash gear, or is it OK for a couple of reasonably fit seniors, in baggy trousers, on e-bikes to take part?”.

The answer came quickly: “The ride is definitely for anyone and you would be very welcome and I am sure you would enjoy it. And there are lots of riders not in lycra although we would love to sell you one of our mcfr jerseys”.

We hummed and ha’ed for a while. John thought that since it seemed to be a race (there were time rankings of previous years’ events on the website), it wasn’t really our style of biking. We like to take our time, enjoy our surroundings, take photos and stop for a coffee somewhere along the way.

Still, the idea niggled, and with a day to go, and an excellent weather forecast, we registered as late entrants for the 48 km ride. The other options were for 67 km or 115 km. We figured we would be quite capable of doing the 48 km option, as we have done that distance, and more, on other occasions, without difficulties.
Because of the Rugby World Cup Final, in which the fabled NZ All Blacks were playing against Australia, and which was to be televised live at the ungodly NZ hour of 5 am, the start of the event would be delayed by an hour. The departure for the 48 km group would be at 10:45 am. That was good for us, not because we were watching the game, but because we are not normally up at the crack of dawn. And the venue was an hour and a quarter's drive away, in the Wairarapa.

Registration was at the Martinborough Rugby Clubrooms

We arrived in Martinborough in good time, and went straight to the Rugby Clubrooms to register and receive our numbers. We were also given a water bottle with a Rotary Logo printed on it, and a banana and a “Power Cookie Bar” in a paper bag.

Our numbers consisted of stickers to go on our helmet – one at the front, and one on the left – and a “ChronoTrack timing tag” which was to go around the bike’s seat post. This contained an electronic device that would register on the timing computer as we rode past the start/finish post.

Some of the impressively experienced riders, with numbers installed on helmets and bikes
 (photo by John)

We stuck our numbers on our helmets and bikes, and then, since we had an hour before the departure of our group, and it seemed like a long time since breakfast, we pedalled back to the Martinborough town centre, to have coffee and a scone at one of the cafés.

We went back to the starting place to see the 67 km group leaving – half an hour before our 48 km group was due to go. We were surprised to find our friend Pat there, who had come to Martinborough for a visit unrelated to the Fun Ride. But she knew we would be taking part, so came to have a look and take a photo of us.

Raring to go (photo by Pat Reesby)

And the 67 km group is off! Our friend Karen, in pink, is close to the head of the group
 (photo by John)

A couple of stragglers heading to the start

As we were watching the 67 km group taking off, the man doing the counting down took one look at us – obviously old codgers, in our baggy pants (we were definitely the only people not wearing lycra!), and our folding bikes with their small wheels – and said “You’d better go now, you’ll have your work cut out keeping up with the rest”. He probably didn’t notice that our bikes were electric. So we ended up with a half-hour headstart on the rest of the 48 km group.

So we tootled out of town at the tail end of the 67 km group. From the sketchy route map provided on the event’s website, I actually had no idea which way we were heading (being so very directionally challenged, and all …).

The route map (taken from the event website)

But upon looking up the map on Google since then, I have figured out that we went east(-ish) out of Martinborough on the Hinekura Road, and then north on Longbush Road. We turned left at Millars Road, which eventually joined the Ponatahi Road, back to Martinborough. The other two groups would have kept going for a longer loop as far as Masterton.

Conditions were perfect for a long ride – mild, somewhat overcast, so it didn’t get too hot, and very little wind, which was a great relief.

The area is absolutely beautiful. And to our surprise, there was hardly any traffic (the roads had not been closed off to ordinary traffic for the event). This is a route we could easily do independently some other time.

To begin with, the road was pretty much flat, but soon we came into a hilly area. Here we started catching up on and overtaking some of the other cyclists. We got some bemused looks as well as a few snide comments about the fact that we had electrical assistance. One guy said “You should have an extra load on that thing!”. My response was “I have! Thirty years!”.

The guy in yellow was not amused at being overtaken (photo by John)

We played tag a few times with some of the cyclists – we would overtake them on the uphills, and they would overtake us again on the flats … By gum, they were pedalling hard! To be fair, though we did have our e-assist, we only used level 3 most of the way. That means that the motor only helps you when you are doing less than 20 km/hr, and we were doing more than that on our own steam much of the time. But it was marvelous having the extra assistance on the hills!

A very brief stop for some photos

At this time of the year, the paddocks and hills are a gorgeous, vibrant green. In a few months’ time, the summer will have turned them all to dusty brown. Especially this summer, the weather office has warned that with a strong El Niño event, this part of the country will likely suffer severe drought and lots of very high winds. In several places, we could see that farmers had already harvested grass to make into silage, as an insurance against lack of feed for stock later on.

The hills are still a vibrant green …

… but some paddocks have already been harvested for silage

Near Longbush, we rode past the local Playcentre, where the characters from the 1970s and 80s children’s TV programme “Play School” were sitting on the fence: Manu, Humpty, Jemima, Big and Little Ted. Wow, I still remember their names from when our kids used to watch this. They must be part of the Gladstone Scarecrow Festival which is to take place next weekend. 

Play School characters sitting on a fence at Longbush Playcentre (photo by John)

At both ends of Millars Road, where the groups went their separate ways, there were “watering stations” and event marshals pointing cyclists in the right direction.

Volunteers manning the watering station at Millars Road (photo by John)

We had been warned that along Millars Road there would be a rather steep climb. We didn’t find it too bad thanks to our e-assist set on 4, but some found it hard enough to have to get off and walk. John took great pleasure in being able to sail past some people struggling up the hill, and then stopping ahead of them to take a photo of them getting to the top.

At the top of the climb up Millars Road (photo by John)

We were making good progress, but this was the longest ride we had ever done without stopping somewhere for a rest, and some coffee or other sustenance. By the time we had done 40 km, I was counting down the kilometres yet to do. Knees and derrière were starting to feel the pressure.

While John stayed with me for most of the distance, towards the end, his competitive streak got the better of him, and he raced ahead.

According to my watch we took two hours and twenty minutes to ride the 48 km, as we arrived back at the start/finish point at 12:40 pm, having left at 10:20 (five minutes after the 67 km group).

“And here comes the winner … Beetle Bomb! (1950s classic by Spike Jones and the City Slickers)  (photo by John)

Contrasting silhouettes! I must say I look somewhat ridiculous next to the hardened cyclists,
but who cares! (photos by John)

Mission accomplished

We were among the earliest arrivals “home”, and after loading our bikes back into the car, we sat in the sun – the cloud cover having cleared with perfect timing – waiting for the barbecue lunch that would be provided for all participants. When a goodly number of people had arrived back, the call went out “lunch is ready”! It was a good spread – barbecued meat patties and chicken, bread and butter, and several kinds of salad.

Lunch is ready! (photo by John)

Waiting around for the prize giving (photo by John)

Then came the waiting for the prize giving. Proceedings started with speeches from the organisers, the South Wairarapa Rotary Club, and from representatives of the charities that will benefit from the funds raised – the Life Flight Trust, and the Blind Foundation Guide Dogs.

Prizes were awarded to the fastest finishers, of course, but there was also a huge number of spot prizes going to randomly selected people. These were offered by various sponsors – local wineries, cycle retailers, and snack food manufacturers.

By 3:15 pm, all the spot prizes had been handed out, and people started to drift away, and head for home. We took the long way home, driving round much of the route we had biked. We saw about a dozen straggling cyclists, still finishing their course.


On Tuesday, the event website published the participants’ placings. We had a huge, disbelieving and tickled-pink, laugh over the rankings in the 48 km group. We were 4th and 5th in a field of 25 participants! John was fourth in the men’s with a time of 1:49:53, and I was first in the women’s with a time of 1:52:11! We couldn’t believe it!

The rankings! (from the event website)

However, something wasn’t right. I had calculated our time at about two hours twenty. I suspect that the start times were not recorded individually at the start/finish post, but as a group. And we had started with the 67 km group, so we actually had a twenty-five minute advantage over the others in the 48 km group!

Never mind. The placings don’t really matter, though John was pretty chuffed to think we had beaten a whole lot of other cyclists. Anyway, it provided us with a good laugh.

All in all, it had been a great experience and a lot of fun. We may well do it again next year.


  1. Very good! And congratulations on knowing how to spell "pedal" - I see this so often as "peddle".

    You and John did well, especially with pausing to take photos along the way.