Sunday, 25 March 2018

Folding Goldies ride – “Spice up your ride through Spicer Forest”

When we did our ride from Ohariu Valley to Porirua in January, we met Alastair, the leading light of the Folding Goldies group, going from Karori to Johnsonville. That reminded him of this ride, and so he suggested it as the next FG ride in March.

His plan was for people to take the train from town to Johnsonville, and to bike up Cortina Avenue from the top of which we would descend into Ohariu Valley. He provided a map, which is here

Originally the ride was set for Wednesday 7 March, but as the forecast was for heavy rain and gale-force southerlies, it was postponed till the next day. Things were a little better on the Thursday – there was still a strong cold southerly, but the rain held off, and we even saw a bit of blue sky at one point. And, as Alastair pointed out, the southerly would be mostly behind us – a tailwind is always good.

We met the group at Johnsonville station, having biked over from home (about 2.5 km). Some arrived by train from town, others had driven there, and Colin had biked there from his home in Titahi Bay. Quite a feat apparently, as he was struggling right into that brisk southerly. Some people who had said they would come along piked on account of the weather.

We met up at Johnsonville Station (photo by John)

We headed up Cortina Avenue, which was quite a gentle gradient. Somewhere along that road we saw a van with my name on it “Désirée Clothing” or some such. A couple of people commented on it, and asked if it had the accents in the right place (it did). But John didn’t see it, or he would have taken a photo of it.

Heading up Cortina Avenue (photo by John)

Down into Ohariu Valley, and at the crossroad with Takarau Gorge, we were joined by Steve, who had biked over from Karori.

Ohariu Valley Road (photo by John)

As we were getting close to the Spicer Forest Road, John sped ahead to take photos of the group arriving.

The sign at the bottom of the Mill Creek Road (photo by John)

The photographer photographed (by Alastair Smith)

As described in my earlier blog, the road along the ridge was wide and gently undulating. Fortunately the southerly meant that we were not subjected to any smells coming from the landfill as we approached it.

The road on the ridge was wide and gently undulating (photo by John)

Just before the landfill end (photo by John)

When we arrived at the narrow track that circumvented the landfill, we were pleasantly surprised to find that the grass on either side of the narrow rut had been mown. Whereas on our last trip, we had found the rut too hazardous to bike and decided to walk, this time we were able to bike down it, by riding on the mown bits and avoiding the narrow rut. Putting my seat down an inch or two also helped to make me feel safer, as I could put my foot on the ground without having to get off.

Before heading down the “easy single track” (photo by John)

At the end of this track, where we had to choose between left and right, we had chosen right last time. This time we went left. Alastair had said that this would be “an easy single track” down to Broken Hill Road. Someone who commented on my blog wrote “left would have taken you on to a well-formed cycle track, that zigzags very gently down the side of the hill […] it would be great on a bike - definitely not single track and very rideable downhill or up.”

It may well have been an “easy track” to people used to throwing themselves down a hillside on a mountainbike, but it certainly didn’t seem easy to John and me. Obviously we were the exception in this group, as we lagged some distance behind the others. I found the sharp switchbacks on the zigzags quite uncomfortable, and the narrowness of the track caused John serious problems with his balance.

One of the switchbacks (photo by Alastair Smith)

But eventually we made it to the bottom of the track, to end up on Broken Hill Road. As I got to the end of the track I could see the rest of the group waiting a little distance down the road. I did notice that the track continued across the road, but I ignored that and just beetled down the road to join them, only for Alastair to take a photo of me, riding past a sign prohibiting cyclists from riding on that road. Oops!

Oops! (photo by Alastair Smith)

From there it was an easy downhill towards Kenepuru, where we crossed the main road to end up on Te Ara Tawa. Another few kilometres, and we made it to the Gear Café for a leisurely lunch.

Lunch at the Gear Café (photo by John)

Several of the group biked to Paremata because there was time before the next train back into town; the others, who had parked in Johnsonville, biked back on Te Ara Tawa and Middleton Road. And so did we.

Apart from the zigzaggy track, it had been a good ride. We did 38 km all up.

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