Friday, 27 December 2013

Kiwi Brevet prep - sub24 bikepack - Lake Manchester

Happy holidays! Presents, happiness on the kids faces, spending time with the family and lavish meals, time off work to get out riding.

Lets rewind to that last paragraph and focus on two key phrases - lavish meals and riding time. Abundant food at xmas means lotsa calories to burn - I've spent the better part of 3 months working off 8kgs I've had since Alaska (I think my body went into some sort of bear-hibernation storage phase) and the less I carry up those bergs in New Zealand the better.

Sub24 time with Wayne, meeting place was Gap Creek, 1pm. Hot day too, around 35C. Perfect day for a bit of Kiwi Brevet prep, mental conditioning and basic HTFU training, lugging a loaded bikepack rig up the hilly terrain outside of Brisbane.  

The familiar Indro bridge. Gateway to adventure and vital link for the 'River Loop'. You haven't lived if you've not done the Brisbane River Loop...  

To get to Gap Creek, I took a back way on some fun single.

Always ride with someone who will laugh at your jokes.

We headed up South Boundary, the threat of thundery storms remained just that - a threat - with booming all around us and a few drops of rain to tease us.

Hydrate...and flex for the camera. Wayne is running a heap of BikeBagDude schwag - custom framebag, handlebar bag and feedbags. BikeBagDude is a close mate of ours, all his gear is Aussie made and built tough like its users.

This is very close to how I'll run my Fargo for the Kiwi. Yes, I know I keep sayin', 'I'll have a full writeup on it', you'll just have to wait.

  • No, it is not the standard fork
  • Yes, there is a bouncy ball under the seat
  • No, I don't like spicy food

Scrub Rd shelter. It's changed over the years, these play a pivotal role in sub24 bikepacks, dayrides etc as a place to meet, refuel, top off water bottles and find out where the heck you are on the map.

Past Mt Nebo village and back on the fast blacktop for a section to the top of Light Line.

The descent on Light Line is serious fun and technical on a loaded 'pack rig. Glimpses of our destination wink at us through the trees.

We skirted Lake Manchester for a bit, searching for a suitable bivvy site. We both had hammocks for the night, very little chance of rain overnight so it was under the stars with just a bit of Bushmans' to keep the bities off. A great site with plenty of hammock tie-off options, water access, a great big open sky and a symphony of frogs and birdlife to sooth our minds.

Lets touch on food tech for a little bit. It pays to be organised when planning out your meal strategy - practice on sub24s, then build the foundation from there for multi-day or multi-week forays. Regular readers of this blog will have seen some of my meal essentials (as well as some extravagant luxuries), but it can only be limited by your imagination, your tastes, your cook kit and your time available to prep it. Got an idea for a meal? Sub24 is where you get to test it baby - and have it critiqued by those around you too.

It's a very good idea to ration out meal parcels in sturdy ziplocks - either in per meal size or day size - so you know what you have and don't overeat, or undereat and miss out on replenishing your energy requirements. Never go to bed depleted. Ziplocks will contain any spillages and reduce meal loss. The better you experiment and plan in this area will ensure your meals hit the target on the trail. Remember this - you have the opportunity to practise your meals everytime you eat - at home and even at work. Okay Flyboy, I hear you - due to FAA rules you can't light up the alcohol stove in the cockpit...

Ahh, how's the serenity...

So, lets come back to food. 4 course meal - soup to start with, followed by cheesy bacon macaroni and tin tuna, then sausage (pronounce it sor-sarge (like fromage) if you want to make it sound fancy) in a blanket with bbq sauce, dessert was warm rice custard over a heavy slab of Lions fruitcake, Cherry ripe for lying in the hammock, staring at stars. Tres bien!

Cookware tonight is the Kovea ti stove, 600ml Evernew ti pot, Firemaple combo folding windbreak and pot stand. As a pot stand it worked brilliantly, I took along an Evernew  ti non-stick frypan for frying duties, the extra height provided by the Firemaple gave better results with better heat spread on the frypan.

Dessert was a real treat - more carbs and a big lump of sweet cake to fill up the tummy gaps. Tip: boil up some water, then let the tin stand (opened) in the water until desired temp is reached.

The last of the sunset and dinner complete, it was early into the hammocks to watch the night march in from the east.

No rain overnight. Bedding for me was an Exped Travel plus hammock, a silk bag liner, the trusty Mont Bell spiral down hugger bag (here I have unzipped the footbox, shoved the hammock through the bag so it slides over me and the hammock - very warm underneath as no down insulation is crushed) and my DIY pillow/stuffsack. Sleep in the riding kit.

Pillow/clothing stuffsack - I stitched this up from two microfibre face towels, with a drawstring at one end. Soft as a pillow, great as a towel and functional as a stuffsack for day/night clothes. When you think about all the stuff you carry - it has to perform at least two functions, or be exceptional and essential as a single function item.

 Brekky was a simple affair... chai, 3 cookies and warm muesli...


 ...and a bacon and egg toasted muffin! Luxury!

Fueled and loaded.

 The trails around the lake vary from barely there and bushwacking... doubletrack and graded trail with a few lumps. Scenic, peaceful and uncrowded.

In the vein of the sub24 overnighter, we left the lake for home. Today was about road not trail...but not all was to be blacktop.

We were heading for a shortcut back to Mt Crosby on a gravel grinder with a few lumps in it.

More essential blacktop, the legs felt light dancing on the pedals, a no chain day.

We finished back in town, the end of a great little trip that met the sub24 requirements and maintained our homelife commitments. Great op to refine the kiwi setup and share the camaraderie of a bikepack with a good mate.

So, what's stopping you?

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Kiwi Brevet prep - sub24 bikepack and Mulgowie 200 Audax

Big training week - long rides before work and all day on the feet. What better prep for the Kiwi Brevet 2014, to then tack on a sub24 bikepack and a 200km Audax? The Mulgowie 200 fitted the calender nicely.
The Audax ride started at 6am Sat morning in Lowood, 200km around roads I used to ride in my youth. My loose plan was to ride out from work on the southside on Friday arvo, to Mt Crosby, take some back roads out to Pine Mountain and onto Fernvale - stealth bivvy somewhere close to Lowood.
The Indro bridge is a conduit for most of my rides west of the river.

 Out to the lumps of Mt Crosby Rd. Every road leads to an adventure...

...which then leads to an offroad adventure. I had seen a few lines on a map and was keen to explore. I had everything I needed - including time - so backcountry trail through lush forest eventually turned into impossibly steep, unrideable hike-a-bike (HAB) rutted doubletrack - it was a maintenance track for a repeater tower. Fantastic training and prep for the kiwi.

That segment over (which was more an out and back form finder for the body and mind) and I was back on dirt road heading for Fernvale. The bike I'm on is my Salsa Fargo ti. This ultra-distance weapon is constantly being honed for the kiwi - a full report is in the works - it's like a 'cross bike on steroids, or a dumped rigid 29er with drop bars - the kinda bike Dr Moreau would ride.  In the writeup I'll detail every aspect of the bike, my choice of components and explain why they were chosen.

Sunset came and went, the first of the stars shone until the moon rose a few hours later.

Amazing how many steep dirt roads you still find within a very close radius of Brisbane and Ipswich. My maps didn't show if they were blacktop or dirt - honestly I didn't bother to look in detail either, preferring to just ride it as it came. Ignorance is true bliss - I'll have very little intel on the course of the Kiwi, apart from what I see on topo maps, elevation profile and route, so my strategy is to just accept whatever is there - you can only plan so much - it is what it is. Riding at night helps as you only focus on what you can see.

Vagabond without a care. I found a grassy spot next to the rail trail. I cooked dinner in the park in the centre of town - rule #46 of stealth bivvy is don't cook where you sleep - the food smells and the light from your torches/cooking flame attracts 'unnecessary attention', so cook, then move on for a bit and set up for the night - quickly and quietly.  'Unnecessary attention' can come in the form of troublemakers, property owners and animals - big and small. You don't want food smells around your camp - if you're doing things right and riding hard, you should smell like shit, not food.

 This trip I was using the Tarptent Contrail, Exped Synmat 7 sleeping pad, silk liner and Mont Bell down hugger as a quilt. Sleep in the knicks and jersey, add leg warmers. Early rise and food on while the kit gets packed away. Brekky is my regular - fruit muesli, psyllium husk, sugar, powdered milk in a ziplock, just add water. Layer it with a couple of snakes. Semi fancy this one - I'm using hot water. A time saver would be mix and eat brekky, apply sunscreen, then brush teeth all while riding the bike...
It was so lush and green, best I've seen it in years. Some of these areas I've not ridden in over 25 years, was looking forward to seeing some of my old haunts again.

A bunch of about 15 starters at Lowood. Sign in, check off, tick this etc, off we go at 6am onto familiar roads. My bike weighs in at around 20kg - heavier than it truly needs to be for this event, but it was to simulate a kiwi weight with a full load of food and water onboard. The bike will lose about 1kg more when the last list of mods are done, and travelling with a tarp instead of a full tent will cut weight by about 600g. Hehe, in the Fargo build writeup you'll see the lengths and limits I use to save a few weight weenie grams for payload...

Lucerne time, the smell of fresh cut grass on a grand scale is refreshing. The hump you see in the background there is Mt Tarampa. As kids we used to ride our bikes around to the north eastern side, there was an old war bunker there that the local farmers used as storage for their crated potatos - temperature was pretty stable and not a lot of light. Perfect for young kids going through their 'Rambo' phase. We'd cache the bikes, dress in fatigues, fill a pocket with a potato 'K-ration' and skirmish our way up the hill.

Brightview weir was another playground for us - swimming and knot eel fishing. The older, more daring kids would slide down the algae slips on hessian bags, we were just happy jumping off  the sides. We'd nick a watermelon from a paddock on the way out, then gorge ourselves on it after a swim. As kids I think we were solar powered, hardly ate but could go all day on that watermelon and sunshine.

Rode with Martin and another bloke for a while, the bike was purring along - no chain - but I needed to ride my own ride. Sitting in and pulling turns in a bunch is social, but my training is based on solo efforts and to avoid a group mentality.

First checkpoint at MaMa Creek. A quick stop, then riding off the back wheel was squishy. Puncture tech talk: rim tape had dislodged, causing the tube to balloon into the spoke nipple hole. The tube then slow leaks through the gossamer thin membrane. Tube presents as having no holes when leak tested, but visibly the tube can have bubble bulges on the inner side. I patch my tubes and never have failures, but sometimes a tube cannot be repaired and replacement is best option.

'Moving forward brings both solitude and excitement to the adventure, as we move away from the constants and into the variables'. Somebody, somewhere may have said this at sometime - it's not quoted text, I just made it up. The heat does things to an idle mind...
This next shot - take a close look at the black specks in the sky. They're not photo artifacts - right through the valley in a Hitchcockesque manner those specks are predatory birds, circling on thermals, eyeing their next meal over freshly ploughed or slashed fields.   

The climbs were at about the halfway point - nothing severe, just gentle rollers. These valleys were in an area I was very curious about, as it is a gateway to another area I'll be exploring in the near future. The day was warm - some would say hot - but if you ride within your means it ceases to be an issue.

Now really cool. From the moment this photo was taken, there are 41 days, 9 hours and 1 minute until the Grand Depart of the Kiwi Brevet 2014, from the town with the same name of Blenheim, on the South Island of NZ.


The next checkpoint was at Mulgowie. Not a lot of decent shade so I rolled out after a quick stop and found a Jacaranda in a paddock, a short rest in the heat of the day is a great way to enjoy the ride.

Flowers coloured the roadside, their happy faces refreshing the mind. Shuts up some of the voices in there too.

By now the roads were getting tacky - the bitumen was starting to bubble up and riding on it with my knobby mtb tyres sounded like I was riding on Velcro, that constant ripping sound.

On the approach to Atkinsons dam. You play games to occupy the time - amazing what problems you can solve when out on the bike. Legs have something to do, arms get restless as does the brain - so play 'Guess that animal'.  Plenty of time on those straight roads...

I think I was about 11 when Dad and I set off for our first bikepacking adventure. We left home, panniers packed, off to Atkinsons dam. It stormed all night, tent was useless, we bivvied under one of the shelters there and got marauded by mozzies all night.

Back in Lowood, last checkpoint and a good days riding fully loaded. Back on the rail trail, I noticed some of the brickwork on the rail siding must be convict handiwork, what looks like sandstone bricks - no doubt Helidon sandstone.

Funny that no matter how many tens or hundreds of thousands of km you've ridden in your life, over varied terrain, in darkness, in sweltering heat or arctic -40 below temps,  there is still more to learn from your body. Time on the bike gives you time to think things through, experiment, evaluate, conclude.

As the shadows grow long, you think about the phases of the day you've witnessed from the bike. Those same varied phases are present each day around the world. With improvements in technology, bike design and the bottomless imagination of the human mind, there are now less limits to what can be seen via a bike. Keep on riding... and challenge yourself to witness as many phases as you can.