Monday, 14 May 2012

NGARNZ - The Anniversary of One Year of An Adventure Riders Club


Addition Number THREE to my stable collection - my new 2012 DAKAR SERTAO
Attending an adventure riding course in Ngaruawahi Forestry, yes boys it was funny, but the smirk soon washed off the lads faces as I hauled that Big 1200cc bike clean off the forestry floor - did I mention I was also a Power Lifter in my day????  Clean and Jerk  specialty  !!!!!

May 2012 - This month of May - it has just dawned on me now that little over 'One' year ago an idea was formed to start at that time a  "Gravel Road Riders Club" (May 2010).  Living in Auckland the name was born 'Akd Gravel Riders Club'.  A link here to my created facebook page which I now use to share overseas trips and adventures from my MANY facebook friends.  It is wonderful to be able to share and dream in our joint adventures.!/pages/Akd-Gravel-Adventure-Riders-Club/157663480965972
  My husband Jim and my son Tim (pictured here) have both enjoyed a wealth of riding many enduro and trail based events in New Zealand over private farm lands and also many of our forests we have here in our country.  Both have done exceedingly well with their riding careers over the many years we have as a family been patronising the many events on offer.  In their competing days both have also won season trophies over heavy enduro seasons also.  I would always attend these events,  so to keep it all in the family, but my participation was to be put to work assisting with many of the pit-crew duties.  aka fuelling up those mud and dirt-caked bikes that would arrive out of check points and scream into the pit (for some riders being over their time allowance it would be a hectic and a very short stop to rip off that petrol cap and shovel the fuel into the tanks)  also gorgeing down on bananas/ muesli bars and liquid at an phenomenal rate of.  I vividly remember the bright and flustered red faces of the riders leaving their check points and the sweat and steam rising off them as they would be hectic and frantic to see what the Time Clock had to say on their efforts over each stage of their day.  No time for chat only refuel and food stop.  Never stand in the way of a competing enduro rider!!!!!   Prisoners are NOT taken.  Expect many rooosts to be flicked and sprayed about, both entering and exiting the pits - this is a very adrenalin fuelled time!!  I would be growled at quite badly if i was ever in the path of a rider that was heading towards pit and was running short on check time!!!!  Husband included.  I recall the embarrassment on one occasion when I was heralding riders through a gate and was standing on the WRONG side of the incoming tidal procession.  SCAREY.
Berm Busting Rangitikei Forestry - Central North Island
  Myself,  having no time for much enjoyment with the riding of motorbikes and no off roading skills apart from the odd play on local beaches, I remember some of my very first experiences being tackling Jim's big Honda XR500cc 4 stroke bike.   Big, very tall  and complete with one very mean as kick-start.  Those were the days,  barrelling up our local Muriwai black-sand beach. Yes, it was great when the bike was barrelling in the forwards position, but hmmmm stop her, and attempt to kick-start up that beach again say 10kms or so,  problems.  Many huge big and black calf bruises true testament to these rides.  I can remember being stuck so deep in soft sand and still that back wheel was digging me further into a huge hole.  From here it was decided to purchase Sue a dual purpose on and off road bike.  I enjoyed that for a while but found myself quite a menace on the local roads with the bike sporting a bigger front wheel.  From here the bike was sold and I was then back to working shift work and maintaining a family life to save funds to purchase our family home.  I was emplyed from 8am to 5am as a Medical Analyst during the days and then in the evenings I would go out to work again in the evenings.  The moment I arrived home in the door from my day job I would rush out again and pursue my evening job as a Computer Operator from 6pm through to 11pm three nights per week and every week of the year.  This hectic schedule for me continued on for seven years and my boys were able to enjoy their fill of adrenalin enduro based events over mostly EVERY weekend.
 Participating and enjoying mountain biking events for myself also whilst on pit-crew duties I would take my Specialized Mountain Bike to the often nearly every weekend enduro events and explore forestry trails and gravel roads whilst waiting and whileing away the many hours in the outback areas - often by myself tending the lonely fuel-dump areas.  I developed a total passion for exploring those gravel and forestry trails on my mountain bike and often had many encounters of the ditch(both in and under coupled with also) over the bank kinds.   One can only sustain a few of these encounters before certain body parts will need to be stitched back together again?  So after one tooo many mountain-biking accidents, I had to commit myself to having both shoulder reconstruction surgeries.  The racing of road bikes this time was the culprit and the extra-tight locking of the foot cleat on my new Specialized race bike would not allow for the road shoes to be uncoupled, which put me at speed, under the back bumper of a parked vehicle.

 So after TWO total shoulder reconstruction surgeries  a VESPA 250GTS scooter was purchased for me.  Not having the ability to change gears or operate levers that well due to the lack of strength in the new shoulders,  g r e a t.  I found I only had to place my arms on the handlebars and the scooter pretty much did most of the running on-road work for me.  Tolerating the constant vibrating and juddering that ultimately goes with those small wheels "quite painful" but one soon masters the ability to switch those pain sensors off.  Prising the arms offf the handlbars also a task that requires extensive mastering, but you do what you must.  The new Vespa 250GTS scooter soon turned itself into a long-distance tourer vehicle and then became a bit of an off roader also.  I was now churning through tyres far tooo often as those small wheels spin around at a phenomenal rate and having little or no suspension one gets thrown about over uneven and off-road terrain quite a bit.  But I loved this small bike.

 New to arrive at our home and on the doorstep  a F650GS BMW bike.  My husband Jim knew that owning a proper dual purpose adventure bike was now the order of the day.  For myself going from a 250cc scoot to a 800cc advent bike and one that required me to gear change etc etc was a task that I did not relish at first.  I would make every excuse possible to continue to work the guttings out of my small scoot.  I would take that small scoot everywhere.   DECISION MADE - the scoot was sold and we decided to do a trade for a small Yamaha XT250cc.  What a great trade that was.  Now I had my second off road and also dual purpose bike along with the big 800cc BMW bike. 
My Yamaha XT250cc - excellent wee off road dual purpose bike - just love her
 The Yamaha was used to tackle more off road and easier trails and I could also use it to travel over many hundreds of kms to also arrive at these areas to be able to ride.  The F650GS was used to travel even further affield and I now began the very first of my adventure rides.  Husband Jim decided to invent an adventure ride for me.  My BMW bike was also a low suspension bike due to the fact that I am very short and this was excellent as a confidence bike for me.

 My First Adventure Ride - 800kms on my BMW F650GS.  Here we go.   We leave home early mng from Taupo which is in the centre of the North Island and we head on the sealed road leading us out towards National Park.  We journey over The Desert Road and then into Waiouru - our New Zealand army-based area.  Heading out further South we decide to add in a historic route that cuts through the big Napier Hills and is known as The Gentle Annie.  This route at one time encompassed nearly all gravel roading.  Each year this fast-becoming tooo popular tourist route had been sealed to lessen the impact of big maintenance work requred for the upkeep.  Our journey three years ago now through this passage saw only a few kms left of gravel.  This was my first ever experience on any gravel road???   Exit out from here we arrive into Napier itself.  A brief beachfront stop for a becoming late luncheon break and we now ride on to Wairoa township.  We have now reached our  ultimate ride destination - that of 'The Lake Waikaremoana' - 100kms of very scenic gravel road riding.  The time of our arrival here was now 3:30pm in the afternoon and I had a gnarly feeling that it would soon be dark as we journeyed through. 
 Yes my suspicions soon proved correct and it was indeed pitch black only half-way through.  I was extremely surprised at the big amount of vehicles - mostly 4 x 4 vehicles on this gravel road route at this time of the evening.  It was also mid winter when we journeyed through and this was not going to be any easy form of ride. 
 Two weeks prior to Sue's first adventure, the riverbeds under extremely heavy rains had washed over and become very swollen and had taken out many of the native trees that bordered the rivers edges.  These had been washed over onto the entrance of the track we were riding and provided for a very cold, wet, slushy and very muddy ride.  My BMW only had the new Bridgestone Trailwings that the bike had come with, so this ride was a task for me.  I remember parking-up at one point and glaring at my husband parked up at the top of a very muddy hill as he was looking back down at me???   hmmmm   we know what they say,  If Looks Could Killll???  welll they most certainly can.  The big and heavy beemer careered and dived all over the place.  The mud and silt was very thick, runny and watery and this made for an extremely hideous experience.  How I managed to stay upright welll  I don't know???  I made it UP the hill and even now it surprises me as to how mud can track UPHILLLL.  Mud and pea-soup that is.  After about 5kms of this terrain,   a major learning experience for me  the terrain evened out and we were now riding over more firmly packed mud, slop and yes,  some   gravel.  I found I would actually steer the bike towards the sparse patches of gravel I encountered.  It was magic.  I don't remember enjoying to ride gravel ever so much as this experience.  As this track was new to me and the sheer exilerating experience this was providing to me, I do admit to stopping maybe tooo many times to take in my surrounds.  Many horses and varying wildlife being the culprit for me amongst other things.  This was amazing.  But, for every upside there must be a downside.   It was now pitch black.  I could hardly see anything  and the lights on the big beemer just did not cut through tooo much -   not good.  My husband was quite a way ahead of me and I found I was wanting to view the taillights on his big F800GS very much.  It was like a glimmer of hope in the darkness.  Many oncoming vehicles in the wilderness were oncoming and that provided for a few scarey times also.  Much of The Lake Waikaremoana track was under major reconstruction and in times a few HAIRY 2 wheeled sessions for me.  Manouvering around big thick white chunks of rock that had been strategically placed to fill in holes and pack-up many areas of banks that had been washed away, well yes in places it was like skating over and I felt the bike was floating over these chunks at times.  I did bounce off the bank at one point but managed to push myself back onto the track again as a matter of having to.  One can do many things when one is put towards having to. 
 Exit strategy from this place of now darkness my MISSION.  The Lake Waikaremoana towards the Murupara side of the track turns into a Sealed Road in portions and then turns back into gravel sections.  Another new experience - hitting the tarmac at 100kms and breathing a huge sigh of relief and then hitting loose gravel at 100kms in pitch blackness quite a new experience.  That soon bought any form of weariness to a head. 
  Our exit, we head through Murupara and this completed in extreme pitch blackness in the wilderness.  No lights at all and many oncoming logging and goods Kenworth trucks etc heading towards you on the opposite sides of the tarmac.  My experience riding through here, picturing myself inside a black void or hole, that dark.  I cannot quite remember the speed we were travelling at now through this area, but I do remember -LOOK AHEAD and the bike will go towards the direction you are travelling in.  I could not see the road ahead either, and more often than not was left blinded by the glare of oncoming headlights.  I was indeed TRAVELLING as MY goal was to EXIT the wilderness at this point and to enter civilisation again. 
 Entering back into Taupo again was pure adrenalin.  We parked up at our local food outlet and I remember thinking I have just completed an 800km journey since this early mng.  It was now 8pm at night!!!  We enter to buy supplies and I was left wondering as to the stares from the many people frequenting the establishment.  I had not realised I was covered from head to toe in MUDDD, and yes it was caked and thick.  On the riding gear, the boots, even the face!!!!  I only realised this later  LOL
 It does not end here,,,,,    after purchasing a quick bite to eat,  we head back out to the parked-up F800GS and the F650GS both of which looking magnificent and very filthy.  TRUE TESTAMENT to having completed an adventure ride. 
 Husband Jim had exited out of the carpark and was at the "NO EXIT SIGN" and was looking back for me????  I climb aboard the big bike that now felt great and a near perfect fit and I turned her engine over and prepared to make my very hasty exit.  As I flicked up the sidestand hurriedly, which was placed on the bike's 'high side',  the bike leaned me over ever as quick and this sent me flying over onto the concrete pavement and face first on here also.  The beemer was laid out concrete pavement or curbside and was rearing to go, with that front wheel spinning in motion.  I could not believe this could happen after such an epic first ever adventure ride for myself.  The combination of being freezing cold and slightly weary will do this for you.  Lack of concentration and the adrenalin fast leaving me and the tiredness now beginning to set in. 
 Now, a tourist from Jamaica just happened to be visiting Taupo township and was walking past me, seen what had happened and quickly rushed over,  grabbed me by the scruff of my thick and padded adventure bike jacket and hauled me up off that pavement like a sack of 10kilo potatoes.  He was so strong and he even had the dreadlocks and the vivid Bob Marley t to go with also.  Oh Dear......          
Sue has TOYS - I know the BOYS have toys, but so does SUE!!!
 Next the beemer - he hauled that bike up so quick, none of this leaning and crouching into the correct position to lift a big bike or anything, he took the front and back and literally threw my bike into the upright position.  Fully fuelled it had just been and would have weighed in at nearly a good 200kilos in her own right.  Me, now nursing TWO broken ribs,  so embarrassed I clambered onboard after  "ARE YOU ALRIGHT"    answer  "YES OF COURSE I AM FINE THANKS",  plse let me out of here and make it quick.....    Exit and fast.
  So from this adventure or misadventure - BUT BOTH  -  how to gain experience to be able to ride these sections of terrain? - Many of the big adventure rides held in my country are catered towards the more experienced trail and enduro riders who ride these as they have a wealth of experience and can use these skills to do these rides.  So, this club is definately necessary and vital if wishing to participate in more adventure riding.
Memories of THAT ADVENTURE ride!!!
  I now have come to meet many individuals who are like me and enjoy to do this form of riding.  Often partners may purchase a bike (very kindly) for their partners to also come and join.  Their children may have left home (empty nesters) and it is in the theme of  "PLAYING TOGETHER" equals "STAYING TOGETHER".  To say that this form of riding is very very exciting and highly addictive does not even come close.  Often on rides I can be so "Out Of My Comfort Zone" and be left literally sweating with an adrenalin rush myself,  but  I AM ALWAYS BACK FOR MORE.......   This new club has given me many new skills and for some of us we will continue to need to keep topping up these skills.  You never stop the learning and adventure riding certainly provides a myriad of new and exhilerating learning experiences.
 This year has seen me push this new club into accessing private land areas and now forestry areas.!/pages/Northern-Gravel-Adventure-Riders-Nz/239093809485610
Find me on FACEBOOK - we welcome anyone from overseas to come and join in OUR rides



  1. Nice wrap up Suze. Congratulations on one year.

    1. thanks very much
      the time has gone so very fast now
      i am wondering where we will go from here

  2. good summary, i am a kiwi living in cebu Philippines and we do similar stuff on smaller bikes (xt 225 etc) .we have a wiki page
    greentrailrides_cebu giving info. we gps each ride and do a little movie on a gopro. it then gives you a record of each ride and tracks where you went. everytrail is a good site for this as you can get a terrain map on it.just a thought for your future blogs, we also follow trails we spot on google earth and it is all good fun.will eventually get back to nz and would love to join you on one of your rides, cheers.

  3. hello to you
    you would be more than welcome to join us on any rides and share in our adventures that we make for our members