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SINZ II Tour Blog: Day 5 Omarama to Kurow 72km

We started back on the Alps to Ocean trail to Omarama, one of the nicest sections of the trail.  There was a nice climb followed by an equally epic descent to Otematata for lunch and a dunk in the Lake.

After that we climbed up the steep road up to the Lake Benmore Dam- an impressive sight once at the top. It’s hard to know if we are the first unicyclists to ride across the dam, but we are very likely the largest ever group of unicyclists to ride across the dam!

From there we rode along Lake Aviemore to the Aviemore Dam. Our driver Said had found us a nice swimming hole under a tree, which was a nice place for afternoon tea.

We also took quick hike up the Deep Stream Walk to a secluded river valley (and had another swim), before riding the last section to Kurow.

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SINZ II Tour Blog: Day 4 Lake Ohau to Buscot Station 55km

Todays ride would take us on a long gradual climb up to 900m at Freehold Creek.  It was a well groomed path that had magnificent views across the basin to the Ben Ohau Range. The day got progressively hotter and many riders dunked themselves in the stream crossings to cool off.

After the top it was a fast, fun descent to Quailburn road where the support vehicles met us.  After some much needed rest and shade, we headed off to our next destination, Clay Cliffs.  The road was lined with colourful lupins as it crossed the lush green farmland.  We had a lot of fun riding on the loose gravel with the unicycles at times sliding around underneath us.

Lunch by Clay Cliffs was quite a treat. Anna had gone ahead in the support vehicle to prepare our- lunch under a tree when we arrived, with yummy couscous salad . After lunch we hiked up to the magnificent sandstone formations at Clay Cliffs, before heading back to the road and out to Buscot Station, where we were staying tonight.

The best thing after a hot day riding…ICE CREAMMM!!!  We had two big tubs waiting for us when we arrived, thanks to Anna!

We spent the evening chilling out in the beautiful garden at Buscot Station, and Sean entertained us on the Piano.

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SINZ II Tour Blog: Day 3 Braemar Station to Lake Ohau 80km

The rain had cleared overnight, so we woke up to stunning vistas of the Southern Alps.  After a hearty breakfast we hit the gravel road along Lake Pukaki.  The road continued for a further 18km until we reached the Tekapo B power station, after which it turned into smooth tarseal.   The riders were fairly spread out, but we regrouped at the Lake Pukaki Visitor Centre just past the Pukaki Dam.   Our support drivers Dave and Said made sure we were watered and fed before crossing the highway to rejoin the A20 trail on the other side.

The next section was a flat and fast gravel track with an expanse of dry grassland characteristic of the Mackenzie landscape.   After crossing this we ended up in Twizel, but bypassed the town to head 3km further down the road to the Salmon Farm, where we fed the salmon and indulged in Salmon pie!

After heading back to Twizel to rejoin the A20 trail, we followed the road until we reached a canal. The bright blue water was perfectly framed by the lupins which were fully out in bloom. The endlessly long canal finally took us to the Ohau Weir, and then joined the most fun singletrack of the tour.  We arrived to stay at Lake Ohau Lodge, one of the picturesque places of the tour.

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SINZ II Tour Blog: Day 2 Mt Cook to Braemar Station 33km

We started off bright an early, as we had to drive from Tekapo to Mt Cook. The first stop was the Church of the Good Shepherd, one of Tekapo’s famous landmarks. After the obligatory group shot, we were off to the start of the Alps 2 Ocean trail at Mt Cook.

It was a very scenic drive with the mountains looming in the foreground. Although it was a unicycle tour, we actually started off with a 2 hour hike up the Hooker Valley, across several swing bridges and alpine tussock. It was a beautiful walk, but by the time we got back to the carpark everyone was ready to head off, we had a helicopter to catch!

The first part of the Alps to Ocean trail is a rocky track which leads to Mt Cook Airport- basically a landing strip and a helipad. When we arrived the group took turns to fly up to the Tasman Glacier, which was well worth the trip. The helicopter landed on the glacier and we got to walk around on the ice, before being flown back over the iceflow to Tasman Point, where the A20 trail continues on the other side of the river.
It was a lovely warm day, and the clouds had burnt off, so we decided to cool off in the glacial water, with several members of the group stripping right down for a skinny dip. It was CO0old, but well worth it.
The next part of the trail proved to be fairly tricky for unicycles. It was a well-groomed trail, but without suspension and limited gears, it was slow going. Dani ended up shredding her tyre, so spent considerable time trying to patch it up. Luckily Said came by with the support vehicle to the rescue!
As we rounded the lake, we could hear thunder, and before long the beautiful clear skies opened up. Along with the relentless headwind, it took its toll on the riders. By the time we arrived at Braemar Station, we were ready for a hot shower and hot food, which is exactly what we got. Anna, Dani and Gen had gone ahead in the support vehicle and made a delicious curry, followed by banana/chocolate self-saucing pudding, which hit the spot. We were all tired but well fed by the time we got in bed.

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SINZ II Tour Blog: Day 1 Christchurch to Tekapo

The South Island, ,New Zealand Unitour kicks off today. This is the second unitour of the South Island, 10yrs since the first!  We were taking a slightly different route this time, incorporating the new Alps to Ocean (A20) cycle trail, the Central Otago Rail Trail, Roxburgh Gorge and Clutha Gold Trail.

We had quite a hectic morning as the riders flew into Christchurch from overseas and around the country. Unfortunately, we lost a member of our group, Eric, who couldn’t make it due to Visa issues.  Several riders had arrived the day before and picked up one of our two support vans- an 8-seater van driven by Said who travelled with our Italian riders. Dave Goodman, our second support driver arrived from Dunedin, and we spent a considerable amount of time getting our second hire vehicle sorted, a 12-seater van.

Ken, Anna and Chris went off on a big shop at the local supermarket, spending the next hour chasing their list around to find dozens of tins, loaves of bread, pasta, rice, fruit and vegetables etc. It was a mammoth effort to pack them all into boxes and load up the support van.
Then we’re off! It took us a few hours to drive to Tekapo, by which time we were all starving! Anna got things happening in the kitchen, getting the troops together to put together a hearty meal of Nachos and Chili con Carne.
We had a gorgeous view of the Lake, although our late arrival meant we didn’t get much of a chance to look around. Ken and Anna held the tour briefing, and then it was off to bed!

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Bruce’s video

Bruce Hall was tragically killed a week ago whilst out riding his unicycle.  He was a good guy and had been on many adventures with us.  I will miss my travel buddy.  Here is a short dedication:

Puppets and Diamonds- I propose to Anna on our Iceland road trip

Ok, for those of you who follow my blog, you’ll know that I my girlfriend, Anna, is a puppeteer.

On our recent Iceland unicycle road trip, I surprise her with a puppet show at my favourite waterfall, Dettifoss.  She was all grumpy at the start, because it was wet and cold and it took me ages to get the camera set up.

Luckily for me, Diesel the penguin found something shiny without getting all tangled up!

New Womens Unicycle Hour World Record! 27.027km

I had the pleasure of timekeeping yesterday for Mirjam Lips  (Switzerland), who was attempting the womens unicycle hour record at Unicon 18, San Sebastian, Spain.

She broke Nadine Wegner’s previous record of 23.65km with a new distance of 27.027km, with a very strong ride on a 400m athletics track.

Congratulations Mirjam!

Downhill Unicycling in the Himalayas

Another cool video from Nicola, shot during Unipal, the Himalaya’s Unicycle Tour.

Yes, we really do pedal that quickly!

Karapoti Classic 2016

The first Saturday of March means only one thing on my calender…The Karapoti Classic! This years edition was looking very fast indeed, with perfect weather and a relatively smooth course.

My weapon of choice was my trusty Triton 29″/125mm. In 2015 I experimented with an ultralight 26″/114mm setup, which was great for the climbs, but felt rather knocked about on the rough, so it was back to the big wheel this year.

The setup:
– Triton 29″ Sponge Titanium
– Quax 125mm cranks
– KH cromo hub/KH 29″ XC rim
– Schwalbe Racing Ralph 29×2.25
– Wellgo MG1 pedals
– NNC Flatfish carbon seat
– Thompson elite seatpost

We lined up on the the banks of the Akatarawa River, the traditional start line of the Karapoti. Having a unicycle means I can get across before the bikes, which I duly did. My crank choice was shorter than previous years where I used 145mm, and I was unsure whether I’d have the legs to push 125mm. The fears quickly dissipated as I spun my way up Karapoti Gorge, keeping up with my start group.

The biggest bummer was missing my race buddy Tim Armstrong, a local unicyclist from Upper Hutt. He’d done serious damage after coming off his unicycle a couple of months before- and ended up with a forearm held together by external fixation! Normally at this part of the race I’m doing my hardest to get as much time as possible on Tim. He’s a formidable climber, and closes the gap on the way up Deadwood.
20x30-KPTD1000
Nevertheless, my legs felt good, the cushy 29’er tyre and short cranks were smooth, and I was going as fast as ever. The entries were down this year, so there were fewer riders to get around on the climb up Deadwood.  I remembered my *ding ding* bell, which I would ring as I passed people.

“Outta the waaaay!!! CAN’T STOooP!”

I heard a guy scream as he ploughed down the first rocky section after the warm up climb….straight into me! Luckily the unicycle is virtually bomproof, but my left thigh was left bruised and bloodied. It didn’t slow me down but still hurts days later.

After reaching Deadwood it was a nice spin over the rolling section at the top, then a fast dive into the Rock Garden. I was running 38 PSI in my tyre, which is firmer and bouncier than usual. In 2014 I came close to smashing the 2005 unicycle record (and possibly going under the magic 4hr mark), until a pinch flat took forever to fix! Never run 20 PSI at Karapoti.

The Devils Staircase had been bulldozed and graded. I was both gutted and pleased at the same time. The original steep, boggy, fissured slippery slip was an iconic part of the Karapoti. At the same time, I knew I was on track to breaking the Karapoti Record, particularly if I could pick up a few minutes on the Devils Staircase. The climb now resembled Deadwood and Dopers- rideable for many mountainbikers.

Over the top of the Devils Staircase and it was on to Big Ring Boulevard. This is supposedly the fastest part of the course, but on a unicycle it can be tough going- you are dodging rocks and and ruts and generally shaken to bits. This year, it was smooth and the 29″ Racing Ralph stuck like velcro, rolling over everything.

By the time I hit Dopers Hill, I was confident I would break the unicycle record, barring something stupid, like crashing or puncturing. I cramped a little so eased off up the climb.

The last section down the Gorge felt like I was flying- I came close to spinning out my 125’s. As we hit the Akatarawa river again, I was careful not to fall in like I usually do. Just had enough juice to remount and climb up to the finish line. It is always good at the end!

Unfortunately, after checking the final time, I’d done 4hrs14min49secs! Three minutes slower than my 2005 record. I’m still scratching my head where those 3 minutes went- felt like my fastest Karapoti ever.

Oh well, there is always next year.

Karapoti Photo Album