Last weekend saw the first gathering of the intrepid round lake Taupo unicycling team. Ken, Malcolm, Tony and I are planning on doing the 160km cycle race around lake Taupo on unicycles. As a bit of a warm up we got together on the weekend to enter the 70km Marton to Wanganui road race. The race was primarily for runners but the organiser was happy to have two unicyclist duos enter so we each got to ride around 35km.
Riding in a running race was great fun because our unicycling speed was virtually identical to that of the runners. The two unicycling teams finished 9th and 10th out of a field of 20. It was really pleasant not to have a continual stream of cyclists passing you while you struggle desparately to keep up. The runners were all really happy to have us there too.
Another highlight was having a support team while riding. For the first 35km of riding Tony and Malcolm acted as support team and then we switched roles. It was great to have people checking up on you every 7km or so, making sure you had enough food and liquid and giving encouragement. I have never been so well supplied on a ride before. It also meant we could swap unicycles over when technical difficulties arose. The neat thing about support teams is that they provide a way for your non unicycling partner to get involved and still have fun. To make it really enjoyable there should be at least two on the support team so that they can do stuff together while waiting for the riders to turn up.
The race traversed some very pretty scenery and there were some fantastic views towards the end. A few of the hills were pretty nasty but we managed to ride the entire thing without having to walk up any hills. My thighs are complaining that may have not been quite a good idea now but I’ll cope. Our time suprised us, both teams taking 4 hours 38 minutes to finish which was faster than we had anticipated. We’ll probably be back next year with a few more unicyclists to add to the competition.
To celebrate the longest road ride 3 of the 4 of us had ever done we spent the evening at the awesome skatepark in Palmerston North. Just about every obstacle was unicyclable and the skate boarders were absolutely amazed and stoked with the moves we were pulling off. There were lots of ramps to drop in on, steps to ride down, benches to jump on and rails to ride. Tony managed to score a free beer after being challenged by the skaties to rail slide a 2 meter long rail. We combined the unicycling with fire toys and finished the evening with a skater jumping through a sheet of flame provided by two fire breathers. The skaters left convinced that extreme unicycling was a very cool up and coming sport.
The next day Tony and I drove to Tongariro national park to check out a possible mountain bike track. It took us a fair while to locate the start of the track, an unobtrusive cutting sveral km up a side road off the main highway. The riding was worth the search though with beautiful scenery, multiple stream crossings and lovely terrain. Our guidebook proved how out of date it was when we discovered halfway through the ride signs informing us the track was no longer maintained. We pushed on anyway and were rewarded with an awesome view down a gorge from a little foot bridge 100m up. This was followed by signs mentioning annoying words like DANGER and telling us the track was closed. With due caution we continued on foot avoiding the large cliff drops to the river and then got some great single track in until coming to 4 wheel drive tracks.
The tracks were all very overgrown and the recommended path from the guidebook finished in a dead end. At this point I decided a map, compass and or gps system would have been a good idea. We were down to our last couple of power bars, more than two hours from the car with the sun fast approaching the horizon and the temperature beginning to drop. (Tongariro national park is a mountainous region at high altitude and gets COLD at night). Trusting to Tony’s instict we selected a trail which looked promising and rode onwards. It proved to be the right one and after dodging many encroaching bushes and circumnavigating an extremely large pool of mud we found ourselves eventually back at the highway with only a 7 km road ride back to the car.
That was definately enough riding for that day so we drove off to Rotorua to stay the night before more riding the next day.
Rotorua is sort of a mountain bike mecca and home to many wonderful trails. We spent a happy morning riding several of them and getting further exhausted. I decided for the nth time I really dislike hill climbs and we stopped at the top of a hill and constructed a trials course out of log sections while I recovered. The logs proved mostly rideable after 20 minutes of attacking them so we gave ourselves a big tick and cruised on. Fatigue set in for me about then and the final power bar was consumed to get use home. It seemed to work and got me through some awesome downhill sections which took us back to the car.
There we discovered that all of our photos of the trip were useless as the film hadn’t wound on properly so this writeup is likely the only record I’m afraid. If you’ve waded this far, congratulations, hopefully you’ve got some ideas out of it for unicycle adventures of your own,