Round Mt Taranaki 2007

Last November I entered the Wattyle Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge and completed the ride in approximately 11 and a half hours. I told myself then that the round the mountain was compulsory since finishing the 100 mile ride was so rewarding, and Mount Taranaki is something I love most about my home.

On Saturday the 27th of January I entered the Dutch Mill Taranaki Cycle Challenge, 150km around the Mountain.

3 weeks prior to the race I did lots of off road riding when Tony Melton visited New Plymouth. The next week I was supposed to train but I mostly slacked and my biggest ride was up to North Egmont where I cleaned up the broken glass from the smash and grab in which Tony’s bag got stolen the week before. On Thursday the 25th (two days before the race) I got a Bowen treatment from Martin at Kowhai Clinic. I’m not sure all the details but it is supposed to make athletes perform better making lactic acid drain better or something. I looked it up:

On Friday I put the 700c x 28mm tire on that Peter Bier gave me (and I rode around Lake Taupo on it) but this time I decided to try 5 more psi than the recommended minimum and inflated it to 120psi. A few minutes later the tire started to make a noise and I took a few steps away from it before it folded off the rim and exploded with a huge blowout. I put on an old tire and tube and rode to my friends house to get last minute sponsorship. Reuben from sponsored me- his business specialises in modifying Xboxes and Playstations. I had a slow flat tire from the old innertube that I didn’t fix, so by the time I got home and fixed it and prepared for the race and went to bed it was 3am. It was my intention to wake up at ten to five, and ride into town by 6, but I woke at 6:20am and got my flatmate to drive me to the start by 7am. I think Bruce (who entered the race on a Coker) was intending to start at 5am but I’m not sure exactly what time he left.

I took off at 7.02am, glad of the extra sleep, wearing Camo pants with pre-worn holes in the legs. I had my MP3 player (with speakers) sewn onto my bag for sounds along the way- Joe Satriani can be quite inspirational for pedalling fast. The Elite riders left at 7:30am and they came swooping past me sometime before Oakura- I remember a breeze following their pack, the whirring of chains/gears and a handful of encouraging comments directed at me. The view of the Mountain was awesome- the weather was fine! At Okato the people cheered as I stopped to drink water- they chanted as I skulled it (I had my trusty 1.5l plastic soft drink bottle rather than the standard camelpack). I swore as one side of my broken zip came off putting the bottle away- leaving me to rely on four safety pins and one broken zipper to hold my bag together. I rode off one footed to the amazement of the crowd.

I found the course to be relatively flat compared to the Lake Taupo race- and I made quite good time over the first 50km to Opunake. I caught up with Bruce at Opunake and stopped for a bit to chat, drink, and smoke, but that was the last I saw of Bruce because I rode off before him. I should have stuck around to ride with him for a bit but I felt compelled to set the best time I could while still enjoying myself.

The skin started wearing off from my inner thigh areas (that is a good reason to wear non-holey trousers when racing) and the discomfort started setting in. I persevered and kept my wheel spinning. The comments from bike riders would always give me motivation- “You’re my hero”, “You’re amazing”, “Unreal” and “You deserve a medal” were some of the most popular remarks. A few people commented on my “Cool sounds” or “Good riding music”.

I noticed the lack of rubbish compared to Lake Taupo- but that was a much bigger event so the rubbish was relative. Among the strange things by the side of the road that I remembered were a rubber mallet, a plastic gun, rubber gloves- and a lot of other non-cycle related crap- heaps of old CDs (I wondered if any of them were Tony’s- stolen from his CD wallet and ditched by the side of the road). I passed the half way point (Te Kiri) without even realising.

Time started dragging on and I just wanted to reach Stratford- since that is a place I had ridden to before. I was a bit disappointed to only reach Eltham but the next leg was very short so I kept going with the thought of Stratford being 2/3 of the way there. Along the way a bike rider seemed to recognise me and stopped to chat. It turned out she met me when I rode to Stratford in my training for Taupo. She had a flat tire (back then) and I stopped and talked to her and offered help which she didn’t need. After she said where we met I remembered her and it was kinda cool cos we had our training ride in common even though our vehicles were so different. I stopped in Stratford for another well deserved smoke break, and calculated that I was in good time for finishing before prize giving.

I was approaching a bridge near Midhurst when I decided to take the side-path to keep out of the way of traffic on the narrow bridge. As soon as I left the road and went onto the gravelly footpath, I heard air rushing out of my tire, I pulled over and sat down slightly disappointed that my prophecy had come true. Well it was not quite true- I had thought I would get punctured by the sea of broken glass that fills the shoulder of many Taranaki roads, but it was an old glass wound that had left a gaping hole in my tire. After 120km of riding the road just rubbed it’s way through my inner tube. I fixed the hole in both the tire and the tube. I pumped up the high volume tire for ages with my little Pocket Rocket pump- knowing that without decent pressure long rides suck!

It started spitting a bit and I put my MP3 player away in my bag- the battery almost dead. The support van came up behind me not too long afterwards and followed me for the rest of the ride- I think I was the last rider who hadn’t given up at that point. I stopped at an Inglemud petrol station for a dump, and tried to use their stupid digital air compressor but it kept turning down the PSI when I calibrated it to 70. I filled my water bottle at the last support stop, got out my MP3 player and headed off again, enduring the stinging pain of sweat in my leg abrasions.

Egmont Village came soon enough where I was able to put a few more PSI into my tire to see me through til the end. It was the home stretch!!! Familiar territory. There was only two small hills which they saved til the end, and they didn’t manage to make my legs tired. I put on a burst of speed over the finish line and they showed me my time of 9 hours 24, which just now as I think about it could have been 10 hours 24 or something. 7:02am til 5:26pm. The crowd cheered loudly when I arrived. I went amongst the riders gathered for prizegiving and I was inundated with people congratulating me, shaking my hand, and asking how long I took (to which I replied 9 hours 24 which they showed me on a digital screen when I finished). I claimed my free Ham Sandwich and Low-carb beer, and handed a few Modz cards out while I waited for prizegiving. I got no prizes and wasn’t even acknowledged for coming in last- they claimed a Japanese rider did.

I rode to Burger Fuel and got a free burger before doing a bit of a victory lap in town to visit friends who were not home before riding home (slowly, painfully) to Bell Block. It was good to get home and have a shower and all the other luxuries that come with being home. My legs were not too sore- more saddle sore than muscle sore. The muscles in my back and legs were sore a bit, but nowhere near as sore as after Lake Taupo. Back then I could barely lift my legs, but this time I could do knees up mother brown without fuss. The next morning my calf muscles cramped up one at a time after I woke up. 30 seconds of pain each leg. My flatmate told me afterwards that walking on cold linoleum fixes cramp- maybe I’ll try that next time if I can walk when it happens.

Two days have passed and I’m feeling fine. A day of rest put all my aches and sores behind me, and I went into the Midweek (a local free paper) to tell them my story today. They took some photos and hopefully I’ll appear in Wednesdays paper with mention of my Sponsor. Apparently there was nothing about the race on the national TV News on Saturday. I did a rolling interview during the race but I think it was footage for the event organisers to play at next years event.

It might have been Te Kiri when Hugh Johnson took a few photos of me and I gave him my email and the wrong phone number (my mind was foggy), and he sent me the photos of which I have attached a couple. I hope you have enjoyed reading my long winded writeup- the writing is short compared to the race. Everyone who likes long distance unicycling a lot should try a bicycle race event- it’s surreal! The unicycling world is so relatively small compared to the bike world that you can be a champion of your class even if you are what you consider to be a mediocre rider.

Thanks to my sponsors- Modz, Missing Link, and Kowhai Clinic!!!

Nice one, you’re a legend for doing such a long distance, twice, on a 28" with minimal gear. Thanks for writing it up too.

Just wondering, what size tyre is the one you used, and also, what length are your cranks?

Awesome ride, Rowan! I love reading race reports like yours. I gets me pumped up to do a century of my own someday.

Excellent ride and write-up!

I just wanted to point out this experience, for anyone preparing for a big event like this; make sure that your equipment is dialed in well before the event. Don’t make any last-minute changes. I usually try to have my equipment chosen and installed at least a month before the event (including the shoes, pads, and clothing I intend to wear), so I can get several training rides in with the full setup. The last training ride before the event, I want to be riding 100% the same setup I will be riding during the event. Surprises are bad things when you’re doing something epic.

Great job getting through it anyway!

700x40c. Supposedly a puncture resistant Michelin Transworld City tire. My cranks are the standard rusty steel 125mm cranks that came with my 29". My left crank was kinda ticking at the end but it wasn’t very loose- I tightened it the next day.

My last minute change was a planned strategy not a surprise. I switched tire last minute due to the sea of glinting broken glass on my daily journeys. My main tire is so shredded it is rediculous. Lately I have had good luck but some times I have had up to five punctures in a week. I rode the narrow tire that Peter gave me when I trained for Taupo but after a couple of big gashes in it I realised I better save it for more forgiving roads. The blowout was a calculated risk worth taking the day before the race, I had a spare tube but I didn’t trust the bead after it was damaged, and they don’t make 700x28mm tubes with a Schrader valve I was happy to go back to my bigger tire. I knew from experience that some Petrol stations make Presta valves very annoying when you want a high pressure and a gauge. The late night would not have been easily avoided due to my excitement and my recent late sleep patterns. I didn’t think about it a month back- why not have a decent setup every day? Know your best seat height etc. Should be common sense to know what to wear on the day.

I know what you mean though about last minute changes- I rode Tony’s coker in the Day/Night Thriller and he gave me the allen key to change the seat height if I needed to. The seat went down and the seatpost rubbed on the tire for most of the lap- and thinking I must have buckled his rim and had the brakes constantly rubbing I kept riding- not knowing how to disengage the brakes. Got back and Tony sussed out what was going on and fixed the seat height, and rode off without the transponder!! Definitely would have been more confident if it was my own setup and no surprises there.

I think its really cool how you do all this riding in street clothes, it must really set you apart from all of the other riders.

Also were you smoking less this ride then tapao? I seem to remember you taking way more smoke breaks last time.

Its too bad about the flat tire, but it sounds like you still did pretty damn well in the end.

I really enjoyed hearing about this event and I hope to hear some more of these stories.

O and on the linoleum note, I don’t think its a cure but it may help, I live in a basement with linoleum floors so I’m pretty much always walking on them and often barefooted in the mornings and nights. I do remember the last time I did a huge coker ride, I noticed that I wasn’t sore the next day, and that could be a cause.

I figure if my pants work every other day for riding I don’t need special cycle shorts for a race- I might be the first to have finished the race on a unicycle (correct me if I’m wrong) so the fractions of a second I would have shaved off from reduced wind resistance wouldn’t have made a big difference to my finishing time. I wore my special cycling shirt though- NZ! The sweaty technology seems to work.

I still smoked plenty of medicinal herbs before and after but it’s getting a bit dry at this time of year since it is summer here- so my reefers were a bit thinner than last time and I had two instead of three (for Taupo I saved two for the end). I had two left over at the end too this time cos I held back and kept riding.

Hah thats cool, I too prefer to ride in regular clothes whether it be long distance or other types of riding.

Is weed legal there? Just more abundant maybe? from the sounds of it you are smoking it like it were cigarettes, that would get pretty pricey here at about 40-60 bucks a quarter ounce.

Weed is not legal but that does not make it morally wrong to smoke- so a lot of people still do it. It costs $60+ for a quarter here. I’m sure weed is abundant anywhere in the world if you know the right circles of people. It seems such a silly thing for me to be a convicted criminal for eh? I burned a few herbs and inhaled- now I have a record. Usually you get warnings- Police have to be pretty evil to enforce those stupid laws.

Great one Rowan! You’re one tough dude that’s for sure. Keep it up - hopefully someday we can do another event together.


Yeah normaly here people only get in trouble during an election, if they are causing trouble, or if they lead to a dealer getting pinched.