Sunday, 28 June 2009

Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge: Tips

Craig's Taupo Results
2009See you there?

My blog statistics, tell me that from search engine keywords that bring you here, there are lots of you out there looking for training tips for your first-time entering the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge. In the spirit of e-democracy, and as I start looking ahead to my fourth ride around the Lake (entries open next week, on July 1st) I thought I remember the things I have learned thus far.


Accommodation can be very hard to come by for this busy event. Plan and book early! Early, usually means before entries open on 1 July.


Yes, do some. Even better, do lots :>

I initially thought of titling this post "Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge:Training Tips", but I have never been a particularly strong trainer. I just ride and tramp lots over winter and then turn up in November :). You may find a lot of very helpful advice for training elements in Amy Taylor's book Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge Guide.

This is definitely area in which I am seeking rapid improvement. I'll be sure to share anything I find particularly effective here.

Equipment and clothing

I read in Amy's book:

"Buy cheap, buy twice"

My own experiences have shown me, not only the truth of this phrase but the increased orders of magnitude that must be applied when considering cycling and tramping equipment. The important thing for both is to realise what your goals and intentions for using the equipment are. You need to make a choice that is fit for that purpose. Go to a cycle shop and get advice. Avoid those Red Shed or Woolies specials.

There is no need to go overboard with your equipment, but you need to make sure what you use is suitable for a riding reliably for a really long way. It needs to be sized and fitted. It needs to be comfortable for a long time in the saddle and it needs to align with what your goals might be for the event.

Train in the same equipment you intend using for your solo challenge. Obtain and and fit it early. For clothing you want to make it doesn't cause chaffing. If you find this out half-way around the Lake its too late! For the bike, you need to make sure it is comfortable, that you are confident at handling it and know where to find the gear you are looking for climbing the hills, or trying not to get dropped by the bunch. Don't forget that there are usually sales to found during the Tour de France - a time when cycling has a high profile and cycle shops are usually trying to move out last years, but still brand new models at that time.


If you don't eat, you lose!

Make sure you get practice drinking and eating while riding. You need to ride 160km over the rolling hills, and food is energy. Unfortunately many people including myself find it difficult to eat while exercising, or riding rapidly around Lake Taupo. Eating in particular can seem unnatural or difficult. I takes some getting used to. When I first started doing endurance cycle rides I found this hard, and sometimes I felt like I was going to hurl it back up after eating. It takes practice. Learn what foods you are able t consume while riding. Open plastic wrappers before the start - hard to do on the move.
As a cyclist, I believe in the banana

I'm also a fan of the humble pie - ask someone-else for nutritional advice.

Bunch riding

Many new to road cycling events have never ridden in a bunch before, and often feel uneasy or apprehensive at thought of it. You will come to love the sheer pleasure of riding in a peloton. The effortless riding in the vacuum, the engineless, swarm like sound of the peloton moving along the road. Truly one of life's delights.

There is a lot of advice around the web for cycling in bunches. e.g. from the event organisers, and your local cycling groups. I strongly recommend entering some fun-rides in your area prior to the event so that you are used to riding in close proximity to other cyclists.
Maintaining friendships in the bunch
  • Ride in straight line
  • Do not use your brakes unnecessarily
  • Don't let a gap open in front of you (this might make people behind you get dropped from the bunch)
  • Take your turn in front - if you struggling to keep up, it could be a short turn
  • Maintain a consistent speed when leading
  • Don't cross wheels - stay behind the person you are following, do not cross wheels. If the bunch is two abreast, you should also be parallel to the person next to you.

  • The ride: 160km Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge

    As you can see from my results (top,right) I have found some variability in three times around the lake so far. The ride starts with a lot of climbing. As you will see from the height profile below, aside from the famed Hatepe at 130km, all the climbing is over by 90km mark. The first 50km of climbing determines the fate of whom you will be riding with, and the speed of the bunches for the last 100km. To do a good time it is important to start well! There is an oxymoron between the need to start quick, and the need to not blow out on these early hills with so much riding yet to come. The goal is of course, to finish and finish well, and not to send yourself into cardiac arrest. In general, after waiting in the starting area, your fellow event entrants start quickly and settle down at about the 40km mark. You really want to stay with people riding the same speed as you, so you need to start hard too, but don't over do it. Learning your own limits will present a good challenge.

    The hills ensure that the bunches break up a fair bit on the climbs. You need to keep an eye ahead, and be careful that riders in front of you don't let the bunch you want to be in get away!! It is usually best to try and be in the front third of the bunch so that this does not happen to you.

    In the section from Turangi to the base of the Hatepe hill there is much time to be made if you can be riding in a bunch that is sharing the load. A bunch here (and a little more fitness) saw my 2007 time being a sharp improvement on 2006 and 2008.

    The famed Hatepe will usually split the bunches completely. Its infamy is more related to the 130km you have already ridden, rather than the difficulty that this climb would present in isolation. There are usually plenty of spectators on the hill providing plenty of motivation to keep going.

    I have never found myself in a bunch for the last 20km to the finish in Taupo. Hatepe hill is a great separator and from there it is often riding by yourself, or in sporadic clumps of 2-8 riders. This may well be different for those that are strong enough finish an hour in front of me.

    Friday, 26 June 2009

    Invite: Moonlight Southern Crossing - Take II

    Hi All,

    Fingers crossed for snow on tops and then good clear skies. I'm gearing up for another attempt at a Moonlight Southern Crossing. Looking for a good weather window for one of the nights between 4-8 July.

    Moon Rise/Set   Illumination%:
    July 3:1:41pm/3:37am85.8% @ 9:11pm
    July 4:2:22pm/4:47am92.1% @ 10:02pm
    July 5:3:10pm/5:44am96.6% @ 10:53pm
    July 6:4:03pm/6:36am99.2% @ 11:44pm
    July 7:4:59pm/7:21amFULL from 9:22pm
    July 8:5:58pm/8:00am100% @ 12:33am
    July 9:6:57pm/8:34am98.8% @ 1:20am
    July 10:7:56pm/9:03am95.8% @ 2:04am


    Let me know if you're keen. Post a comment, or tweet me.

    Would aim to leave Otaki Forks toward Field Hut, at about 3pm on a clear day between 4-8 July.


    Tuesday, 23 June 2009

    New thoughts on cycle lanes

    Following some (car) road trips outside of town this year (to cycle events of course :)). I find myself of the growing opinion that we need slow vehicle (or vulnerable vehicle lanes), not cycle lanes.

    We're all special, but that is because we are people. Not because we are cyclists.

    As a motorist myself, I do not understand why so many motorists will stop for a dog, or a sheep but if its a human they think "mow 'em down".

    This seems to apply equally campervans, mopeds and farm tractors etc as much as cyclists.

    It seems that the more cycle lanes there are, the more it seems to support the incorrect motorist notion that cyclists do belong on the road (ever) - even where no such facilities exist. No amount of Cycle Lane infrastructure will fix the underlying of problem of the inequality and disrespect of being treated as 2nd class, facing daily assassination attempts and underlying attitudes of motorists that cyclists do not belong there.

    Not to forget that existing cycle lanes have a nasty, and dangerous habit of ending when you need them. The most dangerous part is at the intersections, or narrow corners where the cycle lanes typically abruptly terminate (e.g. the Petone round-about in Wellington).

    A better example in Wellington is the ~1m gap behind the new traffic island from Evans Bay Parade, turning left into Cobham drive. Its not even a cycle-lane on either side but it nicely gets you through the intersection, away from traffic and into the shoulder of the busy road. Brilliant. Thankyou WCC :).

    Instead of long cycle ways, fix the really dangerous part - intersections by adding enhanced features at intersections for vulnerable road-users (like cyclists).

    How about replacing passing lanes with slow vehicle lanes?

    Motorists need to know that cyclists and other slow or vulnerable vehicles do not like having faster moving vehicles behind them, as much as motorists may not like having cyclists or slower vehicles in front of them. How about, some reverse psychology so that motorists have a higher assurance that a slow vehicle will let them past as soon as the opportunity presents itself, rather than the existing motorist assumption of birthright to pass slow moving vehicles regardless of dangers presented by on-coming traffic, blind corners, crests of hills etc.

    Anyway, that is my rant for the evening. Any thoughts?


    Sunday, 21 June 2009

    Sunday Ride: Round the Bays (Mt Crawford), Wilton, Khandallah

    Ride Data:
    Distance:51.79km2475 Calories
    Elevation:Ascent: 758mDescent: 752m
    Ride Data:Garmin Connect PlayerMapMyRide
    Location:Wellington, NZ21 June 2009

    This morning, I broke with my solo training traditions and for the first time, went for a group ride with the Onslow Tarbabies. The Onslow Tarbabies are a road-cycling group based in Wellington which focus on fitness and riding technique rather than super-competitive racing.

    I signed up to their Yahoo group which then started sending me e-mails about their rides. On Friday morning, I received the details of the weekend's ride.

    Hi People
    I am down to lead the ride Sunday. Plan is around the Bays option Makara. Route plan is set out below for your information. Forecast look ok'ish possibility of some minor rain.
    If you are new to the Tarbabies please stick with a Red and green jersey and learn the Tarbabies ethos, please.
    See you Sunday (if its not pouring with rain).


    City & the Bays, OPTION Makara
    ... followed by detailed route description ...

    Thats easy enough. Just turn up. Oh, and make sure my alarm is set for the earlier than usual start. I woke in a brief moment of panic as I checked my tyre that had tyre for cuts after being punctured in the dark the previous night. And, still plenty of air in the tube - yay :). Raced through the supermarket for a couple of snacks on the way, before heading back to the starting location in Khandallah. I listened to the obligatory safety briefing and raised my hand when asked if anyone was along for the first time. The group leader (Gary) introduced hiimself and the group was split into fast, medium and slow bunches. As my first time I naturally opted for the slow bunch. There was also a first-timers rule that we do not have to lead the bunches until they see how the group works. I presume this is to make sure that the emphasis is on keeping the bunch together and having fun, rather than pushing the bunch or shooting out in a breakaway. This of course suited me fine as we set off into a stiff ~45km/h southerly and I would get to hide in the bunch for the entire ride. Excellent :).

    The pace in this group was generally what I would probably describe as a good recovery or intro pace, depending whether you are new to road cycling or not. I understand that often they have Fast, Medium, Slow and Development bunches - with the latter catering for people new to cycling or, training for their first ride around Lake Taupo. What I really noticed how much effort I put in when hill climbing in a group compared to when riding solo. I think when riding by yourself you may not realise how gentle you can be on yourself in such situations. On the way up Mt Crawford, the first significant climb of the ride I saw my heart rate shoot for the sky.

    I was pleased to have a chance to catch my breath at the top of Mt Crawford while the whole bunch completed the climb. One down, two ~150m climbs to come. A steep descent into Worser Bay, around to Seatoun and through the Pass of Branda. As we went through Branda we were greeting by a wall of wind from the southerly directly off Cook Strait. But, it was a marvelous view down to the snow capped mountains of the Kaikoura Ranges in the South Island. Tempting to get my tramping boots and head for the hills!

    On our way toward to Lyall Bay we lost two members of our bunch, seeking repairs to one bike after its front wheel briefly jammed in a drain gate. This resulted in a broken spoke and thankfully no crashes. Only a bruised wallets, not bodies.

    In the camaraderie of riding in a bunch, rather than solo it seemed to take no time to get around to Owhiro Bay and the steady climb up to Brooklyn, a quick descent down Owhiro Road before the slightly more demanding climb up Raroa Road. Pretty soon we found our way to the Monteith's Pub in Khandallah for coffee. Well, not all of us. I resisted my coffee addiction and with a hot chocolate. 9 days since coffee and counting!

    Had a great time riding in the group. See you all again soon :).

    Saturday, 20 June 2009

    Increasing cadence from "grinding" to "spinning"

    As a solo weekend warrior cyclist, I rely on blogs and books for my training tips. The consensus seems to be that an ideal cadence for a "weekend warrior" should be 92-95 pedal revolutions per minute. Growing up carrying weight on bicycles as a paperboy, then as a postie I was very much a grinder. When I first used a cadence meter, the Cateye Strada showed me pedaling with a cadence of a mere 72-75 revolutions per minute. Ever since, I have been trying to increase my cadence. Once a higher cadence rate is natural, try and match that with the few remaining remnants of strength from my past life. i.e. Before I graduated from University and into the desk and chair complete with self-contained air-conditioned box.

    For surely,
    Strength + Cadence = Power -->> more speed (yay)

    In October last year, the information addicted boy that I am, I invested in a Garmin Edge 705 fitness GPS. Now I have all the data that I could hope to analyse :). Well, not quite - I don't have a power meter. But then these difficult economic times are not the time for a second mortgage to make such an investment. Now comparing cadence of recent ride data with my first few rides with the Garmin Edge 705:

    Sample of average ride cadences:
    • November 2008:
      • 81/minute
      • 80/minute
      • 76/minute

    • May/June 2009:
      • 90/minute
      • 88/minute
      • 92/minute
      • 90/minute

    No doubt there, that I am now in the "spinning" zone (85-120/minute). In theory, this is supposed to mean less muscle fatigue (yay) and improved blood flow =
    faster recovery.
    The unanswered questions remain:
    1. Will I actually be faster riding with a more orthodoxed cadence rate?
    2. Am I mixing any strength with my new found higher cadence rate, for surely:
      Cadence + Nothing = Cadence -->> not necessarily more speed (boo)

    In Wellington right now, we are in the depths of a very Antarctic feeling winter. With no light before or after work, riding in the dark does not suit just comparing times with summer. Not to for get windy Wellingtons famous resistance training.

    My desire for more speed also means I need to ride with people faster than me to ensure that I challenge myself to get quicker and quicker. To this end, I am going to stop training exclusively by myself and join the Onslow Tarbabies on the Sunday morning rides. Yes, riding group, means no more 10am, or afternoon starts. Yes, I hear you chuckling at the thought of wintery morning starts from me- but you're the same people that are in disbelief at my entire week and counting without coffee.

    P.S. I have finally caught up on cycling event blogs for the past season :). I have backdated some of the posts to when they actually happened, rather than when they were posted :>.

    P.P.S. Four years of tramping trips yet to be mapped and posted. This will take a while...

    Saturday, 6 June 2009

    Tararua Forest Park: Kime by Moonlight

    From Kime by Moonlight

    With the full moon visible in the clear blue afternoon sky, snow on the top of the Tararuas I left work early. Could I finally get over the Southern Crossing under the moon? For so long I had waited for the full moon, clear skies and snow all at once. I had to make the most of the opportunity.

    I packed my things together and headed for Otaki Forks. As I departed over the new Waiotauru footbridge I was on my way. I almost felt disorientated as I walked along the track "improvements" and past the digger used in their construction. I had been over this track tens of times before but, it now seems as wide than the Otaki Gorge Road that leads here.

    There were no concerns about freezing on this windless evening, and wearing a layer too many of polypro I was soon sweating my way up to Field Hut. The carnage and tree falls from the previous time I was here has been cleared from the track, but the remaining patches of thin tree canopy from that storm were notable.

    After a short break at Field Hut the ascent continued. I was soon on Table Top under the full moon and mostly clear sky. I was still hopeful of finding some snow as up to this point it has been noticeably absent. Approaching Dennan, I was finally into the snowline at about 1200m. I was having a great time in the snow under the moon. It was awesome. In the excitement and heavy snow I managed to via away from the established track, with, like my politics a slight left-hand bias. After a brief right-hand correction I was back on the established track and found the ice covered waratah posts marking the route.

    While approaching Bridge Peak, the clag was thickening and by the time I reached Kime Hut, the moon was barely penetrating through the clag. I stopped at Kime Hut for a brew, optimistically hoping the clag would clear, before ascending Mt Hector.

    With the tap frozen I was boiling snow, which was relatively rapid as I was only cooking for one. In larger groups I have found this much more time consuming in the past. After drinking my tea, the clag was even thicker so it was to be here that I would hunker down for the night.

    Wellington trampers often refer to Kime Hut affectionately as "The Fridge". Many claim it is warmer outside the hut than inside it.

    Arriving here in the middle of the night, surrounded by snow and with myself as sole occupant it seemed a good time to test this theory. Keeping my Casio Protrek watch away from my own body heat so as to accurately use its thermometer function. It is not warm inside Kime Hut, however, it is about one degree warmer than outside.

    Outside 2:30am: -0.8 C
    Inside 2:40am: 0.4 C
    Outside: 9:30am: 0.8 C
    Inside: 9:40am: 1.6 C

    When departing on Saturday morning, there was virtually no visibility so I was sure to take a compass bearing before heading back down to Otaki Forks. In fact, it was darker than much of the time I had traveled under the moon the night before.

    While I did not get across the whole Southern Crossing as I intended, I sure had a great time in the snowy winter wonderland. Try again, during the full moon next month?
    Date:5-6 June 2009
    Intended Route:Southern Crossing via Field Track; Southern Crossing; Marchant Ridge
    Actual Route:Otaki Forks to Kime Hut via Field Track & part of Southern Crossing
    Time taken:22km/8:59
    Otaki Forks to Field Hut5.9km/2:18
    Field Hut to Kime Hut I was sloooow5.2km/2:52
    Kime Hut to Field Hut5km/1:57
    Field Hut to Otaki Forks5.9km/1:51
    Total ascent:2,470m
    Total descent:2,384m
    Maximum altitude:1,444m

    You can find more detail at Garmin Connect.

    Monday, 1 June 2009

    It's going to be a long road back to beating the PBs!

    June already, I now have 28 days until the half-marathon I entered a few months ago. I entered with a view of improving fitness and cardio to help achieve some cycling PB's heading into the spring and summer cycling events.

    Training has been limited to non-existent. It is about 9 years since I last ran this distance. At the moment I have had the odd encourage training run, but really it has been mostly disappointingly slow "jogging". Its going to have be a good effort to get up to speed for this one. Due to my current slothful unfitness I am simply aiming to finish without stopping or walking in under two hours.

    So, what do I do over a long weekend while lamenting on my lack of fitness? Well, not much in the miserable gales and hailstorms. Just sitting back and updating my blog of course :). It should be much prettier and more readable now. Thanks to the folks at because editing and manipulating CSS certainly is not my forte.
    I've also added in my Twitter and Garmin Connect feeds for small updates when I am too lazy to write a full blog entry - which happens to be quite often.