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Published: March 22nd 2018
After reading this story, in the unlikely event that you still want to do the Tour Aotearoa, the Donkey has some random tips for you.
- A mountain bike travels slower than a road bike, much slower.
- Every day takes longer than you think, even if Tailwind is with you.
- Be prepared for Headwind, Rain and Cold. They can arrive at any time on any day, just individually or as a team.
- Consider every nice weather day a bonus
- Plan your trip carefully; seek advice from the website (http://www.touraotearoa.nz/p/home.html
) and tour guide books. Also seek advice from experienced bike packers and mountain bikers but don't believe everything they tell you as they function on a different planet.
- If you are a novice mountain biker and bike packer avoid the grade 4 and 5 mountain bike trails which are the Kaiwhakauka Track on the North Island and the Maungatapu and Waiuta (Big River) Tracks on the South Island. When the guide book says things like ‘this trail is not suitable for heavily laden mountain bikes’ than it means that the trail is not suitable for heavy laden mountain bikes. If you are a moron and still want to do it make sure you are with more experienced riders who know what they are doing and where they are going. Alternative routes are available, be grateful for that, the Donkey was. He has re-named these routes from chicken routes to wise routes to make this alternative choice more appealing.
- Have a plan but be prepared to adjust from day to day. Book accommodation is advance but don’t kill yourself to try and get there if you are having a bad day. It is better to lose the odd deposit. Too bad if you have already paid but in the bigger scheme of doing the Tour it is not important
- The Tour Aotearoa has more hills than you can throw a stick at. Every time you think, surely this will be the last one for the day, there is guaranteed to be at least one more. The only day with hills of no significance is the final day into Bluff, but, as the Southerly is the dominating wind in that part of the country do not be fooled by that.
- Tents or bivy bags are carried by the hard out bike packers and riders with obsessive compulsive disorders who want to cover all eventualities and who want to get as far as they can every day. If you are not sure if to take one have a personality test done and get advice from your psychiatrist. If you do not suffer from any obsessive or anxiety disorders you can safely leave your tent home although if you are such a person it will be very unlikely that you will even consider doing the tour. There are better less arduous ways in which you can see New Zealand.
- One of the best recovery drinks during the day and afterwards is chocolate milk
- Get specialised bike packing bags. They can be attached to the seat, just below the handlebars and in between the triangle of the frame. They are placed so the bike is balanced properly. The Donkey had a bike rack on the front which came crashing down on his front wheel on day three. The bike rack on the back had a heavy bag clipped on top which worked well on the smoother surfaces but bounced up and down a lot on the rough. It is a miracle, or just well-engineered, that it did not break at some stage on the rougher trails.
- The instructions in the course book are generally good to follow but a GPS is handy for when you get lost and when navigating through Auckland. Make sure that you know how a GPS works. For some animals, including donkeys this is not a given. It is good to be multilingual as sometimes the GPS speaks a different language.
- Be nice to other animals, especially donkeys and fish
- Don’t carry a laptop unless you are a donkey
- Some sense of planning and urgency is required if you want to do the route within the required 30 days but try and maintain a sense of harmony and equilibrium and keep obsession at bay, so you can still be mindful of a unique experience, take it in as much as possible. The scenery for example is absolutely awesome
Thanks to the Kenneth brothers, the lions of New Zealand mountain biking, for putting on this epic event with such eye for detail, wisdom and humour.
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