Summer Solstice Saddle Sore - two up.
Summer Solstice IBA ride, 2019 (Southern Hemisphere).
The IBA have a 'Four Seasons' collection of rides, made up of two solstice rides and two equinox rides, the scientific mid-points of the four seasons. Here in NZ, it's summer during December, and so our Dec 22nd solstice was also our longest day. Out of the four rides, this is probably the best one to choose for your first one as it's likely to be the most pleasant due to the increased daylight hours. It also seemed like a good choice for a first Saddle Sore ride to do with Stella, as pillion.
Stella has been keen to do a Saddle Sore for a while now, and progressively through longer and longer rides, she's felt that she'd struggle to ride one herself, and so pillion seemed to be a good choice for this one. Who knows, one day we might manage to get her to ride it herself, but she's worried about being able to hold her concentration at high enough levels for that length of time.
So, with little preparation and planning (we set about this perhaps a just over a week out from the 22nd) we kept a watchful eye on the weather on the lead up to it and made a last minute call to do it. We had my work's Christmas party on Thursday 20th. It was during the morning of the 21st we finally made the decision to do it.
I'd done a degree of preparation and ride / route planning (all done in basecamp the week before), but the route/time sheets weren't printed out until Friday night, the bike wasn't packed up until 8~9pm... So this would have to have been one of our most casual 1600km in 24hr rides attempted.
Our final day of work was on the Friday 21st, and so we finished a little early which was useful as it meant I could head home and we could get that final prep and packing underway.
The IBA's page outlining the details of the Four Season is here: http://www.ironbutt.com/themerides/fourseasons/ - It says that 'purists' will want to ensure that they are riding at the moment of the solstice, which was Dec, 21st, 22:23 UTC (how freaky are those numbers?) - This translated to 11:23am on the 22nd Dec, here in NZ.
I've edited the placenames and the photos taken around the route into a timelapse of the whole trip, and it's got the timestamp (which for the first time ever is pretty accurately set) imposed into the time-lapse footage by the camera itself... It can be viewed on youtube, here: (I've included some time codes to look for in the write up below).
We headed away from home at 3am, aiming for a timed 3:30am start from our closest petrol station in Waitoki, it's a small GAS station owned by some lovely locals who I spoke to earlier in the week asking if their night pay was reliable and whether it routinely provides receipts properly. Given their assurances, we planned to use them, and thankfully we got there nice and early, I thought I'd get on with things and start a little on the early side, and I'm glad I did because the machine died on me after inserting my credit card... It froze for 3 mins, then went through what looked like a reboot, and never came back to life properly, so we ended up giving up on it and riding another ~8km down the road to Dairy Flat to the next local, 24 hour Caltex station. We knew this would be manned and were, therefore, less likely to have any trouble getting hold of the required receipt.
As we stopped, Stella helped out playing cameraman and remained calm and patient while I was swearing in our helmet comms system... 🙂
Ok, let's try that again, this is our new official starting point at the Caltex. We had a heap of spare kms in the planned route, so I knew that the loss of these few kms wouldn't cause us any grief at the end of the ride.
Our official start receipt: 03:36am @38307.
GPS trip computer was reset at this point.
Stop 1 - Rotorua (North) - Gull station @6:07am
So far so good, we were hoping for a nice daybreak, with a spectacular sunrise, but you can't always get what you want. - We'll settle for hanging out together on the bike and enjoying the ride at this point. 🙂
Stop 2 - Te Ahora, East Cape @
The scenery and the roads around the East Cape are something else. - Check out the ride video (timelapse) and look for the timestamp between 8:00am and 09:30am, they are such awesome roads. We arrived in Te Ahroa at 9:28am having averaged 89km for that last 114km of twisty coastal road. There was hardly any other traffic on the road at all through there.
This was the most remote of our fuel stops, it was a 91 and diesel pump only, but the receipt machine worked perfectly. I did have a backup fuel station within tank range, and we were carrying another 5L fuel can on board, but had hoped not to use it.
This was a perfect spot for a wee break (I mean that in both ways), and was perfectly timed as the cafe directly opposite had just that moment opened up. I grabbed a nice take away coffee and scoffed a pie in record time, so quickly that when Stella had come back from the toilet she was like, 'I thought you were going to have a pie?', I smiled brushing off the smallest of telltale crumbs from my face while enjoying the remainder of my (very hot) coffee. Stel was having fun, the sun was shining, the bike was going well, the butts were doing ok too. 556km in 5:45hrs, we were tracking along well, just a few minutes ahead of time, no rush, no pressure, life is good.
This was also a good place to double check the spot track and make sure everything was running well...
At the moment of the solstice, Stel was good enough to grab her phone out of her pocket while we rode along and snap a few shots at 11:23am.
Stop 3 - Wairoa @12:44
The second half of the East Cape averaged 94km/h which is good, consistent speed going through those roads. 268km on from Te Aroha we stopped for another fill, this was to get us through to our planned lunch stop at Bay View, where the BP has a good selection of food, including some Veggie stuff for Stella. This was a splash and dash fill.
Stop 4 - Bayview @13:58
And here's that lunch stop (a bit late for lunch, I know but... we've got to keep on keeping on...)
We're both still smiling, so it's going well!! 🙂 .. Onwards, over the Gentle Annie next... Again, go and track down this section on the video, it's worth watching how many corners are packed into this next section between Napier and Taihape time code: 14:54hrs - 16:16hrs. (Moving avg of 83.8km over the Gentle Annie).
Stop 5 - Whanganui @17:37
Whanganui was a double stop, first at the Petrol station (BP) to get fuel and a receipt, then on to our good friend's house to see Al, Beks and Calum, although Al wasn't home.
Stop 6 - Pirongia @21:26
We've done the trip home from Whanganui heaps, and so the roads and familiar. They include 'The Paras' which is a twisty set of hilly corners lasting almost 56km, heading north from Whanganui up SH1, we maintained a moving avg of 90.8km through them, still nice smooth quick and steady riding... We had 1219km by the time we had arrived in Whanganui, and so this really was the last section of the ride, heading home and into darkness now... The bums were starting to hurt and we were both happy for a leg stretch and some pain killers by the time we arrived in Pirongia. This was another 24hr fuel stop which I didn't know about until I started planning this route, and it's a few hundred meters away from the SH, so I'd never seen it down the side street either, good to know it's there.
The ride end - BP, Dairy Flat, North Auckland @23:27
My official end receipt photos... @23:30 and 39,977km. (1670km on the ODO)
1690km on the GPS
My bike is running taller than standard profile tyres on the rear, 190/55-17 instead of 190/50-17s - so the ODO and speedo are pretty accurate now, just ever so slightly on the low side, within ~1%.
Still smiling... 🙂 - We had another ~35km to ride to get home... It was just after midnight by the time we were safely back in the garage... Happy and pretty tired, feeling like we'd accomplished a lot and super stoked with such a fun and awesome ride. Stel had a heap of fun too, and we couldn't have possibly hoped for better weather...
Full trip details including the last leg back to home. The GPS had been running the whole way round. 🙂
The next day.... This is what time I woke up and got out of bed (in the afternoon)... 🙂
The ride cerificates