I would like to start by thanking both Howard Entman, and Mike Kneebone of the IBA for their support through this process and their virtually unending patience with me. 🙂 – Also to Julian Boyd for his amazing die hard efforts in helping us to get these rides proven. – Thank you.
About two months ago, I started working with Howard Entman from the IBA on developing up a series of New Zealand based rides, suitable for formal approval by the IBA as new standard ‘theme rides’. If the IBA believe that there might be enough interest in a ride, then they might from time to time decide to list it as a formal ride, with rules, for other riders to undertake.
For quite some time now, there have been ‘Lap of…’ rides in the USA which are state by state based rides, commonly of a minimum of 1000 miles, with corner spots specified. How you get between the points is up to you, and if you want to extend your ride to a ‘higher than SaddleSore’ level, then you can add whatever you want in there, in the middle… The route which each rider takes is usually up to them to determine and plan.
More recently additional effort has been focussed on generating a slightly tougher version of these rides, which have been called ‘Ride Around ….’ rides. While these are similar to the Lap of rides, these ones have a more prescribed route, designed to get riders to trace the periphery of the state border, without leaving the state. These tend to be reasonably specific lengths (a minimum of xxxx miles, within yy hours). The time allowances can vary depending on the state’s route’s length. Some states are nicely just over 1000 miles, others are closer to 1500, the biggest are even longer, the RAT (Ride Around Texas) is over 3,100 miles and has 18 mandatory checkpoints. These also can at times require the use of SpotWalla – to ease verification.
This is what piqued by interest. I could see these types of rides being applied here to New Zealand. With only so many highways here, it seemed that a Ride Around type of ride might be suitable for both the North, and South Islands, and that if someone completed both, we might be able to provide them with a series award covering the two achieved rides. So we started route planning and checking into the potential details.
The Ride Around routes are generally set to take the closest route to the periphery of the riding area possible, supported by a minimum standard of roads. In some cases, where there might be a highway jutting out to a port, or an extreme coastal point, which leads only to that point, it is included in the route. The aim of a Ride Around ride is to visit all of the extremities of the riding area using that roading network.
In New Zealand, this translates to two routes, ~3,300+ km in the North Island and ~3,000+ km in the South Island. We would need 14 North Island checkpoints and 11 South Island checkpoints, to force sufficient compliance without making the route overly prescriptive or impossible to follow.
By describing the route’s requirements using checkpoints, it saves on the level of detail required in specifications, and simplifies the job of compliance for riders. The question of ‘what if the rider didn’t do this… – would they fail?’ Kept coming up, and I quickly understood that setting appropriate checkpoints so that you largely force compliance of the routing elements which you really want, is both the simplest way to describe the ride, and also for riders to ride it.
So I set about route planning. – Basecamp and google maps are my friends. I set, and refined the routes, being a perfectionist in terms of finding all of the State Highway options which extended out to the extremities, then trying to work out which ones of these were significant enough to include, and which were small, insignificant and just too little to worry about.
Something I was repeatedly told by Howard was that ‘it’s not a ride, unless someone’s ridden it’, and ‘this is all very well and good, but if you’ve not gotten out there and proven that it is possible to do it, then it’s just an idea, and not a ride’… – It was clear that if I wanted to progress this for NZ, so that we had something, some stake in the game, then I would need to man up, and get on with it and do it…
And then, one weekend, Julian popped in at home on the weekend unexpectedly. The timing was excellent. Until this point I’d really only been chewing through these ideas in my own head and working out some details in basecamp… I should mention for those who don’t know me or Julian, I live on the North Island, he lives in the South Island, so the idea of Julian popping in, reasonably unannounced was not something I was expecting. This was an excellent opportunity to draft someone as crazy as me into these plans, I could try to knock off the North Island proofing ride, he could attempt the South… This was the 6th December.
Julian is a true nutter, it turned out he had come up to the Far North to join in with a group’s yearly organised bike ride, just a reasonably informal yearly ride. He’s also the first person to decide to string the two NZDR North Island rides together at last year’s 2020 NI event, and by joining the 1600km and 800km rides, and doing a tiny little bit more in the way of KMs, it was enough for him to claim a Bun Burner (1500mile / 2413.5km) certificate. – He may have set a new benchmark and precedent with that effort. It remains to be seen what the NZDR organising group will opt to do this year wrt to these extended rides at their event. – Anyway the point is, Julian is the right kind of crazy, and also perfectly capable of picking up the challenge, and he really didn’t take any talking into this, he was so keen to help with the proofing ride.
We each independently set about planning when we might get chance to try these rides. Julian went first, as he had planned to do a set of ‘Summer Solstice’ rides on the 21st December 2020. This fitted in well since he needed a SS and BB ride, both of which are potentially nestable rides within a SS3000K certificate. Until these rides were proven, we had to aim for some other, standard type of ride. The SS3000K was a great candidate ride to setup as a target, both in terms of minimum distances, and target timeframes. This ride type provides up to 48hrs to complete at least 3000+km, a basic metric which could be applied to both of our rides.
You might have seen what happened to Julian’s first attempt? He went from Christchurch to Picton, stopped for his first checkpoint and punctured. He made it from there over to Nelson with some help, but that ended that attempt, it also put a hole in Julian’s Four Seasons’ run of rides, and means it’ll be at least next Summer before he can knock that series off. The weather had turned foul overnight anyway, so he would likely have struggled down the West Coast.
Next off the block was Julian again, he had heard of the Polar Bear certificate (ridden on the 1st January) and wanted to gain that one too, so this was another reasonable opportunity for him to give this another go. Unfortunately, with both of these attempts, he was doing these rides based on the dates of specific ride certificates, and was unable to base his ride’s timing on weather etc as a result. This ride attempt went much better, he went and went and just kept going… This was the second of his anti-clockwise attempts, he made it all the way up and around the North and Western sides of the South Island, then around the Southern side. He picked up his final checkpoint on Port Chalmers (out from Dunedin), and all he had to do was ride home to Christchurch from Dunedin. He had plenty of time to do it. But the weather had been so severe and rubbish that bridges were washed out / closed in various parts North, and inland from Dunedin.
Julian’s route North, up SH1 was shut. He called me to say that it was all over, and with enough time to spare, and only 160km left in order to complete a SS3000K, I sent him inland towards Alexandra to pick up the required distance in order for that ride not to be a total loss. He picked up a Polar Bear, and his SS3000K ride, but no Bun Burner on this one. Our ride rules were being formed still, they were in draft form, we could have amended them and made it purely based on distance, checkpoints and time… But, we had also said that you could start wherever you like along the loop, but that you must finish at that same spot. – So on that one technicality, Julian had failed to pick up his Ride Around the Bottom Paddock. – It was Julian himself that decided that it would be wrong to award it to him, and he resolved to set about planning another attempt once he had fitted a new set of tyres on his bike.
In the holiday period, I had my first, and likely only convenient chance, to try out for a Ride Around the Top Paddock. I had a flexible second week of holiday which I had been indicating I might take off work, weather dependant. Well, there were two days at the early part of that week which looked like they were really good; so I made a plan to aim for the Tuesday 5th – Wednesday 6th January. This was also potentially great timing as a lot of people who were away on holiday may have already made their trip back to work, or, if they were staying out, would still be out, and not moving around too much on those days. So, based on two of the elements which I felt I’d need to try to be aware of and manage as best as possible, weather and traffic, this seemed like a good window for me to aim for.
I did all of my relevant prep, got good sleep on the run up to my attempt, slept well the night before and headed out on the 5th… There’s a heap of detail about the ride itself and also about the prep for this, which I’ll save for a ride report. The highly shortened version is that things went very well throughout, and I managed to complete 3,367km in 46.5hrs, a 72.6 km/h overall average. I had completed the proofing ride for the Ride Around the Top Paddock. – We had the start of our rides! 🙂
I had already documented all of the checkpoints for my own use, and the South Island ones for Julian’s so the start of the formal IBA ride document had already begun to take shape. Working with Howard on the finer details as we published the Ride Around the Top Paddock ride document, we agreed upon 50 hours for the upper time limit on the North Island Ride, requiring a 67 km/h overall average. We would wait until Julian had finished the South Island proof before firming up the timing for that one. Howard had been super supportive over the creation, refinement and pointers for these documents the first one was ready to go and he helped to get it up online on the ironbutt.com site: https://www.ironbutt.com/themerides/nz/ratp/
As many details as possible of what we were doing were shared online, but clearly with the view that there is no ride until it’s been proven, and until the IBA had formally accepted these as new theme rides, we could’t be entirely open and transparent about it. – Not yet at least. Howard had helped to get the first page published during third Julian’s ride attempt, so I was able to post a parallel post in Facebook talking about the Ride Around the Top Paddock ride.
This time, Julian nailed it, last week leaving at 11pm on Thursday 14th January, and headed clockwise, Southbound from Christchurch first. He very sensibly picked up the local Lyttelton and Akaroa checkpoints first, before heading south, which meant his return back in at the end of the ride was a much nicer and simpler ride into the finishing fuel stop. Julian has a heap of stories and details of his various ride attempts which he is best telling, so again we’ll save that for his ride report(s).
On Saturday evening at around 7:30pm we had our second of the two rides completed. Julian had finished his 3,048km ride in 44.5 hrs a 68.7 km/h overall average speed. It felt right to us to recommend that we kept the time period available for this ride set to 48 hrs – requiring a 63.5 km/h average since there are a number of significant road based timing challenges which could impact a successful attempt, such as Takaka Hill, Kaikoura and the Homer Tunnel.
The documentation for the Ride Around the Bottom Paddock was completed on Sunday and are published here: https://www.ironbutt.com/themerides/nz/rabp/ – Shortly after Howard was good enough to publish these formally as part of ‘the big list’ – so they’ve now formally made it to the IBA’s formal index of rides. 🙂 – https://www.ironbutt.com/themerides/ – So, New Zealand is now, formally and properly on the IBA world map! 🙂
So, a while ago, in November, I started to design some certificate headers, and we had also been working with Mike Kneebone over some specially watermarked paper options for NZ certificates. Something special which we would reserve for our premier level of ride certificates (these rides)… We had a few things to work through but today the certificates have been approved for use, and we’re so very pleased and highly proud of these… Below are screen grabs of our two certificates:
So there we go, today is a very special day, a couple of month’s worth of planning, preparing, riding, designing, documenting and delivering on NZ’s first, formally recognised IBA ride series. We have a series certificate designed for those special riders who manage to finish both of these, it’s called ‘Checking the Boundary Fences’ and brings both of our Islands back together on one very special certificate, one which we hope will become a pinnacle ride for NZ’s long distance riders to aim for, and perhaps something which might draw interest from riders from overseas too (once the borders reopen).
There’s now some good, but very friendly rivalry starting over who is going to be the first to manage to achieve the series certificate. – Watch this space. 🙂
As a footnote: these rides are not for everyone, nor will everyone who attempt them, succeed. These are long endurance rides which take conditioning and experience to be capable of attempting and executing them safely. – The IBA is devoted to the sport of safe, long distance motorcycle riding. Read more on their website.
Both Julian and I had done a reasonable number of verified rides before we attempted these rides. We’d both tell you, without any doubt, that previous experience was critical for us. Here’s a link to my ‘verified rides‘ history.
Every rider must always ride within their own personal limits, and to know where those limits are, they must be explored incrementally.
There are plenty of online resources introducing long distance riding, and techniques to make these rides as safe as possible.
If this appeals to you, but if you’re not already an experienced LD rider, then don’t aim for this as a starter. – Get involved in the organised events and work up to this, (see this as a longer term goal for now). Or, split this up into smaller rides for now, and do it as a touring route. 🙂
- Ironbutt.com – The main site for the Iron Butt Association.
- New Zealand Distance Riders – organisers of the main North Island, yearly LD riding events.
- TT2000.org – The annual TT2000 event, another fantastic event – entries close at the end of January.
- https://www.ironbutt.com/themerides/nz/ratp/ – Ride Around the Top Paddock
- https://www.ironbutt.com/themerides/nz/rabp/ – Ride Around the Bottom Paddock