And why I should stick to walking
Every year I go for a bike ride. This annual event seems to always fit somehow into my chaotic summer months which are riddled with a plethora of walks, gardening and road trips. But each summer I dust the cobwebs off my bike—a Torpedo 7 special that is all the wrong things for a bike. For one its not an e bike (yes, I’m sort of lazy) and secondly I bought a mens bike because…sigh…I didn’t want the women’s version that came in some kind of sickening bright red colour. I cut the seat down with a hacksaw and changed the handlebars all in an effort to not appear like a hyperextended girl child riding an adult bike. Consequently its still an uncomfortable bike—clunky and slow, but when it gets pulled out of the garage once a year I can’t really complain. I have a few friends, Kimberlee, Sarah and Bridget that are enthusiastic cyclists and along with my not so enthusiastic partner Jack we set off, spending our first night in some luxury accom in Kinloch.
On day one we tackle the K2K (Kinloch 2 Kinloch) trail riding clockwise. From the lake it’s a decent slog up to our first view point so we collapse on flat rocks overlooking Kawakawa Bay. With a decent 28 degree day we were sweaty and tired (already!). On the way up I had pushed my bike uphill rather than exude any effort on a slow, wobbly cycle—my walking pace is faster. We eat sour worms, tank water and look ahead—one big decent into the bay here we come.
At Kawakawa Bay we find a few campers—colourful tents dotted through the native kanuka and a lovely shelter that we had overlooked in favour for a small peek at the water by the long drop. (Kimberlee’s gagging cough after use preparing me well for a breath holding wee). From Kawakawa Bay the trail meanders along with some less demanding climbs through regenerating bush and wetlands to Orakau car park—our pit stop for lunch which is rudely interrupted by wasps. We give a few half hearted swats before realising we are outnumbered and resort to eating faster. From here the trail runs alongside the road which, while boring, is an enjoyable reprieve—our arses, unfamiliar with being in the saddle have started to complain just in time for our rabble rousing decent back into Kinloch.
On a bumpy, narrow, single track the decent gets steeper, faster and wilder. As I tighten the grip on my handlebars all I can think is, so, this is what they mean by Grade 3. Not being into mountain biking I had overlooked the trail description that I had only read that morning—Grade 3. So what is Grade Three you ask? Well, in hindsight here it is, courtesy of The Department of Conservation website:
Intermediate: Grade 3 … Standard: Steep slopes and/or avoidable obstacles possibly on narrow track and/or with poor traction.
So, perhapsnot for people who dust off their bikes once a year?
At a certain point my arse could take no more and I hovered in my seat. At a bend in the trail I over correct and in slow motion I wobble, slam on the brakes and put my foot down, almost hopping on the spot to correct my balance—no such luck. I was off the trail and on the ground before I knew it. But I was OK. I dust myself off and slowly, cautiously make my way down the remaining decent before the trail levels out to a series of molehills. Up, down, up, down. I eventually give up and walk back into Kinloch with my bike by my side. We were all knackered after day one but make the effort to head into Taupo for a soothing soak at Wairakei Hot Pools in preparation for day two.
Again we start with a gruelling slog from Kinloch on the W2K (Whaikapo Bay 2 Kinloch) this time to the Headland Track Junction where we take a break and decide if we finish the Headland Loop or simply just head to the lookouts and return to Kinloch. Three of us decided on the later with the two most eager and competitive cyclists deciding to smash out the full Headland Loop. We take in both lookouts—one that overlooks Whaikapo Bay and the other that looks back towards Kinloch. The weather is perfect and we see boats enjoying the calm waters of Lake Taupo. Through native bush we return on a fast flowing decent back to town but less than two kilometers from the Kinloch Marina I hit a rut while standing up out of my seat. For some ridiculous reason my reaction to this unforeseen bump is to slam on the brakes. Physics determines the rest of the story. I’m thrown off my bike unceremoniously into the bush. I bounce off my left hand side a tangle of wheels and legs. I smash my thigh against my handlebars as I cartwheel over them. I sit there in a stupor trying to calm down as my whole body fizzes with histamine. I call out, screaming for Jack who was just ahead. But when they don’t answer I send a text in dramatic short hand fashion – Went over handlebars. Cant move.
As the ‘ahs’ and ‘fucks!’ randomly leaving my mouth subside I hear the gentle whirring of an e bike. I look up, over the brow of the rut riddle hill and I see my knight in shining armour. A dog? A terrier? The brakes of the e bike are slammed on as the terrier sees me in distress on the side of the trail. ‘Are you OK?’ It was an e biker with his beloved pooch who has pride of place in a doggie carrier. I don’t know what to say, but this came out, ‘I don’t even know how I got here.’ And the truth was I didn’t. The fall was too fast. The rescue terrier is released from his bike carrier and comes over to give me a lick. How sweet. ‘Here, I’ll get your bike.’ The rider, bless him, starts to pull at the handlebars unbeknown to him that half my lower limbs are still wrapped around the bike. He hears me wince. ‘OK maybe you move first.’ I’m horrified at the thought of moving and so is my thigh once I manage to stand again, hobbling in protest. The ‘ah’s’ start up again. ‘Are you OK? Can you ride?’ The terriers dads asks. The truth was, I was in agony but pride and embarrassment can really get an injured person going. ‘Thanks so much for your help, I’m fine really.’ I pat the dog and mount my bike in halfwitted haphazard fashion. The rider watches me worried. I wheel off shouting my thanks but my left leg is not going to play along. Rigid and stuck in place I wheel down the final stretch and finally, there is my beloved Jack—sweating buckets and running back to meet me. ‘There you are!’. I suddenly remember my dramatic text and immediately feel guilty. ‘I’m OK, its my thigh. It hit the handle bars when I came off.’ We make our way back down and I collapse under a tree as Jack and Sarah go to fetch the car. I wait and look at my bike with distain then back at my thigh which was ballooning and accessorised with angry looking scratches. My chariot arrives and I spend the next 12 hours with ice packs attached to my leg, almost crying everytime I have to squat to use the loo.
Once home I walk with a limp for a week and stairs become my enemy. Kneeling or doing any gardening is out of the question. I watch my thigh go from triple size, to double with an impressively purple and sickly yellow bruise. Six weeks later there’s still a lump under the skin and one of my favourite yoga asanas, Malasana is still off limits. I’ve been diligent with Tutu and kawakawa balms which have made a big difference and with a few trips to the physio the injury is in the nitty gritty stages of recovery. Soft tissue massage, while uncomfortable has made a marked difference.
My bike is back in the garage of course, hanging on its rack and doing what it does best—gathering dust and cobwebs. I think I’ll keep it there.