The brain child of the late Mike Hyde (of Twisting Throttle fame), the TT aims to see riders cover 2000+km in 48hrs visiting various checkpoints along the way. I’d completed the ride several times in the past, on my V-Strom 650, but had a strange desire to try it on a smaller bike. The planets seemed to align for this years ride – a late start due to other commitments meant I would ride alone (no friends anyway so what the heck), a good weather forecast, and coming just the week after the Dusty Butt where the GN exceeded all my expectations, it was surely just meant to be..?
Here's the planned route;
So I arrived for the midday start at the Yaldhurst Tavern in Christchurch to pick up my T-shirt then off to attend to other matters before finally setting sail from Ashburton at 6.30pm Friday evening. I’d decided to ride my route clockwise (opposite to our planned route which goes anticlockwise) so headed south on SH1 before detouring around Geraldine (bridge out due to Cyclone Gita) and to my first stop at Pukaki Power Station. There it was out with the T-shirt, a quick photo and off again. This became the pattern for the night, Blackforest, followed by Danseys Pass, on to Otago Peninsular and down to the Teapot house in Owaka. By this time (4am) I was getting a little jaded so had a quick lie down on a bench only to be disturbed 5 minutes later by a couple on a Suzie Boulevard also doing the ride. Ah well, might as well carry on then. So up towards Cromwell I went passing through the spectacular Teviot Valley, it was dark but I imagined it anyway. And boy was it cold, a thick mist had settled in the valley bottoms, almost rain at times, I shivered and endured. By the time I’d reached Alexandra the sun was up so things improved as I headed towards my next stop at the north end of the Nevis Road. Coffee and a sultana muffin in Cromwell improved my spirits no end, all served by a very nice Scottish wench who had I been a couple of decades younger… Anyway, stop dreaming, on with the ride. Next stop was part way down Skippers Canyon road (you have to go there) then a quick blast to the top of Coronet Peak ski area followed by a trip into Arrowtown. Arrowtown was full of tourists and people of bicycles (can’t they afford motorbikes?) so I didn’t hang around, instead tackling the Crown Range (highest sealed Pass in NZ) with the intention of stopping for a bit at Cardrona. Bugger me, when I got there I found at least ten thousand people photographing the pub, wandering around in the middle of the road and generally be a nuisance to a Man on a Mission. After dodging several rickshaws I headed off towards Wanaka shaking my head and wondering what the world was coming to. Wanaka was super nice ‘cause as I rode in who should I spot but Trev and Nicki, my riding companions doing the route anticlockwise (so they didn’t have to ride with me?) pies and coffee all round it was.
After refueling it was over the Haast and then a truly glorious ride up the West Coast, the sun was over my left shoulder, a slight tail wind, lovely warm weather, bliss. It was here the GN really showed her class by claiming her first victim of the ride, an Apex Rentals Nissan Tilda which the GN swept past in true ‘built in China’ style. It was slightly downhill but I’m pretty sure I saw 86km/hr on the clock, although that could have been the vibrations playing tricks... Whatever, I was passed and felt confident enough to take on a second victim a few kms later. This one wasn’t so easy, the driver played cat and mouse with me for quite a while, accelerating down the straights then crawling around the bends. Nevertheless I persevered and was rewarded when he hesitated at a lost photo opportunity near Lake Paringa, I shot by in a flash of red and chrome. It felt good, oh so good. By the time I got to Greymouth the sun had set and the temp was dropping so a good healthy tea of Subway seemed in order. After I’d troughed my feed down it was properly dark, and properly cold, so it was on with the warming waterproofs for the ride to Westport. By now I was pretty tired and found my brain and eyes playing tricks on me, patches on the road turned into possums only to turn back into patches again, waving trees took on the appearance of huge lumps of jelly and I’m sure I saw my Granny touting for business on one of the corners. Time to stop. I found a shop front with a nice warm cosy verandah, lay down and snoozed for a couple of hours. Then it was up, out with the matchsticks and back on the road. I hit Westport at 2am and found it much the same as usual, muffin top females vomiting it the gutters while spotty ‘youfs’ haggled prices at Baz’s Kebabs. And of course the obligatory ‘souped up’ Ford Something GTi roaring up Main Street with blue neon underlighting and no exhaust. One day I’ll go there in daylight hours to see what it’s really like, apparently there is a Deep Sea Processing School which must be worth a visit?.
Next it was on to the war memorial at Waimangaroa where I read the dozen or so names on the plaque and had a somber little thought about the sacrifice they’d made so that I could be doing what I was doing. A touching and sobering moment.
The next part of the ride was the hardest for me, it was dark, I was tired, the road through the Buller Gorge is lovely but at night with a headlight more designed to be seen than to see by meant tough going. On top of that the GPS had a hissy fit at the next checkpoint and seemed insistent on taking me 11km to Murcheson to make a U turn. I ignored it, relying on my increasingly fuzzy brain instead. After nearly missing the checkpoint at Frog Flat I decided to stop at Springs Junction to fuel and eat. What a good idea that was, hot coffee, chocolate and a socks warmed in the hand dryer made a real difference, by the time I jumped back on the bike dawn was approaching and I was ready for anything. So down to Hanmer Springs (knocking off truck and trailer Victim Number Three on the way), up to the start of the Rainbow, a beaut ride through the Leader Road, a quick stop at Random Spur then it was just the ride down SH1 to finish where we’d started 48hrs earlier. I rode into the carpark at 11.45am with 2,152km on the clock and grinning like an idiotic zombie. Wonderful ride.
A few thoughts.
First of all a big ‘thank you’ to Wayne and the team at TT HQ who organize the ride. It’s a big commitment on their part and really appreciated by all who take part, this years record 150 entry is a testament to their efforts. Keep up the good work fellas.
I can’t really fault it. To be honest I didn’t really expect to make it but blow me down the faithful little Suzuki did just that. After running for approx 37hrs at 8 or 9,000rpm not a drop of oil had been used nor a gear change missed, impressive stuff for a small motor. A bit more power would have been good but I’d probably say the same no matter what the ride, the headlight is ok for town riding but not really up to the long distance night time challenges but somehow it got me though. Brakes and suspension? Yes it’s got both of those - just. To tell the truth, after completing the Dusty Butt on the same bike the previous weekend I’m wondering if there’s anything these little bikes can’t do? Fuel consumption was around 3.2ltr/100km and maximum distance I managed between refueling around 250km. I should point out that I've had several anonymous threats to 'unfriend' me via facebook if I continue to ride one so a future as a social media outcast looks likely. Guess I'll just have to keep riding in the opposite direction to everyone else?
For details of the ride and how it enter go to TT2000
Photos of the ride checkpoints below. They won’t win any prizes as they’re just to show I actually went there, hopefully a couple of nice ones mixed in there somewhere.