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TA Countdown 10: Committed But Not Insane

01 November 2021

You've succumbed to the hype and signed up for the Tour Aotearoa. Sensational. Significant preparation and training lies ahead. A lot of it is fun, some of it less so.

Three Not-So Wise Men and a Really Fast Woman

We've blackmailed four Tour Aotearoa veterans to share their wisdom for the benefit of the rest of us. Ground Effect Revolutionaries Ollie Whalley, Anja McDonald and Tristan Rawlence have all completed the TA in the 10 day minimum. Ground Effect's Impresario of Production, Scott G. Emmens III, organises the Kiwi Brevet and completed the inaugural TA in 16 days. Not only are they vastly experienced bikepackers, but also analytical types who love the intellectual challenge of preparing and planning for big events.

Ollie, Anja, Tristan and Scott.

Topics of Note

'Your' TA may be as fast as 10 days, as luxurious as the thirty day maximum, or anything in between. Whatever your approach and fitness, with 3000km to tick off, you're likely to be pushing yourself to your physical limits. Over the next few months we'll cover various topics to help prepare your bike and body for the challenge - including bike choice, setup and maintenance, gear, clothing, navigation, training and nutrition.

Camping Strategies

One of the early critical decisions to ponder is how and where you will sleep and eat. There are three broad approaches, with a myriad of hybrid options in-between.

  1. Light, fast and flexible - sleeping whenever and wherever you run out of puff. Lightweight tents, bivy bags or public structures for improvised shelter. Hot meals in cafés and takeaway joints. Cold food around camp.
  2. Skipping from town to town in pre-booked motels or backpackers. This reduces your camping gear requirements but also your options - often forcing you to stop earlier in the day than you otherwise would.
  3. Full touring mode with tent, cooker and cookware. More gear but maximum flexibility, comfort (good for recovery) and good times enjoying some epic camping spots.

Your chosen approach will impact on a number of decisions down the track, especially your required gear.

Photo: Sven Martin
Time and $

From the rose-tinted now to your ebullient arrival in Bluff you'll invest significant time (often of the solo variety) researching bikes and equipment, configuring and tweaking your setup, and completing increasingly longer and more frequent training rides. You'll also inevitably spend some serious dosh on one of more of: a new bike; bike fit; bike baggage; clothing; camping kit; and electronics. Some purchases are mandatory, others indulgent with the near-carnal pleasure of marvelling at a thing-well-made before fitting it to your bike or body.

During the TA you'll burn a lot of energy and refuel with an unimaginable volume of food. Not all of it pretty, the daily tab quickly balloons to $100 or more - often on pies, fries and hamburgers.

Wear 'n' Tear

The intensity and duration of both the TA and your training is hard on gear. A lot of stuff will wear out.

  • You'll rip through a set of tyres, brake pads and drive train before you hit the start line, and another lot during the event.
  • The health of your bum is paramount, and therefore your choice of saddle and padded short. Your shorts should be worn in, but not worn out when you line up in Cape Reinga. Depending on the weather and surface conditions, after 3000km of grit, grim and 'average' washing they could be at, or close to retirement on the finish line.
  • Likewise your rainwear is likely to have expired if it's a tough winter's training and a wet TA.

    The froth leading into the TA is highly addictive. As is the event. Many riders hit Bluff lamenting the end of the simple, satisfying TA days revolving around nothing more complicated than pedalling your bike and having a grand time.

    Photo: Digby Shaw

    Next time: Philosophically Speaking