The chances of getting lost on the TA are pretty remote, but it is easy to miss a critical turn off and find yourself off route. The other navigational challenge is monitoring your position and progress with respect to your next provisioning or overnight stop. It's important to know where you are, so here are a few tips from those that have been lost before.
Your choice of navigational aids will depend on your budget and technical nous. Most will opt for a smart phone and handlebar holder with suitable mapping app. Or you may prefer a dedicated GPS unit. GPX files of the route are available for both phone and GPS at the TA website.
You’ll require some printed material as a backup should your phone and/or GPS go flat or grumpy on you. Anja printed and laminated tiny elevation plots and even tinnier 6pt font cue cards. Scott printed the cue sheets and elevation profiles on waterproof paper. Ollie created and printed a spreadsheet with distances between towns, estimated times, supply options and shop opening hours. Tristan carried copies of the Kennett Bro's North Island and South Island ‘Tour Aotearoa Official Guides’ - kept easily accessible for quick reference. Worth their weight, and then some.
A hard-wired cycle computer, preferably with an A and B trip function, is useful to measure distances between known points on the cue sheets, and to measure any deviations from the route. GPS units don’t typically have this function, only total distance since the last 'clear all'.
All good stuff for a smooth trip.
Your phone, GPS and lights all require juice. A dynamo hub is a great solution, but expensive and requires some technical smarts to sort out hub-device compatibility. Most riders will carry a cache battery to for USB recharging. Alternatively you can select GPS units and lights that use AA batteries - easy to buy anywhere. MintyBoost is a cute solution that uses AA batteries to charge USB devices. To extend battery life use the low power mode on your phone and the 'screen off’ mode on your GPS.
Whatever your solution test all the components in anger before the actual event. And learn, or practise, how to read a topographic map.
It’s a long trip - the few hours lost from a missed ferry crossing, an ill-timed headwind on 90 Mile Beach or chasing down replacement cycling shoes for those stolen outside your motel room (Ollie)… are quickly swallowed and diluted by the overall trip. Best not to burn too much nervous energy trying to claw back the time immediately.
Watch and read the weather. Possibly the most useful tool is the 5 day-6 hourly forecast charts at metvuw.com. It takes some basic skills to interpret, but generally paints a more accurate mid to long range picture than the traditional sources.
Extreme weather is both miserable and potentially life threatening. A severe forecast may cause you to accelerate your progress to get ahead of a front; wait it out for a night or even an entire day; or modify your route to avoid being caught away from civilisation and shelter if the barometer plummets. Some riders wisely opted to avoid the Bridge to Nowhere in the 2018 edition as the weather bomb hit. After all, it's not a race.
Less dramatically, today’s headwind can easily flick to a tailwind the next morning - transforming what might have been soulless slog into an early night in the scratcher and a mellow start to the next day.