The 2017 Letter – Just A Little Late

Predictably, the end of the year got busy – organising Christmas surprises is rather more fun and pressing than putting musings of the previous year through the keyboard. After spending most of the year, for various reasons, saying I was not coming home for consecutive Christmases, I got everything lined up and duly arrived in Oamaru for the festive season. Somehow I’d managed to keep the secret, and there was much surprise and many hugs – so much fun, although I don’t imagine I can pull off such a coup again.

Making a surprise visit does make it difficult to plan other activities for the rest of the stay – but it worked out well with lovely time with family, much food and drink and managing to get out bikepacking for a few days over various passes I’d had my eye on for a while – more on that in another post. Biking and traveling at that time of year does give plenty of opportunity to consider the year past and the one to come.

Looking back on 2016’s missive, 2017 did not have such momentous biking or family events – but it was still exceptional and with all sorts of wonderful things going on.

First bikepacking trip was whipping through the Alps2Ocean with Adele in two and a half days – ably supported, and ridden in parts, by Mum and Dad.

Living in Napier continues to be delight me. I enjoyed much time walking, biking and generally exploring the surrounds. With my house within easy walking distance of the city centre and many attractions, there’s never a shortage of places to wander and things to see. I particularly enjoyed my first proper taste of the Art Deco festival – even if it was curtailed a little by unseasonably wet weather.

A big dress-up party for the whole city for days – brilliant fun!

The odd local bikepacking overnighter kept my hand in, as did the occasional sortie on gravel roads out in the hills. There’s still plenty more to explore, many places left to bike. Somehow I ended up competing in the local winter cyclocross series – on my full-suspension mountain bike. It was even muddy. To my surprise, I did enough in the first three races to win the B Grade series (skipping the final race as biking in Rotorua is so much more fun!) – turns out big chunky tyres are useful in such conditions, who knew?

Seven thousand kilometres per year on various bikes seems to be the norm now, achieving that mark for the fourth consecutive year (2016 being bigger with the 3000 km Tour Aotearoa blip); well pleased to be able to spend so much time outside doing one of the things I love most. With the MTB park at work closed for a lot of the year after extensive storm damage, there were many rides up and down Te Mata Peak – always worth it for the ever-changing view. The descents are rather fun too.

If I can see this hill from my house, surely I can see my house from this hill??

I didn’t take a lot of leave from work during the year, preferring to save it for when I really want to take it. But two visits from family were definitely such times. Mum and Dad’s getting-close-to-annual winter visit was the most fun yet – the highlight getting away for a few days to the remote and hilly north-east Manawatu to stay on a big sheep station; the bike ride was pretty cool too. After two years, Adele and James finally visited for early-Christmas (I managed to get through that week without letting slip that I’d see them in less than two weeks) and it was a busy six days of biking, walking, seeing sights, eating, drinking and generally enjoying the company of loved ones.

Beach walks with parents – not so hilly.

I finally made it to Cape Kidnappers. It’s quite a long, flat, hard walk – but the views make up for it on a hot summer’s day.

Continuing to host the occasional cycle tourist through warmshowers, I got inspired early in the year to start hosting AirBnB guests. As well as bringing in a bit of extra money for home maintenance, it’s nice to sometimes have a bit of company in the house – as with the cycle tourists, it’s also great to hear accents from around the globe. Traveling abroad without leaving home in some ways.

I’ve enjoyed slowly learning various home maintenance tasks. AirBnB was very busy early on and helped to fund the major house maintenance and improvements of the year – a large scaffold for me to paint the north wall over two busy weeks and to have the window I’d been thinking about for two years installed. Well pleased with the result, & surprised that I rather enjoyed the painting (I did get to listen to a lot of audiobooks). I just have to wait for winter to see the real effect of the new window.

Yes, it is a house. But it’s in better condition than it was before.

Consistently challenged and inspired towards small steps of self-improvement in a way I didn’t expect made for an interesting year and opens up all sorts of things. The most unexpected was the difference making my diet a lot healthier had on my bikepacking. I signed up to the Mega Grind keen to do 800 km of bikepacking in an area of the North Island that I’d spent little time – despite being so close to where I grew up, and not far from my first job. It certainly delivered in that respect with fantastic North Island hilly terrain, coastal view and gravel roads.

What I was not expecting was the profound difference losing five or so kilograms of unnecessary mass would do to my biking. Previously, I’d been pleased with my ~180 km/day average on the Tour Aotearoa . Suddenly, with no real difference in preparation, bike or gear carried, I finished the event averaging 250 km/day! What in the how? Carrying less mass, and being able to bike stronger for longer was a revelation that quickly had me pondering what else I may be able to achieve. I’m excited to find out. Also, I’m no longer content with a sixteen day finish on the TA – I may have to go back sooner than previously anticipated.

Just a few days later I was back in Rotorua for a completely different kind of bike event – the Singlespeed World Championships. Really it’s just a big fancy dress party of five hundred people on mountain bikes with only one gear. And beer. What’s not to like? A complete blast with friends old and new.

Which rather leaves this year to consider. Excitingly, there are plenty of new things to learn, develop and be challenged by. With a few visits of family and friends on the cards, I’ll be happy to mostly stick around exploring home and the vicinity – with perhaps just one or two forays further afield. There’s plenty more strength to be gained, all in the name of riding slightly further and a little faster to explore more new places; I’d really like to do a different bikepacking event of over a thousand kilometres. With none of those on offer in NZ this year, that may take me to one of a few abroad I’ve got my eyes on to really put me outside my comfort zone.

Most definitely excited to find what this year holds, I hope it’s great for you too.

4 thoughts on “The 2017 Letter – Just A Little Late”

  1. Awesome read Brendan – and you take a wicked photo. Am feeling a bit convicted by your revelations about how reducing mass has led to prodigious improvements … will following your lead turn me into a half-marathoner?? watch this space….

    1. Aww, thanks Elizabeth. Ha! Surely you have even less to lose than I did? See you at the start line, I guess. *goes to learn how to run.

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