Rainbow Road

Everything’s better on the South Island (maybe not the pies, that pork kumara pie I got from Owhata in Rotorua was pretty excellent).

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On one of our off days in the Forest Camp campground in Hamner Springs, I did a little hub bearing re-greasing. Before we left home I’d packed everything with some nice thick Phil Wood grease, and it made a difference. After a few thousand miles and plenty of rainy days, the insides of our Hope Pro4s were a little dry but still nice and smooth.

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I repacked everything with some Valvoline farm implement grease (all that’s available at the hardware store). It was a little thick for the freehub, so I thinned it with a couple drops of olive oil.

While I’m talking about boring stuff- I’ve been using a Wheels Manufacturing bottom bracket with angular contact bearings, and it’s lasted so much longer than anything else I’ve tried (including a Chris King). Unlike the standard bearings in other bbs, the angular contact bearings are actually set up to be sideloaded. And it’s easy to pop the seals out and regrease the bearings.

Further proof- Colleen destroyed a Shimano bb before we were halfway down the North Island. While it’s certainly possible that I’m weaker than a 110 pound girl, it’s as likely that these bbs are the business.

And I know this is going to sound like some real hippy shit, but we’ve been using olive oil as chain lube since we ran out of Dumonde Tech in California. Rain, saltwater, dust, whatever- it works just as well as anything else (actually better than a lot of bike specific lubes.)

No opinion on if extra virgin lasts longer than lite, but it does taste better. And I get to moisturize my hands while I lube my chain. Win win.

Out of town, up Jack’s Pass and back into the high country. The usual beefy headwind, and a quick hike-a-bike, then down the other side to our accommodations for the night.

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This is the first hut we’ve stayed in, and I’m sold.

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The Department of Conservation maintains a huge network of backcountry huts– most are pretty basic, just a little kitchen area, wood stove, bunks, water source, and bathroom. In other words, everything you need (excepting some cool beer or a snort of whiskey, as they’d say in the real hokey cowboy books I like to read).

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I was a little skeptical about the huts, they seemed excessive from a point of view rooted in the US Wilderness system- “An area where the earth and it’s community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain. Leave your chainsaw and wheel barrow at home. Grandiosity, some other bullshit, giant commercial hunting pack trips welcome because if horses are ok with the Amish, they’re all right by us. Don’t ride your bike here. Yada yada yada.”

But I had it wrong- the hut was the coolest place we’ve stayed on this trip. I think we’re going to base the rest of our South Island ride around trying to get to as many of these little backcountry shacks as we can.

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There was a big stack of old New Zealand Wilderness magazines (from 1996 to 2002) in the hut, which were very enlightening.

This whole time, I’ve thought that tramping was just what Kiwis called hiking. And that a tramping track is synonymous to a hiking trail. But now I get that it’s a whole different sport- not quite scrambling, often bushwhacking, and requires real heavy steel-shanked boots, gorse-proof pants, and thick jackets that don’t stick to your skin when it rains all day everyday for a couple weeks.

So that’s why riding a bike on a tramping track doesn’t work- because a tramping track isn’t the same thing as a trail.

So here’s a brief Kiwi to American dictionary:

Walkway/ Cycleway– Singletrack (rideable)

Track– West Virginia raccoon path (difficult or unrideable)

Tramping Track– Miserable muddy nasty gnar (wheels are not applicable)

Route– Not a real thing, just a dotted line on the map that follows some geographic feature like a ridge line.

But now that I get it, I get it. So when the Te Araroa went down the middle of a river it wasn’t because it was a bad hiking trail- it’s just not a hiking trail. It’s a tramping track.

Of course, instead of being confused for the last two months, I could have just asked somebody what tramping was. But I didn’t want to sound stupid, we’re all speaking English here.

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The next morning, we reluctantly leave the hut. Down the valley, over a little rise, and down another valley and onto the Rainbow Road.

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And into the kind of place that I imagined when I thought about mountain biking around New Zealand. Real good.

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170130_Rainbow Road-21Nice moist feet. Oh yes.
170130_Rainbow Road-22At the bottom of the road, we pay the toll (two dollars per bike, the road crosses private land), and ride to Nelson Lakes.
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We’re waiting out a rainy day in St. Arnaud, then heading up to Nelson, where there’s also supposed to be some sweet riding. Then we’re going to loop back down and ride the Old Ghost Road, then boogie south down the West Coast real quick (real quick so that we outrun the sandflies).

9 comments

  1. Thanks, I actually like hearing about the specific bike maintenance you’ve had to do. At some point I think it’d be interesting to read about what your packing on the bike for a maintenance and tool kit.

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