28 January 2010

Course Tweaked, SPOTs arrived, Gear selection

We have just made what we are fairly certain is the last tweak to the course. The section from Blenheim to Rarangi (the first 22-odd km) has been altered to simplify navigation & farm access, and also to include a couple of kilometres of foreshore. Big thanks to Willi and Robin for helping with that. Our Google map has been altered accordingly and I'll now finish the cue sheets and email out tomorrow or the next day.

This change doesn't effect the course stats significantly. Computer guru Hamish Seaton has put together some more accurate maps of the course and generated some fine altitude graphs. His calculations have concluded that the course is very close to 1100km long, with 12 900 m of climbing. The first quarter of the course is by far the hilliest - keeping morale high going into the second quarter will be pretty important.

The 45 SPOT trackers from the USA arrived today - phew! And they are smaller than I remembered. In fact, one fits quite snugly in the palm of my hand. They don't come with batteries, so riders will need to get these. They take 2 AA lithium batteries each (non-rechargeable). I suggest you get them before arriving in Blenheim, as they aren't common (although most hardware stores have them).

Wellington riders may wish to pick up their SPOTs before heading over to the South Island (one less thing to do on the morning of the start). We'll have a meet at Revolution Bicycles in Northland between 6-8pm on Thursday 4th Feb. This will also be a chance to compare gear and have a look at maps.

The gear selection for this event is wide and varied. I'm inclined to think you can finish (and really enjoy some sections of the course) regardless of your set-up, but I'm also curious to see which bikes finish with happy riders at the end (and without needing to be nursed home). A hundred years ago, when cycling conditions weren't that different to the Brevet course, the French completed bicycle touring trials - hilly long distance rides designed to test different makes of bicycle and derailleur gears. Later, the British ran bicycle reliability trials.

This year, I'm keen that we get a photo of every starter's loaded bike and a couple of lines about the bike and gear selection. At the finish, if we get a couple of lines about how well the bike performed and how happy the rider was with their gear, then we could do a pretty interesting article about all-terrain touring set-ups. Might be something that people look at in another hundred years and have a bit of a chuckle over.

20 January 2010

Maps & Cue Sheets & Stuff

Maps & Cue Sheets
Finding your way is a key skill of a brevet. There are 4 items that will help you along the way (aside from a GPS). Topomaps, Google maps with directions, guidebook directions (CNZMBR - 7th ed), and cue sheets. In addition, altitude graphs can be handy and Hamish Seaton has almost finished a very accurate set which we'll email out next week.

Here's what I recommend you take, in the order that you'll need it. If it's not in bold, that's cause I'm not taking it (because I've ridden there in the last couple of years):
1 - Cue sheet to get from Blenheim to Rarangi (and keep an eye on the locals)
2 - Google directions to Pelorous Bridge
3 - CNZMBR Maungatapu ride
4 - Topo250 map 13 (bottom half only)
5 - Street map for Nelson (Google) and Nelson Cycleway map
6 - Nelson cue sheet
7 - Topo250 map 18
8 - CNZMBR Pioneer Heritage Trail
9 - CNZMBR Big river - Waiuta
10 - Topo50 map BT21 Waiuta
11 - Topo250 map 17
12 - Google directions for Waiuta to start of Wharfedale Track
13 - Topo250 map 23 (top third only)
14 - CNZMBR Wharfedale Track
15 - Topo50 map BW22 Oxford
16 - Topo50 map BV23 Virginia
17 - Cue sheet through private land after Lees Valley (to be distributed at briefing)
18 - Google directions to Hanmer
19 - CNZMBR Molesworth
20 - Topo250 map 19
21 - Cue sheet for final leg into Blenheim

I'll also take the full cue sheets that outline the services on route.
Don't forget to set up a mapboard so you can read your cue-sheets without stopping.
This might seem like a lot to carry, but the new maps are relatively small and you can post them home along the way.

If you are in Wellington and looking for a good price on Topo maps, they are $6.90 at Bivouac (a couple of bucks less than most other places).

Spot Trackers
We'll have a briefing at a central location at 10am (somewhere with food). This will be when the SPOTs will be issued (and you'll need to sign for yours). If we are short on Spots, we'll have personal locator beacons for the last few people who signed up.
Note that the trackers need to be at the top of your load. If they have more than two layers of material between them and the sky they will not function properly.
At the briefing we'll also pass the hat round for some koha for the Kiwi Recovery programme. The Brevet course passes through a couple of kiwi habitat areas - supporting our national bird gives you the good kharma you need to finish something like this in style.

We'd like to hear from you along the ride and will hand out an 0800 number at the briefing. There are nine designated call-in locations. These are now shown on the Brevet Googlemap with phone symbols. We'll expect the call to be limited to a couple of minutes - maybe longer if you are calling in on behalf of a group.

Gear Storage
There will be a garage available to store gear at during the event (about 3 km south of the Blenheim CBD). The same address has room across the road to park a few vehicles. We'll give you the address closer to the time.

07 January 2010

Event Coverage and a few more pics

Alrighty! Just over four weeks to go. Entries closed yesterday and we have 75 starters. We've just finished negotiations for hiring SPOT trackers from the US. We'll get 45 from TrackMe360. We'll also get 10 from Rescue Beacon in NZ. And we expect up to ten people to hire their own. That's a total of 65. Given they cost about $80 each to hire, we're not willing to hire more when 10 people may well pull out before the start. There may end up being a shortfall, in which case we'll expect the last people on the list to find their own SPOT or hire Personal Locator Beacons (which are more readily available, but don't provide a tracking service). We'll email out some details very shortly explaining how to pay for your SPOT hire. I must thank John Randal for helping sort this out and underwriting the fees - this wouldn't have happened with out him.

Leaderboard.com will collect all the indiviual SPOT data and lay it over a Google map of the course with rider names displayed at their location (updated about every 15 minutes). Leaderboard are the guys who do the Tour Divide coverage and they are doing this for us free of charge.

To add to the coverage of the tour as it unfolds we will give riders an 0800 number which they can call at set locations and leave a short message. At the end of each day the messages will be posted on this site as audio files. Big thanks to Cycletech NZ for providing the telecomms capability to make this happen.

The event coverage will be great, but at the start and end of the day, it's all about the riding. Here are a few pics from Jeff Lyall taken on the Maungatapu Track last week. It's steeper than it looks!