Team Abletech: cycled the length of New Zealand
Marcus and Carl rode from Cape Reinga to Bluff. 3000km in 22 days.
The route was designed and overseen by Jonathan Kennett from Tour Aotearoa. It followed some of the world’s most diverse trails and beautiful back-country roads. Parts of the ride were tough, wet and muddy. Marcus Baguley and Carl Penwarden were sponsored by Abletech and they fundraised for the Auckland Cancer Society Research Centre at the University of Auckland. They had between 10 and 30 days to complete the ride.
The following diary chronicled the challenges and joys of this memorable cycle-tour, as it happened (scroll to the bottom for the start of the ride).
Day 23: Friday March 9th — Stewart Island: Marcus and Carl celebrated mission completion with more cycling but this time their bikes weren’t loaded with gear so it was easy riding.
Day 22. Thursday March 8th — Mavora Lakes to BLUFF!
The final push. This last day was the longest equal at 191km. Marcus and Carl were up early and headed for Mossburn via remote cattle stations and joined the Around the Mountain Cycle Trail.
They headed via Dipton to Winton and on to Invercagill. There were very strong head winds on the final stretch to Bluff.
The Bluff finish line is in sight
Day 21. Wednesday March 7th — Wanaka to Mavora Lakes:
Marcus and Carl started the day in Wanaka then rode via Queenstown to Walter Peak Station and on to Mavora Lakes. Their day was sunny, but cool.
The ride over the Crown Range to Arrowtown was great. It’s New Zealand’s highest paved road but Team Abletech were up for the task.
Marcus and Carl rode the Queenstown Trail from Arrowtown via the Kawarau River to Queenstown. They crossed the lake on the historic Earnslaw to Walter Peak Station where they rode gravel roads along Lake Wakatipu with great mountain views to the north.
The ride from Walter Peak to Mavora Lakes was a real highlight for Marcus and Carl. They headed south up Von Hill through amazing tussock plains then descended to Mavora Lakes (arriving in the dark) where they camped the night.
*Day 20. Tuesday March 6th — Pleasant Flat to Wanaka: *The day started cold and wet. It was a hard ride up the Haast Pass and on to Hawea, then Marcus and Carl rode great cycle trails to Wanaka.
Carl arriving at Lake Wanaka with a broken pedal crank arm. Photo cred: Tim Welch
Unfortunately, about 1km from Wanaka, Carl’s left pedal crank arm totally failed. The situation was remedied by Doug at Black Peak Cycles in Wanaka who fitted a second hand XTR crankset.
*Day 19. Monday March 5th — Fox to Pleasant Flat: *Another wet day. The road to Fox Glacier was closed. Marcus and Carl rode on via Lake Paringa and the sun came up as they approached Knight’s Point. They had an early dinner in Haast then rode another 45km, past stunning waterfalls, to camp at Pleasant Flat.
Haast Pass, in the Southern Alps, has many majestic falls that drop down into the Haast River
Beautiful ride into Pleasant Flat at dusk. The dashboard shows a long day.
About 50km out of Fox, Carl’s left pedal crank arm developed some movement so he nursed it to Haast, and over the pass.
Day 18. Sunday March 6th —Ross to Fox: They’ve biked 2400km. Only 600km until Bluff!
Today Marcus and Carl biked 133km via Lake Ianthe and through awesome rain forest to Franz Josef and Fox. The day ended with four hours riding through torrential rain.
*Day 17. Saturday March 3rd — Greymouth to Ross: *Marcus and Carl followed the West Coast Wilderness Trail for this entire section and they described it as stunning. They followed the coast to Kumara then headed inland past water reservoirs, into rain forest, rivers and lakes, to Hokitika. The final stretch to Ross included a timber tram trail and the coastal tail trail. What normally takes three to four days they rode in a day but would gladly do the trail again at a slower pace.
Day 16. Friday March 2nd — Big River:
Day 14. Wednesday Feb 28th — Nelson to Murchison: Team Abletech followed the Great Taste Bike Trail from Nelson to Wakefield. Marcus and Carl reported that it was the best developed and sign-posted trail they’d encountered so far. Cafe Rhubarbe in Wakefield was awesome — they served coffees, pies and treats then wrapped up sandwiches for the ride ahead 🥪🚴
From Wakefield they headed over Dovedale Hill on soft, wet forestry roads and some sealed roads to Tapawera. This is hops territory 🌾 and it’s harvest time; the hops are kiln-dried and the air smelt great.
From Tapawera Marcus and Carl took a remote road through farm country up the Tadmor Valley, which eventually turned into a forestry road that went over the Tadmor Saddle. 🚴🏻 🚛 🚚 They battled with trucks on the (now) very busy SH6. They turned off to Lake Rotoroa which was remote, beautiful and infested with sandflies. From there they headed over the Braeburn Saddle on gravel roads to Murchison.
This 171km turned out to be the second biggest day for Team Abletech. Marcus and Carl report that it felt good. Perhaps their bodies understand that riding lots is the new normal!
Cafe Rhubarbe in Wakefield. Marcus’ brother-in-law’s homemade vodka distillery in Nelson
Brightwater Cycle Bridge, Nelson, Richmond, Wakefield
Day 13. Tuesday Feb 27th — South Island: Team Abletech boarded the ferry at 11pm last night using the sleeper service for the 2:30am sailing. They docked in Picton before sunrise.
Starting the South Island section of Tour Aotearoa
The day’s scenic cycling covered Pelorus Bridge and up over a rocky and steep Maungatapu Saddle — this climb is over 2000 ft.
*Monday 26th — home sweet home *🏡 Marcus and Carl are feeling it now. Their bodies are holding up well but they’re tired from the long days of cycling. They’re spurred on by the hundreds of other riders on the journey and by the encouragement of signs and wash stations provided by locals along the way.
Their bikes are handling the ride well. With mud on the trails, some riders have been troubled with ‘chainsuck’ and broken derailleurs. Marcus and Carl are thankful they’re running internal gear hubs, Rohloff 14 speedhubs, so they have no derailleurs and have had no mechanical problems.
The two Rohloffs have never missed a beat
Today was a rest day in Wellington. A chance to waterproof tents and catch up with family and friends. After the ferry tonight there’s a big climb ahead of them as they start the South Island section tomorrow.
Day 11/12. Sat/Sun Feb 24/25 — Apiti to Masterton then Wellington: Team Abletech are halfway through their epic bike ride. They’ve completed the North Island section of Tour Aotearoa. Want to spur them on? Help their fundraising efforts for the Auckland Cancer Society Research Centre at the University of Auckland by visiting the Team Abletech donation website.
Familiar territory for the Wellingtonians
Rimutuka summit tunnel. Gladstone support for Tour Aotearoa riders
Apiti to Masterton was their biggest day yet. 194km. They stopped for dinner in Eketahuna then rode into Masterton where they pitched their tents in the dark. After a photo-stop in Gladstone they went up and over the Remutaka Range to Wellington.
Marcus and Carl were met by a friend, Blair Macdonald, in Hunterville who rode with them and arranged sheep farm accommodation in Apiti.
Sharing the journey — met by mates in Hunterville
*Day 10. Friday Feb 23rd — Whanganui: *Team Abletech rode late into the night to Whanganui for mobile coverage so Marcus could contact his wife on her birthday. They arrived starving and most food outlets were closed. Dominoes were open so they ate their way through $70 worth of pizza 🍕 They rode the 213m long tunnel to the historic Durie Hill Underground Elevator up to the war memorial tower. Today Team Abletech have left Whanganui and are biking towards Hunterville and Ohingaiti.
Pics from yesterday’s ride up to the Mangapurua Trig
Marcus and Carl enjoyed fine hospitality at the Blue Duck Station cafe then biked to the Bridge to Nowhere. They caught the Whanganui River Adventures boat then were back on the bikes:
*Day 8/9. Wed/Thurs Feb 21/22 — Mangapurua Trig: *Team Abletech are in a very remote muddy part of their tour, in steep and dense terrain, climbing up to Mangapurua Trig. The only way out at the end of this section will be by boat down the Whanganui River.
They’ll be going flat out to get to the Bridge to Nowhere. They don’t want to miss their boat ride that will take them 30km down the river.
*Day 7. Tuesday Feb 20th: *Cyclone Gita blew towards New Zealand today as Marcus and Carl rode from Mangakino to the Timber Trail Lodge. The distance was shorter than previous days but they ascended 1800m 📈 Today they’ll keep their eye out for road and trail damage. They may see fallen trees and storm debris 🚴 🚴
Day 6. Monday Feb 19th — Power Stations Marcus reports it was “quite a long day and knees/behind are certainly feeling it now”. Today they cycled the Waikato River Trail — past three power stations which are now all owned by Mighty River. “Beautiful single track on the river trail helped elevate the mood.”
Arapuna Power Station est. 1929 has classic early century architecture
The cycle trail is actually built on the railway line that transported the concrete. This large structure below was the concrete mixer!
An information panel from the Waikato River Trail
Marcus reports his disappointment to see that many of the feed-rivers into the Waikato River have a distinctive cow-poo colour as a result of the rapid switch to higher intensity dairy systems.
Another Trail Angel today: a local pilot turned ice cream man. He tracks TA riders on the map then serves them his nutritional ice cream in deck chairs under umbrellas overlooking Lake Arapuni.
Day 4/5. Saturday/Sunday Feb 17/18 — Mighty Waikato:
Marcus and Carl feeling the love from support crew! Photo cred: Kevin Holst
After pedalling 540km in three days Marcus and Carl were rewarded with lamb shanks, a beer and a soak at Miranda Springs.
Their weekend included and a few 🍩 a lot of 🐄 and many more kilometres of 🚴🚴.
Popped in to thank support crew
Auckland Cancer Society Research Centre at the University of Auckland
Friends and Allies in Epsom
Day 3. Friday Feb 16th — Trail Angels: Team Abletech experienced beautiful riding yesterday along the coast at Opononi. Then it got very hot in the afternoon, especially on the climb up to the Waipoua Forest to visit Tane Mahuta.
Trail angels popped up along the way; north of Opononi a kind local set up a water-bottle filling point. Around 7:30pm, about 7km before Dargaville, two young lads were waiting for TA riders with iced water and watermelon!
Early start, blue skies, Matakohe and trail angels
Friday started at 5:45am in the dark giving Marcus and Carl time to visit Matakohe en route to Maungatoroto to wait for the shuttle to Helensville.
Day 2. Thursday Feb 15th:
Team Abletech report that the first day was great and the beach ride was better than expected, with a slight tail wind.
Marcus and Carl pushed on to Broadwood which was quite hilly and spent the night in their tents. This morning has included a very hilly gravel road to Rawene.
Day 1. Wednesday Feb 14th:
Marcus and Carl have begun their 3000km ride! Check out the live map here.
Tuesday Feb 13th: The bus pulled over with an engine brake failure and got stuck in the mud. Watch the video of the riders pushing the bus and trailer back on the road: Carys & Pete's big TA Adventure Fixed (hopefully), now to get out of the mudm.facebook.com
Carl on the rainy route to Cape Reinga
Marcus has laid out everything he‘s taking for the ride. The load needs to include the right gear but it also needs to be light enough to lift the lot over fences and fallen trees.
The official Tour Aotearoa gear list suggests useful items like duct tape, a balaclava, cash, waterproof notebook & pen, GPS, chamois cream, sleeping mat, bag & tent, a ukelele, sarong and a tiny hair comb…
Carl reports a wet start riding out to Auckland airport to catch the bus. “Oh man, it is raining steadily. I’m soaked already.”
Marcus and Carl bumped into a TA rider heading South. He got the last working ferry and said it has been very WET! The ferry motor blew up, the riders bobbed around for a while until they got a tow. Marcus and Carl will now be heading inland to Maungatoroto. But they’ve got to get to Cape Reinga first.
The Kaipara Harbour Boat had major engine problems. The boat and riders were towed to Helensville late last night. The local takeaways shop stayed open until midnight for them 🍔
Marcus is pleased that his bike box has arrived in Kerikeri. Unfortunately for some riders, their boat has broken down in the harbour
Monday night Feb 12th: The good news: Marcus’ bike has arrived in Kerikeri, four long hours after Marcus arrived.
The bad news: there are parts of the ride where the riders and bikes use boats to get to the next leg of the ride. Unfortunately the riders who set off in the first group were on a boat that broke down in the harbour.
Boxing the bike
*Monday morning Feb 12th: *The bikes are disassembled and getting packed up. Carl has purchased last minute essential provisions (aka coffee). The forecast is looking good for starting on Wednesday.
Carl’s bike and bags weigh 18kgs, and his gear weighs 10kgs, sans food. Marcus managed to get a quick bike fix when his frame cracked a week before the ride
Friday Feb 9th: For Team Abletech, the 3000km ride starts at noon Feb 14th. Training rides are complete. The bikes are in great shape. The fitness levels are good enough. The gear’s been tested. Extra tech’s been bought. These two now need to get their bikes, and themselves, up to the most northerly point of the North Island.
Donate now to show your support.
Read more about what Marcus and Carl are doing, and why they’re doing it
Abletech are proud to sponsor Marcus Baguley and Carl Penwarden who have committed to Tour Aotearoa raising money for the Auckland Cancer Society Research Centre at the University of Auckland
Please donate: visit the Team Abletech donation website where you can show your support and see the cracked frame 😬 one week out from the ride…