Article | Tour Aotearoa 2018 retro

Tour Aotearoa 2018 retro

This is a short : ) retrospective on my gear and thoughts assembled after completing Tour Aotearoa 2018.

First up: Garmin 820

Garmin 820 — quietly showing off one of the bigger rides!

Garmin 820 — quietly showing off one of the bigger rides!

What a great navigational aid. I didn't have the patience to keep referring to maps, cue sheets etc. Charged by USB, it’s compact and light and mostly it kept me on course. It was fantastic to have early warning of turns and the course map at my fingertips. My generator had no problems keeping the device powered. I didn’t even need to use the battery save mode. The caveat though is a small list of annoying bugs which I am hoping a software update one day may fix:

  • Map re-routing when off course (even with this feature turned off it still re-routes). Re-routing was a terrible feature as when you are off course, instead of showing your location and the actual course, it creates a new course to get you back on track. Please Garmin fix this bug. I just want to see the course and my position. I can work out my best course of action to get back on course myself thank you.

  • Altitude plan of the route missing on this device — some of the more beefy models have a great altitude map so you could see the elevation of the course ahead. This model only shows an altitude map of where you have been which is not so useful. Please enable this one too Garmin!

  • Disabling the Virtual Partner does not disable it. It’s a little demoralising to have your virtual partner finishing the course many hours before you do.

  • A fault in the device surfaced several days before commencing, which a reboot/reset/ reinstall/ remove tmp files/etc/etc/etc failed to fix. My altitude was fixed on 10,000 meters, and the temperature at -6. What’s worse was Strava gave me 0m altitude gains giving me great sadness when uploading my rides. Garmin have since replaced this faulty model.

Rohloff Gear Hub

What’s better than a Rohloff? Two Rohloffs

What’s better than a Rohloff? Two Rohloffs

Riding Bridge to Nowhere in rain and mud — you’re bound to come across at least one poor TA rider with a derailleur wrapped around the back wheel. In these conditions, the Rohloff sings. It worked flawlessly for 2800 km. In the last few hundred kilometers, at Mavora Lakes, a fault appeared where changing to 8, 13, 14 would sometimes not engage and I’d be free peddling. This was resolved by a small backpedal which would then engage the gear. On return, Chris from pure sports was able to diagnose the problem. One of the gear shifting cables was bent/broken at right angles. Replacing the cable, then riding 20km with cleaning oil in the Rohloff, completely resolved the issue. Lesson learned: Check that none of your cables are being hammered by your roll bags.

Son 28 Generator

This little generator kept my phone and garmin charged and provided stress free lighting at nighttime.

Power source: Sinewave BEACON

This light unit was fantastic — well built, provides power and a great light for cycling on gravel roads. If your speed drops below 10 kph for any amount of time — like riding on technical single track you will need an auxiliary battery connected. With the auxiliary connected there is an amazing amount of light. For tight single track, you probably would also want a headlamp — I never used mine as my night riding was mostly on gravel roads. The headlamp was great for putting up the tent though.

Half way through the trip, an intermittent fault developed making the light flicker — or occasionally stop working altogether. On return from the trip I found that the cable secured with cable ties had developed a fault under the cable tie, I cut and shortened the cable and it has now been made 100% great again. Don’t tie the cable too tight with cable ties is perhaps the lesson learnt here.

I used a USB rear light — but have since purchased a generator-powered rear light — and would definitely recommend that for the ride if you do have a generator. Riding in the rain in the South Island for 10–12 hours a day puts a lot of drain on a USB chargeable back light — and I had to make decisions on when to leave the light on. Not ideal!

For the TA — a generator is probably not required if you are on a budget. It was an expensive bit of kit — and a couple of USB batteries and charging at campsites/motels would suffice.

Smart Phone

Take a smart phone and load a GPX map viewer app onto it with offline Topo maps. I had “ Topo GPS” app. This allows you to see where you are, and the photo control points. It is good to always be able to ask two people — or devices for directions when travelling. If they say something different then consult the guide books. It is also useful as a phone when making bookings for various accommodation outlets (ie. ‘Timberland Lodge’).

Make sure you leave your phone in airplane mode as it sucks the power when it continually tries for a network. There is surprisingly little reception out of the towns on the TA route. Perhaps a useful addition to the guide books would be cell coverage notes for each section. There are some sections of the course where you will be without coverage for a full 24–48 hours.

Maxxis Ikon Tyres

These proved awesome. No flats or rips and proved to have excellent grip even on the treacherous muddy Bridge to Nowhere track.

REI Co-op Quarter Dome 1 Tent

This tent was not as easy to assemble as a Macpac, but was nice and light at around 1.0kg. The tent was great, had room to sit, room for my bags and an awning for my shoes etc. Then it rained. Then the rain got heavy. The water seemed to occasionally splash through the rain fly. In Wellington I applied some sealant to the seams. Then it rained…..

Is ultralight 20d really waterproof? Or should I deal with the weight penalty and go to 40d (the 1.3kg microlight which I backpacked extensively with, did not leak and was much easier to assemble)?.

Overall I was really pleased to have my tent.

STS Traveller Sleeping Bag

Super compact, super light weight at 389gm. I was a little cold at Mavora Lakes — with my merino thermals and down jacket. This was the only time I wore both my thermals and down jacket. That night I was glad to have them!

If I was in one of the latter waves I think I just may have wanted something a little warmer. But then, oh no, the weight….

Extra Shorts / Extra cycle shirt

I dropped these off in Auckland — and went down to a one shorts / one shirt solution. I found i was washing them every night — and wearing them somewhat damp the next day. After 30 minutes of riding, they dried off.

Oh — did I mention the Ringleaders shorts from Ground Effect were awesome! I could have saved a few hundred dollars and just bought one pair.


Amazing. I loved these things. My speed would increase 1 or 2 kph when I hopped on them and it was comfortable riding. Make sure they are not too low and they sit far enough back. They should be instantly comfortable.


I finally got used to my seat on day 22 as I rode into Bluff.


Before heading off I planned to eat every hour on the hour. I took too much food and still had some energy bars left when I got to Bluff. All meals can normally be purchased on the road — and meals are way nicer than bars. Take a large bag of mixed nuts with a couple of emergency de-hy meals. Buy sandwiches for in-between cafe/bar meals. Have plenty of milkshakes. I also accidentally discovered that low alcohol craft beer is great before an evening ride. It has the right amount of nutrients to get you that extra 35 km.

I did have Nuun electrolytes — and would generally take one per day. In my training Iwould often get cramp in the evenings. I think these things sorted that problem. I never developed any cramp on the ride.

Cafe — Pelorus Sounds

Cafe — Pelorus Sounds

Body / Fitness

I had a pretty good ride so I can’t complain. I did develop a knee injury as we hit Auckland. I feel these are the reasons:

  • I went too hard on first three days — long days, powering up hills. Perhaps I should have been a bit gentler on myself, but I felt good and was having fun.

  • I had my seat too low. I should have done a bike fitting to sort this out.

  • I should have had stronger knees in my training up to the event. Perhaps spent some time on the rower…

I treated the injury reasonably well and reduced the big days, took voltaren, and then finally a rest day in Wellington knocked it on the head.

I have toured quite a bit before — but never every day for long days. I was not sure how I would cope, but actually, with a reasonable base level of fitness it was totally achievable. We completed the ride in 22 days — about 6 days earlier than I had thought.

The TA really is a fun ride, great gravel, awesome single track, and plenty of towns to rest and have fun in, and a fantastic group of people.

Carl and Marcus packing up the bikepacking bikes

Carl and Marcus packing up the bikepacking bikes

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