About this blog


This page explains how John and I got into cycling and blogging. It starts with our purchase in March 2013 of our folding Giant Expressways, and the idea of logging our rides as we improved our skills and fitness. It soon became more like a visual diary for ourselves, but hopefully it offers something useful and enjoyable to read for others.

Since then, I have written up yearly "anniversary" accounts of our achievements over the previous year. Today (15 April 2016), I have rearranged this page so that it reads in chronological order, from March 2013 to the present day.


How the blog started – April 2013


This started out as a means of recording the bike rides my husband John and I have enjoyed, since I was re-introduced to cycling, after not having used a bike since childhood. It started out, in April 2013, as just a record of the rides. But it has since developed into something more elaborate. It has become a collaboration between John's and my skills and interests - my writing and our (mainly John's) photographs.

We take great pleasure, not only in the ride, but in taking photos of the areas we ride in. And I enjoy doing a bit of research about the sights featured in our photos, and including extra information about them in my blog posts.

We try to go for a ride once or twice a week, weather permitting. We like to explore places that we haven't been to before. So far we have explored most of the flat areas in and around Wellington, and our plans now include travelling further afield, and taking our bikes on holiday.

Below is a repeat of my very first blog post, in which I explained why I started cycling again, and what my limitations were then. I like to think I have overcome some of them, though I still hate hills ...

How the bike rides came about – March 2013


I am retired, and the only period in my life when I rode a bike regularly was when I was eight to nine years old, and riding my bike to school in the Netherlands. Since then I have only bicycled once or twice for an hour or so on a rented bike.

I live in Wellington, New Zealand, which is a very hilly city, very different from the lovely flat and bike-friendly Netherlands. I never thought I would ever want to cycle here in Wellington.

My husband John was for many years a keen cyclist, cycling to work, hurtling down steep hills and climbing back up at the end of the day. However, after surgery for a brain tumour which left him with a balance problem, he didn’t cycle for over twelve years. I wouldn’t let him. I was worried he would fall, and/or be hit by a car or truck.

Then, in January 2013, he decided to get back into it. He didn’t fall over, and in fact the cycling has improved his balance. However, the hills were still a bit of a problem, so he bought a folding bike, one that he could stick in the car and drive to where he could ride on the flat, and preferably on dedicated cycle tracks.

One day he came home from riding part of the Hutt Valley River Trail, 30 kilometres of attractive, flat, well-maintained track, and suggested that I could easily do that too. Though I have lived in Wellington for over forty years, when it comes to hills, I staunchly maintain that I am a “flatlander” – I don’t like climbing them, not on foot, and certainly not on a bike. But it seemed to me that if I could ride on the flat, it would be a fun thing to do together. Once we started casting around for flat places to ride, it was surprising how many we found.

Result: we bought another bike, for me. I am now the proud owner of a brand-new Giant Expressway 2 folding bike (Giant is the brand, it is not an enormous bicycle!).

So this is where my blog begins – with my adventure of getting back on a bike as a “senior”. I hope to write about my experiences and about the tracks or trails we have ridden on.


My limitations - for now ...  (March 2013)

I have certain requirements that will limit my capacity – initially at least.
  • I have painful thumb joints, which mean I cannot comfortably lean on my hands, so I insisted I needed a “sit-up-and-beg” bike.
  • I do not like riding on gravel – it is slippery, hard work and it hurts my hands (and my tail!).
  • And I don’t like hills – being a "flatlander" and all.
These are all good reasons to challenge myself. And over the next few months, with regular rides, I hope to overcome my dislike of gravel and hills, improve my fitness, and find solutions for my sore hands and tail.

 

 

March 2014

 

First Anniversary – one year of cycling  

 

I have copied my first anniversary post below, just so that I can record my progress from non-cyclist to one that is a little bit more experienced, and from a non-blogger to one who posts fairly regularly.


On 12 March 2014, it was a year since we bought my bike. It’s been a great year, and I have gained such a lot in that time. Not only have we done some wonderful rides, but personally I have learnt so much.

When I started out on this venture, I hadn’t biked for more than 50 years, since I rode my bike to school in the Netherlands. I was wobbly, not terribly confident, not keen or riding on gravel, scared of riding on roads with car traffic, I did not like hills and I had no idea about using gears.

Now, the wobbliness has mostly disappeared. I can steer my way around obstacles with confidence, I can aim my bike between narrow gateways or posts without hitting anything, and I can keep my balance when slowing down behind a pedestrian.

Wobbling does still happen when I am going uphill so slowly that I eventually stall. I still hate hills, but I can manage a gentle gradient for a sustained period, and short bursts of slightly steeper ones (though with lots of huffing and puffing and the occasional use of expletives!).

Gravel surfaces don’t faze me now, so long as they are not too rough or skiddy. The main problem with gravel is that it is hard on my hands (painful thumb joints), especially if it is going downhill, as I have to grip the brakes so tightly.

Riding on roads with motorised traffic is something I have gradually become less fearful of. My rear-view mirror is absolutely essential, as it allows me to see cars coming before I hear them, and can make sure to get out of their way. Riding on relatively quiet roads is fine, but I would not tackle riding on the shoulder of busy highways.

Gears – now they were a bit of an education and a revelation! My bike only has seven gears, but it took me quite a while to get used to them, having never used gears on a bike before. In the beginning, I would stay “safely” in 3rd or 4th gear, no matter what the terrain. I did understand that when going uphill you had to change down (as you would in a manual car). But it was several months before I had my “epiphany”, when I discovered that when travelling on a smooth flat surface, you could go faster for less effort in 7th gear.

My fitness has improved. In a year of cycling, we have covered over 1,300 km. Our first two-hour ride was 16 km, and I was pretty knackered after that. We have gradually increased the length of our rides. Now we regularly do 25-30 km rides. My biggest ride up to now has been the Tukutuki Loop that we did while on holiday in Hawke’s Bay in November. We rode 50 km that day, and some of that involved quite hilly country. I was whacked, but also thrilled that I had been able to do it.

Now we are planning our next holiday (in a couple of weeks) during which we intend to cycle the Otago Central Rail Trail over four days, riding 45 km each day. I am looking forward to that. We are just hoping for good weather!

Apart from the enjoyment of biking and the physical skills and fitness I have acquired, there have been other benefits.

It is a really enjoyable activity that John and I can do together. I have grumbled in the past over the fact that John does not want to go overseas and be a tourist. But now we can visit all sorts of wonderful places in NZ that are not readily accessible to cars, and get to know our own “backyard” better. You can see so much more on a bike than in a car! And hear the sounds (or the silence) and smell the fragrances.

I have also learnt to set up, write and maintain a blog. I had wanted to write a blog for quite some time, but I had nothing of interest to write about. With John’s help we ironed out some initial difficulties, and I was on my way.

Starting a blog has given me a forum to write. I enjoy writing “creative non-fiction”, as it is called. I have always been interested in language, especially well-written language. I am one of those awful people who growls at misplaced apostrophes, spelling mistakes and incorrect use of grammar. I am likely to yell at the TV when reporters talk about “less people” instead of “fewer people”. I am quite the linguistic pedant.

The blog has developed a lot. To begin with, it was meant to be just a brief record of the rides we had done, and of my progress as a cyclist. My blog posts have since become more extensive with the inclusion of photos, and have expanded to be more like travelogues or photo essays. The blog and the rides “feed” off each other, each providing incentive and motivation for the other.

One of John’s major long-standing interests is photography. He has always documented all of our activities with his camera. So naturally, he takes quite a few photos when we are out riding. Just as well digital photography makes it so easy (and cheap!) to keep on snapping. And of course it is great to be able to use his (and some of my) photos for the blog.

My photographic skills have improved too (a bit). I have just a little “point-and-shoot” camera that fits into my pocket or handbag. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to handle a camera that does not do the “thinking” for me­ – I’m just not that technically inclined (or interested). But at least I now take more care to frame my photos properly, and I have learnt to crop them better, so as to show a more interesting picture, before putting them up on the blog.

One further result that I am delighted about, is that our enthusiasm for cycling and my blog seem to have inspired others to get on a bike. I was really chuffed a few weeks ago, when one of my dancing friends posted a photo on Facebook, of herself with a bike at Pencarrow, saying “First big ride on the new bikes”. A mutual friend asked her if they had been inspired by John and me, and the answer was “yes, definitely!”. That is fantastic.

Are there any drawbacks to our cycling? Yes, a few minor ones. As most of our fine days provide excuses to go out for a ride, the garden has been sorely neglected. And time spent writing a blog means my housework does not get done as frequently as perhaps it should. But hey, who’s worried?

I should really thank John for getting me into cycling, and for being so patient and encouraging, even when I gripe about how I hate hills. He’s made me challenge myself, as he challenges himself too. We’ve had some lovely adventures together, and hope to have many more. His help and computer know-how have been invaluable for my blog writing, and of course his photos are an important part of the blog. Also, it is very nice to have my own “in-house” bike mechanic and maintenance man!

AND he doesn’t mind if the gardening and vacuuming don’t get done as often as they should! What could be better?

 

November 2014 

 

It’s time for another update on what this blog is about. On 15 November, I reached another milestone: it was my 100th blog post.

Since my last update in March, we have achieved several challenges. I reached the 2,000 km mark in August. During a South Island holiday we rode a total of 300 km, including the Otago Central Rail Trail (150 km in four days). We rode the Kapiti Coastal Cycle Route from Peka Peka to Paekakariki, and we rode the Akatarawa Road from Upper Hutt to Waikanae.

We have become involved with the “Folding Goldies”  – people who have both a folding bike and a Gold Card allowing them to take their bikes on public transport for free. Most of the other people in this group are seasoned cyclists of many years’, even decades’, experience, so we are very much the newbies there, but they have provided us with interesting challenges.

 

But now for a new challenge – Electric bikes!

 

More significantly, as well as writing my 100th blog post, 15 November 2014 was the day we upgraded from our Giant Expressway 2 folding bikes to SmartMotion e20 electric folding bikes.

For some time now John has been investigating electrically assisted bikes, as I have been struggling with the hills we have encountered on our various rides. He modified my bike by changing the gearing ratio, so that the inclines would be a bit easier for me to handle. It was better on the hills, but not perfect on the flat.

Weeks of research and numerous visits to bike retailers had convinced John that e-bikes were the way to go – for both of us. At first he thought about converting our existing bikes. He is very knowledgeable about machinery and electronics, so he could easily have done that. However, when it came to comparing costs, we found that there was not a whole lot of difference price-wise between the conversion kit and a purpose-built folding e-bike. John has written up the technical details of our new bikes on his website

We did want to stay with folding bikes, because we use our bikes for recreational purposes, which means that we want to be able to transport them to where we can go for interesting rides. And our car is small, just large enough to take the folding bikes on board, without having to have an outside bike rack.

With these electric bikes, we will be able to tackle slightly more difficult rides (read: hilly rides). We should be able to do rides described as “intermediate”, but I’m not planning on doing any “advanced” rides. We’ll leave those to the young and fit and expert.

We do not use our bikes for commuting (we are retired), or general running about. Having said that, we will now be able to use our bikes to ride to the local supermarket or café – something I couldn’t have done on the old bike, given the steepness of most of the streets in our suburb.

Consequently, the nature of this blog will change a bit. Whereas before the e-bikes, I wrote a blog post on practically every ride we did, now I won’t worry about writing up every trip. You don’t want to know about me riding around our suburb or visiting the supermarket. But these trips will add to my total mileage, so you’ll see the number growing all the same (on the right hand side of the screen).

Our new electric bikes (photo by John)
 

 

March 2015


2nd Anniversary – Two years of cycling and blogging


On 12 March, it was two years since we bought my first folding bike, a “Giant Expressway”. To date, I have ridden nearly 2,500 km on it. Then, last November, we bought our folding electrically assisted bikes, beautiful red “SmartMotion” bikes.

We have just come back from an epic bike trip to the Nelson area on our e-bikes, during which we rode 340 km in a week. So far, my total distance on the e-bike is 866 km.

Since last year’s anniversary write-up, as well as biking around the Wellington region, we have done several cycling trips further afield.
  • In April, we cycled the Otago Central Rail Trail, and various tracks around Tekapo, Ohau, Queenstown and Arrowtown – 300 km all up, over two weeks.
  • In November, we took the e-bikes for a three-day holiday in Hawke’s Bay, where we biked 135 km, on the area’s lovely cycle trails.
  • In January, we went on a fully-supported bike tour of the Mackenzie Country, in the South Island. We used the Pure Trails company’s hire bikes. I had to learn to ride a bike with 27 gears and big wheels (regular-sized wheels really, but I’m used to smaller wheels on the folding bikes). In five days we rode 170 km, all reasonably easy.
  • And this month, we had our major e-bike trip, as mentioned above. We did not take the car, but biked from Picton to Nelson and Kaiteriteri, and back to Nelson.

Other milestones in this second year of biking have been:
  • In July, we became involved with the Folding Goldies Group – people with a folding bike and a Gold Card. We take the bikes on a train trip (for free, thanks to the Gold Card) and bike back.
  • In August, I clocked up 2,000 km on my original folding bike.
  • In October, we rode the Akatarawa Road, from Upper Hutt to Waikanae, with the Folding Goldies. This was a 42 km challenge for me, because of the hill climbs, and having to ride on a narrow winding road without much of a shoulder. John had modified the gearing on my bike to make the hills a bit more manageable, but it was still very hard work.
  • In November, more or less as a consequence of my difficulty with hills, we bought the electric bikes. Also that month I wrote my 100th blog post.

When we bought the e-bikes, it was with the intention of replacing the original folding bikes. But that idea has gone by the board. We find it rather nice to be able to choose a bike according to the conditions of the ride. We use the e-bikes for hills or when it is very windy, because the electric assist takes the edge off those. But when we plan to do an easy-peasy flat ride on a calm day, we use the original folders.

It does place pressure on space in our garage, where there are now six bikes, including John’s old mountain bike, and his new-ish road bike. Yes, it’s definitely true: bikes are sly – they multiply! And all that, because two years ago, I was agitating for John to get rid of his mountain bike – that he hadn’t used for ten years at that stage – because it was taking up room in the garage!

For Christmas, our daughter gave us T-shirts printed with our names and website addresses
 (photo by Aimée)


March 2016

 

A few changes to the blog


As I am coming up to the third anniversary of this blog, I have been making some changes, and I hope, improvements.

It partly came about as a result of the fear of losing it all, if some internet or computer glitch should wipe some or all of it. A great deal of time and effort has gone into creating the blog, and while I hope that others “out there” are enjoying reading about our biking adventures, it is also a visual diary for ourselves.

I started by copy-and-pasting our major away trips into separate documents for myself. Then came the idea that some of our readers might like to see these trips as separate entities, to make them easier to find. We think – we hope – that other (retired? or maybe overseas?) cyclists might get ideas from our rides for their own explorations of our beautiful country. So I created a separate tab (across the top of the blog), where I have detailed our major trips, with links to the relevant posts.

This then led to the question of “what about our Wellington rides, or Kapiti rides?” etc. Result: a whole swag of tabs, summarising our rides by area in the Wellington Region – Wellington City, the Hutt Valley, Porirua, Kapiti and the Wairarapa.

As well, I have added to the “Other Stuff” tab, which has been sitting idle for quite a while. In this page, I have summarised the blog posts that relate to non-cycling activities that I have written about, such as my involvement in Scottish country dancing, visits to exhibitions, or musical performances we have attended.

I have also added my email address in the Contact tab, so I welcome any comments or questions – provided, of course, that they are relevant to the blog or activities described in it.

It’s been a bit of a learning curve too. Learning how to add these tabs, and overcoming the fact that some of my actions actually did lose some of my writings. Good thing I normally write the text of a blog post in a Word document first, so I could recreate what I had lost.

I also found out how to display just the first part of a post, with a “Read more” link, so that I can display more posts per page. This is a work in progress – I haven't done it to all the posts yet.

I would be interested to receive comments – either in the “comments” feature at the bottom of each post, or by email – on what people think about the changes. It would be nice to know too, how many real people actually read my blog – as opposed to mechanical web crawlers, or people who click on my blog by mistake because they are looking for something else.

I look forward to hearing from you. 

Biking on the Moonshine Road in December 2015 (photo by Alastair Smith)

 

 

10 April 2016


Third anniversary – Three years of biking and blogging fun


On 12 March, it was three years since we started this biking adventure, when we bought my first folding bike – a Giant Expressway (John had bought his a few weeks earlier). By this time last year, I had ridden nearly 2,500 km on it. But since then, we have used our e-bikes more, so the Giant’s mileage has increased by only about 200 km.

On the other hand, our SmartMotion folding e-bikes, which we bought in November 2014, have had a lot of use, and I have just reached my 3,000 km milestone at the end of March. They have been wonderful, and have allowed us to do some great rides, without having to worry about hills or headwinds.

We had two major trips since the last anniversary. One up north in July – a total of just over 200 km during a holiday which included a day’s cycling in Auckland, riding parts of the Hauraki Rail Trail, and an exploration of Tauranga’s cycle trails. The other down south in November – the “Lupin Trip”. The object of this trip was to see the famous flowering lupins in the Mackenzie Country. We biked over 300 km near Lakes Tekapo, Pukaki, Alexandrina, Ohau, Wanaka and Hawea, including some sections of the A2O Trail, as well as the Little River Trail near Christchurch.

Right now we are itching to get away on another extended trip with the bikes – the West Coast Wilderness Trail is calling – but circumstances are preventing us from going. Maybe some time soon …

Of course we have also biked lots of shorter trips in the Wellington Region, not all of which I have written up as blogs. Many rides were to places I have described several times before.

One interesting thing we took part in was the Martinborough Charity Fun Ride. We chose to do the shortest circuit – 48 km – which was an achievement for us, as it was the longest stretch we had done without any stops. We were the only people not wearing lycra and using e-bikes (allowed), so we got some funny looks and a few snide comments from other cyclists, but we really enjoyed the experience. Biking on Wairarapa backroads was a revelation for us – so lovely and quiet. We have since biked there twice, clocking up over 70 km both times.

Recently I have done some tweaking to my blog. To make it easier for readers to home in on some specific areas where we have biked, I have added pages (with tabs along the top of the blog) to summarise my blogs into “Major Trips”, “Other Stuff”, and sorting Wellington Region rides into Wellington City, Hutt Valley, Porirua, Kapiti and Wairarapa. I’m hoping that this will be useful to other cyclists (at least those who are in our age bracket, and cycling for recreation) or to visitors to our country to get ideas from for interesting places to bike.

John had done more biking than me. He takes off on his own sometimes – to keep up his fitness, or because he gets “stir-crazy”, or to experiment with his camera. He has improved the bracket that holds his camera on his handlebar, so he can take photos without having to stop (which resulted in lots of photos of my backview). And just lately he has been experimenting with mounting his iPhone on the back of his bike so he can take time-lapses or photos of what is happening behind him (including some front-on photos of me, when I bike behind him). This is a work in progress and no doubt will be described further in future blogs.

Cycling along Lake Pukaki in November 2015







6 comments:

  1. Excellent! You are an inspiration to others - both in what can be done with a blog, and in getting on a bike again after all these years.

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    1. Thanks Pat. I really appreciate your encouragement.

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  2. I'm looking forward to reading your blog now I've found it (I bike daily), but I wanted to get permission to use your photo (attributed) of the blown away sign in Evan Bay for an article I'm writing about a windsurfing event I'm promoting in Wellington. Would you be ok with this? Cheers, Bruce

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    1. Hello Bruce, thank you for asking. Yes, that will be OK, as long as it is attributed to Desiree Patterson.

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  3. I find this very exciting. I had a Bickerton fold-up-in-a-carry-bag bike in 1979 and used it to travel through Iraq. An electric motor opens up so many possibilities.

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    1. Yes, we love our e-bikes. Biking through Iraq sounds very exciting. Have you written anything up about that adventure?

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