Tour Aotearoa – 3000km of road, bike path, beach and track leading from Cape Reinga to the Bluff. This is what I want to do, going from borrowed-bikes to completing one of the bigger items on proper cyclists’ calendars in under four months.
New goal decided there’s no time to lose. I shove my much loved tramping kit in the corner – I need a bike.
I enter the bike shop on a rainy Monday afternoon. Arrayed everywhere are the frames and bars, tyres and brushed metal finish. Hidden in here are my perfect wheels, but they all look the same to me. I approach the counter – “I’m going to need a lot of help”.
The young chap comes over.
I played this moment out on the drive over here. When I tell him my mission, his face will alight. He’ll have ridden the tour before and know exactly what I need. He’ll dash about the shop, delighting in a completely blank slate kit-out for a grand touring adventure. I will leave with the right gear despite not knowing what it is, the definition of those loaded dolts who discover a hobby, buy the best kit all at once, don’t know what they’ve got and don’t appreciate or know how to use any of it.
With a smile on my face, I tell him what I am here to do. “I’m more into mountain biking” he tells me.
This isn’t going to be so easy. He’s flummoxed by my ignorance, and I by his lack of initiative. We bumble around.
Eventually I’m put on a bike to give it a test ride. He plonks a helmet on my head and encourages me out – “see how it feels”.
“What am I looking for?”
“Whether it feels right or not.”
“What does right feel like?”
“Whether everything feels good or not.”
“How should my back and elbows be, if it’s ‘right’?”
“Just see if it feels good.”
“How will I know if it’s wrong?”
“It won’t feel right.”
Mind full of this highly instructive guidance, I wobble out the rear of the shop astride the magnificent machine. Soon I am on the road, flailing brief hand-indicators about, chopping gears and delighting in the quality of this bike.
I don’t know if it’s right or not, but it’s the best thing I’ve ever ridden.
The bike felt good. But it’s a high quality bike; of course it felt good. What do I know? Without being able to test ride ‘bad’, I’m still not sure.
The lack of confident assistance while committing to the most important part of this biking setup is difficult to stomach, but I really need a bike, pronto. He hopes I’ll shop around I suspect, and I think I should too. But I don’t. I just want to get on with it, this is one of the biggest bike shops in the city. The internet has made salespeople so useless these days, I feel with my sample size of one that all sales help from bike shops will be of this quality. So we persevere – he’s better equipped than I to learn and he’s giving it a good, honest crack.
He tries to assure me and himself this is the best frame for the job, looking up measurements on the computer. I learn the stack is this on that, and that on this. The reach is also this and that, and other numbers and lingo and bits of stuff beyond the scope of a novice. He’s an endearing guy doing his best.
Eventually he finds a conclusion. “If I were in your position I’d buy that bike”.
These are the magic words. I buy that bike, despite it being a hideously expensive purchase I am not 100% comfortable with. Time won’t tell whether it’s the best choice, because I won’t know any better – it’ll be, by default, it’s quality and the quality of its fittings, the best bike I have ever ridden. With luck, I’ll ride it from Cape Reinga to Bluff.
As for the rest of the kit – Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was a bike touring setup. Let’s get my butt on the bike first, I need to start wearing it in.