TWO Old Eleans have completed the bike ride of their lives by travelling over 3,000kms (1,865 miles) in three weeks to cover the length of New Zealand.
Edward and James Fuller completed the Tour Aotearoa event, from Cape Reinga at the top of the North Island to Bluff, at the bottom of the South Island, in 22 days. The pair averaged around 140kms (approximately 90 miles) a day, and raised over £2,000 for children’s cancer charity, KidsCan NZ, in the process.
“The idea came from a casual conversation with a work colleague who had ridden the only previous event in 2016,” said James, 45, who now lives in Tauranga, New Zealand. “It sounded like an adventure and I knew Ed would probably be up for it, so it went from there really.”
Tour Aotearoa is a self-supported (i.e. everything you need including camping gear, clothes, etc, you carry on your bike) brevet. A brevet is a ride following a set course, via 30 photo checkpoints, which you must complete between 10 and 30 days. The route was not direct, more off-road than on, following a mix of cycle trails, gravel roads, 4wd tracks and beach, as well as conventional roads when no other option was available. The route takes in some of the country’s iconic landmarks, including 90-mile beach, Fox Glacier and Auckland’s Mt Eden.
“Neither of us had done ‘bikepacking’ before, where you carry everything on the bike,” said James, who trained for three months for the event. “It’s a lot slower than riding a normal road bike obviously and New Zealand is a lot hillier than the Fens, in fact most of the time it felt like one long continuous hill. We were in the saddle for about 10 hours a day on average.”
Ed, 40, also lives in New Zealand, in the capital Wellington, with his partner and their two young children, Ollie and Evie. The brothers, originally from Chatteris, attended King’s Ely during the 1980s through to the early 1990s. The pair had plenty of adventures along the way.
James said: “We got seriously behind time one day and ended up riding on a muddy forest track going up a mountain at 10pm at night. My light gave out which meant I was biking in the dark behind Ed which was an interesting experience. We both had our spills, including some memorable face-plants on a quagmire of a track near a place called The Bridge to Nowhere. But it was an epic trip and the scenery in New Zealand is spectacular.”
Some lessons were also learned. “Sleeping out in the open in a bivvy is neither romantic nor comfortable,” said James.