Ahearne Cycles

Pinion Outback Touring Bike

Touring, Thoughts, NewsJoseph Ahearne12 Comments
Page Street Cycles

Page Street Cycles

It’s not too often that I get excited about a new bike component, and usually when I do my excitement is pretty mild. Like, I was glad to see Brooks come out with a non-leather saddle, the Cambium, which has turned out to be comfortable, nice to look at, and is weather proof. 

Brooks Saddle, Schmidt tail light

Brooks Saddle, Schmidt tail light

Honjo H-95 alloy fenders

Honjo H-95 alloy fenders

I got excited when Paul Components released the Klamper disc brake caliper, and it has proven to be far and away the best mechanical disc brake on the market.

And a few years back when I discovering that Honjo makes the H-95 fender, a super wide and flat fender for big tire bikes, I just had to use them on certain projects. 

Pinion 18 speed gearbox

Pinion 18 speed gearbox

All these things and a few others were good innovations, improved iterations on things that already exist. But there are only a few times in my career as a cyclist and bike builder that I can remember when something new really changed things, in regards to components. I think the Pinion gearbox may be one of those things. 

Most of the bikes I build are touring and commuting bikes, so when I think of component innovation I think mostly about how could something work better and last longer. How can a component make a rider’s life easier and better when she’s riding every day, for hundreds and thousands of miles?

 When I first heard about the Pinion gearbox it immediately grabbed my attention. And the more I researched into it, the more interested I became. 

What is a Pinion? 

It’s a gearbox that mounts in the bottom bracket area of a bicycle. This may be an inexact analogy, but think of an automobile transmission. The gears are contained inside a housing or “box,” and so should require very little maintenance. On their website Pinion recommends draining and refilling the gearbox with fresh oil annually, or every 10,000 km (about 6200 mi). Couple this with the Gates Carbon Drive, the belt of which will last up to 20 or even 30,000 miles, and you've now got a bike that should run smooth and trouble-free, at least as far as the drive train is concerned, for a very long time. 

Time to pack up and go

The 18 speed gearbox weighs just over 5 pounds (about 2.25 kilos), which is a bit heavier than a Rohloff internally geared hub, its closest relative in bicycle drive trains. But the great thing about the Pinion is that the gearbox mounts under the rider, basically in the center of the bike. Because the load is centered there shouldn’t be the added sensation of weight as when it’s carried further out. This is the same reason frame bags work well to carry gear, because it’s locked in the front triangle of the bike, and is under the rider, so the weight can’t “swing” while a rider’s momentum shifts side to side with each pedal stroke. 

Another great thing about the Pinion gearbox is the exceptionally wide gear range. Pinion offers three versions: 8, 12, and 18 speeds. The 18 speed has a 636% range from high to low. Compare this to a typical ten speed with a triple front, which has about a 575% range. It's a huge spread of gearing, and the increments between gears are relatively small. But for the moment these are just numbers. It's the ride that will really tell what the gearbox is all about. I chose the 18 speed for this bike because I wanted to get a sense of how wide the range actually is. 

AI Industries is Page Street Cycles

Ok, then, this is the Pinion. 

So then, what is this bike? 

Page Street Cycles Pinion Outback Touring Bike

It’s a Page Street. 

And it’s the latest variation on a bike we fondly call the “Outback.” The Outback is kind of generic name for an off-road touring bike. You can call it a bike camping bike, or bike packing bike, or anything else you want. We call it an Outback Bike. It’s meant to run fat tires (in this case 650b or 27.5" X 2.8" tires) and carry gear so you can head off and away from paved roads onto gravel and single track, ATV trails, old rail beds, beaches, whatever — anywhere at all that cars can’t or usually won’t go. 

Old Guy and the other Old Guy

And for those of you not familiar with what Page Street Cycles is all about, please check out the new website. In a nutshell, Page Street is an excuse for Christopher of Igleheart Custom Frames & Forks (nice new website, Christopher!) and myself — Joseph — of Ahearne Cycles, to collaborate and make awesome bikes. 

Christopher and I share a shop, we share a lot of tools, we bounce ideas off each other, we make each other laugh, we feed each other’s cats when one of us leaves town, sometimes we share lunch. We have similar ideas and values when it comes to bikes and cycling, so we thought, why not work together sometimes? We both love salmon and we both build bikes, and whatever we build together is going to be a fun project. I don’t know exactly how — you can ask your local Hindu religious figure — but that fun gets translated into each bike’s ride quality. It’s like they’re good vibe bikes. Maybe that should be our tag line. 

Page Street Cycles

Page Street Cycles

Page Street Cycles

The Good Vibe Bikes

Basically, Page Street Cycles is our team name. It’s what we call bikes that we both have a hand in making. Christopher and I will each continue making bikes under our own names, but now we’ve got this other thing, too. In the end, it’s all just a party. 

Ok so, this latest bike is an example of what we can do. Here below is a summary of the features included. I did my homework on this one, and came up with much of the design. Igleheart and I built it together. 

Paragon Machine Works "Toggle Drop" is the bomb!

Bedsides Christopher, I’ve got a lot of people to thank for helping make such a rad machine, including Rolf Prima for the amazing Alsea wheelset, and Paragon MachineWorks for the Toggle Drops that make this whole bike work just right; Paul Components and the folks at Pinion who put up with all my questions. Marc at Gates Carbon Drive for technical support, supplying belt wheels and belt, and for caring for the bike in Las Vegas. Also, Ogando at Velogical and Jens who made the battery buffer (hidden in the steerer) and USB stem cap, the so-called Forumslader; Dave at Black Star Bags for the fabulous custom seat bag (we'll be offering these bags in the future). I also want to thank Dan at Co Motion Cycles for the shifter and the good advice on shift boss placement. And last but not least, I have to thank Kai Yao for all the awesome photos. My hope was to design something that could go everywhere and do everything. Nothing less. Whether we succeeded in building it or not remains to be seen. So far, it’s looking pretty good.

Forumslader USB Stem Cap

Which brings up one last point, and is the biggest question I now have: 

How is this bike going to feel?

You know what I’m saying? I mean, there’s something beyond the simple functioning of a bike that makes it pleasurable to ride. 

I like the sound of a chain and cog interface when everything is running smooth. 

I like the crisp feeling of indexed shifting on a traditional external drive train. I know derailleur systems really well, and have ridden a whole lot of miles on various bikes and configurations of derailleur/chain/cogs, and have done so with great success. I know that I can trust a good-ol’ 9 speed chain-and-derailleur system, and I know how to work on it. 

Front Rack Upper Deck, Light & Roll Cage

Front Rack Upper Deck, Light & Roll Cage

I also understand its limitations: Chains will rust, especially around salt water; If your derailleur gets hit in a crash or by a stick or whatever it can kill it; Cables stretch, chains too; cogs wear out, and so on. For the most part, though, traditional drive trains are pretty solid and durable. 

There are a lot of unknowns here. 

So how’s it going to feel with a carbon belt and no chain, no derailleur, everything contained, no need to think much at all about drive train maintenance? I like the idea of it, for sure. Especially for long trips, and remote riding. But am I going to like the way it feels? This is going to take some time to learn, and is an assessment I’ll write about in a future post. 

Feelings aside, though, if you think about the bike as a tool meant to perform a certain kind of work as efficiently and effectively as possible, then all of this sounds pretty good. 

I do have to admit, my hopes are high. 

An Ahearne Original -- Functional Spork Head Badge

Pump Peg Support Bearings -- Borrowed From An Original Engineering Design by JP Weigle

World Touring Bike

TouringJoseph Ahearne2 Comments

This bike is very custom, and is ready for anything. The list of features includes: 26" wheels, Rohloff 14 speed internally geared rear hub, Gates Carbon belt drive, Paul "Klamper" disc brakes, Supernova lights powered by a Schmidt front generator hub, internal wiring throughout. On top of the stem is the Supernova "Plug" which is a USB port to charge small devices from the power of the front hub. The bike has S&S couplers so it can be broken down for easier transport on airplanes etc. The racks are custom, steel, made in house. The fenders have very nice and understated striping, and the offset color of the racks is a quiet nod to the custom aesthetic. Keefer's bike is ready to hit the road for the long haul. 

There are a lot more detailed photos on flickr, including some photos of the process if you're interested. 

 

New Stuff! And old stuff too!

Merchandise, NewsJoseph AhearneComment

New stainless steel pint glasses just arrived!

And they're fantastic. They are true pints, and what's great about them is they are vacuum sealed, so your cold beverages stay cold, and hot stays hot for much longer. Not to mention they have the Ahearne logo engraved on the side.

They arrived just in time for the holidays. It's a great gift for someone who's already got all the bike gear, and you really just don't know what else they might need. They'll be happy with this, you can believe it! 

Stainless pints are $22. Click here to buy!

Also, insulated coffee mugs are back in stock!

And, we now offer them in Black or Silver. It's an 18 oz. mug with a top that fully seals, so no drips or leaks while riding. Keeps hot beverages hot for up to 12 hours, and cold drinks cold for up to 24 hours. Each mug has the Ahearne head badge logo, and yes, they fit into most standard water bottle cages. If you need a cage to go with your mug, let me recommend the stainless steel King Cage

Buy a coffee mug here! They're $29.

One last note. If you plan to order a Custom Engraved Flask for the holidays, please have your order in by Sunday, 29 November, to be sure we've got enough time to get the engraving done and get it back to you before Christmas. 

Thanks, and happy winter cycling!

Down Under Nearly Over

Travel, Thoughts, NewsJoseph Ahearne2 Comments
Jesse and frame #1

Jesse and frame #1

Jesse and I constructed the very first bicycle frame in the Surreal Foundry & Cycle Shop here in Fremantle, Western Australia. A lugged single speed road bike meant for around town riding. Jesse’s dream workshop is now a reality, and he’s even had an inaugural party to announce the completion of the workshop to the world at large. The ‘world at large’ being, mainly: Friends, family, acquaintances, neighbors, people who somehow helped out with the workshop’s construction, anyone else interested or related. And, perhaps even more importantly, by celebrating the workshop’s completion, this brings a long and somewhat trying process to a point of Closure for both Jesse and his partner Kerry. 

Workshop with a Wall of Windows

Workshop with a Wall of Windows

The workshop is gorgeous. It’s behind the house, is an asymmetric design, kind of wedge-shaped, which fits well with the huge Norfolk pine and the “flow” of the back garden. The inside of the workshop is I’d guess about 7 or 800 square feet, has it’s own water-efficient toilet, two deep stainless steel sinks, a small area which will eventually be a paint booth, and is stocked with most all of the tools needed to build bikes. Jesse and I have been talking over the past couple of years about

Anvil Jig with Frame

Anvil Jig with Frame

equipment, and he’s gotten himself an Anvil frame fixture and fork fixture (your stuff is bad ass, Don!), a blasting cabinet, a couple of different belt grinders, a variety of hand tools, and this table from Germany that is kind of like the King of All Tables, in terms of what you’d want in a workshop. 

The King of All Tables

Professional Extreme with Fork Blade Bender, Clamps

Professional Extreme with Fork Blade Bender, Clamps

…is made by a company called Seigmund, as I said, in Germany. It’s perforated and modular and has all these clamps and brackets you can buy that fit the holes so that you can set up and work on anything that needs fixturing in any way. The table weighs right at a ton (850 kilos). It’s called the Professional Extreme 850, if that tells you something, and it’s made from “special” tool steel and is “plasma-nitrided and coated.”

What this means is that the table is extremely tough, heat resistant, scratch resistant, and just generally hard. There’s this awesome video advertisement for the table showing off how tough and bad ass it is by dropping a car on it from like 40 feet up (15 meters) and burying it in gravel and dragging it out with a crane, unscathed. They even blow it up with dynamite (check out the guy in work overalls and hardhat blowing a little bugle to announce the explosion), and the table gets not even a scratch. The video is only 2 minutes long, and is well worth it, even for just the acting and heavy machinery and general absurdity of it all. And everyone in the video keeps a straight face the whole time. Those Germans are something. 

Check out the video for the Seigmund Professional Extreme 850 here.

Belt Grinder in Action

Belt Grinder in Action

But I’m getting side-tracked. Tools & tables. Building a first bike in a brand new workshop with new tools, you’ve got to expect to run into difficulties, so-called bumps in the road. And we did. We had to make a fork blade bender before we could start the fork. We had to fill the tanks and set up the torch and we then had to replace the faulty regulators. We had to buy silver and flux. I had to learn to braze with these new types of flux, figuring out their properties and heat-windows and all that. We had to figure out the abrasive system for mitering. Oh, and yes, we had to uncrate the frame jig and set it all up. Nice job packing the crate, by the way, Don Ferris. Seems like you’ve spent some time figuring that process out. We had to design a bike around the lugs that Jesse already had in his possession. We had to guess at the lug’s actual angles, because Jesse bought them off a guy who used to build bikes quite a while ago and there was no finding the guy now, not on the internet or otherwise. Japanese track lugs, not like any I’ve seen, exactly. We made an educated guess at the angles. We had to order more bits from Ceeway in England; tubes, steerers, braze-ons, etc., and wait for them to come before we could finish off the bike. 

Offset Vice

Offset Vice

Many hiccups and minor set backs (like right off I cut the first set of fork legs 1 cm too short, which made me feel kind of like an asshole, but not too much so, because that’s just the way it goes sometimes, especially if you let yourself get distracted), but we took the time and did the work and the first set of tubes and lugs became the first bicycle frame built in Jesse’s shop. I was pleased, Jesse was pleased, it’s all going to work out just fine.

Street Art in Freo

Street Art in Freo

Jesse’s got a lot of work ahead of him, learning the millions of little details and skills and the handiwork that goes into building a frame. But he loves bikes and he’s spent a good portion of his adult life making things that uses sapphires and electrons and can read things at distances with a timing that is more accurate than I can even imagine — clocks, he calls them; really high-end clocks. I didn’t study physics enough to comprehend but about 3% of what Jesse made, but whatever it was was quite a bit more complex than making a bicycle frame. A very different skill set.

A Snake! With Legs!

A Snake! With Legs!

But I think that one of the things Jesse likes about bikes, which is one of the things that I, too, like, is the very physical interaction with the final product, and the variability of the subjective experience of it. To conceive it, to design it, build it, and then to ride it and get feedback and take that bit of knowledge back into the workshop and refine it and do it again and again, always pushing a little closer to a level of perfection that is yours and yours alone, and sharing it with others and hoping they see what you see — that’s the art, the craft, and really that’s the fun of it, the part that really makes it all worthwhile. In my opinion, anyway. 

Jesse’s off to a good start. Now he gets to spend a lot of time working with Seigmund to make his next bike.  


The Beach

The Beach

Big Ass Hairy Spider

Big Ass Hairy Spider

My time here is winding down, and spring is in full bloom in Australia. The bike is built and my duties here are pretty much finished. For now. I’m headed out soon; back to the states, to Oregon, home. The past few weeks, even including the time we were working, have been eventful and easy and in many ways a lot like a vacation. I’ve learned a lot of things about Australia that I didn’t know: Natural things, cultural things, things about the economy and government and people’s attitudes toward others and some of the less obvious stuff like how people deal with conflict and what they think of the American Presidential Circus (APC). 

Bike Path by the Beach

Bike Path by the Beach

I started writing what I thought was going to be a blog post over a week ago, but I’ve got so much material and so many things I want to talk about that it (the writing) became longer and longer and I thought, well shit this isn’t a book it’s a blog, this isn’t going to work at all. I’ve got to cut it down. Maybe put it together in pieces, post it in parts. Subjects I’ve written about include, but are not limited to:

— The timeline and historical significance of the band AC/DC, especially in regards to former front man and lead singer Bon Scott, who died from asphyxiating on his own vomit in the front seat of a car after a night of heavy drinking. This was while the band was on tour in London in 1980. And what happened to the band then. Bon Scott’s grave is here in Fremantle, Western Australia. 

— Nature. Meaning plants and birds. Big birds little birds water birds pretty birds dumb birds birds of prey and so on. There are a lot of weird birds in Australia, and plants and trees unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Lizards, frogs. And the birds make these sounds, it’s almost terrifying at certain times, and then at other times the way their voices cry out you’d think they were genuinely making fun of us humans. Mocking our children. And the plants, they may walk around at night when no one is watching. And whales. And sharks (there was an attack listed in the paper within a few days of my arrival, which made the ocean seem a little menacing, despite how clear and blue-green it is). I didn't tell Maggie about the shark attack because I didn't want to talk about it. And I didn’t see any actually hopping around, but kangaroos, too. Dogs everywhere. Little snakes with legs. Writing like I'm Nature Boy. 

— And speaking of birds, I found an emu egg at a market and couldn’t help myself. I bought it, cooked it up and ate it. Maggie, bless her, she helped with the process. Emus are the second largest bird on the planet, next to the ostrich. This egg was BIG. The whole process was very weird and disproportionate and disconcerting. But I did it anyway. The yolk was like the size of my fist, but softer. I scrambled it with vegetables. Catsup & hot sauce. Toast. 

Bunker Bay

Bunker Bay

— Bunker Bay, Dunsborough, Yallingup, the entire Margaret River region, cape to cape, south of Perth; Towns with unbelievable beaches and olive oil and chocolate and wine and products made with fine marino wool, lazy winding roads through a canopy of trees whose palette is more on the yellow and light grey side, rather than the deep greens and browns that I’m used to. Surf towns, beach towns, very relaxed towns. Lots of nature to lose yourself in. Whales migrate past from colder arctic waters further south to wherever else they go to spawn and breed and eat. Hippies and yogis and a lot of very rich people live in these places.

— Reading the Infinite Jest in Australia. I read this book many years ago, in another foreign place, and took some things from it, but I know a lot more about the author now, his life and death and quirks and history and what he seemed to like to think and write about. It’s a big book and requires some readerly work and energy, but hot damn he’s a good writer. 

Writing in the Morning

Writing in the Morning

— This is only a few of the bigger subjects I’ve been thinking about. Others include a discussion of the pros and cons of Airbnb; thoughts on addiction and habituation and routine and practice; the night sky (yes, I’ve seen the southern cross); a couple of weird dreams; and bike building in a new workshop, which I’ve already said a few words about…

Wild Flower Season

Wild Flower Season

I’ll have to come back to some of this other stuff. This is probably just enough for now. Actually, my plane is leaving soon. It's hard to believe after a trip like this that I'm actually going home. No more beach or sun or shorts and bare feet for a while to come. But I'm looking forward to getting back into my workshop. 

Real Evening Colors

Real Evening Colors

Rosellas, I think. They were everywhere.

Rosellas, I think. They were everywhere.

Wind Swept Tree

Wind Swept Tree

That's all, folks!

That's all, folks!


Notes from Australia & New Zealand

Joseph Ahearne6 Comments
It's hard to take a bad photo in New Zealand

It's hard to take a bad photo in New Zealand

This is like a long post card to all of you. I've written a few real post cards but I can’t seem to keep it short and do any justice to everything that’s happened on this trip so far. I feel like they’re kind of a let down. I mean, post cards are great, just like any snail-mail is these days. Your name is on it, there are a few words, maybe a pretty picture or an artful drawing, and you can hold it in your hand — it’s an actual, tangible artifact, a piece of the place, even if it's small. But what can you really say in a postcard? There's no space. I read an article a bit ago about a famous author (David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas) who prints a short story in short bursts on Twitter. The whole story is told over several days (I believe it’s happening now). Anyway, postcards trying to tell about long eventful trips would be kind of like reading a story in twittering bursts, only slower and way more expensive on my end. And anyway, twitter is twitter.

Full Moon, Blue Moon, Super Moon

Full Moon, Blue Moon, Super Moon

So right now it’s a little after 4 in the morning. I’ve been awake for a couple of hours, couldn’t sleep at all. Maybe because there’s good strong coffee down here that I’m not metabolizing and it’s wrecking my sleep. Maybe it’s the business of this Full Moon/Super Moon/Blue Moon/Equinox/Etc., rocking the tides, pulling at life. Whatever the case.

I’m at a small desk by a window in an old house in Auckland, New Zealand. The part of town I’m staying in is called Westmere, which is a quiet neighborhood a mile or so west of the city center. The woman who owns the house is an aging hippy with an aristocratic sounding accent, at least that’s how it sounds to me. Her name’s Judy and her face gets long when she talks and she stares at you so hard you’d think her eyes might be bad. But they’re clear, her eyes are, and she’s not looking around to find you, but right into you, which is intense. She’s got a great big warm laugh, though, which makes you feel at home. She lives off part-time work and AirBnB guests like me. The house has lots of windows and natural wood and there’s a black cat named Lucky who eats lamb meat and sleeps on the floor in rectangles of sunlight. 

NZ Tug

NZ Tug

Today is Friday, 2 October. In Portland it’s still Thursday, which really messes with how I think about you all at home. I’m twenty hours ahead of you Cascadians, which means you’re four hours later than me, but yesterday. Got it?

The first week of this trip was a rush of busy-ness. I was in Sydney, Australia for three days helping with an event and bike give-away. Then we came to Auckland to put on a similar event. The people who organized the event, The Team, consisted mainly of people from Portland who have an interest in attracting tourism to our town. I was included because I nominally represent the “maker scene” happening in Portland — an honest-to-goodness bicycle builder. Todd from Pedal Bike Tours was here, and Samantha from the Jupiter Hotel. Amanda represented the Department of Agriculture and Heather is from Travel Portland. Several others helped put the event together and added to it their particular knowledge base and specialty. All of them great people.

The Sydney "Activation"

The Sydney "Activation"

Beyond the events, or “activations,” as they were called, I had little to do but make sure the bikes were assembled. So I wandered around, went to a few yoga classes and generally enjoyed the life of a patron at a 5-star hotel. The Radisson in Sydney was rad. Rad Radisson. The breakfast buffet was out of control. Or maybe it was just me around that much good food. As an individual eater there was no way to put a dent into it. The food was so good and there were so many directions you could go, like the muesli, fruit and yogurt route, or the cold salad and cheese route, or smoothies, or custom made omelets, seven or eight types of meat, four types of fresh baked bread, two types of salmon (smoked and gravlax), scrambled eggs so fluffy they could have been whipped with air, pickled things, aged and salted things, fresh things. It was hard to get out of there without eating myself sick. But whatever, when the gourmet trough is open, you eat. 

Hotel Breakfast, Round II

Hotel Breakfast, Round II

One other notable thing about staying in a hotel like the Radisson are the robes. Here’s a note I took on Radisson water-mark paper with a Radisson pen while wearing a robe:

The robes are blindingly, perfectly white, made from a dense, soft cotton that has been dryer fluffed and is somehow almost crisp on the hanger. But as soon as it’s taken down and draped over naked skin — skin which has been fragranced, it might be noted, by an herbal, all-natural, shower gel — the robe feels like a massage of clouds. 

Robed Elegance

Robed Elegance

The robe’s collar is like that of a double breasted suit, except it is so thick it reminds one of the comfort and support of a neck pillow. Fresh out of the shower and squeaky-clean, there is a representation of oneself in the floor to ceiling bathroom mirror; Despite one’s pallor, one looks uncommonly fashionable, like one just stepped from the pages of a magazine that advertises ungodly expensive watches, gaudy museum-grade jewelry, perfect and ageless skin. Looking at one’s reflection, one turns from left to right looking for the best and most precisely photogenic perspective -- either tipping the chin low or lifting it high, one is caught in the radiant whiteness of the robe, which acts like a good photoshop job, erasing all niggling blemishes in a pampering of cotton.

There is really so much to be found in a robe.

Anyway, and again, there are just times you have to give in and enjoy what life brings. 

Weird Reflection

Weird Reflection

By all accounts the events (activations) were successful. I talked with many people about Oregon and about the bikes. The people who won the bikes bounced around with excitement, inspiring envy in other onlookers. The word about Oregon is out. After the Auckland event came to a close, most everyone on The Team went their separate ways. I gave myself an extra week in New Zealand before going on to Western Australia. Also staying for some extra days was Samantha from the Jupiter Hotel, and Amanda from the Department of Agriculture. We decided to rent a car and go check out a beach on the west coast called Piha. On this trip, Samantha had an accident. Here’s the story, translated from my notes:

Piha from the High Road

Piha from the High Road

On The Beach at Piha

On The Beach at Piha

The car we rent is tiny and green, shaped like a tear drop. We call it the Tin Can. The Tin Can has a manual transmission and everything but the gas/brake/clutch pedals are reversed from what I’m used to. Steering wheel on the right, rear-view mirror and stick-shift on the left. Turn signal, right; windshield wipers, left. Whether you think about it or not, driving is a symphony of activities coordinated in a more or less fluid manner. After years of doing it it feels like second nature. Which way do you look when you come to an intersection? How near or far do you as a driver place yourself in relation to the centerline on the road? The biggest challenge in this mirrored mode is city driving, and in particular, down-shifting, signaling and turning in rapid succession. I keep flipping on the wipers instead of signaling and then coasting with the clutch pressed in trying to get my right brain to instruct my left hand to find a freaking gear while I’m visually mapping my surroundings to assess my speed and intended trajectory and if my grasp of these physics is about to put me in extreme and immediate danger. When everything is “normal” there’s so much we don’t have to think about. But this is just stressful. 

Tame Mallards at Piha

Tame Mallards at Piha

It’s a questionable beginning, but fortunately we make it out of town and drive to Piha without serious incident. At Piha we walk, climb rocks, watch the surfers, the waves, the sky. Samantha, Amanda and I get to know each other. We talk about work, the housing market in Portland, New Zealand agriculture, hotels, food. We wear hats and sunglasses and the sun feels very intense. People say there’s a big hole in the ozone layer down here and I believe them. The air temperature isn’t all that warm, but the sun sizzles our bare skin. 

After a few hours at Piha we drive back up and out of the bay into lush green forest. We stop at a parking area beside a trailhead and walk into the forest. Trails here are called tracks, and hiking is called trekking. But we are only walking. Walking in the woods. We wind around the track looking at the weird and unfamiliar foliage. After less than a mile the track comes to a T. There’s an outhouse and a couple of directional signs. The uphill direction is restricted. The downhill track says it leads to a reservoir. None of it seems very interesting. Samantha, Amanda and I talk about what to do. We’re from Oregon, we reason, we’ve seen a million reservoirs. Samantha goes into the outhouse. Amanda and I look down the track. 

Samantha squawks. Oh my god, you guys, I just dropped my phone in the toilet!

Amanda and I look at each other. 

Oh no, you guys, I can’t believe this. Samantha steps out. It’s so deep, she says. 

Amanda steps off the trail and tugs at a long branch. 

There’s no way, Samantha says. It’s way too far down. 

Are you sure? Let me look, I say. I enter the outhouse. Yes, it’s deep. A big stinking black hole. I hold my breath and use my phone as a flashlight, clutching it like it might be greased. Ten feet down perched on a pile of waste and wadded TP is an iPhone 5s, white case, screen dark, facing up at me. There is no way. 

I snap a photo (not shown here, for obvious reasons. If you really must see the photo, email me).

Outside the shitter we stand in a little triangle. I’m not smiling. I'm really not smiling.

Well, shit! I say. 

Exactly! says Amanda. 

There’s nothing to be done.

I don’t want to see a reservoir, says Samantha. We walk back down the track to the Tin Can. 


The next day Amanda left for Vietnam to help organize an event where a famous Vietnamese chef is cooking 100 pounds of potatoes with Governor Kate Brown. I forget why. Something to do with food; money; publicity; good relations. On our trip to Piha I learned from Amanda that New Zealand’s largest export is dairy products mostly headed to China. Who knew? 

Blue Shirt at the Blue Chipper

Blue Shirt at the Blue Chipper

I picked Samantha up early the following day and we drove the Tin Can to Coromandel, a large peninsula east of Auckland. We stayed mostly along the coastline and then cut through the interior of the Coromandel Forest. We ate “world renowned” fish & chips, wandered through a butterfly sanctuary, walked the sand at Hot Water Beach and hiked down to Cathedral Cove. It was a big day of driving with many stops at many sites. We arrived back to Auckland at nearly 10 pm. The next day we met Corey and his wife Karen, both of whom were key organizers with The Team. They live here in Auckland, in Browns Bay. Corey took us down to the bay to play around on his paddle board and surf-ski. The water is still pretty cold, but the sun is hot and we had a good time trying to find our balance on these tippy vessels. 

Some Dude Showing Off

Some Dude Showing Off

Bay Riding

Bay Riding

I brought a bicycle with me on this trip. So far it's just been luggage, a big box to carry around. Of course I forgot to bring a helmet, and there is a helmet law here for cyclists. Luckily I was able to borrow one from Corey. Yesterday I went on my first real bike ride of this trip. I rode down to the ferry, and went across to Devonport, then rode up and down, up and down, along the coast and through the six bays to arrive again at Browns Bay to meet Corey. We ate sushi and then rode out of town and up to a ridge into mostly rural land. It felt a lot like riding along Skyline Drive above Portland, with rolling hills, winding roads, some big houses, climbs & descents, trees and clearings that gave periodic views of the distant countryside. Between the strong winds off the sea and all the climbing, I could see how a person would get in shape if they rode here much. Corey and I did a sort of a loop and parted ways. I was pretty tired by the time I arrived back at the ferry. 

Big Sky Off Hot Water Beach. Check out the rainbow on the rock, right in the middle.

Big Sky Off Hot Water Beach. Check out the rainbow on the rock, right in the middle.

Arch at Cathedral Cove

Arch at Cathedral Cove

Everyone says I’ve been pretty lucky with the weather, but today is very windy and rainy, so I’m taking the day off to read and write this post. Rather than scrawl out a bunch of post cards that’ll only tell bits of the story, I thought I’d go at it head on. I’ve got a couple more days here in Auckland, and then I’m off to Fremantle in Western Australia. That’ll be the beginning of the next big adventure on this trip, and will put me back to work as a bicycle frame builder. I’m looking forward to meeting Jesse Searls and sharing what knowledge I have to teach him the craft. 

Cathedral Cove, Camera Distortion

Cathedral Cove, Camera Distortion

If you’ve made it this far in reading this post, I hope you’ve enjoyed yourself. I’ll be taking notes and writing more in the coming weeks. As they say here New Zealand, in the Maori language, kia kaha, which means “stay strong,” or “stand strong.” You've got to say it from deep in your gut. It’s meant as an affirmation, to inspire. So, farewell, and

Kia kaha!

Big Tree

Big Tree

Late Afternoon at Cathedral Cove

Late Afternoon at Cathedral Cove

Rainbow Rock (this is not fake -- it really looked like this)

Rainbow Rock (this is not fake -- it really looked like this)