St John fundraiser Dunc’s Big Bike Ride returns to Picton, finishing fullest ever circumnavigation of the South Island
“That was quite a long way, wasn’t it?” said Dunc as he crossed the finish line and boarded the Interislander. He has just spent the last three-and-a-half months circumnavigating the South Island to the closest possible coastal route. The mission is a full circumnavigation of New Zealand’s two main islands, by bike, and is believed to be the first time ever such a route has been pedalled.
Key points/Why this matters:
– A first for NZ – no record of this route having been cycled before
– Raised over $4,000 for St John
– Over 7,000km ridden so far
– Crash 27km from Picton nearly put brakes on finish date
An 11th-hour accident nearly delayed the finish, but Dunc was determined to keep going and cross the line in Picton as planned.
“The front wheel struck a hard, but slippy patch of mud. I… ended up sliding off the side of the left bank headfirst, a la Superman. I felt the loaded bike coming down on top of me as I slid,” he posted on the Dunc’s Big Bike Ride Facebook page. He received numerous soft tissue injuries to the upper chest and sternum, but amazingly avoided any bone breaks. After being kept in Wellington Hospital for a night, he is now recovering with family in the capital.
The adventure has followed roads, gravel roads, tracks, paths and beaches, all with a laden bike weighing 40kg on an average day. The ride around NZ’s larger island totalled nearly 4,900km.
“It’s not far off the actual coastline of 5,842km, is it?” smirked Dunc. “Well, yes, actually it’s
miles off. But, until they put that Fiordland Coastal Scenic Route in, and one around Marlborough, too, this is all anybody’s going to be biking.”
The southern isles, including Stewart Island, were a full-on adventure, both on and off the bike. The gravel roads and high winds of the east coast were the slower sections, while the rain-lashed state highway 6 of the west provided the best impetus to get north! Other events included being trapped on the Otago Peninsula for a night, having to cook ‘boil-in-the-bags’ with mud and an interesting night spent with NZ’s smallest religious cult.
Weather extremes and tough terrain also put a fair amount of stress on The Bike, a 29″ wheeled hard-tail mountain bike modified slightly for the rigours of this special trip. Brakes, spokes and chains have all had to be changed by Bike Barn stores at regular intervals. At one point, he even had to ride the gnarly Heaphy Track on a cracked wheel!
“It was a nerve-racking time. Other bikers I showed on the track couldn’t believe I was going for it with a split wheel, but it just kept holding on, even against those huge rocks coming down from Perry Saddle!” he said upon completion of the track.
In his downtime, Dunc took time to meet many South Islanders and talk with them about his mission.
“People here have been so welcoming of my chosen cause, it’s been quite humbling. Checkout operators, holidaymakers, farmers, businessmen, retired folk and camp owners have all wanted to donate. They’re a lovely bunch – even the German campervan renters who make up some 80% of the population have contributed in some way!”
All the money raised goes to help St John buy lifesaving equipment, for use nationwide. The target for Dunc’s Big Bike Ride is $10,000, which is enough for two defibrillators, with some left over. Donations can be made via the Givealittle page (link below).
Despite the solo nature of riding a bicycle, Dunc maintains that this is a team effort, involving lots of people.
“I have a list as long as my body of people who I simply could not have done this without. Their time, expertise, generosity, wisdom and kindness is all appreciated from the bottom of my heart.”
Dunc’s Big Bike Ride will now head up the west coast of the North Island, through the likes of Whanganui, New Plymouth, Raglan, Waitakere and Dargaville, before turning at Cape Reinga and heading back towards Auckland for an estimated early-August finish. The ride began on 2nd January 2015.