My Five-Star Scoring System…
Picture a standard bell curve graph with values ranging from one to five – the higher the score the better, but wtih almost everyone scoring the middle value, three stars.
A three-star rating (right in the middle!) is completely satisfactory, exactly as your cycling experience should be. Good bicycles from the top makers will score three stars. Only the exceptionally good (and rare) will score four stars. And a bicycle will need to be seriously flawed to drop to two stars.
So what of the extremes – a single twinkle or a constellation of five stars? Either way, you should never encounter these. If you have a 1-star or 5-star bicycle in mind, you have missed the point of this scale; the extremes are beyond imagination.
After more than three years and four months of waiting, I knew my horror experience was finally over – I had an emailed photo of my dream bike pinned to the workshop wall and the box with the bike in it was on the floor ready to open! I think you've guessed what is coming! But let's start at the beginning…
2009 : November — Adventure Cycling in NZ
My dream bike misadventures began late in 2009 on an idyllic adventure cycling vacation in New Zealand.
I took along my Airnimal Black Rhino which is a foldup small-wheeled full suspension mountain bike with Rohloff hub gearing. It was the appropriate bike to take on the plane to and from NZ, on the ocean ferry between the islands and in the back of our small rental car. Perfect, too, for two days on the 150km Otago Central Rail Trail and a few other rough trails but not really the bike for tackling New Zeland's premier sportive around Lake Taupo – a decidely hilly 'imperial century' (as hundred-milers are labelled in English-speaking countries that quietly ditched such measurements half-a-century ago).
Serious randonneurs skip the single-lap Taupo Challenge, opting instead for the Enduro (2 laps), Maxi Enduro (4 laps) or Extreme Enduro (8 laps totalling 1280km which exceeds Paris-Brest-Paris). A single circuit of the lake was sufficient for me and the Airnimal. How could an around-the-lake ride be so hilly? Volcanoes, I think have something to do with the terrain. Don't do that again, I was told on returning to our motel.
Enlightenment came on the journey from Christchurch to Akaroa, a beautiful natural harbour formed when an extinct volcano collapsed into the sea. The first half of this trip was along rail trail; the second half up and over the rim of what is left of the volcano. As I pedalled into the old rail station at Little River, I caught up to two adventure cyclists, both riding titanium pull-apart all-terrain road bikes equipped with S&S couplers. I knew what my next bike would be!