Six Northlanders will today begin pedalling the length of New Zealand in just over three weeks to raise money for the Northland Rescue Helicopter service.
Mike Waymouth, Jane Sweeney, Rob Meadows, Liz Davies, Paula Lang, and John Lengyel will hop on their bikes at Cape Reinga along with 100 other cyclists from New Zealand and around the globe, and follow a 3000km trail down to Bluff.
They are joining one of 13 relays of the Tour Aotearoa event which will see nearly 1000 bike-enthusiasts riding throughout February and March.
Meadows said the group had made the decision to join Tour Aotearoa some time last year and they were excited to get on their bikes.
"I'm excited that we're doing it, but it's also scary because it's a freaking long way," Lengyel added.
The six of them met through the Marsden Wheelers Road Cycling Club, and, after one of their team had to be picked up by the Northland Rescue Helicopter last year, they decided to support the organisation through their big bike adventure.
Waymouth took on the role as group coach making their calves burn during practice trips and writing up gear lists for everyone. He said they had some amazing experiences already in preparation for the challenge, including a trip to Rotorua.
"If it weren't for Mike we wouldn't be where we are now," Lang said.
The group's goal will be to complete the challenge within 25 days, meaning they will have to cycle on average 120km per day.
Tour Aotearoa was launched in 2016 by Jonathan Kennett who, together with his two brothers, mapped out a route that includes most of New Zealand's prominent cycle trails and avoids main roads whenever possible – and then asked the public to join him on the trip.
This will be the third time the biannual challenge kicks off, although cyclists can individually complete the Tour Aotearoa trail any time of the year.
There are a set of rules participants have to follow, including a $100 registration fee to a charity of their choice. Kennett also says the challenge wasn't a race but a brevet or "bikepacking" trip that must be completed in between 10 and 30 days.
Meadows said he weighed his mountain bike with all his gear – a spare pair of socks, tent and sleeping bags and a few basics – and even scaled down to the essentials, it's still 30kg.
They will share three camping stoves between the six of them so the classic rice and pasta diet will be on the menu as well as local cuisine from dairies and pubs they cycle past.
"Most people lose around 4kg on the trip," Lang said.
The group won't take many personal items – even packing a book is not to be considered – as weight is a "big deal".
Lengyel said while they had an idea what the first few stages across Northland would look like, they didn't have a detailed plan for the entire tour.
"We want to take it day by day," Lang added. "Whether we want to or not, we're going have to get up every morning and get back on the bike, day by day."
Waymouth is excited about the trip because as they'll go down backcountry roads and cycling tracks, they will be seeing a completely different side of New Zealand and meet a diverse range of people.
"Also, you'll be off the grid and don't worry too much about communication and what's happening around the world. It's refreshing not to have to worry about that."
To support their Northland Rescue Helicopters fundraiser, visit givealittle.co.nz/fundraiser/cycling-adventures-for-northland-rescue?fbclid=IwAR18Lsx5RAa5f6a8L-Qc8p6V6-iUpW1JIV3khPMFOxSN8pnhkCnXscboUwY.
To track the location of the group, visit touraotearoa2020.maprogress.com/?bib=rdm&justme=yes&showPath=yes&showMarkerHistory=yes.