"It's Brigid's fault."
That's the view of Elizabeth Morgan who works with Dr Brigid Forrest at Hospice Marlborough.
"I'm the palliative medicine specialist there and Brigid is one of the medical officers," Morgan says.
"She's originally from Taranaki and she and her husband and family own Forrest Estate Winery, hosts of the Grape Ride. I moved here from Santa Fe, New Mexico in the USA."
Soon after Morgan arrived in NZ last year, she had lunch with Forrest.
"As it usually happens, the discussion turned to bicycling. She asked me, 'what type of riding do you prefer – road or mountain?' I quickly replied, 'riding my road bike up into the mountains.' 'You are going to need a gravel bike.' 'No, no …' I quickly corrected her, 'not the motor type, I like to get my heart rate up, naturally.' 'Yes, but here in Marlborough most of the roads that head up into the mountains are gravel. You need a gravel bike.' 'I already have a mountain bike.' 'I'm telling you, you need a gravel bike.'
"So, it's all Brigid's fault that I spent the next several months learning all I could about gravel bikes, various design features and components."
Morgan knew from experience that she'd want a custom-made frame to ensure the utmost comfort on something without shocks used on non-paved roads. As a newcomer to the country, she definitely wanted to support a local frame builder and after a quick search found Jeff Anderson in Rotorua.
"Soon, Jeff and I were talking for long periods of time over the phone," Morgan said.
"He was enthusiastic, a keen listener with this sixth sense of the sort of riders my partner and I were, what we would want in our new bikes, pricing out the components while sharing his reasoning for various decisions along the way. I felt confident that we were going to be in for a treat."
The bikes were ready in less than six months.
"We decided to pick them up in Rotorua because I was eager to meet 'the father of our bikes.' After seeing the bikes on his Facebook page throughout their creation, we couldn't wait to trial them before taking them home. Jeff had the bikes completely set up for test rides out in the Whakarewarewa Forest. I have never, and I mean never, had a bike feel so perfect in fit at the first ride. We rode all day and then the next morning before catching an early afternoon flight back to Blenheim."
Morgan had specified S&S couplers so the bikes could fit into suitcases for future international travel without telling Anderson the dimensions of the cases.
"I wish I could've taken a picture of the look on his face when he saw them, two hours before our flight. Priceless," Morgan said.
"These were specific for S&S coupled bikes to be accepted with standard suitcase sizes. Jeff took it all in stride after we all rolled up our sleeves to put the puzzle together to get them in their cases. We made it home, but not after a bit of panic for all of us."
And Morgan's next adventure with Anderson?
"See if he can engineer the middle section for my bike to turn it into a tandem. I think he's up for the challenge."
• For steel bikes hand built in Rotorua: www.jeffsonbikes.co.nz