OPINION: My mantra for cycling in a Wellington winter is that I don't do wind, I don't do rain - and I don't do hills. "So how much cycling do you actually do, in Wellington over winter?" a sceptical Auckland friend asks.
Well, plenty, actually. I'm continually surprised at how many calm days we get over the main winter months - until the gales of the Spring equinox roar in, around October and November, that is.
Niwa backs me up on this - average wind speeds over a typical winter are actually lower than in summer. Only just though. I'm talking sedate cycling, mind you. I'm past trying to prove anything. My family regards me as the answer to the lime-green spandex brigade. In fashion and in pace.
Serious pedallers on the road easily pass me - I'm usually on the footpath. Heads down, bottoms up and a determined expression - I don't try to compete. I do speed up if a jogger threatens to level with me, however. Even I have my standards.
The bicycles of my youth were not made for speed. You sat upright on them. No gears. Brakes on the pedals. A wicker basket in front and a shield over the chain so that skirts didn't get caught.
An advantage of getting older is that you stop worrying about what people think. Just as well when I'm cycling - with my woolly beanie under my helmet and my trousers rolled up to avoid catching on anything. My handbag sits in the basket in front and my library books in the carrier behind.
And me upright on my comfy gel seat, surveying the scene. And what a scene there is to survey along Wellington's waterfront - my regular "beat".
On the seaside of Oriental Pde, I s-bend around walkers, watching out for dogs on those hazardous extendable leashes which shoot out in front of you threatening a disastrous tangle of dog, leash, cyclist and dog owner.
I cycle past the Tail of the Whale sculpture and then pedal alongside the bobbing boats of Chaffers Marina. Often an impressive yacht is raised out of the water for a facelift - well, a bottomlift, actually.
Along the wide promenade behind Te Papa, I give a nod to the leaning statue called Solace in the Wind. Often I see a visitor adopting a copycat lean-into-the-wind posture while a friend takes a photo.
Past Circa Theatre, there's a choice. Left beside the Waka House to the bridge over Jervois Quay and round to Wellington Library, blessing the planners who made this route possible for wheels.
The other option after Circa is straight ahead towards the container port. On the right I pass Hikitea, Wellington's historic floating crane. On the left are the karaka trees from which the cafe takes it name. Nearby, Kupe points to the stars by which he navigated here - a better spot for this grand old statue than its previous one at the railway station.
I glance to the right to see if Len Lye's water whirler is working but I never seem to be there at a time when it is in action. Perhaps it hibernates in winter? Then I have a challenging decision to make. Which cafe shall I patronise for my mid-cycle cappuccino?
My other main route is also harbourside but towards Miramar. On the footpath of Oriental Pde, I pass the heritage pillar erected in honour of Nancy Wake, famous World War II agent, born in a house nearby.
Local whaling history is outlined here too, commemorating the times when whales were landed at Oriental Bay, their blubber boiled in trypots on the foreshore. What a stink there must have been.
Soon afterwards I must move on to the road and head down Evans Bay. One of the advantages of a sedate pace is that I can glance sideways and watch windsurfers skimming over the water, oyster-catchers scratching on the foreshore, or shags stock-still on the rocks, pondering the meaning of life. Often I have to avoid sharp mussel shells which the seagulls have broken open on the asphalt.
I turn into Cobham Dr at the Zephyrometer, the elegant orange wand that reflects the wind direction.The cycle track is back on the footpath here - much more relaxing.
Soon I'm passing brilliantly coloured spinning cubes and then the graceful kinetic sculptures that echo the windsocks of the neighbouring airport, pivoting on tall poles in a gentle dance of the winds.
On rare occasions, I might feel energetic and cycle around the wild coastal road to make Scorching Bay my coffee stop. But more likely, I head for Kilbirnie and the Greek cafe.
Then it's back on the bike and home again.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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