Pedal power

Marlborough Express - The Saturday Express, Marlborough - - SPORT JOHN ALEXANDER -

His sur­name is Payne and he in­flicted plenty of it upon him­self in last Satur­day’s For­rest Graperide. JJ Payne achieved an amaz­ing feat be­cause not only is rid­ing any sort of push­bike 505kms in one hit a huge ac­com­plish­ment, but try do­ing it with just one gear on an old 1963 bike.

That’s ex­actly what the RNZAF air­craft tech­ni­cian did in com­plet­ing the five-lap ul­ti­mate sec­tion, kick­ing off the epic at 2pm on Fri­day, start­ing the final lap at 10am Satur­day and even­tu­ally un­rav­el­ling his tired, ex­hausted body off the bike at 1.30pm.

He ad­mits some peo­ple prob­a­bly think he is mad, but he has a back­ground in en­durance com­pe­ti­tion and is well used to rid­ing a one-speed bike.

Born in Eng­land, John James Payne, or JJ as ev­ery­one knows him, served in the RAF for 24 years. He came out to New Zealand in 2007 look­ing for a change of life­style.

He be­gan work­ing at Woodbourne in 2008 and only be­gan rac­ing when he came to Blen­heim, and ad­mits he’s not the quick­est. ‘‘I don’t win many races but I like to think I keep the oth­ers hon­est.’’

JJ in­her­ited his late fa­ther’s bike, an old Vik­ing built at Wolver­hamp­ton, which he brought out to New Zealand, and he com­mutes to work on it from Blen­heim most days.

In Fe­bru­ary he had the ideal build-up for the Graperide, set­ting a tar­get of com­plet­ing 2000kms in a month as part of Bike-wise chal­lenge.

He rode 80km each day by ex­tend­ing his to and from work jour­ney and ended up cy­cling 2066kms in to­tal, us­ing a con­ven­tion­ally geared bike.

JJ had pre­vi­ously run half marathons and while serv­ing in the RAF was part of a fundrais­ing team which ran the equiv­a­lent of a marathon each day, check­ing into all the English Premier League foot­ball grounds, start­ing at New­cas­tle and fin­ish­ing at Liver­pool’s home ground of An­field.

As for the Graperide, JJ had some idea of what he was in for hav­ing pre­vi­ously rid­den the 101km stan­dard course and twolap Mag­num cat­e­gory pre­vi­ously on his own 1963 Carl­ton sin­gle speed flyer. ‘‘I set my­self the chal­lenge of do­ing the ul­ti­mate five-lap. To do all the three main events on a sin­gle speed.’’

The early laps went all right on Fri­day af­ter­noon and into the evening and through­out the night he bat­tled on with his sup­port crew, girl­friend Claire, wait­ing at reg­u­lar points to keep him fed and wa­tered, but things al­most turned to cus­tard.

‘‘At the start of the fourth lap I was pretty much in pieces. I had a 20 minute sleep at the look­out to Pic­ton Har­bour. It seemed to do the trick. Then once you start last lap you have to fin­ish.’’

There’s ab­so­lutely no respite rid­ing a one-speed bike be­cause the ped­als are fixed, so they still re­volve if you try to glide.

‘‘You have to keep ped­alling. I just kept go­ing at a nice steady pace. Just a case of tick­ing off the kms. It’s sur­pris­ingly easy to ride and be­ing one gear, not much can go wrong with it. You’ve got to stand up on the hills and use the mo­men­tum a lot more than a bike with gears. What the hu­man body can do is phe­nom­e­nal.’’

He was feel­ing re­mark­ably good at the fin­ish as the eu­pho­ria of the achieve­ment kicked in and he en­joyed a cold beer. How­ever, JJ wasn’t sure about his next chal­lenge.

‘‘I’m try­ing to re­cover. I’m think­ing about it. Too early to say.’’

Oh the Payne: Photo: DEREK FLYNN

In­trepid cy­clist JJ Payne, pic­tured at Woodbourne, re­flects on a mag­nif­i­cent ef­fort in last Satur­day’s Graperide.

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