Having recently acquired my first custom build bike, a Soma Wolverine v4 Type B, I was super keen to give it a spin on an overnight bikepacking “shakedown ride” to test the new bike and some new gear I’d also bought for this purpose. Having found a willing co-conspirator, we decided to head off for a jaunt on a local rail trail to Little River.

Packing The Gear

This photo was actually taken when I came home from the trip as a record of what I took for future trips, but it makes sense to perhaps show it up front – the only thing missing is some food (eaten!), my jandals I took for the campsite (was wearing them) and my beanie which was in the pocket of my yellow puffer jacket:

The gear taken for my first overnight bikepacking trip – seems a lot but packs down small
  • Top Row – What I wore:
    • MTB shoes
    • Socks
    • MTB shorts
    • Merino short sleeved t-shirt
    • Mons Royale merino boxers with padded liner (very comfortable for long bike rides!)
    • Helmet
    • Muff (green) that I wear on my head to keep sweat away
    • MTB Gloves
  • Second Row – in the Aeroe drybag on the back of the bike:
    • Jetboil cooker
    • Toothbrush
    • Wet wipes
    • Micro quick dry towel
    • Kindle
    • Battery bank – USB adaptors (I can charge this with the dynamo on my bike if needed)
    • Food – 2min noodles and cup-of-soups (all prepared with Jetboil)
    • Collapsible plates/cups and spork
    • Clothing: 2nd pair of Mons Royale merino boxers with padded liner, normal merino boxers for campsite, clean t-shirt for camp, merino Longjohns and longsleeve merino (wearing to bed as sleeping bag is not super warm), clean socks for camp, 2nd pair of merino socks for on the bike.
    • Jandals
  • Third Row – in the Ortlieb handlebar bag on the front of the bike
    • Tent
    • Sleeping Mat
    • Inflatable pillow
    • Sleeping bag (too light weight really – I was not cold, but I certainly was not toasty warm)
    • Sea to Summit Thermolite Reactor – boosted the warmth of the sleeping bag significantly
    • Rain jacket for on the bike
    • Rain pants for on the bike
    • Puffer Jacket
    • Beanie
  • Fourth Row – in the Ortlieb half-frame bag
    • Firstaid kit
    • Snacks
    • Hiplok combination lock (really like this – super lightweight)
    • Headtorch (USB rechargeable)
    • Proviz reversible vest (yellow in the day, shiny silver at night – highly visible)
  • Fifth Row – “Feedbags” x2 on the handlebar stem
    • 750ml Water bottle
    • Snacks for ‘on the go’
    • Multitool for bike repairs
    • Leatherman multi tool
    • Garmin InReach PLB with 2 way messaging
  • Sixth Row – Osprey 2.5L water bladder backpack
    • Water purifier
    • Sunscreen
    • Bike pump
    • Spare tyre
    • 2nd Hiplok (taken by accident)

With all the gear packed on the bike it looked like this right before departure:

On a test ride last week I’d not been able to get all my sleep system in the Ortlieb front bag along with my tent, but getting a bit more creative and determined I did:

The orange straps on the front are a great place to store jandals or a wet towel to dry

Day One – Christchurch to Little River (68km)

Setting off shortly after 1pm, we headed out of town on a variety of cycle paths – it didn’t take long before we hit the Little River Trail officially, this is an old rail trail and was a good test of the “gravel credentials” of the Soma Wolverine. I’m happy to say it passed with flying covers, heading along at a good 25kph clip for much of it, despite being loaded up with gear.

Whilst the Rail Trail starts considerably earlier, the common “starting point” is the Motukarara historical railway station – here we stopped for the first time, I had a banana and took a photo of the bikes and my mate Craig who was along for the ride.

It was a fun ride and as we swung towards Lake Forsyth there was some epic views:

Despite the weather cooling as we approached the township of Little River we did decide to stop in for an icecream, before heading 4km up the valley to the Little River Campground an awesome spot for $20 a night. We pitched tents in a sheltered glade next to a gurgling stream before heading for showers and to prepare dinner:

A great spot to camp for the night – a stream to the left of this shot was pretty cool too
I’d taken some filled rolls for dinner I’d prepared at home, but using the jetboil to quickly heat water for a warm cup-of-soup was a nice way to relax. I didn’t need to eat my 2min noodles I’d also brought along.

We met a friendly German couple out in NZ for 6 weeks with their 14month old son. He was on 2 month paternity leave (worked for Carl Zeiss in a sustainability compliance manager role) – super interesting to hear his view of the world, including the fact his fuel had gone from $0.90 Euro to $2.50 Euro in the last three months! He also pays 50% tax at the upper end – ouch! Having chatted until dark, we headed to bed.

Here’s the route on Strava:

Day Two – Little River to Diamond Harbour, Ferry Ride to Lyttleton, Home Via Sumner (75km)

The birds were chirping from 5:45am so I listened to a podcast for an hour in bed and then got up. We started the packdown immediately and were both pleased we got all the gear into the same bags that it had emerged from the previous evening!

A nice start to the morning was the downhill all the way to Little River township, touching 55kph – the bike handling well in straight line speed with the weight of camping gear. Scrambled eggs and hashbrowns were the order of the day to fortify me for the expected longer and hillier route home we had chosen. With breakfast done we started off on the same rail trail we had arrived at, but taking a few detours along the way:

In the above pictures, you can see the bikes locked at Little River using the Hiploks and then next to what I think is an old dynamite safe near the Kaituna quarry on the Rail Trail. Shortly after the Kaituna detour, we left the Rail Trail and headed inland towards Gebbies Pass, the first climb of the day. This was relatively mild at 1.7km and average gradient of 7% but with a sting in the tail of 11% for the last few hundred meters. With perhaps a bit of over-eagerness we hit it hard early and got a good puff on before finishing at the top. We both commented it was noticeable the weight of the camping gear and different riding style compared to our road bikes, although having the “granny gear” for the last stretch definitely helped. I was really pleased with the gear range of the Rohloff Speedhub on my bike – 14 evenly indexed gears with a 520% gear range.

The view from the top of Gebbies Pass before we gunned it down hill, topping out at 58kph into Lyttleton Harbour

It was slowly warming up as we biked around the harbour and the various bays, I stopped briefly to snap a photo on another climb looking down into Church Bay:

It was not long until we reached Diamond Harbour – whilst Craig got himself a coffee I checked the ferry schedule and we only had 20mins to wait so we headed down to the wharf. Whilst the signs clearly said the fee was $6.70, somehow we were only charged $3.30 each (even after double checking)

Waiting for the ferry at Diamond Harbour to take us across to Lyttleton Harbour

If you’re an avid reader of this blog, the above photo may ring some bells from February 2021 when I did a similar ride, but on my eBike and also caught the ferry:

The ferry was virtually deserted, went at 31kph across the harbour and took 10mins:

We briefly discussed whether to get something to eat but decided to complete the final climb of the day, a 3.3km climb at a modest 5.2% average gradient climbing 200m to Evans Pass. Having done this many times on my road bike, it’s a great little climb, but I think the 30mins of inactivity on the ferry had really tricked my legs into thinking they were getting a break – I found the last 300m of this climb pretty taxing, before the rapid descent down into Sumner. Feeling the pinch and needing to refuel, I suggested the classic kiwi reward after a hard day – a pie and coke! Stopping at a local gas station we “refueled” before enjoying a brisk 30kph easterly wind blowing us back home.

At home, it didn’t take me too long to unpack (take the photo of all my gear at the start of this blog) and then throw my clothes into wash and then wash my bike:

Denuded of the bags, the Soma Wolverine scrubbed up really well!

Getting home just before 2pm, the total trip time was a shade over 24hrs – not a bad way to spend “a day” really! Here’s the Strava route:

A Final Mention

Whilst not included in my gear list above, I’m going to give a quick mention of two indispensable electronic items I’d not do a bike ride like this without:

  • Garmin Edge 1040
    • This is an upgrade for me (I sold my 530 to Craig who I did this ride with).
    • I love the touch screen – transforms navigation around the always clunky Garmin menus, especially the searching for destinations.
    • Bigger screen makes it very easy to see larger sections of maps to know where to go. Pinch to zoom and dragging the map with touch makes it actually usable compared to the clunky buttons of the 530).
  • Garmin RTL515 Radar + Rear Light
    • My brother in law in Sydney put me on to this and I’ve had it for 18 months now – once you ride with it, you’d never ride without it.
    • Sharing the roads with cars this will alert you to approaching vehicles behind you 150m+ away, allowing you to pull hard left to keep as safe as possible. Given much of the route on Day Two was on narrow roads this, combined with the Proviz Vest, meant I was able to be as safe and visible as possible.
Garmin RTL515 Radar+Light on the left, Garmin Edge 1040 on the right

With the first trip completed, I’m eager to do more!