Surviving the Cold Kiwi

Posted  in Technical tips

Every August the wind howls from the south, water and ice rain down from the skies and the land is plunged into a bleak, bone chilling cold - yep, it's Cold Kiwi time again.

An institution that’s been part of New Zealand motorcycling since the early 1970s (much like Eurobike), the Cold Kiwi is a chance for everyone to get together for some biking related entertainment. No rules, no egos, no expectations, just good honest fun for everyone. More than just questionable hairstyles and burnouts (yes, that is part of it), the Cold Kiwi has something for everyone on two wheels. You’ll see trials bikes and dirt bikes, right through to sports bikes, cruisers and custom built rat bikes. With quirky events aplenty, it’s fun for the whole family and more.

If you’ve never been to the Cold Kiwi before, or any motorcycle rally, you might be at a bit of a loss as to what to take. In this Insider Info article, we’re giving you a brief rundown of the essentials and the not-so-essentials for the ride and the camp. Read on to see our hot tips on what to pack.

For the ride:

Like any motorcycle journey, there are a few items worth taking with you, just in case. If all goes well, these things will stay packed up, but when it all goes pear shaped, you’ll be glad to have them.

1. Spare levers
A few years ago I was on an adventure ride and dropped my bike, quite gently, on some wet grass. No harm done, except for a very bent rear brake pedal. Fortunately, I had enough on hand to straighten it for the ride home. On the same ride however, one of my mates had a similar gentle crash and broke his front brake lever. His trip home without a front brake was anything but fun. Since then, I’ve always carried a spare set of levers. They aren’t bulky or heavy and can save the day if needed. I keep them wrapped up in an old tea-towel, which doubles as an excellent rag if needed.

2. Spare tube and tyre repair kit
If you’ve never had a flat tyre on a ride, count yourself lucky. It happens, and when it does, it can be game over if you’re not prepared. My bike has tubed tyres, 18” and 21”, so I carry a 19” tube, which could be squeezed into either wheel to get me out of trouble if necessary. I also carry a Dragon Stone tyre repair kit and throw in a couple of patches. With three CO2 bottles, this kit gives me everything needed to either patch a tube or plug a tubeless tyre. This will be enough to get you rolling again, at least as far as the next bike shop for a proper repair.

3. Tool kit
There’s no point carrying a tyre repair kit if you can’t get the wheel out or the tyre off on the side of the road. I carry two tool rolls. One is the Dragon Stone tyre repair roll, with tyre specific tools, like tyre levers, rim protectors and valve tools. I’ve also put in a set of Dragon Stone combined tyre levers and large spanners for undoing wheel nuts. The other kit is a Givi T515 tool roll, packed with a good selection of general tools to cope with any basic mechanical repair.

4. First Aid kit
Let’s face it, if you have a big get-off, a first aid kit is going to be a token gesture. But, more often than not, it’s the small things that ruin the day. Like spare levers, or a tyre repair kit for your bike, in the event of a small injury a first aid kit can get you patched up and on the road to civilisation and proper help. The Givi S301 kit is designed for motorcycling and is super easy to throw in your tank bag, or under your seat.

For the rally:

The Cold Kiwi is what it says on the tin – cold. It’s held at the coldest time of the year, in one of the coldest parts of the North Island, on the foothills of a large, snow-covered mountain. It doesn’t always snow, but if the wind is blowing, it can be pretty bloody bitter. On the other hand, New Zealand weather is unpredictable and there’s every chance of a mild weekend with relatively warm nights. There isn’t a lot of room on a motorcycle, so it’s important to pack wisely.

5. Tent
Unless your name is Bear Grylls and you plan on skinning a sheep to fashion a sort of fleshy/woolly swag, you’re going to need to take a tent. I’ve chosen a two-man tent. Not because I plan to share it with another man (each to their own, but that’s just not my thing), but so I’ve got enough room to keep all of my gear in the tent with me, out of the elements. There will be elements, so make sure it’s a waterproof tent.

6. Sleeping mat
Ok, many will argue that this isn’t an essential item, but as well as providing a bit of cushioning, it will also help to keep you insulated from the cold ground. It doesn’t have to be too fancy, but it helps if it can pack up small, obviously.

7. Sleeping bag
Yes, I’m a cheapskate and haven’t forked out on a fancy, sub-zero sleeping bag. Maybe I should, but I have enough luggage space, so I can afford to take two three-season bags and layer up. This also allows me to be comfortable if it does miraculously warm up. I also take a cotton inner bag as an extra layer of comfort and to help keep my sleeping bag fresh and lovely.

8. Raincoat and beanie
I haven’t covered off riding gear (apart from boots – read on), because I figure that anyone setting out on a mid-winter ride should already have some pretty warm and weather proof clothing. However, most motorcycle jackets, even the waterproof ones, don’t have hoods. If it’s raining, it can be pretty miserable walking around in the cold, with rain running down your neck. A basic rain coat is easy to pack and could make your rally that much more enjoyable. Same goes for keeping your head warm. When it’s cold, we lose a lot of heat from our head and you probably won’t be wearing your helmet for the entire rally. It’s a good idea to pack a woolly hat to stop ice from forming in your curly locks.

9. Footwear
Motorcycle boots are great for motorcycling. They keep your feet warm and protected while on the bike, they’re sturdy, and the good ones are also waterproof. I love these Stylmartin Matrix boots because not only are they all of the above, but they are also comfortable enough to wear for the whole weekend, walking and riding. If your boots aren’t this comfortable, it might pay to pack a pair of gumboots (or jandals if you’re brave), so you don’t end up hobbling around like the hunchback of Notre Dame, by the end of day one.

Not so essential items:

Going to a motorcycle rally is a minimalist adventure. The whole point is to get by on just the essentials and suffer through the hardships of a night in a cold paddock in the middle of winter. If we wanted comfort, we’d drive a Mercedes to a five-star hotel and dine on fine cuisine. But, if you have room, there are a couple of things worth throwing in to make things a little more pleasant.

10. A woolly blanket
As well as being nice to wrap around your knees while you’re sitting in front of a brazier, sharing stories with your mates, a blanket is a little bit of luxury in the bottom of your tent. It provides an extra layer of insulation and is excellent for soaking up sand and grit, making things just a little more bearable.

11. Cooking equipment
There is great catering at the Cold Kiwi rally, so there really is no need to take your own food at all. However, if you’re a real cheapskate, have a secret love of freeze dried camping food, or just love an early morning cuppa, before putting your pants on, a small camp stove, a camping pot and a mug can be a little bit of luxury worth carrying.

12. Water bottle
There is free water, as well as tea and coffee facilities at the rally, so this is a luxury item. But, depending on where you pitch your tent, it could be quite a walk to the bar to get a drink of water. It’s a good idea to take some sort of water bottle so you have drinking water handy, at your tent. The Givi STF500S thermal flask means you have the choice of filling it with a hot cuppa to stay hot until the morning, or keeping your cold water cold all night (not that that’s really going to be an issue).

What have we forgotten:

As can be expected, within five minutes of packing up after this photo was taken, we remembered a couple of things we should have included.

A torch
It’s going to get dark at night (duh) and there probably won’t be any lighting at your tent. Unless you have super-vision, it’s important to have a hand-held torch, head torch, or lantern of some sort. A battery powered light is less-likely to burn your tent down, than a gas lantern.

You might be taking this rally as an opportunity to get away from the world and leave all communications behind. Even if you are a social recluse, it’s a wise idea to have a phone in case of an emergency, or a sudden need to hear the comforting voice from a loved one. The Givi T519 phone sleeve will keep your phone dry and dust or mud free so that it works when you need it to.

Pillow case
A luxury item for sure, but you won’t have room to take a decent pillow. Unless you get a fancy, inflatable camping pillow, a good idea is to throw in an empty pillow case. You can stuff it with your woolly jumper, spare socks and whatever else soft you have at hand. It’ll make your neck a little less stiff in the morning.

Booze – not
Everyone wants to have a drink and there will be plenty of opportunity for that at the rally. Be aware that this is not a BYO event, as a condition of the liquor licence. Be a good sport and support the club by purchasing your drinks at the rally. If you do over indulge, the Christian Riders will be there to check your breath before you head off in the morning, and save you from a DUI charge.

That’s more or less it. If you need more than this to survive a night, you’ve kind of missed the point. The Cold Kiwi rally is a little bit about surviving the elements, but a lot about leaving your worldly possessions behind and having some carefree fun.