Having recently driven the length of the country in a motor vehicle, I am in awe of those who cycle the whole length on a normal pedal bike – without the assistance I get on my own recreational ebike! So I am indeed in awe of Takapuna locals Paul Muir and Bruce Cotterill who cycled the length of New Zealand – from North Cape to Bluff (2600km) – during March, in the process raising over $200k for charity.
These guys (the 'Two Blokes' as they labelled themselves) are no youngsters. I’m guessing both around the 60 mark, but they knocked the country off in 22 days, raising the money for Farmstrong – the charity that supports farmers' mental health – and the Prostate Cancer Outcomes Registry. I caught up with Paul Muir in early April to congratulate him for the effort and to find out all about the experience.
AIDAN BENNETT: Paul, I firstly just want to say what a fabulous achievement – both you and Bruce. After driving pretty much the length of the country doing a ‘roadie’ in March myself, I really understand the achievement. You must be thrilled?
PAUL MUIR: Thrilled? It’s one of many things I feel about our achievement. It’s really only started to sink in recently to be honest. I’m quietly blown away with the fact we actually did it. I used the word surreal a lot initially because I couldn’t get my head around what we’d done. But now, well, I’m stoked because it was a real achievement personally. I got to have an epic adventure with a mate and it was a great result financially for the charities.
AB: What made you and Bruce decide to do it?
PM: The ride itself has been on Bruce’s bucket list for a decade or more and he finally managed to convince me it was something I really wanted to do as well. I wasn’t actually aware I wanted to do it until he told me I wanted to do it, so I guess it’s an example of the power of persuasion. I’m forever grateful that he did though. Once we decided to get serious about it the next part kicked in where we wanted to raise some serious money for charity. We’d had some experiences prior to the ride starting, good mates with prostate issues and a personal family situation around mental health, which clarified the charities we wanted to raise money for.
AB: You’ve made over $200k for two charities, which is fantastic. Do they get half each?
PM: Yes, they do, and we’re looking forward immensely to handing the cheques over to two worthy charities that need funds and use what funds they do receive to maximum effect.
AB: What were the challenges for you personally during the 22 days?
PM: There is a really long answer to that question that would fill pages but the shorter answer is the mental challenge of getting up and riding again especially after a bad day the day before. I had a couple of times on the road where I really wondered, seriously wondered, how I was going to ride the next day. While we didn’t encounter any rain on the entire trip (hard to believe in New Zealand) we did have some horrible headwind days and they really tested us. We also had a few route deviations that meant longer days, more kilometres and unexpected busy roads. Tiredness and soreness weren’t ever really a factor, but the mind… that’s a different gig altogether!
AB: What was the route you took?
PM: We started from Cape Reinga, came down the West Coast through the Hokianga and the Waipoua Forest, Dargaville and back to Takapuna. Then out of Auckland via Great South Road and into the Waikato. Glen Murray, Otorahanga and Te Kuiti, then climbed up to the Central Plateau via Taumarunui to Ohakune. Down into Whanganui, Bulls and then across to Palmerston North, Pahiatua and into Greytown. Over the Rimutaka Hill into Wellington.
Over on the ferry to Picton, then Kaikoura and Rangiora, then we started inland and rode alongside the Southern Alps through Rakaia, Geraldine, Burke’s Pass, Tekapo, Omarama, the Lindis Pass to Wanaka and the Crown Range into Queenstown, Lumsden, Invercargill then the signpost at Bluff.
Gee, reading back through that (and I’ve missed many places out), I may have to go back and give you a new answer to your first question!
AB: What were the highlights of the adventure?
PM: Well, we live in a beautiful country and I’ve seen just about all of it over the years driving at 100kms per hour so it was awesome to actually see it properly at a far slower pace.
That said, the real highlight was the people we met: sponsors, fellow riders, hosts, motel owners, hospitality crew, truckies, etc. They were amazing and their stories were our stories and they were the making of the trip for me.
AB: In terms of support, did you have a crew behind you during the trip down the country?
PM: We had an awesome support network behind us. But there are a few that need to be recognised. A mate of ours, Nino Cassin, took time off to drive the van and support us during the first week as we were finding our feet and our riding legs, so it was a tough start. But the bonus was he got to see a part of the country he’d never been to which was fantastic. The support of Bruce’s wife Rose (the Road Captain) who was supposed to be with us for a few days but because of the Omicron outbreak in Auckland stayed for two and a half weeks, was off the chart. My wife Annette who was also supposed to be with us a few days but wound up being there for the bulk of the trip. She became driver, accommodation organiser, videographer, sponsors advocate as well as comments and content guru. Really stoked that she got to share the journey with me.
For those who followed us on the (Bike for Blokes) website, you may have seen the daily videos that were posted. We need to thank another mate, Chris Booth, who edited, at all hours of the night, all those files into a presentable format to post each day. It was a mighty effort.
AB: Any particular sponsors or special people who helped you achieve the goals?
PM: Aidan, that list is a long one. But, we need to thank again Rick Armstrong from Armstrong Motor Group and his people at Armstrong’s Botany. Rick, as well as being our main sponsor, also provided us with a support van for the duration of our journey. We found out later, that being a car dealership, they had sold the van to someone prior to loaning us the vehicle. The purchaser kindly held off taking possession until we got back… after adding about 5,000 kilometres to the clock.
Additionally, we had 19 gold sponsors who came on board and contributed significantly to getting the charity figure rolling. To each and every one of them we’re eternally grateful and to two in particular, Glenn at Pak’n Save Lincoln Road and John at Heco Group, who went far and beyond just being financial sponsors. Pretty humbling to know all these people.
Finally, to everyone who donated through the Give-a-little page from $10 to a whole lot more than that, you’re all amazing and you have no idea how much seeing that donation amount increase each day helped motivate Bruce and I to keep riding.
AB: At the end of the big adventure what were you looking forward to most?
PM: Simple really. Seeing the sign post at Bluff. That meant we’d done it…!
AB: Are you going to do it again next year, or what is the next challenge for Paul and Bruce?
PM: Too soon Aidan, too soon. But stand by and we’ll come back to you on that. Interestingly, we’ve actually had people express interest in joining us in whatever we might do next. We’re going to keep the ‘Bike for Blokes’ charitable trust going so there will be something happening in that space I’m sure.
You can still add to Paul and Bruce’s efforts by visiting their website… https://bikeforblokes.co.nz/