Wednesday, 27 January 2021


Bryan Layton - keeping on pedalling, but in a slightly different direction

Regardless of how competitive we are in life, there comes a stage where the body just can’t perform as well as it once did. Not to say there aren’t plenty of miles still left in the tank, it’s more about reassessing things, setting more achievable goals, rather than getting frustrated at not being able to do what once came so easy.

That was the situation local cyclist Bryan Layton faced a year or so ago after finding it more and more difficult trying to keep up with the competitive Saturday morning cycling group. “The writing was on the wall, the group average speed was actually getting faster and while the head was willing, when I asked my legs for more, they simply weren’t strong enough to answer the call,” says Bryan, who has been cycling in one form or another for much of his adult life. “I soon realised it was time to rethink my cycling future as I was nowhere near ready to hang the bike up or move to electric assistance anytime soon. Heading into my mid-70s, I felt I still had plenty of cycling left in me, it was just a matter of finding a new and enjoyable challenge.”

The new direction Bryan decided to take had to tick several boxes, including exercise without intense speed, meeting new people, a sense of freedom and enjoying the natural environment that the greater Coromandel and beyond had to offer.  As it so happened, one of the new fads in the cycling world was bike packing where going solo and carrying everything bar the kitchen sink on board the bike was gaining in popularity. “The number of outback and social bike trails around the country available to bike packers is growing all the time, plus there are numerous gravel and sealed back roads that can be ridden safely,” says Bryan. “It was an exciting and different world of cycling to become part of.”

The first step on Bryan’s new pathway was working out what was a suitable bike to use and then ponder on just how to attach all the gear required for a few days spent in the middle of nowhere. He didn’t have to look far for the machine he thought would do the job perfectly. Parked up in the garage was his trusty 28-year-old mountain bike which by today’s standards was considered something of a dinosaur. “Like the rider, the bike has been around for a while, but with a few modifications it has scrubbed up really well,” says Bryan. “Part of the fun has been learning how to attach much needed equipment to the bike, keeping the overall weight down while retaining its roadworthiness. There were many hours spent modifying the bike and equipment, plus local testing before I felt ready to hit the road proper and put myself and bike to the ultimate real-life test.”

Rides undertaken to date include overnighters around the Thames Coast, multiple days spent getting to Auckland and return to visited extended family and circumnavigating the lower half of the Coromandel Peninsula. Those trips have only added to Bryan’s passion to travel further afield with multi-day rides around the East Cape and other parts of the Coromandel already on the bucket list.

Bryan is not lost to the local Bike Mercury Bay community, however, and still finds time to put together a monthly newsletter about all things cycling which is emailed out to a growing audience of riders. He has also recently formed a group to cater for riders who enjoy an easy-pace outing which fills the gap between the more social and competitive groups already on offer.

While Bryan may have slowed down a little in terms of speed, it certainly hasn’t stopped his enthusiasm for cycling and coming up with new ways to keep turning the pedals and remain part of the local cycling scene for some time yet. 

Pictured: Local bike packer, Bryan Layton, with his modified 28-year-old mountain bike.


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The Mercury Bay Informer is a highly popular community newspaper, based in Whitianga. The paper is distributed throughout the Coromandel Peninsula, coast to coast from Thames to north of Colville.