Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year!

And what a year 2006 has been cycling-wise at least! My stats:
  • 6,441km ridden - three times last year's total;
  • 136 rides, an average of one ride every 2.6 days;
  • 300 hours in the saddle: exactly 12 days and 12 hours;
  • An average speed of 22.14km/h - up 0.99km/h on last year - not too bad considering most of my riding is on cycle paths.
  • A best month of 798km, a top speed of 74.2km/h and a longest ride of 309.8km.
  • 18 audax rides for a total of 2550km.
  • My goal of riding 100km a week exceeded by 23%!
Overall I'm very, very happy with my effort. I went out yesterday and rode 65km to knock off the 300 hours and to triple last year's total double. I was too lazy today to go out and do the 59km needed to reach the round figure of 6,500km.

So now I have make my new year's resolutions. Hmmm. I think 200km a week/ 10,000km for the year is worth going for. The clock resets to zero at midnight!

6,441km so far this year!

Friday, December 29, 2006

The streets of Melbourne

On my new ride to work I've discovered yet another charming thing about Melbourne - there are plenty of cobblestone backstreets tucked away in the most unlikely places. My route through Flemington takes me over several short stretches of cobblestones and once I started looking I have found plenty more. (I've recovered from my stack, mostly.)

There's enough in fact that Melbourne's fixed gear buffs ran a race over assorted bits of it back in July. Shame I missed the Melburn-Roobaix. Maybe this year.

Two days to go for the year and I'm 120km short of 6,500km and two and a half hours short of 300 hours in the saddle. I'm hoping for good weather on the weekend, they're milestones too temptingly close to pass up.

6,386km so far this year.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Single vehicle accident.

The day after posting a missive on the need for people to take more care, I put my front wheel in a tram track and crash. How's that for irony?

Turning right from Little Bourke Street into Elizabeth Street this morning, I cut the corner a bit fine to avoid a truck double parked on my exit line. My front wheel went into the groove of the tram line. I managed to wrench it clear, but wobbled at about 20km/h into the side of the truck and went down like a big bag of shit on my lower back. My impact was so similar to the photo below that it's not funny. Actually, it's not funny anyway, unless you were watching my artless will-he won't-he progress through the intersection.

It's always the same old story when I have a stack. It always hurts a bit, so it's best to stay down for half a minute or so to assess the damage. Not this time. I lay curled up in a ball of pain in the middle of Elizabeth Street for a good three minutes. Thanks to the people who came to my aid.

About ten minutes later, when I could move without too much pain, I pedalled off and picked up Mrs Surly Dave's Xmas present and gingerly proceeded on to work, but the hurties were too much so I find myself at home for a couple of days of lying down. The bike is fine, and I don't have a mark on me, not even a bruise. Just a very sore lower back, like someone has hit me with a baseball bat across the kidneys.

They say you're due a crash a year when you ride any decent distance, at 590 days and 8,108km since the last one, I was obviously well overdue. Something to muse upon as I chew Nurofen tablets and surf the net from the bed in the spare room for the next two days.

Aiming for 6,500km by New Year's Day, so I'd better get well soon.

6,285km so far this year.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Red light runners

My office has moved across town, so I've had to find a new route to work. We were down the cheap end of Collins Street, we're now in East Melbourne/Collingwood. My new ride involves several on-road paths, a set of stairs, crossing three tram tracks and a long run down busy Brunswick Street.

What amazes me is the number of cyclists running red lights. Both mornings so far I've seen half a dozen people who should know better run reds along Brunswick Street. Scofflaw cyclists don't win us any friends among motorists.

It's dangerous too. In 1986 I ran a red light in Auckland, New Zealand and was hit by a bus. I broke my fall with my face. Fortunately I had a helmet on. It's probably not the best way to learn, but it's a lesson I haven't had to learn twice.

Photo from Flickr

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Failure and its friends.

Looks like 600km was about 400km too far. Saturday in Maryborough was very windy and windy days can try the soul. Despite a good first 100km and a reasonable second century, I was fading fast and I pulled out after 10 and a half hours at the 200km mark.

Oh the shame. I'm off to the Hall of Mirrors for a Good Hard Look at Myself.

6,206km so far this year.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Goals, the exceeding thereof

Another mighty milestone tumbles - the 6,000km mark for the year was surpassed last night in stunning style somewhere along Footscray Road. With my obsession with milestones and statistics I'd make a good cricket fan!

There looms a challenge so great, no sane person would consider it all at once: the Jump the Gun 600km at Maryborough this weekend. It's my second Paris-Brest-Paris qualifying attempt. That's right folks: ride your bicycle 600km in 40 hours in a bid to qualify for a the chance to ride 1,200km in 90 hours on the wrong side of the road in a distant foreign land. How I was delivered into the grip of this madness I shall never know, but here goes nothing anyway. Ten per cent of my annual mileage in two days: good job I've got Monday off work!

Monday, November 20, 2006

From one addict to another

Riding to work this morning past the Bureau of Meteorology building in Collins Street, I was lucky enough to ride through a cloud of smoke from the coven of addicts who huddle outside their front door, rain, hail or shine. Mmmm, cigarettes.

As an ex-smoker the only thing I miss more than smoking is the the lectures from people who can't mind their own business on how bad the habit is for one's health, but I can see how the temptation to moralise is hard to resist.

Five years after kicking the habit and taking up regular exercise I feel a thousand times better. Despite the occasional lapse, regular cycling is pretty much incompatible with regular smoking and I'm healthier and richer as a result. As much as I miss smoking, I've found something even more addictive.

5,926km so far this year.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Those immortal words.

Zooming through Docklands this morning with the wind at my back, I decided to be a bit more mature than usual and not engage in the hell-for-leather commuter races along the cycleway. As a trio of us pedalled sedately past the driveway of one of the big Harbour Esplanade apartment blocks, a motorist ignored a stop sign painted red and errected just for him, drove out right in front of us and stopped across our path.

I was able to stop in time, but the bloke in front of me hit the bonnet square-on at about 25km/h. Still attached to the bike, he did the most magnificent of slow-motion somersaults across the front of the car, coming to rest on the ground in front. We all stood agape as the driver leapt from his vehicle and uttered those immortal words:

"Sorry, mate, I didn't see you."

It's the ending you can always see coming, brought to you by the folk who don't see you coming. As a piece of performance art it was a bit cliched, but what can one expect from amateur street theatre on a blustery spring morning in Melbourne?

The most remarkable thing about the whole incident was that the rider was apparently unhurt and his trusty vintage steel-framed 10-speed appeared entirely undamaged. Not a mark on him and he didn't hit his head. The car came off far worse, with some lovely panel damage. Try that one one of those fancy carbon fibre bikes.

They say you should count on having one decent prang a year. I'm well overdue.

Huffy Radio Bike at top left found on Dave's Vintage Bicycles.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Look, up in the sky!

The ingenuity of mankind has no bounds - particularly when it comes to the bicycle. There's no end of permutations, accessories and adaptations for the humble two wheeler. Some are more obvious than others. While I had a distant memory of the old Glossamer Albatross, which crossed the English Channel in the late 1970s - like many people - I hadn't given much thought to flying bikes.

A visit to Treehugger tipped me off to the wonderful White Dwarf pedal powered blimp. A lovely concept. From there, it wasn't a big jump to the ParaCycle - surely one of the most delightful aircraft ever to fly. Simply ride it to the airstrip, deploy the airfoil and fly off. No licence required. These two join the countless bikes, velocars and recumbent trikes on my 'Must Have If I Ever Get Rich' list.

5,750km so far this year.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The long and windy road

14 hours in the saddle is a long time, but the Bendigo Bounty now has a tick next to it in my rides list. 300km is a long way, but now one of the four rides I need to complete before April to qualify for the Paris-Brest-Paris is done.

We started at 9am, so I was aiming to finish by 1am. As it turned out, I didn't get back to Bendigo until 2.30am, thanks to a couple of longer breaks I took along the way. The main thing was that I was inside the 5am cutoff. My riding time was 14 hours and 7 minutes, for an average of 21.6km/h. The ride was flat, but strong winds made it hard. The highlight was riding through the Mallee country under a full moon and a big sky full of stars. The bike didn't miss a beat all day either.

I can admit to one moment of despair. I was riding along into the wind at the 240km mark, giving my all. I noticed on my speedo that I was doing 10km/h. I stopped and told my riding companions that I wasn't going to make it at that speed. They pointed out we were going up a hill. It can be hard to tell in the dark. I rolled on and 30 seconds later the downhill on the other side dispelled all thoughts of quitting.

Surprisingly, I'm in reasonable condition today. Some slight stiffness and soreness, but far less than normal. Eight hours sleep and a good meal seem to have restored me like new. Now to find a 600km ride.

5,688km so far this year.

Twisted bike image from Flickr.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

An unfortunate monopoly on punctures.

I haven't had a flat tyre since the Great Puncture Epidemic of 2004. Yesterday I suffered two. It's probably something to do with the new skinny high-pressure tyres.

The first was on the way to work and easily fixed. I carry two spare tubes. The second happened on the way home. It was then I discovered I my second spare tube had a hole in it. And my old patch kit glue had evaporated. Bugger.

Dozens of other riders went past without offering any help - including a chap in full audax reglalia. (I'll be catching up with him soon I hope.)

With little choice, I cast off my shoes and started pushing the bike the 10km back to my car. After about 2km, I came across a service station which happily sold bicycle puncture kits. I must be out of practise because I wasn't having any luck fixing the flats. Then my aging pump pulled the valve stems out of the two repaired tubes. I gave up as darkness loomed and rang for a cab back to my car. I didn't get home until 9pm and now have some pretty nice blisters on the soles of my soft little feet from walking on the tarmac. Yesterday was not one of my happier days.

I was at the bike shop first thing this morning to buy five new tubes, a brand new patch kit and a new pump. I'd really rather not have another day like yesterday.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The fiddling finally finshes.

I've finally finished fiddling with the bike. I think. Perhaps. For now. Like fiddling with copy, fiddling with the bike set up is well-nigh irresistible. It might be because I have a workstand and a roomy shed. It might also be because I believe one thing firmly: no good comes from having other people work on your bike.

The impending 300km audax this weekend forced me to quickly sort out some issues: I built a new wheel last night to accommodate the generator hub wich runs the magnificent E6 headlight. The Velocity Dyad rims which gave me much trouble last time came together nicely as I laced the wheel between beers and I did the initial tensioning during TV ad breaks. Clearly it pays to take one's time.

I rose at dawn this morning to add the finishing touches before my commute to work: fitting the wheel and installing lovely set of Shimano cantilever brakes. The new brakes replace the horrible V-brakes, which don't work well with drop bars anyway - Travel Agents or not. The result is a thousand percent improvement in braking performance - a lovely feel at the lever, solid as a rock stopping power and I can even set the pads a decent distance from the rim so they don't rub if the wheel isn't perfectly true. (The new wheel is perfectly true.)

It all went well one the commute/shakedown ride this morning. I pronounce this bike finished. OK, maybe just one more fiddle.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

My mistress has 32 nipples. And that's just on the front.

The Harold Thompson Heritage 100km audax was held in chilly conditions in Wooodend today. I distinguished myself by riding to the start and back for a much-needed extra 10km. This was the first audax ride I ever did and is now the first one I've done twice. I didn't feel that strong, but I managed to finish with a riding time of 4 hours 9 minutes, a gratifying 39 minute improvement on last year's time. Amazing what a fitter bloke on a better bike can do.

The bike went well, no problems at all. Now all I have to do is have it ready for next week's 300km Bendigo Bounty. With a 9am Saturday start, I hope to finish by 1am Sunday. I'll be making sure my lights are up to the task. If I finish this will be my longest ride ever and will be the first of my qualifying rides towards the Paris-Brest-Paris next August. I'm not thinking too much about the 400km and 600km rides.

Bicycle sculpture image found here. I suspect this bloke is going to need a new bottom bracket.

5,332km so far this year.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Das bike.

Well, here it is. It doesn't have a name yet, but then I'm not one for naming my bikes. It seems solid and reliable enough, but we shall see. It certainly held its own in a high speed all-in commuter race along Footscray Road last night, even though I couldn't get the chain up into the top chainring.

It's a lot lighter than my other bike, so it's a bit easier to push up the hills and the new wheels roll rather well. Not having the dynohub will be a bit of a pain, but I'll see if I can't fix that up fairly quickly, because I'm going to need good lights in the next couple of months.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Another milestone passed.

I'm big on setting goals. It gives me something to aim for and keeps me motivated. This year's major goal was to average 100km a week. I've just cracked it. I'm very happy about that, particularly as the year still has a couple of months to run. Now it's time to set next year's goal: 10,000km is looking good. That's a shade under 200km a week. Just as 5,200km looked daunting at the beginning of this year, it's a bit hard to imagine right now.

I've taken delivery of the new bike - a Surly Cross Check in British racing green with a set of 10 speed Mavic wheels. The other parts I've moved across from the Long Haul Trucker. It goes like a rocket and is comfortbale to boot. This will be the bike I (hopefully) take to the Paris-Brest-Paris, if I qualify. I've only done about 100km on it so far, although I have a century ride this weekend which will be a far better test of bike and rider.

5,211km so far this year.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Isn't it always the way?

Well the new bike and wheels have arrived, naturally the day before I head interstate for a couple of days! I had just enough time to move the major parts across - without ceremony - from the faithful Long Haul Trucker last night, but no time to put the chain on and install the brake and gear cables, so the first test ride will not be until Sunday.

My first impressions of the Surly Cross Check are all good. I'm not necessarily slavishly devoted to this brand of bike, but they do offer no-nonsense steel frames at a good price. It's a good-looking frame in a retro way. It reminds me very much of my first steel road bike from the early 1908s. It will make a good audax bike once I hang lights and mudguards on it.

The other good news is that I've definitely picked the right size. The frame is also a bit lighter than I expected. The paint job, in British racing green, appares to be of excellent quality. But the devil in these sort of things is always in the detail: how well the 10 speed rear cluster will shift with a triple crank and how quickly I can get it all working comfortably. I'm very much looking forward to that test ride.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The cycling premier

It seems our state premier Steve Bracks is a recent convert to cycling and in a big way too. He finished the 210km Around the Bay ride on his 52nd birthday at the weekend, along with sports minister Justin Madden. They made pretty good time too, an astounding effort to finish in under 10 hours. There was a photo in the paper, it looked like he had a pretty nice bike too.

A more unlikely pair of cyclists is hard to imagine but well done to them both. Hopefully, having a cyclist in the top job will mean a even better deal for cyclists, who already have it pretty good in cycling-mad Melbourne. Let's hope he sticks with it after the election.

It raises some questions. When does he find time to train? Does he ride to work? Is he going to back up for the Alpine Classic? Has he been copping the usual abuse from motorists, like we all do? Would he mind terribly bringing in unspeakably harsh penalties for motorists who run over cyclists and abolish the SMIDSY* defence?

Photo from ebay, where someone's selling ten 1980s v Campagnolo Super Record front hubs - the finest hubs ever built. You can't have too much of a good thing.

* Sorry mate, I didn't see you.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Bike Show bling

I wandered along to the Bicycling Australia show on the weekend to see all the shiny new bikes. It was great to see the huge variety of bikes and accessories available: from road and mountain bikes, folding bikes, commuters, handcycles and recumbents. The highlight was probably a dead heat between the vintage bikes and the velocar tucked away in a dark corner.

The most puzzling thing for me though was the dominance of high end racing bikes on display. You'd have to wonder why perhaps 50% of the bikes were $2,000 and up and only much use for competitive racing. I'm a fan, but after a while all the carbon fibre and Dura Ace gear gets a tad repetitive. True, there was a decent showing of practical commuters, a couple of tourers and even one bike which boasted a front light, but the largest number of bikes on display were variations on a single theme that probably didn't appeal much to the majority of people who'd shelled out $15 to walk in the door. There much be some logic to it, but it escapes me.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Avoid the Bay on the Day

Today is exactly one year since I rode my first long ride: the 220km Around the Bay in a Day. It was a lot of fun despite the pre-dawn start and remains my longest ride. I have a photo taken that day by a roadside photographer which shows a fat man on a green bike battling along at the 70km mark. I'd been sick for the fortnight beforehand and off the bike, so I really struggled for the last 20km, but just managed to finish. I put the photo on top of the fridge to remind me of a pretty good day out in the company of thousands of like-minded souls. (Usefully, the photo also helped me realise my seat was a few inches too low.)

I missed the ride this year, mostly because I forgot the entry cutoff. Paying $100 to ride on public roads doesn't seem the good value, particularly if you don't get the free jersey for entering early. There were also some niggling annoyances which turned me off a repeat performance. The finish was a real anti-climax: something like a finishers' certificate would have been a nice gesture to recognise all work people had done towards completing the event. And then there was the 90 minute wait for the ferry in the middle of the ride, more than enough time to thoroughly warm down.

All the same I was chuffed to see the finishers filtering through the city tonight, pedalling towards home, tired but happy, as dusk fell. Well done to them all.

Image from flickr.

Friday, October 13, 2006

New bike! New bike!

After weeks of indecision, I've finally ordered a new bike. Thanks to a general shortage of cash, it won't be all new, but rather a new frame and wheels, inspired by the photo at left of a Surly Cross Check in full fast tourer rig. It will get me through the summer's audax rides and will be useful as a tourer for the planned trip to France and maybe the big ride in August. In the long term, I'd like to get something custom made: lightweight but with with all the braze-ons for waterbottles, lights, racks and panniers.

I needed something fast, but comfortable. As much as I love my 26" wheel Long Haul Trucker, and my red road bike, I desperately needed a compromise between them. It has to be lighters to help get me up the hills - particularly the bigs ones in the Alpine Classic in January. Thanks to the SpeedGoat cycles Mad Scientist Bike Lab it looks like the bike will come in close to 23 pounds, or a shade over 10kg, which I reckon is great for a relatively cheap steel-framed bike. Thanks to Russell at Woodend Cycles for a top deal and for his patience as I kicked tyres and thought out loud for the last month or so. Keep an eye out for a Long Haul Trucker frame on ebay.

I should get the bits on Tuesday, with a fair bit of fiddling I should be able to have it on the road by next weekend.

5,086km so far this year.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Defeating the Mountain

Another weekend, another great century ride. Climb the Tower out of Maldon was a cracker of a ride in great weather. And I finally conquered Mt Tarrengower on the road bike: all the way up the steep 3km climb without stopping or putting a foot down. Last time grinding a 36 inch gear (34x25) up nearly killed me and I had to make several stops. Actually, this time it nearly killed me as well, but at least I made it with some dignity and only as much zig-zagging as was strictly necessary. Several other riders walked long sections. The descent was a beauty too, touching 70km/h.

On the flat, where big men on heavy bikes go a lot better, it was even more fun. About 40km in, I could hear a chattering group four approaching as I laboured up a small hill. I picked up my speed a little so I could jump on the back as they passed and found I'd put a little bit of a gap into them. Hearing the voice of Phil Liggett in my ears: "He's gone, he's got the gap. He's pushing a huge gear and he's split the peleton clean in two" or similar nonsense, I turned on the pace and kept them at bay until the checkpoint at Carisbrook, where I stopped for an ice cream.

I rode back along the Pyrenees Highway on my own, entertaining further Tour de France daydreams and fending off the odd persistent magpie. I finished exactly five hours after I started and was home in time for tea. A most excellent day out.

5,011km so far this year.

Monday, October 02, 2006

The road to Paris is paved with pain

Not a bad weekend in Hopetoun. The Mallee Routes is a lovely ride and superbly organised by Les Solley. There were about two dozen riders from Melbourne and Adelaide - including one who had ridden from the South Australian capital - tackling distances from 100km to 600km.

It was an unaccustomed cool start at 6am Saturday as we rolled out on the 200km, but it warmed up soon enough. I managed to stay with other riders for much of the day, letting them go when their speed crept up too much. I drank plenty of water, ate enough, took plenty of breaks and kept a steady pace.

Despite all this I wasn't able to back up for Sunday's 200km ride. It wasn't anything specific, just a collection of minor woes: uncharacteristic saddle soreness, painful hands and a sore back were the worst of it, but there was also the nagging feeling that it wouldn't be a good idea to tackle the four-hour drive home in a state of utter exhaustion.

I have some toughening up to do. I have two more 200km rides pencilled in this month ahead of a 300km, 400k and 600km in December. I'm confident of the 300km. The 400km will be a stretch. I can't even imagine a 600km yet.

4,829km so far this year.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Keeping out of the news

About six months ago I set up a couple of Google news alerts to keep me abreast of all the latest cycling news. Each day, the kindly Google computers e-mail me a digest of the latest news stories from around the world containing the words "cyclist", "cycling" or "bicycle".
After some months of horrified reading, it seems we only make the news for the worst of reasons. Each day delivers a litany of deaths, maimings, funerals and memorials. Today's missives contained news of three deaths: in Auckland, in Seattle and in Texas. Now and then there's an interesting or unusual variation, like someone being pulled down by a dog or someone being shot.
It's all so depressing. The only thing that keeps me sifting through them, even sparodically, is the occassional happy story about someone completing a ride around the world, or the heart-warming story of an older man still enjoying the long miles.
On that note, I'm off for a ride. Try to keep out of the headlines. T-shirt design top left via

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Cycling makes you rich

I took the opportunity last night of tallying the savings I've been making by cycling part of the way to work over the last couple of years. The good lord knows I'm a little obsessed with statistics - but it is a harmless sideline. Anyhoo, I've ridden to work 90 times since January last year, a return trip of 28km.

The savings are really easy to calculate: those trips represent $399.60 worth of saved Citilink tolls. It also means that I've not driven 2,520km in the car. There's a saving of $214.20 in petrol straight away. Taking into account the deferred cost of servicing and tyres bumps the saving up to $373.75. The grand total is $773.35, or $8.59 a ride. Or 30c a kilometre. I'm happy with that result, despite the fact that over the same period I've probably spend twice that on shiny bike bits.

The exercise prompts some further thought. If I'd been more religious about it, and ridden four days each working week over the two-year period, I could have done 360 trips, saving $3,092. Or I could have shed the car altogether and saved the roughly $22,000 I've spent keeping it on the road. Plus had the cash from selling the car in my pocket. Let's call it a nice round $30,000. Even so, I'm happy with the $773 figure. It's a start.

Shiny bike bit at the top left is a spoke threader I have my eye on. Will need to ride to work a bit more to save the money!

4,603km so far this year.

Monday, September 25, 2006

400km around the Mallee

Big plans for the weekend - two 200km rides up in the Mallee. I spent the weekend respoking my front wheel, gluing on new singles and generally setting up the road bike for the epic. Even though the ride is famously flat, I'm looking forward to the challenge immensely. It's been a gradual buildup and I'm very happy with my preparation. It will be an interesting weekend and a good introduction to the bigger challenges which lie ahead.

Coming into the end of the audax season, I'm ticking off the goals. I've done the rides I need for the Percy Armstrong award (1x50km, 1x100km, 1x150km, 1x200km) and the EA Maddock award (5x100km). Two more 200's will put me one short of the Irene Plowman award (5x200km) and I'm only a 50km ride short of my Noveau Randonneur award (1x50km, 1x100km, 1x150km). I'm a little surprised, and very satisfied, that it's all gone so well. They seemed such impossible goals at the beginning of the year - it bit like next year's goals seem from this distance.

Bike shown top left is from the Trading Post. I'm suffering from heavy desire - even though keep telling myself I really don't need another bike. Still, I keep looking it up, knowing one day soon it won't be there any more. Sadly, I have not the cash.

4,575km so far this year.

Monday, September 18, 2006

You Yangs and Yonder

After a few weeks of agonising over whether to buy a road bike and which one to buy, it was nice to take my old roadie out for a spin in the You Yangs and Yonder 100km on Sunday. It was another warm, still day: shorts and jersey weather.

The bunch took off at a fair pace, and I was content to let myself be dragged along at a comfortable 30km/h for the first hour or so, until we stopped at the checkpoint on top of the You Yangs. I don't like to stop for long at checkpoints - especially so soon into a ride - so I was off again on my own shortly after, content to spend some time on my own and to chat with the faster riders as they passed. Most people were doing the 150km option but I only needed a century for one of the audax awards I'm going for which requires 5x100km rides. Besides, there was a monster hill in the 150km, and I'd promised to be home for lunch.

It turned out to be a very quick ride, my second fastest century ever. The last 20km featured long rolling stretches with a gentle tailwind and to my surprise I was motoring along for much of in the big chainring it at around 45km/h. The last 20km took me about half an hour and I was happy to complete 102km with a riding time of 3 hours 47 minutes, for an average of 27km/h. Considering just a couple of years ago I was struggling to get home under the 6 hour 30 minute time limit, I've improved somewhat. And the old bike proved there's some life left in it yet.

4,561km so far this year.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The wind in my hair

Arriving at the carpark I commute from this morning, I realised I'd forgotten my helmet. So I shouldn't really ride, but it's a brilliant day and my ride's mostly on cycle paths and I just really, really wanted to. So I took the chance and rode in anyway, the way we did in the old days before there were helmet laws, with the wind in my hair and I survived ok.

Lovely ride on the weekend: the Green and Gold 50km Audax from Kyneton. Normally 50km would be considered a trifling distance, but this one was hilly and very windy to boot. After one circuit, there weren't many takers for a second. My excuse? I needed a 50km to make up the miles for my Nouveau Randonneur award, which requires a 50km, a 100km, a 150km and a 200km ride in the same season. My first audax award is now in the bag!

Wrestling with the desire to buy a rode bike. Have narrowed it down to two main contenders: the Giant OCR1 and the Trek 1400.

4,391km so far this year.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Even in the rain, especially in the rain

I've been too busy to ride for four days, and I've been getting antsy, so I rose before dawn this morning and went for a ride in the rain. It was just lovely. The antsiness seems to be cured. The addict has had his fix.

My road bike has been rattling around in the back of the car since Monday waiting for me to find some time. Simultaneously, I've been flipping through the pages of bike catalogues looking at fancy new road bikes I'd like to buy to make me go faster. In my heart I know the real solution is not parting with $2,000 but to ride my perfectly serviceable but 25-year-old road bike more often. It's just as fast as any of these newfangled alloy and carbon fibre monstrosities, even if I do have to move my hands to change gears and the tyres are held on with glue. It's just that, well, everyone else has such nice new bikes.

At any rate, there's nothing wrong with my road bike, which fits me better than any other I've ever owned. If only I could get the saddle right. In his book "I am a Raving Sociopath"* Lance Armstrong relates how his team mechanics used to call him 'the millimetre man' because he was so obsessive about getting the setup of his bike just right. It turns out I'm the same type of obsessive, riding up and down the bike paths of Melbourne in the rain, allen key in hand, tweaking my saddle height and pitch. It's like tuning a piano and there's only one right result. It's a matter of persistence, but when you hit that sweet spot, suddenly you can fly.

*Possibly not its real title.

4,252km so far this year.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Spring has sprung!

Winter seems to have disappeared, the days are warmer and suddenly it's shorts and summer jersey weather.

The Spring into Seymour 200km Audax must be one of the flattest rides I've ever done, although it still held some challenges despite the lack of wind for most of the day. It was hot - just below 30 degrees - and I managed to get through about 12 bottles of water and a couple of sports drinks.

Still, I managed to stick with the bunch for the first 100km to set a PB of 3 hours 43 minutes, before getting dropped 20km before lunch and spending the next 60km happily on my own. I passed the remains of the bunch while they were having a coffee in Nagambie and was duly picked up 20km before the end. It was nice to have a wheel to sit on for a bit and they'd moderated their pace somewhat. Along the way also scored up PBs for the 150km (5 hours 59 minutes) and the 200km (8hours 5 minutes). I felt strong all day and it was a good morale-building result before the harder and longer rides which loom over the next few months.

4,231km so far this year.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Shame on the Hell Riders

Melbourne's cyclists are enjoying a spell of very poor publicity at present thanks to a bunch of lycra clad louts called the Hell Riders. Long known for their inconsiderate antics on Beach Road, someone on the Hell Ride on the weekend ran a red light and knocked an old man down, killing him.

It's been an accident waiting to happen. The Hell Ride is hardly the only Beach Road bunch to flout the traffic laws, only the most infamous. Despite codes of conduct and awareness campaigns, red light running is an epidemic among cyclists. As a group, we surrender our moral authority to demand consideration and respect from other road users when we can't obey the most basic of road rules.

As cyclists, there's nothing particularly skilled or clever about Melbourne's legions of cafe racer nobodies. Anyone can ride a flash road bike fast if they're getting sucked along the flat stretches of Melbourne's waterfront in the middle of a big bunch. But it hurts the reputation of all cyclists when they form adrenalin-charged mobs which speed, contest bunch sprints on public roads, run red lights and intimidate other road users. We won't cop it from motorists, and we shouldn't tolerate it from other cyclists.

Shame on the Hell Riders.

4,003km so far this year.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Geek chic

This should lead to some fun: I've bought myself a tiny GPS receiver which will fit on the bike. The image to the left is this morning's drive/ride data downloaded, transformed by magnalox, pushed into Google Earth and saved as a screenshot. The route is represented by the wireframe, and speed (the red line) and altitude (the blue line) are displayed as a graph. Elapsed time is superimposed onto the map itself. Click the image to enlarge. It looks even better in 3D.

Hours of fun will no doubt ensue, although my longer term experiment with this technology may yet prove a useful way to record the route of Audax rides for future reference. By riding the route and making the file available, it might help remove some of the navigational uncertainty from events. In addition, it could be a useful way for people to log their rides, either as verification, or simply as a record for for their later enjoyment.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Bunches Down the Bay

It was a great day for a ride yesterday and a great ride was had. The Bunches Down the Bay was a real treat. After a longish break from Audax rides, it was good to be back in the saddle again. It's a mainly a flat ride down the eastern side of Port Phillip Bay - from Parkville to Portsea and back.

I set off with the bunch at breakneck speed, suspecting I might regret my early exertions later. It's always a danger when you don't ride your own pace. But the carbon fibre and lycra brigade dropped me up the first set of hills and I was able to settle into a bit more of a rhythm. Besides, as is normal, I caught most of them at the 75km checkpoint.

Since I was feeling good and wasn't taking long breaks at the checkpoints to avoid warming down, this pattern repeated throughout. They'd catch me, I'd sit in for a while, get dropped, then overhaul them at the checkpoints. Oddly though, the bigger group didn't catch back up in the last 50km, and about 15km from the end I found a quicker wheel to sit on and was dragged along to the finish.

A very satisfying ride, more so for the fact that I did my fastest century yet - 3 hours and 59 minutes for the 100km and just over six hours for the 150. Now to get ready for a very different ride: 200km around Lake Eildon next weekend. It's all part of the buildup for the qualifying rides for next years Paris-Brest-Paris.

3,947km so far this year.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The beauty of the wheel.

There's something about bicycles that is more spiritual than mechanical. On the face of it, bikes are just machines - but what wonderful and efficient machines they are. It's something more people are beginning to appreciate as petrol prices bite. There's something special about these assemblages of steel tube and rubber and cable and wire that warms the soul of the enthusiast. They're a combination of transport, excerise, fun and style that adds up to a whole lot more than the mere sum of its parts.

For me, building a bicycle wheel is the perfect example of this. You start out with a hub, a hoop and a bunch of spokes. Slowly you weave a pattern which can carry many times its own weight, faithfully for year upon year. A well built wheel is a thing of great beauty and strength and a joy to own.

I rebuilt an old road wheel last night, a traditional 36 hole road racing wheel from the 80's with a Campagnolo hub, a spin-on six speed cluster and a tubular tyre. The flimsy aero spokes have been breaking, and I need it for a 150km ride this weekend, so I'm rebuilding it with straight-gauge stainless steel.

I've build about a dozen wheels for various bikes in the last few years and they've all turned out really well. The trick is taking your time and working methodically. There's a moment in the process when it all comes together - a complex equation of spoke length, lacing and tension - and the wheel all but tells you that you've got it right. As you bring the spokes to full tension, the wheel comes up straight and true and round, an endlessly beautiful and useful piece of hand-made sculpture. Building a bicycle wheel is a tremendously satisfying way of spending an evening.
3,797km so far this year.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Raging down the road.

I'm an angry man this morning. I gave up on the whole road rage thing back in my motorcycling days, after I opened someone's door at traffic lights and gave them an earful for cutting me off. The whole undignified episode took place in front of an unmarked police car. I swear officer, it looked a lot worse than it was. Deep down I know that violence isn't the answer, even though sometimes I forget what the question is.

So today's revving fool behind me at the traffic lights didn't particularly attract my attention as I passed him in the bike lane. 'He's either turning left, or he'll just have to wait,' I thought. Today's lesson folks: if you're going to zoom past me within the range of my outstretched arm, you're far too close. So don't act surprised if your front passenger window gets a tap almost but not quite hard enough to shatter it. And hurt my wrist. Damn those side windows are tough.

There was an opportunity for me to take it further, and keen I was. But sometimes when the red mist descends it's best not to listen to the voices inside your head yelling "kill, kill, kill!". And so we return to the politness and the pacifism. For now. But motorists take heed: if you try to run me over because you're in a hurry, I'll beat you to a pulp if I catch up with you. It seems a fair swap.

Apart from that, I had a lovely ride to work. Serenity now, serenity now, serenity now...

Thanks for bindifry for the pic.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

A week on the bike.

Another milestone falls - a week on the bike, or 168 hours to be precise. At this rate I will have ridden nearly 6,000 km by the end of the year and will have spent the equivalent of 12 days in the saddle. It is nearly time to start thinking about next year's goals. I have a feeling I might be aiming for 10,000km. Or 12,000. Why not?

A lazy weekend doing maintenance on the bikes and cranking out a slow 20km on the track to get the fixie set up perfectly. The final annoying creak has been identified and ruthlessly eliminated. (It was an undertightened crank arm). A silent bike means a happy rider.

I'm slowly getting closer to the time when I might have all four bikes on the road at the same time. The Surly and the track bike are now in perfect working order. The road bike needs its back wheel rebuilt (of course) before the Bunches Down the Bay 150km on Saturday, so I'm off to buy the spokes in the morning. The MTB needs its front brake fixed. If I achieve nothing else this month, I will have all my bikes working at once!

The problem then becomes which bike to ride. The Surly and the road bike both vie for my affections on the long rides: they're both great fun to ride, but the road bike has a slight edge on speed and the Surly lower gears in the hills and is ever so slightly more comfortable. I feel like I'm cheating on one when I wheel the other from the shed.

3,684km so far this year.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Spoiled for choice.

Having forgotten to enter this year's Round the Bay in a Day in time, I'm too late to join the anti-clockwise ride like I wanted , too late for the free jersey and too late for the 250km option too. Spewing.

Checking out my riding calendar, I realise how spoiled for choice we folk in Melbourne are. While trying to figure out whether to ride in the ATB at all, I opened the envelope containing my Alpine Classic nomination forms for next years ride, then idly wondered whether to have a go at either the Great Victorian Bike Ride or the Great Tasmanian Bike Ride. Then there's the dozens of audax events I'm trying to juggle. It's a nice problem to have - too many good rides to fit them all in.

And then, looming on the horizon looms the biggest prize of all - the Paris- Brest-Paris is less than 12 months away. Since we're contemplating a trip to see Le Tour not long before hand, it seems a tempting goal to grasp - if there is anything sane about contemplating a 1,200km ride with a 90 hour time limit.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

A dangerous occupation?

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau, has released a report into cyclist deaths from 1991 to 2005. 665 cyclists died during that period. Statistics sometimes seem to have a way of helping people amplify their own prejudices, and no doubt this set will be discussed at length among the cycling community online. These facts stood out for me:
  • Cyclist deaths are well down, which is good news. "In the 1990s, the number of cyclist deaths ranged from 40 to 80 per year. In the 2000s so far (2000 to 2005), the range has been from 26 to 46 per year". It's a statistic that reflects the general decline in the road toll.
  • One third of those killed were not wearing helmets. Most of those killed while not wearing helmets were under 18.
  • In over 60 per cent of crashes, the cyclist was deemed to be ‘responsible’ for the
    action that precipitated the fatal crash. This mainly consisted of failing to observe road rules by swerving in front of cars or cruising through intersections. Again, this seemed to kill a lot of young people.
Cyclists complain a lot about the actions of some motorists, often with good reason, but we also need to accept responsibility for our own safety. Wear a helmet, have good lights at night and obey the road rules, and you're stacking the deck in your favour. And you're also setting a good example for those who haven't yet learned that the roads can be a dangerous place.

3,636km so far this year.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

A tour de fun

What a trip! At the last minute we decided to ditch the Mawson Trail and do a circuit of the Fleurieu Peninsula which turned out be a stroke of genius. The scenery was terrific, we missed the crowds and, despite heading out in the depths of winter, the days were mild and we didn't have a drop of rain. Even the drivers gave us plenty of space.

Every day had a highlight. Day one was the big climbs up into the Adelaide Hills and the long descents into Strathalbyn just on dusk. Then there was the Encounter Bikeway between Goolwa and Victor Harbour and the pod of Southern Right Whales cavorting just offshore. Day three's highlight was the spectacular tree-lined decent into Normanville. Then we hit the wineries of McLaren Vale and pushed onward to the Haigh's Chocolate factory in Adelaide. Highlights to many to mention. Best holiday in years.

The bikes didn't miss a beat the whole trip, although some of the big hills were a bit of a test for the riders - those granny gears sure got a workout. I'd forgotten how enjoyable it is to poodle along on a heavily loaded touring bike. After a few hours you get used to the load and settle into a happy rhythm and the kilometres just fly by.

Oddly for me, the absolute best part of the trip was a long uphill out of a little town called Clarendon on the Adelaide Hills. The guidebook warned it was a long steep ascent, but by that stage of the trip we were feeling fit and seemed to spin up it effortlessly. It made the long winding descent on the other side all the sweeter.

3,561km so far this year.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Time off.

A week off the bike. Bummer. The good part is knowing that next week, we have a week on the bike. We're off to Adelaide to ride on the the Mawson Trail for six days. I'd consider that to be adequate compensation for a week of inactivity.

Bought the girl a lovely set of panniers for the trip, from Summit Gear in Katoomba. They made them yesterday and shipped them to me where I'm staying in Hobart overnight. How's that for service? Thanks Brett!

They're lovely canvas bags, very similar to the 20-year-old Wilderness Equipment panniers I have, which I don't think they make any more.

And, speaking of the old fashioned and beautiful, check out this lovely classic French tourer. Mmmm.

3,237km so far this year.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Round and round we go.

Velodromes abound in Melbourne and surrounds, we're quite spoiled. Now that the track bike is back in one piece I'm back rolling around my favourites - Preston's 250m track with the uphill back straight, Castlemaine's lovely 500m asphalt loop that's flat and open to the wind and Coburg's maximum security concrete track set among the factories. Kyneton velodrome is my closest, it's a 250m asphalt circuit, a bit bumpy in parts and with a slight but nasty rise in the back straight that demands a bit more effort to maintain a constant pace.

Kyneton was the venue for my latest attempt at my own modest hour record: 30.14km set back in March last year at Castlemaine. (Two other cracks have both yeilded times a shade over 29km/h each.) If I was all that serious about it, I'd be embarrassed, because I've probably done faster hours on the road, but it's not a mark set in earnest. But the beauty of such a modest achievement is that there's seemingly endless room for improvement. The problem is that something always seems to slow me down a little. The wind is the usual culprit, or the arrival of some kids on mountain bikes who want to roll around the duckboards, someone training their slobbering idiot dog in the middle. There's always an excuse.

I started out too fast today and while my average was 34km/h for the first few kilometres, it was far too fast to keep up for long. Before too long, the kick each lap to hold my speed through the home turn was beginning to hurt. By 30 minutes I'd sagged dramatically and was looking for a reason to quit. The rain which started at the 40 minute mark was most welcome and I shall have to content myslef with a PB for the 20km (41:06, or 28.8km/h!) Laugh all you like, it would have been world record pace in, um, 1878. The hour record is safe, for now.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Cold comfort.

Kev, my friend in Tasmania, and I have been in a sort of mileage 'duel' this year. He bought his bike about the same time I bought the Surly and he's been putting in the serious miles. We swap totals from time to time, not in a competitive way, but more by way of comparison and encouragement. The lead has changed many times, although of late with a couple of the century rides I've done I've drawn away just a bit. He'll probably overtake me in the next week or so as I'm off the bike for a few weeks due to work commitments interstate and then holidays.

It's not something I'd take too seriously though, because Kev wins by a mile on moral grounds. He does all his miles at night, in the dead of a Tasmanian winter, on the way to and from his night shift job. It's in the minuses most nights and he rides rain or shine. They make them tough in Tassie.

3,185km so far this year.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Winter wonder.

Though the day was cold and overcast, the Wandong Winter Wander, attracted a field of exactly 100 riders on Sunday - one-seventh of the nation's audax riders taking part in the one ride! Such a large turnout shows the strength of the club in Victoria, with 25 starters in the 200km, 12 starters for the 150km, 51 starters in the 100km and 12 starters for the 50km. It marks my ninth audax ride for the year, and the middle of my season. 1,150km down, 1,400km to go. The hard ones are yet to come!

I was happy to finish the 100km in under 5 hours, despite not feeling my best and the rolling hills in the last 30km. Early on, the group I was in came across a rider who'd just been knocked off his bike by another rider, who'd left the scene shortly afterwards. Help was called and he was off to hospital with a broken wrist. Otherwise it was a most pleasant day, grinding the big road bike gears across the undulations south of Seymour. My knees didn't thank me and I spent most of the ride on my own anyhow, so the road bike wasn't that much of an advantage. I suspect I'll be back on the Surly next time, for the benefit of the more comfortable ride and the granny gears on the triple crankset up the big hills. Although I've heard horror stories about it, I might give the Kinglake 100 a look this weekend.

It turns out there's a cult, or at least a mailing list of Surly Long Haul Trucker devotees. I'm waiting for a sunny day to take some photos of mine for the feature spot on the homepage. One of their rides shown above. Such devotion. Thankfully they stop short of giving their bikes names. That would be taking it just a bit too far.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The great race.

The BBC's Nigel Hallows blows the lid on The Great Race:

"I cannot claim to represent those faceless and unacknowledged opponents in the Great Race. A race, yes, but an unusual one in that most cyclists are not even aware it is taking place. This is ideal, for I am absurdly but secretly competitive and have an almost pathological need to be first away at the lights.

"The small number of cyclists who are in the know duel with great nonchalance and no acknowledgement of their opponent. The trick is to cycle at maximum speed until the point of overtaking, and then sit back in the saddle as you pass, looking straight ahead as if the mere breeze is carrying you forward.

"I even have a scoring system which gives double marks for passing anyone wearing Lycra. Overtaking a bike courier would theoretically score five, but I have never done it."

In the comments 'Simon' notes: "The first rule of The Great Race is that you never mention The Great Race".

Nigel will have to be hunted down - and overtaken with great nonchalance.

3,050km so far this year.

One more thing to covet

Saw one of these in the bike racks at work today, and only one word applies: sweeeet. A fast, light commuter with the new Shimano eight speed internal hub. They have an aluminium frame, skinny tyres, uber-cool black colour scheme. They're close to being an ideal town bike, although I'd consider mudguards and a hub dynamo to make it just perfect. I'd love to get hold of one of these hubs. Perhaps for the MTB project.

All in all a very stylish piece of kit, and they sell for under $1,000. If there wasn't a limit on how many bikes one can reasonably own, I'd seriously consider one. How much is that limit anyhow? I'd think four was enough - a bike for all seasons - but I'm beginning to think perhaps six.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Bicycle bandits.

The Tour de France doping scandal aside, and Jobie Dajka's alleged cigarette theft notwithstanding, the criminal element in the cycling community have been active of late.

While the possibilities the bicycle offers as a getaway vehicle have never occurred to me, it seems some people would use nothing else. You choice of transport during a criminal enterprise says a lot about you as a person. Whether you're robbing a restaurant or firebombing a house there's no reason to add to global warming and traffic congestion at the same time. Say what you like, but the thinking criminal should display at least that much of a social conscience.

2,997km so far this year.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Velocio's seven commandments for the cyclist:

1. Keep your rests short and infrequent to maintain your rhythm.
2. Eat before you are hungry and drink before you are thirsty.
3. Never ride to the point of exhaustion where you can't eat or sleep.
4. Cover up before you are cold, peel off before you are hot.
5. Don't drink, smoke, or eat meat on tour.
6. Never force the pace, especially during the first hours.
7. Never ride just for the sake of riding.

The man was a genuis and a cycling legend and all, but never ride for the sake of riding? That's the only reason I throw the leg over a bike some days, just for the sake of it.
I understand the sentiment behind Critical Mass, although I suspect it doesn't do the cause much good. Having done a few CM rides when I lived in Sydney, all they seem to achieve is to piss people off. At the opposite end of the spectrum, I'm also not sure about the Ride of Silence. Where Critical Mass is too confrontational, the Ride of Silence just doesn't seem confrontational enough.

There's a rising tide of cycling activism in Australia as people get sick of the unnecessary dangers they confront daily on the roads. In my mind, two events in particular have sparked this: the killing of cyclist Ian Humphrey by Eugene McGee in Adelaide and the killing of cyclist Amy Gillett by Stefanie Magner in Germany. The Ride of Silence is an offshoot of these events, so too is the Wheels of Justice.

Every cyclist lives with the terrible fear in the back of their minds that they may be hit and killed by a car. It makes me feel angry and scared and powerless. If I am ever killed by a car, I want more than just the summary execution of the driver, an annual memorial ride, a ghost bike and the ritualised maiming of every driver who hurts a cyclist because they're inattentive, careless or just in too much of a damn hurry. It would be a comfort, but it's not enough. I'd much prefer to see something change before it comes to that.

As Hobart's cyclists prepare to remember Kate Tamayo, I wonder if there's not something more we can do to focus people's minds on the cost of careless driving. I hope for a day when ghost bikes and memorial rides and all the rest are no longer needed, because people who drive cars are a lot more careful around people who ride bicycles.
Surfers chase the perfect wave, I suppose the cycling equivalent is the perfect ride. They're probably about as rare. A flawless winter's day today, a dazzling blue sky, about ten degrees. A slight tailwind all the way. A cheery greeting from everyone I passed. All the muscles working in concert, an effortless gentle spin all the way to work.

I should take a photo. A day like today is something to remember the next time I get rained on as I toil into a headwind in the dark.
In other two-wheeled excitement, my old track frame should be back from the powerdercoaters tomorrow with a fresh paint job. I've ordered a new crankset from the UK and my audax licence is apparently sufficient for me to be allowed into Melbourne's flash new indoor wooden velodrome to do some lazy laps at $5 an hour weekday mornings on the way to work.

2,961km so far this year.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Another lovely ride at the weekend - the See Sea Rider Audax, all on shared paths from Box Hill to Altona and back. A lovely group of people and a moderate pace so we all stuck together. The weather was reasonable too, with no wind worth mentioning.

Riding on the shared paths keeps the average speed down somewhat, meaning the 110km took us around 5 hours and 30 minutes, an average of just over 20km/h. As always the Surly was comfortable and got me there and back safely, even attracting the odd admiring comment. Lots of breaks for coffee and even an ice cream at Williamstown on the way back.

Feeling chuffed about my seventh audax ride for the season, although one of the other riders mentioned it was her 16th century ride in six months. So well done to her as well.

2,900km for the year so far.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The coldest morning since the dawn of time in Melbourne this morning, 2.7 degrees at 8am, but it kept everyone indoors and it was sunny, so it was a pleasant run in.

More than the usual number of obstacles on the way in: including ice on the bridge at the start of the ride even at 9am! The abandoned Ford station wagon in Docklands is in danger of being declared a piece of conceptual art as it enters its second week blocking the cycle path. The Docklands Authority says it's the council's job to move it, council says it's Docklands job. I suspect it could be there a while yet. They only need to roll it back a metre or two to get it out of the way.

Work to build Bracks' Shack in front of Jeff's Shed (a new convention centre in front of the exhibition centre, is that a big dick contest or what?) has cut the cycle path, meaning carrying the bike up a flight of stairs. And then there's 10km speed limit signs all through South Bank. I can run faster than that.

Then for the final WTF? moment of the morning, there's the new cycle lane on the footpath in St Kilda Road. Half the footpath is marked as a cycleway for 100m, along with about 80cm of the road. So the poor pedestrians get cramped, the cyclists get the dubious advantage of a short run out of the traffic and everyone gets to puzzle over a very odd piece of traffic management. Thanks, but I'll take my chances with the cars.

Monday, June 19, 2006

The Lancefield Lazy Legs has been run in wonderful central Victorian winter weather. A cold +1 degree start and lots of early fog to keep things interesting, but a fun fast ride through some wonderful scenery. A reasonable turnout too - easily 30 riders by my estimation. I hung on for about 40km, but was dropped by the bunch in the hills about 20km out out of Tallarook. No biggie, I'm used to that and I knew I'd see them again.

I managed to keep my break at Tallarook short and after stripping off all my winter kit and stuffing it in my saddlebag and my already bulging jersey back pockets, had my brevet card stamped and set off again shortly after arriving. A nice and slow run along through the first 20km of undulations saw me caught by a group of four who provided, someone to chat with, some wheels to sit on and a good pace back to Lancefield. Apart from some minor knee pain probably caused by pushing big gears uphill, it was a sensational day out on the road bike with some great people. A productive day for me means 111.67km in 4 hours, 56 minutes at an average speed of 22.4km/h, all powered by a big breakfast, a Mars bar and about four litres of water.

2,690km so far this year.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

I started out riding again about 18 months ago, after not doing much cycling for many years. When I say about 18 months ago, I can say with some certainty that my first ride of this cycling incarnation was 18.12km down the Merri Creek Trail on January 31, 2005.

Being an obsessive type, I keep a spreadsheet which keeps track of all my rides. I now have a detailed record of my recent cycling history which provides all sorts of interesting information that satisfies my craving for trivia. It may be common among the cycling fraternity to keep a training diary with this sort of detail, but on the other hand, I am willing to admit to being a little eccentric. Ah, my lovely numbers.

For example, I can tell at a glance that my average speed on the 56 rides I did last year was 21.15km/h, while this year I'm motoring along at 22.67km/h (a 7.1% increase, not to be sneezed at). I can see my all-time top speed (74.2km/h) and note that my average kilometres per week has risen from 50.62km to 107.86km. For the 59 rides I've done this year, my average outing is a trip of 43km in a shade under two hours. And there's two double centuries and three century rides in there too.

My previous attempts to do much riding tended to stall a bit, as I'd lose motivation. Keeping the averages up, gradually increasing my mileage and speed and achieving long term goals has made a big difference this time. The big goal for this year is 5,000km or 100km a week. It will be double last year's milage. Next year I'll be aiming for at least 8,000. The best thing is that my enjoyment is increasing to the same extent.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

A series of stunning winter days is upon us - lovely riding weather. I reckon winter is a much better season for the commuting cyclist, despite the cold and the longer hours of darkness. There are fewer people on the shared paths: two joggers seen tonight as opposed to dozens of people out taking advantage of daylight savings in summer. There's easier parking in the bike racks at work, which are often full in summer. And heading home on the trusty Surly, festooned with lights, pedalling gently into the darkness, is a wonderfully relaxing way to end the working day.

Its much quieter in the bike shops in town too, they're generally very happy to see you. I'm shopping for a helmet for the moment as the present one is slowly shedding its lining after ten years of faithful service. Apparently you're only supposed to keep helmets for five years, so I've well and truly had my money's worth from this one.

2542km so far this year.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Cold, windy long weekend, so I'm not venturing far. It's nothing like last weekend, which featured the Balmy Bendigo 150. It wasn't balmy (zero degrees at the start) but it was a lovely ride, with a couple of fairly major climbs, over Mt Alexander and Mt Tarrengower. First long ride on the road bike, first time I rode and finished with other riders.

I did get dropped at about 5km in and spent a fair while chasing back on, was dropped again on a long hill at about 40km, and caught the main group of four riders at the controle the top of Mt Alexander and stuck with them from there on in. Very pleasant and happy to finish in under seven hours with no major dramas. Oddly, I was feeling good enough to ride again after just one day recovery off the bike.

This weekend is miserable. Not much to do other than work on the bikes in the shed and hope to make up the miles during the week.

Next weekend is the 100km Lancefield Lazy Legs, though it doesn't sound like it's too lazy a gig with a fair bit of climbing by all accounts. Never mind, it's only 100km - four or five hours at the outside. I've been looking forward to it for a while.