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.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

I already have four bikes, which is probably enough for one person, but I'd love something to replace the car for once and for all, something that kept me out of the rain, had headlights built in and which could carry a little luggage. Well this falls down on a couple of the most practical points, but oh my! Isn't it lovely? I want, I want, I want.

From having a look at their website it looks like one could be had for under $A10,000, which is waaay cheaper than a car and they're nine times sexier to boot. And they come in red! Looks like there's plenty of room in there for an ipod and some speakers and headlights would be a snip to fit.

The only problem is my 75km daily trip to work might just be a little too far. For this, I would move closer to town.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Dusted off the old MTB for a night ride on the singletrack circuit around the forests near Redesdale in central Victoria last week. The course is used for one of the 24 hour races in December. My trusty old 24-speed Trek is hardtail from the pre-suspension era when dinosaurs roamed a cooling earth, kindly referred to as a 'boneshaker' by one of my fellow riders. But it does the odd MTB orienteering event just fine, and with a 'she'll be right' we set off into the sunset. Hey, I am the bloke who came a gritty last in the 1986 Australian national mountain bike championships. How hard can it be?

Well, didn't I learn a lesson? They invented suspension and disk brakes for a very good reason. As my riding companions disappeared into the darkness, I damn near shook the fillings out of my teeth and the plates and pins from the Bad Arm. I probably would have been ok in the day, and while shoulder-charging trees in the dark is lots of fun, the pain is cumulative. I set out with high hopes of completing two 15km laps, but slunk back to the car with my tail between my legs after 7km. Hey, but it was a hard 7km. My computer must have broken or something, because it recorded my average speed as 11km/h. It took a six pack to recover from the hurt and shame.

A flash new mountain bike has been added to the bottom of my very long wishlist.

2483km so far this year.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Fixed gear buffs will love this quote, from Henri Desgrange, the originator of the Tour de France. He's commenting on an race between a fixie and an early derailleur-equipped bicycle over a hilly course. The fixie lost.

"I still feel that variable gears are only for people over forty-five. Isn't it better to triumph by the strength of your muscles than by the artifice of a derailleur? We are getting soft. Come on, fellows. Let's say that the test was a fine demonstration--for our grandparents! As for me, give me a fixed gear!"
From: BC Randonneurs

2455km so far this year.

I have a lovely Brooks saddle sitting on my desk. It's quite distracting with its shiny black leather, copper rails, oversized rivets and "B17 Champion Special" stamped on both sides. I bought it this morning to go on my audax bike - the new saddles just aren't comfortable enough for me for long distance rides and I've been juggling one saddle between two bikes for a month now. Considering the money I've saved lately by riding to work, a new $100 saddle seems a reasonable treat.

They're heavier than the newfangled plastic and alloy models but there's something about these relics of a bygone age I find compelling. They're organic, they breathe and stretch and mould to fit. They also look beautiful, as comfortable as an old pair of shoes and I recommend them highly. I'll put this one on the bike tonight.