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.