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.