Sunday, December 30, 2007

And so it comes to this...

At midnight tonight there is just one day left in the year. At bikejournal.com, where cyclists go to log their rides in the spirit of friendly competition the clock is ticking down. There's been a noticeable surge in the last few days as people ride that little bit extra to improve their year. I was touching the top 1,200 mark, but two days of the bike to got to a family wedding in Sydney has dropped me down a remarklable 80 places which I won't regain.

For mine, 2007 hasn't been my best year. I'm on 5,954km, which means I'm a certainty to try to crank out 45km tomorrow to cross the 6,000km barrier. I had been aiming for 10,000km, then 7,200km. As the year drew on and it became apparent I wasn't going to come close to either of those I decided to settle for 6,400km - which was my total last year. I'm not even going to make that. Never mind, every kilometre was fun, as I now recall, even the ones on icy roads in the winter rain.

A couple of other riders have had a stellar year though. I tend to disregard the blokes who claim more than 30,000km a year as overachievers and braggarts. But Husky65 has done 6,485km to date which puts him dead on for 6,500km and a newcomer called 3hills has pedalled his heart out for 6,735km. Emphatic!

I'll spend tomorrow thinking about goals for 2008. It's going to be a cracker! Watch out husky65 and 3hills.

5,954km so far this year.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Slow, fat Alleycat!

Hobart's first Alley Cat race was held on the weekend, starting out from Salamanca Place for a mad dash from pub to pub in Hobart's inner city. There was around a dozen riders, which is pretty good for a first event. Most rode fixies, although there was also mountain bikes and tourers and even someone sporting a top-tube baby seat. The route was a slowly unfolding secret - the first checkpoint revealed at the start, the second was revealed after drinking a beer at the first and so on. A most enjoyable day, even counting walking into a pub in West Hobart wearing a nightie over my cycling gear (race requirement between checkpoints three and four, I promise.)

I'm not that competitive and my backstreet knowledge of Hobart isn't that sharp so I've got a way to go as an Alleycat racer, but I learned some valuable lessons. You realise how hilly Hobart's is when you're a large man on a fixed gear. Racing on a full stomach also isn't the smartest thing to do. And it's not smart to wait at the last checkpoint for your mate who you think is behind you, because he might have found a shortcut along the way and you will certainly end up getting the ironic slow hand clap and cheers reserved for those who come DFL.

5,761km so far this year.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Still pedalling.

"It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle."
Ernest Hemingway.

5,558km so far this year.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

More room please.

I've had a few close calls lately and have been thinking about what to do. I originally thought ot a rearward-facing video camera and a laser rangefinder to get an image and a distance readout on the fuckers so I can go to the cops. But an e-mail exchange wit the wonderful Dr Ian Walker of the bike helmet study fame, I've decided it's going to be far too much trouble.

My next thought was a metre-plus long length of scratchy aluminium on a spring, to keep people at bay, but I find the idea's been considered and soundly rejected.

Then then I find the photo to the left. If that's not exactly me message I'm wanting to send, I don't know what is. It might not be that practical for moving through traffic, but you can't have everything.

Thanks to Treadly for the link.

5,558km so far this year.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The great chain of being

I don't often rave on about things I like for a couple of reason: firstly I'm like to piss and moan and secondly there's not that much out there that really impresses me. But today, and maybe tomorrow will be an exception before I return to my normal surly self.

I had to buy a chain a couple of weeks ago, because my satanic front derailleur fed my chain into the gap between the right crank and the chainrings, bending it at the same time.

I wandered into one of Hobart's friendly bike shops to buy a replacement so I could get home. For $85, the Wipperman 10 speed chain is a bit pricey, but it has a cracking little connecting link which means you can take the chain off without any tools. Which is pretty handy when you think about it. I was able to clean my chain today with ease, slipped it off, soaked it in kero, relubed and put back on in about five minutes. Happy is me. I love Wipperman chains.

Coming up next: the best bicycle computer ever made.

5,460km so far this year.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

I have no troubles with the one at the back

We all know the rear dérailleur was invented by Tullio Campagnolo* and what a fine piece of work Tullio hath rendered. It's a little known face that the front dérailleur was invented by Adolf Hitler, working on the express orders of Satan. The project was commissioned by Telstra. That's how evil front dérailleurs are.

Now front dérailleurs are a great thing - when they're working properly you can forget them. But I've never had much luck with the buggers. Mine's been out of adjustment lately, throwing the chain off the top chainring almost every time I shift up. It's scarred my lovely new Stronglight cranks and keeps jamming the chain between the crank arm and the chain rings. If I adjust the limit screw to prevent this, the gear won't shift up at all. I decided to try to fix it for once and for all today. I removed the cable, loosened the fastening bolts, realigned the beast, reconnected, adjusted and tested. No joy. Process repeated. No joy. References consulted. Process repeated. And it seemed to work. It was 45 minutes well spent.

After voting this morning, I set on a ride and the front dérailleur suddenly was behaving. Upshifts were suddenly a joy, and praise be to the front dérailleur. All was going swimmingly until 10km from the end of a 50km ride off came the chain. Easy enough to fix, but somehow impossible to repeat over the remainder of the ride. Who knows what's going on here. Maybe it's possessed.

And a big hi to the truck driver who passed too close yesterday in Sandy Bay yesterday before turning left in front of me. Two goes and you still missed, you mullet-headed loser.

* this may not be true.

5,337km so far this year

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Letter to the editor

Loved this in the Sydney Morning Herald today:

Build a bridge, bike-baiters.

As a working city bicycle courier, I am occasionally criticised for such misdemeanours as flowing through traffic and taking a full lane in unsafe sections. Those who choose to preach from their big-wheeled, chrome-plated, plastic chariots should note one thing: if you don't wind down the window of your air-conditioned, carbon-farting bubble, the chances are I won't be able to hear you. If I do happen to hear you, the chances are greater that I have heard it all before. Go and see Morris Iemma's men on Macquarie Street - they know people who will build you a bridge to get over it.

Steve Partridge
Marrickville

5,180km so far this year.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Open Letter to the organisers of the Great Ocean Road Ride

(This issue has topical on the Audax-Oz e-mail list. Several people have written letters of complaint about the image on the left, which was used to promote a recreational cycling event. I don't think they go far enough. Here's mine.)
Dear Sir/Madam,

I am writing to complain in the strongest possible terms about the image shown on your website being used to promote the recent Great Ocean Road tour.

Some of the riders in the photograph are riding on the wrong side of the road. Do you have any idea what a bad name this gives cyclists? What example it sets? Never mind that the photo is clearly taken during a race. I am insane with rage, shaking and drooling on my keyboard like a angry shaky drooly person.

I note the cyclists are not riding two abreast - in clear breach of the law. Do you have any idea what a bad name this gives cyclists? What sort of message is this sending to young children?

These riders are conducting a race on a public road. They are following each other too closely. They are blocking the road for traffic. None of the bicycles have bells. Or reflectors. There is no indication that their helmets comply with the relevant Australian standard. None of the riders are smiling. Do you have any idea what a bad name this gives cyclists? WON'T SOMEBODY THINK OF THE CHILDREN? AND ALSO THE ELDERLY? ARE YOU TRYING TO KILL US ALL?

I demand you remove this image, delete any like it from your computers, soundly thrash the photographer, fine the cyclists involved and ban them from riding ever again. If you must depict cyclists then for heaven's sake show them obeying the law as they do in real life. Make sure they are wearing bright reflective clothing and that all races, religions and genders are represented equally. Be sure to include some differently-abled and animal athletes, vegetarians, paroled prisoners and recumbent riders.

This is the greatest outrage I have ever witnessed anywhere ever including the genocide in Cambodia, the invasion of Iraq and the theft of my sense of perspective. Do you have any idea what a bad name this gives cyclists? I call jihad on you. The blood of all cyclists everywhere is on your hands - even those that haven't died yet. A pox on you all. I hope you all get cancer.

With fond regards,

Surly Dave.

5,158km so far this year.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

A bike for Mrs Surly

On one of the lists I subscribe to the other day someone was asking whether they should buy a steel or a carbon frame to replace a frame they'd damaged in a crash. I'm not dogmatic on the subject, but a something occurred to me while pottering in the shed over the course of the weekend.

I've been doing up a bike for Mrs Surly Dave, who says I never go riding with her. Currently her only bike is a fat-tyred 26' tourer, which is a lovely bike for long slow days with a load, but not so good for short speedy trips for fun and fitness' sake.

Now we're not exactly flush with cash at present. A new bike was out of the question and despite the fact that there seems to be a lot of good deals available around the place I thought we could do something better without spending too much money. Mrs S had an old steel road frame she'd hung onto from the days when she did triathlons. Although she'd ridden it from time to time, it was in need to a spruce up. I spend $80 having it powder-coated, and another $100 on a new front derailleur and swapped over some of the parts from my bike which I didn't need any more and viola - as good as new.

My point I guess, is that as lights and expensive and wonderful as carbon fibre and other exotic materials are, I can't see a carbon frame lasting 20 years, let alone surviving two decades being shifted from shed to shed and generally ignored. Steel frames on the other hand, aren't bothered by this sort of treatment and come up as good as gold after a lick of paint and a bit of TLC.

We'll probably go for a ride next weekend and see if the old bike rides as good as it looks.

4,954km so far this year.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Once around the Channel

Southern Tasmania turned on every imaginable type of weather except snow for the Bicycle Tasmania 100km ride around the D'Entrecasteaux Channel region today. We had rain, bright sunshine, howling wind. There were hills that never ended and a couple of motorists with homicidal intent. All the same it was a most enjoyable ride passing through some lovely countryside.

As a bonus, when I got home I stepped on the scales and I'm 100.1kg, which means my weight is heading in the right direction too.

4,833km so far this year.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

An open and shut case

Having made a couple of trips to the mainland with the bike now I'm getting a feel for what works and what doesn't when it comes to packing a bike for air travel. I've been using a tough Ground Effect Tardis bag for the trips which necessitates a air bit of disassembly and reassembly at the other end.

The biggest lesson I've learned is that taking care when packing really pays off. I wrap the frame tubes with pipe insulation and put pieces of cardboard between the wheels and the frame. Packing spare clothing in and around the components seems to help also. Despite the 'fragile' sticker on the outside, I suspect that the baggage handlers aren't too kind - in four flights I've racked up a broken bottle cage, a broken spoke, a damaged cable guide and some scratches on the paintwork. A hard case would probably do a better job, but the cost, size and bulk has turned me off the idea so far.

Enter the Surly Travellers Check. It's the same frame I'm riding now, but with two couplers to split the frame in two so the whole bike fits in an oversized suitcase. It's a great idea for the frequent traveller. It's out next year, so I might give it some serious thought, depending on the cost.

4.663km so far this year.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

A ride in two halves

I rode the Mallee Routes last year on the Long Haul Trucker. I've done a few miles since then and upgraded the bike so I was really looking forward to this year's edition despite the fun associated with a putting the bike on a plane. Lancefield Lairs Andy and Glo and Steve came too, so it was always destined to be a good weekend. Even the drive up was a laugh riot. We considered the 300km ride, but settled for the 200km. It turned out to be a good choice. Though the weather was fine and warm, there was a stiff wind blowing.
We set off at the entirely unreasonable hour of 6am, zooming down the flat straight road to Warracknabeal then onwards to Birchip. Pushed by favourable winds, we averaged a brisk 25km/h+ as we knocked off the first 120km in well under six hours and stopped for a leisurely lunch. Cruising.
Then came payback time. The grind towards Sea Lake was not directly into the wind, but it still knocked the average speed way down and at times we were pushing to make 15km/h. And then we turned directly into the westerly. We spun into Woomelang for a break in the pub where three people were watching the ALF Grand Final. Tiring as we pushed small gears into the wind, we rolled-over the wheat-topped sand dunes to arrive back into Hopetoun for dinner and a few beers by 6.00pm, well within our 12 hour goal. The second 80km had taken more than five hours.
Another highly enjoyable ride, once again as much for the delightful company and the conversation as for the delightful small towns along the way and the Mallee scenery.
(Photo by Steve.)
4,663km so far this year.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A leap in the dark

It was pissing down rain this morning but out of solidarity for those who suffered so much during the Paris-Brest-Paris I decided to ride anyway. That and the fact that VictimOfNoel is 367km ahead of me and Sneaky Steve is snapping at my heels in the yearly mileage totals.

I enjoy the 2.3km 120m climb up Bonnett Hill, it's a hard start to the morning but I need the hill training. My biggest fear has always been that on the return journey my lights would somehow fail. Today's been a good day for addressing fears.

Since I broke a spoke in my back wheel on the weekend I've been running my old six-speed wheels with singles. Because I don't want to carry spare singles and spare tubes, I've abandoned the generator hub and have been using an old Nightstick halogen lamp. On the ascent tonight, just as I left the street lamps of suburbia and entered the deep dark bush section of the ride the bugger started to fade, so I switched it off and climbed under the starlight.

It didn't do any good - by the time I got to the top the fucker was dead flat. There's nothing like descending a steep and hairy 2km descent in total darkness, with only the starlight reflecting off the double yellow lines to guide you. And not much starlight at that. It was a case of picking a speed I was happy to crash at. Somehow I made it down safe, but it's not an experience I want to repeat. Perhaps I was premature dissing the Ayup lights...

4,276km so far this year.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Children can be so unkind

I had to drive into town this morning, so instead of riding in along the Derwent, I rode for an hour up the grandly-titled Inter City Cycle Path. Along the way it passes New Town High School and you have to be wary of kids darting across the track without looking. This morning was no exception: a big group walked out in front of me, so I slowed and waited for them to cross.

One lad turned, and startled because he hadn't realised I was closing in on them looked at me and exclaimed: "Fuck me dead - it's Santa Claus in tights".

A very unfair description if ever there was one, but all the same I think I'm going to have to lose the beard.

4,133km so far this year.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

A spring in our steps

Spring into Seymour is one of the most enjoyable rides on the Victorian audax calendar. It's a flat fast ride between the picturesque country towns of central Victoria. I rode the 200km version in a bit over eight hours last year and loved it. So I was determined to return, despite the move further south. So I put the bike in a bag and jumped on a plane.

The weather on Friday was appalling, but Saturday dawned crisp, still and clear, as per the forecast. Lancefield Lairs and Oppy teammates Steve and Andy and Ken were also signed up for the 160km/100 mile ride.

We set off at a fair clip and maintained it all day. The tyres were humming as we zoomed along. There was a fair bit of chatter and laughing of the usual topics: riding techniques, frame materials, gear choices, politics, the weather and absent friends. We rolled along the quiet country roads in a small bunch with a trio other riders who left us when we stopped for a short break at Nagambie. Onward we pedalled, enjoying the conditions, the company and the odd walk across old wooden bridges with deadly gaping gaps between the planks. The day was fine and we were having a great time.

We saw the trio again at Murchison, and then briefly at the delightful Lockley Pub, which they left about ten minutes before we did.

It's funny how the competitive urge flares. We had pretty much made up the time deficit at the secret control about 20km out, which they left in a hurry about two minutes ahead of us. We were rolling along nicely after that, but it was pretty clear Steve wanted to chase down the group ahead. Every time the pace eased he'd roll through on the right, eyes focussed down the road. Eventually we could see them in the distance. And reel them in Steve did: rolling up the road in a big gear and closing the gap about 10km from the finish. We stuck together after that, although there was a pretty funny touring bike sprint for the imaginary finish line.

Any day spent on a bike is a good one, but there are some rides that you remember fondly for years. The Oppy will be one of them, and so too I suspect will be the 2007 Spring into Seymour. What fun we had. And we completed the 160-odd kilometres with a riding time of 6 hours and 39 minutes. How we rock.

4,092km so far this year.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Not all sweetness and lights.

With a big ride coming up I gave some thought to some new lights. Though I like my generator hub, something small and light and frictionless. A friend of mine VictimOfNoel (not his real name) has a set of the neat LED units from ayup which I quite liked. They come with a six hour battery and mounts etc which I thought would have been ideal for Audax rides. So I ordered some. Or at least tried to. Dearie gracious me.

First I had to endure their truly appalling website with it's shitty flash animation and bizzare design, which is not much fun over a dialup connection, trust me. Once I managed to find what I wanted it was impossible to find the exact price, because GST and shipping were added later in the process. Once I had ordered, I noticed the default shipping address in paypal was wrong, so I e-mailled them to ask if they could correct my error.

After a week of waiting for either a response to my e-mail or for my lights, I e-mailled ayup again this morning asking them to either confirm shipment of my lights, or to refund my money. Within 30 seconds my money was refunded. Shit! Even Tel$tra tries harder than that to hang onto customers. My refund was accompanied by a note referring me to a mass mailling they sent out during the week pointing out they were out of stock of some of the merchandise they were still selling on their website. No attempt to provide me with something different, no offer to ship something same day. Nothing.

I hate bad service. Even through their product is a decent one, they deserve to fail. I'll never deal with this company again and I recommend you don't either. During the week, I noticed this on a blog. Ayup manages to observe about four of these simple rules of how to shed customers:

1. Refuse to help when the customer is not happy with the product or service.

2. Ignore customers when they are standing there and it's obvious they need some attention. Better still, make sure you keep talking to your friend on the next register.

3. Push customers into buying stuff they don't need.

4. Lie.

5. Be rude and talk down to them. Do your best to make them feel like idiots.

6. Make sure you never have important items on your shelves.

7. Have only one or two people serving at peak times.

8. Display one price on the item, then charge a higher one.

9. Make sure your staff doesn't know how to do a simple transaction, like a lay-by.

10. Don't return phone calls or emails.


3,899km so far this year.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Bon chance, bon route

Around 10 hours from now, at 0500 AEST, the riders in the Paris-Brest-Paris set off on their 1,200km epic across France. I was hoping to be among them, but alas was not made of the same stern stuff - this time anyhow.

It's been my pleasure over the last 12 months or so to ride with some of the people going through their final nervous checks in Paris; to exchange messages of support over the web, or just to be inspired by them.

To all of you, but particularly Tim, Barry, Simon, Stephen, Peter, Mike and Amy: I'll be following your progress with best wishes from afar. To all of you, good luck. May the cycling gods smile.

3,768km so far this year.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Cycling for the morbidly obese

I've started commuting again which has made me very happy, although my commute in Hobart includes a lot of traffic and indifferent roads. Still, it is mainly downhill on the way in, so I always arrive at work with a smile and enjoy the workout on the way home. Zooming through Taroona yesterday with the Derwent shimmering in the winter sun was just delightful.

I need the exercise because according to the body mass index I am morbidly obese. 103kg and 175cm means I'm a 35, well into the red zone. There's two reasons for this: firstly the body mass index is a crock of shit (a lesson for another day) and secondly, I am truthfully a little bit overweight. Or underheight. If I was just 25cm taller I wouldn't have to lose 20kg. Time for some stretches. Or high heels.

Interestingly, being such a porker might just mean I can't use Campagnolo products. Poor fat me. But then it's hard to know for sure. I stumbled across this on the web. If this is a question they get a lot, then possibly some of the people who use Campagnolo gear aren't too bright:

Q: Last year I weighed 80 kg and now I weigh 83 kg. Can I still use Campagnolo products, or am I too heavy?

Really dude? You're asking permission?

A: "There is no clear dividing line defining when someone is "too heavy" for Campagnolo products."

Well thank Christ for that. I've got 20-year-old Campag gear on my road bike and I don't want the cops pulling me over. Maybe they should think of bringing in a defining line - say 85kg. You don't want fatties spoiling the brand image.

But there's bad news too:

If you weigh 80kg or more, you must be especially vigilant and have your bicycle inspected regularly for any evidence of cracks, deformation, or other signs of fatigue or stress.

Now I've weighed 80kg or more for 20 years and ridden bikes all that time. I really thrash them too - jumping off gutters and bunny-hopping on narrow road tyres, riding on terrible roads. Never a crack or deformation has been seen. Who does this work anyway? Should I be off to the heavy vehicle inspection office? I mean really - these guys are component makers. What's going to fail? The derailleurs? Are the brakes not strong enough to fight the forces caused by speed times bulk? Are the levers going to fall apart in my pudgy hands? At least I've avoided making the mistake of buying Campagnolo products recently. Clearly they're not making them like they used to.

Now if you'll excuse me I'm off to buy a reinforced seatpost.

Photo top left is of my bike in the workstand in my shed as the sun sets over the distant Snowy Ranges. Yeah, life here is tough.

3,591km so far this year.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Viva Le Tour

We sat up until 2am this morning cheering as Cadel Evans tried hard but fell just short in the final time trial of the Tour de France. A shame, but I think with his effort Contador showed himself to be a worthy champion. It must be tough for Cadel being 23 seconds down with one day to go, knowing it's unlikely he's going to be able to make it up. Still, 2nd in the Tour de France isn't bad - the best result ever for an Australian.

Of course there are some true champions in France at the moment getting ready for a real test of a rider's character. Bring on the PBP!

Inspired by both I finally got my Round the Bay in a Day entry in. I've entered to 250km Legends Ride. As usual, I'm too late to get the 'free' jersey, which really gives me the shits. The entry fee is $125. The event is not until October 21, you'd think they could make the jerseys available for a little longer. Either that or drop the price for people who aren't getting a jersey. It's not as if you get much for the money except the the right to ride on public roads, a woeful cut lunch and a ferry trip across the heads. If it wasn't for the fact I had a few mates riding and I want to enjoy a day out with them, I wouldn't bother. Yet another reason I don't join Bicycle Victoria.

My first post in 20 days, sadly it reflects the amount of riding I've been doing. The excuses end when the alarm goes of at 7am tomorrow. I've found the showers at work, organised a locker and the bike is ready to go.

3,544km so far this year.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Riding the web.

It's still quite cold outside and I've just started a new job, so the only riding I'm doing is 2km each way from the car to the office morning and night on the single speed. It's great fun zooming down the long downhill that is Macquarie Street in Hobart in my suit, darting in and out of the peak hour traffic enjoying the odd looks I get. Less fun is the uphill ride back to the car with the 42X18. Mrs Surly and I managed to sneak in a ride to Huonville today so I've racked up a mighty 50km for the week. This week will be better!

Cold weather means more time surfing the web than riding. Someone recommended Dave Moulton's site, which has turned out to be both entertaining and informative. His ten commandments for road riding are solid gold. Number nine made me laugh:

  • The meek shall inherit the earth. Blingy equipment that is lighter than an anorexic butterfly, will not substitute for miles in your legs.

So true. I've also been jealously enjoying the blogs by bikejournal buddy Amy and Mike as they prepare for the Paris Brest Paris. Next time I will be there, I promise.

In other news, husky65 has has passed me on bikejournal.com after threatening for a while. Well done. And, somewhat surprisingly this, is my 100th post. I hope writing for a living isn't going to reduce my zeal. Not so sure I like the look of bikeradar, who've taken over bikley though.

Photo top left shows me aged about 19 with some mates who used to race together in a team we called 'The Bumblebees'. I'm on the bike, front right.

3,343km so far this year.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Tips for idiots.

I rolled out this morning for a lazy 70km ride, hoping to make up on some of the distance I've missed out during the week due to weather and laziness. Also, there's a few folk I know on about the same mileage for the year to date and I thought it sensible to put a little bit of distance between us - purely to help keep them motivated of course.

I had a terrific ride down through Huonville and along the river to Franklin before turning around and heading back up the Huon Highway to Kev's place for a short visit before heading home. The bike felt good, I felt good, the rain held off and I was making good time without pushing it too hard. Even the dreaded STI gears were working fine. I was reflecting on this blissful state when some fool leaned out the window of a passing car and screamed something at me. It sounded a bit like this:

"Fugamuganugamugaheyooha!"

Although I admit I may be misquoting the bloke. I've had my fair share of random idiots yell stuff at me out car windows before. It's always alarming and I can never understand what it is they're saying. What if it's the secret to a long and fruitful life? I've never done this sort of thing, but there's two golden rules I'd set down for people engaging in this sort of behaviour:

1. Make sure you're driving a fairly nondescript car.
2. Make sure the driver isn't going to stop for petrol in the next town.

This guy messed up on both counts. I spotted the white early model ute with one large and one small trail bike in the back pulled up at the BP in Huonville. Sweet. I rolled up to the passenger side and in my best non-confrontational voice asked to the late-teen passenger:

"What was it you yelled at me back there? You were going quite fast and I had a bit of trouble hearing you."

He mumbled something, his eyes downcast.

"Can you please not do that? I'm tired of people yelling and throwing things at me from moving cars. It's very immature."

He protested he didn't throw anything.

And so we went our separate ways. As I rolled out of the service station another motorist who'd watched the exchange gave me a big grin. As for our young idiot? I honestly don't know if he's now more or less likely to do it again.

The irony is that almost without exception the drivers of Tasmania are the most courteous I've ever encountered. Except the truck drivers of course - but I understand that the road is their workplace and that their need to get to where they're going quickly is far more important than my right to be alive.

3,290km so far this year.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

They have a name for people like me.

Apparently I'm a retrogrouch. Fine. This isn't necessarily a bad thing according to some random guy on the internet:

The label "retrogrouch," is now applied, inappropriately, to individuals that object to changes that are resulting in poorer, not better, products. Invariably, these changes have been adopted by the bicycle manufacturing industry in order to lower costs, not to improve the product.

See? I love the internet, there's always someone out there who shares your fetishes.

I took the racer out for a quick 50km today to remind myself how sweet an old bike can be. Also, I'm in training for the Winter Challenge, a multisport event held near here in a month. It's a race: a 10km run (!!), 18km mountain bike ride, 38km road cycle and a 12km flat water kayak paddle. Here's some late-breaking news: I probably won't win, but I might just be able to finish. I need a ridiculous goal like this but it's been a long time since I did any running. Running training starts tomorrow on the grass down at the oval.

3,218km so far this year.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

STI? Isn't that some kind of infection?

There's one saving grace that comes with Tasmanian winters and it's one of the reasons I chose to live here: the fine winter day. Once in a while the skies clear and the sun shines and mother nature turns a crisp clear winter's day that's just perfect. Today was one of those days so I go up early, had a big breakfast and did a few miles on the trusty Surly.

A few hours in the saddle is a good time to ponder things and a skipping gear got me thinking: who the hell asked for STI gears? It's been bothering me for a while. Is the act of changing gears really that difficult that we need the marginal help offered by indexing. I seem to remember friction shifting was pretty reliable and reasonably foolproof.

Now I'm willing to admit it does have some slight redeeming features, but somehow we've all accepted a technology that's more complex, heavier and less reliable. You have to use both hands to shift, there's no way of trimming a noisy derailleur and you can downshift only one gear at a time. Were friction shifters really that bad? I don't remember anyone complaining about them at the time. Maybe my STI levers are getting old, but lately my gears always seems to be going out of adjustment. I think I'll go back to a set of the old downtube friction levers.

Downtube levers would solve a few problems I've been having. I'm mounted a very nice retro Brooks saddle bag on my front rack, where it stands clear of the handlebars (which I much prefer). It's a handy place for a raincoat, wallet, keys et cetera instead of my back pockets. But the bag, like all handlebar bags, gets in the way of the STI gear cables. I've got some bids in on ebay on some retro old friction levers and brake levers which only act as brake levers so I might see if that's any better. They certainly give the front end of the bike a much cleaner look, without cables sticking out everywhere. I wonder if I'll ever stop tinkering with this bike?

3,167km so far this year.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

In the wind and the rain

Tassie's a lot different to Victoria, in almost every respect. It's a lot hillier and a lot colder. There are no facilities for cyclists and lots of huge logging trucks. There doesn't seem to be as as many riders, but those I have met seem fairly determined types. You have to be.

I've managed to do a few rides, mostly on the mountain bike because where we live the roads are all pretty poor quality dirt.

I hooked up with a group of local riders on Tuesday night for a few laps of the old bike track around the oval at Franklin. Nobody's used the bike track much in the last 20 years, so it's somewhat overgrown with thick grass, which means everyone rides mountain bikes. It's dark at 6.30pm, so were all had lights on. And, as a bonus, it was about three degrees and raining. And so the fun began.

Around the track we raced at top speed, dodging the thicker clumps of grass as they loomed up out of the shadows. There was no prospect of holding your line, or even of maintaining a constant speed as you battled through the tougher bits.

And how we went! Everyone simply put it in the top ring and went grinding. The rain streamed down and with the windchill I'm sure it was minus something degrees. I was good for about 5km before a little voice inside my head said "This is madness" and I jumped in the car and returned to the safety of my mountain lair. They breed them tough down here.

Photo at top left is my first real bike: a full Campagnolo Vitus Duralinox circa 1983. How that bike could fly.

3,029km so far this year.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Sneaky Steve in the shadows

I've been slack with my blogging: I have escaped the mainland, and I'm having a holiday and it's somewhat cold down here!

Sneaky Steve managed to give me one last big laugh before I left though. The mob I've been riding with: the Lancefield Lycra Louts, also known as the Lancefield Lairs, turned out for a ride on the last Sunday I was in Melbourne to see me off. Amid the usual trash talking, sudden hill sprints and mug lair riding, Steve decided tried something very special.

We were about 40km in when Steve took off like a rocket. He went past Ken and I at a rate of knots. I was just able to catch up and hold his wheel for a few seconds before deciding to let him go, or running out of puff, I forget which.

We knew he was up to something. The question was what? As we neared Lancefield, the anticipation was mounting. My bet was that he'd commandeered a fire hose and was going to give us all a spray. The tension was unbearable. But nothing happened.

A few minutes later Steve called Andy on his mobile phone. It turns out that Steve had been hiding up a driveway en-route and was planning to give us all a big surprise. His hiding place was so good that not only did we not see him, but he didn't see us. Steve slunk into town ten minutes later amid much laughter.

I've really enjoyed riding with the Lancefield mob, I've had more fun with them in the last few months than I can remember having on a bike before. Every time I go for a ride, I think of them. I'm hoping for a lot more rides and a lot more laughs together in the future. Until we ride together again guys, I'll miss you all.

2,971km so far this year.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Fun in the mud and rain

The principles behind the Cyclic Navigator are very simple. You jump on your bike with a map and compass and have five hours to pick up as many of the marked controls as possible. Sound simple?

I had a great time and only make two mistakes all day. The first was turning right when I should have turned left. Suddenly I found myself on a long, fast, downhill run which ended at a dam which was in exactly the opposite direction to where I wanted to be. My second mistake was not doubling back to where I went wrong and sticking to my plan. In my cleverness I tried to make up a new plan on the spot and that's where is all turned to custard. It seems it's hard to make good decisions when your wet and cold and tired. Who knew?

Hindsight is a wonderful thing and I had the benefit of hindsight's full measure as I sat in the bath with the map and a beer last night, trying to soak off the mud. Of the piddling 170 points I managed to score - 150 of them were in the first three hours and only 20 after that. Obviously I need some more practice at mountain bike orienteering. (I see there's a MTB-O event down in Tassie not long after I get there.) And well done to Andy, Glo and Ken, who put in a stunning effort with 380 points. Steve was a bit sad he couldn't ride yesterday. He was a lot less sad when I told him how much fun he would have had if he'd ridden with me!

On the bright side, the new bike is a joy to ride. There was mud - lots of mud - rain, dirt roads and singletrack and the bike was fantastic all day. Even the saddle was comfortable. Despite not going all that well, I really had a great time. Honest. Less fun is cleaning all the mud off everything.

The photo at the top left is me competing in the 2DayFM triathlon about 22 years ago. I still ride the same bike, although it's red these days. I've been going through some old photos and found a few old cycling shots.

2,793km so far this year.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

New toy

I decided to buy a proper mountain bike. I'm in the Cyclic Navigator on Sunday and I had some extra money and I'm moving to the wilds of Tassie, so I decided to treat myself.

It's a Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Comp from a mob called Total Rush in Melbourne. I didn't get a chance to ride after being fitted to the bike and taking it away yesterday, but was able to go out for a fang before work this morning.

I was a bit the worse for wear after four of us held what we described to our boss in Sydney as an 'offsite senior staff meeting" yesterday. Non-journalists would probably describe it as a 12 hour two-fisted piss up. I was in no fit state to ride the bike when I staggered out of the pub at midnight, but I somehow bounced back and hit the dirt trails along the Yarra early this morning. I really had a great time getting used to the suspension and the big fat tyres, riding up and down trails that would normally have me baulking.

I have five weeks off from next Friday. I leave Mebourne the following Monday. I'm really looking forward to testing this bike out on the forestry trails of Southern Tassie. And giving up drinking!

Monday, May 07, 2007

The Grey Lady gets on her bike

A wise person, whose name I can't be bothered Googling once said "There is nothing so powerful as an idea whose time has come". The New York Times seems to have taken a sudden interest in bicycles with two pretty good articles in a bit over a week.

First, someone called Jocko Weyland waxes lyrical about the rise of the fixed gear bike. Then there's today's piece on the growing popularity electric assisted bicycles. Both articles are interesting and overwhelmingly positive discussions of two quite different aspects of cycling. Good press! Enjoy it while it lasts.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

But did he get some miles in?

Like most right-minded people I regard exercise bikes - along with treadmills - as signs of latent deviency. As usual, it turns out that I'm right. Full points to the bloke for quick thinking though:

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - A gang stripped a South African man before supergluing him to an exercise bicycle while they ransacked his house, according to a report Thursday.

SAPA news agency said the attackers, dressed in suits, hijacked a man in his 50s and forced him at gunpoint to take them to his home in Johannesburg.

"The victim was then forced to strip, after which he was superglued to the seat of an exercise bicycle, his hands were superglued, as were his feet and then his mouth was superglued shut," SAPA quoted Mark Stokoe, a spokesman for emergency services Netcare 911, as saying.

The man was rescued about three hours later when his partner arrived home, SAPA said.

Now I'm no detective, but it sounds to me like his girlfriend got home early and he had to reach for the old "Bad Men Broke In, Made Me Do This At Gunpoint, Then Ran Away Leaving No Trace Except A Very Rude Movie In The DVD Player" excuse. We've all used that one before. I'll bet they made him get drunk too. As an excuse it's versatile and so very plausible, but you can only use it the once.

2,725km so far this year.

Friday, May 04, 2007

The bikes of the future

I stumbled across this 1954 British Cycling magazine article (pdf 4.6mb) while cruising the web the other day - a look forward half a century to the bicycles of the year 2000.

It's a fascinating read. In some areas the guesses are spot-on: between them they've predicted disk brakes, twist-grip gears, aluminium and carbon frames, eight speed gears, the demise of the cottered crank and the dual suspension mountain bike, years before they became a reality. In other areas they're way off: the adoption of shaft drives and constantly variable gearing remains a dream; we haven't standardised around 24 inch wheels and bad drivers, bad roads and punctures remain a constant.

My favourite prediction was the super-metal for frame building to come from atomic power research. Putting together a few of the more radical ideas would make a cracking ride - but sadly none of the major manufacturers seem to have come up with a gyroscopically-controlled uranium-framed recumbent! Maybe next year.

2,651km so far this year.

Monday, April 30, 2007

A once in a lifetime ride.

Well, we did it. The mighty Lancefield Lairs managed complete the Fleche Opperman All Day Trial to cover 360km in 24 hours. Legends one and all. Shrugging off sunshine and rain, hunger and thirst, six flat tyres, headwinds, darkness and fatigue and despite only 30 minutes sleep, we rolled into Rochester tired but triumphant. Sadly one of our five had to drop out around the 280km mark.

As expected, the night time riding was the hardest. It wasn't too bad at first, but as it cooled down and tiredness set in, the intermittent rain reminded me that I have been meaning to buy a decent rain jacket. My most vivid memory is spending a couple of hours staring into the
into the glow of my headlight, dodging the spray from Steve's back wheel as he dragged me half asleep towards Echuca just before sunrise. We knew we weren't going to get much of a rest - but the short lie down was eagerly anticipated and proved to be remarkably refreshing.

After our short sleep we were back on our bikes for the 'easy' roll down the highway with the wind at our backs. We had two hours to cover 25km. But traffic was heavy and we suffered a couple of punctures as we rode on the rough shoulder of the highway. Then we stopped to help another team which had suffered a puncture. And another. And another. Twenty minutes before the 9am cutoff we were still short of Rochester, but unsure of how exactly far from the finishing line. Top chainrings were engaged and with tired legs we cranked our a few hard and fast kilometres to finish with 10 minutes to spare.

Despite the difficulty, it was a most enjoyable outing. I didn't have a puncture or a single mechanical niggle. After many hours in the saddle a ride like this becomes a form of meditation, the bike, the weather, the aches- even the goal - all just fade into the background and the only thing left is a the moment.

All thanks to Andy for coming up with a great route, for doing all the organising and for handling all the paperwork. And big thanks to the mighty Ken for supporting us tirelessly every 60km along the way with a hot meal and a nothing's too much trouble smile. Andy, Steve, Ted and Barry - it was great riding with you, a truly memorable experience which I will remember forever.

Above is the traditional finishers photo in front of the Oppy statue in Rochester.

2,651km so far this year.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Sanity in gearing

I'm back in the saddle again, happily. I've managed to churn out 160km since whining about being slack on Saturday. The extra miles have me feeling good on the bike and have really boosted my confidence for this weekend's trial. I've finally fallen in with a bunch of local riders of about my speed, ability and shockingly casual attitude, which is ironic because I'm leaving town in four weeks. Hopefully there will be a similar mob in Hobart.

Spending more time in the saddle watching the scenery go by has me pondering a few things. Why is the cable routing on Shimano SPD drop bar shifters so inelegant? Couldn't they have run the cables along the handlebars like Campagnolo do instead of leaving them hanging out in the wind? Would I be happier with down tube friction shifters just to make thing prettier? The big issues clearly occupy my mind.

Anyway, I'm working on a cunning plan to upgrade my crankset so I can use the old gear to build up a road bike for Mrs Surly Dave. (She gets a road bike, I get a new crankset, we're all winners). Being someone to completely over-analyse everything, I've hit the spreadsheets. I ride at an average speed between 19km/h and 23km/h. Now and again with a tailwind I'll nudge towards 30km/h. Up hills I'm slower - 10 to 15km/h depending on the hill. So I need gears which help me ride in that range.

OK, so here's where things get technical. I generally pedal with a cadence between 70 and 90 revolutions per minute. Let's call it 80 for the sake of the argument. My gearing ranges from 109 inches down to 29, or to put it another way, I travel between of 9.2m to 2.3m per pedal revolution. With a 52/39/30 triple crankset and a 12-27 cluster, my bike is set up to propel me at speeds of between 13km/h and 50km/h. The trouble is, I seldom go this fast. I very, very rarely use my top chainring. (The yellow highlights on the gear chart below show the gears would use at normal speeds, some are duplicates. Click to make big).

It works out that about eight of the gears on my 30-speed are never used except for when I'm in a hurry on long downhill. This is, of course, not counting the duplicates and the gears which can't be used because of chainline issues. Being charitable, that takes out another 12 combinations. So on a 30 speed bike, I've got about ten useful gears.

So it turns out that getting whole bunch more gears doesn't deliver anything more for the average cyclist except added weight and complexity. Wow, big surprise!

But assuming for a moment I'm a typical, or even sane, cyclist who seldom exceeds 30km/what would be the ideal setup for me? (I don't want to get rid of the lower gears, they come in handy for getting up hills.) It turns out to be 44/32 front chainrings with a 12-27 ten speed rear cluster. That gives me 92 down to 29 gear inches and an effective speed range of between 40km/h and 12/km/h at 80 rpm. I'd guess that such a setup would cover just about every casual and recreational cyclist in the world except those lucky few who have a downhill commute with a tailwind home.

But do you reckon you can buy such a setup? No way. Not even in the compact double cranksets so popular of late. Why not? Presumably because when you ride the Tour De France, you need a 53 tooth front chainring to give you a huge 120-something inch top gear to charge down mountain passes and in the sprints. It's madness, madness I say.

2,296km so far this year.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

The lazy days of winter

It's raining today. It hasn't rained for ages, so it came as a bit of a surprise. The unfamiliar sound of raindrops on the roof helped me make up my mind not to do that 60km I'd promised myself I'd do today. It's an indoor day instead.

It's not like I'm looking too hard for an excuse. April has been a very slack month for me. We're 20 days in and I've ridden three times for a total of 175km. It's a poor effort, my worst month to date in nearly two years. I've fallen out of the habit of commuting to work. I thought it had only been a few weeks but it's been six. The year started well with a 760km month, followed by 630km and then 550km. That's a graph heading in the wrong direction! I've fallen from 217th out of 5,020 riders on bikejournal.com to 625th. and I'm about 900km behind my target mileage to reach 10,000km by December 31 and 1,200km behind the guy currently in 217th on bikejournal. Not sure what happened to being keen to see winter.

The rot started when I took a few days off after the MAD ride on April 1 to recover from a sore achilles tendon in my right leg. Then at Easter I had a writing assignment. Then a trip to Sydney. I'm not sure what excuse I had this week - laziness I suspect. Hopefully it's just a passing phase of poor motivation. I winterised the bike this morning, putting the lights back on and fitted mudguards. It's time to try a little harder.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

24 hours of fun

I've signed up for a team to take part on the "Oppy", also known as the Fleche Opperman All Day Trial. The idea is for teams of four to six cyclists to cover the greatest distance possible in 24 hours, finishing up in the birthplace of famed endurance cyclist Hubert Opperman in Rochester, Victoria.

It seems like a fun challenge, although I understand some people may have a different definition of fun to me. The team I'm in has submitted its route and we're aiming to cover 350km, starting in Lancefield. It will be the longest ride I've ever attempted but I'm confident we can do it.

I happened across information on previous events. Each year an award - the Opperman Shield - is given to the team which covers the greatest distance. The best-ever result for the event is 770km in 1993. 770km! That's a non-stop average of 32km/h. I couldn't do that downhill with a tailwind. What a great achievement, how very humbling. Rochester here we come.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The cyclist's birthday

It's my birthday this week and I've managed to pretty much clear out my wish list for bike-related gear.

A month or so I bought a few back issues of the wonderful Bicycle Quarterly magazine which I really enjoyed, so I dropped a few pointed hints that their book: The Golden Age of Handbuilt Bicycles would be appreciated. Mrs Surly Dave has ordered a copy and I'm camped by the mailbox until it arrives.

I had a little unexpected cash windfall this week, so to make the waiting more tolerable I bought myself a few presents including a new floor pump, a long-coveted Nitto M12 mini front rack and some mudguards for winter, which is supposedly upon us soon despite the lovely warm weather we've been having.

Along the way, I've been mulling over some things I saw during the recent Melbourne Autumn Daytour. It was a lovely day and because I'm now a lot fitter and riding a better bike, I tend to ride much further up in the field rather than down the back with the strugglers and the stragglers. It was obvious that a lot of roadies were treating the ride as either a) a race, which it is not or b) a high speed group training ride. As they came past me I caught onto the back of the odd bunch to enjoy a high-speed tow along in their draft for a while before dropping off to continue at my own pace.

I tried striking up a conversation with several riders in the bunches, but managed to get only grunts in return. It might have been because I was riding a touring bike with cantilever brakes and a rear rack. I wasn't too surprised they weren't too friendly because I've long observed that the more expensive the bike the less likely you are to get a wave, a smile or a nod. I've been working up to this rant for a while:

  • The fact you've spend untold thousands on a bike and covered yourself in the logos of a professional team doesn't make you a better cyclist, although sometimes it does go a long way towards making you look like a wanker.
  • There's nothing clever or special or tough about riding up and down Beach Road in a big bunch. It's flat and you're getting pulled along by others. You're not impressing anyone. Get over yourself.
  • Save your racing for races. I suspect many of you are just wannabes. Ride for fun, not to satisfy some sort of competitive urge. You might even crack a smile occasionally.
  • You are very visible to the motoring public, so obey the road rules. You're giving the rest of us a bad name.
  • Be pleasant to other cyclists, even if they may not look as fast (or ridiculous) as you. It costs nothing and is good public relations. And you need friends like never before.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Sydney does have some attractions

I'm up in Sydney for work for a few days. Rather than fly I decided to drive so I could take my mountain bike. My mate Danny and I hit Katoomba yesterday to ride Narrowneck, which is rated one of the best mountain bike rides in the Blue Mountains.

I've done the 20-odd kilometre trip may times on foot over the years, usually with a pack on my back and I've never enjoyed it. It's a long road bash with some good views but not much else to redeem itself.

But on a bike? Wow and wow! Covering the ground more quickly means it's a fun ride and the highlights are much closer together. Around every corner is another stunning view. This ride's popularity is reputation is well deserved. A most excellent day out.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

A brace of beautiful bikes.

I own five bikes. Actually, I thought I owned four bikes, but a visit to the shed surprised me. I had them all roadworthy for a while last year, but canibalised one to make up the single speed. I only corrected this last weekend when I got the road bike going once more. Easter has given me the chance to take it out for a spin.

The road bike is a mid-80s Centurion racer. From memory it's a Turbo with Tange number 1 steel tubing. They were all the rage for a while. It was my training bike until I rode my early-model Vitus aluminium frame up the back of a car. It's probably had half a dozen paint jobs, for the moment it's red. In an age where everything seems to be made of plastic, it's very old fashioned, but it's lovely to ride.

We've been out for a spin in the hot, still weather we've been enjoying the last couple of days. I'm struck inside churning out 6,000 words for a book I've been talked into because I want to spend the money on a new dual-suspension mountain bike (N+1+1+1+1 etc, how many bikes does one man need? Hey, I ride them all I tell ya!). So I've been going out for a blast each afternoon around 4.

Compared to the Surly, which I love dearly, the road bike is like a Ferrari. Despite the vintage downtube shifters and the 25-year old Campagnolo Nuovo Record gear, it's still good for two or three kilometres an hour extra on my average speed. And it just inpires me to go faster. Even with though it's as twitchy as hell its narrow handlebars and high-pressure skinny singles , I dared to ride no-hands for a short distance today. I've owned it since 1985, which seems a long time ago, but boy I love this bike.

We're heading up to Sydney for a few days this week to visit some of our old haunts and test the legs against some old climbs. I'm a bit larger these days - a man taking a stomach for a ride - but I'm looking forward to it immensely.

2,131km so far this year.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

You get what you pay for - now and again.

My old cycling knicks started to fall apart so I was forced to go out and buy some new ones or face the certainty of indecent exposure charges. So I paid a visit to my least-favourite big city cycling store, because it's close to work and because I enjoy indifferent customer service.

They had two different types of bib knicks in sizes suited to the larger man. The first type I didn't even try one because they had a mesh panel at the base of the spine. Or right at top of the arse crack if you prefer. The salesman described them as a vent. Full points for trying, but I'd describe them as a window. I am not wearing shorts with a crack window. The photo to the right shows the approximate location, if not the actual panel.

I can't for the life of me see why a see-through mesh panel is called for at that particular spot, unless a lot more fruity exhibitionists have taken up cycling than I was aware of. And what marketing genius came up with the idea? In maybe 20 years of cycling I've never thought: "Gee, I wish there was some way of letting some of the high-pressure steam out the back of my shorts." They're lyra for christ's sake, they're 0.0001mm thick, they breathe pretty well.

Anyway, the other pair were nice, and fitted well and despite having lots of writing on them (which I hate), they seemed quite comfortable. The only drawback was the price tag - $180. People who know me can attest that my entire wardrobe isn't worth $180. For that sort of money I'm going to expect a pair of shorts that washes and dries themselves. But given that I had a long ride on this weekend, no shorts and no time to shop around, so the $180 shorts it was.

With high expectations I threw my leg over the bike this morning and cranked out a hilly 130km. And how do the $180 shorts feel? Let me put it this way: it's like spending the day perched in the gentle embrace of Gwyneth Paltrow's cupped hands, after she's used mosturiser (I have no idea whether she's into that sort of thing, but one can only hope.). I rode all day without the slightest hint of chafing, rubbing or pain. Now I'm wondering what the $499 pair of knicks would feel like. Could anything be 2.77 times as good as this?

2,085km so far this year.

Monday, March 26, 2007

I may be a Wind God, but at least I'm a God.

In the book So Long and Thanks for all the Fish, lorry driver Rob McKenna is a Rain God - a man who causes rain by his very presence. I'm beginning to suspect I'm a Wind God.

I rode in the Malmsbury Autumnal Meander 100km yesterday, which is a lovely ride and very well run. It also has the benefit of being not to far from home. The ride passes through some lovely countryside in the Siddonia Valley which is worth the price of admission alone.

The middle 40km of the ride was straight into a screaming headwind. Just like last week in Hobart. Wind, wind and more bloody wind. Grinding along at 12km/h in bottom gear on the flat is no fun at all. Granted, there were short sections with a tailwind, but not nearly enough to compensate. I finished eight minutes faster than last year. Eight minutes! Is that fair I ask you?

I'm thinking of seeking payment for avoiding rides just so the wind doesn't ruin them. Melbourne Autumn Day Tour (110km) this weekend. Let's see if my powers hold true.

1,960km so far this year.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Double easy, single hard.

I've been riding like a bastard these last few weeks. I did the Rifle Downs 200 down in Heywood Sunday week ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. Despite the hills and the rain and the wind I felt strong all day and managed to finish strongly comfortably under 10 hours.

I was in Hobart on the weekend and took part in a century ride as part of the Bike Week celebrations. I managed to borrow a rather nice bike, a jersey, helmet and shoes (thanks Tim and Kev) and set off with the throngs from the Cenotaph. Any confidence I'd built from the 200 was quickly dispelled.

They have hills in Tassie. Not just your girlie hills like in Melbourne, but constant rolling hills interspersed with mountains which blot out the sun. And wind! Talk about your wind! On the flat bits you're going into a headwind - no matter which way you're pointing. The wind blows in different directions on either side of the hills! Even taking into account that I was riding an unfamiliar bike, I really struggled, limping home on the five hour mark.

Even so it was a pleasant ride, very well run. And I needed the exercise. Those too-long dormant hill climbing muscles got a lovely workout.

1,859km so far this year.


Monday, March 05, 2007

They should put warning labels on them

Apparently cycling is the new golf. There seems to be a recent plague of garishly dressed wankers abusing grossly overpriced equipment, so it might just be true.

I'm generally loathe to make light of the misfortune of others, but check this bloke out. Racing on a busy public road, he went straight up the back of a parked car. Well, they can be hard to spot. And check out the damage to the bike: those pretty carbon forks just snapped like twigs.


Specialized S-Works plastic wonder bike: $8,000.
Latest ultra-lightweight helmet: $350.
Lycra boy racer outfit: $400.

Riding into a parked car because you're not looking where you're going: Priceless.

Random pic of heavy steel bike from last year's Mallee Routes 200km.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

The simpler the better.

The single-speed rocks! I rode the green beast every day this week, racking up perhaps 150km on my daily commute. And it's fun. I can even feel the slight gain in efficiency through not having the derailleur gears. My commute is pretty flat so it doesn't present that much of a challenge and I can carry what I need in my shoulder bag which keeps things nice and simple for the odd day I don't ride. Hmmm, might be time to move the panniers back out to the shed.

The bike reminds me of the single-speed bikes of my youth in the days before BMX. They were heavy backpedal brake monsters, bombproof and heaps of fun.

I'm going to stick with this bike for a while because I'm enjoying it so much. No doubt there's a bit of a novelty factor there, but my times to and from work are about the same despite losing a little bit of top-end speed. The fatter tyres make the bike paths far more manageable too. The beauty of this machine lies in it's simplicity. It's testament to the fact that bikes are getting too fiddly and complex.

Sadly the experiment will end in a couple of months with my move to Hobart. I'm thinking of an eight-speed internal hub for the hiller southern city.

I just noticed that I've passed the 10,000km mark for this burst of cycling. Yay me!

1,441km so far this year.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Points in the Karma bank

Rode the single speed in today as an experiment: is it possible to do a dead flat 20km commute on a single speed bike? It turns out it is, how very surprising. I might flip the hub over tonight and ride home fixed. Fun, fun.

The other reason was to pick up a couple of geocaches which turn out to be not far from my route. My caching total now stands at 12. Early days yet - there's heaps more I can reach by bike on my way to or fro.

About halfway in I came across a bloke on a road bike with a flat tyre and stopped to help him. Patched his flat tube and had him on his way. He kept offering me money, but it wouldn't be a good deed if I took cash would it?

1,291km so far this year.

Photo by n8agrain on Flickr

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The 'so funny it's true' department

The good lord knows we could all do with a laugh, this 'typical anti-cyclist' letter is from aus.bicycle:

Dear Sir
When so-called asylum seekers get free haircuts for their swans isn't it time someone did something about cyclists?
Yesterday I saw a completely invisible cyclist riding backwards with no lights or helmet, drunk, on fire, juggling bubonic plague vials as laser death rays shot out of his lights and blinded passers-by. Dozens lay slain. And they don't pay road tax.
Yours etc
Colin Apron.

1,084km so far this year.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Motoring on the motorway.

Check this out: is this the longest downhill run you've ever seen or what? I try to ride to work from wherever I'm living, although at 70km from town via the freeway I've not attempted it from here before. Last weekend the chance came up.

This is the ride profile off Bikley. It was every bit as good as it looks. I think I might have worn out my top chainring!

Friday, February 09, 2007

Judge backpedals on stupid decision

The case of British cyclist Daniel Cadden caused a ripple of outrage among cyclists online last year when he was convicted for "inconsiderate cycling" for riding on the road instead of a cycleway nearby.

According to Britain's CTC, the magistrate's decision has been overturned on appeal. Hooray!

Trivia time

Five trivial things about me.

1. I chose my screen name, Surly Dave, because two of my bikes are Surlys. I own a Cross Check and a Long Haul Trucker. They're no-nonsense bikes - inexpensive and reliable. All off my bikes are steel-framed. I also have a track bike (brand unknown), a 20-year-old road bike (brand obscure) and a mountain bike circa 1992. Yes, I ride them all.

2. I bought my first road bike for $123 earned on my paper round. It was a 1981 model Hanimex ten speed racer. My second bike was a Campag-equipped Vitus aluminium frame. It cost $1,2000 in about 1983. The frame was destroyed when I ran up the back of a car sprinting through an orange light on the day I got my HSC results about two years later. I still have many of the parts though, fitted to my 'racing' bike.

3. I worked as a bike mechanic for 12 months after leaving school. I was going to become a framebuilder, but ended up taking a different course. Knowing how to maintain my own bikes has saved me a fair bit of money over the years.

4. I have raced on the road, the track and off-road and competed in triathlons. I've done several tours and a couple of dozen audax events. Last year I competed in a bicycle orienteering event. On the list of things yet to try: cyclocross and bicycle polo.

5. In 1986, when I was at uni, I took a pair of wheels in to Stanmore Cycles in Sydney to be trued. They were lovely wheels: Campagnolo hubs with Mavic GP40 rims. Being broke, I was a bit slow picking them up and a month or two had passed by the time I returned to the shop. The woman behind the counter told me I had left them too long and they'd been sold. I was so stunned I never even thought to ask for the money. I grieved for those wheels for years, until I picked up an identical set on ebay 12 months ago. Respoked, they're just as sweet as I remember.

1,048km so far this year.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Where are the snows of yesteryear?

The weather is warm at the moment, for the first time I can remember the forecast is "fine" as far ahead as the bureau can forecast. It makes for great cycling, although I prefer the depths of winter.

But warm weather brings out legions of nutters. The off-leash dog walkers wearing ipods, deaf to all around them. The New Year's resolution cyclists, weaving and darting and sitting on my wheel. The pre-season Aussie Rules training squads, stubbornly jogging down the middle of cyclepaths, giddy on male bonding and testosterone.

I'll make the most of summer while it lasts, but I long for the dark nights of winters when the bitter wind blows, there's not a soul around, and my world is narrowed to the beam of my headlamp. There must be something in my soul which enjoys a certain level of suffering. Remind me I said this when August comes.

I've been tagged by Crowlie. Formulating trivia ... now!

1,012km so far this year.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

The Descent from Towonga Gap!



I mentioned I'd been playing with a cheap helmet cam - well here are the results. This is part of the high-speed descent from Towonga Gap during the Alpine Classic, set to music to cover the howling wind noise. Pardon the occasional jerky head movement as I look for cars and check my bike computer. Seasickness tablets are optional. I've edited it down a bit to remove the worst of the camera movements and cut out some of the dull bits! Highlights include oncoming cars and a lone passing maneuver.

I shot a fair bit of footage during the ride, but because I hadn't mastered setting the camera up, this is the best of it. I pointed the camera a bit too far to the left and all I ended up with was a nice shot of the white line on the left side of the road.

The second video is of the last kilometre or so of the ride, with commentary. Oh god, I crack myself up.




Next up will be my commute, once I work out how to compress the whole thing down into a few minutes worth of video.