Wednesday, January 31, 2007

If the bike fits, ride it.

I've discovered yet another great cycling blog, written with flair and humour. The Fat Cyclist recently won and award of some kind for general cleverness and from a brief trawl through his archive shows it is well deserved. His article on trash talking is a great laugh.

In an entirely different spirit, one of the riders I was with on my 300km Audax ride, kindly pointed out a couple of peculiarities of my riding style which I'd pushed to the back of my mind. Chief amongst my sins, I ride with my knees splayed out and my hips rock a bit much. He recommended a bloke who does bike fittings. It took me a while to get an appointment, as bike fitting gurus are apparently in high demand. Yesterday I wheeled my trusty green Cross Check into the chap's office and he gave me the once over, tut-tutting as I pedalled gently on a wind trainer in front of a mirror.

When I first started cycling seriously as a young lad in the early 1980s, bike setup was a bit of a hit-and-miss affair. If you were lucky someone at the bike club might tell you your seat was too high or low and the rest was a matter of best guess, comfort and personal preference.

Happily, my best guesses weren't too far off being right. I had my seat raised about 3mm. I had my handlebars turned a few degrees upward. And I had my cleats turned so my toes (and hence my knees) point inwards a bit more. The new setup felt odd at first on this morning's commute, but my knee pain seems to have vanished. I think it will take a bit of getting used to but on the whole it seems to have solved the last few niggling problems I have with my setup. And what luxury to have it all sorted by a pro.

773km so far this year.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

A classic Alpine Classic

Though I'm a bit tired and sore today, I can truly say the Alpine Classic is a ride well worthy of its name. I rode the 130km distance yesterday and despite how tough the ride is, I really enjoyed every minute of it.

I woke early to see the 800-odd 200km riders set off and before long the smaller group tackling my distance was on its way too. The first few small climbs on the way to Towonga Gap were fine, but after that I left the climbing to the climbers and spun up steadily in a tiny gear.

The downhill on the other side was a series of lovely swooping high speed corners and I stopped for a short break at Mt Beauty before setting off for the daunting ascent towards Falls Creek. The approach is a series of gradually rising undulations before the road turns straight up after the Kiewa River crossing. Riders had no problem keeping cool this year as the odd icy blasts blew down from the Alpine heights. Again, I spun up to save my knees and finally reached the top around 12.30pm - 65km and five hours after leaving Bright.

The outward journey has taken five hours. Setting off at 1pm gave me a bare three hours to get back before the 4.05pm cut off. It was always going to be a big ask.

A short and shakey lunchbreak over - I zoomed back down to Mt Beauty and braced for the 7km climb back up Towonga Gap. I plugged away, passing several people who had elected to walk the steep sections. I made the top at 3.28pm, taking me a two minute break and bracing to cover the last 20km in 30 minutes or less. Fortunately it was a long downhill run so I was able to shift up into a huge gear and fly down the other side before reaching the finish elated with eight minutes to spare.

The Alpine Classic is a fantastic ride - despite my lack of ability as a hill climber. It was well organised and there were heaps of volunteers to direct traffic and keep everyone safe. The finish in particular was great with huge crowds and a real carnival atmosphere. I look forward to attempting it again sometime. Maybe even next year!

707km so far this year.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Cycling Gods Smile

Let the record show: I rode in today and I didn't suffer a flat tyre, I didn't hit a single pedestrian, I wasn't nearly knocked off by an inattentive motorist and I didn't have to brake or swerve suddenly to avoid a collision. The weather was fine and mild and there was little wind.

What are the odds I'll get home without incident?

532km so far this year.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Kamikaze pedestrians

Haven't been blogging much because I've been on the bike riding the big miles in my quest to average 200km a week. It's going ok so far - although I'm astonished at the distances being logged by some of the people at bikejournal. You wonder how they get anything else done. The benefit has been a huge and surprising increase in fitness, as well as enjoyment. The Alpine Classic's on this weekend, so hopefully some of that strength will be be in evidence as I grind up the big hills.

It hasn't all been dandy though. The welcome rain of the last ten days has left the streets and paths of Melbourne awash with debris. I've had three punctures in a week - one classic puncture through the tread and two from hitting stones on the path while watching where I was going instead of what was on the track. On top of a puncture this morning, I also had the pleasure of skidding into a pedestrian who stepped into my path.

Most people are very good and leave room for cyclists, this pair were right across the track and didn't heed my repeated calls of "bike!". As I tried to go around them on the left, one woman looked back, saw me and stepped right in front of me. Neither of us was hurt by the ensuing collision, my brake lever ripped her rain jacket. A matter of time I suppose.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Another benchmark yay!

As may be slightly obvious from some of my posts, I like to keep track of my rides as a means of motivating myself to keep improving my mileages each year. In 2005 I managed 2,126km, in 2006 I rode 6,441km and in 2007 I'm aiming to crack 10,000km.

Someone on one of the e-mail lists I subscribe to pointed out today. Not only is it a good way to keep track of the miles, it's also a way of comparing your progress to others. I signed up this afternoon and entered my few rides for this year so far to find out I'm 380th so far this year in terms of distance out of 2,336 riders registered with the site worldwide. It also lets me compare my progress with other Audax members. Talk about your motivational tools! Even so, I suspect my stats won't be quite so good once everyone else returns from their holidays and gets back on their bike.

222km so far this year.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Too much of a good thing.

Most people would complain if their journey to work doubled. Not so this cyclist: I've found a way to work that's twice as far - which on a bike means twice the fun. The Capital City Trail loops around the Melbourne CBD following the Yarra River from the Docklands to the back of Collingwood. It's an easy way for me to turn a what's normally 15km ride into a 30km ride, which is something I'm really enjoying these long sunny summer days. There's even a few hills, which is a rarity for Melbourne.

The only drawback is the number of pedestrians out and about - particularly in the afternoons. Even with the best will in the world it's hard not to become frustrated with people who just refuse to share the shared paths, who have their dogs off leash or who suddenly veer across the track. Its hard to look out for your own safety and their when there's a minority who just don't want to take any responsibility. A few months back I followed a mountain bike rider who yelled abuse at pedestrians as he approached. I don't approve of that one bit, but I'm beginning to understand. He'd done one too many rides on the Capital City Trail.

88km for far this year.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

A sad statistic.

Idly looking through the road toll figures for 2006, one figure stood out - the 14 cyclists killed on Victorian road is double the figure for the previous year. It's also double the five year average. The toll among drivers and motorcyclists was down, but cyclists really copped it. There would be some consolation if this reflected the the fact that twice as many people had suddenly taken up cycling, but I doubt it. I suspect it means that cycling has for some reason become twice as dangerous - despite the best efforts of everyone working to reduce the toll.