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:


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.