Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Radio Man

In the 1971 film Duel, a motorist is stalked by a truck driver on a remote and lonely road. The modern version plays out on Hobart roads some mornings. I call him Radio Man. I've never seen his face. I've never seen his bike. Yet one or two mornings a week we ride to work together.

This morning, he materialised behind me again, his presence betrayed by his squeaky unoiled chain making squeaky unoiled chain noises, and the staticky radio attached to his handlebars just audible enough to jolt me out of whatever musings are happily diverting me from the everyday. I could see from his shadow he was right on my wheel. Without ever having seen him, except one or twice out the corner of my eye, I'm guessing he's on a mountain bike or a hybrid. He must be reasonably strong because he sticks with me just fine up the hills.

I was battling both a killer headwind and a killer hangover this morning. Radio Man stuck on my wheel like a piece of chewy. He catches up but never passes, and he never says a word or rolls through for his turn in the wind. Speeding up might shake him for a minute, but he always catches back up when I slow down again. Eventually I lost him by sprinting through an orange light in Sandy Bay. It occurs to me Radio Man doesn't know how annoying he is.

Maybe I should tell him. Tomorrow for sure.

Happy photo from Flickr.

2,883km so far this year.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Don't believe everything you read. Except here.

Some great cycling-related articles in the New York Times lately, this one about long distance cycling is very interesting, this one about racing is instructive if you're into going faster. Still, as the correction below shows, if you're learning to ride a bike based on what you read in the paper, (rather than say, this blog) you're going to crash a lot more.

Correction: June 20, 2008

An article on Thursday about training advice from an Olympic cyclist misstated a technique for negotiating downhill curves. The rider’s inside pedal should be up, not down.

Yeah, I can see how that's going to make a bit of a difference.

2,822km so far this year.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Riding the ice bike.

Cold morning this morning in Hobart. I probably shouldn't have left the bike outside. There was a heavy frost in the clear conditions overnight, the whole hilltop where we live was cloaked in white and the bike was covered too. Pretty, but not much good.

Some people might take it as a sign, but the ice thawed and I had was a nice ride in. It was a bit crisp, but the sun was shining and I soon warmed up. The numbers of commuters have dropped right off as mid-winter approaches, it's just the diehards now. It's easy to overestimate how cold it gets on a Hobart winter's day. With the right clothes, it's a nice ride in even when it's two or three degrees like this morning.

I did a BikeTas ride on the weekend, a lovely 60km circuit from Cygnet around the Channel. A good turnout too, around a dozen riders. We tackled the monstrous hill up to Woodbridge Saddle and revelled in the water views and touching 70km/h on the way down the other side. After a coffee break near Woodbridge where some of the stragglers caught up, four of us formed a little peleton of chatty tourists for a gentle 40km back to Cygnet. What a great ride and lovely to meet a few more people who so obviously love their riding. Thanks to Tim for the organising.

2,756km so far this year.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Inside running.

This looks interesting: Hobart is getting an "indoor cycling performance centre". I've never heard of such a thing before. From the website, it sounds like something that is to cycling what treadmills are to running. I have a sneaking feeling that it's going to attract a fair cross section of the lycra brigade, people who I usually try to avoid. Road racers generally haven't cottoned onto the fact most other cyclists are laughing at how much they fancy themselves.

The whole concept of an indoor cycling performance centre has a certain novelty value, and virtual reality racing sounds a little interesting, I wonder how long it will last. Despite their reputation, Hobart winters are pretty mild and nothing beats a proper ride on a proper road. Even for soft buggers with no hair on their legs.

2,623km so far this year.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Top man backs bikes.

Tasmanian Premier David Bartlett has encouraged all Tasmanians to ride a bike. It's not a bad idea. Mr Bartlett - a keen mountain biker - has just bought himself a shiny new road bike, and was snapped sneaking out for a ride on his first day as premier last week. His carbon-fibre Trek is so new the reflectors are still on it. Mr Bartlett spruiked the benefits of cycling at his first press conference:

QUESTION: What sort of things should we be doing in Tasmania then to get people a bit healthier?

BARTLETT: Ah well, I was out riding my bike at lunch yesterday, and I encourage everybody else to do the same.
Hard to imagine our old Premier Paul Lennon advocating any exercise more strenuous than an afternoon at the races.
Anyway, Bicycle Victoria has Mr Bartlett in their sights. This e-mail went round to their Tasmanian members:

``As you know you have a new Premier and he is a bike rider! This is a great opportunity for bike riding in Tasmania. Unlike other States, the Tasmanian Government does not consistently invest in bicycle infrastructure such as bike lanes and bike paths so far. We think Bartlett's Premiership could change this policy.

``Please send him a short positive note of congratulations and let him know about the sort of bike riding you do and what would help you. Encourage him to commit State funds. Please keep it positive. You can see our letter on the web page where we have posted the link to his email.

"Please also send a couple of lines to the Council supporting the Plan. The link for that is on the page.''

It will be interesting to see whether having a keen cyclist in the top job makes any difference to the level of investment in cycling facilities.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Pathletes and the great race

I love these blokes. Egos on wheels. Lance Armstrong on a commuter bike. They always want to race. Most days I couldn't be bothered, but I'm working on my speed this week. I wasn't really concentrating on the rider ahead of me, who I was slowly catching up to. I was about 100m back when he caught sight of me and turned on the speed.

Now I'm a pretty friendly bloke so otherwise I would most likely have caught him up and had a chat and made a friend. But he sped up. I could have passed him but he would have picked it up again. Instead, and this is much more fun, I sat about ten metres off his back wheel, just close enough that he could see the beam of my light on the road ahead. He'd clearly misjudged me: I'm fatter than most fast blokes, but faster than most fat blokes.

The beauty of this commuter racing technique is it commits the pathlete to holding their inflated pace indefinitely. And this bloke was good. Through Sandy Bay we rocketed. He slackened a bit up the hill to Taroona, so I got a nice breather. He picked it up again as the gradient backed off and again on the flat and I stuck with him like shit on a blanket. We passed another rider who jumped into our little bunch.

Then, about a block before the side street I park my car in, then he blew up. Spectacularly. He started coasting, dropped down a bunch of gears and it was over. How sweet, how very sweet, to roll on by, say goodnight and turn left - showing him just how close he'd been.

As an added bonus, today was a PB for my short commute, 48min33sec for a ride I've never done under 52 minutes before and an average speed of 25.6km.h - fast for me.

2,446km so far this year.