Monday, March 30, 2009

Oppy 2009

Third time's the charm. Though outbreaks of sanity cut our numbers from the 12 riders who rolled out last year to just nine, the Lancefield Lairs had a superb ride in the Fleche Opperman All Day Trial.

This was my third ride in the Oppy. The rules are simple: ride for 24 hours, cover a minimum of 360km, finish in the home town of Australia's greatest-ever cyclist.

Our route this year took us north-east from Tooborac in central Victoria, through Seymour, Euroa and Violet Town before turning north to St James, west through Numurkah to Echuca and finally south to Rochester. Long story short: a top ride. Just eight kilometres before the first dick joke, happily about 230km before the bad singing started and 50km more for the shocking poetry recitals. It's hard to imagine better conditions for riding: a sunny day, a clear night and no wind.

We were met every 30 or 60km or so by our faithful crew of supporters and fed, watered and generally looked after. A bare 20 minutes later we were back on the road. We managed to gain about 20 minutes on our schedule during the first part of the ride and held that margin the whole time. We somehow even picked our pace up a little once darkness fell, which meant we earned a glorious two hours sleep on the dreamy soft floor of the Echuca football club.

Words don't explain the pleasure and challenges of this ride well. The highlight of the ride for me (apart from the company) was the long, flat ride under the stars on a crystal clear rural Victorian night. There's something magical about being part of a tiny peloton threading its way along quiet country roads at night. I was a lot stronger this year than in previous years, so my only low point was about 15 minutes in the wee small hours when I felt a bit weary and felt like consulting the Big Book of Excuses. A bit of food seemed to spark me up.

The finish is great fun: there's a band and the traditional photos with the Oppy statue. Then it's off for a well-earned breakfast at the Rochester Football Club and the speeches, the reunions and he traditional reading of Oppy's letter about the first running of event. For my money, this ride is one of the finest on the Audax calendar. Long may it remain so.

The top photo shows the Lair's Oppy team, the Lair's women's Petit Oppy (180km) team and our support crews at the Oppy statue in Rochester.

1615km so far this year.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Every week should be Bike Week

I loved Bike Week. I rode in four events, and covered 277km in nine days, which isn't bad. I managed to ride in four events and every one was a cracker.

The Cygnet Loops was a ride I'd always wanted to do and the Wellington Challenge I've already had a bleat about. I narrowly missed getting caught in a huge rainstorm after the Judbury family ride on Saturday, so that was a win. And last Sunday's Century Ride was a ripper too.

I've done this ride twice before, both times in a shade over five hours. While I'm not overly competitive, I always like to improve over time, so I was hoping to cut my time to under five hours.

After the usual police-escorted start, the brave and the bold took off like lycra clad rockets. I settled on drifting slowly back through the field, grabbing the odd wheel when I could. About 40km in, the bunch I was riding in sort of disintegrated and I spotted a some riders in the distance and set off after them. After a long pursuit I fell in with a trio of blokes who I spend a pleasurable hour or so into Richmond before they stopped for a drink and I pushed on. Another bunch I caught fell apart at the bottom of Grasstree Hill, but I was still going fine. Even the climb didn't give me the trouble it normally does. To my surprise I was back at the start in 4 hours and 15 minutes - 50 minutes faster than both my previous attempts at this ride. As an added bonus, the rain which had been threatening all day help off until the finish. A fitting finale to bike week. Now for the Oppy!

1132km so far this year.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The World's Slowest Hill Climber

There are five people in Hobart right now who are probably too stunned to speak today - five tortured souls whose every utterance is broken by racking sobs and rolling tears. Their long silences are punctuated by cries of `Why? Why?'. They can't eat, sleep or work, poor souls. Life holds no joy. For they have been beaten by the World's Slowest Hill Climber.

Yes, these five people have been measured against the mountain and found wanting. You read it here first: I beat five people in the Mt Wellington Time Trial on the weekend.

Now I'm a glass half-full kind of guy. Many people would look at the result sheet and suggest I came 144th out of 149 starters. But I would counter that I probably won the 100kg plus division. Regardless of the fact that I was passed by elderly and disabled riders (and worse, people on mountain bikes) on the gruelling 20km long 1,250 metre ascent, the people who finished ahead of me were all elite racers and were probably even trying to boot. (I won't even mention cycling's terrible doping problem). I just wanted to finish without stopping for a heart attack on the way up. The photo above makes me look far more gritty and determined than I actually was, which is nice. So I finished, had a nice ride, enjoyed the views and I've got a time to blitz next year. I'd call that mission accomplished.

(Ride photo from Clive Roper Photography.)

948km so far this year.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Found my tribe.

The most important thing during Bike Week is to demonstrate cyclists are ordinary folk, just like you and I.

The Banana
Originally uploaded by Velovotee
From the Sydney Body Art ride.

888km so far this year.

Friday, March 06, 2009

The bargain bikes of ebay

I'm a pretty constant lurker in ebay looking for bargain bike bits. I've often got a project in the shed which needs a part or two so I put in a lot of silly low bids, some of which bear fruit. One thing I have noticed is that the demand for old parts is growing strongly and so are prices. The sad truth is that no matter how much we value our rides, sometimes we delude ourselves about their true value.

Check out this gem. For only $130 you can be the proud owner of a 'vintage' bike which looks like it's spent the last 20 years at the bottom of the river it's named after. No tyres, no brakes, a saddle that looks like it was used to absorb an IED attack and rust galore. But hey, it's old and it's a single speed so some fool might buy it right? But you'll have to pick it up yourself from Hobart, there's no chance of the seller extending himself to ship this gem of antiquity, possibly because it weighs 80kg. Why, why, why on earth has nobody placed a bid on this bike? You heathens of Hobart.

Oh, you want something roadworthy? For a mere $92 (at current bidding) you can get your hands on a sought-after Repco Traveller Road bike? Equiped not just with gears, but a ''gearing system" and tyres that "will need eventual replacement" the seller does kindly point out that the the Traveller "is making an encore in Victoria now as a popular vintage bike". Among whom? The mentally deranged? And why not in other states? No shipping on this one either cycling archaologists, you'll have to take the station wagon to Glenroy.

But why spend $130 or even $92, when for just $5 you could pick up a "Vintage Malvern Star bike single speed fixed project"? Never mind the fact it looks like it might have been ridden into a car and has a saddle that would cause irreversible injury, this one also has tyres. They're flat, but what do you expect for $5? Bid early, bid often.

854km so far this year.