Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Painting the Town

Looking at my 20-year-old track bike hanging in the shed on the weekend I decided it was time we got reacquainted. I've only ridden it once - on New Town velodrome - since I've been in Hobart. Clearly time for another go.

When I rediscovered cycling four years ago, I did a series of rides on this bike on tracks in Victoria - Kyneton, Castlemaine, Coburg, Brunswick. Various distances and mainly for fun, but I also did a series of solo full-pelt 60 minute time trials.

I'm a bit tired of riding the same stretch of road every morning so today was time to see whether I'm still up to my old hour mark: of 30.14km set in March 2005 . Hey, I'm slow - no apologies. I know never going to touch Chris Boardman's 56.3km/h, but I would like to knock off Herni Desgrange's 35.3km/h set in 1893.

What I grandly call New Town velodrome really just a tarmac track around the football oval. I'm guessing it's about 400m long with a slight bank. Like many basic tracks of its type it has a definite hill in it. They're so common in old country tracks I wonder if they're not a perhaps a design feature: there always seems to be a drop through the corner before the finish line. Perhaps it's to speed up the sprints.

There was nobody else about when I rolled out around 8am. A three-lap warm up and a few minor seat adjustments and I was off. Five minutes in, my average was a respectable 32km, although my heart was telling me it wasn't going to be a pace I could hold for an hour. After about 15 minutes the first urges to quit set in and I was bargaining with myself to go on for until at least half way.

An hour alone going flat out on a track bike is a bloody long time. I was slightly undergeared so I was spinning like a bastard down the home straight but still had to jump out of the saddle on the line every lap to crank over the uphill part of the track. Thirty minutes in I was about 40 metres ahead of my old time, but I was still working far too hard to last. My heart rate was sitting around 170, which is way faster than it goes on road rides.

My rough plan was to keep it steady until about the 50 minute mark and lash out from there, so I concentrated on getting my heart rate down so I didn't blow up. I watched my computer as my average pace dropped a a tenth of a kilometre of an hour every few laps until it hit 29.9km/h. I was definitely flagging. I picked it up a bit. My plan became a five-minute final sprint. A couple of triathletes turned up and started doing some laps so I had a couple of marks to chase, although the five minute sprint wasn't going to happen. About three minutes before the end I was buggered, trying to reel in one of the riders, reaching for every last scrap I had.

As the hour rolled by I checked the computer: 30.07km. Damn, 70 metres short of my record. Heart and lungs screaming, legs not so bad. The record is intact for now, but today was still my second fastest ride ever. Not bad training this track riding, it might even speed me up a little. I think I'll slip a smaller cog on the back hub and have another go in a week or so.

(Top photo is an iPhone GPS track of the epic ride. Speaks volumes for the unit's accuracy!)

3,123km so far this year.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sunny Sunday cycle

One of the consolations of this time of year is the Perfect Winter's Day. Tasmania has a reputation for lousy weather which is largely undeserved and the depths of winter can turn on some real pearlers.

Today was one such day. Apart from some early fog which quickly burned off it was clear this was one of those days to make the most of, with plenty of sunshine and not a breath of wind. Nicole and I loaded the touring bikes in the back to the ute for a quick drive down to Cradoc for a lazy 35km Cygnet loop. The plan was a meander along the river and over the hill into Cygnet, stop for coffee and cake then complete the loop with the short ride back to the car.

For the unhurried, the lightly-trafficked Cygnet Coast Road along the Huon River provides lovely scenic riding, first through vineyards and then along the waterfront with views across to Franklin and down towards Dover. Along the way we found a little beach that will be perfect for a picnic stop on a future kayaking trip and spotted plenty of lovely houses and weekended with great water views. We turned upwards along Wattle Grove Road. On a cool day a steep climb is a good chance to warm up and the low gears on the touring bike mean you're not working that hard while the scenery slides past. There are lovely views of the little farmlets up the valley and back down from where we'd come. A moment's pause at the top and then down the unsealed Forsters Rivulet Road for a long roll down into Lymington. By now were were both getting hungry and looking forward to a feed at the Red Velvet Lounge.

But such delights were not to be. Cygnet's two better coffee shops had closed for winter at the same time so we repaired to the Schoolhouse cafe for a very decent toasted sandwich and a flick through the papers in the delightful yard. Back on the bikes, the beauty of this loop is that there's only a short ride over the hill back to Cradoc and downhill run back to the car. A lovely day, we certainly made the most of.

3,093km so far this year.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Busch & Muller Seculite Plus Rear Light

Cool dark winters breed bike light geeks: Tasmania turns me into one every time around this time of year. I've posted before about the joys of dynamo lights, only now have I got around to getting one for the back.

I bought a Busch & Muller Seculite Plus (the lower light in the pic to the right) which was about $35 from Abbotsford Cycles. It was to go on the back mudguard of the Cross Check but fiddling around with it I decided that with a bit of effort and an old light bracket I could get it on the commuter/road/audax bike to make a nice backup to the battery light. I do most of my miles on this bike and you can't be too visible at night in my opinion. After considerable messing around with the wiring I managed to get it working. ok (An earth wire is needed to complete the circuit, which can be a bit hard to do with a frame with carbon bits. I ran a length of twin core wire from the front to the back, and tied the 'spare' end off on the metal part of the light bracket.)

The final result is pretty neat and with the lovely efficient Schmidt hub, turning both lights on seems to have no effect on forward speed. The Seculite has a standlight which burns for about three or four minutes after I've stopped. The only drawback is that it doesn't have a flash mode. But you can't have everything.

I tend to run both front and rear on all the time. It's a good match for the Edelux front light. Being LED lights, I don't have to worry about bulb life either. Now I'll just have to buy another for the Cross Check!

2,952km so far this year.