Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Gravel grinders of the Weld

This blog is still active, despite appearances to the contrary. 2010 hasn't been one of my better cycling years because of personal reasons and also because I spent November more of less off the bike in China - more of that in a future post.

The approach of the festive season means the weather in Tasmania should in theory at least be more conducive to outdoor activities. For the six or so months of the year from December it's a mad scramble to get as much bushwalking and kayaking and cycling in as possible. Finally having some time off meant I could open my season with a bikepacking trip down into the forests of the south-west.

Benny had planned another Bottles and Chains overnight pub trip this week but the dozen or so people who said they'd be there dwindled to one: me. We decided some gravel road bikepacking would be in order and met in Huonville at 11am Monday to pick a route. We had a rough idea we'd head out along the quiet  forestry roads into the Weld river valley and after some discussion and some advice from the nice folk at the Huon Environment Centre we set off along the North Huon Road in the rain and the mud.

About 15km into the ride comes the ascent of the Denison Range, which is long and steep and unpleasant in the cold rain we were intermittently being pelted with. We decided to make the top then decide whether to push on, which we did after some discussion of pulling the pin if things didn't stay tolerably fine. We ran into a neighbour of mine, reknowned for his local knowledge, who told us there was a serviceable shelter at our destination at Glovers Bluff and we pushed on up the soft and freshly graded dirt climb towards the Ta Ann veneer mill.

Turning off, we rode through some recently clearfelled coupes where Ben stopped to take some photos before snapping the chain his singlespeed. That was quickly fixed with the aid of a spare link and we stopped a short distance down the road for a break at the Weld River Bridge before walking parts of the big climb on the other side. Glovers Bluff was only a couple of kilometres easy travelling from the top.

What a sensational spot it was. We explored the top of the Bluff, taking in the sweeping views over the Weld Valley and the nearby logging coupes before descending a short distance to the shelter, which to our surprise was of recent construction and quite substantial enough to make for a comfortable sleeping spot. Our evening's survival assured, we wandered down to the nearby lookout for more photos and beers.

Back at the shelter we polished off the last of the beers, ate and sat by the fire telling yarns and talking bikes as we awaited the arrival of the third member of the party, Liam, who was intending to arrive later. We'd not long given up and gone to bed when he arrived around 10pm, with more beers to his eternal credit. Liam revealed he hadn't quite ridden the whole way: in fact his car was parked a couple of hundred metres up the track.

The car was to come in pretty handing in the morning when more icy rain fell and we decided the prospect of a 60km return ride in the rain was slightly less appealing than a trip in the car, even if our journey was mostly downhill. Bikes disassembled we bade Glovers Bluff adeiu for the time being: I have no doubt we'll visit this lovely spot again.

4916km so far this year.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Mallee Routes revisited

The ultimate destination of my tour was the small north-west Victorian town of Hopetoun, where the Mallee Routes is held each year. It's a great event, best when the wind isn't blowing too strong across the seemingly endless plains. It's a tremendous gathering of audax riders, who pack the local pub for a festive dinner on the Friday night before the ride.

Last year was windy and I didn't finish the 300km ride after being talked into the longer distance. This year I allowed myself to become convinced 400km was a good idea.

The weather on Saturday was superb, with light winds and mild temperatures. The usual quick run down towards Warracknebeal saw the quick and the bold speed away and the slower and more cautious riders like me were content to drift back in the field. It's a long day to be riding at someone else's pace.

Onward towards Birchip, and still feeling good, the first 100km rolled by in just over four hours of riding time. Sea Lake rolled by, and another feed, which slowed me down a bit and though the second hundred took about the same time, my legs were definitely feeling the miles by now.

The leg to Patchewollock was where things got harder. Our group of two became three for a while and then four as we tackled the undulating sandhills to Speed where a short break allowed us to turns lights on and don reflective gear.

After a welcome feed at the Patchewollock control, the 50km back to Hopetoun came after dark and though we were still making good progress, it became obvious that finishing 400km by 2am as I had planned was going to be a big ask. I was getting tired and my hamstrings were giving me some grief and the prospect of another six hours on the bike for the 100km leg out to Wonga Hut in the Wyperfeld National Park just didn't appeal at all. When we completed our loop to Hopetoun, I decided to pull the pin.

Quitting isn't an easy decision to make, particularly after a DNF last year, but I was knackered and simply didn't have another 100km in my legs. Shame, but I'm pretty happy with my ride all the same - which took 15 and a half hours including breaks. My decision to pull out was vindicated in the morning when I found out my riding companion finally finished around 5am. Bravo to him, but I just wasn't up to a night that tough. And there's always next year for another crack. I'm disappointed not to finish what I set out to do, but I had a bloody good time and that, after all, is what it should be all about.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Into the Mallee

I love riding in the Mallee country, it's such a vast and interesting landscape, so very Australian: long straight empty roads and red soils and massive farms punctuated by small towns with a pub and a shop and not much else. There is plenty of history and in spring there are of wildflowers and the long plains dotted with sparse trees lend themselves to a rather meditative state of mind. Today was another wonderful day, blessed by good luck and good winds.

We caught the train north from the delightful Pyramid Hill to the border town of Swan Hill were we were to start our ride. I braved the heavy traffic to cross the Murray River into New South Wales for a few minutes, for my own amusement. After a spot of lunch we stopped in at the Visitors and Community Comfort Centre for a wee break. What would have been a short stop took nearly half an hour as we chatted to the delightful older ladies who keep it going and were interviewed by a reporter they summoned to meet the intrepid long distance cyclists. The Comfort Centre is a wonderful facility which every town should have, long may they prosper. Travelling by bike is such an easy way to meet people, who are often keen to chat and share their stories and hear ours. We have some new friends in Swan Hill.

Back on the road for our 72km zap to Sea Lake it was apparent our luck with the wind was holding and we barreled along at speeds not normally reached by cycle tourists. We punctuated the ride with sprints for the crest of anything resembling a hill, something in pretty short supply in these parts. An hour or so saw us in Ultima, where we enjoyed an ice cream in the general store before the final push to Sea Lake - a town I've not visited before and which is close to our goal of Hopetoun. Another push of 60km tomorrow and we'll be at the home of the Mallee Routes with a rest day in hand. Apparently there's 50 riders expected for the various distances. Even the weather forecast seems favorable. Here's to the weekend.

Flood crossing, Central Victoria

Fortunately the worst we've faced so far is wet feet, though there are towns nearby sandbagged and evacuated.

A brilliant day

I've never forgotten how much I love touring, though yesterdays ride was a good chance to renew the relationship.

We started the day with a visit to Rochester's delightful Sir Hubert Opperman museum before setting out in warm and still conditions. The roads in these parts are perfect for cycling - flat and with only light traffic. The effects of the heavy drought-breaking rains made themselves felt with a couple of water crossings, though we were not seriously slowed.

Lunch was at the tiny town if Dingee after about 50km and we stopped for a break at Mitiamo 20km later. The final 20km into Pyramid Hill was more of the same: zooming along at 25km/h marvelling at what a nice day it was. We arrived at the magnificent Pyramid Hill hotel just in time for some cold beers and to learn who was to form the new federal government.

Today's ride has been amended by the flooding - the roads we were intending to travel are deep underwater and blocked by police. A detour by train to Swan Hill should get us around the worst of it by lunchtime and we shall venture forth towards Sea Lake.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

About the bag.

I very seldom use a handlebar bar, preferring to carry loads in panniers on a rear rack where they are stable and out of sight. Even so, I've owned one for ages, and drag it out from time to time - like for this trip because I was keen to have a little extra room and it's a handy place to keep a few essentials together.

If I had any doubts about the usefulness of a handlebar bag for touring, I'm now a complete convert. The bag holds all the little items I need during the day and keeps them within easy reach on the go. Sunglasses, gloves, camera are right there and it's a handy place to keep cash and cards. Spare clothing can be stuffed in too as the day warms up. Since it clips off easily and has a shoulder strap, it comes off the bike at stops. It does affect handling slightly, so even after getting used to that slight change, it's best not to put too many heavy items in.

As part of an ultralight touring ensemble, it's hard to beat. My only criticism is that it sits a little high. Perhaps one of the lovely Gilles Berthoud handlebar bags would take me that short step towards perfection.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Onward to Murchison

On the road for the first proper day of our tour, the relatively short hop from Seymour to Murchison. We were on the road by 10 and quickly into a rhythm, slowed only once by water over the road after the heavy rains of Saturday, although the rivers we crossed were all mightily swollen. Lunch in Nagambie then just 20km to Murchison where we found a cheap room in the pub and a few beers and a fine meal downstairs. All in all a fast fine day of touring.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Tour de Nord

Day one of my long-planned tour of central and northern Victoria did not dawn auspiciously. To be fair, the signs weren't good from early last week, with warnings of the heaviest rainfall in a decade but I held out hope that it would somehow pass by and I'd be able to ride the wonderful Spring into Seymour as planned.

It was not to be, with heavy rain and strong winds meaning the ride was cancelled due to flooding in the course and I went back to bed.

The plan, hatched at the Alpine Classic in January, is to ride between two great audax events - the Spring into Seymour and the Mallee Routes, which this year are a week apart. From Seymour to Hopetoun is about 450km, so it's a cruise ride, very flat, though against the prevailing winds.

I'm doing the ride on my trusty old Surly Crosscheck, because it is solid and comfortable and reliable and because it has lights and mudguards and racks but with the right tyres is still capable of a decent turn of speed.

I'm traveling with just my two tiny panniers, a rack and handlebar bags. It's not quite credit card and toothbrush, but the bare minimum so I'm not too bogged down with gear.

After the rain eased yesterday I left Tooborac for the undulating 35km run to Seymour as a little shakedown ride. I'm happy to say everything worked perfectly, despite the drenching I got from a single burst of heavy rain right at the midway point. Today is a 60km roll up the road to Murchison before the 100km days start in earnest. With a clearing forecast, it should be a most enjoyable week.

Friday, September 03, 2010

As I recall.

A few days ago I noticed a bit of noise on the internet talking about a recall of some Surly bikes - Long Haul Truckers and Cross Checks to be precise. Since I own one of both I took more than a passing interest, it sounded serious. The recall seems to apply to complete bikes sold in Australia. something to do with brakes being unsafe.

I did a little research on what it's all about. There are no faulty brakes, despite what some are saying, just a lesson in what is wrong with the product recall system and the Australian Standards for bicycles.

It seems, there is concern that a bike fitted with cantilever brakes and knobby tyres, a snapped front brake cable could mean the suddenly free straddle cable drops and catches a knob and flings the rider over the bars. It has apparently happened once to someone riding a cheap bike with plastic brakes in the United States. The inevitable resulting lawsuit is here.

Such an incident can only happen on bikes without mudguards and with knobby tyres, and only on brakes set up with cantilever brakes which had straddle cables incorrectly set so short they could contact the tyre. Neither of these bikes was sold with knobby tyres. It would also only happen on bikes with no no mudguard or front reflector or light bracket, which would also deflect the cable.

In the real world, if this problem existed, it would apply to all bikes fitted with cantilever brakes. Somebody, somewhere, has decided a "brake cable catch hook" (never heard of it before) is the solution for these two bikes alone rather than correctly setting up and maintaining the bicycle. Keep in mind the only recorded case of a problem occurring happened on a completely different bike, with different tyres, and a roller pulley setup, which again neither of these bikes have.

The level of risk is so close to zero that nobody has seen fit to issue a general warning to the hundreds of thousands of people worldwide who may use cantilever brakes, despite the fact it's an easy problem to detect and remedy.

I'm told the Australian Standard now requires the hook for be fitted to all new bikes. As far as I know such a hook is not required in any other country, although the waning popularity of cantilever brakes may explain why it's not more of an issue. It's part of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission crackdown to make sure every bike sold has reflectors, a bell and two working brakes, regardless of whether the owner removes them on the way out of the shop. Surely they have more serious risks to public safety with which to occupy their time.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Winter Challenge: sometimes pain hurts.

They say the time trial is the race of truth. That's true too: a big fat truthy truism of truth. Normally I'm a big fan of the truth. But sometimes it's also ugly.

Since I knew three months ago I'd be riding the 37km time trial in the Winter Challenge I immediately launched myself into a gruelling routine of gym training and weekend cycling. It was showing some results too; my weight dropped several kilograms and I felt fitter and stronger than I had in years. I'd ridden the course and had a target time which would put me just into the top 50% of riders. Everything was going swimmingly. Then I got a cold.

This season's cold is a beauty. It's not at all severe but it did have superb endurance. (Maybe it had been training.) I'm in my fourth fun week of random dry coughing, which did tend to slow my own training down a tad- well stop it really - and help the weight pile back on. So I didn't have high hopes when I fronted up to the start line on Sunday.

As it turned out, for someone who doesn't race at all, I really enjoyed the ride - apart from an exciting flat front tyre which a kindly bystanding bike mechanic fixed for me in the five minutes before the start. Once Bicycle Tim tagged me out after his extremely fast mountain bike leg and I did the cleated hop through the transition area, the open road beckoned.

I made a terrific start. The Winter Challenge course is flat and fast to start off and I was turning a big gear over quickly enough to be a little worried I was going too hard early. My heart rate monitor was showing I was working hard too - in the high 170 beats per minute range, which is about as high as I go but I was feeling good and pushed onward.

The first big test of the ride is the hill up Scotts Road. There was a rider approaching from behind and I got out of the saddle and made a good start up the hill, though gravity bit me hard in the end. The second hill up to the highway was more of a grind. I think this section is where I could show the most improvement.

The first hint of a big looming calf cramp started around the 20km mark, so I eased off a smidge for a few minutes and the threat seemed to pass. Through the downhills and past the Kermandie Pub at the 28km mark with 58 minutes on the clock - about two minutes ahead of the trial run. The wind was my biggest foe in the last ten kilometres, alternating between headwind and tailwind as the road snaked around the riverfront. Although I was getting tired I was really enjoying the sensation of speeding along between 30km/h and 40km/h - once briefly glacing at the computer to note I was surging at 44km/h along the flat.

Fortunately another rider passed me just after the pub and gave me a target to keep in sight. I dug deep and made sure kept her about 20 - 30 metres ahead for the rest of the ride, passing her briefly atop the last small rise out of Franklin before the lactic acid took the edge off my speed. Into the finish in an acceptable 1h23m, which I'm happy with given my lack of training and overall poor fitness.

But in terms of fun, the day was a blast. An average speed of 27km an hour isn't that fast by most racer's standards and my time probably put me three-quarters of the way through the field, I've never ridden so fast for so long. And, as these things usually do, I'm more motivated to get a bit fitter and do even better next time.

The other plus is that my team did really well, particularly for our first attempt. Of the 22 teams in the mixed teams division, we came 13th. Hooray for the Huonville Sauntering Club.

Other highlights included the astoundingly good organisation and the friendly atmosphere of the whole day, winning a cracking pair of expensive-looking sunglasses as a spot prize and finding $5 on the ground just as the Mr Whippy van pulled up. If you're in Tasmania and thinking of having a crack at a multisport event, I highly recommend the Winter Challenge.

3,186km so far this year.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Just in Time

I don't have ads on this blog, which is probably the only reason I'm not a millionaire, but I do like to endorse the odd handy piece of kit that I've found useful. Today's plug is for the StemCAPtain, an accessory you probably never knew you needed.

Since I mainly ride my Surly CrossCheck as as commuter and transport bike, it's been unsurprisingly handy having a dedicated clock to know whether I'm running late for work or whatever vital appointment I'm heading to. They come in a couple of other varieties: compass and photo mount and take about two minutes to fit and make a stylish addition to any bike.

3,149km so far this year.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Bags of fun

I'm getting ready for a week's touring in Victoria in September. It caused some minor angst over which bike to take because the Bianchi, which though it is good and fast for audax riding, has no rack mounts and would be no good for carrying the stuff I'll need for a week on the road. So I'm getting the Crosscheck ready for another road trip.

The tour is a ride from the end of the Spring into Seymour audax ride to the start of the Mallee Routes audax - around 400km over six days, so it's not going to be a big rush. Even so, I'm keen not to be too weighted down by gear.

Enter these rather natty Gilles Berthoud panniers and rack bag. I'd had my eye on them for a while, but the upcoming tour and a rather nice tax return brought them forward a little on the wishlist. They're canvas trimmed with leather and have a capacity of just 9 litres for the panniers and 5 for the rack bag - perfect alone or in combination for audax rides. So I'm going to have to pack light, which suits me just fine.

After using them for the last couple of weeks I'm really impressed by these panniers. They're big enough to carry everything you're likely to need on a commute and nothing more. Being so tiny, I don't even notice them at all - they have no effect on the bike's handling at all. With top hooks and a strap and buckle arrangement, they sit solidly on my tiny Velo Orange rack.

They're handmade - which makes them a tad on the pricey side - but are clearly built to last. I'm delighted with them, but I do have a couple of criticisms. The panniers have no handles for carrying them off the bike; which is a minor daily irritation. And the rack bag didn't have a tab to hold a light, although some unstitching and some needlework on the leather patch on the back today put that right. These minor niggles aside, I reckon these bags and I will do a few miles together over the coming months and years.

3085km so far this year.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Riverbank Ramble revisited

It rained pretty much all winter here last year, the wettest winter for 70 years, so there wasn't much riding done and I laid plans to build a winter bike capable of withstanding the never-ending deluge. Or an ark. The former project continues but thankfully this winter has been a return to the norm with lovely crisp days and the occasional pearler with bright blue skies and welcome warming sunshine. Mudguards seem somehow redundant this season.

Since I have Sunday-Monday off and my wife was working Monday I decided it would be the perfect day to have another crack at the Riverbank Ramble 200km Permanent on the road bike with Bicycle Tim - a favourite route for us both and a good chance to get some miles in our legs. It's a challenging loop ride, lots of good-sized hills for the first 120-odd kilometres, followed by a fast downhill then flat run home broken only by a final bump about 5km from the finish.

What a perfect day it turned out to be. Though mostly overcast, there were more than a few moments when I felt distinctly overdressed in a long sleeved top and winter gloves as the mercury nudged up to 15 degrees Celsius. My last attempt at this ride in November wasn't an overwhelming success. I rode well, but a stiff headwind over the last 80km and perhaps a lack of conditioning left me completely knackered towards the end. I've been spending a fair bit of time at the gym of late and had a few easy days beforehand so I was feeling rested and fit, but a few strong gusts of wind rattled the house Sunday night and left me feeling worried I'd be bitten again. My concern was misplaced, Monday dawned unusually warm for winter and still and overcast.

We set off from Kingston Beach spot on 7am and quickly made our way through Hobart and up the bike track before climbing the ride's major climb - the 400m grind to Glenlusk. Despite a brief scare on a wet wooden bridge on the way down the other side we were cruising smoothly and decided to take our first break at Bushy Park 70km in, where we refreshed with toasted sandwiches and cake and a big plate of chips.

Back on the road through my favourite section of this ride through Glenora to Westerway I was having such a good time I clean forgot about the next big hill - on the way into Ellendale which slowed me to a granny-gear crawl. The following two are steep but nowhere near as long of high so it was was across the Derwent causeway and right up the Lyell Highway to Hamilton for a brush with an angry log truck driver and a spot of lunch.

From the top of the big hill past Hamilton the ramble ride becomes a pearler of a downhill and with a slight tailwind we zoomed down towards New Norfolk where we had a quick bite to eat before knocking off the relatively flat 50km into Hobart- made even easier by roadworks which have smoothed out at least one of the hills I remember from my last trip. With plenty of time on the clock we stopped at the Riverview Inn at Taroona for a delightful couple of beers before knocking off the back side of Bonnett Hill to finish in a respectable elapsed time of 11h30m, of which 9h30m was spent on the bike. The time was about an hour less than my last effort, mainly I suspect thanks to Tim setting a fair pace out front all day. And despite 2000m of climbing for the day and not having done that much riding lately, I felt surprisingly good at the finish.

2,736km so far this year.

Photo from Flickr by Smiling Da Vinci.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Some promise shows.

As recently as a week ago I wasn't all that confident about my chances against the clock in the Winter Challenge. I rode the course on the weekend, not with any fierce intent, but more to learn the way and check for any nasty hills or similar obstacles.

I parked the car and sent off without a warm-up, rolling over the tiny rises south of Franklin, enjoying the brisk zero degree day and noting the liklihood of a tailwind home. Once warmed up, it became apparent that the organisers' promise of a fast course was no idle talk. The 10km mark rolled by far more quickly than I expected and, feeling good, I cranked the pace up a notch.

My goal from the start was to get around the 37km in under about an hour and 30 minutes - nothing too flash, just a gentle Sunday ride. The split times from the Winter Challenge website put a mid-field placing around the 1hr15 minute mark, and I wasn't really thinking of setting a brilliant time on my first outing. I've been spending some time in the gym in the last few weeks to try to build some strength in my fiendishly weak upper body, so I wasn't feeling overly rested either.

Two moderate hills didn't provide too much of a problem about halfway in, then the course turns for home. An hour into the ride, with 27km down, I rolled past the Kermandie pub. That's very quick for me. Suddenly it all seemed somewhat more achievable. As I sped up the river, past reasonably familiar landmarks, Franklin seemed only minutes away. But 12, or 15 or 20?

Now there's a nasty little rise just short of the Franklin - it's got a winery or something on it and it somehow knocks me for six every time. I was waiting for it and as I wearied I wondered where it had got to as somehow Franklin never seemed to appear. Winery Hill didn't disappoint, providing a last test of legs and lungs before, I coasted into Franklin in 1hr25min. It wasn't a not a cracking time, but not bad for an 80% effort. There's room for improvement there - plenty of room. I've not lately fancied myself as much of a racer, but suddenly I'm looking forward to the big day with more anticipation than fear.

2496km so far this year.

Friday, June 25, 2010

A turning of the tide.

Nice yarn in today's Sydney Morning Herald today on plans to cut speed limits in urban areas to better protect cyclists. Having been a cyclist in Sydney, Melbourne and now Hobart for a touch over 20 years, it's amazing how far the attitudes of some governments have changed. On the other hand, in Melbourne this week, a widely supported plan to make cycling on Beach Road easier and safer was rejected by a local council. The comments accompanying the article shows some motorists still have a way to go too. Two steps forward, one step back.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Against the Clock

In a moment of madness during a cheesecake run, I've joined a team of mature aged folk who have decided to enter the Winter Challenge. It's held near here on August 22, in the township of Franklin, and consists of a 10km cross country run, 18km on a mountain bike, a 37km road cycle and a 10km flat water kayaking. We have dubbed ourselves the Huonville Sauntering Club, since because our pace around the course is not expected to be blistering. I'm doing the road cycling leg mainly because I'd be even more useless at any of the others. Hour-record track japes notwithstanding, I am not the bloke on the left.

Now 37km is a nice distance. A chap could do that in an hour and a half at a reasonable pace, perhaps a few minutes quicker if he tried rather hard. This chap anyway. So it probably wasn't wise to check the split times from last year's event. The top ten percent of riders averaged 36km/h, so I'm very possibly not going to finish up there. The median time was 1hr 12 min: an average speed of 31km/h. Now that might not seem fast to some people but it is about four kilometres an hour faster than any ride I've done on the road in the last six years - except a descent of Mt Wellington from Ferntree. It's faster than I've even done on the bloody track on a good day. Some training is clearly in order.

I've taken the old reliable Gatorskins off the Bianchi and put the fast and skittish 23mm Vittoria Rubino pros back on and pumped them up to 130psi. This weekend I'll ride the course and see whether the ghost of a time triallist lurks within me. I think I already know the answer to that, but it is supposed to be a bit of fun.

2393km so far this year.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Chains are cheap

As far back as I can remember it's been a maxim for cyclists - when you replace a chain, replace your cassette as well. I don't remember where I first heard it but it was almost certainly some time back in the 1980s when I was racing. It was just one of those things we did without thinking and it never occurred to me until now to question it.

The chain on my Bianchi was coming up to the 6000km mark this week (thanks BikeJournal for the reminder) and my handy Park chain gauge was telling me it was coming to the end of its useful life, which was fine because I had a replacement chain hanging in the shed, but I'm a bit short of cash to buy a new cassette. Those ten speed babies aren't cheap. What do do?

When I thought about it, does the new chain-new cassette maxim make sense? The theory seems to go that a new set will mesh nicely together and that a worn cassette will wear a new chain more quickly. But is that going to be as much the case in the modern era of ten speed kit as it was in the five and six speed days, or more so, or what?

The cassette on the Bianchi looked fine so I threw caution to the wind and put a new chain on. After brisk 30km trial ride, all seems well. The gears are shifting fine and after a few minor adjustments of tension screws, the drivetrain is even quieter than normal. (I prefer the superb Connex chains, the connecting link makes installation and removal infinitely easier than the infernal Shimano non-reusable pins)

Sitting down to write this post, I checked around to see what others did, and Google revealed a wide range of practices, from a change of cluster every two chains, to even longer service intervals. Myth busted, and it looks like I'll save some money from hereon in to boot.

2393km so far this year.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Tyred from trying.

Some sunny winter days there's no better way to get warm than by rolling briskly over the few undulations between here and town on the bike. This is particularly true when there's a new set of tyres and some other odds and ends waiting to be picked up at the post office.

I reckon of all the parts that make up a bike, tyres are by far the most single most important. A bad set of tyres make a good bike bad, a good set can transform your ride. There's a magic mix of compromises to be found through trial and error between fast and light and tough. Finding the right set of tyres for your bike and its use can be an expensive process and takes a fair bit of patience but when you get it right you'll never switch.

I had been running Kendra Small Block 8 knobbies on the Surly Crosscheck over summer to take advantage of the fire trails around these parts, but they're light and the rubber is soft and they wore out far too quickly. I bought a cheap set of touring tyres to replace them, but they were no good on dirt. I tried some Vittoria Randonneurs - which turned out to be the worst set of tyres I've ever owned. Sluggish and misshapen, these tyres lasted a week I gave up on them and hung them on a hook in the shed. Good job they were cheap. The search began anew.

Lately I've been keen on wider tyres, largely because a good proportion of most of my rides is on dirt and gravel roads, so I like something with a bit of substance to it. The set of wide 26" Schwalbe Marathons on my touring bike go very nicely indeed, so I ordered a set of 32mm in 700c for the Crosscheck.

And what do you know? The 32mm Marathons transform the bike, but this time for the better. Fast, comfortable, grippy, they're ideal for my needs and come with a reflective sidewall as well. They look like they're up for just about anything so a run out along the fire trails up the valley might well be in order some time soon.

After the fitting of they tyres and the run home, a pleasant afternoon of al fresco bike maintainence followed. Throw in a new set of brake cables and a new chain that had been sitting on the shelf for a while and it's like riding a new bike.

Let me know if you want a set of Vittoria Randonneurs cheap.

2244km so far this year.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The flight of the Mountain Turtle

You read a lot about how rotten the Internet is, how it's laden with sexual content and malware and viruses, how it leads to molestation and murder, how it's making people fat and dumb and lazy. There's a flipside to that coin, something that often goes unstated, that the Internet is the greatest democratising communications tool ever invented and it lets us people share their wisdom and their lives across vast distances quickly and cheaply.

There's lots of blogs I read regularly, but here's two that have struck a chord recently. One of my greatest Internet joys is seeing a new post lob on Dave Moulton's bike blog. I don't know Dave and I'm unlikely to ever meet him, but thanks to the world wide web I can enjoy his pearls of wisdom from afar. He's a great writer and has a terrific perspective from decades of riding and framebuilding.

Kent Peterson, (above) calls himself the Mountain Turtle, after his riding pace. I'm a regular reader of his blog too. He's off to Race the Tour Divide 2010 in a few days. It's a non-stop self-supported race the length of US Grade Dividing Range. Quite an undertaking to be sure.

I've never met Kent either but thanks to the Internet, a few bucks I earned in Hobart, Tasmania are now doing something more interesting that paying bills by helping a guy chase his dream. I'm not sure why I feel like I'm along for the ride, but it's a wonderful thing to be able to support an ordinary person to do something extraordinary. I suppose in a way I'm sponsoring a racing team!

Kent rolls out in a few days, if you're a fellow cyclist you can follow the link on his blog to support him via Paypal. You'll know for sure he'll make the money go a long way - 4418km to be exact. All power to the Mountain Turtle.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Couldn't have said it better myself.

I've been riding a while, so sometimes people ask me for advice on cycling. I generally give them a few pointers about being visible and asserting their right to use the road and so on. Tanya Bosch, who writes for Australian Cyclist magazine, has come up with the most sensible set of tips I've ever read for cyclists. They were in the magazine a month ago and have just gone online.

Among the pointers:

* Bunches shouldn't exceed 20 riders. I'm sorry guys, but for a start it is not good training and bunches over 20 are a big presence on the road.

* Know and obey the road rules. Nothing enrages motorists more than cyclists running red lights. Please don't. On the other hand, there are road rules that motorists don't know, for example that cyclists are allowed to ride two abreast, ride up the inside of stopped traffic and ridein bus and transit lanes in some states.

Do yourself a favour and check out Tanya's tips here.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

All I want for Christmas...

Spotted this on the web. I already have a perfectly good repair stand. It's near-new. This one is $US240, but phwoaaar! If these guys ever decide make a wheel truing jig I'm going to sell a kidney to get the set.

Here's the link in case you want to buy me one.

1806km so far this year.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

A weekend in Deloraine

Having plenty of inclination to go touring, but little time, the chance to get in a weekend of rides out of town is too much to pass up. In northern Tasmania, some bright spark has set up a series of rides centered about the pretty town of Deloraine, so we decided to park up there for a couple of days to explore the scenery.

The Great Western Tiers signal the start of Tasmania's central highlands. At their foot, these four rides take in the best of the scenic and gourmet experiences the area has to offer. Today we did a modified version of the Great Caves Ride - an 82km loop from Deloraine to Mole Creek and back along the backroads at the foot of the tiers.

What a cracking tour it was. We rolled out on the touring bikes about 9am, shrugging off a forecast of rain and making steady progress to Mole Creek. We passed on the Open Garden we had hoped to see as it was overrun by older folks and stopped for a ripper lunch at the pub.

Back on the road we copped a few minutes of rain, but the sting was taken out of that by the tailwind which pushed us along at a steady pace through Caveside and Meander before following us all the way back to Deloarine. The scenery along the way was nothing less than spectacular. The roads were mainly flat and lightly trafficked and afforded brilliant views over the green farmland and soaring crags above. It was a beauty of a ride, which I'd recommend to anyone.

We're going to squeeze in another tomorrow, hopefully it will be as good.

1608km so far this year.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

The more things change...

This snippet, from the New York Times, is surely good. Apparently people with Parkinson's disease are still able to ride their bikes. How cheery. Some consolation I suppose.

It almost makes up for the tired idiocy coming out of the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Cyclists should be licensed and pay registration? Call yourselves a think tank chaps, for coming to the strikingly original conclusion that scofflaw cyclists are a major menace to society. You could have picked your timing a little better: rather than the same day the government announces a top anti-gang cop will head a new strike force gunning for drivers who continually flout the law. No that seems like a higher priority to me.

And as for registration, I will cheerfully pay to ride my bike on public roads when the facilities and the level of subsidies granted to cycling approaches the billions spent in an increasingly futile bid to make life easier for for motorists. And I won't whinge nearly so much as the car lobby and the motoring organisations, all gorged on the taxpayer dollar. But somehow I don't reckon I'm in any danger of needing to worry about it anytime soon.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Second wind.

Is it April already? The days are getting shorter, the weather is turning cooler and daylight savings ends tonight. It's always a bit of a test on a riders mettle here in Tassie once the nights become dark and cold. I spent a couple of hours in the shed last night putting a pair of rear lights on the Cross Check so I'm ready for the winter months ahead.

After the warmest summer on record I find I've done relatively little riding for this time of year. The motivation seems to have left after the Alpine Classic. Perhaps I suffered too much or perhaps I just need to find another goal. At any rate, while I've ridden a few kilometres most days, my disdain for riding just for the sake of it as opposed to as a form of transport means it hasn't been much.

The flipside of this equation is that when I do ride, my legs are fresh and not recovering from endless commuting miles. The last few rides I've done have been blinders. Today was a case in point - I knocked ten minutes off the time for the ride I call the Cheesecake Run, a 35km blast mainly on dirt roads into town and back, with a killer 15 minute 200m climb at the end. And oddly, the coming of winter seems to have roused my interest in riding again. It's no longer as, but perversely I'm keener. Who knows what's going on here, perhaps it just the normal cycle of motivation that we all go through: unexplained bursts of activity and equally unexplained periods of lethargy and disinterest. Let's see what autumn holds.

1477km so far this year.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

February blues.

February hasn't been the best month for me on the bike. It seldom is, I don't know why. Perhaps it's the come-down from the high of the Alpine Classic, but I seem to be lacking a goal. Although I've hardly done any riding this month beyond a short daily commute to work, the 300km I've cranked out is my third best in the last six years and will be above the average. But I don't feel like I'm doing much and feel generally flat. I've been working too hard, have had a few too many beers, put on some weight and have smoked the odd cigarette since the Alpine, which hasn't helped matters one bit. The fitness I felt just a month ago has gone.

As I write this, I'm supposed to be riding a double century. Today was the last chance to keep my Year-Round randonneur hopes alive - but grand plans of completing 200km rides in 12 consecutive months - a plan which seemed easy in October - now somehow seems a madly ambitious. Instead, I'm sitting at home watching rain clouds drift in over the mountains and wondering whether I'll have enough energy to ride 30km on the dirt roads into town.

The bike is sitting outside the window, expectantly. I will ride, of course, and maybe the ride and a bit of wind and rain on my face will snap me out of my lethargy. Something always seems to. After just 200km last February, March 2009 was my best month ever - and although 881km is probably modest by some standards it's a good month by mine. But for some reason I just can't see myself riding the Oppy with the Lairs and the Bike Week Century and the Mt Wellington Challenge this year just don't appeal either. I barely made it to Critical Mass yesterday!

So I'm stale. I'm sure I'll just enjoy this ride, and can worry about the rest some other time.

1075km so far this year.

Monday, February 08, 2010

One is more identical than the other

This post from the Bicycle Lifestyle Google Group on look-alike bikes quite tickled my funny bone:

``Actually, the Pugsley is a shameless rip-off of the Rambouillet. All Surly did was change the angles a couple degrees, make the tubes thicker, build in clearance for 4-inch tires, offset the frame in one direction and the rims in the opposite direction so normal hubs could be used without the chain hitting the tire, and make the front and rear wheels interchangeable. But the dead giveaway is the 2 wheels and the place to sit: classic Grant Petersen!''

Thanks to Jim Thill for the smile.

855km so far this year.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Cutting it fine

Well, I've done the Alpine Classic 200km. Not without drama though. After more than 13 hours on the road, I made it to the finish line with just 19 minutes to spare!

It was quite a ride. I made a good start and was over Tawonga Gap and up Falls Creek (60km) in good time and good style. A short break at Falls for a snack and I was back on the road, cruising through for the climb up the other side of Tawonga. The descent back into Bright (130km) is one of the better parts of the ride, and after seven hours of elapsed time I was pretty happy with my progress. A short break in Bright to cool down and have a bite to eat and it was off to tackle Mt Buffalo.

Here's where things became slightly more challenging. It's a tough climb and it was the hottest part of the day. I slowed considerably on the way up, stopping every kilometre or so to catch my breath. At this end of the field, at this time of day, at this distance into the ride, many of my fellow riders were feeling the same pinch, as onward and upward we ground, aided by the occasional shouts of encouragement from riders returning at speed from the summit.

By the time I made the control at the top, time was getting on. I knew from my previous descent of the mountain that Bright was at least an hour and ten minutes away, although likely longer for a tired rider. I had an hour and thirty minutes to beat the cutoff.

As spectacular and as speedy as the descent is, it was largely lost on me as I counted down the minutes remaining with no sign of the bottom. My heart went out to the poor buggers still struggling up the grade, many of whom had no chance in hell of completing the ride in time. I was pretty determined to avoid that fate. Porepunkah finally drew near and it became apparent that I had about 20 minutes to cover the remaining ground to Bright. But how far was it? My best guess was ten kilometres, which was clearly going to be beyond me at that time of the day.

So I was pretty relieved when I rolled past the sign flashed past saying "Bright 6km". I was back in the game. Another rider sensed my plight and dragged me along for a bit at speed before he flagged and I took a turn thundering along the final stretch. Eventually Bright drew into view and I knew I was going to make it. The actual finish was a bit of a blur, partly because I was completely spent and partly because my eyes seemed to be a bit misty for some reason.

I've wanted to do the Alpine Classic 200km for years, and have never thought I was up to it. I'm tremendously happy to have finally done the ride, even if I did finish by the barest of margins. It was a fitting finish to a tremendous week of riding. As for next year, well the 130km distance is looking pretty good.

721km so far this year.

Saturday, January 23, 2010


The last couple of days of the Semaine Federale are, for me anyway, a chance to take things easy ahead of the Alpine. After riding nearly 300km in the last week a couple of easy days aren't going to do any harm and will hopefully leave me a bit fresher for the big event. The final day of riding in the Semaine involved a mere 20km jaunt out to Boynton's Winery just outside of Porpunkah. The temperature was reached a top of 41 degrees in Bright, so contemplating strenuous exercise was probably not a good idea anyway.

This last excursion was a journey which was to take seven hours - possibly not the fastest 20km in Audax history, but to be fair to our group of four there were many distractions. After a leisurely breakfast on the deck of the Bright Football Club, the outward journey went well enough - we were the first to the winery, where we had a rest on the deckchairs and a natter. We rode a few kilometres up the road to the Bright Berry Farm where we devoured some lovely boysenberry ice cream and another long chat. Back to the winery, where another hour or two were spent over the odd glass of bubbly and some gentle relaxation before we managed the 2km ride to the popular Rail Trail Cafe for a delightful spot of lunch.
On the way back we dropped in on some friends staying closer to Bright and another hour was delightfully spent. By the time I made it back to ride HQ I was well and truly the last rider home most of the day had gone in a blur of ease and conversation. Just two of the seven hours that has passed had been spent in the saddle. But still, not a bad way to end a lovely week of riding.

508km so far this year.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Bike polo

A mob of Melbourne hipsters put on a bike polo demonstration for us today. I was astonished at how small the court was, and how well they played. There was a chance for audience participation, but my hand-eye coordination is the reason I ride a bike instead of playing ball sports.

My heroes ride slow.

I spotted my first pair of shaved (male) legs in Bright today, a reminder the Alpine Classic will very soon be upon us. It's also a reminder too that huge egos of the lycra brigade will soon be arriving in town. Though most audax riders are humble and interesting people, some of the folk this ride attracts seem never to have learned the lesson that being a good bike rider and being a decent or fully-formed human are two different things that don't necessarily travel together. It's an epidemic among racing cyclists, who seldom smile or wave or acknowledge the rest of us when out on the road. There will be plenty of shaved legs and bright team jerseys and attitude in town this weekend. And I'm forecasting an undersupply of humility and perspective.

Riding up a few hills on a $8000 carbon fibre bike doesn't impress me greatly. If you're thin and fit and young, it would be more surprising if you couldn't. My cycling heroes do better than that.

Try Lan Yin Tasi (top left). She's 84. Every year for the past 26 years, she's cranked out 200km to raise money for multiple sclerosis research. She does it on a single-speed bike, in a dress and high heels. That's pretty impressive.

Or how about Bram Moen's mum? She covers 6000km a year, just like me, but she's 84 and just got a flash new bike. Or Scott Cutshall, who lost about 150 kilograms and rode himself back into health.

I guess there will be a lot of rich white blokes - the mainstay of competitive cycling - in Bright this weekend who think they're pretty special. The shocking truth is, they're not.

421km so far this year.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A bastard called Buffalo

Mt Buffalo is the final major climb of the Alpine Classic 200km. I've never ridden it, although I've heard chilling tales and looked into the dead eyes of those who've tackled the beast after 130km of riding in the midsummer heat. One friend, absent from the Classic this year due to an ever-expanding list of almost-credible excuses, rates this his favourite climb. But there's nothing like finding out for yourself.

Like the other rides I'm doing this week, the 72km round trip up Buffalo and back was meant to be a confidence builder. And that's exactly how it started out on the lower slopes of the 1695 metre mountain - the day was cool and the going not too hard, just a steady pedal up the nicely-graded road as it winds upward and upward. After about an hour of this, it's hard not to start wondering how much further is to go, especially as a steady stream of early starters are coming the other way yelling greetings as they blur past. No clue from road markings or signs. No sky visible through the trees signalling a crest. Never mind, I tell myself, enjoy the views and push onwards.
After two hours, with the top nowhere in sight and the second water bottle rapidly emptying, it's hard not to become a little dispirited. I hadn't eaten, thinking two hours would nail it and was starting to get hungry. Finally the top of the climb came into view and an undulating four kilometres across the top took me to the lunch stop, my confidence not built so much as challenged.

A quick bite to eat and back on the road. Mindful of the cool temperatures, I bought myself a local tabloid newspaper, hoping that a thin tissue of lies stuffed down my jersey might hold off the chill of descending. And so it proved: I stayed tolerably warm during the thrilling descent back towards Porepunkah. Two and a half hours of upward toil was gone in less than 40 minutes of descending. I took the opportunity of enjoying the last five kilometres into Bright, imagining the thrill and relief of an Alpine finish. Here's hoping. Sunday will tell.

Rest day tomorrow. I need it.

421km so far this year.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Making peace with the beast

I'm no climber, but even thin, fit people on light bikes tell me Tawonga Gap is a beast of a climb. I'm not sure why I dislike it so much, but it's always been my nemesis in the Alpine Classic and I wasn't overly looking forward to riding it today. The western side is the first climb of the Alpine, and it certainly gets the blood, sweat and tears flowing, but the eastern side is a real bastard: a five hundred-odd metre upward grind averaging 6.4 per cent over just seven kilometres, particularly cruel if you've already done a bit of riding and the weather is hot, conditions which are pretty normal at the 100km mark of the Alpine Classic.

The second day of the Semaine Federale offered a trip over the Gap to Mt Beauty as the 'medium' difficulty option. I was ready to take my medicine, but to my surprise, Tawonga Gap and me seem to have buried the hatchet. The weather was cool and overcast today, so maybe that had something to do with it, but I floated up and floated back - if anything about a sweating granny gear grind can be called floating.

Playground of pain.

I rose late, enjoyed a more modest breakfast and gave it some time to go down, so the outward journey was unremarkable except for the unseasonally chilly temperatures on the way down the Mt Beauty side of the hill and the fact I dropped one wordless wheelsucker on the climb and passed two folk on mountain bikes. At the lunch stop I discovered I had forgotten my brightly-coloured lunch ticket, so had to stick my hand in my pocket. After a most enjoyable and relaxed lunch in the cafe it was back on the road with chattering teeth hoping the first climb would warm me up a little.

Happily that's exactly what it did. Concentrating on not wearing myself out - there is a similarly gruelling climb of Mt Buffalo tomorow - and sticking to a steady pace, I found the return voyage much easier than the outbound trip. This steady pace saw me cheerfully at the top in just over 40 minutes, just in time for a bright red Hyundai i30 hatchback with NSW registration plates XBE023 to pass within 30cm of my elbow and speed off into the distance.

The descent into Bright was a blast, even with a little rain which made the corners slick, and I was happy to complete the 62km with two difficult climbs in just under three and a half hours on the bike. I was even happier to spot a bright red Hyundai i30 hatchback with NSW registration plates XBE023 in the main street of Bright while heading for a post-ride beer. It was clearly their lucky day, because I opted to leave a polite note on their windscreen, rather than carving it into their shiny new paintjob. All in all a righteous day's work.

344km so far this year.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

And so it begins.

After my last giddy post it's perhaps not too surprising I was up bright and early for the first day of riding in the Semaine Federale. It was cooler today than yesterday's 35 degree heat so I pulled on a long jersey before heading over to Ride HQ next door for breakfast. And what a spread there was: sausages and bacon and eggs and toast and juice and more. I lounged around and ate far too much before sorting myself out for a flat 60km to Myrtleford.

There's no official start time on the Semaine Federale rides, so after watching a few folk get away early I set off about 8.30am. Distended stomach notwithstanding, I followed a couple down the excellent Rail Trail, although many riders for some unknown reason chose to stay on the road. Soon after leaving Bright I was on my own and making steady progress into the headwind, the long sleeved jersey discarded as the sun came out. Just outside Myrtleford I picked up a couple of other riders, but they apparently weren't feeling social or don't appreciate large bearded men drafting them to escape the wind, so I let them continue on their wordless way.

Both the 100km and the 60km rides today appealed and although the 100km was tempting it's a bit dangerous to go out too hard on day one. The urge to ditch the plan was never stronger than at Myrtleford where the ride signs showed only a flat and easy 20km to the Lake Buffalo checkpoint. I stayed strong and repaired to the bakery for a cool drink. There were more riders about here: with 100 riders, three ride options and no set start times, people tend to spread out a bit on the road. I had a chat with the famous Leigh Patterson (pictured below), chucked my lunch in my musette (10.30am is a tad early for lunch after a huge breakfast) and got back on the road.
The ride back was made even more agreeable by the tailwind. More riders were evident now, particularly families taking advantage of the rail trail and the bike parking at the Rail Trail Cafe at Porepunkah was well and truly full. The last few kilometres were fast ones, even dodging the growing bike traffic as the Rail Trail neared town. We have a harder ride tomorrow - over the evil Tawonga Gap - so nice to have an easy day to start with. Happily, I'm back in time for an afternoon nap before the riders' bar opens at 5pm.

281km so far this year.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Ready for the Semaine Fédérale en Australia

The Semaine Federale stars tomorrow. A week of Audax rides out of Bright in the lead up to the Alpine Classic. It's the first time the much-loved event has been held outside of France. I signed up about a day after the event was announced and in an act of uncharacteristic forward planning booked my accommodation a year in advance, which was just was well. I snared the last rooms in Bright for the Alpine weekend.

I'm in Bright now, like a kid waiting for Christmas. I left Hobart Thursday night, took the Bass Strait ferry Friday morning, stopped over in Lancefield Friday night for a pre-ride ride with the mighty Lancefield Lairs and arrived in Bright this evening - Saturday after another three hour drive. Despite being a full day before I told them I would be here (my planning and logistical skills aren't really that great, especially when I'm working well in advance) the lovely folk at Pioneer Garden Cottages were able to fit me in.

I unpacked the bikes, I bought two because you can't be too careful and went to register for the event. The lovely ride organisers gave me five maps, covering the week's rides, an armband and a brevet booklet for the checkpoints. Breakfast and lunch are laid on daily. All I have to do is to turn up each day and decide whether I want to do the 100km hard ride or the 60km medium ride. The 6-10km easy ride might be taking things a bit easy. My wife arrives Thursday to come for a few rides and soak up the amazing atmosphere of Bright at Alpine Classic time and three of the Lairs will be joining us for the night before and after the Alpine. Even the weather forecasts look ok.

How good a week is this going to be?

(Photo is a random shot I took during the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games.)

Sometimes the outcome is inevitable

Too good to pass up on, check out this mad carbon fibre wheel failure. The link comes from Cycling Weapon of Mass Destruction, which is one of my all-time favourite cycling blogs. A guy who really loves bikes.

214km so far this year.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Do not ask for whom the bell tolls

Cadel Evans reckons drivers licences are too easy to get and too hard to lose in Australia. I agree. Bad motoring killed 1500 people on Australia's roads last year. All too often a cyclist dies because a driver is speeding, inattentive, impatient or drunk or more than one of these factors.

More than 178,000 people have died on on Australia's roads since records were first kept in 1925. That's the population of Geelong, our 12th biggest city, where Cadel was speaking. It's such a terrible cost.

76km so far this year.

Friday, January 01, 2010

And that was the year that was.

It wasn't a bad year, 2009. Here's hoping 2010 is a cracker for everyone.

I managed to crank out 6,047km on the bike, my second best year on record at an average speed of 21.6km/h, a slight improvement on previous years. The magic 6,000km mark wasn't achieved in the usual frenzy of November and December pedalling, but achieved via a little more consistency and slow and demanding hill riding in preparation for the Alpine Classic and the Semaine Federale in just two weeks. The distance came through 178 rides, 282 hours in the saddle and yielded a new top speed of 86km/h. Another Alpine 130km, another Oppy, another Mallee Routes. My first permanent and my first time trial in years. Some briliant off road riding and some challenging hills late in the year for a bit of variety. In March I rode 881km, my best month since I started writing my rides down in 2005, and in August just 112km. The rain didn't help much, Tasmania had it's rainest year in 70 years, though I know it's not a good excuse it does tend to reduce the impulse to get out there.

I set myself some goals this year, which I'd quite conveniently forgotten until now: 7200km on the bike, well that didn't quite work out; a top 1,000 finish on, not even close - it seems theres a lot more people on it this year; 180 rides, well nearly; average speed of 22.5km/h, at least I'm heading in the right direction. A vintage Oppy, the Alpine Classic was great, but I don't think I qualify for an Audax Australia award this year.

I don't think I'm going to set any hard and fast goals for this year, though I'd like to improve on last year. I've made plans to the Alpine, the Oppy, some touring in September, a trip to watch the World Cycling Championships in Geelong the same month. I want to qualify for the Year-Round Randonneur award by completing a 200km ride every month. There's a start.

Blog-wise, the year wasn't too bad either, 37 posts -which is down a little on the average in the four years I've been blogging here. The site had 6700 visits from 4400 visitors from every continent and a host of countries, mainly Australia, the UK and the US, but also Namibia, Afghanistan, Peru and Latvia among a host of other wonderful and far flung places. To everyone who read or offered a comment or linked or said something in person, thanks. May 2010 be safe and prosperous and may each of your rides seem somehow downhill and with the wind at your back.

0km so far this year.