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.