Saturday, March 26, 2011

Travelling light

When I did a week of touring last year on the way to the Mallee Routes audax ride I cut my load down to the bare minimum and it worked really well. I had everything I needed and I was able to cover good distances each day without feeling I was being slowed down by too much gear. I made a mental note to write something on ultralightweight cycle touring for this blog but then of course forgot all about it. My memory was jogged when I was going through some photos today. 

The photo to the top left (ignore the appalling hotel bedspread background) contains everything I took for a week of touring. From left to right, the most important bits were: wool jersey, merino t-shirt, coolmax t-shirt and lightweight long pants; three pairs of and winter and summer gloves; cycling shorts and longs, lightweight off-bike shoes, toiletries, tools, lock, torch and phone. The panniers and handlebar bag are on the right. Not shown is my rain jacket.

Now this amount of gear was just fine for a hotel-based adventure where a tent and cooking gear aren't needed. That's the sort of touring I enjoy the most, it's not quite the old "credit card and toothbrush" experience but it's pretty close. 

The whole load fitted into my two small panniers, racktop back and handlebar bag. 

The wool jersey I bought last year is particularly handy for this sort of trip because it can be worn on and off the bike and can go a few days without the need for laundering. Similarly the lightweight merino undershirts which can double as t-shirts if needed. The coolmax shirts dry extremely quickly so they can be washed in a hotel sink.  

Next time I think I'll ditch the rack top back and instead buy one of the lovely Gilles Berthoud handlebar bags instead. I've declared my undying love for handlebar bags already, I just need to save my pennies. I'd probably also ditch the spare shoes, because they took up a fair bit of room in my bags. I've also refined my toolkit down considerably. 

I'm planning another trip later this year. The lessons I learned on the Mallee Routes trip last year will come in very hand indeed.

1632km so far this year.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Oppy 2011

The Oppy is my favourite ride, it has been for years. It's a challenge, but with the company and support of a bunch of good friends and some excellent night riding thrown in. The idea is to cover 360km or more in 24 hours. It requires some determination but is within the reach of the ordinary cyclist, of which I am decidedly one. This year's Oppy - my fourth - was easily the best. (2007, 2008, and 2009 rides here for comparison.) Sir Hubert Opperman, whom the ride commemorates, was Australia's greatest endurance cyclist.

There were plenty of reasons it was good, but most of all it was good because I was far fitter than I've been for a while. Having dropped some weight (about six kilograms) and putting in some hard miles in the leadup has made me a much stronger rider, enough to realise dropping another six kilograms would make me even better. 

There were 11 of us in the Lairs peloton this year, riding from Tooberac, doing a big loop around Shepparton, crossing briefly into NSW before heading through Echuca to Rochester.

The weather conditions were perfect, still and warm during both day and night, and not a drop of rain. We were treated to both a delightful sunset but also the rise and company of the largest full moon in years. We made the most of the conditions too, speeding through the first couple of hundred kilometres before nightfall when the something unusual happened: we actually sped up. 

Through the night we raced, sitting between 25km/h and 28km/h for long stretches and the miles fairly rolled by. We kept our rest breaks short thanks to the experience of some of our early rides when we paid the price of being slow out of controls. We had discussed earlier the option of extending the ride to a nice round 400km but for some reason enthusiasm diminished as the night drew on. Next year perhaps.

The only interruption to my otherwise perfect ride was a puncture at kilometre 336, about two kilometres from the football club were were to sleep. Quickly fixed, we were back on our way and I was able to full enjoy three hours sleep until were were up at six and on the road at seven. The last 30 kilometres into Rochester coincided with the sunrise. The brass band kicked up as we rode down the main street and the small crowd clapped and cheers as we pulled in to the park by the Oppy statue for the traditional round of backslaps and handshakes and team photographs. I'm a little tired this afternoon, but stoked that such a tough ride went so well for all of us.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

There's an app for that

The humble cycle computer has come a long way since I was a kid. There's no end of GPS-enabled pieces of kit with heart rate monitors and watt meters and other handy gadgets. Though I am pretty conscientious about keeping track of my riding data, a simple cycle computer has been quite sufficient for me for the past few years, though I've been tempted by some of the bike mounted GPS units - until I see the price!

I've played with a few iPhone apps of late and have been thoroughly impressed by one in particular. Cyclemeter has all sorts of handy functions I never knew I needed. It tracks and records your ride of course, but also offers simple one-click uploading to Facebook and Twitter, calendar integration and plenty of other impressive features. And if you so desire it will tweet or update your Facebook page at set time or distance intervals and read out the responses from your friends. It auto stops and starts. My favourite feature is the voice announcements (which I have set to alert me every kilometre because I find them so charming) in which an Englishwoman's voice tells you how far and fast you have gone. As a bonus, the app is very economical on the phone's battery, provide you ride with the screen turned off. I tend to leave it in my back jersey pocket, the voice announcements cheerily reminding me that it's still working away.

1124km so far this year.