Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Lazy, unoriginal and wrong

I can still remember reading the first anti-cyclist troll column I ever encountered. It was in the pages of the Manly Daily around 1984. It was around the time of the triathlon boom, when there was an increase in the number and visibility of cyclists on the roads and some bright spark whose name I have long forgotten trotted out the arguments we're all now well familiar with. I wrote a letter to the editor and received a reply that it was the columnist's job to be controversial.

In the years since I've read the same tripe dozens of times. The formula is the stuff of lazy journalism. Pick a visible minority and trot out a bunch of ill-informed stereotypes based on a personal grudge and a blinkered view of the world. It used to be religious or racial stereotypes, but those sorts of hateful opinions are now frowned upon so the lazy columnist bereft of ideas must find other groups to deride. Fat people, the poor, the unemployed, the young; the list changes from time to time, but the intent and effect are unchanging.

Daniel Meers of the Gold Coast Bulletin (@danielmeers on Twitter) is the latest to have crack at the genre. His effort is a nice try, but he has nothing new to add, all the long-discredited arguments are there: the registration furphy, the claims of universal lawlessness, the cry unsupported by any evidence that cyclists are a danger to all and sundry, the suggestion that roads are built for the exclusive use of cars to travel at speed from one place to another, the call for radical action: in this case a ban on cyclists altogether. Indeed Daniel calls for a "war on cyclists" and even makes a thinly veiled threat that motorists must "win back the roads" before "something bad really happens".

By their own behaviour on the roads, the overwhelming majority of cyclists and motorists are able to get along just fine. The motorist (and I am one of those as well) is lavishly catered for with an astonishingly well-resourced and ever-expanding network of roads paid for by all taxpayers. Only a tiny minority feel disinclined to share or behave in a courteous fashion.

Daniel says there's a mob of louts every morning, causing havoc on the roads in his area. What a good journalist does is grabs a photographer, gets out of bed a bit early and gets the story. Talk to the aggrieved  locals, talk to the cyclists and get some photos of them breaking the law.

Daniel says the cyclists hold him up a few minutes as he drives three kilometres (!) to his morning jog. A good journalist doesn't allow personal interests to influence his work, particularly not a petty nuisance like being slowed down for a few minutes a day. Maybe that's a good sign there's no other injustices on the Gold Coast deserving of his attention and this level of outrage. Somehow I suspect those few minutes he's lost isn't time he was using to research a cancer cure or even put into polishing this particular column.

Oddly, what the Gold Coast Bulletin doesn't realise is that cyclists buy papers too. Bike shops are paying advertisers. Alienating a section of the community isn't a good way to increase either credibility or readership. As this most recent, larger and more lasting bike boom is upon us, those who don't ride a bike for recreation or transport commonly have a friend, a brother, a sister, a son or daughter or workmate who does. The last two editors I've worked for have both been cyclists. The newspaper where I work had written plenty of positive stories about cycling as have many others. It's a more nuanced and informed and refreshing approach compared to what the Gold Coast Bulletin - appropriately enough sometimes known as "The Bully" - is reaching for here.

We have a right to expect more of our senior journalists and a right to pull them up when get it as wrong as this. It is worth noting Meers has copped a fair pasting in the comments section and on Twitter. Even Robbie McEwen has joined in. Every single argument he raises in this forgettable effort is well and truly refuted by his readers. It that's not a sign the world is changing for the better, I don't know what is. 

3796km so far this year.

Ash Dash 2012

Pelverata Saddle is the toughest climb of the day
The Ash Dash is one of Tasmania's best rides, 210km taking in some of the most epic climbs south of the city, with glorious views over farmland and rivers and ocean to temper the suffering of climbing 4600 metres in on outing.

The ride, which has been running for many years, wasn't organised by Audax last year although I'm told a few intrepid riders did the course on their own. I stuck my hand up as ride organiser this year for two reasons: firstly to gain some experience running events, secondly so I didn't have to ride the bugger. I was a lot fitter in 2009 than I am now, and even then I found it a challenge.

The task was made much easier by the fact that I had four volunteers offer to help out to help me with the ride. That meant we could have three fully staffed checkpoints, which makes life infinitely easier for the organiser who doesn't then have to dash all over the course opening and closing checkpoints as riders pass through. Most riders commented that the reception and support at the checkpoints was the highlight of their  day.

Heading up to Vinces Saddle.
We had a shade under 20 entrants for the ride - including a quarter of Lancefield Lairs who flew down from Victoria for the event. The weather forecast was good, with moderate temperatures and a little rain predicted. In the event there were only a few drops on the course during the day.

I left home at 5.30am and set up the my little folding table at the start at 6.15am for early arrivals. There were none of course and the last ten minutes before the ride was a flurry of entry forms and payments going one way and cue sheets and brevet cards the other. We ended up starting a few minutes late.

I headed out onto the course to take photos, catching most of the riders as they went over Vince's Saddle. Everyone was travelling strong, although there was a wide spread between riders even at that early stage. I raced to the supermarket to buy the remainder of the food for the controls, then headed to Silver Hill where Heather was chatting to a group of Southern Pedals riders who were passing through on a training ride. The first arrivals weren't far behind and Chris arrived, picked up the supplies for the Woodbridge Saddle control and left to greet the riders at the top of one of the hardest climbs of the day. Then I wandered off to Kaoota to meet Stephen and set up that control and wait.

Frank looks glad that Silver Hill is behind him.
And wait we did. After chatting for a while, I set off looking for the lead group. They were still 20km out, suggesting the 30km average speed which dictates the control opening time is simple not achievable on this ride, even with some pretty sharp riders out on the course. They covered the distance in pretty quick time and the control sprang into life, which meant it was my turn to go and set up at the finish at Salamanca Place.

The finish should be called "The Control of Smiles" because looking back on my photos, everyone has very broad grins - either at the joy of completing the challenge, or perhaps just because the pain has stopped. At any rate I was kept busy with riders arriving from 3.55pm right through to two minutes before the official cutoff of 8.38pm.

Happy finishers.
We've had some very helpful suggestions for next year: cold drinks at all the controls, route marking on the day, and adding the road numbers to the cue sheet. The entry fee will likely go up a smidge, as will the allowable time limit, to reflect the extra 10km this ride covers, None of them sound too difficult so hopefully we can incorporate then without too much trouble. I'm very keen to add a shorter option too - I'm going to have a think about a 110km or a 120km route which starts a little later and takes in a couple of the existing checkpoints. I'll also investigate electronic entry to avoid the last minute rush on the morning.

Thanks to all of the riders for taking part and their feedback, and hearty congratulations to our volunteers for making this one of the best Audax rides I've been involved with in recent years.

3763km so far this year.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Dearie gracious me.

I'm calling it, the cycling revolution has finally jumped the shark.

I work in the mainstream meadia, so I know only too well how easily someone's dumb idea translates from some lightbulb moment in a news conference to something uninformed and shallow and useless with a photo on page seven. Feast your eyes on this junk, it's what happens when the Canberra Times unleashes its "Lifestyle and Entertainment Reporter" on recreational cycling.

If you are a woman and would like to find a husband, then you should invest in some Lycra, preferably with a splash of neon to be on trend for summer, and sensible underwear which doesn't give you a VPL [visible panty line], according to co-owner of The Cyclery, Jayson Clarke.

Now I'm one of those old school hacks who thinks that "lifestyle and entertainment reporters" aren't real journalists, but apparently it has been decided that we're going to address the crisis in the newspaper industry by giving up on hard news and feeding people lightweight garbage like this.

The same colour jersey and shorts must be worn, or at least look like they should be worn together. "You don't drive a Mercedes while wearing a BMW shirt, so when it comes to your outfit, wearing a different brand or kind of jersey to your shorts is a no-no," Clarke added.

There is, of course, that the owners of the bike shop were having a huge laugh at her expense, but nonetheless, what bemuses me is this: what service is this article to readers who might be thinking of buying a bike? 

There are two types of people who have a $16,000 road racing bike as recommended in this piece. There's the elite athlete (who doesn't pay for the bike anyway, and the clueless whacker with too much money. I wonder which category Jenna Clarke falls into? For that money, you could buy four or five fine superb bikes, any one of which might stand a chance of having more than one use: riding at top speed on smooth roads in fine weather during the day with a load no more demanding than a half full waterbottle. (Don't get me started on the fact most of the people who ride these type of bikes in fact don't race and have lamentable bike handling skills and very poor road manners.)

There's a hint in there too about how the many in the cycling industry will forever be at the mercy of boom and bust. If you think recommending a $16,000 bike to a novice rider is going to bring people rushing to your door, maybe you don't deserve to be in business. When cycling is no longer "the new golf" I can see a lot of these sort of bike shops going broke.

Ah, what the hell, I'm going for a ride. In my shorts and T-shirt on my old steel bike. Maybe I'm just not serious about cycling.

3659km so far this year. 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

My stretch of glory

The North Huon Road:  a fine stretch of gravel.
For almost every cyclist, fast or slow, competitive or commuter, there strikes the occasional desire to test the legs. For most of us not of the lyrca clad set, who entertain no illusions of Tour de France glory, the urge may seldom be strong enough to rise much above our normal pace, save for the occasional sprint through the orange traffic light or the rise from the saddle up a sharp hill or the sly pursuit of a another rider on the morning commute.

Those moments, competing with no-one - barely even ourselves - are all about the joy of propelling oneself down the road at an interesting  pace for a few moments or a few minutes. That racing spirit need not be strong, nor last for long, but it is there.

Similarly, for each of us there is a stretch of road, so familiar, ridden so often that we regard it almost as our own. Every bump, each turn, every hazard and rise is mapped is so deeply ingrained in our minds that each run along them can be done almost asleep.

For me, that stretch of road is the North Huon Road. It's one of the nicest stretches of gravel road around this neck of the woods. There's little traffic and the surface is usually smooth and fast. Roadies normally turn around just before this bit without realising what they're missing, lest their shiny plastic bikes be shaken asunder by a peril we lesser mortals cannot even perceive.

So imagine my surprise when I set up a segment on Strava for my favourite slightly downhill homeward gravel stretch, to find that I was within spitting distance of being the king of the North Huon Road! Normally I'm well down the leaderboard on popular segments, thanks to a combination of a lack of ability and a lack of caring. But on my own damn road, against just 15 others how has passed that way before? I had to be in with a shot!

I made my move coming back from the shops the other Sunday. The stretch is only 5km long and with the commuter bike locked in on the top chainring, a gentle tail wind and a bit of effort I was able to hold onto an average of 31km/h for the distance, coming in two seconds under ten minutes and knocking 30 seconds off the previous best. I think I've left myself a little room for personal improvement too. That's just as well, because I can feel the hot breath of a competitive neighbour one the back of my neck, trying to take back what it rightfully mine. But for for now these fleeting moments of glory are mine. I am the king of the North Huon Road.

3504km so far this year.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Mountain River Meander 2012

A rider prepares for the start.
The Audax club in Tasmania is a small one, with about eight regular members. In recent years we've been going through a bit of a quiet time, with the departure of a stalwart long time club president and ride organiser. Last year we didn't run a single ride, partly because we missed the deadline for the club calendar.

This year is a rebuilding year for Audax in Tasmania. The rough plan is to hold enough rides to boost rider participation and to increase that number over each of the coming years. That's the theory anyway, here's hoping it works out.

The Mountain River Meander 100km was our first ride for this year, coming on the first weekend of the season. With four pre-ride entries and excellent weather, it wasn't a bad start at all, considering there are rides in the more populous states that only attract one or two riders. Four riders is half the club!

After the newbie ride organiser (me) sorted out entries and brevet cards and maps and cue sheets,  Andrew and Frank new Audax rider John and I set off at 9am down the Huon Highway and out through Judbury for the first leg of the course. We stuck together, which made a pleasant change for me because I'm used to riding alone. By Tasmanian standards it's a pretty flat and fast course with only 750-odd metres of climbing and oly one major hill of 150m. We stopped in Huonville for a quick break before heading out along the Cygnet Coast Road, one of my favourite parts of the ride. We hit the lovely burger cafe at Cygnet before tacking the dreaded Balf's Hill - which since I always hit it with a full stomach and cool legs is never fun. Once over we zoomed back to Huonville, spreading out only along the final grind up the highway to Mountain River, where I flagged a little in the headwind and dropped back a little. We covered the course in about five hours 30 minutes, including about an hour of breaks.

All in all it was a delightful ride in very pleasant company. I hope to run it again next year, having fixed a couple of minor issues with the cue sheet and maybe added a slight diversion or to to make sure it's over the magic 100km mark - my computer registered 99.3km - another 700m should not be hard to find.

3455km so far this year.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Online shopping

I'm a huge fan of online shopping. Living in the wilds of rural Tasmania, I don't always have time to get to the bike shop during weekdays and on the weekend they're too far away. Going online is a terribly convenient way to shop.

That having been said, when I do buy online, particularly from offshore, I feel bad about not supporting my local bike shop. It's a case of use it or lose it and we need to support our local retaillers or we'll have noone to blame but ourselves when they're gone. (On a not unrelated and totally self-interested note: support your local newspaper too. Same reasons apply.)

With all that in mind I'm delighted to discover that Australia's greatest bike shop Abbotsford Cycles has a stunning new website and offers online ordering. In my admittedly biased opinion, Abbotsford is the best bike shop in Australia for people with an audax or touring bent to find their gear. And anyone else. Their Brooks saddles have always been keenly priced and there's a bunch of other specials on there too. I highly recommend Abbotsford Cycles for all your cycling needs. They're a long time supporter of the Audax club in Victoria and damn fine folk to boot. If you can't get to one of their the stunning shops, give their online store a try. I will be placing my order as soon as I finish this post: for some Boeshield T9 lube and some of that lovely-looking Phil Wood grease I've always wanted.

3075km so far this year.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Too windy to ride.

Too windy to ride today with winds of 50km/h predicted and gusts usually 50% above that. It's enough to knock a man from his trusty steed. This was the be a week of cycling up the West Coast of Tasmania, but it wasn't going to be a pleasant trip so it has been put on hold for the time being. So instead I've decided to clean up the shed and patch some tubes which have been sitting too long waiting for some attention.

My effort to tidy up my tools has left me rather chuffed. It doesn't seem like much but it's cleaned up the bench and has made my tiny working space much neater and far more organised than it was.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Long term review Grand Bois Cerf 700x28c tyres

Like their slightly wider counterparts, the Grand Bois Cerf's are a very nice tyre. They're light and supple and roll beautifully. I've done almost exactly 1200km on the set I bought from Compass Bicycle in June and I'm very impressed. With a heavy heart I'll be taking them off the bike today though - they're just to prone to punctures for my liking.

The Grand Bois tyres in general are a lovely tyre. They roll beautifully and seem to go even better up hills, which is where I need help the most. They run nicely at a range of pressures - from 80psi for cruising around town and on unsealed roads to 100psi for spirited audax riding. But I suspect one of the things that makes them so delightful to ride - the seeming lack of any sort of puncture protection within the tread - is also the source of their greatest downfall. Most modern tyres have a thin strip of material, often kevlar, sandwiched between the tread layers. It tends to reduce punctures but also adds weight, reduces the suppleness of the tyre and very slightly increases rolling resistance.

For some reason, the Cerfs haven't worn particularly well for me. After only 1200km of use on sealed road and bike paths the rear tyre is worn far more than I would expect. I'd estimate that tyre had another 1000km of travel left in it, which is a real shame for a $60 tyre.

Whether it is related to the wear problem is hard to say for certain but I've also suffered a series of punctures with these tyres - four in the last month. At first I suspected that the problem was my failure to properly find and fix the root cause of the first puncture but looking at the tubes I've spent this morning repairing, each of the tiny pinhole punctures has happened in a different spot. One seems to have been caused by a tiny piece of glass, another by a small piece of wire. I suspect that many modern tyres would have shrugged these off. The Grand Bois Cypress suffered a similar run of flats before I hung them up too but I put that down to back luck. I guess I'm a slow learner. Four punctures in a month is more than I've suffered in the last couple of years and it's why I'll be sadly handing up the Cerfs and putting the Continental Gatorskins back on. A much lesser tyre, but at least I'll be spending more time riding and less time changing tubes.

2942km so far this year.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Spring into Seymour 2012

Crossing Kirwan's Bridge. It's never been ridden, not even for a dare. 
Spring means the Spring into Seymour. I've fronted up for this lovely ride four times before, although have only started three times due to the major floods which saw the ride cancelled in 2010. I did the 200km on my own in 2006, before backing up for the 160km ride in 2007 and 2009. This year, for reasons I forgot to enquire about, the shorter distance had been cut to 120km, missing out the delightful section containing the Locksley Pub.

I caught the plane up on Friday afternoon and rode from the airport. Having done the "box bike in Hobart, unbox bike in Melbourne, ride away" routine several times before I'm getting a bit better at making a somewhat smooth getaway. I headed to Broadmeadows Station, from where I caught a train to Seymour and checked in to the caravan park for a chilly night in the world's coldest cabin.

Up for breakfast, I met Steve and Ken and John shortly before the start. It was a cool and clear day with little wind, so we set off like cut cats, stopping only to fix a puncture I suffered about 40km in. We had a brief break at Nagambie before continuing the thundering pace towards the bakery at Murchison. When we reached the decrepit Kirwans bridge, I realised I had the camera with me but the memory case was missing. Using the onboard memory, I was at least able to get the traditional walking across the bridge shot which I seem to take every year along with a couple of other to remember the ride by.

If they were so convinced I wasn't going to get the shot, why did they smile?
Now over the morning I thought we were doing ok, and we were, but the hidden ingredient in our stunning outward speed on the slightly downhill course was a gentle tailwind, which lifted slightly as we turned back into it. As usual on this ride, I'd gone out a little hard so the return trip wasn't quite the athletic tour de force I might have hoped for. In truth, it was probably a few things combining - this being the longest ride on the Thorn so far, a lack of fitness, a bit of excess weight on the rider, all ganged up to make the final 40km a bit of a trial. The Lairs were very patient as I flagged, then rallied, then flagged again, but we eventually made it back to Seymour in a respectable time. Perhaps it was just as well we were doing 120km and not 160km.

On the bright side, apart from the puncture, the bike didn't try to kill me. I replaced the cransket and cassette and chain with brand new ones and the drivetrain problems which pitched me over the handlebars seem to have gone. Having eliminated every other possible cause, I measured the chain after my last accident - and it was well outside the limit of the measuring gauge and should have been replaced months ago. Another lesson learned.

I can't say I've finished a 120km ride quite so buggered for many years. Every part of me seemed to hurt at the end and I'm not sure I was making much sense over the celebratory beers. Nevertheless after a huge meal of pizza and a big sleep I somehow managed to ride back out to the airport for my flight home on Sunday after another wonderful weekend of riding in country Victoria.

2911km so far this year.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Bury my bike at Wounded Knee

My bike is trying to kill me. Twice in two weeks I've been thrown over the handlebars. The first excursion was puzzling, the second simply painful.

It started with a relatively low-speed crash as I came off the bike track in Hobart after a morning spin. One moment I was bobbing along out of the saddle, the next I was on my arse. At the time I put it down to a mudguard stay popping out at an inopportune moment and lodging in the front wheel, although there was no marks on either to indicate they'd jammed together. Nonetheless, I fixed the stay and carried on assuming all was well.

Then yesterday on my way home from my regular Sunday ride, it happened again. I rose from the saddle in a low gear on a slight rise and bang, down I went, taking the impact on my right knee again. This time the damage was a lot more - a big open wound on my knee with lots of dirt and gravel. I picked up the bike and noticed the chain had snapped, although I suspect this isn't what caused the accident. Puzzled and not a little sore I walked the bike the three kilometres back to the car, coasting down the hills where I could.

Once I cleaned up my knee I had a closer look at the bike. Not a mark on it. I thought it might be a mudguard problem: a sudden flexing of the wheel under load stopping the back wheel. But that didn't seem likely. I consulted my brains trust on Facebook who came up with a bunch of possibilities, the most likely of which seems to be chainsuck, a jamming of the chain which happens when the chain fails to disengage from the back of the chainrings properly. It's more common with worn chainrings apparently. Two things confirm this diagnosis; a slight hooking of the chainrings indicating they're a bit worn - hence likely to catch - and a few telltale chips in the paint on the chainstay.

I'll be replacing the worn chainring and the chain, and likely the cassette as well. The two incidents have spooked me a bit, but I guess it will make me a bit more focussed on regular maintenance, something I might have become a bit slack with of late.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

A million types of wrong

Spotted in Hobart the other day, the bike that is one million types of wrong. The odds are high that a bike shop was involved in this atrocity at some point. They should hang their heads in shame.

2153km so far this year.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Cygnet loop

It's been a while since I did the very agreeable loop down along the Huon River to Cygnet and back. The ride follows the Huon River, pretty much from my house, along the Glen Huon Road, through Huonville, then along the delightful Cygnet Coast Road from Cradoc.

Even though winter is upon us and the forecast was somewhat inconclusive, Saturday turned out to be a very pleasant day for the outing. After fitting a new set of the magnificent 28mm Grand Bois tyres and a new set of brakes, I set off from home - joining up with the other four at Huonville.

Luck seemed to be with us. The day was still and the views through the trees of the river were lovely. There was hardly any traffic - just three cars in the middle 30km of the ride - and though it was overcast we didn't get a spot of rain. The dirt road section of the ride was smooth and dry and fast, the hamburgers at Devour at Cygnet were terrific and even Balf's Hill didn't hold its usual sting. We made it back to Huonville just before the rain hit and watched the worst of it pass over a hot chocolate in DS cafe before the gentle spin home. All in all a magnificent day to be out.

1796km so far this year.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The app happy cyclist

I haven't really been doing the miles lately (nor updating the blog) mainly thanks for work and weather. Of the two work can probably take more of the blame, sometimes a ride in the wind and rain can be just the invigorating thing one needs, as I found out today, racing the rain squalls down the valley.

One of the things that has sparked my interest of late has been the iphone app Strava. I've been using Cyclemeter for the last 18 months or so and I'm very happy with it. The app is reliable and does more things than most people would ever want from an app. My favourite feature is the app talking to you at pre-set intervals, informing you how you're doing. It's quite a nice addition to the top pocket of the handlebar bag.

Strava takes a different approach. The app itself offers a similar, if simplified interface for logging rides, but it's online that it really comes into its own. Think of it a social networking for cyclists. Apart from "competing" with your own times, Strava logs the times of every other cyclist who rides sections of road nominated by users as "segments". These are usually hill climb. The app then ranks you against other riders automatically, producing a league table for the segment. So for any given ride, the app or website may inform you that you've done a personal best, or even ridden such and such a segment faster than anyone before.

I'm a pretty slow rider so there's no King of the Mountains results for me in there, although it is quite amusing to know that on my meanderings I'm recording the slowest or second slowest times for sections near and far.

There's a paid version of Strava, which adds some features. I'm always keen to support apps and websites when they provide useful features. I'm holding off with Strava for a few reasons. One is the app is still pretty basic, displaying only time, distance and  average speed on the front page, which makes Strava pretty useless as a bike computer replacement (the workaround here is to use something like Cyclemeter and upload the GPS file to Strava.) It lacks auto-stop,meaning if you stop for a coffee, you need to remember to stop and restart the timer. Somewhat obviously the whole concept is oriented to the go-fast brigade, with little interest shown in how you're competing with yourself. For example, while the website notes only your fastest time for any particular segment, there's no way of seeing your other times. Cyclemeter offers this within the iPhone app.

Strava offers a little applet for your blog, which is handy, although mine displays miles not kilometres despite the opposite being my preference and doesn't seem to update correctly. These little niggles are perhaps outweighed by the fun of seeing just how many speedy cyclists there are out there to 'ride against'. The free Strava app is well worth a look. I'll see how Strava develops before laying out for the Pro version, which estimates watts and gives a 'suffer score' - whatever that may mean.

1607km so far this year. 

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Window shopping

It's raining today and though the urge to ride it strong after two days off the bike it's definitely not a good day for it until the weather clears and the fog lifts. I'm spending some time instead wandering the web, window shopping for the perfect bike.

I've raved about Grand Bois tyres before, having picked up a pair from Compass Bicycle and enjoyed their terrific responsiveness. But Grand Bois also make a stunning range of bikes, stylish and functional rides, with mudguards and handlebar bag racks and lights designed into the package, not tacked on as an afterthought. They're based in Japan, so their website is not surprisingly in Japanese, although some random clickling unearths some real gems. For mine, the Model D above is pretty special: demountable steel frame with SandS couplers, old style one-inch stem, decaleur and bag rack. Exactly the sort of bike at home on a fast bunch ride, a daily commute or on a 400km plus day. It's old school, but the good bits of old school, and in many ways reminiscent of a 1950s Rene Herse which is clearly part of its aesthetic inspiration.

Grand Bois are lovely bikes, but somehow I can't see myself jumping on a plane to Japan (particularly when I have a perfectly decent randonneur bike as it is).

My absolute favourite window shopping destination on the web is Mitch Pryor's MAP Cycles. There is eye-candy galore on this website. All of it as beautifully photographed as it is constructed. His rando bikes are sublime but every bike on the site is a stunner including a mixte which I've drooled over more than once for it's sheer beauty. If I had the money, I might fly over to the US for a chat with Mitch. Nordavinden over at Rawland entices with its rough charm too: if I was only allowed to have one bike, perhaps it would be this. But what cruel world would allow us only one bike? No doubt more lovely machines will emerge from the 2012 North American Handmade Bicycle Show this week in Sacramento. I was sorely tempted to buy a plane ticket this year, one day I will visit for sure.

From the trends emerging at NAHBS and elsewhere, it's my firm conviction that disk brakes and perhaps even electronic shifting will become the norm on road bikes within a couple of years, so even the remotest thought of a new frame had been banished from my mind until the technology settles down. Funny to think such a timeless piece of machinery is still evolving so quickly for the better.

859km so far this year.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Oppy training begins.

Oppy 2012 is a shade under two months away and I'm  not particularly fit. I haven't done many miles and I haven't shed the festive season flab as quickly as last year. The goal this year is 400km in 24 hours, though at the moment I'm in no fit state. It's very rare I'll go for a ride for a reason other than for enjoyment or for transport, but I'm going to need some more miles in my legs than I have at present for this one.

I took the Crosscheck out for a quick 30km on the dirt today, a nice run up through the rolling hills to Lonnavale and back. Felt a bit slow on the way out but this ride is always a lot harder on the way out, being slightly uphill and usually into the wind. There was a little traffic from the campground on these normally quiet roads, checkout time must be 11am, after then it was quiet and I finished up out in the forest near the Russell River. The return ride is super-fast on lovely dirt roads, with the odd sketchy corner thrown in for good measure. The Crosscheck has a rock-hard seat on it, so I feel every bump. My homeward momentum was broken only by one of my bottle cages breaking - presumably because of the jarring uneven surface. I had wanted to add another 25km loop on the end, but it's only day one and it would be a shame to try to do too much too soon. Next week's goal will have to be a bit more ambitious.

My last Oppy was a good one, and while my January this year was a little better than last year, I've got a lot of miles to ride in February to make the 676km which set such a good base for last year's effort. Time to get busy.

411km so far this year.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Crosscheck redux

The Crosscheck has done some epic rides over the years but was looking a bit the worse for wear. For the last few months the frame has hung in the shed awaiting a new mission. A fresh paintjob and it's as good as new, ready for another 30,000km. Mostly parts from the shed, downtube friction shifters, fat tyres and a hard road bike saddle that makes me miss my Brooks, but keeps the weight down. Without lights, mudguards and racks, the old girl feels like a racer.

We did a short test ride today, which will be followed up with a longer ride out into the wilds tomorrow. Will take my mind off the fact I'm skipping the the carnival of suffering that is the Alpine Classic. Good luck to all those who are riding, while you're heading up Buffalo, I'll be having a swim in the Weld River.

308km so far this year.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Dickhead of the week

Former Australian cricketer, uber-bogan and all-round oxygen thief Shane Warne has had a funny run of luck lately. Last week he had a bleat about cyclists riding two abreast, something that's perfectly legal in every state in Australia. Drawing on a fairly limited store of intellect, Warne managed to trot out many of the same tired old cliches that most cyclists would be well familiar with, to the delight of some of his dopier followers and the dismay of anyone who rides a bike. It's a familiar debate, we've seen it time and time again on the websites and blogs and comments sections. Nothing new or interesting here. For shits and giggles I've reproduced it below, read from the bottom up:

 Shane Warne 

Please do something about it council and govt - single file all bike riding on the road or a ban for 12 months ! And pay rego - fair ?
 Shane Warne 

Ps actually if you are going to ride on the roads you should pay rego and have a number plate, only fair Once again,single file please !!!!
 Shane Warne 

Seriously I'm all for allowing bike riders to ride on the rd's etc but please act responsible and stay in file...

Yesterday the plot took an interesting twist. Poor old Warnie was sitting innocently  in his luxury car at traffic  lights when for no reason he was attacked by a maniac on two wheels. Again his first post is at the bottom:

 Shane Warne 

its amazing how things pan out, i have only been saying recently please bike riders obey the road rules and keep it safe for everyone ...
 Shane Warne 

that i was being polite and careful and the drivers around him otherwise if anyone decided to be an idiot then he was in real trouble.
 Shane Warne 

anyway, i drive off he rides off and everyone was shaking their head at this bike rider as he was being very dangerous. he was very lucky
 Shane Warne 

can't move nor anyone else, i go to slowly move around him and he just moves with me, yep clipped his tyre and he then abuses me some more.
 Shane Warne 

are you doing he abuses me i say get off the road, he stops in front of me and holds up traffic and just stays on his bike ! so, now i.....
 Shane Warne 

he pulls out in front of me whacks my bonnet with his hand and pulls out in front of all the traffic, i yell out hey buddy what the hell ...
 Shane Warne 

thump on my boot, looked in mirror a bike rider hit my car then held onto my car to pull himself through the traffic, lights change.....
 Shane Warne 

guys stay with me here its important... so there i was driving home after a training session at the mcg.. pulled up at the lights, felt a..

The story got some play in the papers this morning, quoting Warne's tweets. Turns out the cyclist saw Warne's tirade and came up with a totally different version of events. Some highlights:

“What are you doing? You don’t own the road! Get out of the way” he yelled repeatedly. I shook my head and probably yelled something similarly inane back. Now even more agitated the driver continued to yell, “you don’t own the road”. 
"Before I could the driver lurched his car forward forcing my bike wheel and almost my leg under the front of his car. Dumbfounded at how overtly aggressive the driver had been and aware that we were now holding up the traffic, I pulled my bike from under the car and attempted to continue riding. My wheel was jammed against the frame of my bike and the chain was tangled so I had to carry it to the footpath to fix it."
Long story short, the bloke says Warne drove into him and failed to stop. He posted a photo of his buckled back wheel to support his version of events and reported the incident to the police who are apparently doing nothing because the damage to the bike is a civil matter. And oddly, Warne now just wants to put it all behind him as quickly as possible.

 Shane Warne 
Have just seen bike riders version of events, please buddy - whatever ! I'm not going to get into a 5 year old tit for tat..,

I suppose it's too much to expect Warne to be some sort of role model. For a bloke who wants cyclists to obey the law, he's got a funny way of showing the respect he demands. By his own account he ran into someone and left the scene of an accident. He may have been a first-class cricketer but his conduct over the last week does nothing more than show him up as a first class dill.