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.