Sunday, January 19, 2014

GoPro stills.

Here's a selection of stills from the GoPro last weekend. I fixed it onto my handlebars with a K-Edge mount and set it it take an image every five seconds whenever the video was also running. Obviously the vast bulk of the images aren't worth a second look but there are some that come out ok without the hassle and risk of using a hand-held camera to capture the moment. (There's a minor cheat, a couple of these images are stills from video. The quality difference should give them away.)

320km so far this year.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Crash and burn

1/24th of a second off the deck.

Long experience has taught me that if you ride a bike long enough, sooner or later you're going to come off. It's preferable not to of course and a degree of care and experience - on the road in particular - can go a long way to reducing the risk. But most riders are still going to have the odd incident, whether through clumsiness (not getting your foot out in time) or just sheer bad luck - or pushing your luck. The latter of these probably best describes what happened to me on the weekend.
Glovers Bluff. Well worth the ride. 
On Sunday four of us set out in fine weather for a ride along the gravel roads in the Tahune. It was a lovely day and we were feeling good, so we rode up to Glovers Bluff to enjoy the views. On the way back down the narrow road from the lookout I managed to crash. One moment I was zipping along at a comfortable speed, the next I was lying on the ground, groaning in pain. 

I had a GoPro camera attached to my handlebars and turned on at the time. The footage shows the rider in front of me bunnyhopping a small obstacle, which I apparently didn't see or properly avoid. The still frame at the top shows that my handlebars snapped to the right. In a moment I was on my back. (I'm blaming a combination of speed and inattention for the mishap.)

The happiest rider.
The first few seconds after a crash I find it hard to tell how badly I'm hurt. The rider ahead of me stopped and we established my collarbone wasn't broken. I had gravel rash type grazes on my right leg, side, shoulder and arm as well as skinned left knuckles. My helmet had taken a blow on the left side and I had some pain in my back. Oddly, my new summer jersey wasn't damaged, nor were my shorts.  We were about an hour's riding from the cars in an area with poor or non-existent mobile phone reception so there wasn't much choice but to keep riding. 

After straightening the handlebars, we continued on. The dérailleur hanger on the bike was bent inwards, so I made a mental note to avoid the bottom two gears where the dérailleur was hitting the spokes. We stopped for lunch at the Tahune Airwalk and feeling sore, but ok, I continued on for the last sub-20km push back to the cars.

Everything was going ok until I managed to put my derailleur into the spokes, breaking it in half and making a bad day even worse. An attempt to rig the bike as a single-speed by breaking and shortening the chain wasn't much of a success because the chain was badly bent and the other riders left me alone and went to get a car to retrieve me with. Once they left, I fiddled around and fixed the gear and stubbornly continued as best I could, reaching the carpark not long after the others.

A trip to the doctor and for x-rays revealed no broken bones, although I seem to have done something to my one of my ribs which is making breathing painful. An osteopath I visited told me the damage I've done will take some days or weeks to heal. Given the amount of pain and my inflexibility, I've taken some time off work and the bike and will hopefully bounce back soon. I've managed to repair the bent dérailleur hanger by bending it back - one of the advantages of steel frames.

Looking back over the last ten years, I seem to have had four crashes worth noting. Two were minor and caused by mechanical problems, the third - in 2006 - was caused by hitting a tram line in Melbourne and left me with lower back pain for several months. The fourth was in Vietnam recently, and while spectacular left me with not much more than a grazed knee. Hopefully there won't be anything more to add to the tally for a while yet.

257km so far this year.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

First impressions: Challenge Griffo XS33 tyres

I've been looking around for a decent set of gravel tyres since my trusty old Schwalbe Marathons wore out. The Marathons are brilliant tyres but they keep messing around with the model names, so it's hard to figure out what the equivalent new models are. Besides, it's a good thing to try something new. I saw a Challenge Griffo on a mate's bike and liked the look of them.The reviews of Challenge tyres on the internet are mixed with some people saying they're a bit prone to punctures, although some others says this problem has been fixed by the addition of puncture protection in recent times. Hoping I was going to get some of the second type, I ordered myself a pair online a bit before Christmas. They're not exactly cheap at $A70 a tyre.

The tyres came the other day and I picked up some tubes and fitted them the other morning. They are nice looking (and even nice-smelling) tyres, light and 33mm wide with a tan sidewall and a low-profile raised diamond file tread with some small sidelugs, presumably to assist with cornering traction. They go on easily too despite a reputation for being tight. The red puncture proof strip in some Challenge tyres wasn't present in the tyres I received, nor was the PPS logo on the sidewall. I'm assuming this stands for (Puncture Protection System). 

I'm wary of initial impressions after finding Grand Bois tyres lovely in the short term but puncture prone once they have a few miles on them and I have sneaking reservations I might get bitten again. I managed to get a gravel ride in last night and I have to say I'm impressed. I inflated the tyres to a modest 70psi or so in the hope the greater width would soak up some of the bumps and that they most certainly did. The tyres felt grippy on tarmac and plush on gravel, making light work of a few ruts I hit and cornering well. Supple was the word that sprung to mind. Some of these qualities are common to all wide tyres, but the Griffos rolled well too, something not all wide tyres manage with the same elan.  I think I might have bored my riding companion by mentioning several times "I like these tyres". I'm enjoying the Griffos for now and hope they live up to their initial promise. At the same time I'm looking closely at what Challenge might have to offer for my touring bike.

Yes I know my stem is off-centre.
146km so far this year. 

Saturday, January 04, 2014

2013 annual report

What a year it was - 2103 turned out to be a very good year for me on the bike. I managed to ride 7290km, which is my best year since I returned to riding in 2005. It's a major improvement on the 4,008km I rode last year. My best month was May with 923km, illness in February kept me to 295km - an average month was 600km.

Three things helped with my quest to crack the 7200km mark, an arbitrary goal I set some years ago.  One was definitely Strava which helped keep me honest and injected some friendly comparison between my riding and that of my mates.The second was a set of warmer kit for winter, which meant I was able to get out in relative comfort on even the coldest days. Being able to keep the miles up through winter really helped. And some of those cold winters mornings were pretty spectacular, riding out on the bike path in sub-zero temperatures, waiting for the warming light of the sun's first rays of the day. And having a bunch of mates like Ben and Keith to ride with helped too.

So the maths. I rode 346 hours in 188 rides this year, the equivalent of about 14 days on the bike at an average speed of 21.03km/h. I did 56% of the distance on the Thorn, 17% on the Crosscheck, 13% on my Bianchi and much of the rest on a crappy mountain bike in Vietnman. My longest ride was 374km on the Oppy, where I really struggled. And 7290km works out to be 20.01km a day or 140km a week.  My total since 2005 now stands at 47,200km.

Now the counter is rest and it's time to set some new goals.

80.1km so far this year.