Saturday, February 28, 2015

Short term review: Vittoria Open Pave CG tyres.

Well loved Shimano R500 wheels and Vittoria Open Pave CG's. Pretty much indestructible.
Anyone who has done much riding will tell you that wheels - and in particular tyres - are the most important single component if you're seeking to get the best performance out of your bike. But like with most things in life, there's a trade off with tyres: light fast tyres tend not to be tough or long-lasting and are more prone to punctures, heavier tyres are more durable but tend not to roll as nicely. I've tried quite a few different tyres and have found some which had great potential they never quite lived up to. For example I was a big fan of the Grand Bois tyres initially for their lovely supple ride, but found their high price, lack of puncture protection and short lifespan too much of a hurdle to overcome.

Enter the Vittoria Open Pave CG. The kind folk at Abbotsford Cycles sent me of the 25mm wide model of these these tyres to test. They are the clincher version of a distinctive green-banded tubular tyre popular with the pros on rides like the Paris-Roubaix. They're a nice, light folding tyre - sub 300g - and they look the part right out of the box. They were easy to fit and the light file tread reminded me of the Vittoria racing tubulars I used to use in days of old. The sidewall and tread appear to be smartly a single piece of rubber, eliminating a weak spot I found a fatal flaw on the Challenge Griffos. 
By Tasmanian standards, this is a very very nice gravel road.

I have been running the Open Pave's for a couple of weeks now in all conditions and I have to say I'm most impressed. On the tarmac, they are smooth and fast and responsive like a good light high pressure road tyre. They roll along with a pleasant hum, their grip is impressive - inspiring confidence in the wet. But they also handle dirt road astoundingly well. I've given these tyres an absolute pounding on the sub-standard roads around home. Even my venerable Gatorskins develop cuts and small holes over time and repeated gravel runs, but there's not yet a mark on the Open Pave's. 

In general, only a madman rolls down bumpy dirt roads with 100psi in their tyres as it's generally a recipe for shaking the fillings out of your teeth. The Open Paves have a suppleness to them that - while it certainly doesn't made the ride plush - certainly smooths out the bumps and reduces the road buzz far better than anything else of the same width. 

I note the Open Paves' are available in a 27mm tyre as well, which would probably be more to my liking for the sorts of conditions I ride in regularly where the road changes from tarmac to gravel and back every ten kilometres or so on some of the quieter routes I prefer. I'm going to use them in the 360km Oppy ride coming up in a couple of weeks in preference to the red Rubino Pros I usually ride on long road events. 

A few of the online reviews I've read have suggested the Open Paves are a good commuter or winter tyre, but I think this is selling them well short. This is a tyre perfect for spirited road riding in all conditions. They're an ideal tyre for Audax cycling, combining the elusive mix of fast-rolling, toughness, suppleness and strength. I'll keep riding these to see how well they last but at this early stage I like them so much that when they wear out, I'm definitely buying another set.

Yes, I have tested lots of different tyres!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Audax Wuthering Heights 150km

Stunning riding through tall forests on the way back from Bronte Lake.
Each year a talented and handsome ride organiser, who I shall call Chris, runs a ride that centres on a fishing lodge at Bronte Lake in the central highlands of Tasmania. There's the option to ride 150km up and back or 200km each way with a night of convivial company and tall stories in between. Sadly last year I missed this ride and was determined not to do so again.

Unfortunately the weather bureau intervened. The forecast Saturday was for heavy rain, including thunderstorms. Not I'm not saying I was looking for an excuse but the idea of getting up at 5am to ride 150km uphill in the rain didn't appeal as much as perhaps it should have - not matter how keen I am to get some miles in. 

Leaving Bronte Lake on the short stretch of gravel.

As it turned out, the forecast was disappointingly wrong. Hugh and I caught a lift up to the lakes with Chris, passing the trio of diehards as they ground up the final steep climb. Purely out of courtesy, we didn't crack a beer before their arrival but instead rode out to meet them and escort them in after their hard day's toil. There followed a night of superb food, a few drinks and apparently some snoring in the bunkroom.

By agreement, the 200km lads set off an hour ahead of us for their out and back loop with the intention of catching up up later in the day. Nathan and I turned our wheels eastward and enjoyed warm and warm conditions as we swooped through the gorges and valleys on the way to Ouse, where we ate our fill of roadhouse tucker.

Long downhills and open country in the Derwent Valley.
Underway again, Chris passed us on his way home and informed us that Hugh was breathing down our necks. He caught us at the end of the long and very pleasurable descent into New Norfolk and the three of us made a happy paceline to the finish at the Cenotaph. As I'd left my car at Chris' house, we had 10km to go, which made for the perfect imperial century for the day, as Hugh demonstrated his superior fitness and all-round athleticism by outpacing easily me on the final hills. All the same, I was happy with what was for me a solid day in the saddle. 

A superb ride, thanks to Chris for putting it on. I'm been to travel both ways under my own power next year. Some video highlights below.

879km so far this year.

Monday, February 02, 2015

It shouldn't be this hard.

Update: A very nice sergeant from Tasmania Police has been in touch and has spoken to the driver concerned. A good result.

On March 6 last year I was out riding with a friend when a driver drew level with me, suddenly floored his accelerator and fishtailed left and right, his tires squealing. He repeated the performance when he passed my riding companion who was perhaps 30m up the street. On both occasions he missed us by no more than with width of a set of handlebars. Not far up the road the driver pulled into his property. He yelled abuse as we passed. He was unsteady on his feet and appeared to be drunk.

What was particularly strange about this incident was it with that we both immediately recognised the driver as a man who was on bail while awaiting a hearing for serious driving offences. We continue on our ride and and called police about 20 minutes later. As the only officer in the area were busy we agreed to make report at the police station in Huonville the following day. An officer made a cursory show of taking the details of our complaint on a scrap of paper. We told him we believed we knew who the driver and gave him a brief outline of the incident and the vehicle's numberplate details. The officer asked us what action we would like taken and said he would be back in touch to take our statements. 

That was 10 months ago. Neither of us have anything since despite a couple of calls and going to the police station a couple of times each. In the meantime the driver we believe was responsible has been found guilty and sentenced on charges relating to an incident in which a cyclist was killed. I can't say I've ever had much faith that the police would take our report very seriously - in fact I wrote out my own statement later the following die so I could recall the details if required. 

Three weeks ago, a motorist on Sandy Bay Road in Hobart - in a hurry to get to the beach - passed within about 10cm of my right elbow as he impatiently sped through a gap between a parked car and median strip in which I happen to be cycling. I had a GoPro mounted under my saddle which was turned on at the time and caught the incident. (The clip is at the top of this post.) The following day I reported that incident to police and the familiar pattern repeated itself. Again the report was taken on a scrap of paper, not an official form or notepad or on a computer. My offer of the video evidence on a memory stick was declined. Again I have heard nothing from the police since I made the report.

Two incidents don't necessarily paint a complete picture of how Tasmania Police respond incidents involving cyclists, but I can't help but think the complete lack of interest shown in each case reflects a pattern of unfortunate indifference. In a week in which the state's peak motorcycle body called for cyclists to be forced to carry number plates one wonders what earthly difference that would make as a safety measure when nobody seems to be particularly interested in enforcing the safety measures we have now. 

There are a lot of things that need to change about the law and how it protects vulnerable road users. Since we're discouraged from taking the law into our own hands, getting the police to do their job would be fine start.

469km so far this year.