The evolution of a paincave

There’s a new thread over at Zwift.community asking about people’s current training setups, so I thought I’d go back through my photostream and find some of my recent setups. My paincave has been through more iterations than I care to think about, and luckily I didn’t photograph them all, or I’d be here all day. Read on for pics and ramblings

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Racing and Riding update w/e 16 Jan 2017

So, we’ve made it to 2017 after what can only be described as Year of The Utter Shit, so where are we at?

Well, the start of the new year formed a convenient, if arbitrary watershed to try and re-establish some old, good habits. I’m now attempting to follow a structured training plan from The Sufferfest, though I’ve had to build in some very generous variations due to things like work/on-call commitments and wanting to actually ride outdoors occasionally. Nevertheless, some weight is dropping off and some watts are going on. I’ve had two “new threshold” notifications from Training Peaks in January so far, and my Smart Scale has been congratulating me occasionally. Who would have thought* swapping a quiet beer for an hour of sweat on a bike would be so effective?

Zwift.community has been launched by a good friend of mine and I’ve come on board as an early adopter and admin

In news of actually turning some pedals, I’m racing again two months earlier than expected. Thursday saw me enter a Zwift KISS Race on the spur of the moment, because that’s a thing now, and Saturday saw me racing on dirt for the first time in… ages.

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A quick riding update

If you’ve read my previous post on quitting the road, you’ll know I’ve had some struggles lately with riding tarmac. Well, there’s some good news.

I’ve been working with a psychologist for the last few months, and with some changes of routine and a decent reset, I’m starting to get some kms done on the road bike again.

Gratuitous commute pic

A photo posted by Jason Brown (@thecrankset) on

So, what are the key factors here?

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On quitting the road

Today I quit riding my bike on the road.

I announced this via Twitter, but didn’t write a blog post immediately, for reasons which should be apparent from the tweet announcing it.

 

Even as I’m writing this, about twelve hours after I made the decision,  I can feel my chest tightening and my hands shaking, but I think I need to explain this decision in detail.

And to do that, we need to go back in time a little bit. Continue Reading →

On Being Stateless in Zwift

So I joined Zwift just recently. Sure, I’m a little late to the party, but reasons.

Anyway, while signing up, Zwift allows you to select your nationality, and offers a veritable cornucopia of nations with which you can identify. For instance, you can show the world you’re from  The Faroe Islands, Kiribati or the British Virgin Islands. If you’re a pedalling priest, you can select the flag of the Holy See. Wow. So many flags.

So I went looking for my flags.

Now, I carry two flags on my bikes.For the uninitiated, the flag on the left is the bleeding eyes of Sufferlandria. Black for Suffering, White for Purity of Suffering and Red for Suffering.

I didn’t really expect the Sufferlandrian flag to be available in Zwift. It would have been a nice little easter egg bonus, but I didn’t expect it. Nevertheless I did feel a mild stab of disappointment when I couldn’t find it.

So obviously I went off hunting for my other flag – the actual flag of the actual country in which I was actually  born. Wales. A Red Dragon on a field of white and green.

This flag

article-0-0E594C4B00000578-538_468x286You know what? It’s not there.

A country of 20,779 km2 and over three million people. Just not there. A country that has its own damn wikipedia. A country with its own legislative assembly, national anthem and capital city.

But I can’t select that flag. Oh no. I can select the flag of “Neutral Zone”, whatever that is, but not Wales.

I can select the flag of The Falkland islands, a flag which actually has a sheep on it. Jesus, you’re just trolling now, aren’t you?

Zwift, you need to get your shit together. Seriously.

 

 

(Update: Apparently, Zwift use ISO 3166 and ISO places Wales under the UK. Apparently. But not The Falklands. Which is a British dependency.)
(Update 2: There’s also no Scottish flag, no Ulster flag, and no European stars. But you can select the flag of Pitcairn, a tiny island nation with fewer than 100 residents)

The Hills Are Calling

Back in April 2014, I had a crack at Everesting Garie Beach Hill in the Royal National Park. That particular attempt was aborted when my front light cut out during a fast, windy descent, which resulted in me hitting a pothole, puncturing, nearly dying of an adrenaline overdose, then calling it due to actual objective danger.

The switch assembly on the light, it transpired, had vibrated itself loose, and since I was carrying charging equipment but no actual spare light, there was no going on.

That was, as far as I know, the first attempt at an Everesting on Garie. I’d selected it for proximity to Sydney, a nice constant gradient, and a manageable number of target laps – 44. It really is – aside from the rough surface – an ideal Everesting hill.

In September 2014, Pat Dellagiagiacoma and Paul Karis completed the first everesting of Garie as a pair, a fine effort and worth some applause.

Now, in September 2016, the 8848 Royal National Park event will see a mass participation Everesting attempt on this hill in aid of The Cancer Council. This is a fantastic cause to ride for, and since it’s a supported event you won’t run into the problems I (and others) have run into. There’ll be mechanics, medics, food, drinks, support and other riders on your shoulder all the way. The road will be closed, so you won’t have to deal with any traffic. You don’t even have to do the 8848 solo, since there’s a team option. You should totally do it, if you can scrape together the entry fee. Do it.

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On the unthinking marginalisation of women’s cycling

I pretty much missed the finish of last night’s Fleche Wallonne. Why? I was having an argument with Velonews. You see, they’d posted this tweet, which was greeted by a not-altogether unjustified response:

start

I, naturally, retweeted this. It’s common shorthand to think first of the men’s race, but this is a strong point. Marianne Vos has won Fleche Wallonne five times. So Velonews’s tweet is factually inaccurate, but colloquially, it mostly gets the point across.

Is this really a problem though?

Well yes.

You see, it’s lazy, and laziness does nothing to help rectify a situation of historical marginalisation. Women’s cycling has played second fiddle for years , but we’ve had some recent, though hesitant steps forward. La Course is a thing now. We get coverage – partial, it’s true, but coverage nonetheless – of the women’s race at De Ronde van Vlaanderen. We see the women’s world champs on TV. We got a smattering of coverage from the women’s race last night, and even got coverage of the women’s podium on the global feed. What we need right now is an active response to keep the momentum rolling.

So lazy journalism was always going to be noticed.

But what really particularly irked me was the response. Observe.

response

Yep, instead of just holding up their hands and issuing a clarifying tweet, Velonews decided to blame the character limit.

I copied their original tweet. There were fifty characters to spare. FIFTY.

It had nothing to do with the character limit. Besides which, you’re a journalistic publication. Words are your business. Make it work.

Such responses are as lazy and unthinking as the original tweet. Velonews, you fucked up. To use some deliberately ironic, lazy and sexist language: You need to man the fuck up and admit it.

And pull up your damn socks in future.

 

Improving Fly6 footage

I have a hypothesis. It goes like this.

Fly6 crash footage can always be improved by fading to black with a mournful piano soundtrack.

So I performed an experiment. Tell me what you think

Bike Lane Cassandra, or Why I’m Tempted To Hang Up The Bike For Good. A tragedy in several paragraphs

Sydney is in the midst of a crackdown on cycling at the moment. Yes, I say cycling. Cycling as a whole and in general. It’s not just genuinely dangerous cycling infractions. It’s trivia.

NSW Police are fining and cautioning riders for not having bells or reflectors fitted – ignoring the fact that bells are largely obsolete following the release of the Sony Walkman, and that reflectors… well… haven’t really kept up with the march of LED light technology, which is now cheap, stunningly bright and extremely long-lasting. The NSW Government is hiking fines for pretty much every possible infraction, from not having your chinstrap done up right to the splendidly ill-defined and subjective “riding dangerously”.

Police have also reported fining a number of riders for ignoring red lights in the last few days. At this, my ears pricked up. Because I’ve talked about this before.

You see, back in 2012, I wrote a series of blog posts and spent quite a chunk of my time riding around and observing the Union Street bike lane in Pyrmont, one of the Operation Pedro locations during Thursday’s crackdown. And what I found raises worrying questions about the cynical nature of Operation Pedro. Continue Reading →

How to fix Sydney

I was just told in a cycling forum on Facebook that nobody seems to be suggesting solutions to Sydney’s absurd traffic chaos. The poster in question really only had “more rules and more enforcement of rules” as a solution, ironically, in a forum complaining about the NSW government’s new registration-by-stealth rules.

Laying aside for the moment that this statement is actually ridiculous and that many of us are proposing solutions until we’re blue in the face, here’s my multi-point plan to fix Sydney’s woeful transport network for everyone, pasted in from Facebook – with a few minor tweaks – to a more permanent home here.

We’re suggesting plenty of solutions and alternatives. CONSTANTLY

1. Overarching principle: Reduce reliance on private cars, especially single-occupant journeys, thereby reducing congestion and therefore traffic stress.
2. Modify Sydney’s shitty road infrastructure so that speeds are reduced on suburban streets *without* adding pinch points and other points of conflict. Sydney’s obsession with “traffic calming” doesn’t actually calm traffic. It makes stressed-out drivers sprint from speedhump to speedhump. While we’re at it, fix the dreadful pavements so that people can actually walk from A to B without breaking their ankles (and so that, say, wheelchair users can actually get around like everyone else)
3. More separated cycling infrastructure to protect vulnerable road users. This in turn will encourage more casual cyclists to leave their cars at home and ride or walk, thereby further reducing congestion. NOT SHARED PATHS. We don’t actually want to run down pedestrians, even if there’s a slim chance one of them might be Harold Scruby.
4. Be smarter about measures such as speed traps and RBTs. Trapping the same spot over and over drives regular rule-stretchers away from the regular spots and into the back streets, where their chances of conflict with pedestrians, cyclists, skateboarders and local kids are vastly increased. This happens. I’ve done it myself after ‘dropping in for a quick beer on the way home’ and being worried about how close to the limit I may be as I approach a regular RBT spot. A lot of my friends have done the same. We’ve talked about it. In furtive tones. I’ll lay odds if you’ve ever had a cheeky schooner despite having the car with you, you have too. And after a ‘cheeky schooner or two’ you should NOT be driving on poorly lit back streets.
5. More motorcycle cops with GoPros to catch and fine drivers attempting to text and drive. Holden Commodores just can’t enforce this rule. Seriously, how hard is it to just get this shit done? Get some GoPros, fit them to bike cops’ helmets, turn them on, wait a while. PROFIT. And dangerous distracted drivers get nickel-and-dimed off the road. Win-win.
6. Reduce motor vehicle priority at junctions. When cars can coast through for five minutes at a time but all other traffic gets 15 seconds to get their crossing done before another five minute wait, we’re looking at transport apartheid. Making pedestrians, cyclists and other non-motorised modes wait for ridiculously excessive time discourages active transport and drives more vehicle trips, because hey who wouldn’t want to sit in their car and diddle with their phone rather than stand at the roadside waiting for the Green Man to show up?
7. Stop building big dumb roads. Big dumb roads just move traffic from local congestion zone A to local congestion zone B. Big wide roads can’t empty out onto piddly narrow streets and Sydney is chock full of piddly narrow streets. WestConnex is just an expressway from traffic jams in Homebush to Traffic Jams in St Peters, and we all know it.
8. Congestion charge for the Sydney CBD, modelled on London. Couple this with removal of tolls on the Cross City Tunnel. Providing a fiscal disincentive on the magical cross-CBD congestion reducer is dumb like a box of really dumb rocks and whoever came up with the idea should be hung, drawn and quartered. With a steak knife.
9. Properly integrated public transport with sensible transfer options, including Park and Ride for suburbs poorly served by rail lines. Make timetables for key changeovers mesh properly. Provide shuttle buses if you must.
10. While we’re at it, run more public transport and run it later at night, encourage car share schemes. Encourage car pooling. Encourage flex-time and WFH options. Encourage anything that’s not people driving around alone in their air conditioned bubbles, bored to tears and with their mobile bloody handheld Candy Crunch machine phones within reach.
11. Mandate more off-street parking for new apartment and townhouse developments, thereby freeing up road space for projects such as bikeways (or, maybe, ANOTHER DAMN CAR LANE). Maybe even incentivise carless living in Inner-City suburbs like Balmain and Rozelle. We’re all overpaid hipsters here anyway, we can afford to rent a GoGet a couple of times a week. Some of us can even afford to garage our cars away from the Inner West’s absurdly overcrowded streets.
12. Get rid of the mandatory cycle helmet law, if only for bikeshare schemes. MHL has killed bikeshare in Melbourne and Brisbane, whereas other cities such as London and New York are thriving on it. There are other factors, sure, but it’s absurd to think a CBD worker would take a helmet to the office – or a tourist bring one on their sightseeing walk – on the offchance they might want to take a citibike from one end of the CBD to the other.
MHL is also known to be a discouragement to casual and new cyclists, as well as arriving foreigners such as myself, who look askance at a country that fines people for not wearing a plastic hat for a 200m trundle down to the shops for a bottle of milk. Enforce it on main roads if you must. Link it to the metre matters thing. 1.5m roads: helmet. 1m roads: optional.
13. Sack Duncan Gay. Send him off into the desert seated backwards on a horse wearing a giant papier maché head. Never think or talk about him again.

I have more. Lots more.

Since adding that, here are a few more. I’ll continue to tweak this post for a bit as more come to mind.

14. Stop NSW police conducting sting operations on “Jaywalkers”. Jaywalking is a made-up crime, with no victim except perhaps the hurt feelings of the little green lightup man, who feels rejected because you didn’t wait for him. It’s not just cyclists who feel put upon by Duncan’s Army. It’s also people who want to get to work on time but don’t want to wait for the absurd length of time the RMS have mandated for crossing queues (see “vehicle priority at junctions”, above)
15. Actually fix the broken magnetic sensors in Sydney’s bike lanes, thereby reducing at the drop of a hat the number of “running red light” incidents. Have I mentioned those bloody sensors don’t work, by the way?
16. Drastically reduce speed limits on single-lane roads and in areas with residential housing and/or high-density occupancy.
17. More bus lanes, with fewer private cars in them. The motorbike cops I mentioned earlier would be great at enforcing that. Lovely State Revenue. Mmmmmmm. Yummy.
18. Subsidies for businesses who want to provide end-of-trip facilities for their workers but don’t currently have them. Subsidise gym memberships, so incoming riders can get a shower before work, if the office lacks facilities at all.
19. Open Glebe Island bridge to foot and cycle traffic, and provide a level, off-street cycle expressway along the Inner West light rail corridor. The land is there, sitting idle, doing nothing for anyone. Open it up. Now. Do the same for other derelict corridors such as the Alexandria Canal, and easements long the Bankstown and Inner West rail lines. If necessary, put in raised cycleways . And stop putting “designated cycle routes” up 15% gradients on back streets while cars get a gentle 2.5% slope and all the road space they can eat. I’m looking at you, Darlinghurst.

and finally

20. Did I mention the bit about Sacking Duncan Gay? Fire him into the sea from a cannon and never think or talk about him again. A roads minister who ignores the expert advice of his own office is a liability and an embarrassment.

You are welcome Sydney. Totally welcome.