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.

Why David Leyonhjelm’s Nanny State Inquiry will fail on MHL

OK, so maybe I’m a bit late on this one, and maybe the world doesn’t need yet another article on this topic. But I’ve been doing a lot of thinking around this subject of late.

Senator David Leyonhjelm, ostensibly a Liberal Party member but politically located somewhere on the Libertarian side of Ayn Rand, is pushing for a Parliamentary inquiry into what he – along with many others – calls “The Nanny State” currently holding sway in Australia.

One of Leyonhjelm’s targets is Mandatory Helmet Laws (MHL), something everyone seems to have an incorrect opinion on. Yes, I’m going to talk about those. If you find your anger reflex being triggered right now, you might want to go elsewhere and look at pictures of kittens for a while. Go on.

Continue Reading →

You’re doing it wrong: Red Lights

Right. Let’s just get one thing straight before we start. Some bike riders are morons. And they jump red lights even when they don’t need to.

Take this idiot, for instance

idiot

I pulled up at a red light on Lilyfield road this evening, and this idiot turned up. Here’s how out little exchange went

Idiot: <creeps forward as if to jump red, winds up as if to start pedalling>

Crankset: Don’t jump the red light, it makes us all look bad.

Idiot: Wuh?

Crankset: See this guy next to us? <points to taxi>. He’s going to see you jump the red light and in his head he will say “see, bloody cyclists, they’re all lawbreakers”. So don’t.

<light turns green>

Idiot: BUT I’M A PEDESTRIAN

Crankset: You are NOT A FUCKING PEDESTRIAN <rides off>

I really have few words for how vacuous his response was. “I’m a pedestrian”? Newflash, fucker. You are not a pedestrian. When you’re on a bike on the road, you’re a vehicle. You want to be a pedestrian, get off and push.

And I’m not joking when I say it makes everyone look bad. I’ve had the conversation, more than once, where a driver – or an actual pedestrian – kicks off and tells me that I’m a lawbreaker because cyclists always run red lights, even when I’m demonstrably NOT running a red light. I’ve even had punishment passes put on me in “revenge” for me running a red when in fact I’d gone through the same green light as the offending driver.

So don’t you fucking tell me that routinely running red lights is a completely victimless action. It gives fuel to bogan idiots who see riders as little more than obstructive meat.

Now, having got that out of the way, there are times when you probably have an excuse for jumping a red light. Here they are

  1. It’s raining, there’s no traffic around, and the electromagnetic sensor that should turn your light green isn’t detecting your bike.
  2. It’s six in the morning, the road is completely empty, and you’re riding in a fast moving bunch that could stack badly if someone stops suddenly
  3. The driver behind you has expressed an intent to run you over, and you need to get the jump on him
  4. The apocalypse has happened and you’re being pursued by zombies

That’s the lot. Now fucking stop it, you arseclowns.

 

Race recap: Tour of Sufferlandria, Stages 6-9

The last post left us at the middle of the tour, after the first mountain stage, and looking ahead to four more days including both the queen stage and a big final run into the finish.

Stage six: Local Hero saw the peloton turned ragged by the cruel pyramid intervals, and several riders were caught out by forgetting that this one isn’t just an hour of effort, but an hour and twenty-five minutes of threshold work designed to put them into the redzone and deny them an easy exit. A pyramid starts out at an RPE of 7/10, or just below power threshold. In my case, working with a slightly overloaded FTP of 250, that meant holding 240+W for interval one. Interval two, a minute at threshold, is at least 250W for one minute, after which you spend two minutes at 8.0 – above threshold, which is harsh. But when the two minutes are up, you can’t just shift and recover. Because you need to hold threshold for another minute, then sub-threshold again for a last painful minute.

The pyramids hurt. I am not kidding. And after that there’s race simulation and a series of sprints. This stage was a test for the entire peloton, and there were three more stages to go.

Next day, at first glance, seemed like an opportunity to recover a little, with The Rookie. But things are never that easy in Sufferlandria, especially when Sir Neal Henderson has been involved in the choice of parcours. What awaited us was a set of three 10-minute race simulations garnished with the kind of on-bike footage that gets you trapped in the action and forgetting how much power you’re putting down. I, for one, was left gasping, and dreading Stage Eight, The Queen Stage

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Serious face on for Stage Eight

Stage Eight was the Dame Alissa Schubert Memorial Stage, a terrifying two-hours and twenty-five minutes of sprints. The community wore a black stripe on their social media avatars in memory of Dame Alissa, and the Knights wore their official team kits. I broke out my race-cut Darkside kit. Having put on a few kilograms after a bunch of crashes and injuries last year, I’d been slightly dreading getting back into race-cut, but to my surprise, it worked out not too badly. I slapped on my serious face and got down to action.

Video one of Stage Eight, Revolver. Straight up, no messing, fifteen one-minute intervals interpersed with fifteen one-minute rests, a workout designed to burn you down as quickly and as simply as possible. This is followed with Violator, a never-ending series of short, high-intensity sprints, which is topped off with a dressing of Half is Easy, yet another bottomless pit of on-off-on-off power intervals.

This, dear friends, is a special kind of hell.

We all knew it would be the queen stage. I for one didn’t realise quite how horrifying it would turn out to be.

I held over the stage until Sunday, since Saturday was my brother-in-law’s 50th birthday and Jack Bobridge’s Hour Record attempt. Which meant on Sunday I felt a little… hungover.

Oh. The. Pain.

By the end of Revolver I was already thinking I’d gone too deep. By the middle of Violator, I knew I’d gone too deep. close to the end of Violator, I had a dizzy spell and a micro-blackout and found myself almost crashing the bike. Let me just re-iterate that. I nearly. Crashed. A turbo trainer.

As the recovery interval arrived I wolfed down an entire pack of jelly snakes, a gel and a whole bottle of electrolyte, and called out to the minions for more.

By the time Half is Easy was properly underway, I was mentally back together, and starting to come back into shape physically, which was just as well, because I spent the last video spitting and cursing, sweat pouring off in waves, feet and hands aching, legs turning to mush and shoulders in spasm. Physically, it was harder than anything on my Knighthood, either of my Everesting attempts, and any race I’ve ever struggled through.

The sawtooth profile of the power trace speaks volumes for the severity of this stage. Oh god, never again.

Well, maybe.

It did feel pretty good afterwards.

And so Monday rolled around, and my alarm fired at 5am, in time for me to do Stage Nine before work. My weary legs, however, wouldn’t let me out of bed.

So I went to work like a normal monday. And when I arrived, I set one of my laptop’s auxiliary clocks to the International date line. This gave me a hard cut off time for the end of Stage Nine, which turned out to be quite late that evening, thanks to timezone weirdness.

So I left the office as normal, headed home, and put my weary legs over the top tube for the last time in this tour.

It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time tells the tale of an intrepid Sufferlandrian unleashed in pursuit of the Giro d’Italia’s combativity prize. It’s tough, you’d better believe it, and it’s long at two hours. And coming at the end of nine stages, it was all I could do to keep up. But keep up I did, and I finished, sweaty and victorious, after the world’s hardest stage race of a fictional country.

My citizenship of the great nation of Sufferlandria was assured.

And I was tired

Damn it, I was tired.

I can’t wait until next year.

 

 

Race recap: Tour of Sufferlandria, Stages 1-5

Yes, it’s the greatest grand tour of a mythical country on earth, the Tour of Sufferlandria. As a Knight of Sufferlandria, my participation is compulsory – noblesse oblige.

A huge, feisty peloton lined up for the start of Stage one on Saturday, taking in Elements of Style and The Long Scream, race director Grunter von Agony wishing to have a well-turned out and stylish race. Which he could then rip to ragged shreds in the ensuing 30 minutes.

Elements is a goodie – I reviewed it here – but does have a habit of taking your mind off your effort level as you concentrate on your form. It’s easy to go into the red by mistake, but today everything -just -went to plan. And then the last half-hour hove into view.

Between you and I, I’d never completed the Long Scream until this stage. It’s deceptive, being “only” an extra shot video of 35 minutes duration. However a solid thirty of those minutes are spent at or around Threshold. Until this stage, every time I’d switch it on, I’d go out of the start gate way too hard and end up cracked and dying by the last third. But these days I run a power meter and keep close track of my FTP, so for the stage I was able to dose my efforts with unprecedented accuracy, holding FTP, dipping below or rising above as the video demanded. A look of relief crossed my ashen face as I finally got my PhD in suffering. At last.

Day one done. I was feeling nicely toasted after this stage, Sufferlandrian holy water running forth untrammeled. And yea, verily did the race reports roll in on the ToS Facebook Group. Sufferlandrians all over the globe were checking in with their experiences. And there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth. Also beer.

My start time on Stage Two, Blender, was held over to Monday after an aborted start on Sunday- entirely within the rules I might add. One tiny false start on Monday for a forgotten towel and we were off. Monday was Australia Day, a public holiday. What better time to sit on a turbo trainer in your own house in front of two fans and a laptop while outside all is stifling heat, blind patriotism, drunkenness and boganry? Blender is one of my favourite videos, taking in as it does MTB, mens and women’s road racing, time trialling, cyclocross and even downhill MTB. But at 1h40m it’s a long ride in the heat and the Aussie peloton was in sore need of rehydration afterwards. But no beer yet, because a few hours later… Stage Three: Fight Club

This one’s a scrappy affair, attacks coming thick and fast, breaks needing to be shut down and an overall effort level somewhere far north of sensible. But again, Determination pays dividends, as does the knowledge that when this is done, beer may be had. And so it came to pass. The breaks were shut down, the legs were turned to jelly and the beer was cracked.

Happy Australia Day

Tuesday. Back to work and the restricted free time of the weekday grind. I still kept a window open for Nine Hammers, the latest offering from Sufferfest Studios and one with a fearsome reputation. Featuring nine big efforts at – and above – threshold, This video is an FTP stretcher if ever there was one, and one where I’d again be relying heavily on the power meter – though the numbers flashing by didn’t stop me being tempted to add a few percent  here and there. I was left feeling exhausted, but with a sense of achievement.

And so we came to Wednesday. The first day in the high mountains, where we’d go to meet the Angels.

There was crazy talk among the group about maybe doubling up on the two editions of Angels, but as it transpired I was badly pressed for time and opted instead to go all-out on the original, longer version. My legs were a little sore, but Angels is at once an old friend and an ancient nemesis. I knew where the attacks would be made, and was able to counter each and every one, even if it was through a mask of pain.

Here’s how it looked from the Suffercam, deteriorating form and all.

And so here we sit, Five days into a nine-day tour, with all to play for and the Queen Stage yet to come, and with a huge sting in the tail to follow that. Who will make it to the finish of ISLAGIATT on the hallowed slopes of Mount Sufferlandria? Who will be punted out the back into the autobus to be swept up by the minions and who will double down for Honour, Glory and Victory come Sunday?

Tune in to find out. Oh, and if you could throw some money at the Davis Phinney Foundation, that would be excellent too.

 

You’re doing it wrong: Bike Racks

I’m hereby starting a new series of posts, on a topic I’m sure is close to all our hearts: Why other cyclists are doing absolutely everything wrong and should stop now please.

We all do it. We love doing it. Now I’m going to do it here.

First up, bike racks.

Specifically, the kind of multi-bike racks that many progressive workplaces have in their car parks, so their workers can arrive happy, flushed and awake – by bike – in the morning.

Apparently, none of you know how to use them. Let me show you a picture of some idiots doing it wrong.

 

IMG_0717

Notice, if you will, the handlebars of the road bike at centre left crammed up against the tubing of the bike rack itself. Notice also the overlap of the handlebars. This results in drop bars entangled in cables, bar ends scratching bar ends, scuffed brake levers, gear cables pulled until your indexing is out of whack and all kinds of general horror. The high rack to the left is basically unusable because of the tangle of handlebars and nobody seems to have any sense of order. Worse, the derailleur of the road bike at centre left is right in the firing line should the commuter bike at centre-right be removed roughly by a less-than-careful owner. And these people obviously are less-than-careful because of the way they’ve parked. QED.

Protip: STOP DOING THIS. It’s an inefficient use of space and – to put not too fine a point on it – a fucking mess.

Also, helmets must be clipped to the stem and draped over your handlebars. It’s the rules.

Conversely, here’s how it’s actually done

IMG_0718

On the left, my Trek Domane. On the right, m’colleague Tim’s Trek Madone. Nestled together in perfect harmony. Tim’s front wheel is in the elevated portion of the rack, lifting his handlebars clear of the rack’s tubing. My handlebars are free of obstruction and unlikely to be dinged, scratched or mangled when Tim removes his bike later today. And there’s no way I can wreck Tim’s derailleur, and no way he can wreck mine. And there’s plenty of space in the high rack to the left, should someone wish to use it, notwithstanding the idiot who parked there with his front wheel in the rear-wheel position.

This, friends, is how it’s done.

And this also applies to the wall-mounted racks some workplaces provide. Though apparently no-one at my workplace can figure those out either

IMG_0716Repeat after me. LOW RACK, BACK WHEEL. HIGH RACK, FRONT WHEEL. LOW RACK, BACK WHEEL. HIGH RACK, FRONT WHEEL.

Now write that out five hundred times and DON’T let me catch you doing it again.

 

I went to the office xmas party dressed as He Who Must Not Be Named…

… and I didn’t even get drug tested.

Thanks, UCI

ArtOf2 Designs - www.artof2.com

 

Also, I’m pretty sure the guys next to me would be totally disqualified if they tried to ride the TDF. Totally.