Park Bikes Training Camp Day One : Sydney to Bowral via Macquarie Pass

As you probably know, I’ve been whinging about my lack of riding recently. Injuries, life and general lack of Rule Five adherence have meant Summer 2014/15 has been poor. Poor to the point that my tan lines haven’t even arrived. In December.

So to get things kickstarted, I signed up for a little training camp run by our friends over at Park Bikes and Domestique.

The plan:

Day one, ride Sydney to Bowral via Macquarie Pass.

Day two, ride Bowral to Kangaroo Valley and return, with potential for extra distance if wanted

Day three, two home options, one all the way via Razorback, one with a train component

Lovely.

Continue Reading →

LACC Armory Crit 13 Nov 2014

Courtesy of Craig Toner, LACC. If you look carefully, you’ll see me, in Cellarbrations kit on my white Trek Domane, somewhere up at the front, where I generally try -and fail – to stay off the front of the bunch.

 

Idiots Everywhere. Yes, even on bikes

I’ve been away from Sydney for a few days of relaxation* in the Hunter Valley, so today was my first bike commute in nearly a week. And boy, was it a doozy.

First up, the usual texting drivers – for the record a Supagas delivery truck with P-plates and a dented, semi-legible front number plate (13 SUPA?) and a white Toyota Corolla plate BLT77K right behind the truck – both fiddling with their phones on Liverpool Road Ashfield.

texting driver

Business as usual. This stretch of road is almost guaranteed to produce at least one or two texters. I’ve even been in a ‘conversation’ with one for more than half a kilometre. I say ‘conversation’, what I really mean is I yelled at her to put her phone down for half a kilometre and she gaped slackjawed at me and carried on texting.

Next up in today’s gloroius commute, a Mercedes driver  AYV 97T who appeared in my left-hand line of vision as I was about to go into a fast left turn at Hawthorne Parade, forcing me to abort the turn and head straight on for fear of being rear-ended mid-corner. Typical case of following a rider too closely. Again, just business as usual. These things are so common that they’re just water off a duck’s back these days.

No, the one that really annoyed me was this

Yes, that’s right. Another rider making an idiotic attempt to pass between me and a row of parked cars. Ordinarily, I’m the one making the passing maneuvers going up this hill, but after the stupidity of the first few kilometres and because I’d only just finished my holiday and frankly had a bit of a hangover, I was trundling in low gear and not really caring.

Our friend here tried to excuse his stupidity with some mumblings about me being too far out – the video clearly shows I wasn’t – while I made it completely clear that this shit wasn’t on. If you’re passing, call it and go to the right.

To be frank, I don’t think it sank in.

So yeah, cyclists can be idiots too.

 

* relaxation: drinking lots and lots of wine in the middle of nowhere. Bliss. 

 

A Knight’s Tale

I turned 40 last week. I am now officially a MAMIL. To mark this milestone, I decided I wanted to do something big on the bike.

Everesting was my first choice. I’ve had two unsuccessful attempts before – both ending prematurely due to equipment failure – and the desire to finally get it done has been burning a hole in my head. So on Oct 24th I headed out bright and early towards Glenbrook Gorge in the Blue Mountains National Park, and the 11% 700m Glenbrook Gorge North Climb.

Successfully everesting this climb would take 107 repeats over maybe thirteen hours. I had a van full of water bottles and food, a few changes of kit and plenty of spares. I’d even gone and bought a new pair of Zipp 60 Carbon wheels just in case my trusty but slightly troublesome Zipp 30s gave up the ghost.

I was, you may say, prepared.

However the weather wasn’t exactly co-operating. Driving towards the mountains on the M4, the lower slopes of the plateau were lit up by lightning strikes, and I had an uneasy feeling. Sure, the outlook for the latter part of the day was pretty good, but there was more rain forecast mid-morning, and the sky was looking very much unsettled.

Still, nothing ventured, nothing gained. I parked up, got my wind vest on, prepped the bike and set out for a few exploratory repeats.

Which is where the plan started to unravel.

The descent into the gorge was wet and slippery. Worse, it had an oily sheen on the surface, so the descent very nervous indeed. I puzzled over this for a moment and came to the conclusion that runoff from the surrounding eucalypts must have been to blame for the oiliness. Riding up on the first lap was a bit of a strain but bearable, but the second descent was no less nervous than the first. The climb, at least, felt more comfortable than the first. I still wanted this to happen but with a cracked rib still an occasionally- painful reminder of a crash in late September, I wasn’t entirely enthusiastic. One more repeat and I was convinced – without the ability to go downhill fast I’d be losing valuable time, and worse, I’d be risking an injury on every single descent until dry road emerged sometime in the late morning. I don’t mind riding in the rain usually, but spending my 40th birthday waiting for x-rays would definitely wreck things. To compound the feeling of dread, the rain restarted, and thunder rumbled.

So I finished the lap, headed for the safety of my van and came up with an alternative plan.

The torture chamber

The torture chamber

I would go home, stick the bike on the turbo trainer and go for Sufferlandrian Knighthood. Ten Sufferfests, back to back, with only ten minutes rest between each.

Yes, that would do it. At home, in the dry, with a fridge full of Belgian beer nearby. Knighthood had been hovering on my horizon for a while. Time to get it done.

So I cued up ten of the best, threw a coffee down my neck and got started. Continue Reading →

New Toys

As ever, injury has been keeping me off the bike of late. So far the score for 2014 is:

  • Broken ribs: 1
  • Elbow bursitis: 1
  • Significant muscle strains: 2
  • Physio Visits: too many
  • Concussions: What? Who said that? Where am I?

Still, here at The Crankset Global Domination Headquarters and Bicycle WorkshopTM, I have taken delivery of a few new gadgets, which I’ll probably be reviewing soon. I am kinda sorta back on the bike, riding but not racing and hoping everything heals up enough so I can shed the extra kilos I’ve put on while moping around sulking and lurking on the sofa playing video games and drinking beer with my undamaged arm.

Wow that was a long sentence.

Anyway, first in the new gadget list: A Stages Powermeter on an Ultegra crank

Second, A Fly6 rear-facing combo tail-light and camera

Third, a Topeak floor-to-ceiling bike rack.

(I also bought a new helmet but that’s the same as the one I destroyed when I broke my rib so no review for you)

I’m easing back in, so impressions on the first two are preliminary at best, but the third I can enjoy from my chair and let me tell you this: If you don’t have one of these, you’re missing out. Yes, your spare room/home office/studio/den/torture chamber can have that bike-shop charm with your pride and joy hung from the wall looking all shiny and bling, so when you’re not riding you can still go and look at them and say to yourself “That’s a bloody nice looking bike, that.” several times a day until your significant other wants to kill you.

B0ch1GaCUAExDoH

Just don’t try to hang a Pinarello Sword on it. Because 1: It won’t fit and 2: that bike fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down. Seriously.

 

 

More mechanical madness

I thought I’d take the opportunity, after yesterday’s crash, to do a bit of much needed maintenance on the Domane. Given that I’ve basically wrecked my left shoulder, and shattered my road helmet, I’m not going to be on the bike for a bit. At least until I heal up and buy a new stackhat.

So, I went shopping for a few bits and pieces and got started. First things first: drivetrain. Off came the wheels and out came the chainwhip, and I cracked open the cassette to swap out the old 105 cluster for a shiny new Ultegra 10sp.

Well, I tried to. It wouldn’t come off. Eventually, after consulting the internet, I removed it. With a hammer. And I found this:

freehub

 

Yes, that’s deep scoring of the freehub body, which is the almost-inevitable result of pushing quite a lot of power through a very small surface area made of a very soft metal. My Zipp 30s come with a light aluminium freehub body, which was eaten by the rather more robust 105 cassette.

Needless to say the wheels have now gone in for a bit of a rebuild. The freehub could have been filed down to accept the new cassette, but I opted instead to get it done right, by an expert, instead of some loon weilding a beer hammer. Thank you Ashfield Cycles.

Lessons (re)learned

1. Paint is slippery

2. Tarmac is hard

Aftermath

The Elements Of Style

No, not the thing about sock length. Or wearing particular shorts with particular jerseys. Or saddle bags. Not even Strunk & White’s famed and venerable treatise on the topic of well-formed English.

This is about a different kind of Style. This kind of style

Continue Reading →

Where have I been?

I just moved this blog to a new, shiny and fast web server and thought it might be an opportune time to post on why I’ve been absent of late.

A few months back, I had some fairly chunky troubles with anxiety and depression. It’s not the first time it’s happened, but it did sneak up on me and it hit quite hard. So I was off the bike for a few weeks there. It coincided with a change of job and a shift in my specialisation, which has caused a massive learning curve, biting further into my riding time. On top of that, getting back on the bike has been interrupted by a couple of periods of sickness and a painful recurrent shoulder problem, which has wrecked my sleeping patterns and required repeated physio treatment.

In the wash-up, I’ve missed a few key races, including the Ken Dinnerville Memorial Handicap, the Rocky Trail 12 hour, The Oaks Classic and a number of others. My power is down, my endurance has gone AWOL and I’ve lost a bit of handling confidence.

So, it’s not been a great couple of months, riding-wise. And then over the last week, I’ve been knocked sideways by a respiratory infection and as a result I’ve managed maybe 100km out of my usual weekly target of 350km+.

But Le Tour is here, and there’s an end in sight for the shoulder injury, and we’re past midwinter and back on the way to longer days and warmer weather. So things are looking up. I’m planning another Everesting attempt – my third – and trying to schedule in a twelve-hour chunk of time in which to take on Sufferlandrian Knighthood. Watch this space. And of you spot me out on the road, remind me about Rule #5, wouldn’t you?

A Bridge Too Fast?

In response to the SMH’s beat-up of yesterday

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Jason Brown <redacted@gmail.com>
Date: Mon, Jun 16, 2014 at 2:41 PM
Subject: A Bridge Too Fast
To: letters@smh.com.au

Regarding Melanie Kembrey’s Monday piece on Pyrmont Bridge, I feel I might have to clue your readers (and writers) into Cycling 101.

A bicycle is a simple device which relies on momentum to provide stability. To put this simply, the slower you travel, the more of your attention must be devoted to keeping your bike upright. Stable when moving, unstable when stationary, grey area in-between. Pretty simple.
The fact that riders exceed 10km/h on Pyrmont Bridge is not, in the main, because they are hoons, or irresponsible, or bad citizens. It’s simply because tottering along below 10km/h feels markedly less safe, stable and controlled – to most riders – than cruising along just that bit faster.
This is just physics. Physics and human nature.
Putting it back in context, this makes Pyrmont Bridge – and in fact most ‘shared’ paths – a poor choice of cycle route. However Sydney’s infrastructure deliberately funnels CBD to Inner-West riders into this busy corridor, with few other routes available. Alternative routes are either stocked with hostile traffic, prohibitively circuitous or simply unworkable.
The solution? As David Borella states: More and better infrastructure, not griping about riders exceeding an arbitrarily-defined speed limit.
 SMH declined to print this, instead opting for two anti-bike responses, both attempting to tar the many with the brush of a few, one citing a cyclist running a red light and hitting a child, the other citing a cyclist hitting a pedestrian on a footpath in Earlwood. As ever, these solitary, context-devoid isolated incidents alone say nothing about the overall ‘problem’. I’m sorry they happened, but they’re NOT relevant to the larger debate. I could cite statistics of people being injured by drivers, by joggers, by skateboarders and, yes, by pedestrians. Isolated incidents are useless in examination of wider issues.
The real problem is that too little infrastructure is safe or suitable for multi-mode transport options. Too many roads are hostile to riders, forcing them onto footpaths or backstreets, where they come into conflict with pedestrians. Too many ‘planned’ cycle routes – Pyrmont Bridge included – are run in denial of the realities of multi-mode transport. Shared infrastructure should NEVER form part of a commuter route, yet that’s exactly what City of Sydney have done by funneling Inner-West traffic to and from the CBD over a busy pedestrian foot bridge (two, in fact, if you count the Anzac Bridge).
That’s the problem here. Not the stupid actions of a minority – Idiots will always exist no matter what you do – but the absurd cycling ‘infrastructure’ that Sydney riders must deal with day-in, day-out.