Category Archives: Gear

Hack or Bodge?

My house is not large, but it’s dominated by two things. Things that will be obvious when you walk through the door.

The main one is bikes.

Followed closely by guitars.

But mainly bikes.

There are bikes and bike components all over the place. There are at least four complete bikes, two bare frames (one broken, one waiting for a rebuild). There’s a large set of shelves full of random components like cassettes, stems, seatmast caps, seatpins and saddles. There are a couple of packing crates full of old cranksets and derailleurs. There are tools everywhere. Plus workstands, turbo trainers, rollers, bottles and all the other ephemera of the mid-life cyclist.

So I decided to fix the problem, using the problem.

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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.


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:



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.

Why yes, I *do* take racing food quite seriously. Why?



Yup. That’s my little box of racing munchies, consisting of a mixture of:

  • SiS Caffeinated gels
  • Torq gels, Black Cherry Yogurt, Rhubarb & Custard and a few others
  • Body Science gels
  • Hammer Endurolytes Fizz electrolyte tabs
  • Hammer Perpetuem Solids chewable energy
  • Dextro energy for a high-glucose hit
  • Swisse recovery bars (I don’t normally buy Swisse due to their dodgy supplement claims, but they were on sale. Cheap.)
  • Some apricot delight
  • Painkillers, tape and some spare CO2 cartridges that didn’t fit in the toolbox.

This box goes with me to MTB races and training days, but generally doesn’t make it to road events. The variety means I can stock up on energy without every getting bored with the same thing. Or at least, that’s the theory. In practice, some are better than others and some are just terrible. For instance I’ve given up on the GU coffee gels as they’re just too thick to get down quickly, and I tried a mint flavoured Endura gel once and vowed never to do so again. The Torq gels, though, are excellent, wit well-thought out flavour hits, a nice consistency, and a pack that’s easy to open on the go.

How do you manage your race-day food requirements? What’s your favourite and least favourite energy hit?

While I’m here having a beer or two…

The best use ever, full stop… for a bike pedal.

Recovery Drink

I raced at Newington Armory this evening – B Grade – and finished somewhere around tenth in a field of nearly 30. Not spectacular, but I feel entirely validated, having done enough work on the front to elicit positive comment from my clubmates.

So I figured I deserved a recovery drink. Belgian, obviously, for preference. We are cyclists, after all.

Well, it’s Belgian style. Australian brewed. And entirely delicious. It’s called “An American Werewolf in Belgium”. Recommended, if you’re not riding the morning after, obviously.

da864180fa6a5f837df62f123b682a29_640x640I’m certain that it’ll make me at least a couple of watts stronger, once it’s fully digested.


The Design Behind The Bike

I’ve been watching this excellent series from the UK’s Open University on the subject of design in cycling. It’s a fascinating helicopter view of  bike design from several angles. Enjoy!

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First Ride: Bianchi Methanol SL 29

Yes. Yes, it is.

Yes. Yes, it is.

So as I intimated in an earlier post, I’m now the proud owner of a carbon hardtail MTB, more specifically a Bianchi Methanol SL 29 XT. I took it out on dirt for the first time yesterday, and my impressions so far are more than positive.

So the basics on the bike

  • 29″ Carbon hardtail.
  • RockShox Reba RL 100mm fork w/poploc remote lockout
  • XT groupset (with the exception of a Truvativ X9 double chainset and FSA chain)
  • FSA components, Magura hydro discs, Selle San Marco saddle
  • Fulcrum Red Power wheelset, shod with Kenda 24seven rubber

In focus, it’s a racing-oriented carbon XC hardtail. Pretty straightforward, right? Well yes. But no. Because there’s some serious thought gone into this frame and while you might not agree 100% with what’s come out, you have to tip your hat to the design. Continue Reading →

My new toy

So I woke up this morning one year older, and as it turns out, one bike up. Thank you Esther for organising that little surprise.


That’s my new XT/Reba/Magura-equipped 2013 Bianchi Methanol SL, which I’d put a deposit down on a month or so back but didn’t expect to be paying off for a while, since the budget that would have paid for it was spent on new wheels when I crashed the road bike at the start of October.

Turns out that Esther does sneaky things with the budget. Very sneaky.

It’s currently in the workshop having the seatmast cut to size and a few minor tweaks done before I chuck in work for the day and head out to try and find a trail that’s not on fire. Its first competitive outing is unconfirmed, but might be the Highland Fling in November. I’m not 100% sure whether the dual-sus machine might be a better choice for that particular race, but no doubt I’ll figure it out once I’ve put a few kms on the new one.

Full report on the bike to follow. And big thanks to Atelier De Velo for going along with Esther’s little plan. Sneaky.

Calling time on that whole “bell” thing

“Bike coming through. Keep to the left please”

I called out in a bright cheerful voice this morning

The reply came back

“Where’s your bell?”

That exchange happened this morning as I rode down the Cooks River Cycleway on my circuitous but somewhat pleasant commute to work.

Now before I get to the meat of the post, I’d like to first address the unspeakable stupidity of that response.

In no possible universe does “ding ding” convey more safety-related information than a bright and cheerful “keep to the left please”. “Ding ding” does not convey, for a start, that the right thing to do is to move to the left. “ding ding” is, in fact, considerably less safe, and less polite, than a cheerful “keep to the left please”. You’d have to be breathtakingly dense to think that was the case. One certainly does not need a PhD in Information Theory to understand that “ding ding” is a low information density phenomenon, whereas verbal communication of the “keep to the left please” variety conveys an order of magnitude more.  Ten thousand years into the future, when this blog post is retrieved by some far-distant digital archaeologist, people will be seen to remark “Fuck me, that was a really stupid response. People were sure thick back in the 2010s, eh?”. The kind of person who would make that response would be incapable of thinking his or her way out of a wet paper bag if that wet paper bag was open at both ends and clearly marked with the words “exit here or here“. The person who said it probably believes that she is a crusading figurehead for pedestrians’ rights, standing up to an evil, law-breaking cyclist. What she actually is, is a moron.

That pleasant little rant out of the way, let’s address why I do not and will not fit my bike with a bell. Continue Reading →