Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A sunny day

It rained yesterday morning, so I didn't ride. No, that's not quite right - It bucketed down.

It was really cold this morning (way too cold for January), so I didn't ride.

So I decided - despite the nasty looking clouds - that I'd cycle commute today instead of exercycling.

Home to the office, office to the city and back (twice - once for a meeting, the other time for lunch), nice cruise of a ride home in glorious sunshine along Chapel St - dinging the bell at pedestrians - then a quick ride to Prahran pool (back to Chapel St) for some laps (maybe I used to be, but I'm not really a swimmer anymore) and back home again.

So about 30k for the day.

Not like the 150k I did last Saturday, not enough to keep me in race condition, but I still enjoyed it.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The man with the hammer

I've learnt a new cycling term.

In English when you can't go any further, and just one more pedal turn, one more km, or one more hill is too much, you've hit the wall. It's certainly not exclusively a cycling term, you say it just about to anyone, and it's sort of obvious what you're talking about.

In French (no, I'm not going to write in French), the man with the hammer hits you, or you're attached by the witch with the green teeth. I'm sorry, maybe something is lost in translation, but a witch with green teeth? Doesn't make any sense to me.

The man with the hammer does. He's the bugger who hides around the corner and as you go past whacks you between the shoulder blades to make sure you can't go any further. I think his brother, or maybe his cousin, is the brickie who builds the wall that people hit.

I headed out with my usual Saturday group this morning - great to see everyone after a month away, swap a few stories, and just have some general chit chat. 30 or so kilometres into the ride, most of the bunch turned around - family commitments, someone had to do some work, the usual excuses.

So then we were three.

Another 15k or so up the road, one more turned. So then we were two.

I wasn't expecting to ride more than 80k, maybe 90, but as I didn't have anything to do for the afternoon (other than this post), I kept riding.

We did some good climbs out the back of Frankston. We had a coffee in Mt Eliza, then started riding again, both feeling fresh. Great climbing up the highway behind Mt. Martha. We decided to turn around when we got to Dromana - maybe 75k from home. We kept riding, and chatting, and enjoying the day.

Then Shane flatted. He fixed the flat, but it happened again 10k later. He didn't have another spare tube, mine didn't fit his bike. So he called a cab and headed for a bike shop in Frankston.

Then there was one.

Some days riding can be hard, but it's always harder on your own. In a group you always have someone to share the pain with. Someone to follow, or someone to follow you, on a tough climb.

I had my own company for the next 50k. And I was running out of steam. Half a Powerbar, quick stop at a Service Station to refill my bidon, and off again - but a little slower than I would have liked.

I struggled the last 25k ... even the small hills felt huge. The man with the hammer took a few swings at me .... he missed. But I know he's out there somewhere.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Traffic, Byron style

As anyone who's every tried to tackle Beach Rd heading North through St. Kilda on a weekday morning knows, sometimes traffic means you have to slow down, or worse, stop.

And sometimes you just have to stop, smile and say "good morning ladies".

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Not happy with Facebook

Ok, I know that Facebook had something like 25,000,000 members.
I don't expect them to monitor every single thing that happens on their site.

But when someone starts a group called "There's a perfectly good path right next to the road you stupid cyclist!" which is full of rubbish like "No matter how far to the left you are, you're taking up my road. My car is hard, and i am not slowing down!" and Facebook is told about it - by all sorts of people, not just me, don't you think they should be doing something about it?

Maybe the people who started the group thought they were being funny. Maybe they're DEADLY serious. I don't know. I don't really care. It's nasty, and it shouldn't be allowed.
If it was race hate rather than bike hate, would the page still be there? What's the difference? 

Streetsblog asked Facebook whether this group violates their Terms of Use, particularly sections 6 and 7, under "Safety":
6. You will not bully, intimidate, or harass any user.
7. You will not post content that is hateful, threatening, pornographic, or that contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence.
Facebook's Simon Axten told us the group has been reviewed and deemed kosher by the company's staff. Presumably the reason they are not removing this group boils down to how one interprets the phrase "actionable threats of violence." Here's Axten's explanation:

We take our Statement of Rights and Responsibilities very seriously and react quickly to remove reported content that violates our policies. Specifically, we're sensitive to content that includes hate speech and/or actionable threats of violence. The goal of these policies is to strike a very delicate balance between giving Facebook users the freedom to express their opinions and beliefs, even controversial ones, and maintaining a safe and trusted environment.

We've reviewed this group and determined that it doesn't violate our policies.  We encourage users to report anything they feel does violate these policies using the report links located throughout the site. Thanks.

So what am I doing about it? I've closed my Facebook account. Now they've got 24,999,999. Do you think they care?  

Monday, January 11, 2010

The no drop ride

My bottom bracket was fixed in time for me to collect the bike late Thursday afternoon so I could spend Friday on the Gold Coast at White Water World with the kids while Sarah managed some girl time with a buddy.

Everyone had a great day, although I managed to forget my board shorts, so I was the only male at the water slide place in budgie smugglers. And fortunately, no one had a camera.

All of which means I was in Byron on Saturday morning with a working bike for the Saturday Ride. Couldn't really hold it any other day, could they?

For most bike riders, Saturday is about a longer ride than they manage to get done on a week day, and usually with a bigger bunch than they ride with during the week. The smallest weekday ride I've done in the last month comprised two - me and one other - although there was typically between five and ten on any given morning.

Last Saturday saw 25 of us pedal away from the clock tower at 06:30.

As I'm not a local, nor am I one of the stronger riders (or louder voices) in this bunch, I don't have any input to the Saturday ride. Someone announced "we're heading to Murwillumbah - about a 110k round trip".

Now I'm a Melbourne cyclist. More specifically, I'm a Beach Rd rider, so 110k on a Saturday to me means no more than maybe 500m of climbing ... Beach Rd is pretty flat, a few bumps around Mentone, and then a few hills as you head out of Frankston. But it's not a daunting task, and is a good, fast ride.

Byron to Murwillumbah and back via the Burringbar Range is a little different. 1,300m of hard climbing, over two solid hills (the Burringbar Range - on the way out and then again on the way home) and plenty of typical Northern Rivers climbs to go with: they're short, but they're steep.

This is what we all looked like at the top of the main climb on the way out - what my little point & shoot camera can't do is capture the humidity in the air, the sweat dripping off everyone. It seemed that it was raining inside my helmet all morning!

The idea of a no drop ride is very simple - no one gets left behind, or in cyclespeak, dropped.

If it's a flat ride, the group will adjust it's pace so that the slowest rider can just keep up. If there is a headwind, they'll put the slower riders in the middle of the pack, or towards the back, so they do a little less work. And the stronger guys will take more/longer turns setting the pace and acting as the wind breaks at the front.

But it's a little harder over hills for a bunch of differing riding abilities to stick together. You can't get the benefit of the rider in front's slipstream when you're going up a long climb.

I can hang on to the Byron bunch for the shorter hills, but anything longer and I have to ride on my own - I get into my own little world, set my own pace and ride. If I'm quicker then you are, I'll wait at the top, if I'm slower, you can wait for me.

So on the longer climb to the top of the Burringbar Range we were strung out over maybe 500m of road. And the faster guys had a nice rest at the top - in both directions - while those of us who are a little slower had a little less rest (I wasn't the slowest).

We hit the outskirts of Murwillumbah, turned around and headed home.

And the day kept heating up, and the humidity didn't let up, and there was a line of 10 riders, all needing to refill their bottles, waiting for a turn on the tap outside the Mooball Pub.

The other rule on a no drop ride is as simple as waiting at the top of a climb - if there is a flat or a mechanical, someone (or everyone) stops and helps. Jason flatted twice on the return leg.

I helped him change his tube ... OK, I chatted and rested while he changed his tube.

We rolled into Brunswick Heads to meet everyone else for a coffee together.

And no body was dropped.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Not happy

Things break. It happens. And when it does you get them fixed.

I'm currently lucky enough to be spending some time in Byron Bay - the most easterly town in Australia. Great beaches, stunning scenery, and amazing riding.

This is what the most easterly (eastern?) traffic light in Australia looks like. It's the subject of quite a controversy, but this is a cycling blog, so I'm ignoring the politics.

Just before xmas, I took delivery of a not too expensive carbon fibre frame, from China, via eBay to replace a fairly worn out & heavy steel frame that I've been pushing around for 8 or 9 years.

It was a pretty good bike, until I took delivery of my Baum a few months ago, then it suddenly didn't seem to ride as well as it used it.

Funny how when you upgrade something that can happen.

But the group set (gear & brakes) and wheels were all ok, so I decided to upgrade the frame.

The new frame arrived 2 days before xmas, and the great guys at Byron Bay Bicycles managed to find the time to get all the bits moved across for me.

And I've been enjoying riding it - I reckon I'm a little quicker up hills, probably because I've dropped 3 or so Kg. Not from my waist (that would involve far too much hard work & discipline) but from the weight of the bike.

But it's been making funny noises when I go over bumps.

So back to Byron Bay Bikes to see if they could work out what was wrong ... and it seems the bottom bracket was 98% of the way to stuffedville, so out it came.

And that's where the problem is - this is a small town, and BBB is a small bike shop, and they didn't have a suitable replacement on hand, and the wholesaler promised on Monday that he'd ship it Tuesday, and now it's Thursday and it's not arrived, and I haven't ridden since Monday.


Monday, January 4, 2010

Monday is supposed to be ...

Monday is supposed to be an easy ride.
A long hilly ride on a Saturday, or racing on Sunday, or even both (I didn't race yesterday) means that for most regular riders, Monday is an easy ride. Lots of chat & big talk about the weekend's efforts, easy rolling of the legs, no pressure.

A recovery session.

Unless someone wants to push. 
It wasn't me, but as there were only two of us (the rest of the bunch turned back very early) and I felt like some company, I had to do some work.
There were eight or nine short sharp climbs - I reckon he took 6 to my 3. Good pace with a bit of chatter in between. Not 100% effort, but not coasting either. And for the run back into Byron .... it's about 4k from the highway to the 50kph sign just before town (the sprint finish line) .... And it was ON. A massive head wind, both of us taking short turns off the front, and push, push, push. He might have beat me over most of the hills for the KOM points, but I was first across the line.

Coffee and recovery was at Bay Leaf Cafe. Great coffee, excellent food, nice staff - worth the visit.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

This morning's ride

In an effort to teach myself to post on a "regular" basis - in other words, more than once every Blue Moon (one this month as it happens) I'm going to post photos that I take when I'm riding.

First, the excuses: I'm no Ansel Adams and I'm only carrying a cheap "point & shoot" camera - please remember I'm riding a bike, not driving a car, i.e.: not much luggage space. Hopefully, my work will get better over time!

I'm going to TRY to include a bike in each photo, so of to prove the pic was taken on a ride, but from time to time this won't be possible. And where I can I'll include a map or geotags. It's not going to b a daily thing - some days I'll forget to take the camera (hey, it happens), some days nothing will catch my eye, and on some days I'll be pounding as hard as I can to keep up with the bunch I'm riding with, so that will probably mean photos of cyclists drinking coffee at the end of their ride.

More importantly, my aim is to try to capture something about the ride that meant something, or just shows how beautiful the world can be at 7:15 in the morning. Hopefully this means there won't be endless shots of Beach Rd.

So, I'm kicking it off with Friday's ride, my first for 2010 (sort of obvious as it was 1 Jan). The photo was taken at Pat Morton Lookout, just south of Lennox Head.