It’s been almost two months since I last updated this blog. Damn. My excuse is that I’ve been doing other things, like building a flat tray for my new townie.

“New townie?” you ask. Yes, the Claud Butler is getting a makeover. You might remember it from my earlier classic-inspired build, which funnily enough I posted up a year tomorrow. That build never really worked out, the geometry was really lax 60s roadie and no good for a fixed ride. The frame, with its 53cm top tube, was also on the small side for me which meant running a tall seat post and a ridiculously high saddle to bar height; cool on a true track or pursuit frame, not so cool on an old road frame with a shallow rake. In the end I stripped the frame and mounted it on the wall in my room where it stayed until now.

I’m going to run a set of box section wheels with a coaster brake on the rear. I’ll be ordering this wheelset from the States soon. Other than that the bike’s almost good to go. I have a spare set of low-end Sugino cranks where the driveside arm, spider and ring are all one piece. Not so good for high-stress fixed drive trains, but perfect for this townie build and coaster brake setup. The front rack is my own design with parts bought from my local hardware store. It’s a bit of a work in progress but will hopefully be strong enough to hold a 12 pack when finished.

More pics to come once this build it rolling, watch this space.

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On bicycles

April 1, 2011

Man on a bicycle can go three or four times faster than the pedestrian, but uses five times less energy in the process. He carries one gram of his weight over a kilometer of flat road at an expense of only 0.15 calories. The bicycle is the perfect transducer to match man’s metabolic energy to the impedance of locomotion. Equipped with this tool, man outstrips the efficiency of not only all machines but all other animals as well.

– Ivan Illich

Used and abused

March 23, 2011

I think it’s time to get myself a new pair of riding shoes. I’ve got my money’s worth from these.

This is my friend Roei. I met him during my South Island ride. He’s near the end of a 64,000km round-the-world adventure.

He’s seen some amazing things and met some very interesting people along the way, to be expected when travelling through six continents and 39 countries on a bicycle.

You can follow his journey on his blog and read my story in The Aucklander here.

Roei is riding the length of New Zealand with his friend Etamar. They arrived in Auckland last week and stayed a couple of nights at mine before making their way up to Cape Reinga.

To talk to them about their home – Israel – is to have an eye-opening insight into how complex Middle Eastern tensions are. These two young men show a wisdom and understanding (although they say they’re no experts on the politics) beyond their age. Speaking to them made me realise how lucky we are to live in the relative peace of New Zealand. I think this is easy to take for granted.

Roei and Etamar seem resigned (perhaps realistic is a better word?) but certainly not cynical that there will be a World War III in their lifetimes and that their country will be involved. Although quite possible, the idea still scares me. Roei recalled an interesting saying that I’ve never heard before:

“We don’t know what weapons will be used in World War III, but we do know World War IV will be fought with sticks.”

Tour de South Island

March 4, 2011

It’s been a week now since I arrived home from my tour of the central north of the South Island.

The trip was fantastic, and the hardest thing I have ever done. I covered 450km in 6 days of riding on my trusty Team Miyata with little more than a backpack. Part challenge, part adventure, part holiday - this trip has taught me a lot about myself in just 12 days.

I met some wonderful people in the places I visited, particularly in and around the several backpackers I stayed at. Without fail each person I met would tell me I was crazy after they realised that I was riding  a track bike and that this meant one gear, no freewheel and no brakes.

Many doubted my ability to complete my trip, some going as far as to say jovially that I was going to kill myself. Thrown into their mix of advice and commentary was also a hearty amount of “good on ya, bro!” sentiment.

Beyond their initial disbelief, many seemed genuinely amazed that someone would do what I was doing, or that anybody would actually come up with such an idea to start with. Hearing all these different things, coupled with the actuality of the challenge I faced, meant I went through the gamut of emotions, from fear, terror and anxiety, to triumph, happiness and fulfillment. All this in little under two weeks.

But on to the riding itself, it was bloody hard, my entire body felt the pains of riding on average 75km each day with a 12kg pack. Some hills were impossibly steep to climb, or descend for that matter. This meant I found myself walking many stretches at a time. This was the case through the steepest sections of Arthur’s Pass and Lewis Pass which meant solid hours of walking to reach ridable hills.

But the pain and sweat was worth it when I reached my planned destinations each day. A strong sense of achievement mixed with a healthy dose of sheer exhaustion. I live in a  beautiful country which feels very untouched when you get out of the main centres, if you can ignore the fact you’re travelling along a winding man-made snake that is our state highways.

Once at altitude I drank water from streams and waterfalls flowing alongside the road. The best water I’ve ever tasted; crisp and refreshingly cool.

Being out in it with nothing but your own will and muscles to carry you along to your destination is an awesome feeling. It’s why I love bicycles and track bikes in particular. It’s just you and the bike in its purest form. There’s simply no better way to see the world in my mind. I’ve lived in Auckland for 10 years now and it’s taken that long to visit the South Island. I like what I see and I’d love to go back and see more of it in the near future.

There’s no point in telling people where they should and shouldn’t go because everyone’s tastes are different, but Arthur’s Pass and the route through to Greymouth and the West Coast narrowly comes in as my favourite area on this trip. I have hundreds of photos to go through. I’ll be posting some up soon which will describe what I saw better than any of my words can.

For the observant wondering how this route doesn’t add up to more than 450km, you’re spot on. The total round trip was 600km but for two stretches I relied on diesel power to get me where I needed to go. I caught the TranzAlpine from Springfield to Arthur’s Pass and a bus from Reefton to Maruia Junction. This meant I had the better part of the whole day to spend in the surroundings of Arthur’s Pass and Maruia. All other legs relied on my own two legs, and a dose of craziness, as they say.

The professional photographers snapped a few great shots of me in action at Taupo. It doesn’t look that steep, but the top shot shows the infamous Hatepe Hill. You can see people in the background who’ve hopped off their bike to walk it; it’s that steep. It felt great to power up this hill passing people the whole way up. It was tough on the legs, though. Bring on the Rotorua Flyer in April, might even have a team of fixed riders doing it by then.

Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge

November 28, 2010

I finished yesterday’s race in 5:37.15 – that’s 160km of non-stop pedalling at an average speed of just under 28kph. Not bad I say.

Surely you could coast down the hills you might ask? Nope, I did the race on a track bike, that means no freewheel and no coasting.

I used the race as a means to fundraise for the Kiwi charity Medicine Mondiale. All up I managed to raise $1180, although there might be a bit more trickling through in the wake of the race. Ray Avery’s Medicine Mondiale does a fantastic job at developing high-quality solutions to the medical problems faced by those less fortunate than ourselves. The charity is dedicated to creating a more equitable world and is about using science to solve specific problems, not simply sending poor countries our secondhand leftovers. If you’d like to make a donation please visit Medicine Mondiale’s site.

The race was hard but my training paid off. I’m very happy with my time and how well I did on the hills. There was seriously no contest as roadies would gear down, spin like hell, and go nowhere, as I powered steadily up each and every climb. They might then pass me on the next long downhill, only to succumb to the next climb. Consistency was really the key. It seemed like many riders started out quick but ended up falling back as the race progressed and fatigue set in.

To be really honest I can’t remember that much. My focus was steadily on what was in front of me and pushing myself to catch the group up ahead. I basically followed this pattern of jumping from group to group as I pedalled on. The ups and downs all blend into one as everything and nothing goes through your head. People call this ‘”getting into the zone”, but it’s hard to explain this to someone who hasn’t experienced sporting focus first hand.

Hatepe Hill was one to remember, though. In the lead up to the race I’ve heard and read much about this infamous hill. What they say is true, this hill is steep – very, very steep. It climbs 150m in around 2km,  and at the 132km mark, it’s bound to take its toll. As I approached the bottom of Hatepe I saw swarms of riders slowly making their way up it. A few people passed me, only to have me pass them moments later as the hill proper kicked in. I climbed Hatepe at a steady pace of just under 10kph. This was fast enough to see me pass many people the whole way up. It’s a bitch of a hill, and one that soon sorts the men from the boys. Many dismounted to walk instead of ride, it is that steep.

Here are some photos that my trusty support ‘crew’ (there was no crew as such, only one Louisa) snapped during the race. Fingers crossed one of the professional photographers snapped me in action, but with thousands of participants the chances of this is unlikely.

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I’ve created a new page where I’ll be keeping a log of all my training rides in preparation for some road races come summer.

You can find it next to the ‘About’ page up top.

In other news, my shiny, chrome high-flange Phil Wood hubs are on their way from the States. In the past I’ve not been a fan of mirror finishes but I admit they’re growing on me, quickly. I bit of well-placed chrome is unbeatable. I’m planning on lacing these hubs to a set of bright silver Deep Vs with silver double butted spokes. They’ll probably live on the Miyata, but will no doubt see some action on the Coltello. Watch this space.

On Wednesday evening I was heading down Symonds St when some asshole pulled out of City Rd taking me out.

I clipped the right back corner of the car and went down. All very well, people make mistakes and I’m used to cars pulling out on me, but this joker didn’t stop and just drove on up Symonds. I got up and ran after him in the bus lane, dragging my Coltello in along with me. He got stuck behind a bus waiting at a red light at the K Rd / Grafton Bridge intersection. Google maps tells me I ran 150m before catching up to him at the lights. Damn right. He gestured that he’d pull over up ahead but screw that, he was probably just wanting to drive off again. I stood in front of his car’s bonnet with my bike refusing to move. Only when I said I was calling the police did he get out of his car and begin apologising profusely, pleading with me not to call the cops. Tough luck buddy, you reap what you sow. I bet you’ll  suddenly see a lot more bikes on the road from now on.

DON’T DRIVE OFF WHEN YOU HIT SOMEONE; that shit’s just not on.

The cops turned up and took our statements, but it’s pretty black and white; there’s no grey here. Three witnesses also stopped and supplied me and the cops with their details. Big  ups to these three people, you rock. The cops were also great to deal with, too.

Thankfully the bike and myself are fine. The bike’s up at T Whites getting looked over by the Supersonic Brian. But they reckon it’s all good, just a couple of tiny scratches and a minor clearcoat chip out of my carbon forks. They build ’em tough.

So kids, the moral of the story is don’t pull out in front of bikes, and if you do stuff up, don’t run.

Trigon drops and stem combo

Here’s a sneak peek at my brand new carbon fibre Trigon drops. All up this awesome bit of kit is a meagre 370g.

But never mind the weight savings, it just looks plain awesome. I dig the bulging muscular look of them and the finish is second to none.

I’ve been running full carbon fibre Trigon straight-blade forks for close to year now and they’ve never let me down. So it’s fair to say I’m a bit of a Trigon fan. In the area of carbon fibre composites, Trigon’s finish is the best I’ve seen. I’ve taken the bike for a quick spin and these bars are very comfortable. I’m going to swap them back for my Nitto B125 bars and save them for racing.

Although I trust Trigon’s products I’d rather run the steel Nittos which will take more of the force in the event of a crash during day-to-day riding.