Thursday, 31 July 2008

More Wind

Tonight was just insane. I rode home 50k directly into a stonking wind. The wind was so strong I was able to pull a track stand at the lights in Wallan. I could keep solid pressure on the pedals and stand still. I'm riding a free-wheel.

Of course the loonies also came out with the wind. Just yelling, but damned annoying when I'm trying to get home.

The hardest part of riding into that kind of wind for me is the concentration. When I get a bit of momentum, it only needs a moment's lapse to stall to nothing. I tend to set little intermediate goals like keeping a pace to the next white post.

I was straight into a wind of around 50kph, gusting to 70. The trip on which I average 90 minutes, took 123. In a couple of the more open sections I was really struggling to hold 19kph on the flat. I think I need a good lie down.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Monorail Madness

So now we're going to build a monorail. Doh! If it's not a monorail, it's another mega freeway tunnel. Another toy for the boys. Surely they could just buy themselves an iPhone and while away the hours playing with that. No doubt they'll want to build it on a PPP and not have to actually pay for it. They'll leave that to us. Another monument to the pollies. It's time to stand up and say NO. No, no no!

We don't need monumental self serving monster projects. We need a whole bunch of sensible, human scale, coordinated efforts to create a really great transport system. A few ideas straight off the wish list would be:
  • Buy some new trains, preferably build the capacity to make them here because we're going to need a whole bunch more of the suckers.
  • Build the Doncaster Rail Line
  • Extend the Epping Line
  • Electrify the line out to the far southern suburbs
  • Design in properly engineered bike lanes to all new or redeveloped roads.
  • Clean the shoulders.
  • Educate drivers about cyclists.
  • Duplicate the rail to Bendigo (ie back to the way it was)
  • Put on a few actually fast trains between larger cities.
  • Did I mention cleaning the road shoulders?
  • Punish the drivers of big inefficient, single occupant cars. Monetary will have to do. Life imprisonment seems a little harsh, but only a little.
  • Duplicate rails where necessary. Take space from cars.
  • Eliminate all level crossings to reduce accidents. Make the cars go around the long way.
  • Tax car entry to the CBD.
  • Clean the shoulders.
  • Staff train stations.
  • Increase the price of petrol.
  • Give government assistance to companies who want to build trains, trams and buses. Not ridiculous Aussie Family Sixes.
  • Make public transport tickets tax deductible, not novated leases on Hummers.
  • And for God's sake will somebody please clean the road shoulders.

Now that'd be a program worth paying taxes for.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

The joy of riding

Some days it's really important to ride for the joy of riding, To take off the heart rate monitor, the speedo, the cadence counter and just ride. I did just that tonight and rode for an hour in the beautiful crisp cool night. No wind, hardly any traffic and nothing to train for, get to or push against. Just riding because I want to.

It's times like this to just let myself go and ride for the fun of it. As slow as I want, as hard as I want and I'll never know just how fast or slow and I don't care. I even rode through a few of the roadside puddles just because I could. With my daggy mudguards and my uber goretex socks, I can do that sort of stuff, even when it's four degrees.

I've had an absolutely monster couple of days at work and the next few look like being just as bad. The kids are in bed, the dishes done, school lunches for tomorrow in the fridge, chooks in the pen, cows in the back paddock. It's time for a ride.

As I ride I'm carried by an silent beat, a cosmic tailwind, wafting through the night.

I'm having a daydream, we're getting somewhere
I'm kissing your lips and running fingers through your hair
I'm as nervous as you 'bout making it right
Though we know we were wrong, we can' t give up the fight
Oh no

'Cause you and me we're meant to be
Walking free in harmony
One fine day we'll run away
Don't you know that Rome wasn't built in a day
Morcheeba- Rome Wasn't Built In A Day

Singing that song just makes me want to get home to my wonderful wife, Kerrie. I'm just a big sooky NancyBoy today. Some days I put so much energy into my bike, other days I can take it back. I guess it's a rest day.

Monday, 28 July 2008

Dumb Cyclists

Today on my way to work I saw a cyclist with no lights go through a red light right in front of me. It was just before 7am so still very dark. He rode through a right-hand T intersection and was riding on the left-hand shoulder there was nothing coming around the corner so what he did was quite safe. For him.

What happened as I pedalled away from that intersection, being careful to hold my lane as the shoulder runs out 40m past the intersection to cross a rail bridge? I was abused by three drivers
for holding them up. I never have trouble at that intersection because it's so obviously necessary to hold a lane. I was being abused as payback for the other cyclist breaking the law.

Yes, I know what he did was perfectly safe. It's against the law and motorists will use anything they can against us. I recently saw a really good piece on the topic of law breaking cyclists and why they get up motorists noses so far. A serious article and worth a read. Thanks to Treadly for finding and linking to it.

Then of course there's always this dick-head. I can't believe that anyone can seriously stick their head up and support such views. This is exactly the kind of self-absorbed, unthinking stupidity I expect from the worst kind of motorists. Why doesn't he just buy an SUV and rip up a few bits of national park before monstering a cyclist or two? To make matters worse, he's from Australia.

Anyway, I had a great ride home, set a PB with a light tail-wind. Now I hurt all over.

Friday, 25 July 2008

Le Tour - Just Can't Lose

This might be blasphemous but I feel like I just can't lose with this year's tour. It looks pretty certain to come down to Sastre, Cadel or Menchov. All three have ridden an amazing tour. I'm going to be barracking for our Cadel all the way to Paris, but I have to confess a sneaking admiration for Carlos Sastre.

His CSC team have been amazingly disciplined in the execution of their plan. A team of wonderful champions who could have individually won a lot of stages but stuck to their plan. Every one of them has ridden their hearts out every day. That discipline and combined talent may just prove too much for Cadel who's team have worked hard but not consistently enough to make that crucial difference.

Finally, Sastre is the man who risked everything by attacking so hard and early on L'Alpe d'Huez. Against guys like Cadel and Denis that's a really brave call. They can always come back and make you pay if you get it wrong. If he can pull out an exceptional time trial to hang on to the yellow jersey I certainly won't begrudge him. He and his team have done everything possible to make it happen.

If on the other hand, Cadel can pull out something really special, he'll really have earned every inch of the victory. Again, it's hard to see anything more he could have done. Ooooh weeeee, I just cant wait for Saturday night. Go Cadel!

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Clueless Losers!

That's it! I've tried so hard no to use this blog to whine and rail against things I don't like but enough is enough! Yesterday, riding to work and back in the winter dark I got abused and threatened by no less than five drivers. One in a monster B-double.

I just don't get these guys, and yes, they're all guys. What is it about their lives that makes it seem like some kind of affirmation to lean out the window and yell unintelligible abuse at a cyclist riding to work?

I must clarify that in every case I was riding on a marked road shoulder, well out of the path of motor vehicles and was in no way impeding anyone's progress, even for a second. I had two headlights, both on, three tail lights on, reflectors under the seat and on my rear mudguard, reflector anklets and strips on my jersey and helmet. I hardly took anyone by surprise.

I had two drivers who approached from behind running their wheel down the textured lane edging to deliberately intimidate me and yelled out the window as they passed. That's really keen. It was two degrees. One of them swerved onto the shoulder after passing me.

Are these guy's penises that tiny? Are their lives that empty and meaningless? Are they so stupid, uneducated, bored, powerless and impotent that this makes them feel better? If these guys were our ancestral blue-green algae, life on earth would have died out almost immediately because they never would have scored a date with any girl algae. (Skillsy, if you point out that algae are bacteria and replicate by simple cell division, I'll have to scream! I'm ranting here.)

Come to that I'm pretty sure algae are smarter than these blokes. I seem to remember the algae voting one of these guys out of the house on big brother. Just imagine if they could text "Evict" to 1319CRAIG, he would have been gone sooner.

Having endured this homicidally dangerous stupidity, I was alerted to this gem from one of nature's gentlemen, the taxi driver. I've just got to get me an RPG launcher fitted to my bike.

There, that feels better. The tragedy is that I've just done the educated, up-myself, middle-class, boorish, greenie, compu-geek equivalent of winding down my window and yelling "blllooowwwwwwwerrd" at them. Now who's the clueless loser?

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Cheating the Wind

It's been very windy around my way for the last month or so. This means I've spent a lot of time out riding in nasty winds. The good news is that my riding in strong head and side winds has definitely improved. I'm finding it easier to maintain the concentration needed to push into nasty winds for a long time and keep some kind of rhythm.

Winds have always been somewhat perplexing for me. I feel like I'm working a lot harder into a wind than I really am. At least that's what my dreaded heart rate monitor tells me. Lately though I've been able to maintain a more constant work rate whatever the wind conditions so all this very strong wind must be helping to make me a better rider. I'm also learning little tricks to make the wind just that little bit easier. Whether it's riding closer to the road edge where there's a little protection from trees on the roadside or just picturing myself glancing off the wind when it's at a slight angle. Think tacking in a yacht.

The interesting part is that it doesn't seem to have helped me in a light headwind. It still seems much harder that it ought to when working directly into a fairly light breeze. Perhaps psychologically it seems that if I can ride into a howling gale, I should be able to do this at a trot?

Monday, 21 July 2008

Never Ignore the Tips of Icebergs

On the weekend, I was cleaning and servicing my bike in preparation for the Whittlesea ride. I remembered that I'd become aware of a slight change in the angle of my handlebars over the last week. I gave it a once over and realised that any movement was very slight. Yes, they were tilted very slightly further forward, but I hadn't experienced any discomfort and it probably dropped me that bit further forward to help cheat the wind.

After tossing it over for a minute, I decided to investigate, just to be sure. I loosened the single binder bolt which holds my bars in position and it made a nasty crack. Mmmmm. Maybe just the alloy threads gripping. I repositioned the bars and began tightening - BANG! The outer female part of the bolt sheered in two leaving the bars dangling.

I hadn't applied much force to the bolt at this point. I assume that the reason the bars had moved is that the bolt was already fractured and starting to release. That being the case it could have let go at any time, leaving me with little steering. Worse, if I'd been out on the brake hoods when it let go, they would have dropped away from me dramatically, probably sending me to the deck.

Luckily I had another old Cinelli stem with an identical (but in one piece) bolt which I cannibalised to get the bike back in working order.

The moral of the story is to not ignore subtle changes in your bikes feel, settings or handling. The last time I did that, I was having some gear changing problems, with the rear dérailleur hunting for cogs. It turned out that I'd bent the hanger in a crash, culminating in changing the
dérailleur into the spokes of the back wheel. A lot of cost that I could have avoided if I'd just stopped for a minute to investigate.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Cold, Wet and Wonderful, Whittlesea

Today I rode the Whittlesea 120 Audax ride. A lay awake much of last night listening to the rain being lashed against my roof by a belting northerly. It was still falling as I left home to join the ride. Fortunately the rain held off for most of the ride with only a light shower or two to damp down our spirits and the temperature crept its way to a miserly eight degrees. The wind didn't play so nicely though. It continued to rush around all day but the majority of the ride was well protected from it by the hills and trees.

Around 15 of us headed off at 9am for the lovely ride up Humevale Road Hill. I've waxed lyrical before about the joys of this hill but I'll do so again. Ride this hill! If Britney Speers was a cyclist she'd be shoving this hill up her nose. In fact if Tom Boonen had done just that, he'd be riding in the Tour today. It is a beautiful winding, forested road of just the right grade to give you a great workout without breaking anything.

After Kinglake West there's a marvelous 15km gentle downhill into the wind all the way to Flowerdale. Followed by 15km gentle uphill to the top of Junction Hill. I found this quite hard as the headwind really messed with any rhythm I may have found on this hill. It was almost pleasant when the last couple of km of steeper stuff came because it was more protected from the wind. The final 15 km into Yea was a real grind into the wind without much protection even though it's largely downhill.

At Yea, Bill and Rodney turned on a great feast featuring a heart warming mushroom soup with pasta. I tucked some down and took off quickly to avoid cooling off to much.

The ride back to the bottom of Junction Hill was greatly assisted by the tail wind but a grind none-the-less. At the top and small shower came through with just enough wetness to soak me but not enough to make me put on my waterproof jacket. Doh. As it cleared a waft of sleet covered my glasses enough to make it hard to see on the decent.

The climb back to Kinglake West was at it's best with an occasional tail wind, letting me pull the big ring most of the way to the top before the whizzing descent back to Whittlesea.

I'm so glad I had my daggy mudguards for this ride. Although we didn't get rained on much, the roads were very wet, usually with that nice stripe of water running down the perfect cycling line. I'm very impressed with my winter weight Nalini - Francaise Des Jeux longs and my merino wool undershirt. They kept me just about right the whole day. I'm also really glad I took along my fingerless mitts, changing into them for the climbs on the way home let me regulate just enough body temperature to not overheat.

This was a day I wouldn't have missed for the world. The currawongs calling their wondrous winter song brought tears to my eyes. The biting cold made me glad to be alive.

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Le Tour - Armchair Weeping

I've been watching the Tour for the last couple of weeks with growing admiration and happiness in the feats for Riccardo Ricco. If anyone represented a bright future for professional cycling it was Ricco. Flamboyant, daring young and amazingly gifted. Where can the Tour go from here?

How much of Ricco's ability has come form the misuse of drugs and what could he have become? Now we'll probably never know.

All this mess with drugs is certain to detract from the performances of the riders not tarnished, like Cadel. The whole thing is just starting to look sad. I feel like something good has been stolen.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Le Tour Made Me Fat

You'd think that riding a couple of hundred k every night with Cadel would trim me down no end. It's just not working. Each evening I sit down to partake of the most gruelling sporting event on the planet and somehow wakeup dribbling, surrounded by empty bottles of red, chip packets and dry crumbs of cheese.

How do things go downhill so rapidly from my intended diet of apple slices and water? There's something about watching elite athletes smashing themselves against the toughest mountains imaginable while curled up on a couch in front of a warm heater that just screams comfort food. Forget Sex And The City. It's just lucky that groups of 20 something girls haven't found out about watching the Tour or the demand would drive Tim Tams to $47 a pack.

Tonight I've locked the fridge and the pantry, put all the wine outside in the rain. I've pushed the couch out of the way, put my yoga mat on the floor and I'm going to stretch and work out while the guys ride.

Now where's that stash of left-over easter eggs?

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Daggy But Dry

Why are mudguards so daggy? I've been wearing them for a few months. They keep me dry in anything except the wettest conditions. Most importantly they keep most of the spray from the road off my shoes. It's also a mite more sociable when travelling in a bunch.

Mine are even fairly good looking. The Somas are strong, flexible, great fitting and don't make much noise. They weigh less than a really light nylon jacket. they give me a whole lot of extra real-estate for reflectors.

So why do I feel like I'm wearing corduroy trousers, camel coloured desert boots and a cardigan with leather patches on the elbows. Maybe I need a beard.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Yobos In Utes

Maybe I'm getting older and more timid or just maybe a bit smarter. Not so long ago when an idiot in a car did something deliberately stupid to threaten or endanger me on a bike, I'd take umbrage. If at all possible, I'd catch up and remonstrate. Generally not in a polite way. By and large, this didn't work well. I ended up the victim of a much worse road rage incident more that once.

These days, I treat the overly aggressive or stupid driver the way I'd treat a very large lion. I wave politely and move away to safety as quickly as possible. They have all the fire power, I have none. They have two tonne of steel, I have half a millimetre of lycra.

This disagrees fundamentally with my sense of justice but meshes with my desire to survive until the next bike ride.

Lately I've been plagued by a legion of mindless yobos in utes. What could it possibly be about my appearance on a bike on the side of the road, that so threatens these guys that they need to assault me, swerve toward me, throw stuff at me as they pass? I've largely given up on trying to beat them or get even. I just try to survive them.

Yesterday, I had one pull out from a stop sign at my left as I approached the intersection. Luckily I was only going about 30 and just had to brake to avoid him. His windows were all fogged up with dew early in the morning but I could see his face through the fogged window so surely he could see my VERY bright headlight. I waved cheerily and memorised his number plate. What will I do with it?

Monday, 14 July 2008

We're All In This Together

Tonight on my ride home I caught up with another rider in the dark. I saw his light from a distance on the hill and powered up it. I'd been doing a bit of a Fartlek session sprinting up the hills and taking it fairly easy in between. So this guy made great bait. I realised pretty quickly that I was eating the distance.

As I caught up with him just over the hill I slowed for a chat. He told me he'd been off the bike for a couple of years and was just getting back into it. Obviously a racer, he said how strange it was for someone to slow down to talk. He told me that all the cyclists he'd seen would race by as though they were making a move in the tour, even old men on mountain bikes. We rode along for about 5k's in the dark and chatted before parting ways. He even had a go at sprinting a couple of hills with me. This made a nice end to a pretty good ride home.

It set me thinking though, why don't we try harder to make other cyclists feel more welcome and a part of a group with us. I know that we're all different and there are lots of different kinds of cyclist, but there's way more we've got in common than separating us.

Even riding this weekend, when I stopped to help Jim with a puncture, he said it was the first time anyone had stopped to help him apart from direct friends. That's a bit of a shame really. I'm no paragon of kindness by any means. I've been known to cut up the sharp young racer on the steep of Pretty Sally (local hill) more than once. I always pass with a wave, a g'day and a cheery smile though, no matter how much it's hurting. Maybe it's 'cos I'm from the country that I find myself practising inappropriate waving. That wave I give to the rider coming the other way who is obviously way out of my class, a mountain biker, a BMXer, a bike polo player, a commuter, or one of those damn snobby Audax riders...

Seriously, when you see another rider, especially one who's struggling or maybe starting out, take time to encourage her/him. It might be just the thing that helps cycling move from hard work or an exercise to that something special we all love.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

One Perfect Day

On Saturday I rode the Audax Gales East of the Prom 200km. It was one of the best days of riding I can remember. Everything about the ride worked well. The route followed good quality, quiet roads through spectacular countryside. The support was filling, friendly and helpful.

The weather was cool without being chilling. There was no rain. The wind wasn't too bad and when it was against us, the roadside vegetation and frequent hills offered a lot of protection.

Best of all I got to ride with a great bunch in Jim, Kathryn and Peter with occasional cameo performances from Leigh.

In typical disorganised fashion, I missed the start by a couple of minutes because I'd dropped a glove in the dark and couldn't find it. The slightly technical navigation for the first couple of kilometres through the town meant I lost even more time as I had to stop and check every corner in the dark.

By the 20 odd k mark I was catching up with the lead group (except Leigh) when Jim punctured so I decided to stop and give him a hand. We quickly got a new tube in and were on our way again, back at the very back of the bunch. We slowly picked our way back to catch up with the leaders again at about 40km and rode with them to Tidal River.

From there Jim, Kathryn and I rode together for the rest of the ride. Jim gave us a enormous pull along the flats from the prom back to Yanakie into a stiff head wind. After this we all did a fair bit of work to make things much easier for everyone.

After each checkpoint it took a good 10km to work the chill back out of our bones and get going again. We definitely got too cold at Waratah North and I found it really hard to get my rhythm back. At the Radical Goat Cafe in Tarwin Lower, the place was packed, so we retreated to the greasy servo to get our cards signed and took off without to much ado.

The last section featured a good number of tricky hills which took a fair bit more effort than they should have. Jim in particular was flagging after his massive effort earlier in the day.

The last 12km was a wonderful downhill run, firstly along a gentle scenic ridge, ending with a long rush down into Foster. Ecstatic, we stepped off our bikes at the finish and joined Leigh
and the similarly happy crowd of 150km finishers who were still milling around talking about their day's exploits.

This is definitely a ride to put on your must-do list.

Friday, 11 July 2008

Calm It Down

Stress is everywhere. Cars, work, family, children, politics, global warming, lambing ewes, broccoli seedlings, Melbourne traffic management plans. A million things I need to do and not enough time to do them.

Tonight I got a few minutes to just relax and I just couldn't. I tried sitting quiet and still. Just couldn't settle my mind. I'm an active relaxer. I can ease my mind by doing something physical and focusing on it. Cycling is such a great meditation, all those circles tracing out lovely sine waves in the air. Couldn't do that tonight so I tried stretching.

Focus on feeling the muscles relax isolate the target group, that's it. Ease the muscle, ease the mind. I've got tight muscles from being mentally stressed. Relax the mind by unwinding the muscles. It's a bit like the idea that smiling can make you feel happy.

Try it, it works. ;-)

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Luck of the Optimist

Sometimes luck just happens and sometimes it comes to you because you expect it. Today I had an example of the latter.

Today has been a truly awful day. Wet, windy, cold and awful. I really wanted a ride, so I set myself for a quick 30km tonight before dinner. As I got home it was still drizzling and quite windy. The moment I rolled the bike out of the she
d, the wind dropped to almost nothing, I peeled off a layer and went for it. Not the fastest ride in the world but thoroughly enjoyable and way better then sitting on the couch complaining about the weather.

Some days I find that the way I feel about the weather has far more effect on how bad it seems than the weather itself. Today I just feel really lucky to pick a window in the weather and have some fun.

I'm heading into the weekend feeling pretty good given the cold that gripped me for a week or so. I happy to have come through it largely unscathed and looking forward to yet another cold, wet and windy 200km on Saturday.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Cold, cold and cold.

This morning was really cold. 2.1 degrees C when I left home. Add to this that I still have a lingering cold and that there was a heavy fog and it's nasty! Normally I tend to try to slightly under-dress when cycling. I feel much better when I'm a bit cold and working hard than a bit hot.

Not this morning. I put on just about everything I could find. Even with all that gear and goretex ski gloves, I was still cold. At one stage I had a crust of ice forming on my chin. Yes, that's my skin. Not a hair on it.

I really don't understand what's happening to the attitude of motorists at the moment. I'm finding a lot more abuse and nastiness directed at me and other riders right now. Is it the weather? Fuel costs? General frustration? Why blame us? Today I had a driver slow sown move over on to me as he passed. He touched me and then drove off, a scary moment. What I don't get is what would make someone do that in the dark, cold foggy morning on their way to work.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Le Tour - Armchair Commentary

Yesterday's stage of Le Tour was one to make us forget about all the hype, the drug scandals and the egos. Simply the big guys got it wrong and the little guys took a big risk and won. Frenchmen Sammuel (Sammi) Dumoulin and Romain Feillu, Italian Paolo Longo Borghini and USA's William Frischkorn took the breakaway at kilometre zero in blustery, stormy conditions and held it to the end.

I was really moved by the interview with the stage winner Dumoulin. He was so overjoyed to win a stage of Le Tour:
Yeah, for me it's a dream. I want to win a stage in Le Tour de France since my first ever participation at the race. Today, I just want to be in the escape, to take pleasure on the road, on my bicycle and to don't think about the win. In the finish I make my maximum and it's very marvelous for the team - Cofidis. And for me it is beautiful, it is a very beautiful day.

I believed every word of it.

We've got a new leader and while I'd like to see Cadel win, it'd be amazing to see Feillu and his team mount a super-human effort to defend the Maillot Jaune all the way to the Champs-Elysées.

Tomorrow I think I'll just take pleasure on the road, on my bicycle and to don't think about the rain....

Monday, 7 July 2008

An Avalanche of Cycling

Last week I was suffering with a dreadful cold and cycling deprivation. Today, it's coming out of my ears. (Cycling, not the cold.) The Tour's underway, I've been riding three days in a row, I had a great day out with the Lairs yesterday and I'm psyching myself up for an Audax ride to Wilsons Prom on next weekend.

No matter how much hype there is around the T
our, I can never get over just how fast it is, how tough the riders are and what a massive feat it is to finish it. Much of the time I just watch in awe at the super-human efforts these riders put in each day. Many of the riders are injured in one way or another and still they manage to come out day after day and do the impossible.

Yesterday, I went on a ride of a very different kind.
I went out for a social ride and a cup of coffee with the Lancefield Lairs. Not too much heroics, just fun and fitness, we knocked out 50k and I drank too much coffee. So much for the diet. In our own way though, each of us is special and brings a joy and hopefulness to cycling. The guys and girls of the Lairs have so many different reasons for coming along, different ambitions and levels of skill on a bike. The love of cycling we all share gives us a vital understanding of each other and helps us understand our differences.We muck around, hassle each other, race over bumps on the road and generally have fun.

Meanwhile, I'm working on getting my head together for 200km around South Gippsland and Wilsons Prom. The name of the ride is "Gales East of the Prom". I've had more than enough nasty experiences in wet, cold and windy riding down that way in winter. I just keep telling myself that 200k isn't too far. How hard can it be?

La Cote d'Azur et Saint Tropez
Les Alpes et les Pyrennees
Derniere etape Champs-Elysees
Galibier et Tourmalet
En danseuse jusqu'au sommet
Pedaler en grand braquet
Kraftwerk - Tour de France

Saturday, 5 July 2008

Riding on a High

How beautiful was today? Back on the bike after four days off with this dreadful cold, I headed off into the beautiful, chilly morning in shorts and short socks. A bit of a shock. I made it 15km before I had to stop and vomit up all the green muck I'd been coughing up as I rode. I made fairly ordinary time into a light headwind out to Steve's home and found him looking for me a few km from home.

We rode his 3 Hill ride together and frolicked into the wind a bit on the way back. I'm still not breathing easily but my legs feel ok. I stopped for a cuppa and chewed the fat for way too long. By the time I got back on the bike my legs were like rocks.

It took nearly 10km to warm up but by then I had the wind behind me and the sun on my back. What a feeling. The ride home has a fair number of longish even graded, easy hills. With a light tail wind, they were just perfect. I cracked a heart rate of 185 a couple of times. While I know this isn't recommended with a cold, it did help clear the lungs a bit. I genuinely felt like I was flying home. Swooping and soaring over the hills.

If you can just get your mind together
Uh-then come on across to me
Well hold hands and then well watch the sunrise
From the bottom of the sea
But first, are you experienced?
Uh-have you ever been experienced-uh?
Well, I have
Jimi Hendrix - Are You Experienced

How good is this cycling lark? I'm trying to psych myself up to stay up to watch the Tour but it might affect my cycling time tomorrow.

Friday, 4 July 2008

Sick of Walking

Well, I've had enough of going for walks. It's not enough. I feel like my cold is clearing enough to go for a decent ride tomorrow morning. To make the decision even easier, it looks like being a lovely day.

Normal service should resume shortly.

Thursday, 3 July 2008

now I'm just depressed...

I really like to look on the bright side of life. Today it's been hard. A couple of days ago I was reading cfsmtb's blog and remembering with some fondness travelling down to Tassie on the Princess and riding my bike out to Strachan to protest the Gordon-below-Franklin dam(n). In those days it felt like we could achieve something, and we did.

Today, I listen to mealy mouthed politicians spouting meaningless rhetoric about global warming, water conservation, fuel. It doesn't matter the subject. I feel singularly useless. I rail against their stupidity, I may as well beat my head bloody against a brick wall. Across the world people demonstrate, not against their leaders short-sightedness, but against the price of petrol. Here, our own leftist (sic) labor (sic) government is too scared to commit to including petrol in a carbon trading scheme. All as the clock ticks seconds to midnight.

The same government removes solar subsidies from everyone with enough income to be able to afford it, dooming any chance of Australia developing any kind of skills in solar industry.

The Murray-Darling river system has NO WATER in it at all, and our leaders (sic) spend months bickering over what share of the that NO WATER each should retain rights to.

Tens of thousands of hectares of once productive land in the Goulburn Valley river system have lain without crops for years because of lack of water for irrigation. What does our government do? Pipe water from there to Melbourne. Why? More voters in the city....

What can I do? What can any of us do? Write to your member of parliament, tell them how you feel. Impress on them the need to act NOW! Burning them in effigy seems reasonable, but think of the carbon.

My gut is wrenched out it is crunched up and broken
My life that is lived is no more than a token
Who'll strike the flint upon the stone and tell me why?

If I yell out at night there's a reply of blue silence
The screen is no comfort I can't speak my sentence
They blew the lights at heaven's gate and I don't know why
Blue Sky Mine - Midnight Oil

Ride your bike every chance you get.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Bike Lanes - Part 3

Today's bike crap bike lane is worthy of a dishonourable mention, not so much because it's totally dangerous or pointless, but because it's brand new and built from the ground up as a totally rebuilt road with bike lane. It's kind of understandable when the bike lane is retrofitted to the profile of an existing road that there will be compromises.

What's the excuse for this?

That steel post is almost exactly in the middle of the lane which enters the bridge. What's not so clear from the photo is the size of the step up onto the concrete bridge or just how strewn with gravel the entire lane is. Imagine making that cut at 45kph. What's also not clear from the photo is that there's 30 or more metres of vacant land on each side of the road which could have been utilised to get things to line up properly.

Or the fact that on the same stretch, a couple of hundred metres up the road, there's a section where the bike lane moves off the road onto a section of shared foot-path, apparently for no other reason than the road builders forgot to make the road wide enough at that point.

Add to these obvious engineering problems that the lane goes to nowhere. It doesn't join to another bike lane or path. It doesn't pass schools or homes, it just passes through an industrial estate. No doubt there's a Member of Parliament or two crowing about their green, community credentials as a result of this little masterpiece.

My cold is so horrible today that I can hardly even get outraged about crap bike lanes. I saw a doctor who said I have a chest infection. He offered me a course of antibiotics which he said should clear it up in seven days. Without them, it could take a week.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Half Time

Here we are, half way through the year, and I've got a cold. Time to take stock and see how I'm going and what I've got to do. Last December I set myself the goal of riding 14,000km this year. Here on the 1st of July, I've got 7073.1 under my wheels. I'm riding faster and I feel like my skills are improving. On the downside, I've put on weight and I'm getting nagging problems in my left hip and right shoulder.

I set out to focus on my riding this year and I've let the running go. It really does seem to help my rhythm and speed on the bike if I keep the running to a minimum. It has however been hard getting out of bed to ride to work on dangerous roads in dark, cold, wet and windy conditions.

So, what's in store for the second part of the year?
  • I'm planning to do 400k at the Mallee Routes weekend to complete a Super Series
  • I've signed up for the 1200k ride in the Great Southern Randonnee
  • I'm working to build speed and lose weight to go faster in the Alpine (<8hr)
  • I need another 200k brevet before November to qualify for an Irene Plowman
  • I'm planning to keep my leg hair under control
Right now, I'm having a hard time keeping my eyes open to type properly. It's a mongrel cold but hopefully with all the good things I'm putting in my body, I'll be over it pronto. My lovely wife Kerrie, just made a delicious roast beef dinner grown on our own property. If that doesn't perk me up nothing will. It looks like a few days off the bike might be in order too. I might see how I scrub up by Thursday. Hopefully the wind will die down a bit by then too.

Seeing it's half time I might just have a couple more quarter oranges before running back out onto the ground.