Wednesday, February 28, 2007

3 bike family

(Photo from Barcelona 2006)

Monday, February 26, 2007

Grafton to Inverell Cyclosportif Challenge

After spending two days driving up from Sydney I finally registered for the Grafton to Inverell Cyclosportif Challenge on Friday night. At this point I was very annoyed to find out that there was no bus to get us back to Grafton the following day. The event organisers claimed that they didn’t have enough people to warrant a bus. That’s ok, but they didn’t bother telling anyone that this was the case, so a few of us were left scrambling to try to organise lifts with other cyclists. I was fortunate enough to find two meet two kind cyclists from the Grafton Cycling Club who were able to drive me back that night. My co-rider Sergio – who’d also driven up from Sydney – was also stuck having to beg for a lift. There were some other problems with the event, but I had a wonderful time so I won’t dwell on them.

On Saturday morning, Sergio and I started the ride at 6:50am. We were a bit late and missed the first three bunches. The morning was dark and foggy. Unfortunately I left my sunglasses in my back pocket and they fell out somewhere over the first 20km. Expecting that they’d probably been turned into roadkill, I pressed on and did not go back to look for them. At the beginning of the ride there were many rolling hills that made it hard to work together. Sergio was setting a cracking pace and I suggested we slow down (at least) until after the climb. At 70km we were at the base of the Gibraltar Ranges National Park. From this point, there was a 1000m climb straight up onto the tablelands. Thankfully, the gradient was just right and my 42/25T granny gear managed to make it up without forcing me to stand out of the saddle (very often!). We hit the summit in around 1hour 15mins (maybe less?) and we passed a lot of riders on the way up. From there, we passed along some nice downhills and flats out to the Mt Michell feed station. At 120km we had our first feed, but I didn’t feel that hungry.

On the road to Glenn Innes we joined up with two cyclists from Sydney (the brothers Davin and Joel) and established a little bunch that would ride together for the next 100km. It was nice riding in a group as our chatting was a distraction from all the effort we were making. As we passed over the tablelands it was amazing how quickly the scenery had changed from lefty rainforests into dry open cattle country. There was one cowboy herding cattle along the road. This was the first time I’d even signalled to the bunch to watch out for a cow on the road. At approximately 170km we passed through the town of Glen Innes. Our bunch had grown to around 6-7 riders and we did some really nice group riding over the last 50km. I was feeling stronger as ride continued and so I was keen to set the pace at the front. Although there was one rider (nicknamed “Sponge”) who didn’t make even the slightest effort to share the work. The only thing that was bothering me over the last 20km was a cramp in my left foot. I tried to move it around as well as off the pedal but I was in agony over the last 10km. As we came towards Inverell I passed the 200km mark for the first time. There were only two minor hills that we climbed over from there. Sergio and I ended up riding ahead over the last 5km, however, I had to stop 1km from the finish when the sensor from my bike computer fell off the fork. I’d already lost my sunglasses so I wasn’t going to loose this as well. We finished the race in 8 hours and 30mins. The distance was 228km with an average speed of 27.1km/h. After the ride we jumped in the Inverell pool to cool off and do some stretching. Despite a few hiccups at the beginning it was a great day and I’d easily do it again. We were very lucky to have perfect riding conditions on the day. My only regret was carrying copious amounts of weight on my bike, however I was prepared for anything that day and the only prize was finishing.

Monday, February 19, 2007

On the road again

After 15 years in retirement and two months of fiddling, the Star has finally made its way back onto the road again. Thanks to Mark and the people at the Nunnery for helping me make the final adjustments. Here are some photos from its maiden voyage to Ashfield shops this morning.

A new Mr Sydney?

A recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald has created a bit of debate on the Sydney critical mass list. Professor Jan Gehl has been commissioned to undertake a study of the city that will focus on the needs of both pedestrians and cyclists. The study will cost $210,000 and take 10-months to complete. Several cyclists expressed a concern that the new study would just delay time and money from the existing bike plan policy which has already been lagging over the last year. Put another way, the perpetual attempt to solve problems by coming up with new plans stops any plans from ever being implemented. This is true, but I don't think we should dismiss Professor Gehl too qucikly. He could do some really exciting things in the city, but one wonders how he could ever make logger-heads of the complex web of intrigue that is Sydney’s planning culture. Even the smallest road change is likely to require the cooperation of city council, the RTA and the Department of Planning. However, as we saw in the fiasco over the removal of bike lanes in William Street, there are some very powerful and competing agendas within the city and so the possibility making even minor urban policy changes is likely to run into trouble. Professor Gehl’s appointment represents an exciting opportunity for the city to tackle many of its urban woes, however, his appointment could be seen as a symptom of the city’s problems in that we repeatedly hope that international experts will give us 'the cure' rather than confront the real issue of just how the city can be governed in a coordinated and democratic way. If Professor Gehl is not to go the way of his Danish predecessor he will need to focus on the complex political ‘life between buildings’.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

More fun playing with bikes

On Saturday I sawed through the stem to get the rusted fork out. Hacksaws are fun especially when you don't know what you’re sawing into. I striped the bike back to the frame and sprayed inside with WD-40. I also cleaned up the wheels with WD-40, metal polish and some fine steel wool.

On Sunday I headed over the Bicycle Recycle, where Karen was able to give me all the bits and pieces I needed – a Malvern star fork, stem, axles and a bottom bracket. She also gave me a new frame for a fixie. Fixing up bike is a lot of fun when you can get the right parts. It helps if you can make contact with the right people. A lot of bike enthusiasts are only too happy to help share their knowledge. On Sunday afternoon I got back to putting it all together. I picked up some industrial grease for the bottom bracket. It was a little bit like playing that boardgame 'Operation' as you push the ball bearings around the cup with a pen and aim to keep them all in place. The grease makes it easy and I got it to work on the second attempt. This time when I put the chainring and crankarms back on there was no wobble. I then cleaned and regreased the ball bearings in the fork and headset and put it all back together with the new fork. The bike is basically ready to go, I just need to put the chain back on and do a few tightening adjustments. Will head over to the Nunnery this afternoon to finish it off.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Back to work

With some encouragement from Karen at Bicycle Recycling, I've got back to work on the Malvern Star. The odds are that it is older than I thought and could be from the 1960s or earlier. While I’m still looking for a new/old axle, I’ve realised that I shouldn’t waste time and use this opportunity to do other things such as clean up the chainring.

This week is the one year anniversary of my ‘conversion’ to cycling. Its easy to remember because I started riding the first week I started a PhD at Macquarie Uni. A bit of a 'lifestyle change' as they say. I’ve gone from being a ‘haven’t cycled since I was a teenager’, to a ‘200-300km a week commuter/leisure/sporting cyclist’ and some would say ‘cycling evangelist’. I’ve gone from just one bike to four (but only two or three ever work at the same time). Yes, it’s a bit of an addiction but I’m trying hard not to become a 'cycling fetishist’. I used to drive everyday but now only once a fortnight. I’ll get rid of my car soon. What prompted me into cycling was a simple mixture of factors; 1) time it was quicker than driving and less stressful; 2) costs: when petrol went over 1.40 a litre I knew I was wasting too much money, and; 3) fitness: I hated gyms, got bored with swimming and was not into team sports. Getting into cycling has completely changed the way I see the city, in fact I like Sydney a lot more than I used to. Its a much more interesting place when you get around on a bike. I can talk the benefits of cycling forever, but at the end of the day, I simply enjoy my time on the bike.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Sydney Body Art Ride

So here i am in silver making my big exit into the world of body art at the Sydney Body Art Ride. All for a deserving charity... well yes... that and the $5o bet I made with Therese. The day was heaps of fun although I did sense some irony in that we were standing out in the sun for three hours in an event that was to raise money for a cancer charity. As a ride marshall, I only dealt with one irate car driver (4WD of course). Everyone else loved the spectacle. Going for a swim at Maroubra was just the best. Felt like I was in some strange religious festival as 200+ coloured cyclists ran into the water to wash off their painted bodies.

If your reading this T, the check can be made out to:

Children's Cancer Institute Australia
PO Box 81
Randwick NSW 2031