Friday, 25 July 2014

Flares

I get to do lots of cool things.

Seriously I do.

For example last night I got to see God when he appeared as a walking ball of light ...


OK, maybe I exaggerate .... but we (The Tasmanian Sea Canoeing Club) did have a flare demonstration provide by MAST at our meeting last night and it was pretty darn cool ... in fact it was probably one of the best general meeting presentations we've had in the club.

Which is a shame as only about 10 people turned up.

Where are you all ...
Seriously, it was a brilliant night with Peter talking us through MAST's role, including all the latest on life jackets (yes, they're called lifejackets again now... not PFDs), radio and GPS developments and of course we got to learn about, and let off, various flares and play with our laser flares.

It was like kids playing with candy ...

Look ... I'll hit Larry.
But it also had a serious side with each of learning how to actually let them off properly, and key tricks like making sure you launch parachute flares at about a 60 degree angle (not straight up).

We also learnt the rather scary statistic that 28 kayakers and ocean ski paddlers have had to be rescued since just October last year, and yes that is just in Tasmania ... and that's just the one's that MAST knows about.  It really puts the new kayaking safety laws into perspective.

The only downside of the night was that I took along my flares (none of which had expired) and of course someone asked about parachute flares and so I put mine out on the front table so she could see what they looked like ... and unfortunately I then wandered off to the kitchen only to find when I returned that all my flares had been taken outside, and well ...


... I guess I could use one of those $25 Peter Johnston gift vouchers that were provided to replace them.

ka-ching.  It might be a good life, but sometimes it's an expensive one as well.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

N + 3

There are two voices of wisdom to which I turn when making the big decisions in my life ... The first is of course Kim, and the second is the 95 rules of wisdom that answer all questions and chase away all doubt... The Rules of the Velominati.

It was to these two sources that I recently turned to answer a question that has been tormenting me for the last few months (since I decided not to head overseas this year and hence found myself with a bit more cash in my pocket) ...  is it proper for someone who already owns seven bikes, the last of which was only bought five months ago, to consider buying another one again so soon ...

... and if that's OK (and I think it is) ... would it be OK to buy three more bikes?

(Disclaimer if you're busy - I have determined that the correct number of bikes to own is N=12, so you can really skip to the bottom of this blog for the spine tingling twist if you want)

Now the Velominati seems to have quite a clear answer on this ...

Rule #12
// The correct number of bikes to own is n+1.
While the minimum number of bikes one should own is three, the correct number is n+1, where n is the number of bikes currently owned. This equation may also be re-written as s-1, where s is the number of bikes owned that would result in separation from your partner.
... but it's that "S-1, where s is the number of bikes that would result in separation from your partner",  kicker in the end which causes the problem here.

Before I make the case for the need for these new bikes (so you can understand that I am not just being frivolous, but have a genuine and real need for these new bikes) I need to backend my arguments by explaining what my current stable of bikes consists of:

Giant Trance 29er - my newest and go to bike for most of my XC riding
"Goldie" a 12 year old hardtail used for mountain bike touring.
Not used much, but good to have when I need her.
She could be replaced by N=9 below.
"Whitey" - my still sort of retiring 26 inch full suspension mountain bike
Still a go to bike for bikepacking and the really adventurous stuff.
Also a second bike for when people visit and want to go for a ride
though so far in forty years nobody has actually visited me and wanted to go for a ride.
Trek 520 - My go to bike for overseas touring trips.
Taken to the US and Europe, however with an unrepairable derailer problem
this N may also need upgrading.  Could also be replaced by N=9
My electric bike for commuting to work.
I love this bike, but wouldn't mind a proper electric bike (low priority)

My Merida road bike - used for lunch time rides
and the occasional social riding event.   This N is just fine for current use.
My water bike.  Well let's face it ... I'm not taking any of my other bikes
into that environment and the step through tube is very useful
for mounting.  The bike is too rusted for any other use.
Right, having done that,  I know you'll see immediately what I see ... there are obviously three (well five if we're being technical) huge, gaping holes in my modest stable ...

But just in case you don't see it, let me explain ...

N = 8 ... the cyclocross bike

Yes, I have known cyclists to cross to the other side of the street just to avoid my gaze whilst muttering to their mates  "Hey, don't look now but there's that guy that doesn't own a cyclocross bike ... I never know what to say to him when we meet up ... I just feel so sorry for the poor guy" ...

I love cyclocross, and although I know that owning a cyclocross bike will do practically nothing to improving my speed, skills or racing position ... I still want one ... I mean just look at it ... it's so beautiful.

Source: Cyclingo Facebook
and that is why a cyclocross bike is my N=8

N = 9 the Fatbike 

To be honest I actually want a fatbike slightly more than I want a cyclocross bike  ... but it becomes an N=9 because it's cyclocross season and so my need for a cyclocross bike is slightly higher.

I'm also torn over which fatbike to get ... one part of me really likes the true fatbikes with 3 to 4 inch wheels used to cycle through the snow and soft sand ... like the Salsa Mukluk ...

Source: http://salsacycles.com/bikes/2014_mukluk_3
But then I realise that the Surly Krampus 29er+ fatbike could almost be my dream bike ... equipped to take 3 inch wide wheels, it can also take normal mountain bike tyres, the frame can support both normal SRAM gearing, but it can also be converted to a Rohloff hub (which would be the dream) and it is built with touring in mind so has braze-ons everywhere, whilst apparently also offering a fairly responsive ride ... it's just a shame it's so butt ugly (unless you hide it in framebags ...)

Source: www.whileoutriding.com
So N=9 is undoubtedly the Surly Krampus 29er+

N = 10 (Hanging the head in Shame) ... The Folding Bike

Yes, I admit it, I want a folding bike.

I like the idea of having a bike that I can throw in the back of the car (easily), drive in towards work, but park 4 or 5 kms away and then just ride in the last bit for a bit of exercise (and to avoid parking charges).

I like the idea of having a bike that I could easily take on short trips around Australia without all the usual hassles of travelling with bikes.

I like the idea of having a bike I could take on a trip to say Japan or China where I'd want to do some cycling, but not necessarily make it a cycling holiday ... so I like the idea of a folding bike that's easy to travel with.


... and having just been through a friends photo album of his travels around Scotland on a folding bike (see picture above stolen from his facebook page) ... suddenly my need for a folding bike has become more urgent ... So N = 10 is a folding bike.

So, with all this logic behind me to justify the purchase of N + 3 (resting as it does on the wisdom of the Aficianado) I felt sure that I could convince Kim of the need for these purchases ...

So I went to her and started to outline my arguments for increasing the size of my stable (sometimes it is wise to speak in metaphor) and how I felt it was time to add three new members to my cycling family ... and much to my surprise she immediately agreed and thought it was a brilliant, wonderful and fantastic idea ...

... which is how we became the monster bunch ...  joh(N) + 3

  
  


+

Yes, all of the above was just a screen so nobody would get this far in this post.

Today, Kim and I signed a contract together for the purchase of a new house, which is absolutely brilliant, and which I am ecstatic about because ... now I don't have to worry about trying to repair my shed that blew away last week (why does Kim put up with me?)

And don't worry, I have checked and this unexpected turn of events is still within the rules of the Velominati ... whilst Kim was looking at weird things like whether the monsters would like their bedrooms (who cares?), whether there was enough cupboard space for food, and where the dogs would stay ... I was down in the garage, with measuring tape in hand ensuring that I could fit my dream stable of twelve bikes and who knows how many kayaks into the available space ...

Rule #4
// It’s all about the bike.
It is, absolutely, without question, unequivocally, about the bike. Anyone who says otherwise is obviously a twatwaffle.
and I can.

Happy days.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

The Shed Project

Seems everyone around me is doing brag projects at the moment.

Kim is busy renovating her house ... painting and cleaning and changing taps and I don't know ... other house stuff.

A friend of mine, cath, has recently been posting about a cool "7 projects in 7 days" challenge she set herself ... which included creating cool things like yoghurt covered kangaroos (though that sounds more like a meal than a challenge to me) ...

Stolen picture from Cath's blog.
And so I thought I might share a project I recently undertook ...

It started way back in October last year (my project is more like "1 project in 7 months") when I found myself returning from Europe with around 500 euros still sitting on my travel card.

With no plans for how I might use this money, I cashed out my card and bought myself a beautiful new 3mx3m absco shed that looked something like this  ...
At least it would have if I put it together.

Which I didn't do for a while.

A very long while.

Some might say an exceedingly long while.

But then about six weeks ago, I finally got myself organised and with the help of my nephew, Sam, we spent a solid day building here and constructing there and 14 pages of connecting part 58A to part 14C later, voila ...



... I had a shed.

... well except for one small detail ... they had sent me the wrong roof centre support beam.  Specifically they'd sent me one for a 2 metre shed, not a 3 metre one.

See the problem?
So we put the shed together with a few holding screws in it, and I waited for Absco to send me a replacement part.

Which, to their credit, they did a few of weeks ago ... but you know ... we had the Gold Coast Marathon the next weekend, then I had that weekend cycling in the snow... and I figured there was no rush finishing it off.  Right?

Remember that really windy night we had last week ...

Well my shed roof blew off, the walls blew down and my shed basically imploded and is now a twisted mess of metal something like this ...

Shed damage reenactment ...
Which is why I shouldn't do projects and why I should keep my money on my travel card for holidays instead.

Projects suck.  The End

Sunday, 20 July 2014

St Virgil's Cyclocross (Rambler Rouge)

I've heard it said that winning is a mental game, that it's all about attitude.


Which is good, because mentally I was pumped for today's cyclocross.  I mean really pumped.

I'd been out to Anaconda yesterday and splashed out on a red jersey (a $24 Fluid special) to focus my mind on my race goal of not being the Lantern Rouge at the end of the race.

I'd put up a post on facebook to try and encourage a few more social riders along ... so we could have some fun at the back of the race, not so that I'd increase my chances of beating someone (honest).

I'd almost remembered that my back brakes on my 29er weren't working last weekend and needed bleeding (by almost, I mean I didn't actually remember until I got about 3kms down the road, then I remembered, so I headed back home and picked up my old 26er full suspension bike).

I'd even stopped off at Woolworths on the way and grabbed some sour squirms ... which I believe are the food of choice of champions.

So you can understand why I pulled into St Virgils ready and focused for some serious fun racing.

And it is here that my game plan started to unravel.


It is, as they say, a mental thing.

My first problem was I couldn't find the race.

True story - I drove up to the carpark where I had parked for the last XC race ... and there was no-one there, so I followed the road as far as I could trying to see someone, anyone, that was here to race .... but that just led to a dead end with no one in sight.  So I sat there flummoxed ... could I really be the only person who has turned up to the race?  Was that a small smile appearing on my face as I started to dream that I could take out both victory and the lantern rouge in the same race?

I was actually driving back off the school grounds when I finally caught a glimpse of a car tucked around behind a building, and from there I found the start of the race.

I got out of my car and counted the packed car park  ... 4 . 5 .. 6 ... 7 .... there were only seven cars.

Insert nervous expletive here.

Where were the crowds of social riders?

I unpacked, wondering if anybody (the whole two people I could see) would notice if I quietly reversed back out and drove away ...  but then I remembered that last time I'd said I would turn up for a cyclocross race and didn't I'd actually got pinged for it (back then I didn't realise anyone outside of my direct family actually read this blog) so I continued getting ready and headed down to where I hoped the registration would be ...

Euphoria ... I came around the corner and there was a second car park with at least another five, maybe as many as seven cars in it.  Knowing that there would now be at least 15 people in the race I knew I was in for a chance (OK, I knew I wasn't, but I was having to do a lot to stop myself turning around and going home at this stage).

I headed down and registered, and then headed around to watch the children's race before setting off to try and find the course and do some sort of practice lap.

This was a really good idea, not because it gave me a great insight into where I could make up seconds in the race ... where I should push and where I could rest.  No.  This was a great idea, because a third of the way around the course my brand new chain snapped.


That, if you're wondering, is chain number four in about two months.

More importantly ... I now had the perfect excuse to not race.  I could already see this blog post writing itself  "I turned up, and was so disappointed when my chain snapped ... but, you know, what could I do?"

If I could just wipe that big smile off my face, I might actually be convincing.

Unfortunately, as I slowly pushed my bike back to my car I realised there was something I could do ... I had my 29er (albeit without brakes) sitting in the back of my car ...

So, psyching myself back up by telling myself that this was cyclocross, and I love cyclocross, I swapped bikes and very, very nervously joined the other racers for the race brief before lining up for the start ...



It became clear by the way that everyone lined up at the start (with wheels hanging over the start line) that there were only four of us that weren't here racing for sheep stations, and things looked even more dire for me as the starters gun went off and we set off on a 'prelude' section around the oval and then over to the actual start line (to space us out a bit).

Half way around the oval I was already dropped off the back of the pack, with the only solace being one young kid and the only female entrant of the race still being back with me.

Then the young kid sorted out whatever gear problem he was having and he took off, leaving just me and the only female entrant (who, by default, had already won her race just by turning up).

By the time I got to the start line for the first time (I know how depressing that sounds) the rest of the field had already vanished into the distance, but the good thing about having a low emotional intelligence quotient is that now that I was racing, I didn't really care ... I was racing cyclocross!!!!


Not that I've got much to compare it against, but whoever put this course together had done an excellent job in my opinion.   The course had everything ... steep slippery climbs,  fun switchbacks, plenty of nice logs and gutters to get over, some fast sections, some muddy sections, three sets of 'hurdles' and even some steps to run up.


It was cyclocross and it was awesome fun ... especially with an enthusiastic bunch of kids ringing their cow bells as we headed around the course.

I was completely by myself at the back of the field about half way around the first lap, and I got lapped by the two leaders for the first time just 100 metres into my second lap.

Whilst I do recall reminding myself at that point that winning is a mental game, that it always took me a while to get going and that I would start chasing them down soon, I think that even I secretly knew that unless all twenty competitors exited the race with mechanical problems (in the first half of the race) then I wasn't going to podium this time around.

At least I got that bit right.


The lead guys were doing laps in under six minutes, whilst I was doing them in about 11 minutes ... so I was pretty much getting lapped every single lap, but I just kept an eye out behind me and got out of the way when I saw anyone coming up on me, and it was inspiring to see how effortlessly most of the riders were able to get up, down and over obstacles that I found challenging.

As it turned out, not only was I the last male finisher as predicted, I was also the last male finisher over the line (I had a vague hope that because of the lap system someone else might finish behind me, albeit that they would have done a lot more laps, but it wasn't to be and they were packing up when I crossed the line).

But that doesn't really matter to me ... I may have been surrounded by a bunch of serious riders (all of whom were really friendly out on course) but as I rode back to my car in my cheap fluid jersey, now covered in mud, I had a smile on my face which stretched from ear to ear.

Maybe, I reasoned, those expert are at least partly right ... maybe it is a mental game, maybe it's all about attitude ... all I have to do is redefine what "winning" means, and for me, today, winning just meant being there and having some fun ... and that I managed to do

I love cyclocross.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Rambler and the Rough Stuff Fellowship

Ninety-nine times out of a hundred when people contact me and suggest that we go for a ride somewhere, I think about it for about five seconds (because that seems like a polite enough time not to appear rude and I do have to figure out what excuse I'm going to give) and then I say something like "Thanks, but [insert excuse here] ... maybe you can send me the GPS route?"


This isn't because I don't like human beings (in the main, I do) it's because (a) I'm a severe introvert so spending time with actual live human beings is the mental equivalent of doing a 24 hour enduro for me, and (b) I'm one of the slowest riders in Tasmania and I know I'm not much fun to ride with for anyone who can actually ride a bike.

But then there's that other one time out of a hundred  ...


That time when the offer is just too good for even me to refuse.  The time when I'm offered the chance to ride trails I may otherwise never get to see ...


That's what happened this weekend, when I was given a chance to ride with the self-proclaimed and unofficial Tasmanian chapter of the Rough Stuff Fellowship ...

Rough Stuff Fellowship checking in with their wives ...
I mean placing bets on an illegal dog fight because they're rough and tough. 
and selecting their mascot ... I've heard that the Hell's Angels
selected their mascot this way too.
So the offer was this ... come for a weekend away to somewhere you won't be able to write about it, or let anyone know where you've been, but it will be kind of awesome in an "oh hey, look, there's a thylacine" awesome sort of way ... and so good was the offer that I didn't even wait my usual five seconds before responding ...  I was in.

Here's why ....



























Yep ... it was a brilliant weekend ... in fact beyond brilliant.  We explored some beautiful trails, we got lost a few times, we camped out under a full moon and even saw an amazing moonbow.

Night time photo (Source: Peter Mellows) with no flash.
Night time shot.



Anyone else got some offers for rides like that?