Sunday, 9 August 2015

Winter Challenge 2015 Road Bike Pre-Rode

Have you ever played one of those picture games they used to have in newspapers and magazines where you have to see if you can spot a number of very minor differences between what are otherwise two nearly identical pictures?

If so then you get the gist of what I'm about to ask ... see if you can spot the two differences between these two (otherwise) identical pictures of the outward leg of the road bike course in this coming weekends Winter Challenge road bike leg ...

... and so you can see how this works, one difference is that one is green and one is grey.

My strava generated route profile ....

Did you notice the other difference?

One is a completely fictional route profile which seems to indicate a nice smooth and gentle climb of just under 100 metres over 8kms, and the other one shows the much nastier reality of multiple climbs and descents.

Neither however show the wonderful wooden bridge you get to cross (at the low point just past 4kms)

Every road cyclists dream.
Or the cattle grid you cross over a couple of kilometres later ...

To be fair, the organisers have flagged these as obstacles in the course notes, and overall I think they have actually selected a rather awesome course for the road bike section of the event as it is a course that will reward strong legs and hard work and which will penalise those of us that have neither of these things and find ourselves slipping into our easier gears just to survive.

In short, it's a good race leg that will sort the racers from the survivors ... and it also has some pretty awesome views along the way:

I'm anticipating having plenty of time to enjoy those views.

Unfortunately the course turns around just before we hit the gravel which is where I'm sure I'd shine.


PS. my advice (other than to expect lots of climbing) is to pack a spare tube in the rear pocket as it would be very easy to get a pinch flat on those obstacles.

Also be aware that coming down the big hill on the way back from the turn around point that there's a couple of roots under the road which lead to some nasty little holes.

Just saying.

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Would the real winter please stand up ...

I think like pretty much every other Tasmanian (that wasn't already stuck in snow), I've been salivating since Monday's snow event (which had snow settled on the beaches) to get out and play in the snow.

Except  I think I've been salivating a bit more because I've got a fatbike that hasn't yet had a chance to play in the cold stuff ...

Figuring that the front side of Mt Wellington would already be well picked over by cyclists, and fearing the amount of traffic that was probably heading up to Mt Field and Ben Lomond, I opted to attempt for a ride around the back of Mt Wellington to Collins Bonnet.

I started at the Zig Zag track near Collinsvale, and had to admit that things weren't looking too promising snow wise as I began the initial ascent up the zigs and zags ...

Not much snow here ... just dogs
However just as I got to the top and headed onto the East West track, all that changed and suddenly I found myself in snow ...

Albeit that it was intermittent and varying in consistency from slush to ice ruts.

In fact, if I'm honest, it was mainly ice ruts from what looked like a lot of illegal motorbike and 4wd use, and ice ruts are about as much fun for cycling in as normal ruts.

I did however find that if I rode on the side of the trail, outside the ruts, I could experience the joys of snow riding on a fatbike.

Except, I began experiencing the exact same problem with my Norco Bigfoot that I had experienced  the only other time I've taken it out for a proper ride - the chain kept getting sucked up into the front drive system whenever I had it in the second to fourth easiest gears.

It did, to be fair to this very crappy waste of money I call a fatbike, also seem to almost get chain suck in the easiest gear, but I think, after studying this phenomena for the sixty or so times it happened on this short ride, that what is happening is that the chain is bouncing, or catching somehow, on the outside of the fat tyre and this is causing it to flick up or be dragged into the front drive chain.  The reason I think it's not happening in the easiest gear is because although I can hear it constantly catching on the tyre, I think I'm going too slowly for it to bounce far enough up to get caught in the front chain ring.

The  result of this was an at times very frustrating ride, but fortunately I was in snow, and not really in a rush, so after about 10 minutes of cursing the world, I just shrugged and got on with the business of riding.  I even discovered that if the chain did get caught, I could just back-pedal quickly and then ride on.

As I got further along the track, the snow got deeper, and then after a steep push up the section of east west track just past the now closed myrtle track, the vehicle tracks stopped and I fund myself in 10-20cm deep virgin snow.

Strange thing I discovered about riding up a steep hill in deep snow ... you can't.

Well, maybe you can, but I can't.

I in fact spent a very long time pushing my bike up through ever deepening snow at a pace of around 1-2km/hr, until finally I had to stop and have a good long talk to myself about my plans.

You see by this point, my planned one to two hour ride had already stretched out close to three hours and I was still a long way from getting through to Collins Bonnet and my planned exit of Collins Cap trail.  At my current pace I wasn't going to get there until dark.

So with a little bit of that "I'm a failure" feeling, and an awful lot of that "I'm going to now get to ride down all those steep hills I've been pushing up and it's going to be fun" feeling I turned my bike around, jumped on, clipped in and pushed off to begin the descent ...

Except nothing happened.

OK, that's not quite true.  something happened, but that something was that the bike sort of sunk down into the snow (which was about knee deep by this point) and I sort of did a slow motion topple off the bike into the lovely deep snow.

Turns out that a fatbike with a fat person on it maxes out at about 15cm of snow.  After that it just sort of sinks.

This was highly distressing, as I'm sure you can imagine, but after a few stops and starts I finally found that if I found a shallow spot of snow to launch from and threw my weight right behind the back wheel I could sort of scoot, slip and slide my way down the hills.

Yee ha!

It was while enjoying the challenge of learning this new type of riding that luck finally went my way that I misjudged an icy rut, lost control of my front wheel, saw a nice large pile of snow on the side of the track to fall into and so gracefully allowed myself to get thrown into said pile of snow rather than continue to careen down the trail out of control.

It was whilst careening into this pile of snow that I discovered that said pile of snow was in fact not a large pile of snow and was in fact a large rock with a slight dusting of snow on it.  I also found that crashing into a rock, even with a slight dusting of snow on it, really hurts.

Once over the initial pain, and after disentangling myself from rock, bike and snow, I pulled the bike up off the ground and discovered that my phone was missing.  Maybe using my handlebar water bottle bag for an iphone holder wasn't the brilliant idea I thought it had been.

Thus began several minutes of fruitless searching and digging in the snow trying to locate my phone ... and this is where the luck came in, because I didn't find my phone and so thinking that maybe it had come out right before the actual crash I started walking back up the hill to find it.

And I did find it ... about 50 metres up the track where it must have come out in a completely unrelated circumstance.

A circumstance I would never have known about if I hadn't had that crash.

How's that for lucky!

From that point on the ride back to my car was a great combination of fun, terror and frustration (that chain suck really sucked) but as I pulled back up to the car, over four hours after I had left, and despite being covered in mud and snow and being freezing, I have to admit ... I was also grinning ear to ear.

So what have I learnt - I've learnt that I may hate my fatbike, but I still love fatbiking ... and we need more snow ... lots more snow.

Friday, 7 August 2015

MEDIA RELEASE - Rambler withdraws from Winter Commute Challenge

With much regret, the Rambler is today confirming that from this coming Friday the fourteenth of August he will be withdrawing from riding the Winter Commute Challenge

"I did want to let my loyal fans know of this sooner", the Rambler said,  "But I was worried this announcement would inevitably send shock-waves through the cycling community and perhaps distract from the achievements of other cyclists in  great events like the Tour Divide and the Tour de France."

"The reality is that from this Friday, due to a temporary change in work circumstances, my commute distance will drop from around 19kms each way to just 4kms, and I can't in good faith claim these pitiful distances as a commuter victory over winter."

"I have therefore decided to withdraw from the winter commute challenge on my own terms by competing in both cycle legs of the real winter challenge on Sunday 16 August."

"I fully expect to be the slowest cyclist on both courses, but the challenge is to be out there riding, challenging myself."

We can confirm that rumours are true that the Rambler is busy creating bigger and better challenges for Spring, but he does not wish to release details at this stage.

For the record, at the end of week 10, the scores stand at Rambler, 7 weeks, winter 3 weeks.  Rambler 26 cycling days, winter 17.

Media Statement Ends.

"... OK, now we've got that sh*t out of the way ... who the f*#k entered me in the Winter Challenge?  Don't you idiots know how f*#king humiliating this is going to be  ... what?  ... speak up ... what do you mean what I'm saying is still going into the blog post ... oh sh# ..."

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Good deed day ...

This may sound strange, but as much as I hate that moment of terror when a car flicks past you too close and too fast, what I really hate about vehicular incidents on a bicycle is the powerlessness of knowing that even if you feel like you were nearly killed and you have the number plate, and you have the video footage ... there is still nothing you can do about it, because even if you take it to the police ... they won't do anything about it (and before anyone argues with me - that's based on my experience).

I hate feeling powerless.

That's why, when I was standing outside Treasury this morning have a post-meeting chat, and I saw a car try and reverse park into a spot across the street, completely stuff it up and instead reverse straight into the rear panel of another (very new) parked car, and then try and quickly drive off so that they wouldn't get in trouble (and yes they did know they'd hit the car because we saw their whole car shake and then they had to grind past the car a second time doing more damage as they drew forward)

... I quickly took down their number plate.

Then I took a photo ...

And then I went across the road and left a note on the windscreen of the 'hit' vehicle with the details of what happened and the registration number, car description and my name and number as a witness.


About an hour later, I got a very thankful message on my phone (like all true public servants I was already in my next meeting by then) from a poor lady who had been seeing her doctor after a nasty fall.

Double Booyah (I'd helped someone who needed it)

I texted her the photo and told her that if nothing else, at least I'd be happy to declare what I saw to her insurance company or police.

It was a small thing really, but if you haven't already guessed - it's made my day to know that at least one person on this planet has a little bit more of a chance to get some justice.

They're a little less powerless.

Triple Booyah!

Monday, 27 July 2015

The Perfect Ride ...

I cycled out of work tonight, and it was just going to be a normal ride home as part of the winter commute.

Like usual, I took it fairly easy as I cycled out into the traffic and across onto the cycle path running along the waterfront.

I pulled up at the Evans Street junction, watching all the car traffic flow through as I had to stop for the usual 3 minute wait for the lights to change and then change again.

Sigh ... just a normal night.

I started up the little rise to the Cenotaph, a hill I both love and hate.  It's here that I actually have to start putting some effort into riding, the legs being to wake up and sting just a little bit, the lungs start to work just a little bit as well and I think about the Bridge climb and Rosny Hill and all the other kilometres to come and think ... I hate this bit of the ride.

But there's also a little bit of me that remembers nine weeks ago when I'd ride up this hill in granny gear wishing I had an easier gear still.

I didn't have to glance down today to know that I had moved up two gears in those short weeks, and I was going up this hill faster, a lot faster, than I was nine weeks ago ... but still slowly.

For a reason I can't even remember now I changed up a gear and pedaled a bit harder ... and it felt good.

But it was still just a normal night.

Then I started going up the bridge ... and I changed up a gear, then another one and I realised ... maybe this wasn't going to be a normal night, maybe this could be a special night, maybe this could be a sub 50 minute night.

I live for sub 50 minute nights, they're my whole reason for riding these commutes, and so far in nine weeks I'd managed to score just two of them.

I had to stop on the way up the bridge to let another cyclist past on his way down, and I didn't know it until later ... but even with that stop I still got a PR for the ride up that bridge.

This wasn't going to be a normal light.

However, as I say I didn't know that then, what I did know as I started heading up Rosny Hill was that my legs were hurting a little bit more than I wanted them too, but I knew there was a chance for a sub50, so I pushed through it as strongly as I could knowing there would be a little recovery time heading down the other side.

There's road construction happening down past Rosny College, and I had a lot of traffic getting across Cambridge Road ... all time lost, but the delay getting across Cambridge Road also meant a greater run up the start of Clarence Street.

And so I used it ... I refused to change out of the big gear as I attacked the hill, instead getting out of the seat and charging up it.

Then I kept going.

I got to the traffic lights outside Shoreline on Clarence Street and I kept going.

Every time I hurt, every time I wanted to change down a gear, I just kept telling myself that at this pace I was going to get my third sub50.

This was not going to be an ordinary night.

I hit the new bikepath just past Oceania Drive and knowing that this was a chance to make some real time, I changed up gears again and just turned and turned and turned my pedals refusing to slow down as I headed up the hill.

Finally at the new junction with Tollard Road,  I had to stop for a red light and so I quickly checked my strava time ... it was just under 33 minutes.

I think my previous best at this point of the ride was 37 minutes and although the math's in my head weren't quite working in between my deep gasps for breath, it was going well enough that I realised that there was a chance to not only get a sub50, there was a chance, a real chance, of achieving what I had previously thought impossible ... a sub45.

By the time my thoughts had got to this point I was already pedaling hard into Rokeby, and I didn't stop pedaling as I raced through Rokeby and out the other side.

I eased back slightly, just ever so slightly, as I headed towards Rokeby Police Academy because I knew that losing a few seconds going along this straight could easily be won back by slightly fresher legs pushing up the short, steep climb past the roundabout.

And it felt like it worked.

I stayed in the big gear all the way up the hill and although I was sucking oxygen like never before at the top of the hill I was at the top of the hill.

I was hurting at this stage, really hurting, but I just kept telling myself that if I kept pedaling, and pedaling hard, I would crack a sub47 (my fastest ever time by far) and I dreamed that maybe, just maybe, I could get a sub45.  In my wildest dreams, I even thought of getting a time that started with a 43.

The hardest thing about finishing a ride like this is full fingered gloves or more specifically getting your full fingered gloves off, and stopping the strava time.  Just recently I got a time of 50.01 ... simply because I couldn't get my gloves off and my phone stopped because of wet sweaty hands not being compatible with iphone screens.

But not today, today I had my gloves off, the phone code entered and the strava stopped in under six seconds (I was counting in my head).

It was the perfect end, to what felt like a perfect ride ...

And it was a sub50.

It was also a sub45.

It even started with a 43 ...

It was a 43:49 ride.

It was a perfect ride, months ahead of when I ever expected to be able to do a ride this fast.

But more than that it brought back the joy of why I ride and race, that turmoil of emotions, the feeling of invincibility, followed by impossibility, the charging into the unknown not knowing if you could win or lose.

It is the joy of a bike.

It's a perfect ride.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Winter Commute Challenge - Week 8

I went home via Rokeby hills again on Thursday night.

Daylight recreation (looks so much different at night)
Yea I got lost (again) and it took more time than I had allowed for to get home, but while everyone else was sitting in their nice warm cars, or at home in front of their TV's, I was sitting at the top of a new road that isn't yet on ListMap or even Google, breathing in big gulps of air as I looked at the world below me.

Laid out in front of me was the whole of Hobart lit up at night ... just for me, just because I was there.

God it was beautiful.

I eventually found a track leading off into the bush (I knew it was there as I had come out on it the other day and seen the road), then I found a new track, and then I found a way out the other side ... but I haven't yet found a 'great' way through the hills from Tranmere to Rokeby.

Which just means I can go back and try again next week.

I also found my way through Rokeby this time, and rocked up at home knowing that I had rocked another week of the Winter Commute Challenge (3 rides).

That's eight weeks in.

Six weeks to me, two to winter.

Twenty one cycling days to me, with just twelve going to winter.

I was doing so well that on Friday I took the day off, drove most of the way in and then rode my folding bike into work ...

I look so good on that bike.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

That stupid cyclist - Part II

It seems that at least once a week I will experience a close encounter with a vehicle, and I would guess that in most cases the driver is probably either oblivious to the terror they've just caused, or like me on occasion, they're sitting in their car thinking "oops, that was a bit close ... sorry Mr cyclist"

But not always.

I had one car swerve at me (deliberately) this week (I really don't know what I do to deserve this attention) and another that came up behind me on a corner near my home and who decided I was unreasonably blocking the road (it is a sharp ninety degree corner with lots of glass and loose gravel on the outside so at night I have to sit out in the middle of the road for about 5 seconds to be safe) ... and so he was tight on my back wheel, horn blaring at me, to let me know I was holding him up for two seconds.

I confess this guy really p*ssed me off, so much so that I figured that they must be near their home or they wouldn't be on this road, and so took the unprecedented action of racing off after them and trying to hunt them down ... but they got away.

I also had a Government vehicle go flying past me coming out of Rokeby.  It went past me way too fast, and way too close and I was so p*ssed off, I even memorised the number plate.

Then I got home, jumped off the bike ... and realised my rear light wasn't on.

Oops ... 

Flat battery (to explain, it was a light I'd moved from an old bike, and I hadn't charged the battery before putting it on).

I kind of felt pretty stupid after that ... albeit that I was still wearing a reflective backpack and a second (very powerful) rear light that was happily flashing away on my backpack ... thank god for redundancy.

Still .. it is a good reminder that we all make mistakes, and just because we have a close encounter, doesn't mean it's deliberate or that there's any venom in it.

Still ... a metre does matter ... it really, really does.