Sunday, 16 August 2015

The Winter Challenge 2015 (Orford)

So, I'm a bit behind in my blogs (OK, three months behind), and unlike a normal person who might just move to the here and now, I have a need to keep things in chronological order, so here's some catch ups.

Firstly ... The Winter Challenge.

I actually trained for this event ... I mean for 12 weeks in Winter I rode my way to and from work consistently clocking up over 100kms a week in my winter commute challenge with the vague goal of actually not embarrassing myself in this event.

Come race day, Stephan then did his bit hoicking his way around the paddle leg, in an outrigger canoe no less, managing to hold onto the tail end of the main pack and putting us in a respectable position about 2/3rds the way down the pack.

Look how prepared I am - both bikes racked.
I then held my own on the first 'out' section of two out and back legs on the road bike, and was feeling OK as I know I tend to get a bit stronger after the first 15 minutes on the bike.

I turned around and was making my way quickly, but carefully, down the steep hill with the root ruts and steep corner at the bottom of it, when this lady came past me ... and I swore I saw something come off her bike, and it looked like something important - like a bolt.

Thinking to myself "that was probably bad, I better let her know ...", I threw caution to the wind, started pedaling and began to reel her back in.  Then, just as I was about to call out to let her know I think I saw something metallic and bolt-like jettison itself off her bike ... I hit that root rut that I knew from my pre-race ride was going to be some cyclists undoing in this race.

I just didn't know it was going to be mine.

I hit it hard, and as I went around the sharp corner at the bottom of the hill, I felt my front tire slip out from under me like a half deflated balloon.

I managed to catch the front tyre slip, but the truth was out there:  I'd pinch flatted about 10km into the 32km road bike leg.

I was still 6kms from the start point, and more ominously I didn't have a spare tube with me, because the two new tubes I'd bought from Ride Bellerive especially for this race had both exploded when I tried to inflate them to 100PSI the day before.

I was, in technical terms, functured and plucked ... or something like that.

I managed to make it another 800 metres until the tire went completely flat at which point I pulled across in front of a group of SES volunteers, pulled out my minuscule little emergency road pump, and proceeded to do the fastest 150 pumps I'd ever done in my life, just managing to get my tire back up to 70 PSI which I considered to be ride-able while I figured out what to do from here.

What followed was a saga involving short snatches of sprint riding (while I had pressure in my front tire), longer periods of slower riding with all my weight over the back wheel as the tire got down into the sub 40 PSI zone, and then a desperate pit stop and pumping when the tire got too dangerous to ride on.

I think I had to inflate my tire five more times over the remaining 22kms of the road leg, and ended up running the bike in the last hundred metres ...

It wasn't exactly a day to cover myself in glory.

All that extra effort had taken it out of my legs for the mountain bike ride, and so it was a slow ride to the top of the hill, followed by a spate of chain drops (three times I lost my chain and had to stop to put it back on) and an unexpected dog leg climb which I must have missed on the training day.


Stephan then brought us home pretty well considering he hadn't run for about a year, but there's no sugar coating it ... all up, it was really a disaster of a day race wise and my times showed it.

However, I did get to the end and I can say at least I tried, and who knows where it could take me next year.

Friday, 14 August 2015

The Winter Commute Challenge Deception

I thought it was the perfect way to end my challenge, absolutely perfect ...

I'd declared my intention to withdraw from the Winter Commute Challenge two weeks before the actual end of the winter commute challenge and one week before my final ride, and then in the final week I'd ridden two days, skipped two days and found myself heading into the very last ride day with the score on 28 days to me, and 19 days to winter.

All I had to do was ride one last day, and the score would be 29 days to me, 19 to winter, which meant that even if I counted the last two weeks as 'wins' for winter, the score would still have been a perfect 29 all.

The problem was a few days earlier, I'd seen this ...

P.S. There will be waffles on Friday ...

... and I thought to myself in a very Homer Simson like way ... Mmmmm ... waffles.

Then as I considered this further, I realised that going for a waffle ride would be a very rambler thing to do.  That is to work hard for eleven weeks to actually put myself into a position where I could actually, finally and eventually win something after forty plus years of just trying not to come last ... and then give it all up for some waffles.

So ... that's what I did.

I went riding up at Rosny Hill instead of commuting to work (ironically spending more time riding than I would have on my commute) and then I ate waffles with a bunch of guys I hardly knew ...

And I felt really good about this decision as I cycled over the bridge after the ride and headed into work.

And that is when it hit me.

I hadn't just made a choice to 'throw' the winter commute challenge, I'd been carefully manipulated and had my victory stolen from me by this guy ...

Diablo Dave (and yes, that is my best attempt at giving him creepy red eyes and devil horns).

He'd been subtle, oh so subtle ...

First he'd ridden past me early in the challenge making me feel so slow and pathetic that I'd almost given up on the challenge then and there.

But he failed.

So then he 'joined' my challenge and pretended to support it by encouraging me to ride new routes over Rosny Hill and Mornington Hill.

Only now do I realise, he was actually just trying to make my rides harder to make me give up.

But he failed.

And then, oh so close to the end, he pulls out a left field offer that he knew I couldn't refuse ...

The smiling devil ...

And I succumbed.

And I failed.

Damn you diablo!

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!