Summer is relentless here in Wellington. Day after day dawns gloriously hot and sunny, continually luring me away from work and on to my bikes for endless rides in ideal conditions.
At least, that's how I wish it was! In reality I've been mainly stuck in the workshop working, and only able to sneak out for one ride since I last blogged. Never mind, the work has been varied and fun and the bills always need paying anyway, so a few long days indoors just make the eventual escape onto the trails that much more enjoyable and appreciated. I'm quite sure I'm not alone in feeling this way...
I started the week off by finally getting onto Jenny's Alan Tourist. I built this bike for her in 1984 at the long gone Bicycle Village, which was the shop I got my first real job in. Located on Ghuznee Street it was a very cool shop to work in, with my boss Roland Hoffe being a huge influence in my early cycling, as were fellow employees Mike Dyer, Bruce Stewart and my great mate Henry Chlebowicz, who went on to found the groovy Cycle Services with Ian Gregson and Deb Gully.
Me in the BV in 1981 - what a fresh-faced kid, with the whole world before him!
I built the Alan from the ground up, as was the case with most touring bikes we put together in that era. I hand built the 27" wheels, as well as carefully selecting and fitting the mixture of Shimano and Campagnolo parts to Jenny's requirements and budget.
Because this bike was rare even at the time I still remember building it, and it's great to see it 25 years on. Jenny is keen on spending time with her son Matt as he gets into the magic of bike riding, but was finding the drop bars very uncomfortable. I got some riser bars, standard MTB brake levers and grips, then set to work converting it to make it much more comfortable and practical for her.
The Bicycle Village sticker still shines like the light in the young Oli's eyes.
As I worked on this bike, I realised that many of the skills and attributes I pride myself on in my workmanship today were instilled very early on in my career, thanks to the guidance of the guys mentioned above, as well as the late Ron Ulmer who often stepped out of his sinecure at local wholesaler Hope Gibbons to wander up to the BV and teach a young spinner the tricks of the trade.
Among the things I learned were that when building a bike or installing a part every thread must be greased, and every nipple oiled (not THAT kind of nipple, you filthy perv!) - this means that 25 years down the track the wheels I built for Jenny could still be trued, and every part I had to disassemble was easy to unthread. As well as fitting the new parts, I gave the bike full strip-down and regrease, although to be honest it hardly needed it! Hopefully Jenny will get another 25 years of riding out of this fine steed...
The finished bike.
After finishing the Alan I engaged my warp-drive and hurtled back through the mists of time into the present to give my friend Dave's Cervelo R3 a good fettle in advance of his maiden attempt on the Coast to Coast next weekend. His R3 needed a few minor tweaks as I gave it a thorough look over, and it will be a fine weapon indeed. I'm looking forward to seeing pics of Dave wearing his Roadworks jersey in this iconic and quintessentially Kiwi event...Best of luck, mate!
Talking about the Roadworks jerseys, I just sent a kit to California on Thursday so am looking forward to pictures of Jonny wearing the colours in various U.S. locales. In the meantime, here's a moody and introspective shot of recent convert Jim at the top of the slightly less exotic but still splendid Pahiatua Track.
Jim's cool Condor road bike.
Back in the workshop I knocked up this pair of bling wheels - Hope Pro2 hubs on Stans Arch rims, laced up with black DT Competition double-butted stainless spokes. Light and strong and very good looking wheels indeed.
Then I did a full service and drivetrain replacement on Daniel's wicked Orange P7 steel hardtail. Daniel too is now wearing the colours, so my plans for World Domination are finally coming to fruition!
Once again zooming back into history, I recently bumped into an old mate Konrad. Konrad was a good customer of Cycle Services and in 1997 we sold him this Diamondback Zetec Pro, to replace a stolen ride. Konrad is doing Karapoti this year so his bike needed a new drivetrain (story of my life at the moment!) and a jolly good going over. Fully original apart from the upgraded wheels I built him at the time (awesome Ambrosio CC24 rims on XT hubs) this bike is a cool blast from the past.
Getting giddy now from leaping back and forth between time zones, I nonetheless managed to regain my equilibrium enough to do some work on Graeme's Giant Anthem, also in preparation for Karapoti. Graeme had been looking around for some new race wheels and came across an incredible deal on some XTR ones via an online retailer. He fitted the tubeless tyres himself, then I fitted rotors, brake pads and brand-new drivetrain to get his machine in full race mode. I got a text from Graeme yesterday saying the bike was going superbly, but that he'd had a small off re-damaging a rib injury he's been suffering from - hopefully he'll be right in time for the Karapoti!
After a big week, the weekend arrived. Thanks to the blessings of my beautiful family I was able to spend Saturday afternoon riding with my usual accomplice Alex, but also with one of my best mates from the Cycle Services era. Craig (Bugle) and I haven't ridden together for nigh on ten years, so it was very cool to hit the trails with him again after all this time. Bugle and the rest of the "Nihilists" were the group of dirty student MTBers who adopted an old roadie and started the process of turning me into a mountainbiker back in the early 90s, and I owe them a big thanks for that.
We spent many a weekend driving all over the lower North Island to dress in our purple kit and dominate various mad XC races and rides, as well as partaking of our ritual Saturday afternoon post-ride bike tag tournaments. Good times!
The Cycle Services boys at a Waitarere King of the Forest round in 1993. From left: Oli, Wheels and Henry.
The Purple Warriors at the Karapoti in 1994. From left: Henry, unknown, Oli, Bugle, Waitie, Luciano and Rik.
It's very rare for the three of us all to not have any real time constraints, so we determined we'd make the best of our freedom with a decent ride. We set off from our rendezvous at Makara Peak carpark to ride up Salvation, which is a lovely climb up to Wrights Hill. Alex set the pace up here, with Bugle next manfully thrashing his single 34t front ring and me basically parked in my granny gear drawing up the rear. As I passed a resting Bugle, Alex's so-called "gentleman's pace" was proving quite fierce but I seemed to be improving as the climb went on, nearly recapturing him just before redlining and slowing back down to recover. We mulled around in the Wrights Hill carpark before setting off down the technical trail known in hushed tones throughout New Zealand as Deliverance - I'm pretty sure it's called this because making it safely through feels like being saved from Above, but also because of the slightly mysterious Arkansas mountains feel of the place.
Squeal like a pig, boy!
Deliverance was dry as a bone today, but still the roots, rocks, chutes, drops and stream crossings proved at times to be more than I could handle, although it was very cool to see the aplomb with which the other two guys coped with it all. I had my moments to be sure, but am hopeless when it comes to drops - I think my 7 months without having a right arm due to an horrific MTB injury in 2005 has indelibly etched a stupid irrational fear deep within me in these situations. Despite walking the two main drops, I still rode much of this testing trail better than I ever have before, so I reached the bottom with a huge grin on my face, and not that far behind the other two...
Bugle and Alex soaking in the atmosphere near the top of Deliverance.
We then rode back down to carpark, where we bumped into the lovely Brenda and Wainui Trail instigator Tryfan for a chat. We then set off up Koru with me in the lead, and Alex and Bugle behind. I set an okay pace but started to feel really good so pushed it faster and faster making a 5 person train as Brenda and Tryfan got on our tail. I'm sure the pace wasn't that quick for fit folk but for me it was damn fast, meaning I was in the rare position of changing up the gears going uphill and having to brake for corners I normally wobble around. Very cool feeling indeed, but of course it didn't last long. I stopped to have a breather and just couldn't get that same rhythm going again once everyone had passed me...
We headed out of the cool shade of Koru into the baking sun of the Snakecharmer 4WD road which winds steeply up to the summit. Again Alex was setting the pace while Bugle and I ambled slowly up at our own respective paces. His tall gear meant riding wasn't an option for some of the climb, but I was determined to stay seated and ride the whole way non-stop, which I managed. Again, I wasn't fast but I was very happy with the steady pace I was able to hold. Climbing will never be super fun for a 100kg guy, but the more climbing I do the lighter I hope to get! Anyway, as three time Tour de France winner Greg LeMond says, "It never gets easier, you just get faster..."
Once at the summit, a strong wind rapidly cooled us off so we didn't muck around. We blasted down and into T3. Bugle got caught a bit by surprise by the loose and dusty off-camber entrance to this Technical Torture Trail, but soon got into the flow and passed me as I ran into my own difficulties...This is the third time I've ridden this wicked bit of track, and still every obstacle seems different to the last time I rode it. Some of the traps I handled with ease, while the Bar Bender that I normally fly through almost killed me today! As we were riding this trail in the reverse direction to the intended the Skink is relatively easy to negotiate, although still worthy of great care.
Al rides the Skink.
After a discussion about next time definitely riding T3 uphill, we set off again. The last bit of the trail is a relentless array of techy little rises and drops, which turned my poor unfit legs to rubber-bands, but before long we arrived at the obstacles we helped build at last weekend's work party - the see-saw I was sworn to secrecy about (but which is now in the public domain) was still not operational (much to our relief!) but I was able to almost clear the tank trap Chris and I dug out.
After T3 we had a great blast down Varleys - I was following Bugle who was setting a smoking pace and totally shralving the corners. I'd almost catch him on the straights only for him to gain a gap on every gnarly hairpin, while poor Alex was choking and being rendered sightless by all the dust we were roosting! After this we finished the ride off with a dramatic change of terrain on the lovely run through the bush called Wahine down to Karori Park, then back to the carpark and the drive home.
It's always cool to ride with good friends, but it's super cool to hang with old friends who you share so much fun history with, and all three of us had our moments to shine - and our moments of near-disaster! - but no carnage ensued and many, many laughs and grins were had.
To me that's what mountainbiking is all about...
Thanks for reading, Oli
P.S. I had a text from Hayden saying that his Tune/Olympic wheels had had a hard out thrash around the Karapoti course as their shakedown test ride and held up perfectly. Good stuff...