I have to admit I've been feeling a bit sheepish lately, as it's finally happened - after years of knowing but not doing anything about it, I've at last woken up to the fact that I'm actually in my mid-40s and that losing my not inconsiderable extra weight isn't going to happen with just the odd ride around the Bays every couple of weeks.
I've been kidding myself for years that all I need to do is string together a few good rides and the weight will magically drop off, so in the meantime I might as well eat whatever the Hell I like! But in a rare moment of epiphany I finally got that it's going to take lots of hard work and sacrifice in terms of riding more, as well as putting in just as much work and sacrifice looking after my diet and general fitness before I'll lose my spare tyre.
Talking of tyres, it's interesting to realise that I look after complete stranger's bikes better than my own body - I'm inspired to ensure this is going to change from now on, although I will still look after the bikes!
As well as riding I'm augmenting my fitness regime by genuflecting towards my Sacred Shrine to the One True Cycling God, while simultaneously doing some much needed core exercises...
And when time or circumstance prevent me from riding I've been heading out the door with my iPod rocking and taking a brisk walk around my neighbourhood.
My lovely wife is doing the iconic Wattyl Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge in late November as part of a four person relay team. As regular readers (hi sis!) will know I've been working on Jacq's new Eddy Merckx steed, seen here being carefully examined mid-build by Dave, Tim and I post-ride a couple of weeks ago.
And here it is in all its final glory.
It was completed by this sweet Dura-Ace 7400 rear derailleur kindly donated by my man Henry to add to the fine 7400 STI shifters donated by Tim Wilding, so cheers for hooking Jacq up bros!
It's amazing how well the old 8 speed DA shifts - much more positive and precise than 9 or 10 speed gear, and with dramatically less lever throw. Beautifully made as well - I almost want to take the Campy off and put it on one of my bikes!
Jacq has been training with her friends once or twice a week (she's as busy as I am!), and says she loves the feel of her first real road bike.
The link between my fatness and Jacq's bike is this; her Taupo team has lost it's fourth member so as part of my Quest For Fitness I have offered to do the first leg for them - I'm really looking forward to being part of the Team and being at my first Taupo since the mid 90s, plus it's a wee goal to aim towards.
Eerily, this photo of me finishing one of my Taupo attempts was taken in 1992 when I was also on a fitness comeback - that one after years of smoking and working in nightclubs. Hopefully this attempt is as successful!
As well as a general slow dawning of good sense, a part of the motivation for the Quest was an unintentional dig from my friend Rob Eva at the recent Sram XX launch night. For answering a simple question I won a t-shirt from Rob and the good folks at Sram and Worralls (NZ distributor). Now Rob could have given me some funky socks or a cool XX t-shirt, but after some deliberation he chose to give me this one, with all that it implies:
The message on the back I have amended slightly to better reflect my life...
The implicit message (knowing Rob) was that I need all the help I can get to ride. Instead, this was all the help I needed to make a kneejerk reaction away from my compact cranks and do enough wheeling and dealing to get myself a shiny new pair of MAN CRANKS - 175mm 53 x 39. None of that namby-pamby sissy gearing any more for this wannabe Belgian hard man with the Italian stripes!
The beauty of sticking with Centaur cranks is that in about ten minutes or less using only three allen keys I can remove the pedals, unbolt the cranks, loosen the gear cable and raise the front derailleur a few mm, then swap the cranks, fit the pedals and go! The process is as easily reversed too, meaning if my poor old knees can't handle the Sidi jandal I can easily swap back.
Several subsequent rides have actually helped me realise that under the blubber there may still be the odd trace of muscle. I know I must sound like a hypocrite after all my praising of the compact concept, and I still do like it - it maybe just doesn't suit me as much as I thought it did.
With the Macho Gears back on I found I was back to using both chainrings again, plus I felt like the rhythm of the 53/39 worked much better for me, at least until I hit the steepest climbs - more about that later after I show you some of the work I've been up to...
As the weather improves people start getting their bikes serviced for upcoming goals/events - the last couple of weeks have been very busy ones for me after a relatively slow few weeks.
I built some nice wheels...
And worked on some nice bikes...
Including Roadworks star Tim Wilding's cool Ibis Silk Road...
...and his stunning Santa Cruz carbon Blur XC.
I serviced an XTR freehub using my sweet Morningstar Hub Buddy tool - not many shops have one of these funky gadgets, and it's pretty cool to be able to grease a freehub without completely disassembling and/or replacing it.
I replaced the bearings on a Hope Pro2 20mm front hub using superb quality SKF bearings - I've used other brands in the past but am convinced that these are the very best without spending silly money or resorting to hyper-expensive ceramics.
I glued some tubulars on the Blue Racer's fine new Zipp wheels.
I have also been slowly building up Deano's cool new Pedalforce tri bike that he'll be racing in the legendary Hawaii Ironman - we're still waiting for the Sram TT500 shifters to come in before it will be complete...
Bits laid out pre-build.
Checking the set up corresponds to Deano's existing position.
And all done bar the bar-end shifters...baaaaa!
My friend Richard is going to build up a cool commuter weapon and he wanted me to prep his new On One frame in advance, so I sprayed some J.P. Weigle's Framesaver into the tubes and chased and faced everything I could find.
After work a couple of Fridays ago I was invited to a movie night up at Revolution Bicycles - Jonty's friend Ben brought up his dvd projector, we moved the Kraftwerk poster and the Viner (seen here in a pile of equally cool old steel)...
...and a large group of sifters had a great time eating pizza, drinking beer and watching "Jacques Anquetil - The Man, The Mystery, The Legend". Thanks for the hella hospitality, M. Ritchie!
During the Tour de France I got several cool emails from my mate Daryl who was in Germany watching the coverage in the middle of the day while preparing to race the Challenge Roth triathlon in Germany. As well as enjoying the Tour Daryl had a great time hob-nobbing with the hoi-poloi of the world tri scene, and sent me some great pictures of him racing in the Roadworks kit, as well as a mean video link of the main climb of the day - who needs Mont Ventoux!
While on the international tip, some months ago I built Grant a pair of wheels for his and his four friends epic attempt on the Great Divide ride that is being told superbly in their blog 5 Mates, 5 bikes, One Vision. Hopefully Grant won't mind me ripping a couple of great pictures of their adventure from the blog...
Now to my own riding. As I said earlier, I've been galvanised into training, but training isn't what I want to call it as I find the connotations of training too akin to those of work, and I hate working when I'm not actually at work. What I do has to be fun and luckily I find riding bicycles quite a fun activity.
One windy and moody day last week while good folk were slaving away in their offices and children were safely ensconced in their schools I gave myself an afternoon off, and I chucked the mountainbike on the back of my wagon and drove up to Karori to park and unload.
I scuttled down through Karori Cemetery onto Wilton Road.
Then up Chartwell Drive...
...to the entrance to Skyline below the substation.
For some reason I thought the ensuing climb was a lot shorter than in fact it became apparent as I monged my way through the corrall.
Apart from the profusion of hideous wires running all over the sky, the higher I got (so to speak!) the better the views got.
My desire for a hard workout and some manly suffering were coming to fruition - this is mah happy face!
Not realising that much work had been done by many good folk to avoid the nastiest pitches of the old Skyline, I took one of the now defunct routes up a heinously steep climb - I'm not even going to try and kid you that I rode it!
My bike was loving it even if I was feeling the pinch...the Meta loves to go uphill as much as it loves to go down.
Eventually I made it up to the new improved Skyline, to stunning views of Makara Beach and over the Cook Strait to the South Island, as the clouds were slowly lifting. It's so amazing to be only minutes from the capital city yet so removed from it.
Many hundreds of metres of singletrack have been laboriously carved out of the hills to help make this great trail linking Makara Peak to Mt Kaukau accessible to anyone.
I had an awesome time blatting down the down bits and cranking my lungs out up the up bits as I made my way along Skyline...
Before heading down the delicious Cemetery Trail into the dark and slippery shadows.
Where I almost came to grief on a muddy off-camber right-hander. This photo utterly fails to capture the long steep drop that could have led to my destruction, and actually did lead to some major heart palpitations.
Then it was out into the light, back to the car and off home to spend hours cleaning my filthy bike, clothes and body before heading back into the workshop for a few hours...
I felt fantastic after what was a very soulful ride with some decent climbing for an fat boy, and some wicked descending to remind me I'm also old, clumsy and slow.
The weekend was full on as always, but after watching my eldest boy play soccer (an 8-1 win!) I dropped him off and zipped around to watch the first round of the PNP Balfour-Pennington series being run around the Miramar Peninsula. I'd briefly considered racing (limit?) but Ket's game time precluded me getting there in time to make the start, so spectating was the order of the day. Some furious texting/calling helped me rendezvous with my bro Henry, and we watched the race head over the Pass of Branda and back, cheering on my boys John, Geoff, Grant and Alex (Revolution Bicycles-Roadworks) as they blasted by, as well as cheering on many other friends and general enthusiasts who were racing.
An amazing amount of riders streamed past - if cycling is the "new golf" the golf courses must be damned crowded! It's great to see so many people giving racing a try - there were Dark Days in the late 80s where there might be only 6-10 riders turn up for a BP race!
After the race Henry and I drove around to the finish to catch up with some peeps; here's John Randal happy with his efforts as he makes a comeback after some injuries and illness - I'm sure he'll putting break in the box again real soon!
Note also the sly Bushlover lurking in the background in his Burkes kit...
I dropped Henry at his place then drove back home via Lyall Bay, where I had to see for myself the tragic damage that occurred to one of Wellington's (and many cyclists) favourite cafes. Maranui had been severely damaged by a fire the night before apparently due to an electrical fault. Very, very sad indeed...kia kaha and all the very best to Matt, Katie, Bronwyn and all the workers and their families, with wishes for a speedy rebuild and resumption of the Tradesman's Breakfast.
My last ride I'm going to blog this week (Phew! I hear you say!) was a very cool road ride a few days ago. I donned my superhero suit and clicked into my pedals, before trundling through town and up Ngaio Gorge. To avoid the ever-increasing volumes of boring traffic I wended my way through the back roads of Khandallah, taking my favourite route up Simla Crescent.
Then it was up Box Hill and on through Johnsonville, then over the nasty Ironside Road. Suddenly, there's that feeling again - that feeling of the city disappearing and the quiet of the countryside rearing it's bucolic head.
This feeling of freedom was enormously embiggened by getting my roadie steez on, dropping into my best egg and full-tilt blasting down the sweet, sweet descent down Ohariu Road...
The spring-like appearance of the scenery was being belied by the wintery windchill - here is Mt Kaukau from almost the exact opposite aspect as the view I got from Skyline the other day...
I was absolutely loving being in the big dog over the rolling but generally downhill terrain. Who needs a compact chainset anyway?
In the Old Days hitting the Takarau Gorge at pace one-handed trying to take pictures might not have been the brightest thing a guy could do, so luckily what used to be some of the gnarliest unsealed road around is now a smooth-sealed super-highway.
I continued down the Gorge feeling chipper, and more so even when a guy coming towards me in one of the narrowest parts stopped his giant ute to let me keep charging - good man!
As I have reminisced about before, every time I ride through here (okay, both times in the last five years...) I am always astounded by the changes that have been made by rampant forestry and the ugly (but necessary, I suppose?) advent of the profusion of slowly spinning wind turbines which now dominate the whole South Coast skyline.
The area in the photo above used to be an almost claustrophobic twisty-turning road under overhanging macrocarpas pushed into the road by the gangs of pines lurking behind them. I think in summer I might actually prefer it open...
I headed down to the Beach, avoiding the climb up Opau Hill - even though I felt good still, I didn't want to blow my legs with the huge climb out to Karori still to come.
An artful and gratuitous shot of my beautiful bike leaning on a rubbish bin looking up in the direction of Mana Island.
And facing the other way. The more observant among you will have noted that when I installed my Macho Gears I also retaped my bars with white tape. The irony wasn't lost on me the very next morning as I got my daily fix of the brilliantly sardonic BikesnobNYC, who spent half the day's post mocking the posers who run white handlebar tape.
Once I had my fill of the fresh sea air, I headed back into the countryside and up through the valley.
For those who are of a competitive bent there are always records to be broken. I know I'm no record breaker, but I wanted to get my name on the Vorb Makara Hill climb leader board to get some kind of reference mark for what I hope to be a gradual improvement as my fitness returns.
I was aiming at one of the great records and the benchmark had been set by one of NZ's finest up and coming cyclists, Joe Cooper (Subway - MeoGP), with his outstanding 6m.18s. Little did I know the controversy my attempt at setting a time would cause - a controversy that rocked cycle sport to its very foundations.
I freely admit my approach to attacking this brutal climb wasn't orthodox, but long before my head was filled with unbidden thoughts of glory I had decided that my first trip to Makara in a year wouldn't go by without me paying my respects to my Dad at Makara Cemetery.
I planned to start my stopwatch at the accepted start of the climb then stop it again at the gates of the graveyard. I'd divert and visit my Dad (and my Grand Parents, Marnie and John), then roll back down to the gates before re-starting my watch and completing the TT to the finishing line atop the summit.
None of our family considered that the hills surrounding the cemetery would eventually be covered in windmills, but I reckon the architect and futurist in Dad would have got a buzz out of it. (This time the bike wasn't supposed to be in the shot, honest!)
Respect and love.
Before setting off back into my little world of pain (climbing the cemetery driveway was bad enough!) I paused a moment to reflect, looking upwards towards the saddle of Makara Peak that I hoped to reach, as well as generally admiring this hill I have spent so many happy hours on riding both road bikes and MTBs.
Once I reached the main road again I hit the stopwatch and began my grovel up the hill. The first few corners were the worst, but then the gradient eased just enough to let me get into something approaching a rhythm for the most part. Once I was through the middle of the climb I could even begin to think about going a bit harder, so (amazingly not even needing the 26!) I pushed the 39 x 23 even harder until tunnel vision and spots before my eyes told me in no uncertain terms that I was red-lining.
Luckily when I buttoned off a tad I only coughed up half a lung, so I managed to weave the last 100 or so metres with drool on my chin and almost blind from my watering eyes. After what seemed like an eternity of agony I passed between the finishing lampposts and stopped my stopwatch at 11m.58s.
While not exactly a record time, I naturally didn't expect it to be and I was secretly delighted to have not disgraced myself - or at least, so I thought!
I can't discuss the ins and outs of the case while it's before the CAS, but I'm sure I'll be vindicated once the B-samples from my watch come back - suffice to say, it involves scurrilous accusations of the most vile dishonesty that I will fight until my dying breath or I can't be bothered, whichever comes first.
In the meantime I'll give my new unofficial record the odd nudge when I can just to see where I'm at, but next time I'll be sure to get every aspect of my attempt fully ratified by the UCI before claiming it publicly.
To add fuel to the fire, I reckon if I'd just done the TT without the detour to the cemetery I could maybe have saved a few seconds - getting going again the second time was damn hard, whereas I'd been feeling nice and limber prior to stopping.
That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
Once I'd semi-recovered my composure I whipped down the Hill into Karori, then meandered up the back streets west of the main road and on to inflict myself yet again on the long-suffering Jonty, where I proceeded to bore the poor chap senseless with my endless preaching about my sudden re-evaluation of the differing gearing philosophies.
Jonty kindly indulged the partially deflated dirigible that landed in his shop chair by brewing it a fine espresso which give it just enough air to blast down good old Raroa Road and through Newtown and back safely home. My first ride over two and a half hours in months, but after a banana and milkshake I felt as good as new, and even managed a good powerful blast around the Bays late the next afternoon.
This bodes well, I feel...
I'm going to finish this lengthy diatribe by heading back back to the 80s - back to a simpler time when Duran Duran ruled the airwaves, Return of the Jedi was just out at the movies, NZ TV screens were dominated by the charismatic figure of Worzel Gummidge, and our Golden Youth seemed to have no end...
Last weeks Jersey of the Week was this great Safir/Van de Ven/Moser one,
...that my dear friend Wheels used to wear back in the days of toe clips and hairnet helmets - I'll let him tell the story in his own words;
cool – fame on the world’s biggest cycling blog!
I think that pic is early 83 at a race near waikanae – trying to be hard like jack swart, I rode up there into a headwind , got my legs ripped off in the race, then turned around and rode home.
the bike was built up by you in march 1982 – mitchel pro 022 with suntour superbe pro parts and modolo brakes
I noticed the pnp stripes on my pump, padded tape in the days of bennotto tape, and alfredo binda extra toe straps with duegi wood sole shoes, and I was a big fan of moser so thought the jersey was really cool – I had moser shorts too!
There's still stuff I want to blather on about and show you, but that's enough for tonight - training myself to have better sleep patterns might end up being the hardest part of my Quest For Fitness!
I'll close with the Bianchi yin to my shiny Celeste yang - thanks to my old mate Fraser in Iceland for the photo (and the paraphrase) - Happy Birthday, bro.
Thanks for reading, Oli