Saturday, October 17, 2009

T-Rex, Lies and Handlebar Tape

I begin this much anticipated new installment of my blog with a slightly plagiarised picture (thanks John!) that to me is a symbolic indicator of a week well done. It's been pretty busy in the plush accommodations of the Roadworks Service Course (as well as manic on the home front) so it's always very cool if I can manage to keep the riding going as a key part of the whole dealio!

My beautiful and long-suffering wife Jacq has been working her pert butt off getting her new business off the ground, so we've both been juggling home and work duties frantically. Along with her good mate Anna she is running a fortnightly crafting evening they call Yakety Knack that would be well worth checking out if you or someone you love are of a crafty bent.

Pour moi, some of those home duties involve being the go-to guy for fixing odd bits and pieces that go bung around the house, such as fuses, lightbulbs, medals and x-wing fighters. Kester got presented with his Div 2 Football winner's medal at assembly the other day which sadly fell apart the minute he got his hands on it, so I took it up the workshop to sort it out using my full armoury of specialist tools.

A judicious application of the complex tool known in the bike trade as a "pliers" and I was able to present Ket with his award as it was meant to be...

My oldest friends will often refer to me as Luke as a slightly derisive tribute to my insane Star Wars obsession that immediately preceded my mid-teens bicycle one. After seeing the movie 18 times in 1977 alone it was safe to say I thought I actually lived on Tatooine for a while there, and I knew the characters of the George Lucas universe better than I knew my own friends. Consequently, when the real Luke Skywalker unexpectedly landed on my workbench with his X-Wing Fighter in a sad state I felt compelled to help for old times sake.

Luke explained that his s-foils were jammed mid way between attack position and normal flight mode, and no amount of help from his astromech droid R2D2 was rectifying the problem.

Note that Luke's laser cannons have been removed for safety reasons immediately upon landing.

As Commander Skywalker looked on watchfully, I used my set of ILM hydro-spanners to disassemble the X-Wing to locate the cause of the problem. This turned out to be an errant spring in the s-foil mechanism which I repaired and reinstalled.

After R2 had run full diagnostics on the shipboard systems and pronounced them korekit jepotapetik *whistle-tweet-bleep* it was time for Luke to climb in the cockpit in readiness for departure.

Whereupon he said his farewells and set off to make the jump to hyperspace for the long journey to the Waripori 55A galaxy far, far away with s-foils once again fully operational...

May the Force be with you, Luke!

On a more terrestrial plane, my friend Anton recently boarded one to head to the UK and Europe on a mission to test ride his cool hand-made one-off Narcoti bamboo frame. By all accounts it's going really well, and data is being collected for the future production of these stunning creations. Here are some cool pics of the Narcoti in action in various exotic locales.

Fully laden somewhere in the French Alps.

Anton and Bryan at the monument to the great Fausto Coppi on the Col d'Larche.

And the Narcoti propped scenically in front of the iconic Leaning Tower of Pisa...

Last blog I showed several images of Nick's cool old Mitchell Pro I built in 1982. As a result of that my old friend Eoin in Perth sent me some pictures of his Mitchell Competition that dates from around the same era. Sadly I can't claim to have built this one, but I thought the interest generated by Nick's Pro made it worthy of inclusion - plus they are just such cool NZ-made bicycles!

Handlebars, Shimano 600 levers and slightly damaged brake hoods!

The Golden Rivet - Brooks Professional saddle.

Downtube logo, 600EX arabesque downtube gear levers and aero bottle cage.

Headtube and logo "Made in New Plymouth" complete with Olympic Rings.

Seattube. Note the sticker clamped beneath the Bluemels pump clip - Burkes Multi Services, Wellington's oldest bike shop still going strong to this day, and where this Mitchell was bought in the early 80s. Below that the World Championship rainbow bands, and above it the Ishiwata 0245 frame tubing transfer.

And Eoin's beautiful but aged bike in all it's slightly dilapidated glory...

Last week I got in some very interesting 10 degree sweep Ritchey WCS carbon flat bars for Roadworks Star Rider Tim "T-Rex" Wilding...

Who promptly bolted them onto his bike then jumped on a plane to join the winning team in the infamous Motu Challenge. I'll let Tim tell the story of this Glorious Victory in his own words.

Sat 10 October - times are indicative only

[0010hrs] Finally in bed and now my fears catch up with me. In 7 hours the Bay Trust Motu Challenge starts and I don't feel ready. I planned to - I planned to race through the winter. But Admission (to the Bar), the mountain, a move back to Wellington and its awful weather and a month in Europe all conspired against me. Sure, I felt the same last year and then went on to take the fastest split. But it had been after a big battle with Carl Jones and Ash Hough and I'd ridden the Whaka 100 the week before. This year I hadn't, and they had.

[0400hrs] Aarghhh! Stupid alarm clock. Why do I race?

[0655] On the start line. It's warm in Opotiki but Ash just told me there's meant to be snow up on the hills. My Pearl Izumi shorts and Roadworks jersey suddenly feel a little thin.

[0700] Start. Holeshot! Mmm... headwinds.

[0720] Still on the flat and rather frustrated. As is normal, there are 4 or so guys driving the pack. The wind makes it exasperating though and a little concerning - should I be working this hard this early on? There are a few 'cross bikes in the field this year, probably intending to do the Motu 160, and one of them is taking it for the team, shouldering a fair proportion of the work.

[0745] Still on the flat but on the gravel. The wind is buffeting and our speed fluctuates with it. The surges must be hard on those sitting 50 riders back. Carl has dropped back in the pack. No, wait... He's on the attack! Yeehee!

[0746] Attack over and unsuccessful. Rats. The hills are fast approaching though. The first climb always sorts them out.

[0750] Climbing. Every time Dirk Peters goes to the front he surges and shells a few more riders. There's only a handful of us now, though Richard Ussher looks like he might bridge. The pace isn't as fast as last year and it kind of suits me. The legs are holding up.

[0802] Crested the first climb. Rich did bridge but then popped off, along with Ash Hough. I didn't see it happen and I'm confused why; the pace stayed pretty constant. I just hope that they haven't shared a mechanical. There are of 5 us in the front bunch: Dirk, Carl Jones, Dave Mann, and our man on the cross bike and we're going well. Significantly, I am the only multisport rider; the rest are doing the 160. It's a great position to be in. Lets go down!

[0810] Along the valley. Only got a brief glimpse of the chasers - they're some way back and I go to the front to try to build our lead. The surface is much rougher than last year and when coupled with the wind make it tough going. Not as tough as for the cyclocross guy though. Having survived the descent he just punctured and has had to stop. I feel sorry for him as he deserves to be with us.

[0845] The four of us are on the final climb now. Dave has done a good job of sitting in and looks strong. Carl is battling a bit but that tends to be his style. I want to ramp up the pace on this climb and crest by myself. I'm only half an hour from putting my feet up in the comfort of the car but the others have a further 90km ahead once they get to Motu. Surely they won't try to stay with me? Or maybe they can without fatiguing? No, Carl and Dirk are off. Dave looks comfortable. I'll try to push the advantage.

[0901] This third climb goes forever! I've raced this three times now and do my best to remain mindful of it, but it still never ceases to amaze me. My legs are starting to fatigue a bit, and I feel a little light headed when I stand. I'm really grateful to have my Rotor Rings. Coupled with my Blur they make for a pretty quick climbing rig. Of course, the Santa Cruz descends fantastically also, though not so well today - there is air in my front brake, probably from packing it down to fly last night, and the lever travels almost to the bar before engaging. It has made descending pretty interesting and I'm a little more cautious than last year. No matter, I've dropped Dave on each descent so far and am counting on doing so on this last one. There will be no hill following for him to get back on so I should be sorted. Oli will sort the bike out with that magic touch of his when I get back to Wellington.

[0915] We're out of the bush and about to descend down into Motu. The wind is still gusting and failure to account for it could blow me off line and into the bank or down the slope. I'm trying to push my speed a bit too much. Calm down and get some flow on. On the main descent now and I've managed to gap Dave. Good - he can't follow my lines.

[0919] The last flattish section before transition. Wind, I hate you! I have a couple of hundred metres on Dave and should have it sewn up. Relief. When you have James Kuegler, Aaron Strong, and then Gordon Walker in your team you don't want to let them down. Stoked to have set up Discover Health for what will probably be a convincing win.

[0923] Motu. Cross the bridge, dismount, rack the Blur and pass the bib and transponder over to James. Good stuff, time to get warm, dry and help the team and Usshers out with crewing.

Postnote - Team Discover Health went on to win convincingly, finishing only 6min slower than the record in what were pretty tough conditions. Each of us posted the fastest split: myself on the mountain bike, James on the run, Aaron on the road cycle, and Gordon on the paddle / multisport.

I had a whole lot of fun crewing for Elina Ussher as she proceeded to win the individual womans multisport race, and break her own race record. Along the way I came to realise that jandals are not suitable crew footwear. My bruised soles will attest to that.

Despite grumbling about the start time and the early wake up it entails, I love the Motu Challenge. It's such a cool race to follow and the catch-ups over prize giving are almost as good as the race itself. I only wish that Opo's seemingly single decent cafe, 2 Fish, would open on race day!

Next up is the Wild Wellington at the start of November. I'm riding in the 6hour solo division so had better get training.

Thanks as always to my awesome sponsors: Santa Cruz, Roadworks Wellington, and Maxxis tires.


Cheers to you, Timmah! Thanks for reprazenting so damn well, and I'm very proud to be associated with your success in some small way!

Talking of my Roadworks Star Riders, the most excellent John Randal is slowly gearing up towards his Kiwi Brevet experience by taking in a few Epic Missions, including heading out next weekend on a 350km road ride "around the block" along with Simon Kennett and possibly a couple more keeners to commemorate the International Day Of Climate Action.

With this tough mission looming, John was scheduled to bring his road bike in for a service one day last week, but as I was working away that afternoon I received a surprise PXT from him of his other road bike... wasn't until he arrived that evening dragging two bikes that I heard the story. He had been doing a Makara Loop on his usually trusty but much thrashed Giant CRX when at the Ohariu Road/Rifle Range Road intersection his crank snapped off at the pedal, luckily leaving his ankle only lightly grazed instead of savaged. He was forced to pedal one-legged all the way through the Takarau Gorge, and up through the Makara Valley to the Village before being picked up by some good samaritans just at the foot of the climb back into Karori. In case you have never pedalled one-legged before, that is a VERY LONG WAY to do so.

Here is the crank and the pedal...

And here they are once I'd managed to extract the pedal. Nasty.

I spent a good bit of time the following day giving John's red race steed my full loving touch - new tyres, chain, cassette, brake shoes, cables and virtually a full strip down and rebuild had it humming and worthy of the hard use to which it will soon be put, at least once we sort out the damn rim strips - sorry about that, Chief!

As well I added a second layer of my favourite Zero suede handlebar tape to help buffer his hands from the inevitable pounding they will take over the many, many hours it will take to complete the 350km...

As regular readers will be aware, every now and then I build wheels for the guys at Revolution Bicycles. This pair were specced by the client with DT R1.1 rims, Dura-Ace 7800 hubs, DT Competition rear/Revolution front spokes, with aluminium nipples all around - lightish and strong for road racing, training and the occasional CX use. At the client's request, I built the rear wheel 3x drive/2x non-drive, to theoretically even up the spoke tensions. The front was built 3 cross.

Being built...

...and the pair all built up. Lovely.

Another wheelbuild, this time as a result of the infamous Rotten Spokes Plague that infected bikes from many different manufacturers a year or two ago. A vast batch of these defective spokes have caused bike companies, shops and mechanics many a headache as they corrode from the inside out, breaking at random. I rebuilt Anna's wheel with good reliable DT Comps and brass nipples - she won't be having any further issues.

And her Kona Kula Primo after re-fitting the new wheel and giving it a service.

Richard needed his Mavic Cosmic wheel looked it. It was out of true, creaking and a few of the aero spokes were side on to the wind! I trued it, lubed the nipples (hur hur) and the spoke heads, and aligned the spokes properly.

Warren left his Scott CR1 with me for a similar kind of going over as John had with his Roubaix, with the addition of new front chainrings. I began by virtually entirely pulling it down and discarding the worn components...

Before rebuilding it using the new parts Warren had supplied, along with new cables etc. supplied from my own stock. Better than before. Better, faster, stronger, in the immortal words of Oscar Goldman.

This next project was probably the most simple one I had to deal with all week, but possibly the most satisfying for it's very simplicity. A relatively recent trend is for old bikes to be dragged out of sheds and garages and given new leases of life underneath the recent wave of cycling enthusiasts less interested in blingeing (bingeing on bling - copyright Selwyn Andrews) than on re-using perfectly functional old machines for the purpose they were intended - riding.

Fiona had shipped this 1988 Giant RS950 back from Australia, but when reassembling it she discovered her old 105 gear lever had been busted in transit. I had a rummage through my boxes of old crap and found a later version that wasn't identical in looks but did the job perfectly, along with some used but sound period brake shoes to give her stopping power to match the go her newly revived gears would give her. I gave the rest of the bike a bit of love too and it was all go. The upside of these old bikes is that so long as there isn't bad wear they are supremely easy to service and tune...

So, as I alluded to at the beginning of this lengthy diatribe, I have had a fairly good week of riding. The foul weather hasn't really abated, but I've been lucky to have timed my rides to avoid the worst of it. My first ride since the school holidays ended was last Sunday, when I rode from home up to Polhill, then up the road to Carparts Extension which I rode North-South...

..then South-North.

Marvelling how in both directions it flows so perfectly it seems to defy gravity! What a wonderfully crafted construction this beautiful bit of track is...truly a trail with a bit of everything.

Wellington had been deluged with cold Southerly driven rain for most of the week preceding this ride, so I was amazed at how well-drained Carparts Extension was. I followed Fenceline over to Wrights Hill again, then headed down Salvation to find that most of the mud was there. It was very boggy in places, so much so that I felt guilty for riding it - if I'd thought about it beforehand I probably wouldn't have. Still, it was fun slippery, mucky times and before I knew it I was at the bottom covered in mud from head to toe but grinning like a fool. Next I headed into Makara MTB Park via the new entrance bridge onto Koru. I was feeling fresh as a dirty daisy so I gassed it up Koru, Sally Alley, then out onto the Snakecharmer, down to Ridgeline Extension, and had a super blast down my beloved Lazy Fern, before heading to the local dairy for a well-earned Coke.

I ambled home through K-Town, then down Glenmore Street (51kph past the speed sign!), around the Waterfront weaving slowly through all the punters taking advantage of what was by now a windy but warm and sunny afternoon, then up through Newtown to examine the by now dry collection of Makara Peak dirt I'd souvenired on my body...

And my beautiful bike.

Once I was clean I headed up to the shop to give the Commencal it's first full service in months of hard riding. I spent Sunday evening giving the dirt and filth no quarter, and cleaned it from tyre tread to the tip of the saddle, and every bearing, pivot, link, nook and granny in between...

Not sure if anyone has noticed, but I loves my bike...

The following ride was a lovely recovery roadie around the Bays including a mandatory coffee stop in Northland, before heading back through Evans Bay to work. The next outing was a wicked mid-week Grand Loop (excluding Ridgeline) on the Meta. I had to pick up a bike from town anyway, so it was only a small detour with my bike on the back of the wagon to Makara Peak. I eased into Koru but it quickly became apparent to me that I had good legs when my quick time check at the exit to Lazy Fern was better than usual, so I started to push it a bit harder along Sally Alley...

...and had a super-flow vibe down Missing Link - there's no damn WAY Anna would have passed me this day! :D As I hit the Pylon clearing at the foot of Aratihi two riders were just about to head onto the trail. While feeling strong I still wasn't confident I could stay ahead of them, so I demurred and let them take point. The hesitation as I gave way disrupted my rhythm just enough to make the tough start to Aratihi a bit tougher, and initially the two riders pulled away from me. Before long though my legs fired up again, so it was out of the granny and into the middle ring for the rest of the climb. The first guy was well ahead, but I caught the second dude just before the final few hairpins, then passed him just before the summit saying a quick g'day to his mate waiting patiently in the strong wind.

Still somewhat mindful of my timing I didn't pause, but hit the Snakecharmer descent hard. I bombed down there and onto Ridgeline Extension, benefiting from my ride of the previous weekend and nailing the whole of RE smoothly - even getting relatively decent air off the picnic table jump! Brief hesitation as I wavered between AMP/Rimu or heading straight down RE, before deciding not to complicate things and choosing the latter option onto Big Tom's Wheelie. The fork in the end of this fun bit of trail took me down the awesome SWIGG/Starfish, which I took at what felt like hyperspeed, hitting the carpark with a full-on endorphin buzz and again grinning from ear to ear after what had been just less than an hour of superb singletrack riding.

I was mildly jealous as Dude Number 1 (who had come down Starfish as I was loading my bike onto the car) explained that he was heading up for another loop - the side benefit of being temporarily unemployed, he explained. Of course I can't complain too much; despite my life being a major juggling act most of the time, at least it's flexible enough to allow me the odd weekday ride. I realise many people aren't so lucky and I do count my blessings...

Next up was a morning Bays ride on my Bianchi. I headed off down through Island Bay, riding for a while with Jacq as she returned from her own ride on her Eddy Merckx, before heading off around the South Coast. It was blowing a gale and rain was imminent, but it remained clear as I pushed hard along the Airport Straight with the wind pushing me along. As I passed under the Ataturk Memorial my friend Rob K was heading the opposite direction, resplendent in his Revolution Bicyles jersey, but he turned around and kept me company on my way. Luckily for me he had been doing intervals and was into the last easy paced hour of his 3 hour ride, otherwise his speed would have been too hot for me! As it was, if I avoided talking I could just hang on as he cruised along chatting. We punched into the headwinds, then spun with the tailwinds, before parting company in Oriental Bay and heading off to our respective works...

My final ride of the week followed a disastrous Friday. Some boring dramas that I won't bore you with left me gnashing my teeth and forced to miss a rendezvous with an old friend. Once I had dealt with the crisis and cleared the decks I again chucked the Commencal on the back of the wagon and headed up to Karori. I parked in Standen Street, unloaded and rode down through the Cemetery towards Wilton Road before getting hopelessly lost and ending up inadvertently poaching the main walking trail through Otari-Wiltons Bush. I'm not really into riding illegal trails, and part of the reason for that is that the sheer guilt I feel doing so kills any enjoyment I might have for the trails in question - this was no different and, despite it winding along a stream through lush native bush I couldn't wait to bust out and onto the road!

Before long I had done just that, and I hit Chartwell Drive, stopping long enough to remove the jacket I had donned in anticipation of the rain it had seemed was inevitable but wasn't arriving. Up the road I rode before dropping down the four-wheel drive track into the Valley Of The Horses, duplicating the Kennett Brothers book launch ride I was taken on last year. The previous night and morning had seen another bout of record rainfall in Welli, so the Valley was a quagmire of mud and horseshit that required careful negotiation, and a firmly closed mouth.

As I climbed up out of the Valley I was able to reflect on how much easier I was finding it in comparison to that evening last December - another good sign that the work I've been putting in lately is beginning to pay off.

The clouds were lifting - at least temporarlily - and the views were strikingly moody. It's a pity my phone camera is so lame, as the light and shadows made the aspect of the city and out towards the Heads a visual symphony.

I headed up onto Skyline, where the folly of riding up here after several days solid rain swiftly became apparent. You'd think I'd learn... More than a quagmire, this was a Bog Of Eternal Stench as the mud was combined with a viscous rank stench of bovine excreta to create a miasma of sewage that spattered me liberally as I tried to avoid dealing with it by lurching and slithering forwards metre by metre through the horror, trying to seek out the least awful patches of slurry at the edges of the track. Somehow I managed to avoid ingesting any of the foul sludge, although the smelly spots on my cheeks, nose and glasses were testament to how close I came to literally eating shit.

Before long I was dropping down into the bush on the lovely Cemetery Trail. Of course this was also extremely wet, although happily not so poopy. My rear tyre was softening slightly, but even without that minor handicap the conditions were so sketchy I wouldn't have been able to cut loose - caution was called for at all times! I still had a fantastic skid down there, and came out into the Cemetery just as the rain came in once more after what had been a fairly arduous 1h10m ride. It's funny how a ride that sounds so bad was still so much fun! I loaded the car up and headed off to Revolution for a quick beer before heading home to the family...

Five good rides in six days was a good result for what was a testing week, but the Quest For Fitness must take no prisoners!

It's vital for my physical health to lose weight and get fit, and it's equally vital for my mental wellbeing to ride my bicycles - not to mention my motivation to keep fixing them! And in the words of the great Ferris Bueller, "Life moves pretty fast, if you don't stop and look around once in a while you could miss it..." Well I don't want to miss it, and riding my bike is the stopping and looking my soul so desperately craves when life is moving so damn fast.

Not riding isn't all bad though. Sometimes work throws up such cool projects as Monday's one I'm already salivating over.

Yep, that's one of the new Litespeed carbon Archons, only just released to the public in September at Eurobike and I believe possibly the very first one in Australasia. Very hot, and I can't wait to build it for Dave at Bike Fixation. More on this build next time...

I'll finish off with a book recommendation, and the inspiration for this weeks first bad pun. It's the latest biography of the great Jacques Anquetil, the first of France's two five-time Tour de France winners. I haven't quite finished it yet, but have thoroughly enjoyed every page so far and his story is a riveting description of pro cycling as it was in the 50s and 60s. I would suggest every cyclist with a shred of interest in the history of cycle sport will gain great enjoyment from reading this book that is almost, but not quite, as long as this redeculously long blog.

Until next time thanks for your patience, and thanks for reading. Cheers, Oli


Mark said...

Ah yes, Star Wars. Do you still have that model light sabre someone had welded together? I always coveted that.

Oli Brooke-White said...

Hmmm, you must be thinking of some other Jedi Knight? I had a Han Solo blaster and a wooden Thompson machine-gun that I converted into a stormtrooper blaster, but the only lightsabre I ever had was my torch!

Mark said...

Did I say, "light sabre"? Oh, yes so I did. No, I meant the blaster. That was way cool.

Oli Brooke-White said...

May the Force be with you, young Padawan.

Anton said...

Another great piece Oli - nice work and I tip my hat for the mention and photos. The narcoti is now handling London ....feeling the force to avoid buses and potholes.......

Brandheart said...

Newbies like moi are drawn and captivated by your love and enthusiasm for all things cyclling...the blog and the honestly compel me to train harder, cycle further and bring my bike to you next time it needs a check up....there are probably many who read and don't comment is on behalf of us anony's....cheers bro....

Oli Brooke-White said...

Thanks, Brandheart - kind words indeed, and I really appreciate you taking the time to send them. Cheers yourself, bro. :)