Sunday, March 29, 2009

Best Ride EVAR!

I'll begin my latest Epic Saga by tying up a couple of Jazz Apples loose ends. While away on Tour it didn't take me long to tell the near identical Fuji's apart, but I thought that it might be easier for riders and staff if the bikes could be clearly identified. I'd been using silver marker pen at a pinch, but that's not very pro so I photoshopped up these cool stickers and sent them up to Susy and Chris to use on the 3 month USA JA racing trip.

Also from the Tour, my friend Paul Larkin worked his arse off as mechanic to help the MB Cycles team to their impressive victory. In appreciation of his efforts the Marcel and the athletes gave him Tour winner Amber Halliday's jersey that she swapped for yellow atop Admirals Hill, signed of course. He has kindly lent it to me for my Wall of Fame, to add to his South African jersey from last year's race...cheers, bro.

Speaking of the Wall of Fame, I am fortunate enough to have good friends who collect and donate memorabilia from all over the world to add to my ever growing collection. The latest acquisition was from the first ProTour race ever held in the southern hemisphere, the Tour Down Under. Adrian tried his best to get me the Sig I Most Desire - that of Lance Armstrong but, like so many before him, he was unable to secure this most prized of scribbles. Still I'm super stoked to have been given this wicked musette signed by some of the Caisse d'Epargne team. The signatures are from 2006 Tour de France winner Oscar Pereiro, DS and Aussie legend Neil Stephens, TDU Young Rider winner José Joaquín Rojas and 2005 TDU victor and 2008 Tour de France stage winner Luis León Sánchez.

Adrian said to Sanchez... "if you sign this for my mate Oli you will win a lot of races"... and he went on to win the Tour of the Mediterranean and Paris-Nice this year, and there's talk of him having the potential to go on one day and perhaps even win a Grand Tour! I must be good luck...Adrian also gave me Greg Henderson's High Road cap from last year's TDU as well. Thanks heaps mate!

When Trevor Rice picked up his Mavic GP4 wheels for his Benotto he was kind enough to drop off some more cool old memorabilia for me - these Dulux Tour posters and caps date back from 1983 and feature 1982 winner Stephen Carton. As the finish of the Dulux on Thorndon Quay was my first exposure to live bike racing, it will always have a fond memories for me, so cheers Trevor and his ex-Dulux organiser dad and PNP life member Alan.

So to make room for this new collection of neat stuff, I decided to update the look of the shop slightly. The jersey collection is growing but wasn't being showcased right, and the dusty window sill wasn't the right place to display all my old Campagnolo bits and pieces.

The new Wall of Fame.

My new Old Bling Cupboard.

Paul Larkin has found time in between work and races to spec and order a cool custom Holy Roller 29er from California frame builder Soulcraft. He asked me to build him some wheels on some Paul's (no relation) singlespeed specific hubs he had, so we whacked on some Stans ZTR Flow 29er rims in advance of the frame's arrival.

Then last week his frame arrived. Unfortunately, I don't get to build it but I thought you might like some pics of this cool bike - plus I still feel the love.

The Holy Roller sitting in Soulcraft genius Sean Walling's Petaluma workshop.

Finally in New Zealand.

Just waiting for the cranks I couriered him up on Friday - Paul was racing the 24 Hours of N-Duro at 12pm on Saturday, so I hope it all went okay!

Along with Paul, one of my other far away Team Stars is 2007 X-Terra Champion Tim Wilding (T-Rex). Tim is building up hard to wrest his title back from 08 victor Terrenzo Bozzone, and has been going great with the fastest bike splits in his two most recent outings, the Triple Cross and the Bayfair Tri.

Here is his beautiful Ibis Silk Road bike in race mode.

And here are the wheels I just built him. Stans ZTR Olympics laced onto XTR hubs using DT Revolution spokes and brass nipples. 680 grams front and 780 g rear - a 1460 gram total for a lightweight set of XC race wheels. Hot.

After I tubelessed them up...

The front hub is in the relatively new 15mm through format. Here is a shot of it installed into the F10015QR forks I got in for Tim.

Obviously these wheels and forks aren't going on the Silk Road, so what are they for you may well ask? I was hoping to get Tim's new bike built in time for him to race the N-Duro as part of Team Major Debt with Cameron Durno, Cabin Leishman and Nic Leary. Sadly the vagaries of customs and couriers meant that it didn't arrive until late on Friday, and poor Tim had to race on his Ibis Mojo*.

Never mind, I get to take my time building this uber-cool Ibis Tranny next week. According to Ibis importer Mike Stylianou of Hyperformance Hardware, I'm the first person in New Zealand to see/touch a Tranny in person...wait, that doesn't sound right!

Continuing the theme of far away friends, Eoin in Perth sent me some more great shots of his daughter Tahlay, who is on a sharp upwards trajectory in her burgeoning track career. She just won the State Under 11s silver medal in the omnium. Great work, Tahlay!

On the Podium! Tahlay on the left.

Her dad, inspired by Tahlay's success, has decided to come out of "retirement" and take to the boards himself. He needed a trackbike, so got himself this cool Look AL464P to put himself in a position for Tahlay to show him the ropes.

Even further afield is my mate Kris Withington. He was head mechanic on my trip to the Geelong Tour and Women's World Cup round in 2007, and has since gone on to be one of the mechanics for the Garmin-Slipstream ProTour Team, which has NZ's Julian Dean on it's roster, along with such big stars as David Millar, Dave Zabriskie, Christian Vandevelde and Tyler Farrar. From time to time Kris will send me an update and some pics, so I thought you may be interested in this insider's view of what it means to be a race mechanic at the very highest level...Thanks, Kris!

I am sitting in yet another Ibis hotel just off yet another motorway in Reims, northern France, on a solo 1500k truck drive from Belgium to Tuscany in Italy. I have just been up to Belg for the weekends opening round of Belgian one day 'classics', Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne. This totalled up my 19th race day of the season so far (not including the damned driving of course) so it has been a busy start so far.

The race I went to before the Belgian stint was one called Vuelta au Algarve, way down the bottom of Portugal and about 1400k from where we live in Spain. It was nice down there, sunny and temperatures in the early 20's, good early season preparation. The one downside to this tour is that it included a time trial. The bain of all staffs existence, the time trial is a lot of work and stress for such a short effort. For the un-initiated, the time trial in usually an individual race against the clock, as opposed to the more standard peloton fare. It serves as a way to sort out general classification and gives the specialists a chance to strut their stuff and make a mark on the race. I personally hate the things, but as i work for one of the best time trial teams going, i have to deal with it.

The race i did prior to Algarve was one call the Tour de Medditeranie, and that also included a time trial, this one in a team format. However things didn't go well for us and we didn't win as we expected to. This sucked of course, and really puts this whole game into perspective - the good times are great but man alive the bad times are shit. So anyway I was really keen to get the tt in algarve done with no majors or incidents.

On our team we have a rider by the name of David Millar. Dave is the team captain and chief and a real good bastard. He is also happens to be one of the worlds best when it comes to the time trial, and also happened that he was 'up' or motivated for this particular one in Algarve. Dave seems to be either on or off on time trial days. If the course suits him and he is keen then it is all on, proper preparation, proper warm up protocol etc etc, but if he isn't keen and the course is rubbish, he usually just hops straight out of the bus and straight to the start ramp with care factor 0. So anyway he is one of the last riders off for our team, and doing a proper warm up on the stationary trainer yadda yadda yadda. I have his tt bike leaning against the bus right in front of him, everything just so. I am fidgeting and nervous and I cant wait for tomorrow. Approximately 10 minutes before his start time, Dave is spinning away on the trainer and pops out one of his Ipod earplugs and says to me "Hey Kris, I know its a cardinal sin, but can you flatten out my saddle a bit? Its nose down slightly. Sorry old boy I noticed it in Medditeranie and forgot to mention it". I shot him a look dismay, exhaled rather heavily, had a quick look at his saddle, and sure enough was slightly nose down. (Bike seats are meant to be adjusted pan-flat). But it is also a 'cardinal sin' to mess with the equipment so close to go-time. However, I know the adjustment of the saddles on our time trial bikes is relatively simple procedure, and found myself letting out the standard "yea no worries mate" as I got the trusty 5mm allen key out.

To do this job, its a case of loosening off one bolt and tightening another. As I loosened off the main bolt that holds the thing together and tightened the other with the good help of the bus driver Yvon, I thought ah I'm golden here, no worries. As I went to tighten the main bolt again, I felt the bastard slip, and had that sinking feeling that push bike mechanics know all too well - either a stripped bolt or nut. For approximately the my 5 millionth time in this damned job, a string of expletives ran through my head, and a thin coat of sweat painted my forehead, all in the space of a second.

My first thought was no stress, we have a spare bike exactly the same on the roof of the car. But then I thought I don't want to be the one who has to tell David Millar he has to use his spare bike today as I just buggered his seat. So with some deftly swift hands, I grabbed checked the bolt and that was good, and sure enough it was the corresponding nut which had half the thread stripped out. I don't normally use a torque wrench but am no meat axe when it comes to these sort of things, normally relying on the old 'handcrometer'. It turns out the nut is made from aluminium on the 09 bikes, whereas they were steel in prior editions. We have been having a couple of problems with this, and this is why we have early season races to sort out problems before the really big races come around.

While I am attempting to fix this problem with about 9 mins remaining, Dave is still warming up on the trainer right in front of me, and says "is the bolt a bit short or something?", and I shoot back a "nah nah, sweet as bro" trying to pretend all is good in the world. So it turned out there was still some thread left on the other side of the nut, so a quick flip upside down and I was able to tighten the bastard down, with all of about 2 threads holding Dave Millars day together. As he hopped of the stationary trainer and onto his tt bike with 5 minutes to go, he looked and said "wow that was some real WRC type stuff there wasn't it!" I let out another deep exhale and he said "that's why your here old boy, Ill buy the beers later on". And off he went to the start line.

I also had the job of following him in the car with the director for his ride, I am finding myself eating my arm as I leaning out the window just listening for the crack and a saddle flying off down the road. It never happens, but Dave punctures 5 k from the finish so we swap to his spare bike anyway, which spoils things a bit but its the early season and there are bigger things to come. And I got a couple of beers later on.

Heres some pics of our 09 stuff as well.

catcha later

The 09 Garmin car.

The truck.

Inside the Garmin Service Course - what a wealth of bike bling!

Lastly, one of the 09 Felt team bikes...

This summer seems to have been a never-ending procession of events, and there have been Roadworks riders showing their colours in many of them. I just received this great shot of my friend Daniel enjoying the run at the Tauranga Half-Ironman.

I mentioned last blog the cool new event in Wellington called the Hospi Ride. This event raised funds for the Wellington Children's Hospital and was organised superbly by Eddie Bright, one of my bosses on my 2007 trip to Oceanias in Oz. Eddie's military organisational skills, along with superb support from the WCC and Police, provided a safe and enjoyable (yet challenging) ride from Porirua to Newtown Hospital, via Makara, Karori, Owhiro Bay and Island Bay.

I LOVED being able to wander up to the end of my street and watch a bike race go by - in all my many years of living in Wellington, a bike race has never gone through Makara, let alone Island Bay and Newtown! Very cool indeed. It was a great day in town too, adding to the great feel of this event.

A bunch heads through Karori's main road, with Makara Peak in the background. Roadworks star John Randal patrolling the peloton at the back. (Picture courtesy of

A bunch stomps past my street under the protection of one of the Police outriders.

John came past, the unfortunate victim of a puncture on the last roundabout in Island Bay.

John crests the summit of the arduous Rintoul Street climb. (Picture courtesy of

Adrian, the donor of the musette I wrote about earlier, rides up Rintoul Street - my stupid infuriating camera delay is responsible for this poor shot, so sorry Adrian!

A bunch heads over Rintoul Street and down towards the Hospital...

A good turnout for this even, but next year they'll be hoping for more. I'm going to be there if I'm not travelling...Inspired by this, I went home to knock out a few chores, then donned my superhero suit and headed out on my road bike. I did a lap of the Bays, then decided to finish off by heading up a fierce climb in Island Bay called Volga Street.

The harbour was like glass..

Self pic as I climbed up Volga.

My bike before I dropped down the hill to home - I don't normally finish with a downhill, but I'm going to do it more often!

This turned out to be the second ride of an almost unprecedented five consecutive days of riding! The first ride had been a mountainbike ride the day before. Alex and I headed up Cemetery Trail, then down Johnson's Hill via a few too many flights of steps for my liking - still a great little ride.

On Skyline.

The next three rides were on my road bike, including a couple on my Bianchi, before reality slapped me down with some work.

I gave Pete's lovely Yeti 575 a damned good fettle.

Then built up this repainted GT Avalanche for Bill to give to a friend of his daughter Odette. She didn't like the old pink colour, so went for the understated green...

Before Pug headed away to do the Ground Effect Cyclic Saga I gave his bling Litespeed unicoi a service. His team ended up a fine 12th.

I sorted out a few creaks and groans emanating from this Scott belong to one of my longest serving clients's wife. Always good to catch up with Paul...

Then I coincidentally had these two PedalForce bikes in withing a day of each other.

Leonard's Ultegra version.

And Ian's Dura-Ace 7800 one, which he went on to ride superbly in the National Tri Champs, thereby qualifying for the World Champs - great stuff, Ian!

My friend Dave was building up this cool GT-R frame as a surprise for his partner Laura, but he needed my help to fit the bottom bracket. As always when building up a new bike I like to face and chase the b/b shell to help the bearing align perfectly, thereby increasing the lifespan of these heavy use bearings.

Dave finished the rest of the bike off in his flash new Man Cave in Island Bay. When I saw his workshop I was almost jealous, but when I saw the rest of their house I fully was!

My last job for the week was this stunning Wilier Cento Crono for Tom, who is soon off to Triathlon Worlds. He brought it to me immediately it had been built, to double check the workmanship of the shop that built it. I was very disappointed to see the shoddy job the shop had done. The very first thing I noticed when I carefully put it up into my Ultimate stand (my Park one wouldn't safely clamp this unusually shaped seatpost) was that the gear levers were the wrong way around - the left was shifting the rear and vice versa! I was utterly gobsmacked by this shitty treatment of such a fine machine...

Apparently they told him it wouldn't work any other way, but I was quite convinced a well-respected framebuilder like Wilier wouldn't have designed their expensive flagship TT bike to have the shifters back to front. Imagine Damiano Cunego trying to figure out which gear lever was which in a Giro Time Trial! Inconceivable! So I simply undid the cables and levers and fitted them the right way around. Of course they were easier to use and worked better than the wrong least once I'd sorted the next debacle!

I soon discovered that the front gears still weren't working properly - the chain was dragging on the front derailleur on the three biggest cogs at the back, and I was initially unable to adjust them properly. After a bit of head scratching I traced this to an unusually long braze-on mounting bolt that was pushing into and jamming the inner limit screw. Once I'd removed the bungled bolt I had to remove the bent titanium limit screw with my vice grips, then replace it with one I'd cannibilised from a damaged Record rear mech.

The gears were now working well, but to add to the litany of shonkiness was the appallingly crookedly cut steerer tube, the brakes on the opposite sides to Tom's stated preference, and a slightly crushed seatpost from a poor attempt at clamping in an inappropriate workstand.

I'm always so sad to see the poor standards some shops seem to set themselves - it doesn't do any of us any good, especially on a prestige bike like this, being ridden at a very high level. I believe that any build should be done with the utmost care and respect, not just knocked out with an attitude of "she'll be right..." After a few hours of my attention, Tom's rig was as it should have been when it came out of the shop that sold it. Perfect. Best of luck to Tom at Worlds.

Just after Tom had picked up his bike on Saturday morning, I got a text from Roadworks roadie Joel Healy. A new-born baby in his family has put a damper of his usual A grade aspirations so, partially on my advice, he dropped down to B grade for the PNP Wellington Cup 4 Peaks race held on this lovely Saturday morning. My thinking was that hanging on to (and possibly being dropped by...) A grade wouldn't be nearly as rewarding as B grade, where Joel would be actually part of the mix shaping the race. As it turned out, the thinking was right - the text read:
I am going to race B grade more often. Great fun and I climbed away to win.
Great stuff, Joel!

Adrian took this cool shot of Joel climbing Moonshine Road towards the finish, knowing he has the race in the bag.

On Thursday morning I went up to John Randal's place for a coffee and a long overdue catch up, but also to collect the trailerbike he and his daughter Kaitlyn have used for years to great success, including taking the tandem record for the Karapoti Challenge.

Katy has grown into her own bike, so John has kindly loaned me it so I can take my 6 year old son Bodhi out for a blat every now and then. Bo loves riding his own bike too, but his speed and fitness are major limiters on the rest of the family doing proper rides. With this addition to the Brooke-White bike fleet I can see rides like Koru/Lazy Fern, the Rimutaka Incline, and several others opening up for us to ride as a family.

Note the old retro Healing MountainCat tow-bike.

I gave the mounting bracket and pivots, along with the rest of the machine, a bit of a going over before taking it for a quick shakedown up and down Waripori Street. Excuse the no helmet!

But Saturday afternoon was the real test. After a hearty lunch, and fired up by Joel's success in the morning, we donned helmets and set off for a loop of the Bays.

We headed south through Island Bay, then wandered around the South Coast. Houghton Bay...

Bodhi perhaps wasn't as enamoured of the scenery as I was.

We stopped in Lyall Bay for a play at the playground, then headed through Kilbirnie via the confusing and meandering "bike path" the council in their wisdom have sort of created. After that we rolled around the coast to Oriental Bay, stopping for the obligatory ice cream refuelling. Then it was a quick lap of the Waterfront, Waitangi Park for another play, and home via the Basin Reserve and Rintoul Street.

Both Bo and I had an awesome time, singing, cracking bad jokes and just yarning away, so we have both put this as our Best Ride EVAR! And we can't wait for the next one, although today Bo is definitely feeling the effects of all the hard pedalling he did...

Hopefully there's something in this post for most folk. As always, thanks so much for reading. Cheers, Oli

*LATE EDIT: Team Major Debt win the N-Duro, both overall and mixed categories. Good stuff!