Monday, December 13, 2010
Tales From The Trails
I seem to have hit somewhat of a Purple Patch; great weather and fortuitous timing have had me out on the bike a lot of late, enjoying the Februaryesque weather November and early December have been lavishing upon us here in Wellington.
I know bleating about my health is boring and soft, but sitting around on my lard arse worrying about it is even more boring and even softer. So I've decided to Rule V it and just get on with the job until such time as I get called up for the op. Luckily HH has decided to play boules with me for now...
Those of you who know me well though know I'm not really one to Obey The Rules if it doesn't suit me; for example I've been known to take the odd short-cut in my time...
...drink the odd tot of rum before noon...
...or start a repair-only business out of a dodgy garage in the Aro Valley.
In the spirit of breaking the rules, the Weapon Of Choice of late has been the Cove.
It breaks the rules by being an improbable 700c cyclo-cross machine when it should have known its station as a hardtail 26" mountainbike. It also breaks them by being neither an off or on-road bicycle, yet being superb in both contexts. I love it and have been reaching for it whenever time allows me to slip out for a jaunt.
One of the early shake-down rides I took it on was a ride up Te Ahumairangi, formerly Tinakori Hill. Having ridden the Northern Walkway down from the top on my MTB previously had made me curious to see what it would be like as a climb on the Cove. If the gradients overcame me I would simply take the opportunity to have a nice walk and take a picture or two.
On a windy day the trees creak and groan in an at times eerie conference of Norfolk gravitas.
Despite the occasional difficult section, pedalling was on the whole very pleasant through the cool forest.
And the views of the Harbour and the City from various vantage points between the foliage are always interesting.
A last heave up onto the Ridgeline for a gulp of water was followed by a fun roll down a track I initially thought was Huntingdon, but was actually Bottles - a lost track from a distant time.
After Bottles I rode on the road up to Denton Park and onto the trails that Jonty and Selwyn have dubbed Hi Bro, for Highbury Fling (that ends up in Brooklyn) blended with Hobo, or Transient as it became. Smashing down there on the drops with my beefy rigid Surly fork again showed me once more a couple of things I'd need to think about in terms of the bike's set-up. My hands were getting real sore real quick on the descents, making for some sketchy braking moments and making it hard to transition my claws from the tops to the drops and back again.
Also, the brake lever hoods were in the perfect place for my hands on the climbs and the flat to roller-type stuff, but on the downs the drops were just a bit too deep for comfort - while I can reach them fine I couldn't stay in them without my weight feeling too far forward and down. The last thing I was rapidly realising was that this kind or riding was pretty draining and kind of a beat-up at times. Things to ponder indeed...
So, feeling a bit physically and mentally thrashed from the day before I decided to take a Thinking Ride around the Bays on my poor neglected Bianchi.
It is rare to see the entrance to the Harbour like a mill-pond, and the Mediterranean warmth made for a gorgeous day for a spin.
As this was nearing Taupo time the roads were full of athletes, punters, MAMILS and hard-outs out honing their form for the Big Day.
This brings me to the Waveback Index. The WI is a concept I have come up with whereby the collapse of Western Civilisation can be measured via the medium of rudeness. Every response to my inadvertent cheeriness gains 10 points for the total, and for every rebuff 10 points gets subtracted. A rider who rides in one's slipstream or passes without reacting to a greeting ups the stakes to -20 points, but a friendly chat however brief earns 20 positive points. Despite seeing approximately fifty riders passing me in the opposite direction, this beautiful day ended up with a very poor WI of -410. It could have been much worse but luckily the ladies of the road were better brought up than the men...
This definitely got me down a bit, but luckily as my head dejectedly dropped I caught a glimpse of my magnificent legs turning fluidly astride my beautiful Italian steel, and the smile so callously wiped was reapplied in a trice.
The incredible day certainly helped my positive frame of mind as well...
For one reason and another, it's been months since I've been up to Makara Peak. I had to do some missions in the car one day so after discharging my duties I diverted to Karori and hit up Koru...
The Speeder run through the trees on the last bit of Koru is always a blast, but the Cove added a new dimension to it - I took this photo while I waited for the MTBer I'd caught up to clear the trail ahead, as he declined to allow me to pass.
Sally Alley was a great test of the bike and my ability to ride it - short fast blasts, tough rocky corners and the odd rocky outcrop gave the wheels and my legs a good workout...
...but not as good as Ridgeline Extension! The first rocky left-hander my left foot flew off the pedal and I smashed down the trail crushing my gooch for what seemed like an eternity spent in the middle ground between death or glory. Luckily for me today it was glory, and after 20 or so metres I managed to restore my footing and ride it out with alacrity.
Lazy Fern. My favourite test track. If I'm going well and feeling strong I own it. I am the first to say I have some limitations off-road; I don't like drops or jumps at all, because I'm crap at them and I tend to crash with dire consequences when I attempt to Rule V them. But despite these unmanly limitations I am confident and reasonably quick on flowy, cornery stuff. I put this down to being a pretty good bike handler from my many years on the road, but also I've been riding mountainbikes for nearly 20 years now so the odd skill must have lodged in there somewhere..Of course it helps that I know LF very well and it totally suits my style. The Cove suited it too, making for a super run down this beaut trail.
Off to work with a happy heart and heaving lungs!
Ah, another great day, another ride. From home up Hi Bro for another blast along the Fling, another track I'm getting to know very well and one that suits both me and the CX rig...
...out onto the road again to head through K-Town...
...for another quick visit to Makara Peak to ride Koru/Lazy Fern again...
...back on the tar as far as Parkvale Road, then onto Skyline.
The cows were slightly menacing, but happily not belligerent today. There was a minor straddling incident but the two cows concerned emerged unscathed.
The ridge was wind-free. In Wellington this is unusual enough on one day, let alone several consecutive days.
The big wheels rolled easily over the sun-baked track...
...and the scenery was very scenic.
After enjoying the wide open spaces of Skyline for a while it was down Cemetery Trail for some lovely bushclad singletrack action. Not to harp on about the weather, but I've never seen CT so dry!
I ignored a sign that told me the track was blocked by a fallen tree, assuming I'd get past okay. I was wrong.
But I got to observe a pair of Kaka at close range. This admittedly poor photo (and indeed experience) was totally trumped a couple of days later by a Facebook photo of my friend Tom who had one literally eating out of his hand. Still, it was good while it lasted.
I back-tracked then followed the detour provided, which followed a stream before meandering up some steps and out into the Cemetery.
A great ride was followed by a great evening. It was Graham Watson night at Revolution Bicycles, and Jonty had invited me up to meet one of the iconic photographers of road cycling who was popping in on his way to the family holiday home near Nelson. I brought along my copy of his fine "20 Years of Cycling Photography"...
...which, after a good chat, he kindly signed for me. Good to see his passion for the sport is undimmed by time, and that he looks forward to the Spring Classics as much as Jonty and I do.
After Mr Watson had taken his leave I did also. I made my way over town to the Wellington Workingmen's Bowling Club in Newtown to have a roll-up with my old friend Jim.
The light was fading fast, but the evening was warm and we could still see the balls.
As a member of long standing, Jim is an experienced lawn bowler. I, however, am not. The game started out with Jim casually taking me apart ball by ball while somehow also managing to impart some of his knowledge to a neophyte Oli...
...and whether it was the lessons learned, the beer swilled, or all the carrots I've eaten over the years, I somehow managed to turn the game around. Here's the bowl that signalled the start of my comeback.
And, as the sun finally drew a close to our ends, it transpired that I fluked the win. Ah yes, what a glorious day indeed.
Saturday was another cracker of a day and, again, it was out with the Cove. Modified that morning while at work with some extremely affordable FSA compact handlebars, I was dead keen to see just how the new set-up handled. As a very hands-on Dad and a self-employed man a completely free afternoon is a rare thing, so with all the boys with mates and Jacq out until late I felt the untrammelled feeling of freedom. Time to ride.
I zipped through Newtown, up Aro Street and onto Hi Bro once more. Climbing Transient I caught up with a somewhat non-plussed MTBer, who seemed surprised a "road bike" could cut it up thurr. Ironically, the cross bike climbs it better than the Meta! At least until that evil damned stretch of tarmac that is the Karepa Street path...By the time I'd finished Highbury Fling I knew this new set-up was the business. No change to the height of the hoods (raising them via a higher stem caused the front end to wander on the uphills) but the shorter reach and the ability to ride for long stretches in the drops made it a fast and furious Fling. Now I really felt at home on this cool and versatile machine...
At least until I hit Wrights Hill Road. I considered re-fitting the granny ring for a moment or two while I took the chance for a quick lie-down.
A brutal climb even when I weighed 72kg becomes barbaric when I weigh 108. Still I managed to whack out a photo or two in between paroxysms of wracking, wheezing coughing.
The mind plays funny tricks on one when the brain is starved of oxygen - I could swear that once upon a time this was where I used to put it in the big dog for the final stretch. Not much chance of that today!
I took stock at the carpark and let the blood begin circulating again as I took in the views...
One more sip of water as the stiffening breeze cooled me down (and blew my bike over just after this pic was taken...), then it was down Salvation, having decided at the start of the ride that Deliverance might be a step to far. For the bike, of course. *cough cough*
Salvation was awesome fun - fast straights, tight corners, good dry traction and the beautiful bush.
A final loop of Koru, Sally Alley, RLE and Lazy Fern left me completely fragged and almost out of gas. Luckily, it's almost all downhill from there and I managed to make it home in time to crack a beer and draw a bath before the family descended on me once more...
The last ride I will relate for this blog was yet another stand-out CX run. I rode up Hi Bro (who would ride to Kelburn, Northland or Karori any other way?) then blatted along Karori Road to visit an injured buddy (get well quick, JK!). After a coffee and a chat I took my leave and headed up St Albans Road, up the 4WD road and I followed the grey rabbit onto Rimu.
Apart from the hell-tight hairpin that delineates Rimu from AMP Connector I was pleased and satisfied to clean the rest of AMP up to the Picnic Table on RLE.
I set off down towards Big Tom's Wheelie before spotting another rabbit. Wanting to take a photo for Bodhi, er, I mean kill the bloody pest, I stopped only for it to shake it's tail at me and bound off to who knows where...
...before remounting for a great run down BTW and onto the Cove's maiden run down SWIGG/Starfish! I stopped once thinking I heard riders coming up from behind but despite the sound of them there was no sign even after I'd stopped and taken this picture, so I continued my charge down this wicked trail.
The Cove handled the trail well, as it has everything I've thrown at it so far. As you may be able to glean, I'm really digging the vibe of this slightly bizarrely conceived bicycle. I'm looking forward to many more rides aboard it, but it's not the only bike I've been taking along Skyline or around Makara Peak. Coming soon, Tales of a Tall Boy.
Until then thanks for reading, Oli