Monday, January 18, 2010

The End Of The Road - Ten Years After

I started Roadworks in May 2000 and more by good luck than good management I've somehow made it to the tenth year. The ten years have flown by via four different premises, an acrimonious divorce to the mother of my two eldest sons, a wedding, an extremely difficulty birth, a debilitating accident, depression and too many other ups and downs to mention.

It's certainly been an amazing time for me and my family, but change is a constant and the time for change is now. I've been agonising for months about how 2010 will play out, but the truth is that something has to give and I'm afraid that's Roadworks in its current iteration...

I'm always busy and in general it is working okay, but the hours I can put in and the financial recompense I can glean as a one-man show are starting to be far outweighed by the time and stress involved in running the operation and realistically it's never going to get the Brooke-Whites ahead of the game.

Luckily for the future of our family Jacq is starting her training to be a nurse at the end of February, so after much putting our heads together we've decided I will take on the role of home executive for the next three years to give her a long-awaited chance to follow her dream without having to deal with the minutiae of daily household life at the same time - Eddy knows that after a decade of her dealing with the rollercoaster ride of Roadworks she deserves to be released from the shackles of domestic drudgery to taste the outside world once more! Jacq has a need to put something back into the neo-natal unit that we were so lucky to have help us after Bodhi's arrival, and that in itself means she deserves a shot...

The plan is that Jacq's passion will give her a steady and stable career that will later allow me to return to my passion on a more full time basis too, hopefully reaching a point where we are finally sharing the household and financial load between us both.

For my many, many friends and customers I'm not quite sure yet what this all means, but for now the end of February spells the end of the Roadworks Era.

I'll be keeping the workshop space and if I do continue in some shape or form it will be trimmed down to a Service Course doing wheelbuilding, new bike building and race tuning only - my days as a general repair shop are definitely over for the foreseeable future. I'll also keep the blog going and I'll still be working on selected races too, as well as riding my own bicycles of course, so keep an eye here for further updates, inane ride reports and general bicycle related (loosely) goss.

In the meantime I'd like to thank all of you cool customers past and present who have supported me and allowed me to ply my trade on so many beautiful bicycles from the bottom of my heart. I've had a blast, and hopefully so have you on the bicycles I've fettled for you. Cheers, Oli

Now, back to the usual programme!

Firstly I'd like to congratulate some ex-teammates on some big results - ex-Jazz Apple (now Tibco) rider Ruth Corset won her first Australian Road title over my good friend and Oceania Road Champion Bridie O'Donnell. A hilly course meant I wasn't too surprised at Ruth's deserved victory, but the course shouldn't really have been Bridie's sort of thing so I was delighted to hear that she blew away all bar one of Australia's finest climbers to grab her silver - good stuff!

Honorable mentions to the Kiwi National Champions too - I worked with young Jack Bauer at the '06 MTB Worlds in Rotorua and was stoked to see his classy win at NZ Road Nationals on a testing Christchurch course over top pros Hayden Roulston and Julian Dean. Similarly, Rushlee Buchanan's solo victory over the top women's field was great to see - I worked with Rush in both the NZ and JA Teams. Meshy Holt's third win in a row win in the women's TT was also a class ride, as was old campaigner Gordon MacCauley's win for his third title...I worked with Meshy on the '07 National squad - I haven't actually officially had the pleasure of working with Gordy apart from being in Service 1 when he won silver in the 1996 Road Champs behind the legendary Ric Reid, but I couldn't leave out his amazing ride.

Bird in full flight!

And Ruth solos to her crushing victory - chapeau, Ruthie!

Talking of road bikes, before Christmas I took 1h 45m to build myself a Trek - well on the 6th of January after only three rides it took me exactly 1h 11m to reverse the process! Two shortish rides on the flat started to tell me what I already knew, and a third hilly test loop confirmed, for me at least, the truism that steel is real.

Now, I'm not blaming the Trek - it's a fine bike, and way better than I require - but to me the Bianchi sings where the Trek hums. The final straw was taking the OCLV up a climb we used to call the Alpe d'Huez - I know that climb like the back of my hand, and it's a favourite test ride. I could definitely feel the kilogram I'd saved when seated climbing, but when I stood up to give it some welly the Trek felt stiff and light and good, but for some deeply inherent tactile reasons I really missed the springy flex of Columbus steel.

The same day I stripped the Trek back down I sold it to Henry for what I paid for it - I'll miss the lightness, but man it's good to look down and see the Celeste again...

Not that it's been that easy to enjoy it - not sure if you've noticed, but sunny days have been somewhat scarce around Wellington this so-called "summer". If it hasn't been pissing down with rain it's been blowing a freaking gale, and usually both. Still one day last week I managed to time work/family/daylight sufficiently to dash out the door for a quick Bays loop. I dashed out a bit too quick though, and realised at Princess Bay I'd forgotten my helmet!

With the time limit I faced I decided to just continue with my ride - it would probably be snowing the next time I could get out. Despite being a habitual helmet wearer usually I have to say I did enjoy the feeling of the wind blowing through what's left of my hair! I only felt vulnerable (more subconscious really) when busybodies hassled me for not wearing one and when I passed police cars, but I made it home safely without being either killed or ticketed to complete what had been an all-too-rare taste of summer sifting.

Most of what little other riding I've managed lately has been on the mountain bike - not that that's a bad thing! My bro Alex and I had some great fun up Skyline on a fine but bitingly cold windy day...

...and yesterday he and I went for a mudfest up Makara Peak in the tail-end of a southerly storm that lashed Welli with single-digit temperatured rain on his hot new 1800g wheels I built last week.

NoTubes Flow rims on Saint hubs, DT Competition spokes and Intense System 4 tyres tubeless, saving him nearly a kilogram over his old wheelset and imbued with all my powers for a long and happy ride.

Here's the always dapper Alex prior to his first ride on his pristine Oli wheels.

We scooted up Koru and Sally Alley as far as Missing Link...

...before having the BEST run down a sketchy slippery Ridgeline Extension and a seven-air session of the lovely Lazy Fern.

This isn't right - it's not July, dammat!

Never mind, the weather was a big part of why this ride was so fun - as always it looks a lot worse from behind glass than it does from behind handlebars!

Back in the workshop I haven't just been agonising over my future or mucking around with my bikes - I do occasionally work, usually to an alarmingly old school soundtrack.

Here are a pair of wheels I built for my friend Jono. Atomlab rims on Hadley hubs, for a bombproof combo to go on his Santa Cruz Driver 8.

Dave's Commençal needed a full strip down/rebuild - once the damn brake pads turn up he can actually ride it again!

Garth's cool Look KG 381 Team needed a full service.

As did my man Daryl's Kuota Khan.

Last Tuesday evening I was lucky enough to be invited by Worralls rep, NZ MTB legend and all-round top chap Alex Chronis to attend a launch for the new NZ distributor of Zipp Speed Weaponry - often product launches are a full-on snoozefest of non-stop marketing blather that a chimp could see through, but I found David to be well-versed, passionate and interesting; his geek speak spoke to me, and I think he liked it that I loved the handlebars it turned out he'd designed. I've always rated Zipp wheels - many years ago I was "Zipp Accredited" as an authorised wheelbuilder - but the new stuff is just stunning and I'm looking forward to having closer access to these most bling products.

Closely related to Zipp wheels, I had to rebuild a SRAM S60 wheel for Dean. His old one was damaged by US Customs as he left Hawaii after doing a great job competing in the Ironman World Championships, but the insurance replacement had the wrong colour spokes. With no silver spoked wheels available and not wanting a mismatched wheelset I was asked to rebuild the old hub and spokes into the new rim...

..which turned out to be quite a mission, mainly due to the impossibility of extracting the hidden nipples from within the rim and the onerous and tricky task of evenly threading the nipples onto the spokes before tensioning the wheels! Three hours later Dean's wheel is once again ready to race as soon as he is after tomorrow's knee operation - best of luck for a speedy recovery Deano.

Jim's Condor was in need of some loving, so love it I did. New brake pads, cables and handlebar tape (along with some small paint touch-ups) gave this lovely UK/Italian hybrid a whole new lease of life.

Finally this blog, I just today gave my dear friend John's Kiwi Brevet steed a cut and trim. The cables needed shortening, as did the steerer tube. Also, I had to rebuild the rear wheel which was loaned off Simon Kennett - obviously one little ride down the Continental Divide was too much for the poor aluminium nipples, so brass was what I replaced them with. Lastly I had to fit the new front wheel I built for John late last year. All together, this shaved off a full pound, bringing this fine 69er machine down to a svelte 20.65lb. Nice.

Until next time - and there will be a next time - thanks for reading. Pedal on, Oli

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Event Full End to the Decade!

After my great experience doing the Taupo event with my wife Jacq it was the turn of 15 year old Number One Son Kester to be my tag teammate at the Creek to Peak relay event at the 2009 Makara Peak Rally. Like Jacq the weekend before this would be Kester's first ever bike race and we were both looking forward to it...

Due to a full on end of year with NCEA study and exams his training hadn't been exactly extensive but we'd been out together a few times in the months preceding and he'd done a couple of solo rides up Mt Albert and Mt Victoria during the week before, so was feeling fighting fit. The plan was for me to do the first lap of the relay using my mad Taupo fitness then accompany him on the second lap, more to allay my fears than his!

The day was grey and windy, and the Peak was shrouded in grim clouds as we rolled up early to get signed up and be given the slightly daunting number 1 and 2 plates by REO Pete Mora.

Kester had some slight pre-race nerves, but was still cool.

Also competing in the Roadworks colours were C2P stalwarts Matt Isaac and Alex Tashkoff as one team, John Randal was half of a team with Revolution Bicycles rider Simon Kennett, and Tim Wilding was riding two laps as a solo hardout.

John and Tim pre-race gurning.

I did a warm-up down South Karori Road with Alex, but it wasn't long before Pete was herding us all into the carpark for the start. He tried to make me start at the front due to my #1 plate but I respectfully declined, figuring the number wasn't really a talent indicator and also not wanting to get steamed over by all the pro-elite racers fighting for the wheel of lead rider Josh Barley. Here I am feeling primed to go and sharing the startline with local legend Wrinkly Pinkhole...

photo courtesy of Ross Findlay

Pete's fiendish plan to thin the field out before hitting the singletrack of Koru was to send us around a road loop containing a small but vicious hill, and it wasn't long after the climb began before I found myself in a slight anaerobic/lactic debt situation. I long ago discovered I am a diesel who needs plenty of time to warm up, so I soon stopped struggling and resigned myself to my customary position near the back of the field figuring I would pick up the pace as the ride went on.

The road climb tipped down and I did my best to put on a good race face as I blasted through the carpark and onto Koru through a deafening wall of cheering from my fan, then settled into the climb. It wasn't long before I discovered poor John fixing a flat tyre on the side of the trail; previously in contention for the win he was discovering why tubeless is the way to go. I asked him if he needed anything (as I secretly revelled in passing him for the second time in as many races...) but he was fine, so I continued on my merry way only to have him pass me about 3 minutes later anyway.

Warming to my work I had a great run up Koru, along Sally Alley and onto Missing Link - the Flow was strong with me and I carried some good momentum into the climb up to the pylon, but this was where things started to go bad for me. I was climbing well and fully within myself but for some reason my breathing was getting worse and worse; by the time I hit the steep opening stanza of Aratihi I realised I was in the middle of a full-blown asthma attack, probably caused by all the pollens being blown around in the strong NW winds.

It's very rare for me to have an attack while riding and I wasn't sure how to cope with it - I had an inhaler in my Camelbak but the cold wind made me reluctant to stop riding in case it got worse and I couldn't get going again. The trail eases slightly after the steep start so I decided to just pedal as easy as possible and hopefully ride through it, so I put it in the 22 x 32 and focused on my breathing and just turning the pedals over one stroke at a time.

The trail seemed to drag on and on but I managed to get my breathing back under control and it wasn't long before I hit the 4wd drive road. After being mocked about my inappropriate seeding by Marshall Don McLeod I embarrassingly added to my woes and his mirth by mong-crashing as I dropped back onto the last section of Aratihi, but I leapt to my feet ("I'm okay!") and got going again quickly. The ascent finally gave way to the descent of the Snakecharmer, a fast open 4wd downhill made sketchy by the off-camber corners and loose surface. Normally I'm okay on this track but I still wasn't feeling too flash so opted for the cautious approach.

I grumbled past Marshall Alastair and onto and down Ridgeline Extension, Big Tom's Wheelie and into SWIGG/Starfish, wishing like hell my damn lungs were working so I could make the most of these super bits of lovingly crafted singletrack. Before much longer though I hit the finish, trying desperately to suck in some air and informing a slightly startled Ket that he'd have to do the lap on his own - he took off and I crumpled into a wheezing heap, whereupon Bushlover Davo promptly jammed a camera in my face and asked me some questions...

As I slowly came to grips with things again the race was going on around me. Not long after I'd finished my single lap Tim came blasting in from his second for first solo rider, and only narrowly being beaten for first overall by the Revolution Bicycles Team of Jonty Ritchie and Alex Revell.

Then Alex came thundering down Lazy Fern to set Matt off on his way...

...then after a while Kester arrived!

photo courtesy of Ross Findlay

He was stoked with his efforts and had a great time. He loved interacting with other competitors and the volunteers, and enjoyed it all the more for doing it on his own rather than with me babysitting him.

Matt finished shortly afterwards, having done a cracking time and bringing the Creek to Peak to a close as far as Team Roadworks was concerned. Great stuff.

Ket and I chaffed down some of Zac's fine sausages and chatted with the other riders, as well as the ones arriving for the afternoon's tough Tour de Peak event. The prizegiving had been held while Ket was still riding but my sob story and the fact it was his first ever race were enough to give us a couple of cool spot prizes which I duly passed on to him. We decided to watch the start of the Tour to cheer on John (who was doubling up!) then take off home for a well deserved beer or ginger ale.

The results show a clear and decisive domination by Roadworks riders at both ends of this small but high quality field...

Thanks once again to the Makara Peak Supporters for putting on this fine example of local mountain bike racing at its best, and thanks to all the Roadworks Team for making me proud...

As Christmas rushes towards us the convivial expectations grow accordingly. Some social occasions are more welcome than others, and I was looking forward to two of them more than most.

First was the Revolution Christmas/Hannukah do on the Friday before Christmas - an easy Koru/Lazy Fern group ride had been mooted by Jonty, with a fallback plan of gathering to watch La Course en Tete in the shop if the weather was inclement - a good likelihood if the rest of spring/early summer was any indication!

As it transpired the day wasn't great - warm but windy and cloudy and rain looming. Despite this I hurried through the last work of the year then in the late afternoon I loaded up the Commençal and headed up to Northland to rendezvous with several other fans of Wellington's coolest bike shop to find that we were definitely riding. For some reason Jonty had abrogated his ride guide role in favour of Hamish "The Driller" Gordon who decided to lead us on a merry dance around some of Wellington's more obscure trails, barely any of which could be described as "easy".

Despite a small bit of half-hearted grumbling from me about what I dubbed the Revolution Bicycles Bataan Death March much fun and laughs were had, and every stop was an opportunity for some good old-fashioned biker banter...

We ended up on Skyline, wise heads cogitating on cycling as a metaphor for life.

It was getting colder and darker by the minute so we headed for the Cemetery Trail. I found myself up the front with Jonty which put me in the box seat to witness something I've never been in a position to observe firsthand, John Randal putting the pedal to the metal - I swear the ground trembled as John passed me and his attack was responded to immediately by Jonty and the others, leaving me far behind. Luckily they were just playing and the storm passed as quickly as it arrived...

After the windblown clear air of Skyline we gathered ourselves and plunged into the Stygian darkness of the canopy and on down to the Cemetery, as laughter and the odd curse rent the night air. We emerged and while most headed for the shop Alex and I were somehow enticed by The Driller into following him further into the graveyard and onto a Mystery Trail that was short but fun. We then meandered to the shop to partake of Yuletide libation aplenty. It was a great ride and a great night, so thanks to Jonty, Alex and Hamish for hosting this memorable event, and cheers also to the other guys who rode. The rest of the photos I didn't steal are here.

The next day was the birthday of my friend Jess, and her partner Steve had cunningly arranged that to coincide with a ride for a few key personnel and combined Christmas/Birthday BBQ. I loaded up my mountainbike then swung by and picked up my good friend Alex (the other one!), then we headed up to Karori to decamp at Steve and Jess's place at the foot of Makara Peak.

Jess had decided to give the ride a swerve so Steve, Al, Matt, Wayne and I saddled up and headed up St Albans. As we rode up the road my bike was making a nasty creaking sound, not a good thing for the Star Mechanic to have! We then hit Rimu and the bad omens continued with me finding my bike wouldn't shift from the granny gear I'd used to fail to ride around the gate onto the middle ring without double-shifting wtf!? Luckily the good company and the fun riding were keeping me from mulling things over too much, as I am not exactly enamoured of having mechanical issues on my customer's bikes let alone my own...

We continued up Rimu... the Picnic Table and down the last part of Ridgeline Extension and onto Big Tom's Wheelie, before hitting Magic Carpet hard and regrouping at the (un)Skills Area.

What a difference a week makes - after dosing heavily on my asthma meds since the weekend before I was feeling ten feet high and bulletproof. I'd felt much better by the end of the Revolution ride than at the start and the way I was riding today seemed like a big improvement on that - I should have known it was too good to be true...

We watched Al do some mad hucks then headed down the super fun SWIGG and Starfish before taking a leisurely cruise up Koru before a wicked blast along Sally Alley, following close behind Matt and Al as XC whippets Steve and Wayne disappeared into the distance.

I was deliberately dropping behind Matt and Al to let them go then accelerating to catch them up again at warp speed, and this was my eventual downfall. One particular corner taken way too fast caught me a bit off-guard and I had the odd sensation of having both wheels off the ground when I wasn't jumping - if I'd been a cartoon I'd have been Wile E Coyote.

In the process of regaining my connection to Earth I must have caught the sidewall of my tyre as when I met the boys at the end of SA there was a high pressure spurt of jizz - and it wasn't coming from my trousers, matey! The NoTubes magic happened and all seemed well, so I topped up the air in my tyres and we set off again up the 4wd road to ride the whole of Ridgeline Extension. But as we neared the start of RE my tyre really let go, with white fluid squirting everywhere and no hope of containing it. Curses.

The lads waited patiently as I pulled the tyre off and poured as much of the jizz out as I could. Finding the culprit was a 2cm long tear along the bead I asked if anyone had an energy bar wrapper I could have, which I used as a boot over the hole. I fitted my spare tube and pumped it up and it seemed to hold fine, despite the ragged end of wrapper hanging out between tyre and rim. The guys took off down RE as I made my slightly more circumspect way along behind them. We made it safely to the Picnic Table for the second time in the day, only to find that Steve had ridden there earlier in the day to stash a cooler full of beer! Never has a cold Grolsh tasted so good as that one that was drunk mid-ride in the teeth of a a grey gale - cheers, Steve!

Feeling slightly tipsy we set off down Rimu again towards Lazy Fern with me on point and Wayne following close behind. Due to some beer-related Al/tree interfacing Wayne and I were making good time on the others when on a hard left-hand hairpin my poor abused tyre decided it had really had enough - with a final spray of milky man juice and a loud BANG! that could be heard halfway around the Park my tube blew out through the by now 10cm tear in the tyre. Game over, and the Star Mechanic had the indignity of portaging his prized and predominantly pedantically maintained machine out of Makara MTB Park while his mates continued on down Lazy Fern...

I made it back to Chez Jess and Steve before the others, so was cleaned up and drinking a beer when they arrived. Despite the shame of my misfortunes I'd had a ball so wasn't downhearted at all - quite the opposite! This ride and the Revolution one the evening before were two of the most fun MTB rides I'd had in ages. The BBQ was a great way to finish the day off too so thanks to Steve and Jess for hosting us...

The last few working weeks of the decade were a bit of a blur but I can't finish the blog year off without showing a last couple of the bikes I worked on or was involved with.

First, I want to show a couple of pics of Fausto, the Soulcraft Holy Roller Pete had built up for him by my man Paul Larkin using the wheels I built Pete earlier in the year. Beautiful bicycle and hopefully Pete has many years of enjoyable use from this lovely custom 29er...

I built up this sweet Litespeed Pisgah for Mandy on behalf of Dave from Bike Fixation - ever since picking it up she has been loving riding it in the summery climes of the top of the South Island, I believe. Nice one!

Sally dropped off a nice pile of bits for me to transform into a bicycle for Simon.

It turned out very well indeed, I reckon. Cool colour scheme for such a hot bike too...

My last jobs for the year were happily for myself. The 3 hours it took to give the Commençal a long overdue service after Steve's ride sorted out all the tyre and gear issues (the front shifting was simply a dislodged front derailleur cable after my small mishap at Miramar the weekend before - not sure why it wasn't apparent the previous night) and allowed me the chance to service the hubs, bearings and pivots.

The very last job was to build myself up a wee present. My friend Joel had recently got me to build up a new Trek he is racing it the day after he picked it up to a fine 6th place in the Rice Mountain Classic.

photo courtesy of Adrian Rumney

Consequently his old OCLV 5200 frame was looking for a new home - a deal was struck, some shekels changed hands and it was mine, dragging this old steel frame fan into the 21st century. One hour and 45 minutes after the handshake that sealed the deal my Bianchi was stripped and my new plastic bike was ready to ride...sadly, it's all been MTB since then bar one brief ride, so I can't yet give the definitive opinion on whether or not carbon is the wonder material it's touted to be or if steel still is real. Certainly the 2lb I've dropped from my bike should be noticeable in the hills - pity that's slightly overshadowed by the 5kg I've added around my waist over the Christmas break!

All the very best to you all for a stellar 2010. Cheers for reading, Oli