Saturday, March 3, 2012

Reverting to Type

I sit here typing on a day that will live forever in infamy. A day that has been shaped irrevocably by what has been dubbed a "Weather Bomb", and which has resulted in the postponement and shortening of Ironman and the sad cancellation of the Karapoti Classic for the first time in it's 26 year history. My heart goes out to all my friends and clients who have trained so hard and mentally prepared for these iconic events, although I am happy for the bikes that now won't get munted in the terrible depths of the Akatarawa hills...

Talking about these races, I've been super busy the last few weeks in the usual mad build-up to them including, among others, John and Megan's Cape Epic rigs:

My dear friend John's Yeti ASR-5c got some special love, including some customising of his XTR pedals to stop some vicious ankle biting...

...and converting the gears from 2 x 10 to a more sensible 3 x 10 set-up. Ready for anything!

And my mark added for extra good luck...

Before Tim Wilding headed down to ride the Coppermine Epic we finally got him some 2012 Fox Kashima forks to match his new Tallboy. I cut them to length and Tim fitted them himself in his Mighty Mancave...

History will record Tim as the winner of the 2012 Coppermine by 13 seconds, although the last 250 metres reduced his lead from about 90 seconds and were covered on foot! An almost inexplicable conundrum couldn't be sorted in time to ride in, so he just had to quickly strap on his Xterra equipment and leg it...

Luckily this snafu didn't alter the result or I would have had to commit seppuku in shame. Congratulations on another great victory to add to your already impressive palmares, bro!

After this near disaster, Tim brought the rig in for me to replace the chain and fettle the rig. I gave the ENVE wheels I built him a look over - one slightly loose spoke on the rear wheel non-drive side was a bit annoying, as it meant removal of the
rim-strip to sort. Otherwise the wheels were perfect, with all other spokes keeping exactly the tension values I'd built them to. Tim is loving the ride of these awesome "hoops".

The wheels have definitely been torture tested under this powerful man...

Ready for the Karapoti that never was...

While I had his Tallboy, Tim also wanted me to give his beautiful Ibis 'Silk Road' a good going over, including replacing the flogged out Campagnolo square-taper b/b.

New cables and some good lovin' and good for another several thousand kilometres of hard training.

The good thing about this vile weather is that I do finally get the time to start catching up on my copious amounts of potential bloggage, but also it's the perfect excuse to loll about watching movies. The latest one I have enjoyed is this classic video of the 1960 and '61 Dulux Tours, taken (I presume) from the newsreels of the day, and lovingly compiled by Adrian Thornton, of Flying Wheel fame. If you get a chance to grab a copy of this historical coolness I heartily recommend it - it's worth the price of admission just to see how the roads have changed, not to mention the chance to see some of New Zealand's best road racers of the era throwing down.

I have alluded to some ongoing health issues post-hernia operation, and I'm glad to say that they seem to be finally completely behind me. In the middle of the pre-Karapoti chaos I had to take a day off to go into hospital to have a - and there's no easy way to say this, so forgive me if you're squeamish - colonoscopy, to eliminate the possibility of anything sinister causing the grief I was still getting from my troublesome insides until very recently. I won't dwell on the procedure, except to say that (barring some biopsy results which are expected to be clear) I have a clean bill of health for the first time in literally years. It has been a couple of months since any of the symptoms have been manifest anyway, and it now seems that they were just the lingering affects of the hernia after all. If nothing else, the colonoscopy has put to rest some very real fears I had been trying hard to suppress. Anyway, onwards and upwards, as they say. My increasingly good health has meant that I've been feeling much more able to get out riding as time allows, and mentally I've been been well up for it.

The Instigator, Matt and I have been relishing the brief flashes of summer that Wellington has been offered. One stunning Sunday afternoon we rendezvoused at mine and hit the streets...

...before heading up Transient and along Highbury Fling, doing our unlevel best to avoid any uphill/downhill conflict.

Before long, we were regrouping at the fenceline alongside Zealandia.

Some grovelling up the steep pitches of the Rollercoaster ensued, and I was delighted to find that I could actually pedal the whole way up. Sure, I was slower than people walking, but nonetheless...

Before too long we were regrouping once more at the carpark by the Polhill windmill. Alex, again, was showing his hillclimbing chops, Matt was close behind and I was happily bringing up the rear.

The plan was to make it up to near the top of Hawkins Hill, just below the radar dome at the summit. As I got my breathing back under control it seemed like a lot more climbing to go. People who see my size think I must hate climbing, but that couldn't be further from the truth. Going up hills was something I was damn good at at one point of my life, and I still love it despite the handicap of my vastly increased bulk since those Days of Yore. Despite the suffering, I've always enjoyed the mindset one needs to tap out the rhythm of an ascent, and it's always fun and super satisfying to reach the top of a gnarly climb - this one is notoriously gnarly...

Before the climbing recommences though, there is some perfect terrain for the Oli of the 21st century; undulating to downhill. I put the feet down and took a gap on the boys, although it's unlikely they were even aware we were racing. As the road turned up again I stopped to shoot the lads as they descended. Alex first...

...who quickly passed me and began the final ascent.

Then I watched as Matt bombed the down too.

I huffed and puffed my way up to the top of the Tip Track to eventually catch up to the two grimpeurs.

Our route home lay mapped out below, the wonderful Barking Emu.

We set off down the top section of the Tipper... where the Emu beckoned seductively.

With the gravity we'd been fighting against all the way up now our friend, it was time to open up the throttles.

The trail went by in a blur, punctuated only by whoops and hoots as I descended at what felt for me like Warp Factor 10. Some days I can't get out of my own way, but then some days are like this and I think I might actually be a passable mountainbiker. After shralving the Emu and Carparts Extension hard I waited for the lads at the start of Carparts itself, catching myself in a moment of insouciant reflection on a great run.

It wasn't long before I was joined by my compadres.

Alex led the way down Carparts and onto the Rollercoaster. We turned off at Polhill and headed down onto Transient once more.

After some kerfuffle on Vorb about user conflict on this two-way trail we were being super careful but, despite my caution, I didn't need another rider or a walker to hit anyway, as my superb descending skills were revealed as really only average by a tree that didn't even need to move for me to steam into. Luckily I stopped the impact with my forearm and leg or things might have got ugly! I think I lost more bark then the tree in the end, and I rode out suitably chastened...A quick stop at Patels for a Coke and we rode back through town to home. Another great ride done.

For us weekend warriors used to riding for an hour or so this three hour effort was an Epic Ride, but of course all things are relative and our Epic is merely another rider's warm-up. If any of the riders who have completed the recent Kiwi Brevet were to read this they would surely lol hard at how difficult I make our riding sound, but we do what we can I guess...talking of this inspiring event, here's the legendary two-time Breveteer Jonty Ritchie back at home at his shop Revolution Bicycles and showing me his trusty steed literally minutes after getting off the ferry after knocking off 1100km in 5 1/2 days.

The reason for showing me was that he wanted me to see how well the wheel I built him before the first KB had held up, despite breaking a spoke. I was glad to see it had withstood the rest of the event fully loaded and under testing conditions! I had built the wheels for at least five of the Breveteers this year, and was glad that only one spoke failure was the result.

In a remarkable show of faith, Jonty promptly ordered up another wheel - this one for his v-brake equipped titanium hardtail. He had cunningly put aside one of the last of the now-defunct dedicated rim-brake ZTR355s some months ago, and as the previous rim finally wore to the thickness of a cigarette paper he pulled it down and re-used the sweet XTR hub. Light as f*** but solid as s*** it would have been perfect for the sadly also cancelled Perverse Reverse Jonty was supposed to be racing on Sunday.

Building wheels is definitely one of my favourite jobs, and something I feel I'm reasonably proficient at doing. I could definitely do a better job of marketing my wares, but with things at Brooke-White Manor the way they are right now advertising is surplus to requirements. I still muddle away doing as much as I can though. Here is a downhill rear Atomlab wheel for my friend Rob to replace one he axed doing one of the National DH Series rounds.

A couple of years ago I built a pair of race wheels for top NZ rider Samara Sheppard that she is still racing, as shown here in this great shot by my friend Andy King of her coming 2nd in the recent Wellington round of the XC National Series...

I've known Samara's talented Masters racer Dad for many years now, and he asked me to hook him up with some race wheels of his own. We put together some Stan's NoTubes 3.30 Ti hubs with some Crest rims, laced up with DT Comp and Revolution spokes for an awesome combination of lightweight and versatile reliability.

My old friend Anna had an unfortunate "incident" on her new rig, sadly/happily resulting in need of a new Oli wheel.

My photographer mate Max needed a few things done on his cool Raleigh Competition. Check out some of his work while I show you some of mine.

Max's Dad is one of my oldest and dearest friends, was my Best Man, and is a Slut like me to boot. This has got nothing to do with anything really, but as regular blog readers will be aware, one of my great non-cyclisme passions is listening to beer-stained and scratched up records. Occasionally since I first started meeting with the band of like-minded freaks known as Vinyl Sluts I've posted glimpses of those very special nights, but recently we were treated to one early on a summer's eve. Summery, isn't it?

It isn't only musically that I'm down with the kids. My neighbour Cesc's disc-wheel equipped singlespeed needed a puncture fixed.

When I'm writing these unfeasibly and insanely long blogs, I can turn around at any moment and see my beloved Bianchi watching over me...

Looking at it isn't quite as good as riding it, but many's the time it's had to do. Luckily I've been able to get out and about a reasonable amount lately - never long rides, but I've been well enough organised/lucky enough to have grabbed an hour or so here...

...and there.

The above shots turned out to be the last ever aboard my trusty Celeste friend of many years. Sadly, I've had to retire my Bianchi Secundo after two long existent but dormant cracks started rapidly growing over the space of a couple of rides. The poor old frame had cracked first back in the 90s, been repaired then fairly quickly it cracked again - Henry and I were fortunate to get another dozen years or more of superb riding out of it before it got to this terminal point, so before it broke completely I decided to send it off to a peaceful retirement with all the love and respect owed to a long and faithful friend.

With a palpable sense of loss, I began to tenderly strip my old bike down.

The crack in the crotch is hidden in the shadow. Please excuse the skid mark.

The other crack at the base of the shaft. It's actually a lot longer than it looks there, but I foreshortened it with my stupid camera angle...and it's doubled in length in two rides.

The observant among you may have noticed that there seemed to be two Bianchi TSX-UL frames in the above shot of me stripping mine down. Yes, I do have to admit having an identical spare is very Pro of me, but what can I say? With all dimensions the same it was a super easy matter to rebuild a new bike, virtually indistinguishable from the last.

Without having been waxed hundreds of times a year, it's decals were even still legible.

I cleaned the handlebar tape in honour of the new frame.

And it's as if it never even happened...

The second frame is also carrying a scar into battle, in the form of yet another crack in the b/b area. If the worst came to the worst, one of the two cracked frames would go into service as the 1997 Gewiss-replica display bike with my old 8sp Record gear on it, while I would recruit that perfectly good and well-tested frame as my day to day ride. Not yet though, methinks, I hate the thought of cracking that one too! Plus, it's important that it is rideable at a moment's notice, in all its retro beauty. (Gratuitous old shot of beloved Bianchi Primo)

What should one always do with a new rig? That's right, take it out for a shakedown run. The first ride went very well, on the whole; I took it around some of the Bays first, then veered off into some hills. The short but brutal Awa Road was first, and let me tell you it's not easy taking pictures when you're riding up a hill this steep. The things I do.

I stopped, unwrapped the tangled camera strap from around my wristwatch and put it back in my pocket, but first...

Then I took a few twists and turns around the 'burbs.

I took it down twisty little descents, then hurled it into short, sharp climbs as I flailed away at the pedals in some kind of torture test - if the crack was going to grow I wanted to know about it as quickly as possible. I rode it as if I didn't care about it, slamming it up and down curbs, through potholes and detritus, giving it plenty of wellie.

The weather was building from the south, and work was waiting so I pulled the pin. Oddly - and this has never happened to me before - as I rode home someone yelled out allusions as to my sexual proclivities as he drove past in the opposite direction through Strathmore shops - it bemuses and amuses me that anyone would go out of their way to randomly yell abuse at someone at the usually civilised hour of 10am, especially in a clearly marked work van, but I guess it takes all sorts to make up this wonderful world.

So the first ride was a great success, apart from the niggling doubts my bogan friend had introduced...does the fact I like Coldplay really mean what my friends have always said it means? Anyway, the Bianchi had come through a short but brutal test (I'd finished off with a painful and spewy climb of Houghton Valley Road) with flying colours. The crack hadn't grown, and the bike ran flawlessly. Good stuff.

My record collection: Coldplay, Abba and Melissa Etheridge on the top shelf, musicals, Barbara Streisand, Liberace and Barry Manilow on the lower shelf.

I'll finish this Brevet-length blog off with one final set of pics of the second ride on my new/old Bianchi. A gentle southerly meant I decided to head down through Island Bay, then up Happy Valley Road. Even though my big ring is only a 50, it's been a very long time since I could push it all the way up this deceptively hard grade so I was pleased to see how easy it felt to tap out a good tempo up here.

Sometimes one gets a good clean run down Brooklyn Hill at full throttle, and today was one of those days; once past the car in shot I had clear air ahead all the way down to Willis Street.

I continued around the coast pushing hard, and feeling no chain. This was very encouraging, and the strongest I've felt for so long in forever, it seemed. Sadly, the intense wattage I must have been putting through the rear hub mashing the Big Dog caused a major problem - after climbing the Pass of Branda I hit the descent into Breaker Bay with some momentum, until at the bottom there was a horrible *PING* and the bike veered wildly! My first thought was that the frame had broken, but as I pulled quickly but carefully to a stop I soon realised it was just a broken spoke...perhaps I should have been torturing the poor bicycle a bit less.

I soon assessed the situation, finding I wouldn't be able to ride home with the wheel hitting the frame on every rotation. I made the Call of Shame to Jacq, then waited in scenic surrounds for her and Bodhi to come and pick me up.

I was grumpy that I had to bail out on what was a great ride, but still quietly happy that at long bloody last I finally feel healthy enough to contemplate getting fit. Here's to that.

If you're still here, thanks very much for reading.

Cheers, Oli


sifter said...

Awesome post Oli! Here's to the next thrashing of that 50t!

PS: I think the photo of Sam was Andy King's?

BrettOK said...

Nice one mate, glad to hear you're back to full health. I've had a couple of those 'procedures' myself, and the worry is worse than the actual work. I know how relieving it is to get the all clear, and to get back on the bike (the best cure for any ills).

Tugboat said...

Cool read as usual... guts to hear about the Bianchi. Not many bikes these days that you get that many years out of though. May she RIP.

Oli said...

Thanks, lads!

And cheers, John. I have credited Andy's pic now.

Haven MTB Park said...

Great read as always. Thanks Oli!

atnon said...

Oli good to hear you're back on two wheels.

As for the italians...we have steel surgeons on standby.


Mark said...

Mate. Fantastic to hear you've got the all-clear. Hope to see you on the road.

Oli said...

Cheers again, guys! Appreciate the comments...

Anton, I'm going to take you up on that bro. Will be in touch.