Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Neutron Dance

Another week goes by on this rollercoaster we call life. I had a fair bit of bike-fixin' to do as usual, but the week was dominated for me by a second appearance as a witness at the trial of a woman accused of hitting and killing a young girl in Whitemans Valley in December 2006.

After the accident, in early 2007, I was asked to do a kind of forensic exam of the bike Ayla was riding when hit to try and determine the mechanical state of the bike prior to impact, as well as to ascertain an idea of exactly how the damage had occurred.

The initial trial ended up with a hung jury, so this retrial presumably had to cover more ground, although my short appearance was almost a word-for-word repeat of my last time in the witness box. The whole experience is extremely confronting - in terms of observing the obvious terrible and life-changing impact the loss of a child has on a family, as well as forcing one to give rise to the fears and dread of anything similar happening to one of one's own children...lastly, and selfishly, being in court for any reason is stressful and something I could well do without.

I just hope Ayla's family get some closure at the end of this drawn-out process. Kia kaha and maximum respect.

The Taupo rush is in full effect, with a myriad of bikes being dragged out of winter storage to have the cobwebs dusted off and a drop of lube applied to their rusty chains - great to see how this iconic and enduring event continues to galvanise people to ride, even those who barely touch their bikes for any other reason.

Other than that though, I performed the final touches on Kriston's Rocky Mountain Altitude singlespeed. He had located a 34 tooth Surly stainless steel chainring, and I found a 17 tooth rear cog for a 2:1 gear to push. Happily for aesthetic reasons we ended up not needing to use the chain tensioner...

Among the Taupo checks was a Scott belonging to Jules. I'd built Jules a pair of Ultegra/Mavic Open Pro race wheels a year or so ago and I was pleased to see that he'd been riding them hard the whole time but that they were still in near-perfect shape. One spoke on the rear wheel needed an 1/8 of a turn to restore them to full perfection.

Note the darkness outside in the photo above; many people think I am a hopeless morning sifter (and they're partially right!), but what many people don't realise is that I'm often doing repairs and/or answering emails late into the night, yet still have to wrangle kids to school and stuff the following morning. Not an excuse, just an explanation.

My pal Malcolm had cased a jump last weekend and needed a new front wheel for his Specialized Enduro. I was glad to see he wasn't badly hurt, but his wheel wasn't so lucky. He wanted a burly 28mm wide rim so I got him a DT Swiss 5.1D and built it up onto his existing 20mm Speshy front disc hub using black DT Comp spokes. Burly and fly.

Anton has been looking to upgrade his mid 90s mtb for a very long time, and finally settled on a Cotic Soul steel hardtail. He needed me to face the b/b shell, install the cranks and headset/forks. This will be a beautiful bike when he's finished it.

While I drink coffee and write this up, my top Roadworks Team rider John Randal is hammering his way around the 2008 Maungakotukutuku Super Sprint. His Specialized Epic needed a good check over, but also John wanted to upgrade from mechanical discs to hydraulics, so I got him some Avid Elixir brakes and installed them too. Very cool brakes with a revolutionary new design, and they felt super powerful with great modulation. Hopefully, the faster he can stop means the faster he can go!

One of the perks of my job is getting offered great deals by some of my lovely suppliers, and the last few weeks have been a bonanza as far as that goes! My latest acquisition is this beautiful pair of Campagnolo Neutron Ultra wheels for my Hillbrick road bike. Very blinging and carboniferous...

As followers of this blog will be aware, I am the world's heftiest weight-weenie. I have now got the Hillbrick down to a feathery 8.76kg/19.31lb, which of course means I am allowed to retain the extra 20kg around my waist...

After my day in court, and before I got into work mode again, I needed a mountainbike ride to clear the mind. As I promised last blog, I wanted to just ride out my door rather than drive to ride, so I suited up and rode my Meta 5 out of the workshop. I had big ambitions to ride up to the Polhill Windmill, then around the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary and all the way to Makara Peak via Deliverance, but a deluge of morning phonecalls and emails had severely curtailed my time meaning I'd just have to see how far I got...

Up Britomart and Farnham Streets

Down to Ohiro Road, then up Todman Street onto Mitchell St

To Aston Fitchett Drive and the entrance to the Hawkins Hill road

Bugger the road, I thought, I've ridden enough tarmac already today - I'm heading onto the Rollercoaster to ride the dirt

After some huffing and puffing I came to a familiar spot - this corner was where I had my first ever MTB crash in 1992. I was being shown the Rollercoaster in the more usual downhill direction by Wheels and Mad Al McIntyre, and it was late afternoon on a grey and misty day. Wheels had set off at warp speed and I was falsely and foolishly confident my roadie descending skills could easily keep me in touch with him. Al was drawing up the rear, keeping an eye on the noob. Wheels had the good line and fired into this corner fast, but I wasn't in the least used to the loose and dusty ruts, so next thing my front wheel washed out and I went down in a sliding heap...poor Al couldn't avoid my bike and went flying over his 'bars - I'll never forget the surreality of our eyes meeting as I was sliding to a stop on my back and he went sailing through the air over me, only to smash into the ground on his chest in a bad Superman impression. Despite declaring that it was his worst crash ever, we were both fine apart from some grazing. This of course was just the first of many, many crashes on the dirt I've since inflicted upon myself, but this particular corner will remain timeless and historic to me...

Staring up at the wall confronting me, as well as a walker and his stupid dog I would have to navigate, I decided that I would soft out and ride the road the rest of the way to the windmill after all

After a few minutes to take in the incredible views from this superb vantage point, I realised I had totally misguesstimated the time I had left to ride in so I decided to ride down a trail called Carparts that runs parallel to the road I'd just ridden up

This trail was built by some hard-out legends of local mountainbiking, many of whom I have done work for over the years, and it's a superb little track that is full of fun. Not too many pics in here as I was too busy pinning it to want to stop. This one doesn't begin to convey the bermy, flowy nature of the trail, but it's always cool to be in the trees

After having a great run down Carparts I scuttled onto the Rollercoaster again to do the last section of it down to Denton Park. I even did a couple of the small jumps that have been built down here - although I'm generally not very confident in the air, the Commen├žal handled things with aplomb, making me look okay and soaking up the landings as if they didn't exist

I then rolled over to Revolution Bicycles to bludge a quick coffee from Jonty and Alex

Then I realised I had 20 minutes to get from Northland to the workshop to meet a client, so I scooted back through town as fast as I could getting to the workshop door in 22 minutes. Of course it took another 22 minutes for the red mist of over-exertion to lift and for the power of speech to return - luckily my client was late!

I had a couple of other rides during the week, but my favourite was a simple ride around the neighbourhood with my boy Bodhi. He wanted to ride his scooter and I dragged out my singlespeed to accompany him. We went to a park and zoomed up and down the Bergs of Berhampore with only a few near crashes to deal with...this was a very cool ride.

Lastly for this week, Josh Barley just got back from a jaunt through the USA racing his MTB, as well as representing New Zealand as an U23 at MTB Worlds in Val di Sole in Italy. Very kindly he gave me a number from the Team Relay to add to my collection. Cheers, Josh!

Oh, one more thing before I go. If you have ever ridden or dug on Makara Peak, or even if you haven't but are interested in checking it out and meeting some like-minded folk, the 10th Birthday of the Makara Peak Supporters is coming up on Saturday the 1st of November. The more the merrier so please come along!

I'm off for a ride in the sun with my two big boys now. Thanks for reading, Oli

[STOP PRESS - 11:30PM]Great late news - John Randal won the previously mentioned 2008 Maungakotukutuku Super Sprint by over three minutes from Carparts prime instigator Craig Starnes! Awesome work, John, and thanks for the lovely comments...

Sunday, October 12, 2008

I swing both ways!

Before you get all flustered and think I'm revealing more than a respectable blogger should, I'm just saying that I experienced one of those rare and fortuitous run of circumstances that ended up with a ride on two consecutive days, therefore I was able to hit both the dirt and the tar in one single sun-drenched still Spring Wellington weekend...

No cameras on the Saturday, but Alex, Matt and I had, by what my terms anyway, a totally Epic mtb ride. We drove up to Makara Peak at about 3pm and set off and rode Koru, Sally Alley, Missing Link, Aratihi to the Summit.

If I make it sound easy, it wasn't.

But then to compound things Chief Instigator Al decided that we were to attempt for the very first time T3 - a diabolically tricky but enormous fun track that led us over, around and, in my case particularly, into some extraordinary obstacles such as the Gravity Cavity, the Bar Bender, the Skink and the Swingbridge. Al definitely owned T3 by cleaning virtually everything, although Matt and I had our glory moments too...

After much hilarity spiced liberally with moments of sheer terror, we semi-successfully emerged from T3 onto the aptly named Vertigo. The initial few drops and ruts weren't my scene at all, but the slippy-slidy roots and rocks through tight trees were awesome fun. Again, Al dominated us, even riding under the Corkscrew, where the track literally goes under itself down a steep rock face pointing you at the head-cracking height bridge you just navigated, or alternatively at a cliff full of pointy rocks!

After recovering from a serious coronary at the bottom of this fiendish trail I was told we were riding the bottom section of Rimu, which we duly did, then scuttled back down this smooth and flowy trail again to ride up St Albans (where my legs truly died after having been on artificial respiration since Aratihi) to SWIGG and onto Starfish down to the carpark. It was incredible to see the work a recent work party had done on SWIGG/Starfish, as it's never flowed so well in all the years I've been riding it. Great job just in time for the Makara Peak Supporters 10th Birthday Party...

We loaded our bikes back onto the cars (I will ride to the park one day, I swear!) in a state of elation. We'd all been able to (sort of) ride three new tracks and definitely smoke an old one reborn. It was a ride with a bit of everything that Extreme XC, as my friend Jono would call it, can throw at you. I'd certainly not be able to say I rode everything, but I can certainly say I rode more than I would have initially thought I might, so I was all grins, and judging by the equally big grins on the faces of Matt and Al we'd all got a lot out of the ride.

On Sunday, I was hoping to watch Wellington's mountainbike fraternity race the PNP Series round on Mt Victoria.

Roadworks star John Randal racing Mt Vic today

I had forgotten though that I had a family gathering to go to, so I decided I'd ride to the lunch to get some recovery miles in. Another glorious morning had me dressed in just shorts and short-sleeves and leaping aboard my Hillbrick for it's first ride with my new Chorus pedals and FSA compact bars, and - lest we forget - it's first ride as an under 20lb weight-weenie machine.

I rode from B-Pore over Constable St and around the Bays, sauntered around the summery Oriental Bay Parade, then up Glenmore St, past Revolution Bicycles in Northland up to Albemarle, then down onto Wilton Road, Crofton Downs, then Simla Crescent.

As I dived into the dip before Burma Road climbs up I was having rosy recollections of my daily school commute 30 years earlier, where I used to big ring my faithful Raleigh Arena all the way across and onto the plateau, but the second there was a degree of upwards inclination my legs died deader than a thing that's dead. I dropped into the 34, then whacked it up the cassette into the 26 and reeled the rest of the way along to my old school, Onslow College, and onto my in-laws place in J'ville for a lovely lunch and beer.

I have to say that I really enjoyed the new set up of my handlebars. The ability to have kept the same drop to my brake levers, yet not have to strain to reach my drops, combined with the stiffness of the 31.8mm 'bars, meant that even when my legs were imploding into spasming tubes of uselessness I was able to retain a modicum of comfort and control...Respect to the Compact Revolution!

With the sublime weather and the ideal balance of family time and great riding, this made for a truly perfect weekend...

Anyway, the rest of the school holidays weren't all movies, bowling, bike rides and birthdays (Harry turned 13 on Thursday!), at some point I might have even pulled down a couple of long days in the shop.

I finally had most of the parts to Kriston's singlespeed project, and thanks to him for coming up with some that I wasn't able to source.

Ready to begin!

Whack it up in the stand

Install cog and guesstimate spacing for correct chainline

Install headset and forks

Fit stem and awesome old Scott Brahma Bars

Levers, grips, front wheel and front Avid BB5 brake

Bottom bracket, cranks and to be replaced middle ring - check chainline with steel straight-edge. Perfect!

Rear v-brake and cable

Front cable

Beautiful filet brazing on this classic steel frame. The Rocky Mountain Altitude T/O was made until 1996 out of lightweight Tange Prestige steel...

Fit a chain and a Surly Singleator. We may not end up with this gear range, so the Singleator may not be needed in the final iteration...

And done, apart from the obvious lack of tyres and the final gear sorting. It looks like it will be a wonderful way for Kriston to induct himself into the singlespeed scene.

Next up was this Haro BMX that my upstairs neighbour had resprayed - it used to be pink, but apparently pink is out. Again.

I'd stripped it down for her to paint, expecting a poorly done spray-bomb job to come back, but Renee had done a very tidy job.


I gave it a thick coat of wax, as spraypaint isn't the most durable finish, and re-assembled it so.

Next up was the new demo bike for Dave Johnson of
Bike Fixation - this sexy Litespeed Siena was having a Campagnolo Record groupset fitted, along with some unusual and light Feather Brakes that Dave had picked up at Interbike last week. As a bit of an old Campag diehard, I've never been a huge fan of aftermarket brakes (or derailleurs or cranks blah, blah, blah...), but I have to say that these felt great when set up, and pulled me up as well as any brake on the market on my brief road test. And only 204 grams the pair?! Beautiful artisanship as well...

Rear triangle



I mentioned my man John Randal earlier; I'm fitting a set of the new Avid Elixir hydraulic brakes onto his Specialized Epic over this week. I haven't installed any of these yet, but it's a cool new product that has been well praised in it's early days so I'm keen to suss them out under a guy who'll push them hard.

After posting my last lot of autographs I was deluged (not really) with requests for more of my collection, so here more are.

The King of Cycling, Mr Eddy Merckx. Special thanks go to Fraser Wright for getting me the One Most Prized, the one that I've wanted since I first learned of The Cannibal when I was 14 years old.

XC/DH/roadie genius John Tomac

Double Olympic Gold XC medalist Paola Pezzo (and coach/husband Paolo Rosola, ex Giro stage winner for Bianchi - "No-one know who I am! I will sign for you on her arse!")

Cadel Evans signed this map of the course just after he won his first MTB World Cup round in 1997 here in Wellington. Note also Dominique Arnould, Peter van den Abeele, Rishi Grewal and local legend Craig Lawn

My old boss Henry did the 1995 Colonial Classic as a mechanic and got me the signatures of Marcel Wust and Jean-Paul van Poppel

I really enjoyed meeting Phil Anderson when he was here earlier this year. Great guy and a true legend.

As I as a bit of a hoarder, people often kindly bring me little gifts from trips abroad. Fellow Belgian beer enthusiast Paul met twice World Champion and three-time Tour winner Greg LeMond and was kind enough to think of me...I love Greg's message to me so much I can even forgive the misspelling of my name! :D

In the mid-90s it was mandatory for Henry and I to pile into Grant B's Sube once a year for a drive up to the Wanganui International Night of The Stars, where we got to meet all sorts of luminaries of international track cycling of the day. Along with seeing the earlier days of riders like Brendan Cameron, Julian Dean, Lee Vertongen and Sarah Ulmer, we got to see guys like Gary Neiwand, Gary Anderson, Jens Fiedler, Curt Harnett and the great Graeme Obree ride. Huge fun and a great autograph opportunity...

For the moment I'll finish off with one I'm very, very proud of. I bang on about it a lot, but working for Susy Pryde and Chris Drake has been one of the great highlights of my career. Susy gave me this special jersey after we worked together at the 2006 Rotorua Worlds, we she was the BikeNZ Endurance Coach. This jersey was the one she wore as New Zealand's first double summer Olympian, as she represented New Zealand in both the road and mountainbike disciplines at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Love the dirt, love the tar baby. Cheers, Oli