Sunday, November 30, 2008

Taupo Week(s)

Blimey, I'm glad that's over for another year! 23 bikes and 9 wheels was the tally for this week alone - that's a fair few for a one man band to deal with, but it's all for a good cause...

The weeks leading up to Wattyl Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge are always intense in the bike trade; this and the pre-Karapoti/Ironman double-header weekend are by far the busiest times of the year for me at least.

I always put a fair bit of pressure on myself to do my best to assist people's chances of pulling off a PB or a good result whenever they race, but the fact that Taupo is often a rider's main goal of the year puts just that little bit more pressure on. Hopefully everyone had a fantastic day up there.

Feedback for me so far has been great. I got a text from John Randal who had done a fine 4.22 and had thoroughly enjoyed his efforts, and then Tim Wilding (Santa Cruz-Pearl Izumi-Roadworks-Maxxis) also texted me to tell me he'd beaten Mikey Northcott and National Champion Stu Houltham to win the inaugural 70km Huka XL MTB race, run in conjunction with the Round The Lake...I got a few more texts from happy competitors yesterday and hopefully through the coming weeks I get to hear of other successes.

Tim on podium (pic Karyn McQueen)

So I write this blog early on Sunday morning (after having watched the 3.30am rugby with Ket and Har), as it's the first chance I've had the time or energy to write in a couple of weeks. Bodhi will be up soon wanting breakfast, so there's not much point in heading back to bed - let's just get into the bike stuff.

Here's a selection of what I found most memorable (or remembered to take photos of!) over the last fortnight...

A 650c Mavic CXP21 that needed a respoke.

DH Legend and Kapiti MTB Park instigator Rod Bardsley had some Hayes branded DT 36 hole hubs lying around so I built them into some NOS Mavic X618 anodised rims using my favourite DT Competition spokes. Bombproof XC wheelset for a guy who goes big on the smallest trails.

A pair of frames were brought to me for building up - both with lovely paintjobs by the redoubtable Ross Bee in Stokes Valley. Ross does some of the finest work in New Zealand, and I always love seeing what he's come up with next!

I was tasked with getting this beautiful Schwinn Homegrown back on track for Robert, who very kindly sent me this text after he'd ridden it.
Hey, Schwinn rides/brakes perfectly. Thank you. Feels like I have a new bicycle all over again. Bliss.
I live for this sort of feedback.

I am stoked to have a really good relationship with Jonty at Revolution Bicycles who uses me to build wheels from time to time, as well as generously hosting me in his cool shop whenever I can escape my own. This pair of wheels was built for Jonty's fine offsider Alex to his spec. A pair of Stan's NoTubes ZTR Olympics (240g f and 260 g r) were laced to an XT front hub and an XTR rear using DT Revolution and Competition spokes respectively to create a sturdy but lightweight XC racing wheelset (690g f 850g r = 1540g).

Here's one of the bikes that hit Taupo this weekend. Konrad is an old mate and CS customer who's spent a few years overseas, so when I bumped into him at Revolution I couldn't help but shamelessly (not true!) poach him. He brought me his Cannondale R800 for a touch-up. His was one of the texts I got yesterday and he was stoked to have done a fine 5:16 for a PB. Good stuff!

Nick brought me this old Humber ladies frame that had been powdercoated. It needed the b/b and headtube faced. Nick will build it back up as a get-around bike for his partner Jude.

I thought I'd taken a picture of Tim's Genius road bike but all I have is this pic of the carbon/aluminium headtube. I like the almost old school lug effect of this design. The bike needed a complete new drivetrain but came out purring.

Aaron brought me his bike for a service. This used to be the 4X bike of multiple NZ DH Champion and 2x NORBA DH Champion, John Kirkaldie. When he initially sold it to Aaron a couple of years ago I had to modify a front derailleur cable route out of zip-ties, electrical tape and a v-brake pipe, so I was stoked to see that was still working perfectly! :D A quick fork service/brake bleed/gear adjust and it was ready for the weekend.

Over the week I had bought some s/s specific wheels off VORB for my singlespeed - wheels I had originally built up for Craig in the Bay of Plenty a couple of years ago. He has now made the jump to 29ers and had broken up his 26" s/s for sale. I saw his listing and couldn't resist grabbing the wheels back - it meant I could now go disc front and rear, and I did trust the wheelbuilder...

Mavic XC717 rims on Surly New Disc hubs (at Craig's request I had converted the front to q/r using an XT axle) laced up with DT Comp in black. I was please to see how well Craig had looked after them - they didn't need a thing done before I whacked them on my Cove.

Friday afternoons are ones I look forward to if everything is on track. I am usually just finishing off the last few jobs of the week and giving serviced bikes back to folk. This Friday had gone particularly smoothly, so I took the opportunity to fit the wheels and a front disc to my bike, before finding myself drinking beer and shooting the shit for an hour or so with shop sifters Waitie, Wheels and Michael...

The perfect thing to do after getting a bike sorted is to take it for a maiden voyage. My plan for this was always to head up to Revolution for some Friday night libations, although I'm not sure the surprise pre-ride beers made the climb up to Northland any easier!

I set off on a warm evening through the Basin Reserve then onto the waterfront, where things took a slight turn for the absurd. As I ambled my way slowly around I found myself swimming against a tide of lemmings, but it wasn't the usual after-work foot traffic that was funny; it was the swarm of day-glo clad cyclists careering towards me with mad clenched-teeth expressions and wild staring eyes! I chuckled wryly to myself as I observed them carving up the walkers and each other with utter impunity, while determinedly striving to win their daily commuter-race...

I was capable of no such feats of pure speed as I struggled manfully up the hill. This was my first ride of any kind in the best part of a week, and my knees were complaining loudly by the time I was halfway up Bowen Street - the 32 x 18 gear might have been a factor in the nasty grinding sensations I was experiencing! But I managed to make it up to Revolution before passing out with the exertion and despite feeling a tad light-headed. A few more ales with Jonty and his stream of visitors was the answer to that it seemed, along with a grouse Wisconsin cheeseburger to fill the hungry gap. After Jonty booted us out, I carefully night-rode home the way I'd come with my little LED light leading me back to the safe bosom of my beloved family...

A lovely weekend followed that contained zero riding but happily no work, and was topped off by a nice walk with the kids in Otari bush. This set me up happily for the Big Week. The days passed in a blur but it all came together fine in the end.

I started by building this touring wheel for Jane. Arie from the late-lamented Arie's Cyclery in Newtown had built her a wheel that had provided sterling service for many years but needed a new rim, so she charged me with speccing and building a similar wheel onto her much beloved and still mint 1970s 36 hole Miche hub. I chose Mavic's burly A319 rim and built it in a 4-cross pattern using stainless DT Champion plain-gauge spokes for a wheel that should easily handle any touring load Jane can throw at it.

I put together Andrew's interesting street fixie - very cool, especially with the Surly Fixxer-ed Spinergy wheels I converted back in August.

Another wheel - a Hope Pro2 front re-built into a new DT Swiss XR 4.20 after Shane had an unfortunate potato-chip incident on a recent ride.

The wheels keep coming - here a pile of rims and hubs await construction.

Pete's lovely 20th Anniversary Rocky Mountain Blizzard needed some tender ministrations after much hard use. Nothing quite like a classically styled steel hardtail! Pete too was kind enough to send me a message about how well his bike was going after he took it away from the shop. Choice.

Makara Peak Supporters stalwart, Malcolm Gunn, asked me to build up his Ross Bee repainted Raleigh Competition using it's original old late 80s Shimano 600 running gear.

It originally came with Ambrosio tubular rims but for practical daily use Malcolm opted for me to re-use the 600 hubs in some 36 hole Mavic Open Sport rims.

Here she is all done apart from tyres, saddle and handlebar tape.

As well as the hands-on mechanicing I do, I often receive emails asking for help or general bike-related advice. My old friend Fraser currently lives in his wife's homeland of Finland and he emailed this week asking for my input on his old Norwegian commuter bike's rear wheel - his local bike shop had told him he needed a new one, as the Sachs hub was poked. Fraser was after my thoughts on him building his own wheel, as he wanted to re-use the original white rim and his LBS don't build wheels. I directed him to the late Sheldon Brown's superb tech site for all he needs to know about building a wheel, or as I suggested perhaps simply servicing his hub -I wasn't that keen on the advice his shop was giving him...

Here's a shot of the rim and hub in question, along with the studded tyres Fraser uses when riding around in the Finnish snows...

Here too is a very cool Schwinn Cruiser SS Fraser picked up for lighter duties. You don't see minters like this every day!

Finally Friday rolled around. I finished off a few more jobs and then built some more wheels on behalf of Jonty. A Stan's Arch rim on an XT rear hub and a lighter Stan's 355/Hope Pro2 on the front should be an awesome wheelset for his friend James.

After that, I swept the shop and closed the doors on another huge Taupo season. All that remained was to take advantage of the summery heat of a beautiful Wellington weekend, which I did by doing some work on our back yard with my two big boys, then taking them for a ride up Makara Peak on Saturday afternoon. On the way there we grabbed my buddy Alex who is always great company, and having him along also means that one or other of us can accompany Ket or Harry no matter who is riding what pace.

We rode up Koru, had a quick stop at the Skills Area and then rocked hard down SWIGG/Starfish. The boys blow me away with their skills, especially considering they ride even less than I do! After that we decided to ride over to Karori Park to check out the nascent Karori Park Beginners' Trail Project. We found some trails alright, and also discovered the pump track that's under construction. Nice to see this sort of initiative under way for learner and junior MTBers - great stuff!

Speaking of Alex, in late September I blogged a ride we did where he inadvertently lost his prized Smith Buzzsaw glasses. I'm delighted to say that another friend of mine found the glasses last weekend. Mark posted on VORB advertising finding a pair of mystery sunnies at the top of Aratihi, and I immediately realised whose glasses they were and so was able to reunite Alex with the shades that have have shared the last 10 or 11 years of hard-out MTBing with him. Cheers, Mark!

Here's Al in September in the process of losing them - it was blowing a heinous gale that day so it's quite likely they blew away from where he put them down as he sat waiting for me to puff my way up!

The last thing I have to share this week is a cool momento that has immediately ended up in the pool room, er...I mean on the wall above my tool board! On my first trip with the NZ road team in March 07 I was privileged to work and be tutored in the Dark Arts of the Race Mechanic by BikeNZ's full-time Limoux based spannerman Kris Withington, who went on to be asked to work for Julian Dean's Pro Team Garmin-Chipotle. Kris was kind enough to score me the frame number that 5th place overall Christian Vandevelde had attached to his Felt bicycle throughout this year's Tour de France! Cheers heaps, Grom...

Number 191

CVV rolling it during his stellar Tour...

Well I started this blog at 5.30am and it's now 11 o'clock so I'm out. As ever, thanks for reading. Pedal on, Oli

Monday, November 17, 2008

Makara Peak Rally 2008

I saw this poster posted on Vorb and thought I'd pimp it immediately - both as a sponsor, and as a huge (shhh!) fan of this fun event.

I also thought it was worth special mention of the new recreational option for the morning's Peak to Creek Relay, which is the Koru/Lazy Fern loop rather than all the way to the summit. This lower loop is a great taster for Makara Peak MTB Park, and easily do-able by anyone who rides a bike - it's totally non-technical, not too steep up or down, and runs through some of the most beautiful regenerating native bush you'll ever find...

I'm hoping Ket and Harry will be riding in the rec C2P but, cunningly, I'll be marshalling somewhere on the hill.

While we're on the subject, and just to fire you up, here's a shot of myself I pull out whenever I get the chance - it's me suavely dropping the step on Starfish on my way to a glorious victory in the vet class in December 2004...

Here's the full story behind that unbelievable result as ripped from my ancient manuscripts...

5th of December, 2004

A date that will echo forever in the Hall of Fame of Roadworks. Team Roadworks won the vets section of the Makara Peak Rally Creek to Peak MTB event this year! Thanks heaps to Race Organiser John Randal for taking time out from caring for many cold and muddy mountainbikers to be my team-mate. He laid down such a scorching second lap that he pulled us up into first place. I haven't won a bike race of any kind since 1986 so I'm fully buzzing!

It was hard conditions out there - a cold southerly started dumping rain on us at the start so it was slippery slurry on the top of the whole course, which made it interesting and dirty, but very fun. Congratulations to all the competitors both in the Creek to Peak and, later in the day, the much tougher Tour de Peak.

Both races made for a truly great event despite the challenging conditions. Roadworks was one of the sponsors this year, and I'm going to make it an ongoing sponsorship. The job the Makara Peak Supporters do on our behalf is absolutely awesome, and they have created one of (if not the) finest mountainbiking resources in New Zealand, and I consider it an honour to be able to assist in a small way...

I still feel the same way about this cool event. Check it out if you can.

As ever, thanks for reading.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

I Kona hold her, Cap'n!

After a lovely weekend hanging out at races and doing a bunch of family stuff it was back into it bright and early on Monday morning.

First cab off the rank was my old flatmate Peter's Healing 10 Speed, which I adapted with flat bars ages ago - it needed a full going over after several years of unserviced heavy duty home-pub-home transportation.

The beauty of these much-maligned machines is that generally they can be covered in rust and crap yet the spokes still turn in the nipples, all the nuts and bolts still work, and usually a spray of lube here and there and a couple of cables do the job to get them running like new. Back in the late 70s when these were being made us wannabe bike-racer shop droids looked down on them - now I'm impressed with their supremely unflashy but super dependable New Zealand engineering.

Peter's 1978 Healing 10 Speed

Then I built this wheel for Wellington's best bag maker/fixer Podge. It's a Salsa rim on a White Industries ENO hub threaded for two freewheels or one freewheel and one fixed cog - a hot wheel for his cool old Avanti singlespeed...

Next up I had Geoffrey Notman's wicked Surly 1x1, which needed a new rear freewheel, chain, brake pads and new hub bearings front and rear. As G texted me after his first post-service ride, it's now "greased lightnin'!" again...

Then I had to swap freehub/axles between a Topolino clincher wheel and this ultra-light carbon tubular. In case you can't read the weight on my scales, it's 680 grams!

Dave Hicks is one of my star Team Roadworks riders - he's made a great racing career out of endurance and adventure racing, and is off to do the XPD in Thredbo, NSW:
XPD - "As much an expedition as a race"

XPD is Australia’s own expedition length adventure race. Up to 80 teams of four competitors from Australia and overseas will trek, mountain bike and kayak in this world renowned expedition. Edition 4 of XPD will span 800km of the Australian High Country and see teams taking in some of Australia's highest mountains; white water paddling on turbulent rivers fed by melting winter snow; navigating through alpine forests of snowgum and tall sub-alpine mountain gums and visiting historic gold rush towns.

XPD is open to mixed, all male or all female teams of four. The exact course is kept secret until 24hrs before the start. Then with much excitement and anticipation, teams are provided a course booklet and their race maps. The course booklet contains the location of each of the race checkpoints. Once teams start, racing is 24 hours per day; teams choose when and where they will sleep. The winning team is expected to complete the course in 4-5 days. All other teams will be permitted up to 10 days to complete the expedition without mid-race cut offs. XPD will be challenging for first time racers and experienced teams alike.

In the spirit of a true expedition, teams will be unsupported with their equipment, pre-packed in plastic trunks, being moved to various points on the course by the race organisers.

Prior to this no doubt gruelling event Dave needed to do a couple of crucial things - first, he needed to cut his hair into a mohawk, and second he needed his trusty Kona King fettled and have its drivetrain replaced. He tells me that in the 8 years I've been looking after him he's never had one mechanical so the pressure is on!

When he came to grab the King he dropped me off this poster advertising a race that Dave has done very well in over past years. It's the ARC Operation Nighthawk, and for the 2009 race poster they chose a great shot of him leaping down the face of a waterfall to grab a checkpoint secreted under a log under the waterfall! Though he's wearing his race bib Dave's Roadworks jersey is clearly visible, so I'm stoked at this viral marketing...Geoff from Havana will be pleased too, no doubt!

Then was Lance's Kona Dawg - another much loved and well used MTB that needed a new drivetrain...

Then came a slightly the worse for wear Kona Kula Deluxe (are you starting to see the theme?) that needed a damn good wash before I could even begin to figure out what was wrong!

Among several other (actually a lot of other!) bikes I've been prepping for Round Taupo I had to get this lovely old Columbus steel Kona Kilauea (!?!) into some sort of road form for Andrea. Several years of unintended neglect meant I had to virtually strip down then reassemble it, along with fitting some roadie-style slick tyres and replacing all the brake shoes and cables, etc...I believe a new saddle is also on the way.



The end of the week was brightened up with a lovely gift from Auckland. My good friend David Benson from top wholesaler W.H. Worralls was kind enough to send me a large stack of the latest Ritchey, Continental and Syncros catalogues, along with three stunning Campagnolo ones. They are already getting dog-eared from heavy use in the shop - cheers, DB!

After doing those bikes, along with some others and a few pairs of wheels, the working week for me is usually finished off nicely with a couple of quiet ales and some great bike shop chat at Jonty Ritchie's cool Northland bike shop, Revolution Bicycles.

This Friday was full as ever with (among other things!?) entertaining chat about singlespeeding - after all, Revolution is Welli's spiritual home of singlespeeding and cyclo-cross - and I was inspired by this chat to finally sort out my Cove Handjob XC as a singlie. For the last few years I've been riding around my much loved old aluminium Marin Palisades Trail as my one gear MTB, but the consensus at Revolution was that the Columbus Niobium steel Cove would be much a better ride.

I had held off on building the Cove (which I bought off Selwyn last year) because I wasn't at all sure if I wanted to build it up as a geared bike or as a singlespeed, and whether it would be rigid or suspended in whatever format. But whenever I thought about it as a potential singlespeed, I couldn't be arsed with the extra work for what I considered would only be trivial differences over the Marin. I found on this ride that the differences were vast. So thanks very much to Selwyn, Jonty and Alex for the enthusiasm and getting me off my arse to build it up the right way.

So with all the weekend chores done and a spare family-free time slot on Saturday arvo I turned this:

Into this:

Another cool rig to add to my quiver, and the only thing that beats having an afternoon free to work on my own bike is getting the time to ride it once it's built. So I did.

I set out through the Newtown Ghetto and up Constable Street and onto Mt Victoria. The 32 x 18 softies gear still was too much work at times for this fat boy, but I managed to keep rolling up the hill by only riding the least technical trails and/or sticking to the road. I walked up the very last bit of the hill under the lookout, but only because I wanted to not because I had to, I swear...

I then rode the main Ridgeline run as far as the Wellington College top field, then dropped down to the Basin Reserve and headed off for an urban/waterfront sift - not quite the same on a grey and breezy day as it is on a sunny and still one, but at least the weather meant the pedestrian slalom wasn't too intense!

A quick patrol through my old Cuba Street stomping grounds then back home for a well-deserved bath and snooze before the family returned...

This was a great ride that made me mull over a few things;

Firstly, I realised how lucky I was that for years I could work on my own bikes while people paid me - cheers Roland, Bruce, Henry, Wheels, Deb and Rod. It's much more appreciated now I have to justify my own time than perhaps it seemed at the time! :D

Secondly, I realised that steel is real, at least when matched against older cheapish aluminium frames. The difference in resilience of the ride and the springy snap under standing pedalling were streets away from the solid and harsh ride of the poor old Marin, and could even counteract the tractor-like drag of my 2.35 tyres.

Thirdly, I realise that something I really love about what I do is that there is always something you can learn, something that can surprise you, even when it's just rediscovering that a cliche like "steel is real" is almost a truism. It's easy to get jaded and stale so finding things that keep you interested and that tap into the passions that drive you are vital.

Lastly, and most importantly for me, I remembered how immensely satisfying it is to build a new bike for yourself from the ground up then immediately take it out and thrash it. It's what got me started in this bike fixing game and it's a passionate feeling for me to this day...

Me figuring "it" out (eventually) in my prized Revolution Bicycles t-shirt

Cheers for reading, Oli

Wild Wellington!

Last weekend was the 2nd Wild Wellington 6/12 Hour MTB Race so I popped in and out a couple of times during the day - the first time solo to sift, drink coffee and to drop off the wheels I built for my friend Peter (see my last post), and the second time with My Three Sons to do a walking lap of the hill and both visits to socialise with all the lovely people I know who were participating...

This is a very cool event indeed, and if it's on again next year we will be running a Brooke-Whites/Roadworks Team fo sho - even Bodhi wants to do a lap or two!

Here's a selection of pictures I took to give you an idea of the day.

10.15am - just after the start

Simon and Jonathan Kennett begin their first tandem lap

Two more of the Kennett's Team - Jonty after a double lap and John Randal (note the Roadworks jersey peeking out...)

The BW Boyz

Andrew Jamieson

Kennett Team member Sarah Drake

The boys kick back while I shmooze

Sarah McRae

NZ Rep and Oceania Hillclimb Champion, Gavin McCarthy

Fellow NZ Rep Lisa Morgan

BikeNZ team member Andy Reid

Ex-Euro Pro Fraser McMaster who was racing alongside his brother Ewan (ex-NZ Champion and Tour winner) on the Avanti Team

Scotty Lane steaming

My man Pete Burt (Olympic cycling doc, Eddy Merckx afficianado and connoisseur of fine wheels!)

Mack was one of the Polhill Pink Fairies - the costumes must have made racing hard but provided much mirth for those of us watching!

Ricky Pincott - The Undertaker

The Hataitai Velodrome packed to the gunnels

The Kennett Bros base

John and Kaitlyn Randal set off for a lap

John and Katy blasting out of the Velodrome

Celia Lie throwing down for the Santa Cruz Chicks (too fast for my camera!)

We found a great spot for some Heavy Metal Posturing!

John and Katy shralving

Pete's partner Tilly enjoying the sun

Some random racers

More good keen racers

Josh Wrigley

So that was that - a great day that stretched well into Election Night. The boys and I really enjoyed the atmosphere and everyone seemed to be having a blast. Apparently numbers were down on last year though, which may jeopardise next years event. Let's hope not because it's very cool to have such a race in our town. As I said earlier, the Brooke-Whites will be there next year doing the 6 hour, so hopefully it does go ahead.

Cheers, Oli