Sunday, June 28, 2009

Deflated but not Defeated!

As a complete counter to last week I only managed one ride of any kind over the last seven days - granted it was a Glorious Solo Win in one of the Monuments of Cycling, but as far as other riding goes the rest of the week was decidedly less glorious...

After seven consecutive days of riding I thought it would be best to take a couple of days off, so last Sunday was spent relaxing with the family and taking a lovely walk in Wellington's beautiful Mechanical Gardens (Kester's pre-school name for the Botanical Gardens).

When Monday rolled around the grim reality of the bike fixin' business leaped up and slapped me sideways around my chubby chops with a deluge of bookings - great for the bank account, but not so much for the riding ambitions!

I started the week by giving the Wall of Fame a bit of a tickle-up.

Then got stuck into building lots of wheels - always a fun and relatively clean way of getting busy.

I started with the pleasurable task of finishing off Trevor's track wheel set. Built on lovely 80's Campagnolo Record Pista hubs...

...the pair turned out beautifully. NOS Nisis rims laced front radial, rear two-cross. Stiff and light wheels for the Benotto track bike he is slowly restoring.

Alex wanted some hardcore trail wheels built, so a pair of de-stickered Mavic 823 rims were built around red Hope Pro2 hubs using black DT Comp spokes.

After much tyre choice agonising, I finally tubelessed Jono's Hadley/Stan's Arch wheels I built him in May...

And here is Jono's sweet Turner 5 Spot in for a quick gear tune after his first ride with the new wheels.

In between appointments I continued fettling Jacq's Eddy Merckx, now just requiring the rear derailleur, chain, gear cables and pedals. Luckily her wrist injury wasn't as bad as we initially feared, so hopefully she'll be riding her new road bike in a week or two. Also since I took this pic I've added a dedicated women's saddle that I got through one of my favourite bike industry reps and ex-Wholly Bagels teammate, Nicola Johnson.

Talking of Nic, she dropped off her Giant XTC carbon hardtail for me to swap out the crankset and check over in advance of her sending it away to it's new owner in Christchurch. This very cool rig was in great shape of course, just requiring a mild tune and some new brake pads.

The chainset swap was so that she could keep her cool Rotor Agilis cranks for her next bike (more about that once it's declassified!). She got me to install a pretty decent substitute in a pair of XTR cranks...

And here it is all ready to go to it's new home...

Podge needed his Giant TCR fondled, and I'm just the type of guy to do it. When he picked it up he gave me a big chunk of venison that I can't wait to attack - cheers, Podge!

Quentin had an annoying creak emanating from his pedals which I tracked down to a dry and loose b/b. I also lubed the cables, straightened the derailleur hanger and gave the rest of this sturdy commuter a good going over.

Dave is very kindly lending his Cervelo R3 to a foreign international rider (whose name I'm not yet at liberty to divulge) who is spending some time in New Zealand as part of their preparation for the World Championship time trial. I will be boxing it up on Monday to send it on to them...

After a busy morning doing repairs and organising the rest of the week, Tuesday mid-morning gave me the opportunity to head out for a decent ride before heading back into the shop for the late shift.

My plan was a long-awaited ride out to Eastbourne, but plans are just disasters that haven't happened to me yet. The main reason I spend most of my life flying by the seat of my pants is due to this exact phenomenon - if you don't make plans you can't screw them up!

To whit, I dressed for what appeared to be looming Belgian Hardman conditions and set off on my ride feeling great and fully charged to get some moiles in. Yet, despite doing my best to set my bike up with "training" wheels/tyres, virtually the minute I set out I got a pinch-flat on some left-over rubble from the lame coarse chip the council strews everywhere. Grrr.

After realising I'd used up the last of my puncture kit last week I fitted my only replacement tube - practice makes perfect, as it was sorted a lot faster than last time. Feeling strangely vulnerable without any spares, I decided the best course of action was naturally to head up to my favourite LBS, Revolution Bicycles in Northland, to grab a spare tube and continue my "training". I scuttled through town and up Glenmore Street in the rapidly improving weather, snapping precarious and pointless photos one-handed the whole way...

I ambled up through Northland periodically stuffing yet another layer of redundant clothing into my jersey pockets while admiring the winsome web of cables that charmingly adorn every square inch of Wellington's skyline.

I parked my bike oh so casually and took full advantage of Jonty's habitual kind hospitality, as he plied me with a cup of fresh hot espresso and a gratis spare tube.

Eventually I dragged myself away from our fine conversation and back onto my bike, re-donning all my discarded clothing for what I knew would be a very cold descent back down to sea level. I zipped down through Kelburn, onto Salamanca Road scattering ovine students left and right, then tested my Chorus brakes hard out with a mad tuck down the super steep Bolton Street onto The Terrace.

By now of course I had mucked around so long that I no longer had time to head out to Eastbourne, so I headed around Wellington's waterfront instead. Far from deteriorating as it had seemed it would, the day had slowly cleared into a sunny but very cold one, as the northerly pushed the clouds away to the south.

The site of my earlier deflating experience looked much nicer in the sun.

Since my earliest days on a road bike many of my rides have been accompanied by non-existent cheering crowds, imaginary helicopters and ghostly press motorcycles, as I use my pretend incredible natural cycling abilities to grind Merckx, Hinault, de Vlaeminck and that young upstart LeMond into the dust under my cleated Sidis. In what I laughingly refer to as my mind I've won World Championships, Tours, Giri, and all of the five Monuments of Cycling, to name just some of my countless other hard-fought virtual victories. It's a kind of unsought escapism that seems to help push me along on the hardest parts of my rides, and it has the fun side effect of turning some of Wellington's roads into the storied roads of Cycling Lore.

So today I smashed my 50 x 16 over Seatoun's Pass of Branda as it morphed into the famed Turchino from the great one day Classic, Milan-San Remo. The slopes of this feared Pass was where I managed to shed the (sadly non-existent) peloton and establish a classy solo break. Determined to stay away at least until the Poggio (Pines) I punched a big gear into the increasing head wind along the Ligurian Coast (Airport Straight), before disrupting my rhythm (and my fantasy!) by bumping into a (non-cycling) friend in Lyall Bay and being forced to stop for a chat about real things.

The gulls flocked, wanting to steal my muesli bar...

The unscheduled halt had seemingly blown my race to bits, but I'm no quitter - you don't get to not win as many races as I haven't won by being soft. Underneath this slightly flabby exterior lurks a heart of iron and sinews of steel. One more short stop to pose my bike for the umpteenth time and take strength from my Totem and I'd be ready to throw down.

As I chased on the approach to the Poggio and caught the powerful break (a woman riding a postie bike) that had taken advantage of my pause, I counter-attacked brutally and crested the hill once again in the lead of La Primavera. I drove hard down the tortuous descent and into San Remo...

I sensed the non-existent chasers gaining on me, so I dug deep into my suitcase of courage and pulled out a wrinkled shirt of valour and some cufflinks of sheer guts and pushed onto the Via Roma (Trent Street sounds so mundane...) and crossed the finish line of this Great Race Cipollini-style with both hands spread high in the air, basking in the warm acclaim of a vast crowd - or the bemusement of three random pedestrians and a sleepy cat on a fence, I'm not really sure.

Then, being a shy man not seeking the limelight or the bright lights of the podium, it was a matter of escaping the media throng by carrying on up Island Bay Parade and home.

At the age of 46 my fading powers might not be up the demands of a record 9th Tour de France win, but nice to see I could still pull off a Glorious Victory in one of the longest and toughest single day races on the world calendar.

Jacq didn't seem to marvel at my majesty as much as mutter something about me being clinically insane...oh well, when you have my palmares the sceptical scorn of some sections of the population matters not a jot - just ask my friend Lance...

Until next time, thanks for reading.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Training with Conviction

A wise person once said that there's no such thing as bad weather, just bad choices in clothing. This week I tried my best to put that theory to the test by riding in inclement conditions utilising my vast collection of little used winter riding gear. I know it's stupid to complain that the weather is too good but, as usual when I come up with some contrived theme, I was thwarted by 'Belgian Hard Man' weather turning into 'ooh, it's a little bit nippy innit?' conditions the minute I headed out on the bike. I'm trying to ride six days a week, even if it's only for an hour, so letting the climate dictate the riding is not a good plan...

Winter is puncture season and, after my double punctures on Monday, I thought I'd better finally put away the "race" wheels I've been riding and bring out the "training" wheels for my Bianchi. At the same time I was swapping some brake calipers and changing saddles among my various road bikes, so Monday evening was spent fettling my them into more subtle configurations for the umpteenth time in recent weeks.

The caliper swap was a complicated transaction - I am building up a road bike for Jacq and the brakes I had lined up for this project had been on my Casati while I tried to locate some STI levers and a rear derailleur for her new bike. Thanks to T-Rex turning up some mint old Dura-Ace 7400 levers and Henry donating me a matching rear mech I was able to make a start on Jacq's cool Eddy Merckx, with the thought of inspiring her a bit as she recovers from her nasty wrist injury...

I haven't picked up the rear derailleur yet, or saddled, cabled and chained it up, but this is Jacq's Ross Bee-restored Eddy Merckx Corsa frame and fork so far as I've built it up.

So the Dura-Ace calipers reclaimed off the Casati needed replacing...what to do? I know, I'll whip the Centaur ones off my Bianchi and whack them on!

Hmmm, while it's in the stand I'll pull those Michelin Lithion's off - they'll make good training tyres. I'll see if those cheap 700 x 38s will have enough clearance. Just enough...

Oh dear. Now what shall I do about brakes for my Bianchi? I didn't think this through...I know, I'll treat myself to some new Chorus ones!

They look damn sexy on my bike...

I was lending my Arione to Alex from Revolution Bicycles for him to try the shape of these sweet saddles out, so I thought I'd lend him the black one off my "training" Bianchi and replace it with the Celeste one off my "retro" one. Here's the training hack in current vogue - Ksyrium Elite training wheels, Lithion tyres, Chorus brakes and Celeste Arione.

The last piece of the puzzle was a saddle for my other Bianchi - my Pantani Flite saddle was the solution, helping the bike back towards it's full mid to late-90s period spec.

At the very next opportunity I slipped out for a ride - I actually felt like a MTB ride but the narrow time slot I had meant I wouldn't have to time to both ride and get cleaned up for work, so I layered up with roadie gear and headed out into a stiff Southerly and driving rain. I headed south for an anti-clockwise lap of the Bays, and as I hit the South Coast the rain cleared and the rest of the ride was dry bar the water coming up off the still-wet roads. Some moody clouds and threatening rain sweeping down the Hutt Valley and along the Rimutakas was about as bad as it got...

Wednesday and Thursday's rides were more of the same, though the wind seemed to be strongest on Thursday.

Friday's ride made an unprecedented six in a row, and was on a beautiful still day - again I headed around the Bays, but added in a couple of hills and finished off with some good hi-rev traffic light sprints.

Of course I can't just ride all week - though lately it's all I've wanted to do! - I have to earn a living as well. The shop is ticking over nicely, and some interesting stuff always keeps me fresh.

I had Mark's cool Turner Sultan that I built for him in April in for it's first real service after a testing 500-odd kilometres of hard riding.

Bill's classic old Scott Endorphin was back; this time to be stripped down for a fresh paintjob as well as for a couple of small mods when it comes time to rebuild it.

I'm slowly building up another pair of NOS wheels for Trevor, who has scored a matching Benotto track frame to complement his road Benotto that I built wheels for in March. This latest pair are a pair of 80s Nisi track rims, that I'm lacing onto Campagnolo Record large flange hubs. The rim is super light at 280 grams, although the individual nipple washers add a few more grams to that. The front wheel weighs 730 grams complete with the radially-built DT Competition spokes and brass nipples.

Nisi logos on this mint NOS rim.

Front wheel built up and trued...rear wheel to follow next week.

Talking of old Campagnolo, my friend Peter has been trawling the recycling centre of late and turned up an old bike recently. The bike was too far gone to do much with, but the 1973 Campy parts were worth saving. This was Peter's great idea - a neat piece of art to hang on his wall.

Some detail of the gear levers - it's hard to believe in this modern era of index and even electronic shifting that we used to have to reach down and manually locate our gears with this rudimentary friction system. I have fond memories of the old bikes of that era, but I wouldn't give up my modern Ergolevers for anything!

Here's a shot of the Gran Sport rear derailleur.

And some cool Tipo hubs that he rescued from the battered wheels of this old machine...

Friday night I spent up at Revolution Bicycles dropping off a wheel I'd built and shooting the breeze with the fine company while drinking all their beer. Despite appearances, I'm still sober in this terrible self-pic...

While there I was able to give Alex Revell the Arione I was lending him, and congratulate him on winning the PNP Mike Podmore Cup for Most Improved Cyclist, awarded to Alex for his fine efforts on the MTB over the past season.

I was also able to fill him in a bit about who Mike Podmore was, as I had been friends of his and helped sponsor him at the Bicycle Village.

Mike was a lad from Island Bay with a single-minded determination to succeed in his sport, with a view to eventually heading to Belgium to try his fortunes on the big Euro stage. I accompanied him on many training rides as he trained hard towards this goal, and as he prepared to race the gruelling Dulux Tour of the North Island. Along with other good race performances over the year a gutsy performance as eventual Lanterne Rouge in the 1982 Dulux (won that year by Stephen Carton) convinced him he had what it took once he'd put in "more moiles, Oli, more moiles..." so off we rode around and around the Akas until I was in the form of my life and/or completely broken.

Eventually it came time to farewell Poddy as he flew off to meet his destiny. Sadly, that destiny proved to be a cruel one. He was killed during his first pedal strokes on Belgian soil, while riding to meet up with his new club. In the middle of the afternoon he was hit head on by a drunk driver crossing over into the wrong side of the road, killing Mike instantly. His death hit the Wellington cycling community very hard and he was sorely missed for his Muttley snicker and great good humour.

Very nice for me to see the Cup named after Mike going to another gutsy rider like Alex - and I'm sure that in the Mike Podmore spirit he'll only continue to improve.

Alex racing hard at Singlespeed Nationals, chasing eventual winner and Roadworks star Tim Wilding.

Saturday dawned to another cold front with pelting rain and near-zero temperatures. Jacq was out all morning while I held the fort at home (drank coffee and played Battleships with Bodhi), but as soon she got back I got dressed up under about five layers and met up with (the other) Alex and Matt at the shop for what would amazingly be my seventh consecutive ride.

For many months now I've been meaning to check out the new Miramar Trails, but time and tide have conspired to keep me away. No longer though, as Al was Ride Commander and ordered us to suss out this new destination.

We rolled out of Waripori Street and urbanned through the chaotic Newtown traffic. I led us up to have a nosy at the new kid's Skills Area on Mt Victoria, where we monged around like clumsy oafs. Luckily we had only one minor spill on one of the "rock gardens", but I can't say who it was or Al will kill me.

Great to see this great resource being created (with design input from the Kennett Brothers and Jill Ford) for the next generation of MTBers - I can't wait to take the kids up for a few laps! We then headed down to the Ski Jump and shredded down this slippery slope and straight into a deep and dodgy puddle, resulting in some hilarious and near-fatal tank slappage...

We then pedalled around Evans Bay to Miramar Wharves past the rusting hulk of Peter Jackson's Venture.

Then we headed up a steep zig-zag walkway, and up towards Maupuia along the lovely open walkway that sidles around the west side of the hill.

As we headed up the last stretch of road that leads to Mt Crawford Prison Alex pulled ahead, but I started to gain on him. As I drew up to his rear wheel he gave it a good dig and started to pull away again, but I realised my legs felt unaccustomedly good so I counter-attacked and managed to narrowly sprint him at the top, a la Armstrong v. Beloki.

Of course, this resulted in my arrival at the start of the trail puffing and wheezing like an asthmatic chain cigar smoker, just in time to be cheerily greeted by a bemused bunch of hard-working Miramar Trail pixies. After the laughter at my puce and portly appearance had died away it transpired that these good folk had spent the best part of the day not riding the Trails themselves, but clearing vast quantities of rubbish from alongside the opening stretches. The WCC had kindly provided a bin that they had laboriously filled with all sorts of crap from a fridge to a printer to the ubiquitous plastic bottles that litter our fair land. Good stuff guys, and I'll make sure I'm there to help at future clean ups. If you wish to know more about this Trail network and/or wish to put some time into the Eastern Suburbs best MTB resource, email

Parting was such sweet sorrow, but we had to ride. Following some clear directions we still managed to go the wrong way, but this just helped us get to grips with the terrain and various trail entrances involved. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. We sidled along Boot Leg and up onto Nevay Road, then realised I'd steered us left where we should have gone right. We then found the Nevay Connector where we popped out onto the road to get a stunning view of Miramar and the Heads.

The trails were delectably delightful - an incredible balance of switchbacks, streams, roots, fast bits, slow bits, and heaps of character, not to mention great fun without being too difficult.

We rode the main trail Conviction in what is essentially the down direction, but it looks like it would be a very cool climb the other way.

We reached the bottom of Conviction safely and wearing huge muddy smiles (the trails were mainly dry, but a couple of unscheduled diversions not so). Here is Alex negotiating the under construction bridge at the Darlington Road Entrance.

All involved in creating this great trail network should be very proud indeed. We're so spoiled here in the Wellington region to have so many volunteers doing so much cool track building, as well as a Council that seems to be very supportive of their efforts. Good stuff to all who have contributed.

We then punched into the Southerly and back along Cobham Drive, heading up towards the Hataitai Velodrome to try yet another newish trail.

At the Northern end of the Velodrome there is a famously nasty ascent that has terrified the more athletically challenged among us for years, but again under the impetus of Jill Ford (with a view to making the Wild Wellington race easier for the average rider) and the Kennett Bros a much easier trail has been constructed, taking us up onto the saddle on Alexandra Road without too much exertion. We scooted down the lower trails of Mt Vic as the time ran rapidly out for Matt and I, then home again where we went our separate ways after another great ride together. Cheers, lads!

My bike is at last starting to show the tell-tale signs of actually being ridden. Here it is once I'd gotten home, still looking suspiciously clean...

...and here it is this morning, once the mud had dried. Ah, MUCH better! Now I just have to clean it thoroughly before a certain Roadworks rider thinks he's now got tacit permission to ride a perpetually muddy bike.

Until next time, thanks for reading and keep on riding. Cheers, Oli