Saturday, August 14, 2010

When Worlds Collide!

Sorry to leave everyone dangling blogless for so long, but it's been a bit of a torrid time since last I posted so you'd better grab snacks and a tasty beverage of some kind and settle in for a loooong one...

From past Olitastrophes I should have known that trying to structure my life in any way would be an unmitigated disaster, as the minute I settled on heading back to work with some kind of approximation of regular hours I was struck down by an escalating series of ailments that laid me low for quite some time - I've really only been functioning (semi) normally for the last week, let alone keeping shop hours! Suffice it to say this bout of winteritis has ended up putting quite a crimp in my winter programme...

I headed into the Tour de France seemingly with great form; I had had a great Critérium du Dauphiné, handling even the demanding Alpe d'Huez stage well, and felt I had adapted well to the rigours of the late night/daily life balance so vital for surviving a three week Grand Tour. My nutrition (chippies and wine gums) was sorted, as was my hydration (rum, thanks very much to my bro John Randal.) I went into the prologue feeling fresh after a good week, and had done a final honing of my legs with a great mountainbike ride on Skyline that afternoon. The prologue was a superb hit out for me - I finished it feeling strong and ready for the tough stages to come...

This is where it all started to go wrong. The morning following Petacchi's fine stage win into Brussels I woke up feeling under the weather and by the time Sylvain Chavanel had won the controversial stage through the Ardennes to Spa I had crashed badly and was starting to feel my Tour unravel...

The next few stages were fascinating to observe but I was barely hanging in there, and when Chavanel took his second stage win and second Yellow Jersey on the first stage in the Alps I knew I was going to have to pull out, sadly realising my condition had forced me to register my first DNF since live coverage of the Tour came to New Zealand.

The rest of the Tour was a blur; I was able to catch most of it by either sleeping all day in between hallucinations, or by missing the live stages and watching the morning's delayed coverage while sipping lemon and honey drinks and slugging down various meds. I enjoyed Contador's gutsy win immensely, although that was tempered by my general misery and malaise. Oh well, there's always next year.

I don't want you to think I spent the whole time wallowing in self pity though. I had better days where I did my level best to make a living and keep my family in the lavish style to which they are accustomed. Some of this involved time in the workshop heavily rugged up and with the heater blasting, and other times I just brought my wheelbuilding apparatus home and knocked out a few hoops while watching the remaining stages of the Tour. Here is some of what I managed to get done.

Colin's sweet Blur LT needed some flash new forks fitted...

Geoffrey bought a Yeti ARC-X cyclo-cross bike off Kashi Leuchs that needed a fettle after shipping.

I was lucky enough to work with Kashi when I was NZ Team mechanic at the 2006 Mountainbike World Championships in Rotorua, one of the highlights of my race wrenching career.

On behalf of the NZ distributor Cycle Supplies I built up this lovely Pashley Princess custom-specced with a Nexus hub for a local woman.

Some of the wheel components awaiting my attention...

Including Tom's 29er Flows built around blue Hope Pro2 hubs...

Colin wanted to add strength and remove weight, so he got me to whip up these sexy wheels - Hadley hubs in Crest rims, wrapped lovingly with tubeless Mountain Kings.

Alex needed a new front rim to replace a potato chip. A ZTR355 built up nicely onto his existing XT hub.

Like crazy bastards all over New Zealand and the world (including me, scarily!) Rob is "gearing" up for the Singlespeed World Championships in October. Also, like many of us, he is using the Champs as an excuse for building up a full-on blinglespeed. Here are his pimp as wheels.

A caliper compatible ZTR355/Pro2/Competition combination for the rear wheel...

...and a Pro2/ZTR Olympic/Revolution combo for the front.

On behalf of Jonty at Revolution Bicycles I constructed this lovely set of 29er wheels - green Chris King singlespeed specific hubs with their distinctive freehub buzz were aptly matched with a pair of Flow rims.

Richard wanted me to resurrect an under-utilised DT 240s hub using an Arch rim and Competition spokes for a light but very staunch wheel for his 5" trail bike.

One thing in common for that long list of wheels are the NoTubes rims - I've blathered on at length about them many times before but I just had to say again how much I love building wheels with them. For all but the full-on downhillers they are streets ahead of anything else on the market for lightweight yet superior strength, and I have no hesitation in recommending them to anyone considering new wheels. All that remains is for me to build myself a pair - perhaps once that Lotto ticket pays off!

However, I do also build wheels using other brands. This is a Shimano dynamo front hub built into an Alex XC-Lite rim for another client of Jonty's.

And for my friend Grant of 5 Mates, 5 Bikes, One vision fame I knocked up a Powertap hub into another one of my favourite ever rims, the always reliable Mavic Open Pro.

Getting away from that massive pile of wheels for a minute, Sarah's Giant Anthem needed some love after the best part of a year's hard thrashing.

Joel's Trek Madone needed to be Lanced. Now it's really fast.

Singlespeed World's aren't the only World Championships coming up. I recently had the great privilege of working on Paralympian Jayne Parsons' tandem, that her and her stoker Annalisa Farrell piloted to a fantastic Bronze Medal in Beijing in 2008. Jayne is badly sight impaired as a result of domestic violence, and with the help of second husband Brent and the support of their kids and super-coach Brendon Cameron this tough and determined woman is hot on the trail of a Gold Medal in London in 2012, along with her new pilot ex-Olympic rower Sonia Waddell. One of the steps along the way is the 2010 UCI Para-cycling World Championships of Baie-Comeau in Canada. Jayne and Sonia are racing both the road race and the time trial, so the double bike needed some work done...

Brendon asked me to convert her tandem from it's heavy and inefficient rear disc brake to a long-reach standard brake caliper before Jayne headed up to Cambridge for training and so Doon could fit some TT bars to it.

Getting the tandem up into the stand was a lot easier than I expected! It's pretty light, although I was never actually able to weigh it.

The first step was to pull off the clunky disc brake set-up with it's gummed up cables and roller-ma-jigs...

...then unbolt the rotor and its heavy adaptor.

I then installed fresh cable housings and the new Shimano Sora long-reach rear caliper. The braking instantly went from average/poor to excellent.

There, much tidier!

I also went over the bike and gave it a tidy up and a jolly good service. Brendon was due to replace the drive train at the same time as he was fitting the TT bars so I just made sure the tandem was safe and the bearings, gears and brakes were tuned.

Once Jayne and Brent took it away up to Cambridge for the weekend I hit the pile of single bikes that had built up.

Grant (a different Grant!) needed his lovely 1998 Anglia RT Condor 863 serviced.

My man Dave Hicks has flown the Roadworks colours since they first existed, and even before that was a proud wearer of the infamous purple colours of Cycle Services. Dave is a powerful athlete who has competed with distinction in many of the most adventurous cycling and multi-sport events on the New Zealand calendar, as well as in such difficult international races as Australia's gruelling XPD. Here he is in a blurry shot off my shop wall competing in the Mizone Bluff to Kaitaia race in (I think) 2001.

In recent weeks I have serviced Dave's new to him Bauer Monaco, which effectively puts his venerable old aluminium Cannondale that I've worked on for 15-odd years out to pasture...

Once I had that sorted it was time to work on his geared MTB, The King. A slightly dodgy and no doubt hard out ride in some hills close to Wellington had finally broken his long-suffering LX 8sp shifter, so Dave figured it was the perfect time to go 9 speed. Off with the old gear levers, as well as the the cable discs which always worked well until the cable was contaminated by the inevitable mud and crap of the more epic type of riding Dave engages in from time to time.

Some astute TradeMe-ing landed him some XTR 9sp flip-flop shifters and calipers, so on they went.

Obviously the conversion from 8sp to nine required a new chain and a cassette with one more cog, so XT was the order of the day - slightly heavier than XTR but lots better wear, not to mention more affordable. Note my trick colour-coded front gear cable housing.

The brakes weren't supplied with hoses so I arranged some, cut them to length and installed and bled them.

And all done - a King for a Champ!

More wheel action now - Joel bought himself a barely used Zipp 900 tubular disc for his new TT bike (later for that!). He asked me to check it over to make sure it's all sound, and it certainly is. It even came in this impressive case.

Rob wanted me to glue a tub on this Specialized Tri-Spoke track wheel.

So several layers of messy sticky tubular glue later I did. Despite (or perhaps because of?) having glued tubs many hundreds of times over the years I can't say I really enjoy this time consuming and slightly onerous task...

My mate Ben Wilde's Turner needed some good time spent on it, with new handlebars and some Saint brakes to be fitted among other things.

Once Jayne had returned from her weekend in Cambridge I began to pull her tandem down and pack it into a box ready to travel to Canada for the Worlds. Brendon had fitted some TT bars using cunning cable joiners to enable quick and easy swapping back to the road bars. He had also replaced the worn drive components I had noted.

Doon had got long serving Paralympic Team mechanic Brian Gilbert to whip up an adapted 140mm axle to enable Jayne and Sonia to rock a usually 130mm axle Zipp disc in the Worlds TT.

Very tidy solution...

Once that was sorted it was time to cram the tandem and wheels, a spare pair of wheels, the road bars, assorted spares and several tubs of drink mix powder into the double bike box. A bit of a mission to pack is putting it mildly, and it took the best part of three hours to achieve. The sad postscript to this is that I got a text from Jayne at the airport saying that they had to unpack it as it was overweight! Despite not having any way of checking the weight in advance, I feel terrible about the hassle that must have been for Jayne, and furious that the airline couldn't use some discretion to solve the issue. She is after all representing her country and I'm quite sure travelling with such a massive box would be a hassle enough without officious swines causing trouble...I haven't heard what the final result was or what they had to leave behind, but I hope like anything it wasn't a complete nightmare and that Jayne made it safely to her destination with the tandem... :(

I mentioned Joel's TT bike earlier. He will be tilting for a Master's Title at the NZ Club Nationals later in the year on this BMC TT02 speed machine. He was out test-hammering it around the Bays and it needed a quick gear tune and a loose rear brake caliper tightened, as well as the mandatory Roadworks sticker of course.

Amongst the paid work and to attempt to stave off the desperate urges to ride I was unable to act on, I put some effort into my own fleet of bikes. This mainly involved a lot of parts swapping, and some moving of various wheels from one rig to another.

First I took the Open Pro/Campag Mirage wheels off my Bianchi and re-installed the Ksyriums I used on it before I built the OPs up.

Next I gave my beausage Chas King Prendero a tweak, removing the old pain-in-the-arse tubular wheels and fitting the MA3 clinchers I built for my Casati faux-fixie.

I love the battered look of this cool old track bike and I marvel at the stunning workmanship the late Mr King was capable of, as displayed in the missing patches of paint. Even better is that this classic fits me like it was custom built for me - if only I felt like racing!

Then I fitted the OPs off the Bianchi to my Casati, as well as some lovely old Campagnolo drive train parts to give me a slightly bastardised down-tube shifter geared road bike for those days where the mudguarded touring bike is overkill but I don't want to get the Bianchis dirty. Even better is that running old Campag friction shifters with a 9sp drivetrain means none of the old overshift-and-correct issues that were commonplace on 5, 6, or 7 speed cogsets - once you get past the whole downtube shifting action down it's so instinctive! Lastly, it's pretty hard to beat the aesthetic of a classic Campagnolo chainset and rear derailleur...

Here's a detail of the trademark Casati tuning fork seat stay cap, designed to add some vertical compliance to the frame. This built in comfort in combination with the Columbus SL tubes make this a very laterally stiff yet forgiving steel roadie with a great ride.


When I say it rides well, that is admittedly with scanty evidence. The plague prevented me from riding it in it's new guise for a long time. It was five weeks to the day since my last ride of any kind before I felt up to venturing out, and maybe three since I fettled it, but luckily it just so happened to coincide with the first really nice day in Wellington for weeks.

I headed from home south through Island Bay revelling in the feeling of the road rushing beneath my wheels and giving thanks to Eddy that I was riding once again. By the time I got to Lyall Bay though I was already feeling shattered so I decided to live to fight another day by swinging over the hill to Newtown, only to discover that the climb up Crawford Road was more than I could handle. I swung the 'bars around and headed slowly around the Bays to Oriental Bay before riding through Newtown back home. Great to finally be able to get out for a spin, on a lovely "new" bicycle and on such a delightful day, but it was not so great to feel so pathetically weak.

Later in the week the Casati got another outing as I ventured into Wellington's mean streets to meet with Jonathan Kennett about some stuff at the palatial offices of the esteemed Kennett Brothers.

From the depths of my punterdom to the pinnacle of world cycle sport, the UCI Road Championships are heading to the southern hemisphere for the very first time to Geelong outside of Melbourne. It's very cool to see my good friend Oceania Road Champion and Worlds TT contender Bridie O'Donnell plastered all over the place as one of the poster faces of the event, alongside Australia's first professional Road Champion Cadel Evans and rapidly rising star and current U23 World TT Champion Jack Bobridge.

I was hoping to make it over to Geelong for this auspicious occasion, but sadly funds and the timing are looking likely to prevent me from going. Nevermind, I'll just have to wait until I make it over to a Worlds in Italy one day, and anyway I have the Singlespeed Worlds to look forward to...if that's the right way to put it.

A big regret in not making it there will be missing out on catching up with lots of mates, including WO Paul Larkin who has landed my dream job assembling unlimited Campagnolo Super Record gruppos and Edge wheels onto endless Parlees and Moots in his new job working for Cycling Edge in Melbourne. Here is one of the demo bikes he's allowed to test ride. I'm not jealous, really I'm not.

Not that I'm one to complain, of course! I'm very lucky to have lots of lovely friends who continually humble me by showering me with their generosity. This week was a bonanza for gifts from afar - first from the UK I got my latest issue of my cool Rouleur subscription that Paul and Dave got me for my birthday.

My old friend Margo was soigneur for a Benchmark Homes team that raced in the 2008 Iran Presidential Cycling Tour. At the time she told me she had a couple of gifts for me, and this week they turned up! I got a very cool jersey that would be too small for Bodhi, as well as an Iranian Team cap and a Russian National Team cap from the Russian coach of the Iranian Team, who was once the Russian track coach.

I think that's probably enough for now. If anyone is still reading this insanely long entry I'll wind it up for you with some pictures from the first MTB ride I've taken in six weeks. Spoiled as we are in Wellington for trails I'm often prone to forget that the many trails of Mt Victoria are right on my back doorstep, so this ride I decided to hit up some of the easier tracks for the first time in months - actually since one of only two rides ever on my singlespeed since I signed up for that Worlds foolishness!

This was one of those rides that really connect your soul to the earth. One of those rides that ground you and lend your life the perspective that it so often lacks. I'm not ashamed to say I shed some tears when I sat down by the swing. They flowed from the sheer joy of feeling the exquisite pain that cycling causes, combined with a realisation that a life awheel is a life for real.

If you are still reading, thanks very much for the support. See you on the road or trail, Oli


OneJohn said...

Love the long post, the bling pics of other bikes (jealous) but especially the Mt Vic pics. I use these trails as my summer commute to the daily grind in town and on a great day it'd be hard to find a better commute experience than reaching the summit of MtVic, stopping for the view and then pointing the wheel downhill and grinning the whole way.

Ben said...

Nice one Oli, good to have you back in the land of the semi-living. So who's this Dan guy and why is he riding around on my bike ;-)

Oli said...

What? Dan? I have no idea what you're talking about maing...