Friday, December 30, 2011

Go Ahead, Merak My Day.

This year I has been mostly fixing bicycles.

Photo courtesy of Graeme Perry

I has built an Olmo for Greg.

Thanks for the kind gift, Greg!

I has also been building many wheels.

Here is a good place to say thanks to my good friend Jonty Ritchie, Grand Panjandrum of the lovely Revolution Bicycles in Northland, for our symbiotic wheelwork relationship. Jonty trusts in my ability to turn out a decent wheel and gives me heaps of fun ones to build, for which I'm very appreciative.

Usually, this process is easy for us both (he doesn't have to worry about building the wheels, and I don't have to worry about arranging anything!) but this particular job caused quite some consternation for us both, and involved something I've never seen before in over thirty years of building wheels...I had laced the wheel and got to the first, early stages of truing and tensioning it, so I put it in the stand to begin to tune it prior to the first destressing. Suddenly and, with a noise like a submarine groaning after a hearty depth-charging, the hub torqued and twisted before my very eyes!

As a used hub we speculate the pressures of running fixed in previous iterations had caused fatigue in the hub shell that simply couldn't take being destressed then stressed again. All's well that ends well though, as Jonty came up with a replacement hub that built up without a hitch.

For our good mate Ian, Jonty specced some Velocity A23s onto DT240s for an affordable wider rim option without sacrificing durability or adding too much weight.

One of the final jobs for me of 2011 was also via Jonty, by special request from our mate Hamish.

Some stunning carbon-fibre ENVE AM 26" rims for his Turner 5-Spot. We laced them up onto beautiful pre-owned Chris King hubs using Sapim Race spokes.

Hamish is riding them around the West Coast as I write (assuming the rain isn't cramping his style like it is mine!) and his feedback on these cool wheels has been super enthusiastic.

I do also generate my own wheel business from time to time and here it is. This is for my Taranaki pal Richard, who had munted his front wheel in a nasty pothole incident (emphasis on "dent")...

Roadworks star adventure racer Dave Hicks was having a clear-out and kindly donated some cool old wheels to the cause of any future restorations I might do...the reason for the clear-out arrived safely at 5pm on the 28th of December, so congratulations to Dave and Robyn and welcome to the peloton, Jack!

Talking of Roadworks stars, I'd like to thank T-Rex and his partner Tamsin for the wonderful pre-Christmas roastie they put on. Some friends were sorely missed, but those of us present had a top time...thanks to Tim for another great season - here he is collecting his biggest win of the year, the Australian Singlespeed Championship.

Thanks also to John Randal for another great year also, a year of results as varied as the events John loves to ride! Here he is on the way to a superb 4th place in the tough two-lap Taupo Enduro.

The Roadworks Team is tied together by these great gents, along with sterling support from top chaps such as Jonty, Paul Larkin, Dave Livesey, Alex Tashkoff and Joel Healy, to name too few. I'm so very fortunate to have you all somehow put up with me despite my many foibles, and I'm so lucky to have such good friends to help me make it through what have been all too often very dark times. Thanks and arohanui.

Some of the support I'm so very blessed and humbled to get even comes from far away. From overseas I get sent lots of positivity by my old mate Eoin. His talented daughter Tahlay is continuing to make inroads into her ambitions to represent Australia. Here's an awesome picture of her laying out a beatdown on her beast Colnago in a crit in Perth, WA. Go hard and much success, Tahlay!

A long-time friend but only recent wearer of the Roadworks azure is Roadworks Track Squad leader Peter Moore...

...who won the Stayers Cup for veterans at the recent Laykold Cup Track Carnival run by PNP. Congratulations, Peter!

Peter isn't just a trackie though, he's also a good rouleur. Here he is riding to a well-deserved 11th place in December's prestigious Rice Mountain Classic.

Wait, here are another pair of wheels I has builded! Chris brought me some CK hubs and Open Pro rims to whittle up for his fine Bergamont road bike he rides in between putting in many hours of trail work as part of the committed gang that built the lovely Transient.

One of my favourite builds of 2011 would have to be this stunning De Rosa Merak...

...which I absolutely loved doing.

Some of you may have noticed my Jersey (Cap/T-shirt) of the Week sidebar feature. I recently was able to borrow a jersey off my friend Selwyn to create a little vignette I've long wanted to create, but have always lacked the apparel for. Cheers, Sel, and thanks to Jonty for letting me denude his wall in the process.

The jersey.

And the vignette.

I got many lovely gifts this Christmas, but one of the best was in the form of a book compiled by my friend Max and given to me by his Dad Jim that contained a photo of some of my most precious artifacts. Like Graeme who took the opening shot of this blog post, Max is training to be a photographer and in both cases it is very cool to see my own life through someone else's eyes. Go to "These Things Of Mine" for more info.

Photo courtesy of Max Scott-Murray

As Christmas hurtled rapidly towards us all in a rabid frenzy of consumption, I sheltered as best as possible in the Sanctum Sanctorum of The Batcave finishing the working year off with Hamish's Enve wheels, but also with giving Head Like A Hole bassist Tallbeast's Surly Pacer some love after he de-singlespeeded it but ran out of tools to finish the job - he's a better mechanic than I am a bass player, by a massive shot.

Mark had booked me to finish stripping his old Turner Sultan that had unfortunately sustained a crack, and to build up his new warranty replacement frame complete with the latest reinforcing Gordon Gusset.

Mark has kindly lent me his new Hadley tool set on an ongoing arrangement, so it will be nice to be able to work on these hubs in house instead of having to send them away whenever they need a service.

After a last minute cancellation I was finally able to fit another of my favourite jobs of the year, Bill's beautiful Colnago Master Olympic. When I picked it up from his work he kindly donated me some late-80s Campagnolo Kristal grease to add to my collection of Italian lubriciousness.

So, once I had utterly stripped the bike to the bare bones, I used the Kristal to service the hubs, headset, bottom bracket and other areas that need grease as I re-assembled it back to full Oli-level Colnago-ness.

Some detail shots follow:

Seat cluster.

Seatstay bridge.

Lower head lug.

The ITM Eclypse handlebar stem I dug out of my spares to replace the too long Ritchey one the bike came with. It's made of chromed Columbus steel for extra-cool factor +10, and fits the aesthetic better too as a bonus side effect.

Head logo. I never tire of this one.

And Bill's bike ready for summer and anything else he can throw at it.

Thanks to everyone who has featured in the blog, and also to those who didn't for various reasons (I forgot the camera/the batteries ran out/I forgot to use the camera/etc., etc.) for the support in 2011 and always. Cheers to you all, you Kings and Queens of Roadworks, you Princes and Princesses of bicycles. Belatedly, I send you fond Christmas wishes and in a more timely fashion I wish you all the very best for a stellar New Year.

Cheers, Oli

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Passenger

Clicking into the pedals and pushing off on the beginning of a ride is one of the very best feelings I know. In those early moments of easy pedaling before the realities of fitness and fatness rear their cruel and beastly heads I am young and fit still, at one with my bike as my body quickly assumes its long-accustomed place atop the saddle. Easily my legs turn over and spin me up to speed as I effortlessly turn into the main road, with nothing but the promise of freedom and fun ahead. I may not look graceful these days, but in those first moments I am still so at home on a bike I feel more than graceful, I feel like I was born to ride. I am carried down through the Bay as if my bicycle and I are one.

However it doesn't take long for the grim realities to bite, and just as I'm getting to grips with my physical failings and starting to drift away from oneness with my machine I'm passed as if I'm standing still by my young friend Connor, who greets me cheerily as he disappears up the road like it ain't no thang. Oddly, rather than discouraging me and adding to my feelings of inadequacy, this just helps me accept where I'm really at and I start to enjoy the ride for itself without trying to match myself to any sort of standard I simply can't meet. I manage to supress the creeping discomforts of my less than impressive condition and reconnect with my bike again. I push on under the bright and hollow sky...

The finishline for the Wednesday Worlds arrives and I feel remarkably fresh still, despite attempting to push hard for the last kilometre or so of the climb known for some reason as Happy Valley.

Time for a quick breather before commencing to carve the superb sweeping descent of Brooklyn Hill. Finally gravity is my friend.

This is one of the freedoms that a bike can give - it's almost like you are being borne along without input, yet you are riding a razor-sharp line of control as your skinny tyres cling to the very limits of adhesion on the hot tar. The wind created by your own velocity carries all thought but pure instinct away. It's almost a Zen state, but then that passes as the descent ends and you try and savour the feelings of exhilaration that are over too quick as traffic lights and motor vehicles intrude once more.

Hoping for empty streets through town, my hopes are dashed by hordes of rapacious Boxing Day shoppers swarming all over the town and straying into the road like particularly stupid sheep. Somehow I avoid several collisions with pedestrians and the cars disgorging them and make it safely through to clear space.

I ride through the city's backside...

...and I ride and I ride...

Many a training ride back in my youth would end up in a kind of impromptu race against the old Aranui or Aramoana ferries - if I could beat them to Point Hallswell I could be fairly sure of beating them to the Pass of Branda. Today, the timing was such that I rode through Shelly Bay as the Aratere was cutting its way towards Hallswell. Almost before I realised I was doing so, I put my head down and flailed away at my big gears, succeeding in making that first crucial objective...

Another one of cycling's great freedoms is that of hitting that ideal compromise between going as hard as you can and blowing to pieces. It's another razor-thin line to ride, and such a great feeling when you are railing it. It's partly the endorphins that make it feel this way, but it's also the heightened awareness of ones own physicality on the cusp of its limits. I realised at this point that the effort probably wasn't going to pay off, but I was along for the ride now so I thought I'd see it through.

As it became apparent that my legs weren't a match for my imagination I gave way to the inevitable and blew to bits as I climbed the Pass of Branda, struggling over the summit of this tiny pimple as if it was the Col du Galibier and I was behind the gruppeto in danger of missing the time cut. Needless to say the ferry won this round, but I was happy to have at least felt I'd put a good effort in.

With the afterjets turned off it was time to glide.

Over Sean Yates, with happy memories of trying to half-wheel Henry and being owned every time.

The Inter-Giro line, and not long till the finish.

There has always been something that I need and crave in cycling, something inherent in the spinning of the wheels and the very motion of the machine.

It's a need I've found really difficult to fulfill lately, but one that was fully sated today; instead of feeling like an unwilling passenger on some sort of slave galley of suffering, for a couple of hours I felt like me and my bicycle were one again. It felt mighty fine.

Thanks for reading, Oli

Cheers to Iggy Pop for the theme music to today's ride...