Monday, January 31, 2011

Big Wheel Keep On Turning

I rode a bike yesterday and it was good. It's amazing how much you appreciate the simple act of pedalling after a few weeks without, and sadly, ever since my great fun Incline Ride, various boring circumstances have conspired to keep me entirely off my bikes and make me feel most subdued and unblogular.

It's a hard life when a bicycle freak can't get with his bicycles, but after that great ride in the hills yesterday I now feel refocillated and ready to ride and write once more. So grab a coffee, sit back and get ready for one of my lengthy ones...

Despite the hypothimian tone of the first paragraph, it's by no means been all bad. Christmas was awesome, surrounded by family, friends and generous bounty, and the break was (on the whole) most relaxing as we took advantage of the (mainly) fantastic weather.

Like every other poor sap in the western world I had a chaotic pre-Christmas rush, but eventually I felt able to shut the shop up and partake of some Yuletide spirit, instead of just paying for it. The Revolution Bicycles Christmas ride and drinks were an evening I looked forward to greatly to cap off the working year, so when the night came around I loaded the bike on the car and headed up to Northland.

However, by the time I got there the weather had deteriorated so badly I decided, as I'm not 100% at the moment (except a 100% non-Rule 5 foul weather piker, that is...), that I'd rather not ride, especially at the sort of pace the others would be wanting to go, and in the kind of technical terrain they'd be hitting in the rain. I didn't want to be an anchor on a joyous occasion, so myself and a couple of other lads with good excuses opted instead for holding down the fort in the shop, eating a couple of Mike's cool gingerbread mushrooms and washing them down with some fine ales.

The pre-ride gathering was most convivial as the usual suspects convened...

...and before long, heartened by Dutch (Belgian?) courage, they set off into the cold, wet gloom.

We three leftover larrikins had only managed to alienate a few potential customers with our drunk and debauched behaviour before I got a phonecall from Tor saying that poor John had had a crash and could I rescue him. I'll let John tell the rest of the sorry tale on his fine blog, but I'm very glad to say the injuries seem to have repaired now and he seems none the worse for his off-piste excursion.

While John was repairing I was delighted to have him hang out for a day in the workshop as I built up his new Turner Flux. I've never in all my years built up a bike entirely from scratch with the future owner present, but I'm very glad it was him that broke my cherry. We had a great and long overdue catch up and generally shot the breeze as I built wheels...

...and applied various fruity parts to this cool frameset.

I think it turnered out great, and apparently John's riding has been transformed by what is his first real trail bike! His strength is now matched by a machine that can handle the technical terrain that is modern mountainbiking.

As I've been unable to get on my bikes I've been doing heaps of walking in the hills, taking Bodhi on various trails that I'd usually ride.

His big brothers were away with their Mum for the first three weeks of January, and Jacq was super-busy with summer school, so I got to spend heaps of time just him and me. Of course I miss the older boys when they are away (and we miss their baby-sitting skills at times!), but it's great fun hanging out just with Bo and he seems to relish the undivided father/son time also. Over the school holidays we have walked the Ngaio Gorge trails (not that I'd ride those!), chunks of Skyline, Cemetery Trail, Mt Albert, Mt Vic and one day we had a fun walk along Highbury Fling, up the Rollercoaster and back down Polhill to where we left the car on Ashton Fitchett Drive.

It's not all play though; the workshop has been cranking (see what I did there?) for several weeks now, and here are a few of the bits and pieces I've been doing while Bo hangs with his Mum.

Alex from Revolution asked me to build him a set of road tubeless wheels. He gave me a new Chris King front hub and his used Dura-Ace rear hub for me to build into some of the Stans NoTubes ZTR Alpha 340 rims using DT Revolution spokes.

Embarrassingly for me (and no doubt annoyingly for him!) I didn't quite nail the tension on the rear one first up and a couple of spokes came loose while he was racing. Even the very best wheelbuilders will have the occasional glitch (or two apparently!), but as far as I'm concerned nobody is perfect and it's how the problem is dealt with that defines the quality of the workman. In the immortal words of L.V. Martin, it's the putting right that counts. I've built thousands of wheels of all types over the years, and the bad ones are so rare I angst about them for months afterwards...

After learning from and putting right my mistake I was also able to use the time as a chance to tubeless up my first road wheel.

The week between Christmas and the New Year is always super relaxing in Wellington, as half the population have departed for flooded campgrounds around the country and the other half are recovering from their excesses. The place feels like a ghost town. The day after Boxing Day I left Bo and Jacq to their devices and escaped home for a quick CX ride. I was just marvelling at having the streets to myself when I was hailed by a cheery American voice - who should it be but my friend Cliff and his wife, in NZ on a couple of weeks holiday. Cliff was the first guy I ever built a pair of 29er wheels for back in 2007, and he told me that despite his best efforts over many hard miles the wheels had stayed stout and true until the hubs died several years later, which is good to recall in light of recent events. We had a good yarn and made a beer date for later in the week to continue the conversation, before he headed off to catch up with Colleen.

I headed through the park and onto the lovely Transient once more.

My more than usually pathetically enfeebled condition precludes me from hard physical labour so sadly track-building isn't really possible right now, but I always try to do my bit by clearing trails of deadfall, unblocking drains or clearing tracks of flailing frondage. This wind-blown gorse could take someones eye out, but not after I deal to it.

Despite my protestations of weakness I was psyched to get the CX bike up the steep path to Karepa St for the very first time without dabbing. It's hard enough for a 108kg near-cripple with granny gear 22x32 MTB gearing, let alone when I'm restricted to the 32x32 gearing on the Cove!

Up the road and into the leafy shadows of Hibro, being careful not to fall prey to the extreme dangers of the dappled light conditions.

Taking photos of myself one-handed while keeping the bike on the trail is becoming a bit of a trademark of mine, but it's too much to expect me to control my facials too.

After accidentally stumbling upon the strange and at times challenging loop around the top of the Zealandia Fenceline known as Predator I realised I'd used up my allotted ride time, so I headed back the way I'd come via a brief detour up and down the nascent trail that will eventually connect Transient to Hibro. We often take the work of track-builders for granted, but the hard work that goes into a trail is clearly evident when you see it go from fully formed to partially to barely. This is going be an amazing trail when the hard working troops are done, and I for one am very grateful to the unsung legends that work so hard on behalf of Wellington's burgeoning MTB population.

Then it was back home again still marvelling at the near-empty streets of the city...cycling in Welli would be much more pleasant if only this was the permanent state of traffic flow.

I should mention that this was my first ride on proper tyres - after riding for months on some cheap but cheerful hybrid 38mm Venice Beach tyres I had got finally myself some 32mm Kenda Small Block 8s. They aren't as wide or comfortable as the old tyres, but man they grip! Cornering and steep dusty climbing has become much less sketchy, increasing dramatically the fun factor...

The stunning weather we had over the break cried out for some sun-tan lotion, dark glasses and a ride around the Bays. Island Bay was in fine form and, if I say so myself, my Bianchi wasn't looking too shabby either.

After a lovely loop I took some time to just sit in Oriental Bay and chill. Sometimes on a ride the stopping is as important as the going.

After what seemed like way too short a break I headed back to work, protesting the whole way. Luckily I was able to ease back into things by enjoying some soothing music on my gramophone...

...and by getting on with some fun work such as fettling Daryl's spanking new Kuota K-Factor in time for him to do the Challenge Wanaka. (Apologies for the stupid phone pic!)

I gave Bill's Dos Niner that I built late last year a post-shakedown free service, as I like to do with any bike I build up. Here it is set up in Brevet mode, ready for the Waitangi weekend Te Tāwhio O Whanganui dreamed up by John Randal after his incredible Kiwi Brevet experience early last year. I wish Bill, John and all the other entrants to this cool event the best of luck.

Also fun, and right up my vicolo, Barry got me to give his son Connor's lovely Colnago a change of cables and a full service.

Tom wanted his recently acquired early 90s Trek commuter bike de-TTed, and un-BioPaced...

So I used up some of my rapidly dwindling stocks of old crap and re-roadied it up, along with repacking bearings, replacing cables and generally getting it smoothly rolling. It turned out grouse, I reckon.

For my friend Joel I glued the last tubular I ever want to glue, but it no doubt won't be. This is going on the front of his TT rig.

After arduous workdays like that, the only cure is to hit the hills. Alex and I headed up Skyline for a blast in the afternoon heat.

I am known as a bit of a big-mouthed know-it-all on cycling website Vorb and, when I'm not pointlessly flaming or endlessly arguing, I will on occasion try to bore everyone with my cycling-related knowledge, especially when it might relate to old steel road bikes. Some time ago a guy online wanted some information on a Bosomworth frame he had obtained, and I was amazed to see it was one I knew well. It used to belong to my great friend and old boss from Cycle Services, Ian "Wheels" Gregson! I told Simon what I knew, and in return he sent me some lovely photos of this lovely old bike he has rebuilt with a selection of more modern components.

I've certainly stuck a few of these stickers on bikes over the years...good times.

I reckon it looks awesome!

And here's a cool scenic shot taken when Simon christened his lucky bike with an ascent of the famed and historic Passo dello Stelvio.

Speaking of Wheels, here's a quirky view of his own Bianchi taken by him in the secret Cycle Services workshop. A TSX-UL the same as mine, he has set it up with a Look adjustable stem I lent him to help him alleviate his bad back pain. It might not be Celeste but it's Bianchi-licious nonetheless...

This segues nicely into Greg's Bianchi 928, which was in for a tune-up. When he brought it in to the workshop he was kind enough to give me the lovely cap at the top of this post, and on collection donated some much appreciated liquid refreshments for when the day was done. Cheers Greg!

It might not be ferrous but it's still not a bad bit of Italian craftsmanship...

My friend Jayne gave me her Hillbrick track tandem to pack up for a trip to an ILT-based Paracycling track squad training camp, where she and her tandem partner Sonia Waddell just set a new NZ IP record - more details on this as they come to hand!

The unmistakeable quality of Paul Hillbrick's build is as evident on this custom aluminium tandem as it is on my own Hillbrick filet-brazed Columbus steel frame that is now stripped down while it waits patiently in the tragic event my Bianchi ever breaks...

Here's a BMC TT02 to hopefully be built up soon, once some important details are ironed out.

I had to give this Cannondale Bad Boy a check over.

My pal Dave got himself this wicked Ibis Tranny from local legends Bicycle, which he brought in for me to quickly tweak.

I love this custom Roadworks-branded splash guard, made for him by mutual friend Pete. I'd like to congratulate Pete and his wife Tilly on the recent arrival of their first child, Miklós. Welcome to the Peloton of Life, little man!

I first met Pete when he was Doctor for the NZ MTB Team I wrenched for at the 2006 Worlds in Rotorua, and we became firm friends instantly. Pete tended not only for the athletes but the hard-working staff of what was the largest ever NZ cycling team, and his generous and easy nature was vital to the Team's efforts and to mine. He was a great support to everyone during what was quite a stressful week, and I consider myself truly fortunate that he's continued to be there for me ever since.

Among many other NZ Representative medical support roles he was the Doctor for the Kiwi cycling team for the Beijing Olympics, after which he kindly donated one of his cool Team shirts which I proudly display on my Wall of Fame.

Even his coffee grinder is loyal to the brand!

Talking of the Rotorua MTB Worlds, I recently rediscovered this cool shot of most of the Wellington contingent. From left: Declan Cox, some guy, Tim Wilding, Wayne Hiscock, Paul Larkin and Robyn Wong...

This brings me to say that for the first time since my awesome Wholly Bagels experience on the 2006 Wellington Women's Tour and UCI World Cup I won't be doing any race mechanic work this year. I've worked every Women's Tour of New Zealand since 2006 for the NZ National Team or Jazz Apples and missing the 2011 race will be very sad indeed...

The deleterious effects of my hernia makes lifting bikes and boxes and leaping in and out of cars all but impossible, and the thought of an entirely possible sudden worsening of my condition when on tour fills me with alarm. I have always strived to be at my absolute best when representing my country or a Team on a race so, despite some great offers for work in a variety of upcoming events, I've decided that an ill mechanic is just a passenger and I should step aside until I'm fighting fit and ready to fully and professionally contribute once more. As anyone who has ever read my race reports will know, I have always passionately loved this type of work and I look forward desperately to my return...

That brings this pleniloquacity to a slightly depressing finale but, fear not dear reader(s), I'm not done yet! Every sunset is followed by a sunrise, and I'm fairly used by now to readjusting my targets. The positives are that I will have an operation, Jacq is straight-A in her nursing studies, there's still plenty of time for me to travel the world fixing bicycles, and yesterday I rode my bike.

Ride on, Oli