Saturday, May 26, 2012

An Ill Wind...

...They say an ill wind blows no good, but the Shamal wasn't blowing on the day when I took my 1997 Bianchi TSX-UL out for a roll on my newly installed wheels.

In a display of amazing generosity my friend Jamie has recently laid these beautiful tubular wheels upon me, in return only for the twin promises of some reciprocal wheels at some point in the future, and for me to actually ride these beautiful satin and polished hoopular constructs, not just display them to collect dust. 

Initially I intended to grab myself some lovely new Veloflex tubs to glue on, but times are tight and it waits for no man, so some cool old period Vittoria tyres I had lying around got dusted off and glued on instead to get me out on the road. At last this classic old bike is as she should have been built back in the 90s, and I took her out on a gorgeous autumn day to capture her in a couple of scenic photos here and there.

As I took her up to speed on the fast run down through Island Bay the wheels fair hummed along, sounding almost carbon-esque in their resonance. The ride of this lovely old bike was transformed from great to awesome with the addition of these super-stiff race wheels from a bygone era.

Moa Point, where I essay badly to silhouette the Flite saddle against the blue expanses of the Cook Strait.

The ITM Krystal titanium stem and Super Italia Pro-2 handlebars are classics, although the pros mainly rode the nearly identical steel Columbus Max Eclypse stems for their noticeably increased stiffness.

The satin-finish aluminium Record cranks are among the prettiest ever made, in my not very humble opinion. The Chorus Pro-Fit pedals were a 21st century special order from Vincenza to achieve compatibility with my other Campag machine. Note also the matching period bidon, clutched in a colour-coded Elite Ciussi cage.

Between the steel forks and the Shamals, the ride can only be described as harsh. But I certainly do like a bit of road feel...I hate to think how this sort of set up must have felt to the racing sardines of the peloton!

Scorching Bay, and the saddle silhouette is all but achieved.

Surprisingly, the surly fucker on the hand-cycle who has been ignoring my cheery greetings for years said, "Nice bike!" as I passed him.

Random accidental photo of my Pantani replica glove as I dismount... take this arty shot of the city framed by the frame. Saddle shot nailed and, yes, that's a Record titanium seat post you're ogling too.

I do so love these roads I've been riding for 35 years.

Forcella Originale!

I have a very tidy back end.

Oriental Bay.

I casually paraded through town, fending off the amorous advances of all the mad Bianchi fans before stopping to rest outside the Parliamentary Library.

On the steps of the Parliamentary Library with Parliament and The Beehive behind.

Close up of the head tube and the lovely polished front brake caliper.

Similar view, but acceding to the clamour of those who couldn't see the 1992 Record Ergolevers.

I took a detour through some dirty back roads.

The iconic Wellington Cable Car makes its way down from the Kelburn to the City. Nice to look out over Kelburn Park and the City beyond to see some of the route around the Bays I had just taken.

Of course Kelburn is just a quick spin of the Shamals away from Northland and the fabulous Revolution Bicycles, along with the mandatory delicious coffee brewed by my good friend and Revolution Grand Poobah Jonty Ritchie.

No photos of the speed-limit breaking drop back to sea level, but I wasn't going to let the ride pass without a photo from one of my favourite spots on the fabled Waterfront.

Home again after a great fun ride on a bike that is theoretically way out of date, yet still possesses a delightful ride that stands up well against anything modern I've ever ridden. The wheels add so much character and honestly make it feel as much like a modern race bike as a 22lb machine ever could.

As the wheels are set up with the original 8 speed freehub spline I simply replaced the spacers with 9 speed ones and added a washer under the 26t and presto, 9 speed compatible!

Another view of the Krystal stem, along with the Record headset.

Bianchi and Campagnolo go together like, er, Bianchi and Shamal wheels.

Hope you enjoyed the first of what I hope are many great rides on this superb Shamal-shod steed. Say that ten times fast...

Thanks for reading, Oli

Monday, May 14, 2012

Interregnum Ho!

Hey, whut? Two blogs in three days? Something must be badly out of whack! Well, it's because I'm grumpily sitting here in limbo unable to work, pack or move as builders and plumbers come and go replacing our cracked bath. The plumbing requires access to my new space so I can't move my gear in, and I've actually had to move the stuff I had already moved back out while the builders do their thing! In these somewhat unexpected circumstances, and because I'm trapped at home "supervising" the work, I thought I'd make use of the thumb-twiddling time between brewing the lads cups of tea to finally get back up to date with a bunch of photos of a couple of rides I've done, along with showing off some other little bits and pieces...

I'll begin with a Friday morning ride in a southerly buster. As all you Flamands will know, there's no such thing as bad weather, only bad choices of clothing. I layered up and headed out into the teeth of the gale, warmed by my Defeet base layer and the smug sense of self-satisfaction riding in such conditions engenders. Naturally, ten minutes after I set out the sun started to force it's way out from behind the scudding clouds.

 But regardless I was dressed for bear.

And the Hillbrick is happy rain or shine. In this case, shine.

The following Sunday Wellington awoke to clear blue skies, and with the previous week's stiff southerly dying out as the day progressed. After celebrating Step-Mothers Day in the morning with Jacq and her Three Sons, I received their blessings to slip out for a nice leisurely ride. I set out a bit aimlessly once again, but definitely yearning for the hills. I raced traffic through town, then headed up Glenmore Street thinking I'd perhaps do a few loops of K-Town and Northland...

I took a quick detour after the Karori Tunnel to have yet another look at a house my late Dad designed for some friends back in the '70s. I've seen it come onto the market a few times and seriously wished I had the resources to buy it - it would be pretty cool to live in one of the homes he architected, although the close proximity of the pylon is perhaps a bit of a worry...

The old Pump House on the Karori Dam at Zealandia.

I headed up Birdwood Street...

...and Messines Road...

...before rolling down into K-Town and up Makara Hill Road, with the intent of turning around at the top to head back the same way. Fat chance. Once I'd made it up as far as the summit the descent into Makara Village proved too much of a temptation - I'd worry about the climb out later!

I don't mean to sound big-headed - as if! - but a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away there was a time when among my circle of hard-riding compadres I totally owned this downhill, and it was nice to get a wee taste of those halcyon days again. I was about 40 seconds slower than my quickest time, but that's still plenty quick enough I reckon, and I was bloody carving.

Now I was down in the valley it seemed a shame not to head down towards Makara Beach...

It's been a long time since I've felt up to riding this great loop, which seems a bit ridiculous when it's really only a couple of hours riding, albeit fairly hilly ones. Shows how ill I must have been and how low my confidence had got.

Random self-pic #658, somehow managing to completely miss my facial region.

Hit the Beach.

One of my expertly stitched panoramas. The sea was calm and the sun shone, but the air was cold in the Bay.

Not wanting to get a chill, I turned straight around and headed back up the road.

Ah, bucolia always opens one up to reflection.

Still not really sure of my direction, I instinctively veered left at the intersection with the main road and headed north(ish) up towards the Takarau Gorge. Most of the hills you can see here used to be dense with pines until recent logging, making the feel of the Gorge totally different from in my youth when we used to race Paris-Roubaix over the damp and shaded unsealed roads.

The Gorge climbs gently towards Ohariu Valley along a meandering stream that has, on occasion, turned into a raging torrent that has washed away big chunks of the road...

The tight twists of this Secteur can be dicey if a car full of hoons comes barreling towards you, but today there was nary a car on the road to rouse me from my reveries.

Once clear of the Gorge itself the vistas open out. Across the rolling paddocks that is Mt Kaukau in the distance with the radio mast on the summit.

We're so lucky to have such peaceful country roads only minutes away from the CBD - they truly are sheer bliss to ride.

One of the many old primes we regularly used to fight tooth and nail for back in the day...

...which is followed immediately by a quick little descent that was often the catalyst for a break to slip off the front.

Just before you drop into the Takarau Gorge/Rifle Range Road intersection and Ohariu Valley proper.

And heading out of Ohariu Valley...

Climbing felt great all day today...

...which makes for an even more enjoyable experience, I think you'll agree.

The shadows grow so long so fast, these days.

Before heading back into town I stopped for the quick gel that it turned out I didn't actually have with me.

I recall when there wasn't a suburb here at all. The inexorable march of progress, I guess.

After wondering whether or not to head along through Khandallah and down Ngaio Gorge, in the end I opted to zip down Ngauranga instead...

...and relish the speed rush that fast and wide descent entails. Obviously taking photos slowed me at the start, but an aero-ish tuck and 100-odd kilograms made for a swift drop down to sea level once I'd stuffed my camera back in my jersey pocket - I didn't have a speedo, but I was passing some cars and holding the pace of the rest so I estimate I was hitting at least 90kph without any problem, and without feeling any of the fear I wondered if  I might experience these days.

After such an adrenalin shot it was nice to hop up on the footpath and chill out along SH2 back into town.

I ambled along the Waterfront to feel the ambience on this gorgeous autumn eve, before heading home to complete what had been one of the best soul rides I've had in years.

The following day was Monday (funny that!), and I had an appointment in Petone to meet up with a fellow Velominati for a coffee. Along with some other likely lads, Bianchi Denti had recently been over to Belgium with Velominati founders Frank, Marko and Brett on an organised "Keepers Tour" to ride the courses of Paris-Roubaix and Ronde van Vlaanderen, among many other cool activities I and many others jealously observed from afar. Little did I know as I read their great reports of the trip that these thoughtful gents would have graciously taken the trouble to grab a very cool souvenir for a curmudgeonly old Welli bike mechanic. I'm super grateful they did, as I've been a big fan of 1996 World Champion Johan Museuuw for a long time.

Here then is the prized souvenir, the signature of the Lion of Flanders on a Lion of Flanders flag, as well as a couple of cool Malteni beer coasters...Cheers, Richard and Keepers!

It was actually a hell of a week for souvenirs. Just a couple of days later I received a manila envelope in the mail that contained the one signature I don't have and that I've most coveted ever since the rider involved grabbed my attention in the dry pages of Velo-News as a brash amateur winning the Settimana Bergamasca back in 1991. This young tyro would go on to become a Tour de France stage winner on debut in 1993, World Champion in Oslo later that same year, and eventually a record-smashing seven-time Tour de France winner. I'm talking about the great Lance Armstrong, of course. These days he is a controversial figure, but as an unashamed fan my admiration for his feats hasn't dimmed and getting his autograph is a huge deal to me. I was awestruck, amazed and astounded to be given this rare memento, and I'm very grateful to my new friend Mike for sending it to me. Also, I'd like send much respect and aroha to my mate Graeme who facilitated the initial contact. Cheers to both of you!

The photo is from the finish of Stage 17 of the 2004 Tour, as Lance wins from Andreas Kloden into Le Grand Bernand. The video of this thrilling stage finish is well worth watching -

While I'm on hiatus, I still had to deal with a couple of tasks I'd committed to prior to needing to shift. Luckily, building wheels is a job I can do at home in front of the telly in a pinch.

First off was this sturdy cyclo-cross wheel for Jonty - a Velocity A23 rim laced to a Shimano 105 freehub is the go as he gives the growing season of CX races a nudge. My friends Owen and Andy have set up a new HotCX series (in association with iRIDE) to augment and lead into Mike Anderson's excellent and ground-breaking Bike Hutt series that has run for the last few years. If you're not planning to race any of them, I heartily recommend making the effort to spectate one or more of these races, as they are super crowd friendly and a total hoot to watch!

Secondly, I built my main man John a wicked pair of Hope/Arch EX wheels for his new Yeti Big Top, of which much more will come at a later date. Choice.

I'd like to offer my hearty congratulations to Roadworks rider Joel Healy, who earned himself a fine bronze medal in the M1 Time Trial for PNP at the Club National Championships last weekend. Great stuff, bro!

(Photo brazenly stolen from Brian Bushe: L-R Karl Murray 2nd, Mike Henton 1st and Joel Healy 3rd)

Lastly, please don't forget to hit John up (siftyjohn[a] for some sharp looking Roadworks kit, as modelled here by the estimable WO Larkin, Esquire. Email now, we have operators standing by!

Until next time, thanks for reading. Cheers, Oli