Saturday, March 29, 2008

Riding the Shell Banks

My first proper ride today since getting food poisoning. I expected to have no strength in my legs after 8 days of not riding but I felt fine. I took a detour off the normal Saturday morning amble and rode to one of my old stamping grounds as a kid. We used to play for hours on the shell banks in Little Shoal Bay and it was like going back in time riding along there again. I don't know what conditions cause it, but in this inner harbour bay there is a long breakwater of shells about 100 metres offshore. There is mud, and there are shells, and there is nothing in-between. No sand to be seen. It is much firmer than sand and you can even ride off-camber on the slopes without slipping, but you don't want to come off - this stuff cuts you to shreds.

Little Shoal Bay

Between the shell banks and the shore are mangrove swamps. As children we called these "the muddies" and had a lot of fun chasing fish and torturing innocent crabs. We would come home covered from head to toe in the sticky black mud with cuts all over our legs.

A very different surface to sand


Today I just cruised along, happy to be out on the bike again and listened to the shells crunching below my tyres. It was magic.

Saw this on the way home - Laughed out loud

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The price of living in a small country

The rear brake on the pug had lost all power and I couldn't even lock-up the back wheel on gravel. Not really a problem as the back brake doesn't get used much anyway, but I wanted this bike in tip top shape for my upcoming race so I decided to get it fixed. 

The lever travel was good and it didn't feel spongy, so I cleaned the rotor and sanded the pads' surfaces in case they had got contaminated somehow. Still no power. Time to talk to the guys at Bikesmith - my new LBS. 

Well you learn something new every day. This is my first bike with discs and I was informed the pads were probably contaminated and the oil soaks in, so you can't just clean-up the top surface. Clark said I could try burning it off with a flame (and I might still try that as an experiment) but I stumped up for a new set of pads and bought a Camelbak for the race while I was there.

Now the pain started. $32 US Dollars for something I can buy in the USA online for $14.95 at Speedgoat (and I'm sure you could buy cheaper). I don't begrudge the bike shop their profit. These guys have got families to feed and are not driving around in Bentleys. They shift a lot less product than the American shops would and are probably marking consumables like this up 100%. That's OK, they gotta make a buck somehow, but someone else in the chain is getting greedy. 
People tell me "it's the transport costs, New Zealand is a long way away from anywhere". If that's the case how come I can buy a Chinese made sofa for $199 or a dining room table and six chairs for $99? You could fit a lot of brake pads in a furniture container.

Rant over... I can stop on a dime now, or at least a half dollar.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Training Nosedive

One month to go to the New Zealand Singlespeed champs and I've spent the last five days sitting on the toilet.


I started the Easter long weekend feeling like the bike on the left and now I feel like the little one on the right. Five kilograms (11lbs) lost in the first three days and I was skinny to start with.

This Easter weekend was supposed to include two three hour rides and a trip to the forest. I am never going to fit enough for this thing if I get sick again. 

My new goal for the race is just to finish it riding the bike and not walking beside it. I had been aiming to not finish last ;-)

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Fat Chance of finishing

Not a lot of riding done this past week. I had a two hour ride last Sunday and that put my ankle out of action for the next two days. I'm trying to get fit for the New Zealand Singlespeed Champs and need to do longer rides, but despite icing it straight afterwards, it was very tender. I'll just have to manage it the best I can. The main problem is it still hurts taking my weight going over bumps, and that's not ideal for mountainbiking.

As I mentioned in an earlier post I have conned one of my friends into entering the race with me. Murray came over on Sunday morning so we could convert his Fat Chance to a singlespeed. In preparation I stayed up half the night at our annual street party drinking (and judging) home made limoncello. Why can't my neighbours brew beer like normal people instead of highly potent liqueurs that taste like icecream toppings? After a handful of headache pills, a vitamin B drink and two strong coffees I was raring to stand up. Things didn't improve much for the rest of the day.

Fat Chance "Wicked"

The conversion went well, all things considered. When I was able to focus, things looked pretty good! I had a Surly Singleator chain tensioner, a newish Sram 8-speed chain, single (steel) chainring bolts, cassette spacers and a selection of Shimano BMX sprockets sitting in my toolbox from the days when my commuter bike was a singlespeed. Muzza is going to restore this classic bike at some time in the future so it a temporary job with my parts for now, unless the singlespeed bug bites him like it has me.

Surly Singleator at work

Afterwards we went for a quick ride through the local park to try things out. Muz has always been a faster and fitter rider than I, so It was fun watching him suffer on the hills even though his bike must be at least ten pounds lighter than mine! Things will be different in the race I'm sure, but you enjoy these moments while you can.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

I am not a morning person!

Early morning is a great time for a bike ride. I work until 10pm, and by the time I ride home, cool down and floss the cat, it's usually well after midnight before I go to bed. This is not conducive to getting up early, but my eldest son has swim training at 8am on Satudays, so we are up and out the door by 7.30 after a quick breakfast.

I'm not the kind to sit around reading the morning paper as the other parents do, so I put the pugsley on the back of the car the night before and get in an hours riding while he's doing laps. It's a shame he doesn't swim for two hours, as I really enjoy this ride, even half asleep. There is little traffic around and it's a bit cooler at this time of the day.

The boat ramp at Takapuna Beach

The other end of Takapuna Beach

This weekend I rode to Devonport. It's a lovely old town on the water, just across the harbour from downtown Auckland. A bit of a tourist trap these days, but it still has a certain charm. The Maori landed there in about 1350AD on their first migration and it's one of New Zealands oldest european settlements too.

Looking toward downtown Auckland from the summit of Mt Victoria

The best part about riding in Devonport (if you like hill climbing), is it has two volcanoes! Mt Victoria and North Head. We call them mountains, but they are only hills really. Hard work riding up on the Pugsley, but you would fly up on a light road bike.
I normally ride up the sealed road, catch my breath and ride back down on the narrow walking trails. Great fun!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

New Zealand Singlespeed Championship

I have entered. What an idiot! 42 years old, no fitness and a 36 pound snow bike. At least other people will get a laugh out of it. I see nothing but pain...

I have 7 weeks to get fit enough to finish, which isn't going to be easy with my busted ankle. The recovery from the reconstruction is taking a long time and I am really only riding with one and a half legs at the moment.

None of my friends ride singlespeeds but I have conned one of them into converting his lovely classic Fat Chance with my spare parts for the event. I wanted some company and someone to share travel and accommodation expenses with. Thanks Murray.

Monday, March 3, 2008

The School Run

A couple of days a week when I'm not working, Carla and I ride up to school with the boys in the morning and again in the afternoon to meet them for the return trip. They are still a bit young to ride unsupervised and the standard of driving in New Zealand is pretty bad. 

When the morning ride just doesn't happen for some reason or another, we make more of an effort to get up there in the afternoon for the return trip. I take the scooters along as it's just about all downhill on the way home.

Carla loaded up and ready to go.

We're having such a great summer here, I'm keen to get out of the house and ride whenever I can. I bought a second hand child's seat for Carla, but found it hard to get her in and out whilst holding the bike upright. I also didn't like the top heavy feeling you get with your centre of gravity so much higher. The trailer is much better. Lots of room to carry stuff and you don't even notice it on the back. The best $150 I ever spent.

Waiting for the 3pm bell to ring.

The trailer gets lots of attention. They are not common in New Zealand at all. Children just love it, and everyone says hello to Carla as we're riding around school.

Just passing the tennis courts.

We are very lucky to live so close to Centennial Park and most of the trip home is through here. There are still cars about, but they are few and far between and are traveling a lot slower than out on the road. 

This trip takes us 15 minutes to school and only 10 minutes downhill on the return trip. You would not believe how many mothers live in the same area and drive their big SUVs to school instead of a 15 minute stroll through the forest. They leave half an hour early to get a parking spot and sit there reading a book or listening to the radio. The really bizarre thing is I see some of these same mums out running when they get home! Where's the sense in that?

Race ya!

Hang on Teddy.

I just got these Keen sandals (shoes?) for my birthday and they are fantastic. They are kind of a cross between a sandal and an off-road running shoe. Perfect for bike riding in summer. I have munted my toes too many times in clumsy bike incidents and it's put me off cycling in sandals for life. These are going to be great for a clumsy person like me.