Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Adventure Ends

It's been two years since I started this blog and I'm throwing in the towel.

Some of the things I set-out to do have been achieved; 
  • I've overcome my writing-shyness and now feel comfortable talking in a one-way conversation to perfect strangers.
  • I've shown-off some of the places I ride and the city I love to people around the world. 
  • I've met some nice genuine people online with common interests. 
  • It's ended up as a bit of a diary of my cycling life and is interesting (to me at least) to look back on and see what I got up to.
But I've failed in other ways;
  • My writing hasn't improved, and that was one of my main objectives.
  • I've fallen into the trap of feeling a bit full of myself at times and trying to make my life sound more interesting than it really is. There's a certain amount of ego involved in writing a "solo" blog and I'm not entirely comfortable with that. 
  • My wife resents the time I spend on it and friends and work colleagues just think I'm stupid.
  • Hardly anyone reads it and fewer comment.
Although I plan to spend less time in front of the computer I'm starting a community cycling blog for my neighborhood. There is nothing out there for everyday cyclists, it's all about road racing, mountainbiking and BMX. Of course I may be the only one interested in nurturing bike culture around here, we will see.


Thank you to everyone who has stopped by and left a comment or two, I really appreciated it. I will not be deleting the blog and if I do something interesting worth sharing there may be a post or two in the future.

And lastly a big thank you to Doug for encouraging me to start this blog in the first place and leaving the first comment. His cycle commuting has been an inspiration and taken me from a once a week "toe in the water" to riding every day without even thinking of taking the car. 

Keep the rubber-side down,
- Antoine

Friday, January 15, 2010

America's Next Top Biggest Loser

I've always been curious what the Pugsley weighed but have been a little shy to ask down at the the bike-shop to use their scales. I mean, it's like a public weigh-in for the poor girl and she's always going to be the heaviest one in the room. 

I managed to jury-rig something on the bike-rack with some bathroom scales, a kitchen chopping board, a towel and some duct-tape (much to my wife's amusement) and was pleasantly surprised with the fat girl's results. She's a positively svelte 34.4lbs (15.6kg). 

Getting ready to catch Mum's scales when everything collapses

I've spent the last four years telling everyone she was 36lbs, a total guess from figures I had seen on the internet. Apart from the Syntace stem and magnesium pedals there are no lightweight parts on there, it was specced for strength and longevity after all. With a normal seatpost and some 29er tubes I could get her down to 34lbs, but I like her just the way she is. "Warmth in winter, shade in summer" as my father used to say.

All I've had to replace in four years is a couple of sets of brakepads and a chain. A very reliable bike!

I ride singlespeeds cause they're lighter

As I had the Cross-Check all set-up with knobblies and a suspension seatpost for mountainbiking tomorrow, a shakedown for the upcoming DUAL, I chucked that up on the scales too and got 26.4lbs (12kg). 

I'm pretty happy with that weight. She's built strong with 36-spoke wheels, MTB hubs and wearing a Thudbuster seatpost that weighs half a kilo on it's own. As I've been jumping steps and bunnyhopping ditches of late I'm happy with those build decisions. Tough components for trail-riding and loaded-touring was the idea.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Pootas, Platforms, Poo and Pā's

A few little firsts on today's ride;

1. I scored a Cateye computer when I bought my eldest a new mountainbike just before Christmas. I want him concentrating on the tree he's going to hit, not looking at his terminal velocity as he's doing it. With a 50km race coming up I'm curious how many miles I'm riding so I put it on the Cross-Check in the interim. It might stay on there for good but I find pootas a bit distracting and am not usually fussed how fast or how far I'm going. On its debut I discovered that I ride very slowly and not very far!

2. I like the Eggbeater clipless pedals I got for this bike but the thin hard soles of my cycling shoes and the amount I'm riding in them is aggravating my trashed ankle. A fixed position on the pedal and lots of impacts with no cushioning is not ideal when you have no cartilage and a couple of snapped ligaments. It's also a pain having to wear bike-specific shoes when I ride to work so I've put on BMX platforms from The Nasty Evil Bike (MTB commuter) to see how they go in day to day use. 

Since changing over to platform pedals on the Pugsley I've loved just hopping on and riding with whatever footwear I happen to have on at the time. I think I'll save my clipless pedals for racing or long rides until I get some more forgiving cycling shoes. 

3. The Cross-Check got its first application of dog-shit and consequently it's first wash. What is it with these people? I like dogs but come on, clean up after your pets guys. The next dog owner I see breaking the law I'm going to follow home and drop a big steamer on their front lawn and see how they like it. It's only right!

4. I took this bike for it's maiden ride along the cliff path between Kennedy Park and Castor Bay not far from my home. It's only a few hundred metres long but the views of the harbour are outstanding and hardly anyone knows the path is even there. The point overlooking the bay at the southern end of it was a former Maori pā (fortification). There's not much evidence of that now, just a few pits and mounds, but the local council have constructed a cheesy-looking imitation of the wooden defenses that would have been there and used them as fences on the cliff edge. There's a photo of some of that below with what must be the most basic carving I have ever encountered. Still, they gave it a try.

I was disappointed to find that the rough gravel road down to the beach at the end has been concreted over, I used to enjoy sliding down there.

5. I'm getting more confident riding technical sections on this bike. The bit I struggled with is when you're in the drops riding downhill, it's steep and you're braking, but you have to loft the front wheel to clear a ditch or log for instance. Wheelying in the drops with your bum sticking up in the air was not coming naturally but with a combination of brute strength, more speed and half-hearted bravery I managed to clean an entire trail that's had me hopping off the bike a couple of times in the past. With the Pugsley I just bomb over everything. This one takes a little more planning and finesse.

Bumpy grass downhill at Kennedy Park

I have to shoulder the bike over this section. Needless to say I don't ride the Pugsley along here very often.

High on the cliffs above Castor Bay overlooking Rangitoto

Freshly hosed-off with no trace of poo

First BOOTY action of 2010

Baguette Obtainer Of The Year [ B.O.O.T.Y ]

I'll let the pictures tell the story but if there's one thing that draws more attention than riding a fatbike around the neighbourhood or towing a scooter behind your trailer it's a double-barreled-baguette-holster hanging off the back of your bike.

I've simplified the design from last year's model. Less duct-tape and a simple twin-bungee attachment to the rack. Still need to trim a foot or two off the tubes as they don't make baguettes like they used to and I have to do a wheelie to get them out.

Cars give you a wider berth when your bike is 10ft long

Milford Marina in the background. Scungy but always looks pretty in photos.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Finding Dirt in the Big City

[dirt] road bike - Centennial Park, Campbells Bay

The last few days I've been riding the Cross-Check with knobblies fitted to determine if it's capable of finishing The DUAL. Well I know it's capable, more to the point is can whether I can ride a rigid cyclocross bike with drop-bars and relatively skinny tyres off-road for 50km.  

With this in mind I've been searching-out every piece of ridable dirt, gravel and grass as I ramble around the North Shore of Auckland.  

It's amazing how much is out there when you look for it. Not a lot of technical singletrack but loads of gravel paths and grass for Africa. 

So far, so good. After a handful of two hour rides I'm getting a little stiffness in my neck and wrists but no other aches or pains to speak of. I think my hands are slowly getting accustomed to the different angles of a drop handlebar.

I took these pictures of some of the varied riding surfaces I found in suburbia. Most of them are taken no more than 20 or 30 metres from a main-road or housing but you could be in the middle of nowhere. 

Pupuke Golf Course

Rosedale Road Wetland, Albany

Long Bay Reserve

Dropping down to Long Bay on the cliff pathway

Monday, January 4, 2010

My local loop - The missing photos

The holiday period has seen me on my bike a lot more than usual. With my wife not working I've been able to duck out for a few hours here and there and start to get my legs in shape for the The DUAL at the end of march. 

Today when doing my usual loop I took the camera to capture some of the places I missed when my battery died on the last ride of 2009

I only rode for two and a half hours today but got quite a work-out as the rolling resistance on those knobbly Panaracers is something else on the tarmac. They make a thrumming sound like a 4WD tyre on the road and it actually feels like you're riding with your brakes rubbing. Once you venture off-road they roll fine and provide a welcome bit of cush through the bars.

Overlooking Pupuke Golf Course. My house is about 1.5 kms past those trees and probably 200m closer to sea-level. I never ride on the fairways during the day, only late at night when I'm coming home from work. It is public land and you are entitled to use it, but I don't fancy collecting a golf-ball in the side of the head.

My old high-school, Takapuna Grammar. It's an impressive looking building and despite the name is a public school for everyday people. Funny how in England they call "private" schools "public", I've never understood that one. 

My mother died in the Mount Erebus crash the first year I was there so it doesn't hold many happy memories for me. Wagging school to smoke dope and make home-brew under my friend's house was probably the highlight.

Narrow Neck Beach. My parents briefly ran the dairy (milk-bar) here in the 1950s.

Fort Takapuna. This wonderful old command-centre is built below ground level for protection from naval artillery. There are several gun emplacements on the cliff edge in the distance. Most of these european fortifications like North Head and Mount Victoria were also Maori ones in the centuries beforehand.

Cheltenham Beach. Nice town-houses, but with your front door about a metre above the high-tide line I'd be looking for alternative accommodation when the next Tsunami hits.

Cheltenham Beach again viewed from halfway up North Head. Half an hour from low tide. View large and you can see the previous town-houses at the end of the beach.

One of the smoother tracks on North Head. Great riding but you have to watch out for walkers.

The last remaining "disappearing gun" on North Head. Most of the artillery was melted down for scrap. There are lots of tunnels connected to this that you can explore. As a teenager we would wait in the darkness for mothers with young children to walk in from the sunlight and then blast them mercilessly with our pea-shooters before their eyes adjusted. Screaming kids would run in all directions and the mothers would often cower in fear or start crying. There is nothing as ruthless or cruel as thirteen year old boys!

Downtown Auckland in the distance across the harbour.

The Devonport Naval Base.

Victoria Road, Devonport's main street, with Mount Victoria in the background. We spent our wedding night in that hotel on the corner. It apparently overlooks Devonport wharf and the harbour but I don't remember the view. 

I just love Devonport to bits. The yuppies are slowly taking over as property prices are sky-high, but it is still very charming and holds a lot of appeal. 

I rode a considerable amount of grass today and sections of sand, shell, gravel and dirt. The bike was very comfortable and sure-footed. I wouldn't say no to a lightweight road-bike but this kind of all-rounder is so versatile and immense fun. I love the fact that I can jump a curb or ride down a flight of stairs if it takes my fancy. That's the mountainbiker in me talking. Just as well I built this thing with 36-spoke wheels ;^)

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The DUAL 2010 - Pain to follow...

Despite a distinct lack of post-christmas funds I have gone and entered The DUAL for it's second running. At NZD$145 it's a bit of a rip-off but the organizers have to shuttle several hundred bikes and a couple of thousand competitors across to an island in the middle of the gulf, so it is a logistical nightmare. 

Supposedly some of the profit goes to the Motutapu Restoration Trust which is a very good cause after all. Motutapu means "Sacred Island" in maori and it's a special place with lots of maori and european history. It's also unique in that it's joined by a natural causeway to a young volcano and they both have quite different personalities.

I'm doing the 50km race again but they've added a 30km event this year for casual riders. The terrain is very hilly and you spend the second half of the race climbing in and out of valleys on farm-land. Very energy-sapping as a lot of this is on grass, not a trail as such.

For this reason I plan on taking the Cross-Check. I'll be much slower on the down-hills and will get beaten-up on the skinny tyres but can make up a lot of time if I can ride the whole course. A 36lb singlespeed fatbike was not the best option for the constant climbing involved last year. Most of the riders around me on much lighter geared bikes were walking the steep sections as well, but I reckon with a bit of training they are doable and I won't be stopping to take photographs this time! 

With this in mind I threw the knobblies on the Cross-Check yesterday to get a feel for riding it on rough terrain. My main concern is whether my hands and wrists can take 3-4hrs in the drops at speed. It felt decidedly more plush riding a 45mm tyre @50psi than the usual 35mm/70psi combo. Only time will tell on this one. 




My DUAL nemesis across the waters. Motutapu on the left and Rangitoto on the right. I can see that damn volcano from just about everywhere I ride!

I'm loving these Paul brakes but the Fire-Cross tyres are painfully slow on tarmac. Practical for off-road only.

Friday, January 1, 2010

2010 Singlespeed World Champs

WooHooooooooooo... I got an entry!

To be held a few hours down the road in beautiful, stinky Rotorua, or Rotovegas as we Kiwis call it. I raced the inaugural NZ Singlespeed Champs there on the Pugsley and had a great time. The trails are world-class and Rotorua is a very unique place.

One of the few sports that you can be crap at and still race in the world championships!

Last ride of 2009

I've been really enjoying riding the Cross-Check recently, even more so since I tweaked my cockpit. I'll use any excuse at the best of times to run an errand by bike but if there's any distance involved the Cross-Check is now the first choice as it's so much faster. 

The last day of 2009 involved a trip to the local library to return a (cycling) magazine before they repossessed my library-card. The library is only a fifteen minute ride away so I continued on to Devonport using the mainly off-road Devonport Cycle Route which I've been riding for years but is now "official" and has subsequently been sign-posted and had sections upgraded. 

I'm often blown-away by the stunning countryside some of my internet cycling friends get to ride in, but you don't always appreciate what you've got in your own backyard. Most of the roads I ride have sea views and you're never more than a kilometre or two from the coast. 

I borrowed my son's camera and attempted to capture some of my suburban riding environment on the way. 

We start at Campbells Bay Beach about 400m from our house. There are lots of well-off types on the North Shore of Auckland and by the number of people on the beaches on a warm (but overcast) summer's day they are all off at their holiday homes or out on their boats.

This is up the road at Kennedy park. I come here a lot with The Midget Assassin as it has a wonderful playground. The funny looking building is an artillery observation post from WWII disguised as a house. You can just make out one of the gun emplacements in the background which is about 10m back from the edge of a cliff overlooking the Waitemata Harbour. The North Shore is full of decaying military defenses but the majority were built to protect us from the Russians in the 1880s and the Germans in WWI. This stuff is a bit more recent to repel the evil Japanese. Now we spend all our time encouraging these people to visit as tourists. 

I then pass through Castor Bay. Not a soul on the beach today. Hard to believe there are over a million people living in Auckland.

Over the next headland is the Milford Marina. It's on a small tidal stream that exits to the sea at the north end of Milford beach. It's actually pretty scungy but does scrub up okay in a photo.

A couple of kilometres down the road is Takapuna. I was born and raised here but it's a bit of a shit-hole. Full of rich wankers and bars and cafés full of rich wankers. There is a move to rename Takapuna "Takapuna Beach". How wanky is that? Maybe London could rebrand as "London River"?

This photo is taken at the northern end besides the boat-ramp. The owner of this beautiful titanium and carbon Serotta prefers to drive it around town rather than actually ride it. Roadies... Doh. 

Takapuna beach again. Taken beside the yacht club. Rare sighting of an Aucklander actually on a beach in the Christmas holidays. 

I finally got to the library (which overlooks the beach) and took the bike inside with me as I was in a bit of a hurry after taking all these bloody photographs. Amazing how loud a White Industries freewheel sounds in a library, but I found that by avoiding all eye contact people could not see me at all. How convenient.

Past Takapuna on the way to Devonport is my old stomping-ground of Hauraki Corner. This photo is taken at a new and very impressive section of boardwalk suspended above the mangroves that enabled the cycleway to get a bit further around the coast and avoid a particularly nasty hill. I dread to think how much of my rates were sunk into these next 200 metres but it is a great resource and well used by walkers and cyclists alike.

Mudflats are a great place to play as a child. I used to frolic in the foreground mud with the crabs, smoke dope and ride my motorbike along the shell-banks at the waters edge and paddle canoes out there in the bay. Pollution, Life-jackets and helmets had not made it to New Zealand in the 1970s ;^)

This foot-bridge takes you across yet another mangrove swamp to the Belmont cemetery. It's build over a sewer pipe and really is as long as it looks. I found out today that my bike-trailer has one inch of clearance each side and that I wobble three inches each way when I tow it ;^)

Somewhat ironic that the cemetery is next to this lovely new bike path and not situated beside the main road where it is required.

Not far past the graveyard is this fantastic grassy downhill. This is where I proved my new handlebar set-up is perfect for flying down hills over bumpy ground at speed. I can even bunny-hop in the drops.

In the distance is Mount Victoria. Smack bang in the middle of Devonport and the half-way point where I turn around and head home.

"King of the Swamp"

The Sky Tower is behind the trees on the left and the Auckland Harbour bridge on the right. 

If you can't train your eight year old to pick up his dirty underwear he's never going to charge a camera battery so this is where our journey must end, with all the good photo-opportunities still to come. I'll take those on another day as the scenery in Devonport is really quite something.

I managed to coax one more shot out of the Sony when I got to the top of Mount Victoria. I got married right there in front of us in this "mushroom patch" by a TV anchorman. It was like a cross between a Tarantino movie and Alice in Wonderland. 

The volcano in the background is Rangitoto Island. I'll be racing the Cross-Check over there at the end of March in The DUAL 50km mountainbike race. Must get fitter!