Archives for the month of: January, 2013

Summer in Australia means many things, but one thing that I love about it is outdoor dining. Sometimes this means eating out, but more often than not it means eating in and a BBQ. We are so lucky in Australia that the quality of produce that we can get our hands on is excellent, and that the majority of Australians can afford to put a meal on the table. Add to that the vast diversity of backgrounds that make up modern Australia, and you get awesome times for lovers of eating (I am not a cook – but I am a great eater). I decided to shoot off a few snaps in between tall stories when I was invited to a mid-week meal down at my Brother and Sister In-law’s place in Melbourne (see Sal, told you I would give you a mention). Good times, and my Canon Powershot G15 is proving quite adept at low-light photography. One tip, don’t get your camera too close to the BBQ – you may get splatter on the lens. BTW all the photos link through to larger images on my Flickr photostream.

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I hate to say it, but Melbourne is the best city in Australia to be a cyclist. They have an awesome network of rider friendly roads and bike paths, with only one point of caution – tram tracks! Having said that, I reckon that this bloke from Ballarat might have come up with the solution. So whenever I get to travel down there, I try and get out for a ride. It is cool too, because I get to ride with my Brother who now lives down there with my Sister In-law. My recent work excursions have given me more opportunities to go for a Melbourne spin, but I have not been able to bring my bike. Solution – take my lid (helmet), shoes, gloves, and gear down with me and borrow my Sister In-law’s bike. She has a Giant Defy aluminium road bike which is a cool little ride. It looks pretty funny when I travel with the rest of the business crowd in our suits on a Monday morning and I have my lid slung around my work bag as I check in on the flight.

Riding Melbourne - #1After spending the day at the office, I rushed over to the Melbourne Yardin’s residence with my gear in hand. But before we could roll I had to rig the bike to fit me. This involved adding the Garmin mount, tensioning off the SPD pedal clips, and most importantly swapping out the women’s seat for a man’s saddle and adjust the seat height. I had to lift up the height of the seat post a further 3 times within the first 2km of our ride because I didn’t get it right before we started rolling. Big tip – if you borrow someone else’s bike, measure the length on your own bike between the centre point of the crank and the base of your saddle to get the seat height right. My Sister In-law is a few inches shorter than me, and her bike is one size smaller (it was a 53.5cm frame and I normally ride a 56cm). It felt different, but not uncomfortable. In fact, while it was heavier than my carbon road steed, I was surprised how responsive the bike felt under steering. I was able to clock up just under 50km/hr going downhill and I felt very sturdy on the bars and pedals.

Riding Melbourne - #2The ride had a few gremlins in it, with my brother copping a flat as we climbed up Alma Road in St Kilda East. Unusually for Melbourne glass was sprinkled everywhere on the route we chose for the evening.

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It took us a while to change the wheel, and we were getting hungry. So we kept spinning with a time limit on the clock, but decided to ham it up a bit. King Edward VII sitting on his horse has got nothing compared to a man in lycra on two wheels.

Melbourne Riding - #4

In the end, we were gone for only just over an hour, but at least we are now rigged to roll again. I am looking forward to getting out on the wheels again this week and this time put a few more kilometres down. When we got back to Melbourne Yardin’s place, the two bikes had their own romantic interlude under the butterflies – as if to remind me that I was riding my Sister In-law’s bike and her bike was already betrothed to another. Haha, good times!

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So Australia Day 2013 is nearing an end, and we have enjoyed it in true Aussie fashion. This morning we headed to Balmoral beach and splashed about in Sydney Harbour. We were blessed today with some sweltering hot Australian Summer weather. Getting back home soon after lunch allowed us to have a lazy afternoon in the heat, and there may have been a snooze in there too. The Triple-J Hottest 100 countdown was blaring over the radio as the soundtrack for the day.

We kicked off the evening with a BBQ featuring lamb sausages (because Sam Kekovich told us too). I was incredibly un-Australian because I didn’t cremate them, they were cooked just right.

 

Australia Day 2013 - BBQ

We are lucky in that we are walking distance to the city of Sydney, and every year on Australia Day they put on a cool firework display at Darling Harbour. Of course it pales in comparison to the New Year’s Eve fireworks over Sydney Harbour, but it is fireworks nonetheless. It did not dawn on us until we got there that this was the first time the Pok (our 2 year old son) would get to see a firework show. I was not sure whether he would be dazzled or scared – as it turned out it was very much the former. Here he is getting ready for the show (and we had to equip him with a light sword of sorts).

Australia Day 2013 - #1

Of course he would assume his regular viewing position for the show, and I have to tell you that it is a bit more difficult shooting with 15+ kg on your shoulders. He later yelled out to us “I like this Daddy, I like this Mommy!”, which brought a big smile to our faces.

Australia Day 2013 - #2

It was quite busy with thousands of other Aussie revelers around, so most of the shots I got were with other people in the foreground. I think it adds a little to the effect, and the reality was that this was a celebration for everyone to enjoy together as Australians. BTW all the photos link through to larger images on my Flickr photostream. Happy Australia Day – to all the original Australians and all the rest of us “boat” people who came after!

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I have recently been travelling to Melbourne for work quite a bit. In fact, I have been to Melbourne so many times that I have lost count – and the number of trips would easily number over 200. As a Sydney-sider I find it awkward to say that I love Melbourne. It is a totally different city to Sydney, in the same way that Los Angeles is to New York or Toronto is to Montreal. I love going there, and I love visiting family and friends that I have down there too. The client that I am working for is based in the Docklands, and it is interesting to hear what the locals think about the precinct. Empty, soulless, heartless, dead are adjectives that I have heard numerous times in describing the new modern construction going up all around.

So I decided to see what my perspective would be through the lens. I took my new trusty Canon Powershot G15 to see if I could put it through its paces and what I decided to focus on in the end were some of the fascinating patterns that the modern architecture and buildings presented. There have been huge leaps in building construction since I left university over 15 years ago, and the new materials and manufacturing processes mean that architects and engineers can produce patterns in exterior cladding that were just not possible before (or more correctly cost viable – the Sydney Opera House being a perfect example). So here is what I found. The strange thing is that in some ways, these patterns remind me of the skins of reptiles – but made of metal and glass.

BTW – All the photos link through to the larger images on my Flickr page.

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My photo excursion was beautifully ended with a spectacularly dusk setting over the unusually calm Docklands with a crescent moon over the water. I love the colour of the sky in this last shot – no Photoshop necessary!

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My next photo excursion down in Melbourne will probably involve either two wheels or the myriad of cool sculptures that grace the city.

I, like many others, sat yesterday and watched the interview between Oprah Winfrey and Lance Armstrong. I watched it twice – on the Discovery Channel of all places. And I sat there with my two year old boy climbing and jumping all over me and the couch – him being totally oblivious to the whole thing. The feeling I had in the end was not one of anger or disappointment, just hollowness and a sense of stupidity for misplacing my trust and sporting aspirations.

Like many others, I was enthralled by what was achieved by Lance in the EPO era of the peloton. I even got the chance to see him (and the rest of the peloton) cross the line on the Champs Elysee in 2004. When I finally got back on my bike, I chose a Trek, in no small part to Lance Armstrong’s endorsements of the bike manufacturer. But over the last few years I have long given up on this misplaced trust. As I have pushed myself harder and further to ride, and met many other riders, I have a very different view on whether Lance is even relevant anymore. I still like pro-cycling and am not prepared to tarnish everyone with the same brush of distrust that now paints Lance in every article on TV, the magazines, or the web. Who I have respect for now are riders like Cadel Evans, a phenomenal rider who has climbed great heights of success but in doing so has also failed spectacularly and in public. I watched him last year in the Tour de France trying to defend his 2012 title, and he blew up when it mattered most on several of the torturous climbs. I first saw Cadel ride in the Olympic Men’s Mountain Bike event at the Sydney Games in 2000 (he was ranked #1 in the world leading up to the Games), where he blew up in his home event and finished 7th – he rode most of the last couple of laps alone and with no-one in sight. Cadel is not interested in dating rock stars (his wife is an Italian music teacher) or rubbing shoulders personalities and presidents. He wanted to rub shoulders with his adopted son, and could often be seen last year on the circuit with his boy climbing all over him. There are other pro-riders as well, like Julien Absalon or Marianne Vos and in some measure Jonathan Vaughters for drawing a line in the sand and saying from this point forward we ride clean. I know some of you may disagree…

But my real cycling heroes aren’t the pros anymore. They are my fellow amateur riders who want to give it a crack, but will never ride in the pro-peloton. They are riders like my old work colleague GE who bought a bike last year and is pushing me every week to train with him as he prepares for his triathlon to raise funds for teenage cancer – and in doing so has lost 15kg. Riders like my mate JB who, after raising over $3,000 for the Chris O’Brien Lighthouse, found out his mother is terminally ill with cancer. Riders like my brother’s crew down in Melbourne who in their late 40’s get together to do training rides up Mount Donna Buang in Victoria (though secretly I think they all have a love affair with a girl named Donna in their heads). Riders like two of the Melbourne Crew’s wives who have joined us on numerous riding treks up stupid inclines. And rider’s like my Aunt, who is over 50 and rings us up to go for a ride. I will soon be helping my Aunt to buy her first road bike, and she will be joining my wife for the Gear Up Girl ride – 2013.

My Aunt and I - getting ready to ride

For me, Lance Armstrong is not a cyclist I want to read about anymore. I want to read about these guys (the cycling bloggers I follow), and discover others like them who are honest people who love cycling for what it is – a sport to be enjoyed, travel, explore, meet people and discover how far you can push yourself:

College-Tri – a young student from Duke University who is giving cycling (and marathons, and triathlons) a huge go with a second hand bike.

Serendipities of Life – Frank Burns who is a retired British teacher who rode 10,000 miles last year, and is planning on riding New Zealand tip to tail.

K_Sim’s New Challenge – a Japanese cyclist who rides in some of the most beautiful places, maps out his rides with photos and writes his posts in both English and Japanese.

Thinking About Cycling – Dave Horton who is a sociologist and writer and has posted some of the most intelligent and thought out posts on how to enable the community to ride.

All Season Cyclist – an American cyclist who rides in EVERY weather condition, and tells us all his best tips for gear and clothing.

Richard Tulloch’s LIFE ON THE ROAD – An Australian writer and rider who is fortunate to see cycling from two different cultural perspectives Dutch and Australian.

Alex’s Cycle – a young British student from Manchester who goes on HUGE cycling tours on his summer holidays.

Love thy bike – a kiwi cyclist whose feats of bombing down a volcano in Hawaii I hope to emulate later this year in May.

Women.Cyclists – an American cyclist who is super passionate about all things bike, as is her partner Jason too.

Single Speed Slogging – a single speed mountain bike rider who goes hard and races on his rig.

Rev Rider – the cycling pastor who has clocked up 20,000 miles since 1 Jan 2010.

traveldestinationbucketlist – Anita Mac who among our shared passions of photography and travel is a uber keen Canadian cyclist who does plenty of cycle touring

Bike War – the provider of two wheel eye-candy.

Tight chains all – and I hope the road or trail is sunny and with a tail wind.

Sometimes the things your child does just make you proud. My 2 year old son – the Pok – is growing at a rapid rate and never ceases to amaze me with the things he does or spits out. One thing that I have really enjoyed is that he has taken to my love of bikes. It should not surprise me as he sees my road steed near the entrance of our home every day, and whenever I am adjusting it or getting it ready for a ride he rushes over to both me and the bike. Not to mention the number of times he has fallen asleep in the trailer behind me while I am towing him along.

I have been trying to teach him all the parts of the bike as he has been studiously observing me. He has proven to be a quick learner. I regularly quiz him on where the parts are on the bike, asking him to show me as I name them. His pass rate so far is about 90%.

Parts of a Bicycle LabeledImage source: Jim Langley – Bicycle Aficionado

So in true father – son fashion I took him into a BMX bike store on our pre-Christmas trip to visit my brother in Melbourne. My son was awestruck when he saw all the chrome accented bikes hanging on the walls. He was especially chuffed when he saw a cabinet containing a kaleidoscope of metallic coloured cassettes, stems, and cranks. As it was a BMX bike store, I knew that most of the bikes would be custom made to the buyer’s tastes and design. We found the workbench where the store mechanic was putting together a new steed and I stood him up on the bench so he could see. The mechanic barely acknowledged we were there until…

Daddy (me): “Pok can you show me the wheels?”

Pok (my son): points to the front wheel and then rear wheel, “there, there”

Daddy: “Pok, can you show me the pedals?”

Pok: points to the right and left pedal, “there is two Daddy”

Daddy: “Pok, can you show me the forks?”

Now at this point the mechanic turned ever so slightly to see who was invading his workshop space.

Pok: pointing to the forks, “there Daddy”

Daddy: “Pok, can you point to the saddle?”

Pok: pointing to the bike seat.

Daddy: “Pok, can you show me the stem?”

Pok: pointing to the neck stem, “there Daddy, its glued to the bars.” (everything that is joined together is glued)

This definitely caught the attention of the store mechanic, who properly turned around and noticed a two year old standing on his work bench.

Daddy: “What is the man holding?”

Pok: “Allen key”

INSTANT JAW DROPPING RESPECT FROM THE BIKE MECHANIC!

Mechanic: “How old is he?”

Daddy: “Two!” with a grin beaming from ear-to-ear.

For 15 seconds, I was the proudest Dad in the world!

And with that we said our goodbyes to the store mechanic and went off to find the rest of our troupe.

So now the problem I am going to have is one that I imparted on my father, pinching his tools and not returning them to their rightful home.

Pok - bike tools

At least I know that he will know what to do with them once he uses the tools in anger. Who said that these were the terrible twos?

Pok - bike fixing

Just a quick post today. I was kicked into gear yesterday morning after reading the post from another rider blogger – RevRider – “Finding Motivation Early in the Morning“. My knee had been playing up on me over the Christmas break (I had a knee reconstruction at the age of 20) and was causing me all sorts of trouble with my quadricep muscles. Dehydration from both the Summer heat and a few festive drinks over the break probably didn’t help either. For yesterday’s ride I needed all the motivation I could get, because the Bureau of Meteorology was predicting heatwave temperatures – 43 degrees Celsius (or 109 degrees Fahrenheit) in Sydney!

I planned the ride to be super early, and set my alarm clock for 4:30am. My bidons had big blocks of ice in them, and summer riding kit was donned . At 5am it was already 22 degrees and climbing, and the sun was about to present itself. As I took off on my warm up loop, which is probably one of the best in the world – along the edges of Sydney Harbour – I was awestruck by the sight that greeted me. At the end of the street it looked like what appeared to be a wall of cruise ship. It seems like everywhere I turn in Sydney now there is a cruise ship, and this is not the first time I have published a blog with cruise ships in them (Sunrise at Middle Harbour, Riding in the Silly Season in Sydney). Still it is pretty awesome to see the big ships bringing visitors keen to see my home town.

Riding - Cruise ships greeting me

Of course I was also greeted to another glorious Cycling Sunrise, this time overlooking the Sydney Harbour Bridge and a beautiful silhouette against the dawn light.

Riding - Sydney Harbour Bridge Sunrise

I took all these shots with a little Christmas present I received – a Canon Powershot G15. This is an awesome prosumer compact that I will be writing up an “amateur” review of in a later post. It is small enough for me to carry in my back pocket while I go for a ride too!

I am glad I got out, because not only was I greeted to a glorious Cycling Sunrise, but also I was able to smash out a few PBs against a couple of segments on a regular route around Glebe, Annandale, and Canada Bay. Quite chuffed that I was able to get a PB up the Lilyfield Road pinch too (12% maximum gradient over 300m climb). I got back home before 7am with the mercury pushing 25 degrees by this point. By 2pm that day it had hit the stifling 43 degrees as predicted and the last time I felt heat like that was on a stopover in Dubai.

Looking forward to some more riding later on in the week and I now how have a camera that can do the shots justice on me all the time. Although there are more heat wave temperatures on the way in the coming week… better that than rain.

After the first day of camping at Shellharbour the weather had turned pretty ordinary for a few days. I was able to get some nice photos at dusk of Shellharbour on the first night, but was dying to get out onto the rocks and capture some of the water reflections and maybe a bit of seaside flora and fauna too – with some blue Summer sky. New Year’s Eve rewarded us with the perfect conditions, and late in the afternoon I trekked out onto the rocks to see what I could find. I love the myriad of shot opportunities that the rocky outcrops on the Australian coast offer. If you are patient and wait between waves you get to see all kinds of critters like crabs, anemones, and maybe even a bird or two. The other aspect about the rocks is that sometimes they appear to have been carved out by a giant hand with lines etched into the surface but what one would imagine is a large knife. I was the only one out on the rocks (along with a flock of seagulls), and after some exploring at low tide I came across a couple of decent photo opportunities. I wish I had a 70-200mm lens on me, as I only came armed with the 24-70mm. I also had fun with the circular polariser filter to achieve different effects – reflection or not. I was pleasantly surprised by the spread of colour, which at a distance only appeared to be a mass of reddish hued stone. I had to switch to manual focus for a few of the shots, the camera really struggled with the reflections of the water surface. BTW – all the links from the photos open up to the larger images uploaded to my Flickr account.

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I took the bike with us down to the campsite at Shellharbour on our recent trip, and was keen to get out and explore the trails around the area. Last time I spent any length of time in this area was when I was a child, and we always found ourselves skipping over this region and travelling further south to either Kiama, Gerringong, Shoalhaven Heads or Jervis Bay. With the trip to Shellharbour being well under two hours drive from Sydney, I don’t think this will be the last time we head down there.

Riding between Christmas and New Year means that there are not too many cars about in the mornings, and you can start a little bit later. My fear is that I was going to be spending a lot of time on the road, with no view of water. I was wrong! There is an awesome bike path that runs from Shellharbour to the Windang Bridge. What a great way to kick off your morning ride by riding next to the ocean and inlets that pepper the NSW South Coast. Below is the route that I marked out, and the link to the location on Google Maps.

Shellharbour - Windang Bike PathThis route also takes in Barack Point, which was an awesome spot to take my son for a swim (which we did on New Years Day). The water was only as deep as my waist at high tide, and the wide sandy shores were plenty of fun to splash around in. I stopped to take some pics along the way to the Windang Bridge. (All the images link through to the larger images on my Flickr site).

Riding - Barrack Point

Riding - Barrack Point

Riding - Windang

Riding - WindangGetting over the Windang Bridge brought me to a route that I have done a few times before – around Lake Illawarra. I had done it three times previously in the Ride Around the Lake, which is an organised 40km spin around the Lake Illawarra to raise funds for my|place Youth Housing in the Illawarra region. It is a great community ride that I have done with my Aunt who lives down that way (and who goes hard even above the age of 50). This time there were road closures or Police helping me out – in fact it was only me and the bike. So I rode the track from memory with all the turns and road crossings, and had to lift the bike a few times over barriers (cyclocross style) but it was the perfect morning for it.

Lake Illawarra is really beautiful with plenty of sea life, protected wetlands, and bird life. The bike path takes you around most of it, but is broken up by Koong-Burry Bay wetlands. The diversion is a short stretch on the freeway. One thing I was shocked at was how much glass from used bottles of alcohol littered the shoulder of the freeway, it was like dodging land mines. I took a few more photos before putting my head down to clock up the kilometers.

Riding - Tuggerah Bay

Riding - Koong-Burry Bay

Riding - Koong-Burry Bay

Riding - Koong-Burry Bay

There is one gem of a segment on this route, down hill bombing on Cormack Avenue in Dapto. Even on my MTB steed and not pushing it I clocked 59km/hr – too much fun! Just be careful of the little gutter lip at the bottom of the road.

This was my last ride for 2012. Like all sad cyclists who fester over their numbers (be it speed, kilometers / miles, weight – etc.) I clocked up 2,347km of measured riding for 2012. I only bought my Garmin Edge 800 in May last year, and I reckon there is probably another 1,000km of unmeasured km to add to that. So that would have taken me from Melbourne to Mackay in Queensland. Not bad – but time to do more.

Happy New Year everyone – I am looking forward to plenty of adventures in 2013.

 

 

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