Archives for the month of: June, 2016

I woke up this morning to the shocking news of the attack in Istanbul, Turkey. Like the attack earlier this year in Belgium, I was aghast at the horror of the attack. But my immediate thoughts went to a work colleague who Turkish by background, but currently resides in Australia. When I got into the office I checked in with him to see if all his family and friends were safe. Fortunately they were.

Then he told me of a statistic that I did not realise was true. Since the beginning of 2016 there have been hundreds of terrorism related deaths. At first I didn’t believe it, but then the reality sunk in. Living in a wealthy first world Western country we have very blinkered media coverage about what is going on overseas. I did some digging and found a Wikipedia article listing all the global acts of terrorism for 2016. Based on the count from this article, to date there have been over 250 deaths in Turkey with many times that number injured. That number will only increase after the airport attack.

Shocked cannot begin to describe the feeling I had in uncovering this morbid statistic. March and April were nasty, and had close to 30 attacks combined. I knew the situation in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Somalia was appalling, but the situation in Turkey and Pakistan is bad.

I could pass judgement on the political situation that Turkey is in, but that does not make any better the senseless slaughter of innocent people in this attack. On top of that Turkey, along with Jordan, is shouldering a ridiculous amount of the refugee burden coming out of the Syria conflict (over 2 million).  And now Turkey is squarely in the sights of IS following their approval for use of their Air Force bases for attacks on IS.

What is quite clear is the demonic nature of the attackers, clearly targeting indiscriminately people of all religions. To top it off, the attack occurred during Ramadan and just over a week from Eid. I am Catholic, so the way I could equate this is as if a group of fundamentalist Christians performed a mass attack on other Christians in the lead up to Christmas.

For my work colleague it is another sad day for his country of birth. He has trouble communicating this sadness to people oblivious to the challenges overseas. But I think this one image speaks volumes to the problem, and the challenges of a blinkered view of the world. I will let you be your own judge against this sketch.

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I don’t normally write about this sort of stuff, but I could not stop thinking about this today. Like I did for Paris, I say a prayer for Turkey.

Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. Maximum darkness – minimal daylight. In the Southern Hemisphere we host the Winter Solstice on 21 June while our Northern brethren bask in the long sun. But what should one do on this longest of nights?

Rug up? No.

Suit up? Hmmm…

Grab the bike lights? Now we are talking.

Helmets? You bet!

What to do? Night ride.

My boy, ‘The Pok’, and my little girl, ‘Kiki’, knew exactly what to do. They grabbed their helmets, and donned their jackets. I grabbed the bike pump and inflated the tyres. After a bit of faffing about we were ready to roll.

It was cold, but not too much. Nothing that a set of sleeves wouldn’t fix. Into the dark we headed, ‘The Pok’ on his Specialized and ‘Kiki’ in tow in the Chariot bike carrier.

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We took to our regular harbourside route. And lo and behold the first race was declared by ‘The Pok’. As usual he called the race after he had punched it on the cadence. But his “Super” Mario Cipollini antics were not going to undo me this time. Papa bear had to lay the smack down, and beat my 5 year old son. I’m not competitive (much), he just needed to learn a bit of humility from his Dad.

‘Kiki’ was giggling in the carrier, lapping up the speed.

We continued around the wharves dodging bollards and weaving between light poles. This was the first ride that ‘The Pok’ didn’t stop pedalling going uphill. He put his head down and kept on pedalling. I rode beside him cheering him on, and his sense of joy at the top of the small hill was awesome to watch.

I turned behind to look at my little girl and she was sound asleep, oblivious to the two wheel fun.

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‘The Pok’ took the lead and told me to follow. Hugging the waterfront, we were hitting the deadline to return home and get the kids to bed.

Circling back we had one final race, and the little man won… well, let’s just say he deserved at least one win.

‘The Pok’ pulled the pin and I grabbed his Specialized in my left hand while pushing my bike and ‘Kiki’ in the carrier back home with my right hand on my stem.

‘Kiki’ woke up just as we got into the garage and everybody was happy. 5 night kilometres in the bag and a brilliant night ride with my two kids. Looking forward to some more two wheel fun throughout the Winter months.

For the record – ‘The Pok’ hit 23kph in the sprint. Impressive for a little 5 year old.

Vivid light festival over for another year. Hard to capture the scale of the show. Enjoy!

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Enjoy the view of the clearest beach in Mauritius, Perybere. These are my roots.

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In Australia we celebrate the Queen’s birthday around the second weekend of June. It is the official start of the ski season in Australia, and we get a three day long weekend. Never mind the fact that Queen Elizabeth II’s birthday is on a different day. So I took the opportunity to take the family on a mini road-trip to Country NSW, South West of Canberra. My Uncle and Aunt in their retirement have just moved to a town called Cootamundra, so this is a perfect excuse to go for a trip and pay them a visit. Even better, we had a second excuse for a trip to visit my cousin (their son) who is doing his medical studies intern year at a town called Young, some 50km North of Cootamundra. If I was going to go on a road trip, I had to bring the bike.

The first stop on our trip was the major regional centre of Goulburn. We chose this town to break up the trip for the kids, and grabbed a bite to eat at the local Worker’s Club bistro. But I was also lining up a morning ride around the town the next morning. Little did I realise that this would be ill-fated. At 6am it was -2 degrees Celsius (28 degrees Fahrenheit) and foggy. This is the coldest weather that I had ever set out to ride in and the one thing that I don’t have in my kit bag is gloves for this temperature. I was wearing full-fingered gloves, but they were only temperature rated to 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit). I was struggling after 2km in, where an intense pain began attacking every single one of my fingers and thumbs. By 4km the pain was so intense that it felt like screws being driven into the bones in my fingertips. This is the first time I had to cut short my ride due to weather. I couldn’t even pull off my gloves and helmet when I got back to the motel after 9km. If only…

On to Cootamundra

The morning was not all lost, so after the kids took to the local park in Goulburn we headed off to Cootamundra. It is a couple of hours drive Southwest from Goulburn (which itself is a couple of hours drive Southwest of Sydney). The weather had warmed up to a beautiful bright sunny Winter’s day with a gentle breeze, topping out at 13 degrees Celsius (55 degrees Fahrenheit). After a hearty welcome from my Uncle and a tour of their new abodes in Cootamundra, I kitted up for round two for the day. No maps or planned routes, just the new Speed Steed and a couple of bidons. Off I set and it was glorious. First I headed Northwest, into a very light headwind. I hit a dead end at the foot of a small hill where the road had gone from paved to compacted dirt gravel road. Unfortunately my attempt at riding “Strade Bianche” style would have to wait for another date as this road continued onto private property.

I doubled back on my route, heading back into town. But the ride didn’t stop on my return, and I headed out again but this time West towards the town of Griffith. The road was nice and wide, with little to no traffic and no dead ends this time. Then about 4km out of town was an intersection where I saw a rider coming towards me from the right. The locals always know where to ride, so I turned right and headed out North nodding my thanks for guidance to the rider as he passed me. Ahead of my on the horizon I could see another rider probably about 2km in front of me. That is how straight the road was, I could see more than 2km ahead on the tarmac. More importantly, I had a target to catch. My Cervelo S3 responded and the I picked up the speed past 36 clicks. 10km later I caught my prey, who started struggling when the road picked up to over 5% gradient. As I overtook him, I gave him a shout and even though he didn’t have the legs that day it was clear he was enjoying his ride too. I climbed another hill a further 5km ahead and then judged that daylight was waning – time to turn around. But not before posing the bike against the beautiful countryside.

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The return into town was great, and mostly downhill. I took the longer route back into town which landed me South of where I started. A few more detours with some short sharp hill climbs and it was time to wrap up the ride before sunset with the inevitable descent of winter night chill. That was not before I swung by the local bottleshop in the town centre to grab my Uncle and Aunt a nice bottle of Pinot Noir, which is the Australian version of the Burgundy drop.

I will definitely come out and ride here again, given that my relatives have set up base here. The roads are not perfect, but are decent enough to have a good spin with lots of different routes around and neighbouring towns within an 80km round trip. The day may have started with a painful abort, but finished with a beautiful winter day ride leaving me with a smile on my face.

Our boy, AKA ‘The Pok’, says some really funny things with the reasoning of a 5-year-old behind his musings. Some of it is hilarious, or just bizarre.

The Pok has started school this year and it has been an experience for both him and his teacher. His teacher has been formally introducing both him and his classmates to words and letters. Each week there is a ‘letter of the week’ in which the children are asked to come up with words that start with the designated letter. The letter of the week is the only piece of learning that he is keen to share with us after school at home.

A few weeks in, it was with great joy at the dinner table that The Pok blurted out,

“Guess what this week’s letter is?”

I responded with “C” (I always say “C” – what’s in a name?).

He shouted, “Nooooo! It’s ‘F’ silly.”

My wife asked, “Did any of the kids say some ‘F’ words?”

The Pok recalled, “Somebody said ‘fish’ and someone else said ‘four’, but the class didn’t guess too many.”

I then asked, “Did you come up with an ‘F’ word?” Hoping to the heavens that our son did was not the kid to drop the “F” bomb in kindergarten.

The Pok pondered…

“Daddy, I said ‘fart’ and the whole class started giggling”.

Phew – at least he reached for flatulence and not profanity.

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Winter has arrived in South Eastern Australia with a vengeance. A wild storm has descended from Queensland into New South Wales and brought with it a lot of wind and rain. This pretty much swamps me out from any riding this weekend with the forecast not looking to clear until Tuesday. To say I was disappointed is an understatement, as I was looking to stretch out the legs on the new speed steed. Some other cyclists would say, “Stop being a fair weather cyclist!” or quote Rule #5 or #9, but the reality was that it flooded in my local area and I had no intent of carrying a kayak on my back.

All that was left was to put the bike on the trainer and spin. Yes the torture machine was to be put to use, but I had been itching to try something different out than spin while watching reruns of “How I met your Mother”. I had read quite a few reviews about the social cycling app Zwift. I grabbed an ANT+ dongle and hooked up my laptop to my TV. With the S3 rigged up to the trainer and the app downloaded I was ready to roll.

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This is a far better way to roll on the torture machine compared to anything else other than watching European pro-cycling races while pedalling in the middle of the night. The whole set up of seeing other riders in real-time virtually in front of you or coming up behind you is quite fun. The sprint segments and mountain climbs with their leaderboards are novel, with a hint of Strava in the mix. The one thing that was not so good was that with a “dumb” trainer (I have an Elite Crono Fluid Gel from 5 years ago) the sensation of drafting, or the variable resistance of climbing or descending along the circuit, was not available. This did detract from the experience, but not so much that I wanted to hop out of the saddle. Still, I reckon it would be even more fun with a Wahoo Kickr on the rear skewer. There was also the strange sensation that I felt when approaching a bend or corner – I found myself looking to the apex of the curve and preparing to lean in with my shoulder.

The screen layout presents plenty of information to you while pedalling. At first it was a bit overwhelming, but after a couple of minutes (or was it a couple of virtual kilometers) it became quite easy to read. I had my Garmin on to give me my indoor speed and cadence, but after a while I only looked down at the trip computer every so often. The table on the right of the screen with the time gaps to the riders in front and behind was a real motivator to pedal harder, to catch the next rider. It surprised me how quickly I fell into the same mindset that I have when I am on it and doing laps at Centennial Park.

Will it ever replace riding out on the road? No way. Was it fun? Yeah, in a Playstation meets riding sort of way. Will I have a go again on the virtual circuits of Zwift? Most definitely! Indoor training this winter is about to get a bit more interesting and competitive.

Nothing to say, just the photo

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