Archives for category: Cycling

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.

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.

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.

So with nervous excitement on Saturday morning I took off to Endeavour Cycles in Gymea (the Sutherland Shire of Sydney) to get the final sizing and fit for my Cervelo S3. George who owns the store and seems to be hooked in with every cyclist and triathlete in the Shire welcomed me and set up my new steed on the trainer to finalise adjustments. I will write about that experience in another post. After an hour with George, I walked out of the store with a new bike which I am aptly going to name the “Speed Steed”.

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It was raining during the day in Sydney, and so I strapped my new bike onto the roof racks and headed home. The first ride on the new machine would have to wait till Sunday. This was a good thing because it gave me the opportunity to add a few of my personal adjustments.

Making it Mine

Learning from a lot of the mistakes I made in owning my first road bike, my 2009 Trek Madone 4.7, I took to work making all the necessary adjustments for my first ride. Hopefully a couple of these points may help others.

  1. Removal of all the manufacturer stickers about dimensions and safety warnings. I know what size it is, and I know to look at the online manual to see what I need to do. This is cosmetic.
  2. Protecting the frame in key positions. This was a mistake that I made on my old bike, only to learn from it when it was too late. I put tape on the frame on either side of the head tube to block cable rub from the derailleur and rear brake cables. The cables are internally routed, so they are packed tight against the frame. I also put tape on the seat tube on the non-drive side where I keep my bike pump for emergency tire repair. It is important to rub the frame down with alcohol first before applying the tape.
  3. Installation of the bottle cages and pump frame mount. These were transferred from my old bike onto the new one, bit of grease on the bolts for waterproofing and no more than firm hand tightening.
  4. Installation of Garmin mount. The K-Edge unit that I had on the old bike is a pretty good setup. Two key points to be aware of; i) torque wrench to tighten no more than 5.5Nm and ii) Garmin is flush in line with the bars to reduce wind resistance.
  5. Installation of the front light mount. I am no a pro, so when I ride in the early morning or evening, the light is essential. I have a Specialized Flux light, bright but big unit, so I tucked it in close under the Garmin.
  6. Installation of the bell. Yes, it is now law in the great state of NSW that all bikes must have a bell. Never mind the fact that at over 40kph no car is going to hear you ring your bell, nor should you be moving your hands off the bars to “ring your bell”. Safety first?

The saddle bag was packed with a couple of tubes, tyre levers, couple of gas canisters, and a multi-tool. So to christen the wheels, the only thing that was left was to fill the bidons and boot up.

So How Does It Ride?

Three words – fast, stiff, and aero! I am not in the best riding condition at the moment with a persistent chest bug inherited from little Kiki (who brought it back from the centre for disease control – otherwise known as daycare), but it was not going to stop me from putting the hammer down.

This new bike is very efficient in turning every pedal stroke into power on the road. I hadn’t even swapped over my Shimano Dura-Ace C24 carbon laminate clinchers onto the bike and it was very zippy off the mark. I took it for a spin in Centennial Park, and saw three riders ahead of me on one of the false flats that goes up at 2%. A couple of big turns out of the saddle and wham I was up at speed – and IT FELT GREAT!

The stiffness takes some getting used to, and to be honest I thought it was a bit of a marketing gimmick from the Cervelo, “18% increase in the bottom bracket over the previous model”. But it really is something else, and hard to describe. The bike frame doesn’t laterally “wobble” underneath you on each pedal stroke and the energy you put in goes to where it belongs.

The slipperiness of the frame is also surprising. I noticed it when I sat up on a flat section after an average effort. When I looked down at the Garmin, instead of rolling at 23kph I was up at 28kph. I was very attentive to how the bike felt through the air. What was telling was that it was difficult to notice.

I think I definitely have to swap over to 25mm tyres, which may not be a bad thing. From everything I have read 25mm is faster than 23mm, going against the long held wisdom of the skinny rubber. But the reason is not speed but more comfort on the rough Sydney roads.

The speed steed will definitely take some getting used to, but at least I will do it with a smile on my face. The advances in bike technology from 7 years ago for a mid level race bike are pretty amazing and I will have to write a comparison post to explain all subtle changes. Withall said and done, I can’t wait to ride it again!

So life and work (and not necessarily in that order) have put a damper on my blog over the last 6-12 months. The bike has also become a secondary priority. My road steed, my 2009 Trek Madone 4.7, has been getting fat grazing in its stable (or was that its engine). The bike really did open my eyes to a different world of fitness, exploration, and adventure. And with it I had made a whole heap of new friends with a common interest – cycling. But it, like its owner, has become old and creaky. I have taken good care of the Trek and prolonged it use with regular replacement of the consumables. I gradually introduced upgrades to the point where the only original thing left on it was the frame and forks. Now, even with all the TLC, it creaks with every pedal stroke. The mechanics at my local bike shop through the last couple of services have arrived at only one conclusion – the carbon frame is getting long in the tooth.

I have been eyeing up dream bikes and replacements for a few years now, but my fussiness and budget have limited my selection. The criteria: aero but comfortable, aesthetically striking but not garish, fast and stiff, bang for the buck, and clearly better deserving than its future engine.

My dream bike? A Cervelo S3. You know, the one Thor Hushovd won the World Championship with in Geelong. The one that Jack Bauer used in the ultimately futile attempt to hold off the peloton at the TDF. The one a young Dutchman named Dylan van Baarle used to stick it to Kwiatowski and Wiggins at the 2014 Tour of Britain to take top spot. Now with the 2015 models being disposed of to make way for the 2016 models (with the main difference being… a paint job), I am able to pick up an older year model for a bargain. I saw my new steed online a couple of weeks back, got fitted up on it on Saturday, and with the adjustments to the contact points will pick it up later this week. I am giddy like a kid at Christmas – can’t wait!

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Sydney Harbour is without a doubt beautiful. Us Sydneysiders are quite lucky to have at the heart of our city this maritime masterpiece. Multiple levels of government have been making quite a bit of effort over the last few years to make the harbour foreshore accessible to people. I think that there is also a master plan to connect a continuous stretch of foreshore from Woolloomooloo (East of the Opera House – and yes I spelt that suburb correctly) all the way through to Balmain. So when the plans to redevelop the Western maritime shoreline of the Sydney CBD began, the opportunity to redefine the shoreline and reconnect a previously inaccessible strip of land arose. This part of my city is named Barangaroo.

Barangaroo was the name of the wife of one of Australia’s most famous indigenous Australians – Bennelong. She was a powerful woman from the Aboriginal clan of Cammeraygal, being a key figure in the local community.

After decades of construction and harbour reclamation, the original shape of the shoreline had been lost to the square shape of concrete docks. The plan to introduce a public park on the Barangoo shoreline was opened up to a design competition, and the winning design was a beautiful landscape proposal that returns the shape of the original shoreline. The driving force for the introduction of this park was Australia’s greatest Prime Minister from the few decades – Paul Keating. And we can now enjoy the fruits of the labour of the architects, landscapers, and builders who gave us this new park – and cycleway too 🙂

C’mon, you knew that I would throw my two wheel endeavours into this.

So we took off on our bikes as a family, me riding alongside the Pok on his bike and my wife riding her bike with our Chariot trailer in tow shuttling Kiki. The distance from our place to the Barangaroo headland is just shy of 6km, a big distance for my little guy. But the reward was this:

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The shoreline has been recreated with large hewn sandstone blocks. The stone that submerges with the tide has already taken to the green aquatic colours. There are two tracks the follow the shoreline. One which is composed of compacted earth for walkers, and a second asphalted path for two wheel steeds and runners. The views out over the harbour are great, and uninterrupted out to the inner West and the ANZAC Bridge.

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The sandstone blocks are quite large, but not off-limits to walk on. Though the blocks do make you feel kinda small, but at the same time Balmain seems strangely within arms reach.

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At the Northern most point of the headline was the opportune time for a refuelling pit-stop.

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This gave me a chance to explore the park a bit more while the kids snacked. I rode up the hill to get a better view of the landscape of the park. The trees that have been planted have not matured yet, so hopefully in a few more years the shade will be more prominent.

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My little Kiki was asleep the whole way to the park until we stopped. She was pleasantly surprised when we she woke up.

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The view from the headland to the Sydney Harbour Bridge is pretty spectacular too, and the elevation provides a unique perspective. The short climb is fun to ride up.

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The old maritime control tower which directed shipping is still in place and presides over the entire park.

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Some of the sculpture pieces are pretty cool. This mini “stonehenge” from sandstone blocks was the site of a little game of hide and seek between The Pok, Kiki, and myself.

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And I can never get enough of taking photos of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, but it is the colours in the stone that are a highlight to me.

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We took the opportunity to have a few race sprints between The Pok and myself. My little man is turning into a bit of a speed demon on the wheels, hitting over 20kph in a burst of speed. Not bad for a five year old. But all that energy output lead to more refueling for the boy – a hot chocolate did the trick.

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All up a great family ride and what turned out to be the longest ride that my little man has done – 13km! He loved it as did my wife and little girl. And we are lucky to have a new addition to our harbour front.

This is how I will be spending my insomnia time during the month of July. Vive Le Tour de France 2015!

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I never thought I would be posting this before my little girl Kiki had begun to walk, but here is my Friday Fone Foto. Kiki on her bike (quad bike), and she is loving it! Definitely Daddy’s girl.

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I definitely can’t take the credit for this shot, but it definitely brought a smile to my face when my wife sent me the photo.

With Summer gone and the long slow approach to Winter now set in, I love getting out on the bike. It is dark early in the morning, and the air is fresh and crisp. Call me a sadist, but I love it even more when it is wet. So when my riding buddy AC looked at the weather report for Sunday, wet and windy, my response was simple – “Let’s Roll!”

So as the spray was flying up from my wheels I got to thinking “why do I love riding in the wet so much?” Here are my 5 top reasons to roll in the wet.

1. It brings out your inner Belgian

Admit it – when you are watching the Belgian Spring Classics, and it is wet and muddy, don’t tell me that you are not a tiny bit jealous of how much fun those guys are having? And the crazy Belgian cycling fans enjoy watching the races with a beer in one hand and fried potatoes in the other. Extra kudos if your wet ride route will include some pavé. Extra extra kudos if you can ride like Boonen.

wip0407_102. It hones your riding skills

Wet road, the detritus of trees all about, puddles, potholes, and your rear wheel sliding out… all makes for a better rider. It is a pretty intense riding experience too because you are riding in a heightened sense of alert.

gty-4519078943. Keeps your core body temperature down

So long as you have a good gilet or waterproof shell, your body will remain cool. Except for that squelching sensation between your socks and boots – LOL. Compared to riding in the stinking hot Australian Summer and draining my bidons every 2 hours, I know what I prefer.

WRJ02-Loc-AW14-01BTW – look how happy she is to be riding 🙂

4. The routes are empty

All the fair weather cyclists are nowhere to be seen. Mostly they are hiding under their [pick all that are applicable] doonahs, duvets, quilts, blankets. The fair weather car drivers are noticeably absent too.

nature_trees_forest_wet_roadsHeaven huh?

5. There is no excuse not to clean your bike afterwards

Every wet ride must be followed by some TLC for your steed. This is quality bonding time that you should cherish.

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When all is said and done, at the end of a wet ride you feel a massive sense of achievement and joy, no matter how slowly you rolled to stay upright. You feel Iike you are ALIVE! Just ask Heinrich Haussler…

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So next time rain is forecast for your ride, rug up, hi-viz up, and ride 🙂

For the record, my wet Sunday ride was 50km of damp goodness.

My kids have brought me a lot of joy this year, with the addition of number two and our 4 year old son (AKA “the Pok”) with all his crazy antics. One of the highlights would have to be taking my son to the local bike store and putting him on his first pedal bike. He has already been scooting around on his balance bike since he was about 1 1/2 so I was hoping the graduation to pedals would be smooth. I would be lying if I said it was. I had to shave 20mm off of the seat post so he could put his feet down, and the pedals were just getting in the way, collecting his legs as he comes to a Fred Flintstone stop (you know the one that relies on a solid pair of shoes underfoot to avoid gravel rash in your heel).

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I thought that for the first couple of goes I would leave the training wheels on – MISTAKE! He loved them a bit too much and there was much rancor when I pulled them off. Even flat out refusal to ride. The reality is he was scared of falling. So after following him on a couple of rides (translation: running after him to catch him if he fell), he has found the courage to pedal. This is not the first clip of him riding, that will always just be for us, but now look at him motor!

Yes he has a rubber neck, but I am one very proud Dad! The cyclist in me says look at his cadence. The Dad in me says I hope he learns to stop before I have to buy a new pair of shoes. Now to get him primed to go over jumps!

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