Monday, December 12, 2011

Freeload straps - first impressions

I make no secret. These "straps" were bought for the ultimate epic adventure, the Kiwi Brevet.
But how could I test them to failure without endangering myself unduly? Fate smiled upon me in the form of the end of year christmas function double header. A lunch at the Upper Hutt Cossie Club followed by an epic duel on the Killing Fields of the Upper Hutt Bowling Club. Heady stuff.

We started with an entree of the sea-food platter, which I duly followed up with a main of the seafood platter. Even the batter had batter on. My zip was bursting, the Freeload strap was straining but it held fast. I didnt even need to re-cinch it once. We had some Ginger Crunch and a very good Latte and we adjorned to the green. Bending over with that much seafood onboard was a risk, but things stayed in place. Phase one of the testing was over.This is by no means a final test, but its a good start. Stay tuned.

Elite bowls action, Upper Hutt styles

How buying a new pair of pants added value to my day

It’s funny how progress happens, or as often doesn’t. Many times we are told that the latest thing is the best iteration of a product in a long evolution. Often it is complete bullshit and is usually a fix for something else that the marketing guys botched along the way. Bike racks and bottom brackets are a good example. You won’t get me giving up my square taper internal BB just yet.

Ground Effect Supersonics
I had an excellent experience the other day that made me think about the evolution of bike pants. My mum had given me some loot to spend for my birthday, and after much deliberation I decided to buy something sensible. A pair of cycling pants. I'd heard very good things about Ground Effect’s kit, so opted for a pair of Supersonics. These are not bib shorts. I quickly realised that 95% of my shorts are bibs. I started to wonder why. Have you ever been to a ladies race and seen the poor women trying to have a nervous one before a race? A very tricky manoeuvre with bibs on.... not so for the guys, but why were bibs invented? This is a guess, but maybe the original shorts were woollen and shoulder loops were a means of keeping them up, kind of built in suspenders.

Back on to the subject at hand.The upside of these new Supersonics shorts was how they have streamlined my day. Now I can jump straight out of bed, throw on my shorts and wait in line to do my ablutions. None of this faffing about, not being able to get dressed while I wait for the log-jam at the bathroom door to clear, because of the complexity involved with putting a top on over the bibs and then having to take it off again for a number 2. Time is money. I can get out of bed at 7.30, do my stuff and free-wheel down the hill to be at work in about 5 mins, by 8am!

Not only was I very happy with the freedom these new shorts gave me, but they were on my desk when I turned up at work the next morning, having only ordered them at 3.30 pm the previous day. That is impressive. On top of that, they are very comfortable, and look to be very solid in construction. Also you don’t get a sweaty patch up the middle of your back from the bib part when wearing a back-pack. Apparently they are made in NZ too. I get the impression these are going to be my favourite shorts.

Once again, popular with the chicks
I have had quite a few rides on these shorts now and can fully recommend them. The first two rides on the shorts were long ones, about 5 hours each and I got a bit of chaffing on the left as they settled in, but now they are fully broken in and comfy-as. The special "lower leg bands" are just right. They seem to give a real wide band of support, unlike your traditional leg grippers which can cause a bit of a pressure point, and the back is just high enough to protect you if your top rides up. There is a little internal pocket in there as well, not sure what it’s for, maybe a spare patch or two.  The lyrca seems very robust which is what I like. The last time I brought two pair of shorts they both failed in different areas. The Cape Storm bibs material wore out in about a year (became transparent) and while the Tinelli shorts I got at the same time are still going really well, the stitching has come away on the chamois on one side. Only time will tell how robust these pants will be but they come with a good reputation, a good price and laser fast delivery.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A real challenge

View from the window
The Huka 80km MTB challenge was to prove to be just that, a challenge. One of our 5 members didn't know until 12pm whether he would make a work deadline, and then the pick-up deadline, luckily some slower than planned packing gave him the time bonus required. Then Marco had a spell in the drivers seat. More uncertainty. There was also a minor fly in the ointment when Marco realised he had left his camelbak holder at home. Botty. With a roll of duct tape he managed to fashion my new "eski-bag" spotprize into a passable camelbak. I am sure it wasn't as light as the original though!

Bad norty elitist pedal : (
The wind seemed to follow us up from Wellington and it was a little bit brisk as we started the 15 minute trundle from the accommodation to the race start. Unfortunately 1 minute later Cleetus's XTR pedal just fell off the end of the spindle. Bugger. What to do. Calling on his past as a proponent of one-legged drills the only option was for Cleetus to try to make it to town. For once I had my eftpos card on me and if we could find a bike shop open at 6.30am we might strike it lucky. I pushed him with my left hand while he jammed away with his left leg. The exposed bit along the front of the lake was pretty brutal. Fortune smiled on us and he found a shop and scored some new pedals with time to spare!

The race started and it was up the hill and into the single track. Singletrack that just went on and on. It was awesome. It was a bit windy, but nothing like what Cleetus and myself experienced the week before while riding the "Skyline" track in Wellington. Before long there were ominous creaks and groans, then crashes in the trees. The trees were falling down in the forest. It was pretty damn freaky. Some of them were very very close. After a couple of hours the organisers decided to pull the pin before anyone was badly hurt. It was the right call. They cut out about 20kms of the course and we carried on, some continued hammering, some didn't, it didn't matter, it was race over : (

After we cleaned up we called into BushLove HQ for a bit of a bullshit and then endured the prizegiving and headed back to the digs for a beer and sossies.

A big thanks to Ash for the transport and the accommodation, and Matt-2 for his colourful stories.

I havent done "Taupo" for about 15 years so was blown away at how big it is now. We have unfinished work, so will probably be back next year, hopefully all the weak trees will be gone !

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Surly Karate Monkey second impressions

At Single Speed nationals with front 3.0 Knard
You may have read my Surly Karate Monkey first impressions here. Now I am a few months down the track I reckon its time to revisit and see what else I have discovered with longer term ownership.

I tend to think that the Karate Monkey is a tinkerers bike. I come from the generation of people that grew up working on their own cars and motorbikes, so its second nature to want to build their own bicycles. Especially if there are budgetary constraints. If you are the kind of person that buys a bike ready-made, and doesn’t enjoy messing with it, then the Karate Monkey may not be for you. Why? Because there are so many options for the person who enjoys getting their hands dirty. Building my own bikes is a big part of the enjoyment that I get out of cycling, and it helps with “mechanical empathy”. That link you have in knowing how what you assembled effects how your bike hangs together, sounds and feels. Some of my contraptions may not even look pretty, but they are my babies, and you never tell anyone their baby is ugly : )

The Karate Monkey was my first 29er, first drop-barred bike, and first rigid bike (since the late 80’s), so you have to bear that in mind when reading my findings. The reason I chose it was because of the many options it gave me. I wanted to try a 29er, and apparently the Karate Monkey was one of the very first out there. Canti mounts meant that I could build it up with old crap already lying around the shed, v-brakes, road wheels etc. In this first iteration it was a very capable Cyclo cross machine as it weighed in at a passable 24 pounds. (CX images from Craig Madsen).

For the second build iteration of the Karate Monkey I picked up some cheap wheels, complete with new tires and discs off trademe. With the addition of mechanical discs it rocketed up to around 28 pounds. The discs certainly took some getting used to. There is none of the progressiveness associated with hydraulic discs - they are on or they are off. On the trails of the Wainuiomata Trail Park the Karate Monkey was great. It climbed awesomely and descended with confidence. At no time did I think I would have been better off with a flat bar. In fact, I suspect the drop bars may even have a little bit of suspension built in, they certainly feel that way. Unfortunately I mis-read the course signage in the race I was doing there, did an extra lap and dropped from 2nd to about 8th in my class by the races end.

One thing you will notice with drop bars, you can be a bit limited with braking set-ups. If you go with road levers you will need to get the appropriate discs for them. I had some special road levers that had normal MTB-style-pull so went with standard MTB discs. If I wanted to go from the bar-end shifters to STI levers, I would have to get one of these : or change to the road specific calipers. This is starting to sound more like its about drop bars than it is the Karate Monkey. I will try to keep on track.

There are many strange things about the Karate Monkey. It is the swiss-army-knife of bicycles, so in many ways it is a compromise. It can take very fat tires, but there is little clearance for your front derailleur or derailleur cable so you might have to use the “monkey-nuts” which push the wheel more rearward in the horizontal drop-outs to give better clearance up front. This in turn would negate the whole idea of having a bent seat tube which is presumably to allow the wheel to be closer to front for that legendary Karate Monkey cornering.  Of course if you go single speed its not an issue. My widest rear tires have only been 2.0 inches so I haven’t had any issues at all. Personally I hate the horizontal drop-outs which are a bit of pain when installing the rear wheel, but apparently a big improvement on previous models. At least now you don’t have to unbolt the disc calipers to change the wheel!

Something which I think is a real mistake on the latest Karate Monkey is the dropping of the canti bosses. They really gave you a lot more options. Mine is the 16 inch model. I was concerned that the 18 inch, with drop bars would be too long for me. With the 16, its great, but if I throw a normal flat bar on it, it feels a bit short. Bear this in mind when choosing frame sizes. I did a lot of research online for sizing, it did not help. An 18 with a shorter stem may well have done the job even better. Typically when using a drop-bar you are extending your cock-pit length a fair bit so you need a shorter top-tube or a shorter stem.
Some of the cable routing is not that great with the 16 inch frame, the bottom triangle (because of that silly little gusset) is only 13.5 inches tall. Presumably it’s for a better standover height. This does not leave much room to braze on a derailleur cable stop, hence you have crazy loops of cable sticking up above the top tube, and a very steep exit angle on your cable. Once again, not a problem if you are running it singlespeed.

There is only the one cable stop on the Monkey which is intended to use continuous cabling. I am not sure what I think about this. I am getting used to it, should improve cable life in theory.

I wasn’t really expecting to say anything good about a 2 and half pound steel rigid fork. I was wrong. It goes exactly where you point it. There is a lot of confidence to be gained from knowing that your wheel will go where you want it to, and it wont in fact wallow down the side of a rut and spit you off. As I said, I haven’t ridden a rigid fork since the late 80’s, but I cant help but think that the 29 inch wheels make it less of an issue. 

A good example of the merits of the wagon wheels came to me the other day when riding the river bank section of the Crazyman ride. There are a series of man made speed humps. When you hit them on the 29er, you just launch off them. When I hit them on my 26er, they really knock my speed back.

In really tight single track the karate Monkey’s geometry is amazing. It even turns better than my Santa  Superlight which is my best handling bike to date. That's with the drop bars on. I haven’t ridden it that much with the flat bar on, although I can say unequivocally, the drop bar is better for long descents as you only really have to brake, and not brake AND grip the bar simultaneously. Gravity and the shape of the bar means you can relax your grip and your hand wont slip off, or get arm pump to the same extent. This is one of the main benefits of a drop bar. There I go again. 

So what else have I found out? Its the only bike Ive ever had to use a proper head-set tool on. It was a tight fit. Luckily Marco had one in his garage. The bottom bracket shell is 73mm wide and I am using a 113mm wide spindled square taper BB on it, like most of my BB’s.

More things, not necessarily to do with the Monkey, but more the 29er format.
1. You can run MTB tires on Mavic Open pro road rims.
2. You can run road tires on 29er MTB rims.
3. If you flat, a 26 tube will fit a 29er tire no problem with a bit of care.

I have had a lot of fun with this Bike. It handles really well, its very robust, cheap and adaptable. I will probably ride it a bit more with the flat bar on, then put the drops back on, then do some big day trips on it, then maybe turn it into a singlespeed for a while.  I am interested to see how the drop bars cope with the big leverage efforts you get when SSIng. The “on the hoods” position on my current Woodchipper bar gives excellent leverage for in the saddle efforts anyway.

At around 5 and a half pounds for the frame, this is indicative of the many steel hard tails that are turning up on the market. Cheap and robust, and heavier than a lot of fullies. But if you are not suffering from weight weenerism and you like messing with your own bike, then the Karate Monkey promises hours of fun!

Other links. Worlds fastest Monkey. 

Karate Monkey First Impressions. 

monkey with KNARD !

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Karate Monkey Landspeed Record attempt

In my bid to build the fastest Karate Monkey on the planet I have a way to go. My second attempt at wind tunnel testing on the Rimutaka incline proved problematic as a southerly came through. I was in danger of getting hypothermia in the actual tunnel as the wind tried to wrestle the 2nd rain jacket I was trying to put on from my grip.

It's at this time of the year (spring) that the weather is always at its worst. Winter is a doddle in Wellington. It's always mild and mostly dry and most of the time you don't even have to wear gloves. Ok, it snowed this year. But that has never happened before. Spring sucks. I am getting probably 1 dry ride out of 3, and the trails are a mess.

The first speed enhancement I tried was my home brewed aero-bars, followed by a reverse slammed riser stem, the Freeload rack speed-pod, then the wheel covers (disc wheel emulator). A 46 tooth big ring helps too.

Room for an expresso pot, tools and spare shorts. 
Wind tunnel testing is all very well, but its on the race track where you see if all the hours of computer modelling you have been doing pays off. Unfortunately the disc cover caused a slight rubbing on the brake caliper, so I had to eliminate it from the test. I could have run my tri-spoke on the front, but that would have meant putting the v-brakes back on. Too hard.

The race was on what the UK Time Trial testers would call a "sportsmans" course, a winding 22kms in the country with lots of the nasty coarse 3/4 chip that we specialise in here in NZ. You can tell it was slow when the fastest time was a  41kmh on a hi-end TT rig. We got hammered with a rain squall coming through as well.

The best I could manage was 35kmh in 37.25 mins. Pretty pathetic, but with 32 spokes smashing into the wind, Armadillo tires and very wide handlebars I guess I shouldn't have expected too much. I did sit on 54kmh for a bit on the wednesday worlds ride early that week, but then I also went out the back some time shortly afterwards : )

The fat tires are back on now. But if anyone else wants to have a crack, we can start with the Karate Monkey World Landspeed record at 35kmh for 20 kms. All results must be verified.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A different kind of parrot sketch

I got out on my road bike before work yesterday, but by golly it felt horrible compared to my Karate Monkey. Tiny carbon handlebars with negligible brakes. I was buzzed though when a flock of about 7 Rosellas flew directly over my head. Better than the Coach Track Magpie who must have had a crack at me 8 times in about 800 metres a week back. Then as I was going past the Rimutaka prison turn-off I saw an adolescent Pukeko chick with its parent and directly across the road were a pair of Paradise Ducks with the tiniest of chicks. Unfortunately this morning on my commute I found a severly injured male Paradise duck on the road that I had to euthanise. A real shame as they are said to mate for life. I thought I would cheer myslelf up with this clip of a Kakapo getting jiggy on some guys head.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Wind tunnel testing for Brevet

Well I know I said I wasn't competitive about this thing... but there was a tunnel, and it had wind in it...

I left work at 4pm on friday with the idea of a getting a longer ride in, leaving the weekend open for all the other stuff like, house maintainance, market and veggie shopping and as it turned out, BBQ prep. 

I loaded up on batteries and a cookie time, with the idea of heading to the top of the Rimutaka Incline summit, travelling as much as I could on the gravel. Unfortunately I always get lost at the bit up the Plateau road, so I bypassed this and had to do some tarmac from Moonshine North. Next time I will sort it out.

I was testing my new home modified aero bars and I was rapt with the way they felt. Actually more comfortable, more aero and lighter than the Profile T2's that I used in the Brevet last time. The position is a bit more extreme than the position on the T2 as the pads are ON the handlebar rather than BEFORE the handlebar. I was amazed at how much control I had when I had built up my confidence, and that was with the narrow CX tires on. Unfortunately it was quite a short ride, with a tail wind on the way out, and downhill on the return, it was a little bit over 3 hours and not even dark when I got home. Maybe next time I will drop down to Cross Creek to make it a bit longer.

Its great getting out on the gravel river trails, no stress from the traffic and quite relevant to XC or Brevet riding. I have tended to completely ignore them in the past but no more! People don't tend to think of the Hutt Valley as a Picnic/River destination but its as good as many other places in NZ that people rave about.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Only 134 sleeps til the Kiwi Brevet !

I knew I was really looking forward to 2012's Kiwi Brevet when I was daydreaming about the new course and I nearly rode into the back of a parked car. I also had this strange dream where I was riding my bike flanked by a group of Pukekos. Birds are very portentous to me. Native birds anyway. Maybe it was a combination of Brevet memories of all the Wekas we came across near Moana, and the time we were riding with a baby deer. The mind does strange things. I have done a lot of very cool things over the years on my bike, but so far the Kiwi Brevet tops them all. A special combination of adventure, camaraderie and challenge.

Last time I was very green, and apart from doing Outward Bound in 1984 I didn't have much outdoor experience. My aim was to able to cope with anything that nature threw at me. I wasn't interested in buying into the "accommodation anxiety" thing, riding on into the small hours to try and make it to pre-booked accommodation. I felt the need to be prepared. If you break a freewheel in the middle of the bush your credit card wont save you, so I took a bivvy sack and a sleeping bag.  As it happened we did experience a breakdown of sorts with my buddy coming down with heat-stroke and an enforced camp 3/4s of the way up the Mangatapu on day 1. Its not like he wasn't fit. We had done a fair bit of training together and I was worried about keeping up with him to be honest. Anyway, we had the gear for a comfy night out so we were sweet. It was the most memorable night of the ride for me too. Camped out on Murders rock, with an amazing night sky..

In the end we were all very lucky, with good weather the whole time and what seemed like a perpetual tailwind. That doesn't mean to say it will be the same this time around. New Zealand's weather can be very changeable.

This time I am looking at different bike options. Last time I adopted a pretty simple approach. I brought a Freeload rack and bolted it onto my Santa Cruz full suspension bike (my installation pix here). Freeload built the first, and to my knowledge only rack that will bolt on to almost any fully (or suspension fork). If you have a fully the only other option is one of these overgrown seat bags. Having never used a seat bag I cant comment on how they work. I guess the weight is up a little higher. Freeload also do a pannier specific rack now, which I have but have yet to test.

I ended up riding with two other guys with Freeload racks. Jonty had them on both ends and Nick had one with panniers on the back. While they would have have been very envious of my fully as we rode through the Molesworth corrugations, I was very envious of the ease of access that Nick had to gear in his saddlebags. There was no messing about with un-strapping a dry bag which you probably just spent 15 minutes cinching up so it wouldn't wobble off after a couple of hours on a gnarly track. A couple of small side panniers like Nicks were brilliant.

Outside the Black Ball Hilton.
Now that I have a rigid 29er Surly Karate Monkey I am wondering if I should use that. Its going to be at least 2 pounds heavier than the Santa Cruz which weighed in at 28.5 pounds with aero-bars and rear rack (no load). The 29er wheels roll beautifully and I am not yet convinced the weight would make a lot of difference.

It didn't seem to be a problem for the Aussie Brovet guys who came over with their fully loaded Salsa Fargos.  There is a hell of a lot of climbing in the Kiwi Brevet, but it is spread out over 1100kms. Its got to be pretty damn steep for a heavier bike to make a big difference. There will be a few very steep segments this time around, probably more than there was last time, but if it comes down to it, if you get out of bed 30 minutes earlier the next day, any disadvantage from having a heavier bike would be gone (I think). This implies a degree of competitiveness, which we weren't actually buying into in 2010.  I am pretty sure I wont be buying into it again in 2012 ! The Karate Monkey is also a very simple bike, cable discs which are so set and forget, compared to my finicky hydraulics, and friction bar-end shifters. No pivots or shocks to break. Who am I trying to convince?

Cleetus in Port Underwood. It was hot.
Riding a fully in 2010 made it fun for me. I am wondering if that's what kept me fresh and enabled us to bang out the last 200 plus kms from Hanmer in under 11 hours. How tired would I be if I rode a steel rigid bike the whole way. That is the big question. Am I stuck on the big-wheeled band-wagon? I guess I need to do a few long rides. Some with CX tires, some with full sized tires. The CX tires fairly scream along on the flat stuff, but in lieu of suspension, a fatter tire is the only suspension you will be getting on a rigid frame.

More questions, a camera or not? I took some good photos last time, many of them good enough to be used in magazines, and I also used my little phone to take some passable photos for blogging. What's the use of doing such a cool event if you don't take the time to snap a few quality shots to document it and skite about what a fun time you are having while you are doing it! There is a lot of weight in there if you also take a phone charger, plus one for your lights. The new Ayup light's batteries come with a low-power light setting so that could greatly extend battery life.

The next thing I am geeking out on is a bivvy sack versus a tarp. A tarp could be a bit smaller and breathe a lot better. I only used my bivvy sack twice last time and I found it a bit sweaty. Here is a very cool set-up. Charlotte used one like this in 2010. Check out this website pimping the pros of "quilts". It actually makes a lot of sense.I am also keen to use aero bars again, they are a great place to hang some light gear off and you really appreciate having another position for your hands, and the ability to stretch out and take some more weight off your butt. I made sure I was well used to my aeros before the last Brevet and even did a lap of the Coppermine circuit when in Nelson with them on. Right now I am messing with some home-grown minimalist aeros in my shed. Never throw anything out : )

So that's were I am at at the moment.Thinking about the Kiwi Brevet on February 4th 2012.
Only 134 sleeps !

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Some of my favourite pix

I reckon you are better to have a crappy camera in your pocket than an expensive one at home in your cupboard. Here are some of my favourite pix. None of them are from particularly flash cameras. All of them point and shoots, a Canon Power Shot A460 and a Canon Power Shot SX200IS.

If you want to see what you can do with a compact camera, check out this guy's stuff, its really impressive.

Cleetus ripping up Mt Climie on his Singular Gryphon
Jonty and Chris on the Molesworh in the Kiwi Brevet
Cleetus on Mt Climie again
Jonty in the Waiuta on the Kiwi Brevet
Snow on Belmont Trig this year.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Flatter than a flat thing. Nth island CX champs.

That was the worst I have felt in race since the singlespeed world champs last year.
I was flatter than a flat thing. Such is life. But I have got to tell you about it just so I can include this cool photo that Craig Madsen took. You can't tell that I am complete rubbish in it. At least I had the option to have a free beer on each lap, not that I did... I dont think I have recovered from the 6-peaks 6-pack ride I did a few weeks back... thats probably why I am flat... Too old for that kind of nonsense.
Craig Madsen had just got off the plane from Interbike 2 hours earlier, he raced, took photos and was full of gossip and tales which I could tell you about but then I would have to track you down and kill you, and I am too flat for that right now..

Well done to Bike Hutt's Mike Anderson for putting on a great series of events. Cyclo-cross was the winner on the day and there were costumes and all sorts of dodgy things going on. I am not sure, but I think one of the Hawkes  Bay guys won, but on a beer count-back the local Yeti Alex Revell may have taken home the trophy. A good report here from Ken.

Legend of the day had to go to Mark Humphries for riding his Pugsly in all three races! He is gonna kill himself or get very very strong. It was also good to see "Frog" Woodward who I don't think I have seen since the North Island Cup at Dry Creek in 1993. Funny how things go. I am pretty sure that back then Frog was on a double chain-ring set-up with drop-bars. How bizzare. There is truly nothing new under the sun.

It was great catching up with heaps of the local crew and some of my old Brevet buddies who are starting to get a bit amped about Simon Kennett's 2012 Kiwi Brevet !!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The importance of arithmetic

I had my first real MTB race on the Karate Monkey on sunday at the Wainuiomata Trail Park, round 1 of the PNP series. It was also my first offical race as a Master 3 (50 year old). Not that I am 50 yet, but I will be this calendar year. Given that I was M3, I knew there would be limited technical challenge to the course (knowing the course designer's preferences quite well) so running a rigid frame wouldn't be too much of a hindrance.

Photo borrowed from Andy Woodwarks Collection
The hooter sounded and I wound up the new 46 sprocket (thanks Marco) and shot past a fair few of the combined M3, M1 and elite field before we turned off 10 seconds later onto the first climb. Straight away I was hammering up behind my old protege Jordan Blake and before long Marco floated up behind us on his 17 pound C-dale. I could see Marco was angling to take the left hand side of the water-tower at the top of the first climb, but my gut feeling was that the right side was quickest. Jord had the local knowledge so I went with him. Good call, we didn't see Marco again for quite a while, until I heard him call out from behind that "The Painting Man was coming through". Despite his digital weight-loss techniques Ian Paintin was still a bit behind on the climb, but was about to make his move. He busted through on the descent and we levelled out again on the next small climb.

The first of the granny climbs went well but I lost traction just before the top. On the second climb, Ian had the good line on the left, and I had the gnarly one on the right, but he spun out and speared off over to my side forcing me off,  apologising profusely like the gentleman racer he is.

We remounted and somewhere before the main ridge track Marco made his move and got ahead of me before the left turn into the newly built Towai single track. Ian was having none of it and retook the lead, having been caught behind Marco's extra large elbows before. I on the other hand was not so clever and spent what seemed like an eternity stuck behind the Godfather until he agreed to pull over. I have the guys in the workshop working on a high-voltage Capacitor Discharge device that should enable me to give Marco a good zap on the ring-piece if he shows a lack of fair play again!

The new Towai track was great. Narrow and winding, and a bit rooty, but I cant wait to get out on it again. The wagon wheels on the Karate Monkey seemed to eat it up quite well, but I suspect a bit of front end suspension would have been a help. I got out onto the main trail in second place wondering how far up ahead the Painting Man was.

The bee-line descent went well, (took the girls route) up Jungles and down Snails and over the Wetlands and on to an unmarked fork in the track. Bugger. What to do. The majority of the wear and tear to the track seemed to be to the right so I went that way. Doh! 20 seconds later I almost had a head-on with someone coming the other way so I back tracked back and took the left hand fork. I heard a coasting free-wheel up ahead and wondered if it was another super-crusty who had passed me while I was going the wrong way. Sure enough I spied Gary Moller up ahead. Catching him was hard, as I kept hitting back markers. They were always courteous and pulled over where they could. Gary is at the upper end of the super-crustys age bracket and has just gotten faster over the last 3 or so years. I snuck past him near the top of the climb somewhere but didn't put much time on him down Snails on the next lap.

Somewhere along here things get hazy. I would swear on my death bed that I did 3 laps of the course, as outlined in the Course Algebra description, but obviously I did 4, and I apologise for convincing Gary that we had an extra lap to go, as it cost both of us a place on the podium. A small amount of post-race research found that there was a strong correlation between our numeracy skills and our final positions, with school cert maths results having a big influence on the final outcome with Ian Paintin scoring 98, Marco 86, and me a dismal 50. It all makes perfect sense now.

All things considered it was a good day, a fun track and some good riding. Things are looking a bit dire up our way at the moment. The Waitangirua Forest Park is closed for lambing and Danzig is likely to get levelled so that the timber can be turned into car-boxes in Japan. On the up side Marco and his buddies are building a new link track from the Coach track across to Hill Road  (I think).

The above foto was from Andys shots. More photos and relevant links here.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Snow business

Who would have thought, my first ever experience of riding on snow would happen in my own back yard!
After the dumps we got at our house I figured there might be heaps more up the hill, so headed off up to the top of Belmont Trig before work. It was amazing, no wind and about 6 to 8inches deep where there was a northerly aspect. Hard work riding up it, but a blast coming down!

Monday, August 08, 2011

Where are the roadies?

Here are a couple of nice shots from Craig Madsen from The Bike Hutt's latest Cyclo Cross in Upper Hutt.
He must have had some old black and white film in the back of the fridge ; )

Craig's Pugsly was a popular ride at the race. Incredible to think that Surly are about to launch one with even fatter tires called the "Moonlander".

About 1.3 seconds after this I slipped and fell flat onto my knees in front of the next barrier ! The guys that were bunny-hopping these were taking heaps of time out of those of us that werent. There are some great photos of guys on CX bikes getting big air in the Bike Hutt facebook, in particular Ben Knight.

It was a full-on course with lots of tight corners and quite a few barriers to deal with. The hardest one for me so far. What was really cool was seeing the little kids doing their race. This is the perfect environment for the kids to race in as its not easy to find flat places for kids in the Wellington area.

I am a bit surprised to be going as well as I am at these events as my bike training at the moment is pretty much 1 ride a week ( 2.3 hrs a week average over the last 3 months) as I get ready for the Butterfly Creek Midnight Madness Night Run which is on this weekend in the Hills above Eastbourne.

Its a 15 km two-man teams event, (480 metres of climbing) but unfortunatley myself and Cleetus both got broken-arses last week, him with his back going out, and me with my first time experience of  ITB (illiotibial band syndrome). I probably got it by trying to run downhill too fast just trying to keep Cleetus in sight. Hopefully with a serious taper we can enjoy ourselves for a few hours on saturday night.

More photos here from the Bike Hutt's Facebook page. Ken Feist had a good race and on his Blog asks the question we are all thinking. Where are the Wellington Roadies? As I was waiting for Cleetus at the bottom of the Hill (on the ride out) both the Welly bunch-ride and the Meoow GP ride came through. I guess we missed our chance to infiltrate and spread the good word....

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Drop it like its hot !

The Karate Monkey is getting close to being a final build with the addition of some MTB wheels - brand new, complete with new Racing Ralphs for $285 off tardme!

Some Avid BB7s disc brakes (mtb version) complete the package. All of this has bumped the weight up by about 3 pounds to about 27.5 pounds over the v-braked road-wheeled iteration I was using at the CX's. The CX tires will be back on for this weekend hopefully.

It got a good hammering at Wainui Trail Park last weekend. The drop bars were great, but the rear brake was almost unusable they were skidding so much. I know that the Racing Ralphs roll incredibley well on the road, so a bit of the skidding could be caused by them, but I think I basically had the Avid BB7's set up too well. I backed off the inside pad a few turns when I got home. Hopefully it will make them less vicious as the outside pad will have to drag the disc over to the inside which should knock back the efficiency a bit.

I am really liking the Woodchipper drop-bars. I cut 2 inches off each side last week so now I can at least get them into the shed without snagging bottles of turps and paint brushes all over the show.

The position of your hands when riding these off-road is such that its like hanging onto a big set of bar-ends. You can get massive amounts of power through them, which is handy, because with bar-end shifters, I am not going to be changing gears as often as I would if I had an STI road shifter on the front right.

There are several reasons for this choice of shifters. You need a different set of BB7s for road pull levers (mine are special ones that pull the normal MTB amount) and I am using them in friction mode as I would be surprised if STI would work with my circuitous cable routing : )

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Why you should take Global Warming seriously

Beer - it's a kiwi favourate - but according to NIWA global warming might just be about to taint your pint.

Another beer related item. DB has managed to gain ownership of the trademark 'Radler' . Imagine if Ford were the only people allowed to call there cars "CARS". The rest of would be driving "Motorised buggies".

I like the suggestion of Radler brewers putting an '@' in the name to give the finger to DB.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Trees are our friends

Last saturday myself and celebrity seismologist Mr Cleetus, hit the Wainui Trail Park yet again. We were both on our rigi-didgy 29ers and as I followed him up the Wainui Hill I pointed out that his rear dropout looked less than perfectly vertically aligned. He acknowledged my concerns and pedalled on. We shot up Labyrinth to check out the new trail that is being built up near the top - The Towai Traverse? It is really coming along and is quite different to the other trails at WTP. A bit more natural rather than being so smoothly bermed. Towards the end of the trail it started to get pretty muddy. Initially my Beaver/Karma combo was sweet, but before long it had turned into a big fat mess just like Cleetuses dry weather Geax Akkas.

Before long there was a foul exclamation and Cleetus stopped to view his now extremely dislocated rear derailleur which was jammed between the spokes in a most unnatural position. His non-replaceable steel drop-out was also looking very munted. We were in a quandry. What would Bear Grylls do? It was way too cold to pee on our tee shirts and make a bandana so I elected to break the chain and make a singlespeed to hopefully get us home.

After 10 minutes we eventually found the power-link in the mud covered chain and we removed the rear derailleur. Cleetus related to me a belief that it might be possible to realign his drop-out to a usable level by leveraging it between two branches in a tree. 

 It sounded far-fetched to me, but anything was worth a go. Low and behold there just happened to be several trees near-by, one of which was a good fit. 10 minutes later the whole thing was reassembled and we scrambled up the short-cut to the firebreak to continue our ride.

We decided to keep it safe and leave the gear changing to a minimum but had to ride down the Snail Trail at least a couple of times. Its a very fun trail on a rigid bike and I was really enjoying the control on the "wide-as" Woodchipper bars. I always assumed that they were a disadvantage to Cleetus, but I am well and truly convinced now that they are not.

We shot up Jungle Gym and Directors and down the Wainui Hill to finish off an eventful day.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Leave it to Beaver

Maxxis Beaver 29er tire - first ride. 

I was on the lookout for some 29er tires. I'd just built up my Karate Monkey and had blooded it with its first Cyclocross race and it went well - with CX tires, now I needed some MTB tires if I was to venture further afield in more comfort and control.

Given that I am not currently rich enough to have proper 29er wheels, I needed some 29er tires that would work well enough on my current wheels (Mavic open-pros road wheels). I did a bit of Googling and found that its not unheard of for people to use 29er tires on 700cc road rims, but it was advisable not to go too wide. I managed to find a cheap Kenda Karma 1.9 somewhere for the rear, so I just needed a front. A quick look online and I spied something called a Maxxis Beaver. I googled it up, and could only see two references to it at all. Everyone else was either testing prototypes from the factory or had just got them and hadn't put any real miles on them.

I clicked "buy", and 18 hours later there was fresh Beaver on my desk! A  29 x 2.00 tire designed for use in mud and challenging conditions... apparently. There is nothing about them on the Maxxis website, this was just from some PR fluff I came across. They had a nice sticky feel to them and weighed in at a scant 553 grams. How can a 29er tire be lighter than most of my 26ers? They didn't have scary thin looking sidewalls or tiny knobs. The did have the EXC specification which is supposed to offer high TPI count and lightweight "advantages".

Anyway. The day after the sunday cyclocross race I came down with a very bad case of dysentery that had me out of action for most of the week. A real shame as it was forecasted to bucket down by the weekend. I snuck out on thursday in the early dawn to see how the Beaver held up on the Danzig track, which was trying to dry out after the previous week's downpours. Danzig is a slippery muddy pig in the wet, so it was a good test. It wasn't as bad as I had seen it in the past so thought I would give Big Weta a crack as well.

The combination of the Karma on the back, and Beaver up front was was giving me very good braking. I wasn't constantly locking up like I do on my Superlight, but then again, the Superlight has powerful disc brakes, and presumably a smaller braking patch. Cornering was pretty much as expected on a bicycle in the mud. No real surprises, only me continually surprised that it takes a while to get used to no suspension on the front after 15 years of having a suspension fork!

It got a bit squirrley near the bottom of Big Weta and I had a magnetic tree experience and ended up trying to embrace the sky as I went over the bank. Thankfully there was lots of damp rotting plant matter to soften my fall. It was still a bit dark, but darker still down the bank. I hauled myself out on a Ponga frond after documenting my stupidity in Gonzo style.

I checked the tires and they were still working well enough. A fair bit of sticky mud build-up in between the wide-ish spaced knobs, but nothing that was hampering traction. If it was wetter, there would have been less mud stuck on the tires for sure. Danzig's combination of drying mud and pine needles can be pretty crappy if you get it at the wrong time on the wrong tire.

This was only my first ride on the Beaver, and given that it has pelted down non-stop since then, I will have to go out again and try it in even wetter conditions.

* No Beaver/s were harmed in this test and I paid full screaming retail for the tire. I am in no way affiated with the Beaver/Maxxis family although its true I once lived in a town which was to be called "Beaver Town" but which thankfully settled on Blenheim as a name.