Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Dawn Serendipity

Originally I'd thought that Eastern Promises would be an appropriate title for this particular post, but given that I have neither the desire, nor urge, to imagine Serge naked and wrestling, so I have decided to avoid the obvious.

On Sunday Serge was riding home along Ridge Road when his ride was rudely assaulted by a couple of acts of mindless stupidity. The stupidity involved was two separate carloads of unthinking miscreants threw and hit him with eggs. He didn't get details of the vehicles, except that one was a pink Subaru with a rego plate ending in 8.

He did report the matter to the police, and also went looking for the vehicle to exact some appropriate rough justice.

Luckily for the idiots, a vigilant and quick thinking police officer spotted the said vehicle today after they pulled out in front of him and apprehended them. Sixteen year old idiots. I have suggested that Serge seek some summary justice, my initial suggestion was a swift kick to the happy sack. But on second thoughts I suggest something demeaning and public would be far better.

My riding on the other hand, while all solo, as been excellent, I'm loving the new Spring temperatures and have now had two rides sans arm and knee warmers. Today, as I was in Pukekohe, I decided to climb the Bombay Hills and across to Ararimu and back around as a loop. Given that yesterday I wheezed my way around the Waitaks and wanted an easy type ride, I don't know which part of climb and up I didn't understand. Add in a stiff NE wind and the climb to the top after Bombay was a picture of a man chewing wasps.

The reward was the descent of Ararimu Road and a healthy tailwind back from Drury through Paerata. Even with the atrocious seal of Burt Road and the steady drags uphill, I was moving quite quickly with the hand on my back.

Always great to ride in some different environs.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Since I was a young boy

I have an addiction. There, I said it. My addiction is a veritable personality enhancer in my case and I have lived with, and loved it, for longer than adulthood. I do know that my addiction has a dark side and that the withdrawal symptoms are not that savage, but they are enough for me to keep the tiger in my tank and avoid suffering them where possible.

My addiction is caffeine, more precisely espresso. It is the humaniser for me. I can function without it, and will, at a pinch, drink plunger coffee, but I do love the ritual, taste and routine of a couple of cups of espresso in the morning.

I found out, in a very hard way, almost two decades ago what happened if I stopped feeding my habit, and also concurrently just how horrid a VO2 max test is. I was a guinea pig for a PhD student at Otago University who was studying the effects of caffeine on perceived exhertion. The test necessitated abstinence from any form caffeine for 72 hours before the weekly tests. Within 12 hours of going cold turkey I had a pounding headache that I came to recognise, but was also aware that within minutes of finishing the test I could relieve with a double short black.

Recently my machine at home blew it's release valve, and made it no longer possible, until it was repaired, to enjoy espresso at home. Never mind the poor visitors who had to endure plunger coffee, or Satan's own brew, tea, I was most put out.

So I opened the damn thing up...

Let's just say that it wasn't full of helpful labels, and my knowledge of boilers and copper piping is slightly lacking. So, it was off to prowl the interweb and forums. I finally worked out that I had a knackered pressurestat. Hmmm, sounded good, but what did it look like and was it within my mechanical aptitude to repair. In the espresso forums, there were men who fiddled with their pressurestat daily, who discussed their microfoaming techniques, who argued the merits of different heating elements. But no photos of the damned pressurestats.

Luckily, I had acquired my machine off an expert, and a phone call to him pointed me in the right direction. This man, who is extremely practical, knows the limits of my abilities and assured me that I could fix this little issue. He told me what to look for, and then roughly what to do. I found the offending part and removed it. A quick phone call to an espresso machine repairer told me that they had the part in stock, so off I traipsed with part in hand.

Slightly superior being at said repairer took my part, even though I gave him the part number and saundered off through the racking. A minute later he was back with the shiny new one. Placed it in front of me and tried to deal with me in a bit of an off-hand manner. I looked at new part, and my old part and then pointed out that the one he had given me was 1/4" thread and that mine was 1/8" thread. His manner changed instantly and he became helpful. He applied teflon tape and fitted an thread adapter. All good, part in hand I hastened home.I was slightly cavalier in fitting the pressurestat back in, and ran out of teflon tape after a wrap, but thought I should be okay. I fitted the pressurestat and fired the machine up. I worked, the blow off valve on the boiler stayed closed, the pressure came up and stayed where it should all was good. Until I peered in amongst the piping. The inadequate teflon taping of mine, due to haste and a bit of rip, shit and bust, was insufficient and the thread was weeping water under pressure. So turn machine off, go and buy more teflon tape.

Arrive home, unscrew pressurestat, burn hand a little on hot copper, retape, screw back in. Fire machine up, feeling quite excited this time. All is as it should be, then peer back in to check my thread work...DOH! The adapter that the chap at the part acquisition place had fitted wasn't completely tight, and was weeping, so machine off, no care for burnt digits now, anger dulls that sort of minor pain. Adapter off, then rethreaded and tightened that last 1/4 turn.

Fire machine up again, all it good, grind some beans and pump out a cup. Certainly not the best cup I've ever made, but it tasted like victory to me.

The last thing to make the process complete was to go and buy a kilo of happiness. My world is back to rights.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Tell the truth, shall die

It's a shame when a plan is flawed, and that flaw is exposed in a painful manner.

I decided to ride over Scenic Drive this morning. I was looking forward to the quiet roads in the pre-dawn and dawn and the sound of Tuis waking and testing their vocal skills. I had looked at the forecast and the rain radar and was confident of a dry(ish) ride.

Normally, at this time of year, I'm pretty pragmatic with my choice of cycling clothing and will carry a jacket, especially on a morning ride. I also tend to wear full gloves and if it looks like there will be rain, carry a cap and wear booties. Somehow, partly through the ride featuring quite a bit of climbing, and partly through optimisim, I simply donned a gillet and wore track mitts. I decided to ignore the little smudges on the rain radar.

The temperature was around 10 degrees, so that ensemble was the perfect choice with the dry roads and weather I started out in. I even unzipped the gillet a little as I climbed Konini Road and Scenic Drive. As I passed through Waitatarua it was drizzling a little, nothing serious, but it could be seen in my light, I pressed on. Then, just after I passed the highest point on Scenic Drive, the heavens opened. They delivered a bucket load of cold rain, then several more bucket loads. My foolish decision in leaving a jacket behind and leaving the full finger gloves sitting on the sofa was demonstrated in extremely cold hands initially, then body and feet. The lack of a cap made visibility difficult and descending a nightmare, and the lack of booties made for wet, cold feet very quickly.

The western end of Scenic Drive was an extremely average experience to ride due to these factors, the descent down to Swanson, unnerving and my spirits were flagging for the sodden roll back to town. Luckily on the bikepath I was passed by a triathlete who was motoring along at a pace several kilometres higher than my miserable knee knocking. I darted for his back wheel and concentrated on hanging on for the ride. The mouthfuls of water and grit that came from his back wheel was a small price to pay for the benefit of speed and having to concentrate on staying there, instead of thinking how cold and miserable I was.

The shower at home was a painful affair and I slowly thawed out. I was a sobering lesson in ride planning and one I won't forget...for a while...

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Conjuring Monsters

The following pictures tell a story. Firstly, to those who thought that this would be my next post, you are dead right, I'm not quite that perverse.

Back, earlier this year, I imagined this particular loop up, and was eager to ride it, but at the time of it's genesis the roads needed some rain to soften them and move some loose metal. Well, we have had the rain, so there really was little excuse for not tackling this loop, my Northern Hell loop. Not finding any other suitable excuses, I decided to tackle it on a fine day.

In planning the loop, I knew that most of the roads were back roads (major part of the appeal), that there would be little traffic, that there was a lot of metal, and a few climbs. I also factored in a shop or similar at about the 60 kilometre mark. I was right of two of those assumptions.

The loop is 125 kilometres and I had reckoned on about 40 kilometres of gravel and metal roads and about 1500 metres of ascending. It starts pleasantly out of Silverdale with a series of small climbs, all under a kilometre in length, with only one having a gradient greater than 10 %. The first lot of gravel is after 15 kilomtres and is a gentle descent, then down a valley, back up another, then a climb, then a steep descent, all pretty smooth, scenic and a little shy of 17 kilometres in length, good stuff, even though it's tiring like riding a windtrainer. One car and a truck in a that leg.

Then a few kilometres of quiet rolling seal before hitting a piece of road that both MapmyRide and a car trip about a decade ago made look quite smooth in profile and not too challenging. Wrong! It started with a climb from sea level up to 200m, the followed a ridge line, a very narrow, exposed road that dropped and climbed several times, before a long, steep, winding, rough and corrugated descent back to the seal at Kaipara Flats. No rest on that 16 kilometres and a bit of fatigue.

It was then that I found my assumed water station wasn't to be, so with a bit of a rationing process going on, I figured I could make the next 40 kilometres without too much hydration, although there was a small argument with myself that I could add about 5 kilometres on and detour into Warkworth for water. That would have been cheating I felt.

The next 24 kilometres were pleasant seal with the exception of one horrid little climb that hit 20%, the climb over Woodcocks hills was lovely, as always, and the descent was fun (first and, as it turned out, only sealed descent of any length in the day), all too easy I thought.

Turning East at Ahuroa to go over to Puhoi, more gravel. Ah, that was interesting. The valley was lovely and the metal spare, but the climb was stiffer and higher than I thought it would be and the descent was tough, rough, tight and damned hard work. Finally hit the seal after 11 kilometres of gravel and also encountered my first puncture, a pinch flat. Changed that and rolled into Puhoi and a well deserved shop stop.

Water, V and raspberry licorice on board and it was the final leg, up and over Krippner Road to get home. Krippner road is quite steep and is sealed halfway up, then the fun starts, it climbs up to 180 metres and includes one kilometre with a greater that 11% average gradient, hitting 16% on the metal, it was quite an effort. Across the ridge before I swept down Monowai Road and back to seal there was a lot of loose metal on the road, some quite large and a very rough surface. It was here I got puncture number two, front wheel this time. Another pinch flat.

Changed and the last push down, and as I hit the seal, after another 14 kilometres of gravel, I had puncture number three, another rear pinch flat. Luckily I was, for a change and partly out of preparedness, carrying three spare tubes along with some glueless patches. After that it was all seal, apart from about 600 metres of gravel descent on the Waiwera Road.

I got back to the car with huge satisfaction. It was a challenging ride, with little rest and some very hard riding at times. The majority of the climbing was on gravel, likewise the descending was a gravel, hence little rest there. My estimated figure for gravel was out a little, and was in fact 58 kilometres of metal/ gravel roads out of the 125 kilometre total. I was also a little shy on the ascending with a total of 2048 metres gained (remember K2 is approximately 2300m and over 190 kilometres). It is a very tough loop.

The flat tyres have an interesting observation. I was riding good quality clinchers (newish Vredestein Fortezza Tricomps 23mm), initially pumped to 115 psi with a standard tube in them. These are very much a favourite tyre of mine and have proven to be robust, but with a good quality ride. The tyres are unmarked from this ride, but the three tubes that punctured all show several small snake bite marks, as well as the punctures, I suspect that there were several impacts that pinched the tubes over the course of the ride, (certainly the second rear tube had less pressure in it due to the use of a hand pump) and it was the resulting thin spots from the early pinching in the ride that punctured after some time, as opposed to a puncture at the time of impact. Additionally the leakage was quite slow, and the holes quite small, compared to a usual snake bite type puncture. That both rear punctures happened within a few hundred metres of exiting gravel (and the transitions from gravel to seal were quite smooth), I think may just be coincidence. Next time I will ride 25mm Continental GP4 Seasons, hopefully that addition volume may save some wrist action.

So, who's keen to join me soon, when I tackle it again?

The loop.

The Profile

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Self Attack

My cycling year has been a fairly interrupted affair, with a variety of things intruding into riding life. The two most painful intrusions were my lie-down mid crit in February and my human mortar act in April. Both of these I have recovered from successfully, and neither have really served to dampen my enthusiasm for bikes.

Looking back over my bike riding years I've been pretty fortunate with crashes that I have escaped largely unscathed, sometimes losing a bit of bark, sometimes a few bruises and, apart from the collarbone, no broken bones. I have broken bones in a number of other manner and activities, but the two sports that I have engaged in most, that also seem to carry a high risk of bone breakage (horse riding and cycling), have proven to just be bruising and skinning experiences up until April this year.

One of the most humorous falls I ever had, and also one of the more embarrassing after the event, was mountain biking after work one summer in Dunedin. I had parked the car near Signal Hill and ridden across town to meet the others and ride in the forest on the back of Three Mile Hill.

There were four of us, and it was a lovely, warm, dusty evening. We were ripping down a section of smooth double track and I was third wheel, sitting very close to the rider in front. There was broom growing either side of the track with grass down the centre. As we swept along the rider in front of me hit a low hanging branch of broom, served and the branch came swinging back and took me clean off my bike. I cartwheeled and slide in the gravel and grass. Apart from pride, and a small cut on my knee, one of those excellent wounds that leaks deep red blood, I was unhurt and laughing, as were the others.

I remounted as last rider and rode off. It wasn't until we hit the bottom of the hill and fanned out of the road that anyone was behind me. It was then that the true horror of my crash became apparent. I had ripped the seam in the back of my shorts, from waist to chamois, and a less than sightly, hairy bike stand was on show.

Never being one for letting minor details like that stop me riding, we carried on and had a great ride, but as we finished in the forest it dawned on me that I still had 30 minutes to wobble across central Dunedin to the car, with a less than stellar rear view showing. It was mildly humiliating and thankfully unwitnessed by anyone who knew me.

Saturday morning's earthquake in Canterbury was a pretty sobering reminder of the power of nature, and just how puny we are. Here is A decent bit of science explaining just what happened.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Not given prongs

With Spring arriving yesterday in an entirely appropriate manner, I could see no reason not to ride and that I did. Even though it is spring I still haven't had a ride since Autumn, except of the garage variety, that have been sans longs or knee warmers. Unfortunately even yesterday was still not going to buck that trend, but it was a beautiful day.

Somehow, as I headed out, a slightly odd idea formed in my mind. That idea was to go and tackle Mountain Road. For those of you unfamiliar with Mountain Road, just think greater than 11% average, some steep sections, some even steeper sections and no relief. It's a narrow winding wall.

It is sufficiently tough that it requires a bit of forethought and some testicular fortitude. Where the trap of it comes is that the first kilometre isn't too bad, gets up to about 10% and lulls you into a false sense of confidence. Then it steepens and gets narrow and windy. Soon it is just a bush-lined hell. It's relentless, and if you've been foolish enough to have gone too deep early, there's a terrible price to pay further up.

I decided I would ride it, and would take it as easy as I could, being unsure of form, and not having really done any climbing training recently. What transpired was some relative joy. The climb was not as painful as I remember, I didn't resort to my usual postman's weave and I judged the top correctly.

I emerged around the top corner relieved and happy, I still couldn't answer the question from the chap working on his verge, without fear of inhaling him. Actually I was surprised he even asked me, as I'd wager my head looked like a giant beetroot with dribble, sweat and snot, but then it is Mountain Road.

I'm aiming to go back in a fortnight, it was that good!

Here's some brilliant noise!