Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Crash course

Been on the bike quite a bit, but mainly riding to and from work on a loaner. So after a week of no dirt, I hit the trails of Makara with Josh and his friend Carl on Sunday. After a false start when I left my shoes at home, I finally met them and Johnathon at the carpark and we got underway. I should've brought a road bike as we slogged up the tar to the start of Varley's Track, a switchback ribbon up the side of the hill to the start of Vertigo. Carl (who it turns out I'd read about in NZMTBR mag, he runs singletrack tours in Colorado and Moab and is a gun rider) suggested we all drop our seats down for this on, but as I'm on a gram saving mission, I'd swapped it out for a standard clamp. I'd ridden Vertigo once before, and remembered it was pretty steep and tight in sections. I also remembered Rad Ross's words "only a dufus drops their seat post, duuude". About halfway down I was praying to the QR Gods as I happened upon Josh off his bike, doing what I don't know, discovering some new species of butterfly or something. Actually he's stuffed up a drop-off, and with nowhere to go and a seat digging into my ribs, it was a trip over the bars for me. I took the impact on my left leg (?) and got out of it pretty well unscathed. My ankle was a bit sore from being clipped in I guess, but it only hurt when I pedalled.
Today (my day off), I was still alittle tender, but decided a ride might sort it out. And it did. Until I shoulder charged a tree, swapped from one side of the track to the other, and landed in a pile of fallen trees, same leg clipped in, now with added bruising and what feels like the groin ripped from the bone. Oh how I love mountain biking. Time for a couple of painkillers, Steinlager administered.


Working in a bike shop is working in a bike shop. Or is it? Some things change, some remain the same. My new place of employ has it's advantages, for sure. The first bike I got to build here was a carbon S-Works Epic, not a $199 shitter. Both store are Specialized dealers, but only one actually has a full array of models on the floor. Both shops pay peanuts, but I'll take less money for better vibes. Both shops have a disgruntled BMX'er mechanic named James who doesn't like dealing with the public. Only one shop has a boss who doesn't mind going for a beer after work, and who shouts the beers and wedges. Both shops have mental case customers and shit kids coming in and annoying you with stupid questions. Both shops have radios playing during the day, only one allows the cool radio station to be played, at least until Matt cracks the shits and wants his rubbish hits station on. But we usually overpower him. And the best thing of all is the cheap bits! That'll always keep me in this field, in some capacity at least...

Friday, March 23, 2007

Let me stand next to your Fire

Was it my birthday? Was it a prank played on me by unscrupulous workmates? No, I was just trying to cook a pizza. I'd only heated up the oven, opened the door, and a small puff of smoke escaped. Not enough to set off a fire alarm. Not back at home in Oz anyway, where I'd regularly filled the house with thick plumes without a beep. But it did beep, for a couple of minutes, then stopped. Cool. I heard another alarm going off, from the main residence upstairs... I guessed no-one was home. Then their phone started ringing, and ringing. Then it stopped. Relief. As I continued to prepare my pizza, I heard a siren in the distance. Not the Scarlett Johansson type, unfortuanately. Then the lights, flashing, red, blue, red, blue. Half a dozen fully kitted firemen (or strippers, I wasn't sure) made their way to my door, where I sheepishly explained I was just a poor cook.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

50 points for businessmen

Fanging through the buses down Lambton Quay (in the CBD) yesterday when a suit stepped out into the traffic, saw me barrelling down on him, and froze in the middle of the road, hands up in a "ok you're about to hit me" pose....I locked up the back wheel and slid around him, muttering niceties as I continued on. Missed the 50 points though....

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Same hero, different day...

So, you remember the CWH from the other day? Well, riding home yesterday (on a shop bike, hardtail with slicks while I wait for my own beater to arrive) I was drafting a bus along Thorndon Quay, staying out of the wind, when I came up old mate and a roadie cruising along. As I had a bit of speed up, I went past them and said "jump on", which they did. Old mate sat there for awhile, then I told him to do a turn, as I knew we were about to hit the Ngaio Gorge climb. He smashed it up the lower slope and then, as per form, popped when the grade got tougher. I gapped him and then felt obliged to keep it up so I wouldn't look like a 'Gorge road Hero"! Towards the top where I turn off I'd backed off (well, I was stinging a bit and still had more climbing to do) I heard a puffing, wheezing noise behind, and lo and behold he'd got back up to me just in time for me to turn off, saying "nice ride" as I swung into Perth St. Our battles will no doubt continue. I gotta tell him to straighten his damn mudguard though, it cracks me looking at that thing hanging off....

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Havana good time

It's been a rainy couple of days here, so with the prospect of no riding today, we headed out last night for a few beers on the town. 'We' is my workmate Josh, and his friends Yasmine and Ritchie. First stop was the Southern Cross, a quite upmarket type of pub, with a cool courtyard out the back and a not-so-riffraff clientele. As was driving, I didn't help too much with the draining of jugs, but a few went down nicely that's for sure. We were gonna call it a night, but decided to head just around the corner to the Havana Bar where Josh said a DJ called Recloose was playing. I'd seen a story on tv last week about this guy. He's moved here from Detroit, and lives on a property outside of Wellington somewhere, making music and living up to his name. As we walked into a dark backstreet lined with panel beating shops and dodgy looking tatto parlours, I wondered why we were walking towards an old house. Turns out the old house is actually the bar. It's like walking through someone's living room, down the hall, make yourself comfy on their lounges. Cool. Recloose was spinning some funk, house and hip hop infused beats (on vinyl too), with a friendly vibe among the punters. The cucumber water was going down a treat too! Met a few more cool people, including a dude who knows James from work, and a slightly crazy but gorgeous girl named Gosia, who wanted to see what socks I was wearing. She had big wooly ones on, coz she'd been to the big outdour gig at the Basin Reserve in the wet. I headed home about 2, which became 1 with daylight savings ending today, to watch Bolton get flogged by Man U 4-1. Thinking it was going to rain again today, I slept in, but woke to a brilliant day of sunshine and a flat tyre on my bike. Josh was too seedy to ride, so we decided on a movie instead, and Yasmine came along too. We saw 'The Science of Sleep', a brilliant, twisted tale from Michel Gondry, he of 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind". If you don't know what the hell I'm talking about, get with it and see them both.

Friday, March 16, 2007

A new breed of Hero

Regular readers (?) of this collection of ramblings will have heard me refer to Fire Road Heroes, that breed of 'racer' that blasts past you on flat, open sections, only to blow chunks when the going gets technical/steep. Well, since I've been commuting to work for the last week, I've discovered a new breed... the 'Cycleway Hero' (CWH). A classic example yesterday, I'm cruising along minding my own beeswax, when I'm startled by a CWH. About 5o years old, on a cheap MTB with semi-slicks, fluoro rain jacket (it wasn't raining of course), hairy legs, driving it about 45kmh (remember, we're riding on a footpath, basically). Cool, I thought, I'll just sit on here while he battles against the wind. As we came to the end of the cycleway (fireroad) and into the city traffic (singletrack), he did the usual Heroe's capitulation, and I thanked him for the tow and weaved my way through the traffic and pedestrians, messenger style! Lovin' the city riding, I've got the offer of a fixie from a workmate, so I'm gonna have a crack at it soon. If I like it (and more to the point, remember that I can't coast) I might get one of these...
Picture of BikeStay tuned for my injury list....

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Bikes make it all better

I'm now officially a Wellingtonian (for how long, who knows?). Moved into my flat on Saturday, and was feeling a little bit strange about it all, I guess being on my own after travelling with K-man and Rad then having to re-enter the real world was a bit of a shock to the system. So on Sunday I took the best medicine known to man, a bike ride. Did two hours at Makara, including the Aratihi climb twice, and Vertigo for the first time, then up Wrights Hill and down Deliverance. I must say I'm climbing pretty well, you have to to survice in these here parts. In the arvo it was down to the city to watch the last stage of the womens Trust House Classic road stage race, a criterium around Lambton Quay. And damn good racing it was too... the girls were fully up it, with good crowds cheering them on, well mainly cheering for local legend Sarah Ulmer. I was cheering for Newcastle's legend Olivia Gollan, and the rest of the Aussies, Carrigan, Rhodes, and that chick with the cool brother... you know, Jarrett's sister... The T-Mobile team had won every stage and continued their dominance with Ina Yoko Teutenberg breaking away 20 minutes out and crushing the field for a solo vicco. Ulmer and two others got away from the bunch two laps out and the Kiwi took the sprint for 2nd.Judith Arndt took the yellow jersey, Ulmer the points, and Jarrett's sister won two stages, and Linda Villumsen just looked hot. I ran into Mike, a customer of the shop and a tall, tattooed gentle giant who I'd seen at Karapoti the week before. He's a cool guy, as are the guys at the shop. Name-dropping time again, I work with Matt Illingworth, an English Olympian, Commonwealth Games medallist and former road pro. He now does Ironman triathlons, and finished 29th in the NZ Ironman the weekend of Karapoti. If I get my road bike sent over, he'll be ripping my legs off no doubt. He doesn't like riding in group rides, calling them a "bunch of roady wankers", so we'll get on fine. Nigel the boss is cool too, no looking over your shoulder, and he actually serves customers, answers phones and does repairs! In touch with the real people, unlike that other place I used to work (and have vowed never to go back to.. remind me of this). Today being my day off, I was planning to ride again, but it's RAINING! That's right, it always rains in NZ... hopefully the summer will last a little longer, before it's lights, jackets and leg warmer time.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

And we thought he was cool....

Look what's happened to Ross... he gets back to the States and thinks he's some sort of playboy?
Nice positioning of the dog there, Radboy. Looks like some of the ladies you were chasing in NZ.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Road Stumpy

Look at dat! Slick, eh...
Did a dummy run of my commute this arvo after work, as I don't move in to my flat ubtil Sunday. From work to flat, 25 minutes, only 10 minutes to the bottom of the Gorge road climb, then a steady climb up, with a final drop down to the flat. Going to work will be quicker, 16 minutes total, flying down the gorge, drafting cars, then flat to the city. I wanna be a bike messenger, so much fun flying through the city streets, up one-way streets the wrong way, on footpaths, cutting between cars, buses and pedestrians.... No, I'd never do that!

Strange Customs....

It didn't get my clothes dry, but it did keep me entertained for a good half hour!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Pixies? Not Evens...

Anyone who knows me well knows that the Pixies are one of my all time favourite bands. They might also know that the Pixies have re-formed, and are playing two shows in Australia at the end of this month. Now, I was contemplating taking a week off from my new job here in Wellington, flying back to Sydney, paying $125 or whatever it is for a ticket, plus $600 in air fares, to witness these legends of rock in action. It would fill a lifelong void in my musical experience resume.

But tonight, all those plans were waylaid.

I spent $15 to stand in a small, stuffy room with about 150 smelly, sweaty people, mostly students, and watched a man and a woman play music. The man sat on a stool, behind a microphone, with a guitar in hand, while the woman sat behind a minimal drum kit, just a snare, kick, tom and a couple of cymbals. They transfixed me, and the other 149 smelly, sweaty people in that room, for just over an hour.

Some of you might know the man. His name is Ian Mackaye. He has been around a long time. He was in a band called Minor Threat, who were at the forefront of the U.S. punk scene in the early 80's. He was also in a band called Fugazi, who those of you 'in the know' will also recognise as another of my all-time favourite bands. His partner, both in the band and in the world outside it, is Amy Farina. I'd never heard of her before, but she is well and truly etched in my mind now.

Together, they are The Evens.

No, I'd never heard of this combo before I read a piece in the local paper last week, saying they were playing here. I had to check them out, as I suspected that anything Mr Mackaye was involved with had to have some passion, vigour, and credibility. And how.

From the moment they sauntered onto the 'stage', just a small rise in the floor really, and fidgeted with their instruments, talking to us like we were sitting around in someone's house, things stirred inside me. Ian spoke of how we, the 'audience', were part of the show. Without us, they were just practicing, he said. We were there to make our own piece of history, something that we'd all take away with us and hold dear forever. How right he was.

Just a guitar, drums, and two incredible voices. When he opens up those pipes, great things happen. The first song had the hairs on my arms, neck, and if I had any, on my head stand up. This does happen, those of you who know me can attest to it. And it happened in every song they played, and it happened in between songs, during which Ian would regale us with stories about life, in all it's glorious and ghastly truths.

And as we were to be a part of the show, he informed us that we were to sing. We would be part of an "epic fade-out" he told us. We were to sing at the end of a song, a line he told us but now I can't recall. When they started to fade out, we would come in, then all fade out together. Later, we would all sing a chorus, no, we were told to scream it with all our passion. It was magic. Just 150 of us, but the most powerful moment I've experienced for a long, long time.

Later, we would whistle, all together, but in no particular tune, or order... just 150 smelly, sweaty people, whistling. He related a story of how this moment, in Philladelphia, became a lot of people "clucking", not like chickens, but that sound you make with your tongue against the roof of your mouth. We all clucked in unison, we were all making music, we were all part of the show.

I don't think I could get the same experience seeing the Pixies. Not outdoors, in a crowd of 20,000 or however many will be there. Not standing a long way from the stage, neck craned, trying to catch the music as it gets swept along in the wind. No, it just wouldn't be the same. It would cheapen their aura.

And for $15, I saved a hell of a lot of money, but gained so much more.
After the show, the show we were all part of, Ian invited us to come and say hi, and buy a CD if we wished, but it wasn't a sales pitch. He thanked us if we downloaded his music from the internet, saying that it was great that we were still experiencing his music. As everybody milled around the sweaty, smelly, balding 40-something man while he shook hands, signed CD's and posters, and let some young fellas strum his guitar while he explained chords and tunings, Amy was quietly packing away her drum kit. I went and talked to her for a while, thanking her for such a brilliant experience, and she thanked me for being a part of it too. Real people. I told Ian that it was great to see the same intensity and passion in his eyes, his voice, and his attitude that he'd nurtured for over 20 years. I couldn't help mentioning that my band had played with Fugazi in Newcastle on their first Australian tour, back in '93. He looked at me and said, "at the bowls club, right?" I shook his hand, thanked him again, and headed off into the windy Wellington night, smelly, sweaty, and a beaming smile on my face, and a song, a whistle, a cluck, in my heart.

http://theevens.com/ Click on it... read, learn, listen, love.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The honeymoon is over, baybay..

It's back to reality for me, starting tomorrow. Yep, I've got a job, and rent to pay. I'll be working at On Yer Bike, a Specialized dealer, of course! I'm still Specialized Boy... Scored a sweet self contained flat in a rich suburb, overlooking the city, in a million dollar house owned by an old couple. It's got everything supplied, don't even have to buy pegs! And I've got use of their indoor swimming pool. Yeah baby. Though it's probably too late weather wise from now on, though still no rain to speak of. I'll put up some pics in the next few days. Here's what's been going on since Karapoti:
Sunday it was clean the bike and get it to stop making dry, creaky, scraping noises, then met up with Ross and got a motel after staying at my aunty/uncles place. Ross reckons Lindsay is a dead ringer (voice-wise, not looks) for Sean Connery, and calls him "Bond". Then we met up with Chris and Bob (Brenda) and Tama and Heather and had dinner before Chris and Bob took off for the flight back to Nelson. Cool people. Monday, we still didn't want to look at the bikes, Ross looks like he has been dragged behind a car down a gravel road, which is kinda true, except for the car bit. So we just hung out, got some dinner, drank the wine he won at Crater Rim then went to the movies... saw 'The last king of Scotland', based on the story of the regime of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. Recommended.

Today we finally got on the bikes again, and headed up to Makara Peak, up Wrights Hill and down Deliverance, and got smashed by Ross as he is into a harder training phase now, apparently. I still think he was holding back, but I'm definitely going better. Still slow and old, but better. Nearly got blown off the top of the Peak, so wisely decided not to ride Ridgeline. The wind here will be what kills me, after it makes me stronger. Did a drive from my workplace to my flat, 9kms exactly with the last 5km up a huge climb (when coming home, going to work all down then flat). Then it was time to take Radboy to the airport, yeah he's back to the States, to a training camp in Arizona, media stuff, then the first Norba and onto Europe for the World Cups. Bit different to riding with me. Just a bit. Well, better get ready for work... shit, don't like the sound of that....

Sunday, March 04, 2007


That's what they call the Karapoti... and it was certainly a race to remember.
Tama yelling random crap in my ear....

With 1300 riders from 13 countries, the race lived up to it's billing as "NZ's favourite MTB race". People like getting tortured for between 3 to 7 hours I guess. A 10am start turned into a 10.40 start for me, being an old guy, with the Pro's going off first. In typical 'make-life-as-painful-as-possible' style, we were made to run through ankle-deep water, which was heaven compared to the ankle-deep mud later on. Ross lined up at the front and got into battle for the win with Clinton Avery and Aussie Nick Both. The singlespeeders, tandems and unicyclists were next, all the freaks in together. Tristan got the holeshot and led onto the tar, with A-dub not far back. Finally I got to get away, and I tried to keep the Wayne Train in sight, but not wanting to blow my legs apart in the first 5k, hung back a bit. Of course the Fire Road Heroes were out in force, and some guy came barrelling past me saying "jump on", which I did, getting a free ride until the first sign of a rise, when he popped off immediately, as is typical of the FRH. It was time to abuse the granny, and with 600-odd riders from the earlier starters in front, congestion on the super steep climbs made riding hard, and running/walking/clawing was sometimes the only, or best option. About an hour in I caught Wayne, announcing my arrival with "all aboard the Wayne Train... tickets please". I passed him I think on a climb, and stayed in front until the next steep section, which was totally impossible for anyone to ride. It was bikes on the shoulder and hope you didn't fall over, and I heard Wayne behind me asking "what are you gonna say about this on your blog?". I think I replied, or at least thought, "it won't be for family reading". As the grades got a little less vertical, we were greeted with bog holes that would suck you and your bike into them instantly. I quickly learned to keep the bike out of there, and put up with the mud in the shoes. Finally we got to go down, through the Rock Garden, which was a real rock garden, huge sharp bastard rocks that struck fear into the riders as we slipped, bounced and fell our ways down. I elected to walk a few sections, thinking that a broken leg or neck wasn't going to help matters at this stage. There were some of the most sketchy manouveres going on down there, what is wrong with some people, thinking that they are going to make up a place or two on the most dangerous part of the course? I was soon passing all the heroes as we got out of there, and into more climbing, before a sweet, long fireroad downhill, where I followed a guy on an Epic and one on a Stumpy. We had a Specialized train going, passing dozens of riders, then a few little pinches where I dropped them, before plummeting down again. I was on fire, feeling pretty good, but wondering if I should try and hold back to prevent a blow-up later. The Wayne Train had disappeared from my rearview mirror, so I kept hammering, within reason, trying to eat and drink regularly. On the last section of nasty uphill, I spotted a Rocky Mountain up ahead, and it was Bevan, who I'd met at Blackball a week ago, and who had started in an earlier group. We rode together for a while, having a chat, me sometimes pushing, he too afraid to get off the bike as cramps were threatening. After a while I got away from him, and it was onto the last downhill before the fireroad back to the finish. I was passing heaps more riders, a couple from my age group, and I was sure I was well inside the top ten. All I could think of was "no mistakes, ride light, no punctures". Maybe I should've had an empty head, as the next thought I had was "oh SHIT" as I hit a rock and pinch flatted the front tyre, at about 45kmh. I pulled it up, just, and got to work changing the tube. As i pumped away, Wayne rolled past (at high speed), and I got going again and drove it hard towards home. Another FRH came by, and I jumped on his wheel before he got the shits and got away from me. Sucker... I caught him as we got back to the river, ran beside him through the water, then out-sprinted his stupid arse up the rise to the finish. I checked my computer, 2.58...Yeah, I'd broken the magic 3 hour mark. Or so I thought... Of course computers don't read time when you are stopped fixing a flat, and my real time was 3.05. The five minutes I'd probably taken to fix the flat. Wayne was shocked to see me come in a minute behind him, as he didn't see me on the downhill as he nailed it past me. I was still pretty happy with my ride, finishing 11th in class (Wayne 10th), and 134th overall, out of 800-odd finishers. Ross finished 3rd outright, he was outgunned by Avery, and had also had another big spill at about 50kmh. That guy's gotta get some handling skills if he's gonna cut it as a pro! A-dub got 3rd in singlespeed, with a 2.50 something, but of course wasn't happy with his ride. Tristan did a 2.55ish on his SS, and was feeling it. Ross's teammate Jenny Smith (NZ via Colorado) won the ladies pro, beating the 13 year old record time of NZ legend Kathy Lynch! After negotiating our way out of the traffic jam back to Wellington, we met up with Jenny and Tim Vincent and his fiance Sandy, and chowed down on food and beers before we all got some much needed, and deserved rest. Damn it, I'm gonna have to come back next year and decimate that 3 hour mark...and you too, Wayne!

Friday, March 02, 2007

Another day, more sweet singletrack...

With Ross licking his wounds (well I wasn't gonna do it) the next day (Tursday, I think) it was back in the Ferrari and south again, making our way back for tomorrow's Karapoti Classic. I decided to go via Napier, to check out Eskdale MTB Park, on the advice of Aiden Leffman, who I'd run into in Rotorua the day previous, in the Cannondale shop (he was over here working).
As we left Taupo it was drizzling a bit, getting a little heavier as we went, but an hour later it was blue skies and warmth, another great day with no long white or grey clouds in sight. We had a coffee and snack in town, and a walk around, then got a map and ride permit from a local shop. As we arrived at the trails, the rain was starting again, and we ummed and ahhed whether or not to ride. We decided 'yes', and of course, as has been the case all trip, it was another great decision. soon we were among the pines on twisting s.t, then up a fire road climb where Ross tried to out-climb some goats. There were a lot of cows on the track too, not at all bothered by our presence. At the top we came to the DH track, and this nasty looking obstacle. Of course we rode it, over and over, until we owned it. Not really. Ross was a little leery after his efforts from the day before. But we did go around it in some style, and the following trails were some of the best yet. With not much idea where we were going (the map wasn't much help) and time getting away, we rolled back to the car, and I re-packed it while Ross rode back into town ("need some more k's, dude..."). We drove the short distance to hastings and got a budget room for the night, budget being the operative word. The single beds were a bit of a letdown after the queen sizes of the Taupo resort, and neither of us got much sleep. Now we're at Akatawera, just a few k's from the start of tomorrow's torture test (so everyone keeps telling us). Hopefull I'll be able to survive and relate some good tales in the next few days. By the way, Wellington is a damn cool city, I might even ditch Rotorua and move here....

Rad Ross ratifies riding request in Rotorua. Result: Ragdoll... OK o.d's on overtly obtuse obfuscations

Spurred on by K-man's challenge in the comments section of the last post (not really, we only saw that after the fact), we hit the trails of Whakarewarawa for some action. And did we get some action... First up we hit the local shops and Zippys cafe for a pre-ride bagel, then it was into the climbing and the singletrack flow show. We did the usual suspects, A Trail, Tickler, up to Hot X Buns, then up the loooong climb to Billy T. What a fun ride... Ross led down, and I was glued to his rear wheel until about 2/3s down, when he just opened it up and smoked me, hardtail and all. The lad has some serious skills, bike skills, nunchuck skills... At the bottom of this trail lies a rather largish gap jump, where he was waiting for my sorry arse. Of course I encouraged him to hit it up for some some pics, and he obliged. Three times. No sweat (literally, he just doesn't sweat). Then it was down Chestnut, Rollercoaster, and the Chinese Menu trails, back to B Rude Not 2, one of the best trails in the place. We finished up with Exit/NDO, goading rad boy into riding the North Shore style log, which of course was no problem. I warned Ross that there was a drop off that had to be hit with some speed, not rolled over, and I led the way, hitting it with style and grace. As I landed I heard the sound of air being expelled from lungs and carbon launching into foliage. My first thoughts were "oh shit, there goes his season", but after checking that he was unscathed, the laughter was hard to suppress, and the camera was soon deployed. Could've been so much different though..... I told him he'd look back at this and laugh, which only took about an hour and three beers. Best medicine there is.