Friday, August 31, 2007


Friday was a monumental day. My grandmother's 99th birthday! That is monumental. To mark the occasion, I planned to ride my fixie for 99kms. But the best laid plans get blown away by gusting northerlies, so 55km would have to suffice. To make up for the shortfall, I decided to stop by a few of the strange monuments which I regularly pass on my rides around the bays.

This propeller is from the stricken ferry the Wahine, which ran aground and sank in 1969 while entering the harbour.

This pile of rocks just around the corner from Moa Point is called 'Doo Doos'... I have no idea what it's all about, but that plane is about to crash into it!

This thing is called the Zephyrometer, and in the right conditions it can tip over to 45 degrees apparently...I've only ever seen it sticking straight up.

This might explain it better...

This is a pile of boxes on sticks... they spin around in the wind. Another part of the wind sculptures project, along the highway on the way to the airport.

In the afternoon we all headed out to Tawa to celebrate grandma's 99th... comment of the day, when told she was 99, "ooh, I don't feel it!" Brilliant.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Phoenix rising (and the Trotters, too)

The Wellington Phoenix football (soccer to the uninitiated) team played their first game of the A-League yesterday at the Cake Tin against the premiers Melbourne Victory, and what a day it was. I went along with Mike and Karen, they have season tickets, so I was just over a bit with the rowdy supporters known as the 'Yellow Fever' (the club strip was supposed to be predominantly yellow, but as it turns out, it's mainly black!). A good crowd of 14,000 was in full voice, with a number of chants and songs at the ready, including the ever-popular "the referee's a wanker". Whenever a Victory player would hit the turf under a tackle, the chant of "same old Aussies, always cheating" would break out. I hid the fact I am an Aussie, but decided against joining in on that one. Mike joined me in the second half, and we got amongst it with the masses, while Karen stayed with Mike's family in the more subdued section.
The first half was not so good for the home side, going behind 2-0 after a handball resulting in a penalty from Muscatt and a strike from Allsop. Phoenix missed a penaly too, which would come back to haunt them and everyone in the stadium. The second half came to life though when Brazillian Felipe came on, adding much needed flair in attack, and the crowd went mental when the Phoenix drew level. They had two chances to win it in the dying minutes, hitting the post and just firing wide. A great atmosphere and a great game. The next home game is against Newcastle Jets, my 'other' home team, so I'll be a bit sheepish if they should win, but either way, I'll be happy!

In the big boys league, the English Premiership, my Bolton boys finally got a win after three successive defeats to start the season. 3-0 against Reading put a smile on my face and got us off the bottom of the table. A good weekend of football, topped off with some good rides and good beer with good people. Niiice.

Dry run at last

Makara finally had the chance to dry out this week, with no rain and some sunny days. I took the opportunity to break out the Stumpy and make the most of a nice Wellington Monday and hit the trails. After picking up my bike from work, I realised I'd forgotten my helmet, so back home it was for a brief detour, giving me the chance to check out the office girls having lunch in the sun.
When I got to the carpark, I then realised I'd also neglected to pack a jersey, but at least I had my shoes. The ol' memory ain't what she something or other. The trails were in good condition, a few damp spots at worst, but a few deep ruts in places from the heavy winter traffic that's been going through. I decided to lengthen the usual loop by bombing down Leaping lizard, and up the newish climb out.

Now, Grant must be the king of understatement or the eternal optimist, because 'difficult' is only the half of it. Mainly a granny gear grunt with some unrideable switchbacks, but a lot better bedded in since me and K-man rode it in January.

Just as I was thinking what a bitch of a climb it was, it spat me out onto Nikau, which was fun as usual, with it's techy exposed rocks and tight corners and drops. Then it was up Missing Link for a second time, and on to Aratihi, which is showing more wear than most of the tracks in places.

At the Peak I decided to check out our handiwork from last week on Zac's Track, and I was reminded just what an awesome, flowing, fun trail it is. Halfway down I hesitated at the drop-off, deciding to hell with it anyway, and came to grief after making the drop but sliding off the back of the saddle and into some undergrowth. That made me take it easy down Vertigo, which is always challenging. Back into St Albans gate, then another change of route, along Magic Carpet, through the Skills Area (off the big wooden drop and over the tabletop) then down Livewires to finish off a more technical loop than I'd usually ride. With more rain forecast for the next few days, I'm glad I got the chance to enjoy some decent trail conditions. Oh yeah, the Stumpy is the singletrack weapon from hell, that thing is on rails. Made up my mind that I don't need an Enduro, but maybe a 29er could be fun. Mountain biking was the winner on this day, Ron.

Beer of the week

Back in Aus, I would quite often buy a slab of Bavaria, a mostly harmless Dutch lager that would usually give you change from $25. Cheap and plentiful. This week I spotted the big brother of said brew, Bavaria 8.6. The glass was an 'unofficial prize' from Murphy's pub quiz last week.
It was also cheap, about ten bills for a sixer. But the clincher was the alcohol percentage. Now, with the beer being called 8.6, you might think that would be the %. Oh no, those cunning Dutchies have thrown us a curve-ball, because it's actually 7.9%. One of these after a ride and lookout, here come the good times. It kinda sneaks up on you from halfway through, and by the time the bottle is finished, I find myself staring into space or the TV wondering what I was supposed to be doing. Apart from the kick, it's a pretty innocuous drop, quite bitter with the trademark Bavaria cheapness to the taste. But I could be wrong, as I was very, very, something or other...oh yeah, drunk.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Them's the brakes

Basic bike maintenance is something that everyone should learn. Even if it's just a spot of oil on the chain, a wipe over with a rag, or checking the air pressure in your tyres. Some other tasks are a little harder to tackle for the average punter, like changing disc brake pads, but one should always look/listen for the warning signs. Like a shreiking, scraping metallic sound, sparks flying from the wheel, and molten metal trying to fuse itself onto the rotor. This customer was juuuust a little late in his albeit correct prognosis that "I think the pads need changing". No shit, Sherlock.
At the top, a used but healthy pad. Below, the result of negligence, torture and abuse of a kind not seen since the days of Fred and Rose West.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Can you dig it?

With Josh out being a roadie on his new toy, it was left to Yaz and I to get dirty at Makara's trail maintenance day. I also had the added carrot of testing out the new Enduro, and while I knew the trails would be still muddy from (weeks of) overnight rain, it wasn't my bike that was getting trashed, and helping out with fixing up the trails earned me good karma.

Straight away I was impressed by the Enduro's ride, climbing up Koru and Salley Alley with ease and no real noticeable effects of the added weight over my Stumpy. The frame is a medium, too small for me, but it still handled down Missing Link like it was on rails (my handling skills, however, are rusty to say the least). The colour isn't stock, it's the special Test Bike colour so no-one will steal it.

Yaz was slogging it up on her hardtail (Specialized, of course), peeling off layers of wool as she went, with the day warming up and no wind, perfect for a ride.

Aratihi is getting well and truly rutted out, and this one sucked my wheels in and spat me off into the gorse at the side of the trail. By the top of the Peak, I was starting to notice the extra heft of the bike, but maybe that was due in some part to the sticky conditions.

Once at the top, we headed down Zac's Track where the digging was taking place. Mike from work was there swinging a sledgehammer with authority. Yaz and I stood around watching for ten minutes, when the call of 'lunch' went out. We couldn't have timed it better! Hugh had a car full of goodies, bread, cake, drink... we felt a bit guilty eating after having not done anything, but that soon passed as we worked it off for the next three hours.

Zac's dog Bishop was chief supervisor and also drove the 4wd to get the buckets of gravel and rocks... he'd then chase the rocks as they rolled down the hill. Not setting a good example to the other workers, he'd also chase riders down the trail and piss wherever he wanted.

Coming back down Ridgeline, I thought the Enduro would really shine, but with the trail in terrible shape, it was more a case of hanging on and staying upright. I failed to achieve that, having a small tumble on a slippery uphill pinch. SWIGG and Starfish were equally treacherous, so I didn't get to fully appreciate the bike's assets. But I think for the trails and riding I do, it's a little bit of overkill. Not as nimble or fast uphill as the Stumpy, and a little slower steering of course(due to the slacker head angle). For an extra inch of travel, a extra kilo isn't worth it. But it soaked up a couple of drops as though they weren't there, and if I was into more 'daring' riding it'd be awesome. But for around Makara, Glenrock or Rotorua, it's just too much bike. A damn awesome machine though, which had me thinking seriously whether one should be added to the stable.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Is this desire?

I've loved her for a long time. When she sings, every hair on my body stands on end. My heart races. I get goosebumps. Oh Polly Jean, when will I see you again?
The first time I saw her live, was on on the same tour as the one above (2001), with my old workmate John, another infatuated man of impeccable musical taste. PJ strode out in the same red dress, performed the same song (Rid of me) and had the whole of the Enmore Theatre crowd in stunned, silent awe. When she finished the "lick my legs, I'm on fire" refrain, John and I looked at each other and agreed we could walk out at that moment and be totally satisfied.
Is this desire
Enough enough
To lift us higher
To lift above?
Is this desire

Saturday, August 18, 2007

I hate new stuff...

...because I want it. We've been getting some '08 stock of Specialized bikes in this week, among them a few Test Bikes that customers can take out for a couple of hours for real-world assessment. Big Kahuna Nigel has insisted that every staff member takes every test model out for a good thrashing, and he didn't have to twist our arms too much. Mike is taking the Epic Expert, and me the Enduro SL Expert, up to Makara tomorrow for a spin after doing a bit of digging. We are waiting on the test Stumpjumper FSR Expert still, that's the one I'm really looking forward to riding. I wasn't real keen on the new frame shape when I saw it on the web, but we have a Comp in, and it looks pretty sweet in the flesh. But the one I really want is this... The 29er. I like the way the frame sits low to compensate for the big hoops, where the 26" wheelers sit higher in the front (they are longer travel , 120mm against 105mm for the 29er). But who knows, I might fall for the Enduro tomorrow, and join Col and Nath in the 6" club. Travel, that is.

On another note, there's a 6/12 hour race being staged on Mt. Victoria here in the heart of Wellington in November. There was a World Cup XC race held there in 98, won by our own Cadel. Should be a fun event.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Far Side

I felt like a rat in a cage, running on one of those wheels, same old, same old. The Bay ride wasn't floating my boat, and I'd always wondered what lay on the other side. Time to head north to Eastbourne... well, north/east and then a bit south to Eastbourne.

The harbour was still and the sun was doing its best to warm things up.

Beehive yourself. That's Parliament, nicknamed the beehive for obvious reasons. That's a taxi, that tried to run me over. Take a right, through the bus depot and onto Thorndon Quay.

At the end of the road. I rode out to the point, crunching the gravel under the 23s, hoping the sharp little rocks wouldn't do their dastardly act.

The view across to the South Island was spectacular as usual, but a different viewpoint made it seem like the first time I'd witnessed it.

As I re-fueled with a banana and muesli bar, I felt like I was being watched.... a beast lurked in the undergrowth, with evil, hungry eyes.

The obligatory 'Langster in front of scenery' shot.

This little shed is right at the end of the sealed road, before the gate to the point track. I thought it must have been used for advertising the bike shop, but on the way back I noticed the same coloured signage on a boat shed. I deduced that this must be a bike hire outlet for the ride around the point... or not.

The first part of the return trip was bitterly cold. The sun had disappeared and my toes were numb. But in the space of five km's, the temperature picked up and the day became magnificent once again for the ride back into the city.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The blunt side of the cutting edge

After a 60km fixie ride and a coffee at Fidels, Josh and I were casually walking along Cuba Street when we saw the future. Not a Nostradamus-type premonition of war, famine and pestilence, but the future of mountain bike frame design. Throw out the textbook people, I give you.... The Havoc Challenge! Check out those angles, all the benefits of a dropped top tube, taken away! The innovative mating of fat, flat steel down and top tubes mated with pencil thin seat tube... doesn't look out of place at all. I bet she's as light as she looks too. Can you say "anchors aweigh!"
And look next to it, a Mongoose... makes the Havoc look all the more appealing. We summised that 'Havoc' was what was going on in the designers head (if indeed any 'design' went into it at all) and 'Challenge' is what it would be to ride it anywhere.

But hey, it's somebody's bike, probably well loved, and it obviously gets ridden, so that's a plus right there.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Mudnight Express

Finally got back on the MTB last night, even if it was only due to the constant nagging by Big Nath, who just bought himself this sweet '08 Enduro Expert. He was thinking of getting a Big Hit (a throwback to his DH days), but I talked some sense into him and he actually listened! It's a mean bike, 6 inches of travel and under 14kg! It looked pretty nice before the ride.

He was glad he listened when he was suffering up the climbs in the gloop. Dragging a 20kg DH bike up the sloppy singletrack wouldn't have been much fun.

The after shot. It wasn't too bad really, mostly just a lot of puddles and a few sections were quite boggy, the further up we got the worse the trails were. We decided at the foot of Aratihi that we wouldn't see the summit tonight, as light rain started to fall and Nath's lack of riding started to tell. So it was back up Missing Link to Ridgeline extension, then SWIGG and Starfish to finish (both were pretty slippery, but always fun).

That's a contented man right there! Except for the crash damage on his elbow and hip, the big Tongan/Samoan/Fijian made it through his first night ride in years unscathed. Hey, where'd you get that helmet?

My feet got wetter and colder washing the Stumpy than they did on the whole ride. Shoe covers are a Godsend, especially on the ride home from work on the fixie later on. I got some strange looks, riding through the city covered in mud on a clean road bike. With no rain for three days now, things are looking good for the weekend.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Beer of the week

A new beer from NZ's Steinlager has just been released. Dubbed 'Pure', it has a flashy ad campaign that caught my eye and tempted me to pick up a 12er.
I like the original Steinlager Premium, so with this new brew having only water, yeast, barley and hops in it, I expected a nice refreshing drop. In fact it's a bit bland, almost watery. There's not much evidence of hops at all, and as you know I love my hops! Not an offensive beer, but not one that makes you want to buy it again either. Easy to drink, maybe a little too easy, and with 5% alcohol it can creep up on you a bit... at least I think it can, I could be wrong, as I was very, very drunk.

Less mud, more tar...

Dammit, my Stumpjumper just can't get a ride these last few weeks. Well it could, if I wanted to destroy the drivetrain and not do the trails any favours. Every time we have a nice sunny day, it seems to rain overnight, so it's been all road for me. Saturday night it pissed down, so Josh and I tee'ed up an earlyish fixie ride. This was the first time we'd actually ridden the road together after several false starts.
The day was gloriously sunny yet brutally windy. It wasn't too cold, in fact we were peeling off arm warmers and bald-head warmers halfway through the ride. We met up on Oriental Parade, just down from my flat. Josh styled it up with a skid-stop in front of the screaming women who always flock when he's around.

"You talkin to me? Are you talkin to me?" Josh does his best De Niro impersonation, or he's just surprised to see me on the front.

The wind was so strong in places that we were taking turns on the front, slogging along into what felt like a brick wall. But when it was behind us, oh yeah it was nice.

Coming back along Shelly Bay with the wind behind us, we hit 48kmh, and I thought I was gonna bounce myself off the bike trying to keep the legs spinning so fast. Hitting the speed humps, I was getting air and landing it sideways, much to Josh's amusement. By the time I got back to Maida Vale Road for the climb home, My legs knew they'd been turning non-stop for 60k's.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Col does Canadia, pt. 2

The Slug emailed me some more pics of his B.C. jaunt from a few weeks back. Makes me want to get out and ride, especially when I've been dealing with the most irritating customers all morning... I need to get away from getting away from people getting away from whatever the hell it is they are getting away from. Just get away from me! Ok, calm now, look at the pictures, breathe....

Friday, August 03, 2007

Life in a box

I've had a few chats with my mates back home recently, and they've expressed a desire to come to NZ and pay me a visit and sample the singletrack and just hang out. "No problem" I say, but then I have to tell them that it's not really possible to stay with me. You see, I live in a shoebox. This is where the only possibility of sleeping on the floor might occur. But I'd have to put the Langster outside (yeah na) and there'd be no way to get in/out of the front door.
The kitchen and bathroom/toilet are in there. When my landlady's cat comes to visit, there's no way I can swing it. Believe me, I've tried. So come on over guys, just remember to pack a tent!