Saturday, December 27, 2008

Looking back

Another year is done and dusted. Time to make resolutions and then forget about them, or push them to one side, or not make them at all. I usually go with the latter, as it saves the effort of actually thinking of something that I want to do in the new year, or more aptly saves me from thinking about all the aspects of my life that could do with brushing up. I'd rather just keep doing whatever it is that I'm doing, proficiently or otherwise. And it's not so bad, when I look back at the last year there's been a fair bit going on, and not much of it at all bad. The year started off about as well as it could when Josh and I headed up to Vegas for the New Year, and had some great rides with Ratas, who I was just getting to know. It would turn out that he's as sick and twisted as myself and a lot more rides and good times would be had. February saw the first of many bike purchases among our posse as Mike got a new Stumpy Expert which would eventually morph into a Pro and then an S-Works carbon, somehow avoiding a marriage break-up in the processs. Lots of new trails were revealed around the city, including Wainui, Belmont and a heap of singletrack tucked away in the hills on the way to Makara. I got to catch up briefly with my old friend/workmate Ebo when he was in town burgling the KOM jersey at the Wellington Tour.
There were more new bikes when Josh got his Turner Flux, I traded my Tarmac for a Roubaix and the Stumpy was upgraded for a new model. Mike put his new machine through its paces with a great ride at Karapoti while Josh didn't have a day he'd like to remember. I got down with Kate and James and the crew at Summerset which was a good blow-out-the-cobwebs mission. If there were any cobwebs left, I completely drowned them in a weekend of many beers and no gears at the NZ Singlespeed Nationals in Vegas, where I put my new TriCross to good use after selling my trusty Langster to Chris The Courier, who stormed to a 6th place after consuming not much less beer than me. Josh got a new Tarmac and the late summer evenings saw a couple of Wellycats alleycat races which were pretty fun. Fun was not something I'd describe a three-hour sitting with one Henry Rollins as, more like a aural barrage to be endured, even though everything he said held us captive. Everytime I rode around the Bays, or on the trails with views like this, I was reminded why I love Wellington so much and why I'm still here. Winter started to set in, and Ratas somehow convinced us that getting up at 5.30am a couple of mornings a week in the cold would be a good idea, and though it may not have been good for our bikes, it seemed to do the trick for our fitness later on. Maybe Australia would be warmer, so off I went for a three week holiday, which coincided with Le Tour and getting some wisdom teeth out in between catching up with my family, friends and cats. I put the winter training to good use with some successful races at the Whaka 100 and the Welly 12 Hour, but managed to crash before the Makara Peak Rally and not get to race it for the second year running. The lay-off meant for more beer consumption, good preparation for Ratas' Festivus celebrations, a great way to finish up a pretty decent year. If 09 is as good, then it'll be not too damn shabby either. Happy New Year to all my friends on both sides of the ditch!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Festivus: Bikes, bats, balls, beers (and Bolts!)

Festivus 08 turned out to be a great day. Ratas had it all planned out, a ride in the morning and eating, drinking and being merry in the afternoon.

Of course the Bays were calling, and the views of the city were great as always.

Karl was getting a little bit over-excited about the Pohutakawa trees in blossom. They do look pretty spectacular though, and apparently if they are in bloom before Festivus then we are in for a good, long summer.

The Petanque was hotly contested and the skills were finely honed. The front yard proved to be a better surface than the back.

The Ratahi's back yard isn't exactly ideal for cricket either, but we kept the Kiwi/Aussie rivalry alive with the usual Aussie dominance prevailing, until I managed to injure myself (again) and had to administer some more hop-based painkillers. Of course the 'underarm incident' was dragged up during the game, by Claire who isn't even a real Kiwi!

On the way over I was following this bus, which reminded me of my cat Bolts back in Aus.

I'd bought a bottle of red in his honour also, and I wondered what the little fella was up to....

Well he was filling my seat and eating prawns apparently!

I hope everyone had a good Festivus.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Festivus!

I have too many grievances to air here...

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Of K's and T's...

After my first, and only, experience with the institution that is the Karapoti Classic, I swore I'd never do it again. So for this year's race, I was only too happy to let Mike and Josh take the day off work while I dealt with the YJA's and FCS's, letting them endure the granny-gear climbs, the shin-deep bogs and the thousands of punters doing their best to make your day worse than it already is.

But as that day back in March unfolded, and even in the weeks leading up to it, I was more than a little curious, intrigued maybe, with the whole aura surrounding the race. Frequent texts to the guys revealed the heartache and jubilation that can encompass one's day out in the Akatawaras. While Josh had a race he'd rather forget (and which I've probably just facilitated in opening up those wounds), Mike had a storming ride, getting oh-so-close to the coveted three hour mark. It reminded me just how close I had come myself, and the voices in my head were telling me that I needed to have another crack. As I normally do when the voices talk, I quickly dismissed their ramblings as nonsensical gibberish, and went about my day.

With the deadline approaching for the latest issue of SPOKE magazine, Eleanor (our fearless leader and tormenter of contributors) appeared at work one day with an offer, or more like a desperate plea, for Josh to write a piece on the 2009 race. He'd have two days to write it, and as a bonus, he'd get a free entry. Probably still unable to sleep at night from wrestling with his DNF demons, or possibly because he has a slight disdain for being put under the pressure of an unreasonable deadline (coupled with a strong aversion to not being paid until months after the fact), he declined on the spot, and as I happened to be in the vicinity (and having been conveniently branded a 'staff writer') I was the designated sucker. I wrote the article, took the entry and tried not to think about the actual painful part (the riding).

Now I knew there would come a time when I would, indeed, have to start thinking about that actual painful part. And I've been thinking about it a lot, to the point that it is starting to dominate my riding thoughts, rather than just the usual "I can't wait to have a beer after this" which is about the only time I give credence to the voices within. Even the 'T' word has crept into my psyche... training. And training for the Karapoti always seems to involve that other horrible 'T' word, the Tip Track. Ian suggests doing repeats up it, three at a time. That's almost the total times I've ridden it! Ratas wanted us to climb it yesterday at 8am... of course we pointed out his stupidity and left him to acsend alone. But I concede that I'll have to face up to it sooner or later.

So the entry is in, there's no backing out, and the sub-3 is the goal. I'm entered in Pro/Elite class, the idea being in the first wave of riders gives you no traffic to battle with the later start of the age groups (and being so old, that's a lot of riders to wade through). There's talk of the major sponsor Merida loaning me a bike to ride, either for the race or a pre-race photo shoot, and the bike will be a Ninety-Six, a light XC weapon. Not sure which spec, but I'm hoping it's this...

My other thoughts have been to maybe getting a new Epic and tricking it out with my nice bits...

Or the Stumpjumper 29er is still in the back of my head too, I could build it up nice as well...

If money was no object (and it is) then I'd pony up for one of these (frame and fork only)...

Whatever bike I'm on, the only certainty is that I'll be suffering, and when it's done in under 3, I'll be able to walk away from the K word forever... or will I?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

This, that and the other

Getting old(er) can be a real bitch. Hair gets grey and falls out, joints creak and aren't as flexible as they once were, and youthful good looks wane and the ladies don't swoon around as they did before the creases took over your skin. Okay, so the last one isn't completely true, I'm still magnificent and chicks dig me! What's this got to do with riding? I'll just fight back the impending senility, and, oh yeah... one thing that really bugs me about the onset of seniority is the inability to bounce back from cycling-related accident injuries. As told in my last post, I took a bit of a trip over the bars last weekend on Makara's Trickle Falls, seemingly innocuous at the time, but rendering my knee a stiff, swollen, useless joint for a couple of days. No problem, I've had plenty worse than this before, and I presumed a few days rest would see me right to race the Makara Peak Rally on Sunday. But, the advancing years saw to it that I would still be feeling pain in the knee on even the flattest, easiest-spinning road rides. A late fitness test on Sunday morning forced me to let Josh take my spot in the Solo Open category, meaning it would be he who would suffer up, down and around the Peak, covering every sweet singletrack (and only the slightest smattering of fire-road and asphalt) in the park. The weather was perfect, about 22 but with that NZ bite to the sun which makes it feel a lot warmer, but doesn't fry your brain. I hung out and caught up with a few people, then went for a walk to get some pics and video (which I have no idea how to upload, but I'm working on it). God and Josh (that's him leading up Lazy Fern, above) finished second and third respectively, but Ratas didn't even offer an excuse for his own no-show, only to tell us later he was going carol singing with Claire... the end is nigh for that man. There's one in every crowd... Rich (Joe) didn't learn from his near-death-Santa-suit-experience from last year, and had a near-death-Capt. America-suit-experience this year. Proof that postmen are 20cents short of a stamp.

Meanwhile, another happening event that I've been unable to attend is the return of the Underground Super D series. Paul, Jim and Tryfan are up to their old tricks, getting the rabble together at undisclosed spots around Welly for some racing and drinking, not necessarily in that order. And in a move that may jeopardise the legitimacy of it's 'underground' status, DB Breweries have been enlisted to supply their Export 33 beer for all the rounds (good enough reason for me to get to the next round, bung knee or otherwise). Pics by Caleb, who dropped me off a sixer of said brew to review for the next issue of SPOKE. Chur!

Mini-Me Mike took on Taupo a couple of weeks ago on his Langster, and kicked its sorry ass! We had feared the worst for the little fella, after the 'tapering' phase of his 'training' had lasted the better part of three months. At least he was well rested, and the lack of gears and a freewheel didn't stop him posting a time of around 5 hours and change for the 160km. Karen, who had done a lot more training and who we secretly believed (and maybe just wished a little bit) might show Mike how it's done, rode a sub-6 hour circumnavigation. Well done those people! Read their reports on the big day out here.

I saw one of the best movies I've had the pleasure of viewing in a long time (well, a week, after one of the worst) on Sunday at the lovely old Penthouse Cinema in Brooklyn. In Bruges is one of those films that you want to see again right after walking out of the theatre. I'm not a Colin Farrell fan, but he plays a great character in this film, and the plot is tasty enough to keep you interested beyond the dark comedy which dominates. It's got sex, love, death, violence, and midgets, everything you need for an entertaining night out. It really is a 'must-see'.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Worth the weight

I'm somewhat well-known for my stoic stance on a lot of things cycling related; "the rules" of bar tape matched with saddle colour, sunglass arms over helmet straps, only wearing Pro team kit if you're actually sponsored etc etc. But, as Josh is always eager to point out, some of my strongest beliefs have been turned on their head lately. Such as white bar tape.

Many months back, the angry vegetarian (not me, the shorter one) fitted a Gravity Dropper seatpost to his bike. I wasn't convinced that it was a worthy piece of equipment for our trails. After all, I'd been chided by Rad Ross that only wimps dropped their seats on descents, and as he'd been schooling me on every downhill on the island, I was inclined to believe him. So I poo-pooed the whole drop-the-post idea. A quick release is all you need, I would protest loudly, while stopping at the top of Deliverance as Josh rode off into the distance. When I'd finally join him at the bottom, and get off the bike, put the seat up, and maintain that light weight was more important than some fancy bloody telescoping contraption, he'd be getting the hell out of earshot and hitting the next climb. With the Makara Peak Rally (Tour de Peak option, ride all tracks in the park) coming up next weekend, I thought that maybe one of these useless contraptions may come in handy for the steep, technical trails like Vertigo and Trickle Falls. Before you could say "what are you doing", the angry vegetarian (not me, the faster one) had a Crank Brothers Joplin charged to my account and installed on the Stumpy. But I was still sceptical.

Then I rode with it.

How did I ever get by without one of these useful contraptions? Before I'd even got to any kind of serious drops, I was converted. It adds a whole new aspect to your riding. Just railing around a tight switchback can be made so much easier. Nudge the lever, weight the seat, and drop it a liitle or a lot. I found myself nudging that little lever almost as much as I was shifting gears. While it made all of the harder trails in the park a lot easier, it won't stop you from launching over the bars on rutted corners, unfortunately. (I think Rob might have to try one, after taking three or four spills, with the last on Trickle Falls being one of the biggest crashes I've ever had the horror/concern/eventual pleasure of witnessing). Or being gapped up the climbs. But it will bring you a new outlook on the ride, and allow you to ride faster, more efficiently and makes angry vegetarians a lot less angry.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Lost DJs must die

There's a scourge on the streets. Well, there's many a scourge on the streets, but this one has particularly piqued my interest and stirred the pot of hate that wells inside me, brought bubbling to the surface of cynicism, congealing like a skin on a glass of milk curdling in the sun.

"Well what is it, Brett?" I hear you ask. "What could this travesty be?"

Let me tell ya. People walking around the streets wearing headphones. "Is that it?" Yep, that's it. Not just those little white iPod buds. No, even though they are still high on the wank-factor scale. It's the clowns who wear the full-size, made-for-djs or listening-at-home type headphones who really make me wonder if there is any hope for the future of the human race.

Good DJ

Why the f#@k do you need to be listening to music on your ten minute bus jouney, or the walk from the car to the office, or while going to buy your Starbucks 'coffee' and reading the latest issue of FHM? Because you're a wanker. You want others to look at you and think "wow, you look so cool, and I bet you're rockin some awesome tunes on those oversize cans... I want to be you". The only people thinking that are other wankers, probably sporting the miniature earbuds and suffering a chronic case of headphone envy.

Bad 'DJ'

Lost DJs. Walking the streets looking for their decks, wondering where the gig is. You're not a DJ. You're the downfall of modern society. Listen to your Nickelback, your Katy Perry, your f#@king Panic At The Disco while you step into the path of a bus. You won't be missed.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Ratas: King of the Old Guys

Karl "Ratas" Ratahi. The man, the myth, the Maori mountain bike maven. Taking advantage of the lack of me in the PNP XC series, and despite the fact he was riding a bike a size too small, with a stuffed hub, a saddle made of iron, and a fork with more stiction than a toffee-apple dipped in honey, he still managed to take out the series for the over 40's (or Masters, if you don't want to be cruel to us old guys). "Check out my choice bling, eh bro!" Three seconds and a first in the four races, they call him Mr. Consistency. Nice work mate.
Ratas smashes it up the road at the start of Sunday's final race at Makara, watched closely by Matt, who tried his darndest to bury the big fella up Koru and Salley Alley, but was dished out a dose of Ratahi hurt up Aratihi.
God (Carl), Josh and Bryce form a Singletrack Colorado train, before God absconded and left the rest in his celestial wake, prompting questions of possible performance-enhancing drug usage.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

The Defense

Twelve hours. A day at work is only eight. Why would you want to be doing something for twelve hours? Because you have to? No. Because it's fun? Maybe. I enjoy work, because it involves bikes. I like riding more, so twelve hours at a race should be fun... after all, I didn't have to ride the whole thing myself. I had three mates to share the pain and fun with me. And that's what my second Wild Wellington 12 hour race was; pain and fun. Last year I was on the winning 'Legends' team (a nice way of saying 'old codgers' I think) with Ian, one of the fastest and fittest fellas around these parts (these parts being the whole country), and Matt and Ant on the Searltech team. This year Ian and myself were riding for my employers team On Yer Bike, and with Steve and Rob (the LPG or Little Pommy Git) we had a pretty formidable line-up to go against our former teammates. Wellington turned on a perfect day weather-wise, with not a cloud in the sky, a light southerly to cool the air, which became a little chilly once the sun went down and the lights came out. The Hataitai velodrome was the epicentre of the course which wound its way up, down and around Mt Victoria. To have such a venue right in the middle of the city is amazing. Singletrack on your doorstep, and no long drive home after. In fact, nutters like Josh and God Carl rode to the race (but bummed a lift home after a BBQ and beer at the Ratahi camp). We sent Ian out as the starting rider, and after a mid -pack start he had worked his way to the front of our class by the end of the first lap. God was charging and led the entire field into the velodrome and set out on a second. Of course he was riding a totally inappropriate bike, this time a Trek Remedy, 30 lbs and 6 inches of travel, but at least it was the right size and he had it wound up. Rob headed out on his S-Works Stumpy for our second stint and kept us ahead of the Searletech guys by a couple of minutes. I was just kicking back and enjoying the sun in Camp On Yer Bike, as Steve readied himself for his laps. By the time he'd done his double, we were just behind as Matt and Ant had put in fast laps to double-team Steve as he faded a little on his second lap. I went out and tried to keep myself under control as the were still ten hours to go, but I caught Stephen halfway round, then held off Don on my second. Ian decided we needed a buffer, and opened up a four minute gap on his next set. We steadily built on our lead over the next couple of hours while socialising with the tight-knit Welly MTB community in between laps. Karl Rata's team was sitting in third, with Karl putting in his usual fast laps, but they just couldn't catch the second placed lads. Carl and Josh, meanwhile, were sitting in second overall and riding well, despite Josh complaining about a runny nose or something. Didn't stop him catching me on one lap and dropping me over the summit of the course though. We were up to third outright for a long time, battling with the R&R mixed team containing several National Junior guns (like Samara Shepperd, who I have to say I unmercifully dropped on the climb! A small victory but I'll take it...) Ian took it upon himself to bust out three back-to-back laps, with an 18.10, 18.12 and 18.11 in a row... awesome. Our win was virtually sealed after that, all we had to do was lap consistently and could even take it easy. Yeah right, Ian doesn't know how to back off, and kept smashing himself for the rest of the race, while we all kept our times in the 19-20 minute area. Ten O'clock couldn't come quick enough, and after many calculations we decided that we didn't need to get in a last lap, but would anyway to make it a lap back to second. Rob, who never rides at night, was the unlucky rider who was designate, after I'd offered but then retracted said offer when I got the unexpected acceptance of said offer. Sorry Rob, but you were the man for the job.The lap had to be completed by 10pm for it to be counted, and we waited at the finish as riders streamed through as the minutes ticked off. With about three minutes to spare, Rob charged in to the velodrome, pulling out a very quick night lap to seal the win. It was finally time for a beer, and Ratas fired up the barbie and the stories of the day were recounted under the stars of a clear, cool night at the end of a very coool day.