Sunday, June 29, 2008

Does Reh Dogg have a brother?

Could it be another pup from the Dogg litter? And he sings good too! Wait for the big finish... Amen!

Friday, June 27, 2008

You can't beat Wellington on a good day...

So the saying goes around here, but even on a 'bad' day, there's worse places to be...
It's been 18 months living in Wellington, and I still am loving experiencing this great city. I've often thought about moving back to Aus, but when I weigh up the pros and cons, the Windy City wins every time. There are certainly things I miss about Aus, my family, my cats, my friends, but the actual lifestyle here has gotten under my skin. I'm not a real 'city person', but the compactness of the city, the ease of getting around, the fact that the CBD has people in it and is not like a ghost town (sorry, Newcastle, but that's how it's heading) and the plethora of entertainment has me hooked. Here's why...

The trails; It's why I came here, and I'm still discovering new gems all the time. Riding with different people always opens up new possibilities. Alistair from Fox is based in Wanaka (South Island), with real mountains, and still reckons Welly has the best trails in the country. Vegas is cool, but I agree with Caleb in his assessment that it can get boring after a few days spent riding there. But we still love to get up there whenever possible, just wouldn't want to live there.

The wind; I used to hate the wind. I'm still not a huge fan of it when it tries to pick me up off my mountain bike and throw me off the side of Makara Peak, or when I'm on the flat road at Lyall bay, in the small ring, standing up pedalling and going about 10kph. But those are extreme cases, and when it's behind your back, you can really get moving. And I think if it hasn't killed me yet, then I might just be a bit stronger?

The cityscape; Looking back at the CBD from Carlton Gore Road is one of the best views I've ever seen. From Fraser's new place in Brooklyn isn't bad either, a different perspective but still a great panorama. Especially at night. Looking from Natasha's place, also in Brooklyn, you get the bays and the Orongorongo mountains thrown in too. And when I lived in Khandallah the view over the docks, stadium and city were also pretty sweet. Speaking of the stadium...

The Phoenix; They might not be very good at playing football, but going to the CakeTin and watching the A-League is a great arvo or night out. The fans (affectionately known as the 'Yellow Fever', even though the team wears black) are awesome, singing, yelling abuse, getting rowdy but all in a pretty good spirit. The food sucks and drinking Tui out of plastic bottles is heinous, but I can't wait for the season to start again. And I love looking up at Tinakori Hill as the sun sets, or the rain mists in, with the crowd singing "Oh Wellington, is wonderful..we've got the wind, the rain and the Phoenix..."

The bike community; As with anywhere, there are weirdos and dickheads who ride bikes. There are fixie riders who get way too far into the whole image and ideals of the 'scene'. There are the roadie snobs and twats who won't even look at you as you cross paths. And there are mountain bikers who think they need a 7-inch-travel bike to ride down a walking trail. But the cool people who ride more than make up for them. And I've never seen so many hot roady girls in my life... I wish they weren't so fast and keep getting away from me!

The coffee; Mmmm the coffee. Some great beans around, still lean towards Havana mainly, but People's is up there too, and when Aidan at Emporio is getting his groove on it's a good brew. But coffee without cafes is just takeaway coffee, and there are some great cafes around. Fidels and Midnight Espresso are cool, but with more cafes per capita than New York, it's gonna take a while to sample them all.

The summer; Last summer was one of the best I've experienced for riding for quite a while. Just the right temperatures, didn't have to freeze my bidons to prevent them being able to make coffee in after an hour, and the nights actually cool down enough to be able to sleep without running an AC all night.

The winter; Sometimes I think "gee, it'd be nice to be in a warmer place right now." But, as Tryphan said to me once, "weather is weather". Or as Tracy Moseley put it to me, "once you're out the door, it doesn't matter... and warming up with a whiskey in front of the fire afterwards is cool too." While I don't have a fire, drink whiskey or live in England, I'm finding it easier to get out in the cold than to get out in the Aussie heat. And an electric heater and a beer still does the trick.

The women; Walk downtown on any day of the week, and your head will be spinning. Sexy, earthy, classy women who dress with some style. They know how to stay warm and still look good. And when summer comes, well....

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Firsts and lasts

The World MTB Champs were run in Italy on the weekend and were notable for two things. A true legend of the sport, Thomas Frischknecht rode his last World's after making his debut in 91 in Durango. The guy's won everything there is to win, World Cups, World Champs in XC and Marathon, even cyclocross World titles. In his honour, I might have to sport a DT SWiss fork on my bike... thanks Frischy!
Speaking of sick bikes, the new 2009 Epic made it's debut under another Swiss gun, Christophe Sauser. And what better way to showcase a brand new design than by winning the World title? None. Check out what a real hot bike looks like here.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Mud, beer and YJA's

Maybe not back in the USSR, but I'm back in the YJA, as of Saturday. It's thrill-a-minute, with lots of attempts to wrest the fluoro fleece from each other. Josh spent 3 hours with an escaped mental patient on Monday, ordering her a new carbon road bike, only to have her come in yesterday with a bevy of excuses why she probably won't buy it. People suck. I've been given a set of Look Quartz pedals to do a winter thrash-test on, and so far, yeah na. Not that impressed by their engagement and retention, although their open body gives great mud clearance. They 'look' similar to Time's, but don't have the positive 'click' when clipping in. They are light though. And free. Will probably end up on the Tricross. Or Trade Me! When a lull in the race for the YJA occurs, Josh's mind starts plotting to make me spend money, deciding that my bike just had to have these ODI lock-on grips. Yeah, they do look pretty cool, matching the red of my bike, and they wont slip off like the $10 jobbies that were gracing the bars previously. He also managed to sell me a set of Specialized Storm tyres, which he'd used once and then thrown in his box with the other half dozen or so tyres he's accumulated in his quest for the holy grail of traction. In my quest for the holy grail of beer, I've found this little beauty, Monteith's New Zealand Lager... while not in the same class as Squire's Pilsener (about which I'm drooling,waiting to taste again in a couple of weeks) it's still a nice, crisp, hoppy little number. 5% too, which seems to be the magic number for taste and punch. Perfect as an after-ride or after-donning-a-YJA celebratory tipple.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Yet another...

...couple of amazing winter's days for riding in Welly. Sunday, Josh, Karl and I headed out early for the big loop to Makara, climbing the steep Scout Hall switchbacks, down the damp and slippery Deliverance, then up to the Peak and down again. Josh wasn't sated at the bottom of SWIGG, so headed back up for another crack, while Karl and I climbed back up Salvation and dropped back into town via the way we had earlier climbed. Today the city was shrouded in fog until almost midday, then lifted to reveal a perfect sunny day. Me and Caleb headed out with the lunchtime crew, which consisted only of Sparrow, Ant and Steve. We rode the tar up to the top of Ngaio Gorge, bringing back memories of my old commute when I used to live in Khandallah. Then we were in the singletrack, technically not really were we should've been. The boys cleared a fallen tree while Caleb snapped pics for the upcoming SPOKE article.Some more road climbing up to the back of Tinakori Hill was followed by technical singletrack with slippery roots and leaf mulch covering the damp soil. Following Ant, I put my foot down on the side of the trail, only to be sucked into a thigh-deep abyss while Caleb cracked up behind. My first thought was "shit I hope there's no snakes down there", before I rememberd which country I was in. The snakeless one. A cruise back through town taking in the 'sights' topped off a great way to spend a lunchtime.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Divided he stands

Local mountain bike guru Simon Kennett is about to start one of the toughest races in the MTB world in the next week, the Great Divide race. It's insane. Fully self-supported, no official timing or stages, just get on your bike at the U.S./Canadian border and ride it to the other end of the country to the Mexican border. No phones, no help, just you and some sort of iron will (or brain disorder) that I know I just don't have. I went to his fundraiser a couple of weeks ago, and the magnitude of the ride is unfathomable. I tried to freak him out by asking if he was worried that all the carbon bits (bars, rigid 29er fork, seatpost, cranks, brake levers) were going to fail. It didn't work. He's focused (and mental). Follow his progress on his blog.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Another beautiful day in paradise

It was sunny. I went for a ride. On the mountain bike. At Belmont. I went up. I came down. Very hard. My head hit a tree. I took some photos. I rode back. I had fun. Think I'll do it again.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

(Almost) not a bay or YJA in sight

Trying to put the controversy of the previous day behind us, Mini-Me and... me made the most of the weather bureau's ineptitude and got out for a spin with Grant around the Makara/J'ville loop. Rather than the wind and rain predicted, the sun was out and the southerly was in the process of becoming a northerly, which means a fairly calm breeze. The pace was good, the tyres were humming on the resealed roads, the cows were doing cow stuff and there was just enough nip in the air to chill the toes and nose. Grant peeled off around Ngaio on the return leg, while Mini-Me and... me decided that a Sunday arvo road ride wouldn't be complete without a look at the south coast and of course some bays... but no YJA's.

Controversy at worktour

There's been a change of lead in the race for the YJA, with Josh taking the fluoro fleece in a shortened stage on Saturday. But his stage win and consequent donning of the YJA is under a cloud, with allegations of 'sales doping' coming from the other competitors. Towards the end of the stage, after The Minion had done a lot of the domestique work (going to get coffee and sushi, vacuuming the floor and buttering up an old couple with some sweet talk) the J-man (who was 'virtual leader' on the road after a bevy of sprint bonuses) suddenly attacked hard from the pack, made the transfusion and before you could say "I'll even chuck in some shoes" had crossed the line, fists pumping, and made the biggest comeback since Landis put a patch on his balls and duped the masses in 06. How long will that smirk be on his face? We may not have heard the last of this....

Friday, June 06, 2008

The race for the YJA

Selling bikes can be harder than you might think. Not only do you have to deal with incessant requests to throw in a free helmet/pump/set of steak knives, but sometimes you also get the expert friend, who advises that the beginner friend must have Ultegra or XT, a carbon frame or dual suspension even though they only want to spend a grand, and insists on butting in every ten seconds to contradict every piece of sound advice you've just offered. These people are known to us as a YJA, or the Yellow Jacket of Authority. The name came about a while ago when a bike buyer, who'd been in on several occasions previously wanting a cyclocross style bike to tour on, returned with his know-it-all friend, clad in the sure sign of bicycle wisdom, a fluoro yellow spray jacket. He ended up leaving with a flat-bar road bike. And so the YJA was born.
Now, selling bikes can also get competitive amongst the guys selling them, i.e. us, so to spice up the competition a little we have turned the monthly sales figures into our own little race. Or to be more precise, each month becomes the Grand Tour that coincides on the PRO calender. Hence, last month was the Giro d'Italia, convincingly won by Mike with a solid early break which he held all the way to the end (or Milan I guess), while Josh and I lagged behind, going back to the team car to get bottles and warm clothing for the little fella. This month is the Tour Du Suisse, and I've jumped out to an early lead with some small time bonuses (kids bikes and P & A) helping put me up the road. (Of course we are all just tuning up for the big one in July.) And now we have our very own Maillot Jaune of Authority, awarded to the leader on GC at the end of each day (there are also stage wins each day too)... it comes with its own YSA, or Yellow Sporran of Activity. Yep, winter in the shop can send you mad...

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Just for you Matt

I know how you've been wanting to see some pics of the bays, so here's a couple from our morning ride. When Karl's away the rides get pushed to the side, actually I stayed in bed last Tuesday when it was filthy out, but he soldiered on like the nutter he is.
But Josh and I redeemed ourselves on Friday, with a 6.30 start a little easier psychologically to deal with than 6...
Also see how our bikes get dirt and road grime on them, I bet you miss that too Matt, basking in the 40c Perth heat while we rug up. Sunday was another good day for a spin, Josh, The Minion, The Trojan (Troyminator) and me did the Blue Mountains loop, up through Whitemans Valley, where the men are men and the sheep are scared. A bit like when Matt was here...