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.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Pure, art

The Koppenberg. A name synonymous with the Spring Classics, and Flanders in particular. Usually the famed cobbled climb is scaled on 23mm rubber at high speed, if you're lucky enough to be at the front of the great monument. If not, a slippery scramble, hard plastic cleats struggling for purchase on stones polished to a hard sheen over hundreds of years. A Belgian winter should be no time to add rain, mud and cyclocross bikes to the mix. Merde! It's exactly the right recipe for the hardest of the hardmen to shine, if they can under those many layers of filth. Bike racing stripped back to its barest bones, revealing the true heart and soul.
It is a good case for black bar tape though, yet being PRO, most still choose to rock the white, at least for a few minutes of the one hour of pain.