Thursday, April 27, 2006


Learning to ride.

Yesterday I went down the park with my girlfriends six year old son Andrew, he's had a bike for a while but hadn't learnt to ride and I figured it would be a good day to learn. It's a cheap BMX type thing, single speed with back pedal brakes, no trainer wheels. We'd banned trainer wheels so he wouldn't become dependant on them, and besides, he could ride is scooter without any problems so his balance wasn't a problem. The park has a gentle slope, perfect for learning to ride a bike. My girlfriend took her bike along as well for a bit of inspiration, the park was only about 200 metres away so I walked.
I balanced him on his bike and pushed him along, sometimes he'd wobble a bit and fall off but we were only going slow so it didn't hurt. Eventually he went further and further, rolling about 50 metres to the bottom of the hill. We shouted at him to pedal but it was difficult for him to focus on steering and pedalling at the same time, so he'd forget to pedal. At the bottom of the hill he'd get off and push the bike to the top. He was loving it! He was gaining confidence too, he was learning to steer it to where he wanted to, and as the bike slowed down he'd remember to pedal, and get a bit of extra distance. next I showed him how to start, so I wouldn't have to hold him. I told him to put a foot on the pedal that was forward and push of with the other foot, like he does with his scooter. He soon got the hang of it and was independent. He could climb on his bike and ride it to the bottom. He was proud of himself and told any strangers that ventured nearby that this was the first time he'd ridden a bike. His mother and I were proud of him too. The grassy slope reminded me of the beach where the Wright brothers first flew a heavier than air craft. They must have felt the same , small hops followed by longer and longer hops, then controlled flight. What a feeling! We let him have a few more goes and then it was time for lunch, walking home Andrew decided he wanted to ride on the footpath, after a few false starts he got going down the path but turning onto the lawn he nearly hit the letter-box and came to an inglorious crash on the front lawn. Still, no harm done but a reminder that with more speed there's more risk. More rides to come.

Sunday, April 23, 2006


Wednesday night

Four of us gathered for our regular Wednesday night ride. The weather is getting cooler as Australia moves towards winter but as it turns out it wasn't THAT cold and for most of the ride I was overheating in my new warm boots and bib type long pants. Fergie was one of the four and whilst not a regular he could thrash us all in any sport that required fitness over skill. Fergie is nearly fifty years old but competes at a very high level in his age group in swimming and cycling, though suffers a bit when running. We all gather outside of Harrys bike shop at 6pm. At about 10 minutes past we argue a bit about where we're going to go and then we head off. Last night we took of towards the Harris River dam, which supplies some of Western Australias freshest water. We started off on the Mundabiddi trail and then switched to a single track. We regulars know it by heart but Fergie wasn't a regular and didn't have good lights, so we dawdled a bit so as not to leave him behind. Eventually we arrived at the Harris River picnic spot and Fergies battery was nearly dead so he decided to ride home on the bitumen to town. We had a bit of a food break then headed west along a dirt track that followed a dry creekbed. It was a nice surface that inclined upwards in a series of small rises. Of course we ended up racing as soon as one front wheel inched in front of another. After crossing under a powerline we hit Arklow Road and turned right. Now we were going down a gentle descent along a wide smooth road, chatting as we rode with only one headlight between us to conserve battery power. We came to the Mundabiddi trail again, this was the spot where we found Harry waiting for us when he got lost a few weeks ago. We did a left turn and were now heading southwest along the Mundabiddi trail, which is wider than it needs to be but still isn't quite wide enough for cars. Once again we were going mainly downhill and swooping over low rises and cutting the corners, it's great fun. Since I put my longer headstem on the other day my weight has moved back a bit and instead of the front sliding out on slippery corners the back slides a bit too. There seems to be a better weight distribution between the front and rear wheels which also improves my cornering. We got home about 9:30 pm.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006


In the groove

Let's talk about ruts.
More specifically, different types of ruts, and I'm not talking about lifestyle type ruts, I'm talking about ruts on mountain bike trails, downhill ruts.
Ruts whilst going uphill are rarely a problem so we won't even bother discussing them.
The best type of rut is the "straight across the road" type rut, perpendicular to the road. These are generally easy, you just do a bit of a bunnyhop and you're across, unless it's wider than normal and you have to focus a bit and do a BIG bunny hop, even if you don't get all the way across it you'll usually cross it unscathed.
The next rut is the angled rut, say about forty five degrees. These aren't too bad, usually you can chose a place to hop across, but you have to pick carefully.

The worst type of rut is the developing wheel rut. This starts off as a deep wheel mark that slowly gets deeper. At first if you're wise you'll recognise it straight away and get up on the hump in the middle of the track, that's assuming you're not riding on single track, which will buy you some time. If you haven't done this the rut will get progressively deeper and it becomes harder to lift the front wheel out of it, giving the front a good yank the front wheel should lift out and the back wheel will follow, if it doesn't you have a bigger problem, you're trapped now, and not only that but by now you're bumping over largish rocks that gather in the washed out gully. By now you've braked enough to slow down to a safe speed or else you've skillfully, and with the help of a few quick prayers to your God, navigated your way out of the problem. The only other conclusion is a fall of some sort.
A magnifying factor is the steepness of the descent. Going downhill puts your weight further foward and therefore increases your chances of going over the handlebars, a second magnifying factor is braking, once again moving more force to the front, compressing the shocks, and putting you further over the front. Braking causes a dilemma, it may cause the front wheel to skid, or even throw you over the front of the bike, in which case releasing the brake can be a better option, but as we all know releasing the brake makes you go faster and so you might escape THIS problem but what about the next one further along?

Sunday, April 16, 2006


To the waters edge

Had a great ride with Damon. He parked his car at the information bay at Wellington Dam turnoff and I gave him a lift back to my house with the idea that we'd ride out to his car and then he'd give me a lift home. After picking him up we went to my place and had a look at maps and Google Earth and in the end decided that the route over the top of the dam wouldn't be great and we'd go for option B. This route starts south of Collie, cuts across the bottom of a farm and then goes over some gravel rolling track to Palmer road, which you follow for about a kilometre before turning left up a track which has a sign that says APIARY but doesn't actually appear on any maps. It's a nice leafy unused track that inclines gradually upwards for ages and then towards the end increases in steepness yet again before leveling out on top of the hill. It's the sort of hill where when you're riding with mates someone is sure to shoot off ahead only to end up blowing up halfway up the hill. It's a long hill and slow and steady is best. Looking on the maps there does appear to be a track that bypasses the steep part of the hill and shortens the route a bit. Anyway after a short decline and another uphill you get to Black Dicks Road where it joins up with Old Mill Road. We stopped here for a breather and a snack and checked our maps. My original intention was to follow Old Mill Road but there was a great track along Randall Road which follows Silver Wattle Gully, so we mounted up again and went north along Black Dicks Road for about a kilometre before turning left onto Randall Rd which was pretty much a continuous gentle downhill for a couple of kilometres. The track was pretty much unused and the Silver Wattle had grown over the track to create a tunnel effect, with branches pulling at the handlebars. At the end of Randall Rd we went left and followed the boundry of the Mungalup pine plantation, after some steep rutted downhill we arrived at the waters edge. The water was wide and far too deep to cross, which was a change from last year when the dam was really low and there was no water at this point at all.

After a bit of a look around we followed the river back towards Collie. We went along Palmer Rd for a few km before we found a place to cross the river. Riding down a steep bank to the river I got caught in a rut and went over the handle bars. it was one of those slow motion things with everything being a blur. I saw the rut and I think if my tyres and suspension had been a bit softer I might have survived, but as it was I didn't. Despite being rocky ground I didn't do any major damage, my shoulder aches a bit but nothing broken or torn. I always worry about breaking a collar bone which seems to be one of the most popular injuries these days. After crossing the river on slippery logs we followed some of the track from the Collie Marathon Relay course before hitting the tarmac for the last 3 km into town. It was getting dark so Damon threw his bike in my car and I drove out to his car and dropped him off. We'll have to investigate the west side of the dam next week. All up we covered 40 km in about three hours. If you have Google earth you can download the route we took from here. The ride Damon is planning will go from Collie to Bunbury and will be a distance of about 100 km, it's planned for around about October 2006.

Saturday, April 15, 2006


Hot water

Damons coming here soon.
That's scary!
Damon is organising a longish mountain bike ride soon and has to send the details of the track to the organisers. I think it's starting in my town and because I have a pretty good knowledge of the area he wants me to find a route for the race. Option A which is the obvious route goes over the top end of Wellington Dam but it's not my choice because it has to creep between some farmland and the waters edge and it's just not an inspiring ride. Option B is to cross the Wellington Dam at a narrow point near what is called "The shack" and do some absolutely magnificant climbs through some great bush. It's all in the Wellington National park too. It's the sort of forest that encloses you when you enter it. I know great tracks on Option B. Howerver Damon text me and said that moving 500 mountain bikers across the waters might be a problem. Where's Moses when you need him?
Another option, which we'll call Option C is to cross the river at a low point. And do a mix of option A and B. The trouble with this is that it depends on the water level of the river which is really the backwaters of the Wellington Dam. So it depends on the amount of water consumption over the next six months and the rainfall.
But anyway, Damons coming up from Bunbury this afternoon and we're going to go for a ride to look at these things. When he gets here I'll explain all the options so he knows why we're going where we're going.
Oh why's it scary that Damons coming? Damon is a superhuman, he has that Lance Armstrong genetic advantage. Did I tell you Damon was the state champion MTB rider? Or how about the time he was showing us the course out at Welly Dam which was a part of the state series. Damon smashed his derailluer and so shortened the chain and used it as a single speed. Now there was hill that was so tough that anyone that climed it without putting a foot down would get a free TShirt. Damon in his middle of the cluster single speed was the only one that made it. Damon is also a really nice guy .

The other really great thing today was that I finally got hot water connected to my washing machine. It's only been a few years that it's been running on only cold water. I read somewhere that to kill all those tiny bugs in your clothes you need hot water. Detergent and cold water only gives you a cleaner bug, you need hot water to actually kill them. I just have to make sure I don't shrink any of my clothes now.

Thursday, April 13, 2006


Warm feet

Went for a ride last night with Harry. Harry is our most regular Wednesday night rider, in fact the Wednesday night ride actually developed from Harrys Wednesday evening training ride. We've been doing the Wednesday night ride for a couple of years now and over that time our riding skills have developed considerably, as has our light technology. From commercial incandescent type lights with dry cells to Halogen lamps powered by brick sized lead gel cell batterys to Nickel type batterys and now we've settled on high power LED lights and in my case with a Lithium Ion battery. My present setup is probably less than a quarter or the weight of my original setup. Mine is home-made, I'm really proud of it. It even looks home-made but I haven't had any faults at all with it since I put it on my bike. I was one of the first to use the 5 watt Luxeons and every time I mentioned it on the internet there were cries of doom from the masses but it hasn't missed a beat. I get people from all over the world checking out my design. I know this because I use Google Analytics to keep track of the number of hits on my web page and it has a world map with dots that indicate the source of the hits. Mountain bike riding is truly international.
Harry has a Cateye Triple Shot light, it looks quite rugged and works well but I still prefer mine.
The other cool thing last night was the weather, well it wasn't that bad but you feel the winter chill comming on, which was good because I wanted to try out my new Sidi Winter Storm boots. Now I always suffer from cold feet when it's cool, your feet are at the end of your legs and there isn't a lot of blood flow down there, and boot manufacturers like to tell us their shoes are cool and "breath", which is great for hot weather but no good for riding to work at 5:30 am on a frosty morning. So getting the boots out of the courier delivered box (from America to Australia at great expense) I was keen to see how these things would perform. I expected them to be thick and padded looking, which they weren't. they didn't come with cleats but I had some new ones somewhere in my bike cupboard so that wasn't a problem. I was also worried about size, since I never had a chance to try them on. I was going by my older Shimano boots and my running shoes to estimate the size, which is about a ten and a half, and as it turns out my estimate was spot on! So I put on the cleats, rode around a bit and adjusted them some more until they were about right and tightened them up. I found the optimum position for me was when you turned your heel inwards the boot should almost be brushing the crank. I've got no idea where my feet are while I ride but I seem to like more inward movement than out.
After riding for nearly two hours my feet were snug and warm, not too hot and not too cold but "just right" (as Goldilocks was alleged to have said). Am I happy with them? you bet! Any drawbacks? Well.. just one. If you need to put your foot back on the peddle in a hurry and you miss the cleat you have to be careful your foot doesn't slip off the peddle. The bottom of the boot isn't as flat as my old boot so it doesn't sit on the peddle as easily when it's not clipped in. It's not a major problem but is just something I noticed, I'll soon adjust to it. So anyway, now I'm looking foward to riding to work. Oh, I forgot to mention that it's held on with three velcro straps and also has a flap that wraps over the ankle, also secured with velcro. It feels like wearing bootys because it covers all of the ankle area. I didn't go through any puddles yet but it looks quite water resistant, and the other thing to mention is that the material used is called Outlast, which is one of those high tech materials probably invented to keep astronauts warm when they go mountain bike riding on the moon.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


The patio roof is done!

Well not quite. There's still a small section at the back which is pretty much out of sight that needs to be covered in but you can't really see it and for all practical purposes the roof is finished. John and I spent all day working on it. He's moving back to perth soon, having sold his own house, and he's keen to go. It was a long day for us but we got a lot done. John cut his hands a few times whilst cutting bits of tin for the roof but we just kept putting bandaids on the cuts. I suggested he should wear gloves but he feels they slow him down.
Like everybody I feel like I have a million things to do. I've put in an offer to buy a house for my girlfriend to live in but it's a real dump and is going to need a lot of work to make it nice. Should know in a week or so if the bank is going to lend me the money.
I wanted to go for a bike ride or a run this evening but I just felt too tired, maybe tomorrow..
Alpha the cat is drooling again. He has something wrong with him but I don't know what. He's been to the vet and got some antibiotic shots and his normal kitten injections but the problem's come back. I'm trying to keep him inside where it's warmer and I'm giving him soft foods just in case it's a problem with his mouth.
I have a week left of my holidays. It's disappearing too fast and all I've done is worry and work. Perhaps I'll get a few easy days soon.
The clutter on my desk is thinning out. Soon I'll be able to move into my new computer room, and that is going to stay tidy!
Yesterday some new cycling shoes arrived by courier. They're supposed to be warmer than your average shoe. I'm determined to ride to work through the winter so I'm arming myself with warm clothing.


In the beginning...

A historical moment should start in the beginning so it's fitting that I should use the first letter of the alphabet. So with the assistance of two black cats we start our journey.

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