Back racing

Wednesday night brought the first sessions of the Newcastle Velodrome Club Championships. I entered, knowing full well that I haven’t done any track racing this season, but then again I guess it’s never too late to start. I was to race two events over a mighty distance of 1.2km total. First up was the flying 200m, then a break while the other events were run, then the 1km time trial.

The flying 200m is pretty straightforward – full gas for 200m. The best in the world do it in less than 10 seconds. The best at our meet are in the 11-second category, which is not bad for a bumpy outdoor track. My time is a bit off that, coming in at a tardy 13.2 seconds, but enough for second place in B grade. In hindsight I came off the banking too early, and wasn’t able to use the full slingshot effect.

My flying 200m effort from the Mini DV on the top tube. I adjusted the angle a bit and the track looks a bit better

This is how it’s done. The A Grade boys giving it full gas. Shot from the infield with my iPhone.

Next week brings the Scratch Race and the Individual Pursuit. I’m not sure how I’ll fare in either of those events but it’ll be good fun to give it a go. I’ve got some nice TT bars on the way from the USA and I’m hoping they get here and I get a chance to try them before I need to use them in anger. Come on USPS Express!

Speaking of trying things in anger, I’ve decided to make the most out of the $300-odd it costs for a licence these days and I’ll race at every opportunity. Today’s racing was out on the Kooragang circuit, with the Hunter Valley Veterans Club holding their monthly invitational event. I stayed up late the night before fiddling around getting the Zipps installed and managed to do so with a minimum of fuss. The downside was the fact I had to drive out as I don’t yet have a reliable spare tubular, nor a can of sealant. Judging by the fact I saw one rider puncture on the way out there, one rider mid-race, and three riders on the way home (one with a double blowout) I think I made the right call. Plus, 50km at redline turned out to be more than enough.

It was a fast paced B grade bunch made up of about 30 riders. There was a moderate southerly which made things interesting, and some intermittent drizzle kept most people on their toes (and brakes). I kept myself at the front, but was poorly positioned coming into the last corner and was 3rd wheel as the sprint wound up. I placed 4th in the sprint but 5th overall. There was some monster off the front who had solo’d away for victory by about 15 seconds who had gotten away with a lap to go and held off a rather disorganised chase. I’ll be keeping an eye out for him next time.

It really all comes down to tactics when you’re reasonably evenly matched physiologically, and I learned a few lessons about not wasting energy doing big turns, closing gaps, and being at the front in a head-wind. At least there’s always next time.

As for the wheels themselves – amazing. Who knows how much is psychological when you put on your race wheels, but these things made me feel like I was flying. Believe the hype people. There was almost no interference in the crosswind, and the acceleration and speed out of corners and out of the saddle is something to behold. I was constantly looking down to see what gear I was in! The tubulars held fast, and the braking with the Zipp Tangente pads was solid and predictable, something I was surprised about after reading negative reviews about cork pads in general. Plus they make the bike look bad ass too, I’m sorry to take them off and replace with the humble Mavics for commuting.

Strava tells me I’m just about to click over 1000km for the year, which is not a bad start. I’ve also shed 6kg of my Tamworth lard and on my way back to a decent racing weight. I’ve also joined a local 24-hour gym to get in a bit of strength training when time allows. Here’s hoping I can maintain this momentum. See you out there.


Not-so-candid camera

The BB and the camera arrived this week on the slow boat (plane?) from Hong Kong. The boom is really on with these cheap websites, and it shows just how hard it is for the local bike shops to keep up. I mean a ceramic CNC’d bottom bracket for $50? It’s just not going to happen. However, where bike shops will stay afloat is in expertise. There are parts to building and maintaining a bike that I cannot do myself, and I am more than happy to pay for the experience of the local mechanics (e.g. the incredible job done by the boys at Gateshead cycles getting my 29er ready for the 24h last year).

That aside I was keen to get the bits unboxed and check them out. The Unknown Rider has already had some experience with his Mini DV, but I was keen to try it on a smoother surface (albeit not that much smoother). I ended up going for the top tube, and the results are below.

The bottom bracket came nicely packaged in an original box. No way to prove the bearings are indeed ceramic (apart from the tick on the box and the printing on the cartridge), but it spins as smooth as butter. Installed as simply as you’d expect, and came with a few spacers to get the Q-factor right.

This gives you an idea of size. This has a few mounting options, but for the moment it’s on the track bike head tube. I might play with another mount for the roadie as well as a helmet mount for off-road shenanigans.

The camera mount on the head tube. Also note the race wheels, I’m sick of these gathering dust in the shed, so tonight they’re coming out to play.

So that’s it for now. More video tweaks to come; I’m keen to try to overlay the Garmin data which I’ve seen on other sites. I’m also playing with the video angle to try to catch more of the track (rather than just random sky and the riders arse in front of me). I’ll post up more as they’re edited. If the links are broken, then it’s probably just the music heavies coming down on me for reposting copyrighted songs, but it sounds alot better than the raw audio of me literally red-lining and dying.

Post exam wheel-building

It’s been a quiet few weeks with my attention diverted to some last minute study for my Pharmacology and Statistics exam. Man, talk about dry. Hence why the study was put off, and put off, resulting in a few weeks of intense cramming. There were facts zooming around in my head for those precious three hours that are now long gone. Now, the waiting game begins to see whether I score an invite to Melbourne for the Viva component. The good: this exam costs the same as a new Ti frame (plus a few carbon bits), so if I make it then there well be a just reward. Just in time for Dirtworks too…

With the exam pain fading I ventured out into the back yard to put together the components that have been slowly accumulating in the shed and waiting for the day when they would come together. In classic Rob (and Rossco) style, they didn’t come together without a hitch, which I’ll explain below. Thanks to Google for the solution. Apologies to my neighbours for anything that may have been said in the heat of the moment.

Rim Strips

I went with the Stan’s tape and Olympic valves. After having good success with the ol’ rubber rim strip and tape on the original wheelset, I thought I’d go with the recommended yellow tape. Easy to install and the tyres went up without a hitch (using the compressor). I stuck with the Ralphs as they already have a nice coat of sealant over the porous bits, and also the price was right.

Single Speed Conversion

After not wanting to use a generic spacer kit, I found a company in the States called Q2 doing a carbon one for the same price. Absolutely no performance enhancement, but it looks nice and the variety of spacer combos means that a straight chainline was easy to achieve.

The Centrelock Rotors

After talking to The Unknown Rider/Trail Master/Event Promotor I was swayed against the 6-bolt conversion, and opted for a set of new XTR Centrelock rotors. Installation is simple as, no hassling with a torque wrench and alternating Torx screws. Just thread up and your’re done! Or, so I thought. See the Centrelock Rotor sits on a large 5-arm mount, which makes the rotor true and strong, but it also means that they are not compatible with Avid calipers as the disc tabs project into the path of the spinning arms. So, wheels installed, mounted, tightened, and… nothing. After a few slow deep breaths I Googled my frustration and the answer came to me – angle grinder. Just grind the tabs away, too easy. After digging my grinder out of the shed and plugging it in, I decided discretion was the better part of valour and removed the tabs from the bike rather than attempting to grind in situ. 30 seconds of angle grinding loving and I was rolling. Oh, and the Avid turkey warble is gone, these things are completely silent.

Note the clearance. Millimeters. Seems to be ok on the test ride.

The DT Swiss RWS System

I’ve read mixed reviews on these, and seeing as DT Swiss has already released an upgraded version of the skewers I’d say that some of the early complaints may be founded in reality. What I like so far is that they were free with the wheelset, they’re super chunky, solid yet light, and provided that you’re not too ham-fisted, then you shouldn’t have any issues with the ratchet system failing. However, saying that, why they’d choose to make a component that you’re going to be twisting with reasonable force and that is prone to impact out of plastic escapes me. So I expect these to last until at least my first crash, which is usually on my first ride back from a prolonged MTB absence. Damn, I’d better start saving for the upgraded ones now.

As a plus they did bolt straight into the frame, and with the handy little drive side screw on the GT’s rear dropout I’m hoping wheel slippage won’t be an issue. In fact, at a peak power of about 250W I’m betting it won’t be! The other bonus is doing away with the rear bolts, and no longer needing to carry a 15mm ring spanner duct-taped to my frame.

The rest

The last time this bike was actually ridden was the Coghead Sawmill ride, which saw the bike (and rider) in practical full-immersion. A lesson learnt thereafter was that single speed bikes are low maintenance, not no maintenance. The second hand XT bottom bracket has called it a day, and there is a replacement on way from Hong Kong. There is a company called GUB that are hawking ceramic BB’s for $50. They seem to get decent reviews, so how could I say no? Once it’s here and installed (and ridden) I’ll post a review.


I’m very happy with the way these came together. Through good luck and online shopping I’ve come away with a decent wheelset for under a grand. It brings the bike to 11.2kg and I now also realise that the only original thing left on the bike is the frame itself! Of course the proof will be when I actually get to ride these things in anger, and I’m hoping to have a weekend free and a racing licence soon. See you out there.

So far, so good

Ah, it’s good to be back. Here we are just over 3 weeks into the new year. My friends at Strava tell me I’ve logged 528km for the month. It’s been a good start, and I’ve really enjoyed being back on the bike. Long days and warm weather must have something to do with it, as well as being able to come home to my own place every night. I’ve been doing the commute to and from work, and it works out at a measly 5km each way, with only the little stint up Bridges Rd to get the hr going. I think the best thing to do will be to add in a quick loop though town of an afternoon to make up some distance. The Newy Cogheads have some early starts twice a week, but the intensity looks like it might leave me nothing to run on for the rest of the day at work, so I’ll pass on those at the moment.

Being back in the whole social networking thing has been good. As well as a monumental time-waster, it has allowed me to keep in touch with the local cycling and I’ve been out on a few of the Coghead rides. The most recent for me being the Sawmill track in the Watagans. It started off pretty hard, with a slow slog up Deadmans Gap, but from there turned into a great series of single-trails and some techy fire-road. I’d definitely go back there again. Unfortunately, after a busy week I was not keen to get up at 0500 on Saturday for the McLovin’ 1000, and by all accounts I missed a great ride. Instead, I went on two road rides over the weekend – one routine, and one epic.

Saturday was just a routine lap around town, and this 40km has quickly established itself as my favourite way to knock out a quick training ride. 40km and 400m of climbing and you’re back within 1:30 and the day’s not written off. So given my newfound mojo, I set about planning an early morning Sunday ride. I wanted about 3 hours, and about 1000m of climbing. What I ended up with was 120km, 1500m of climbing and a lesson in biting off more than you can chew.

The Twin Peaks

Sugarloaf and Deadmans. Ouch.

I set off at 0800 knowing that it was going to be a warm day. I packed two bidons and some cash for a resupply. The plan was to tackle Sugarloaf and Deadmans, and then head home. On paper it looked like two climbs followed by some flat cruising. Unfortunately, it was a bit further than I suspected and the false flats around Freeman’s Waterhole took their toll, as did the rising head wind and increasing temperatures. The two service station stops saved the day, and I came home a little sunburned and with a better understanding about my disparity between my expectations and my ability. Of both the climbs, I found Sugarloaf to be significantly harder, especially the middle section that reduced me to 6km/h. Given that, and the fact that it’s closer to me than Deadmans, I think it’s going to be my go-to hill for suffering for the time being.

I haven’t made any progress on the bike front. My new wheels are sitting in the study, in need of rim tape, valves, tyres, and rotors. They did come with some super chunky DTSwiss RWS skewers, and I’m looking forward to seeing how these go in the singlespeed frame. Reports on the internet are mixed, with people snapping levers like twigs, but time will tell.

In random news, I did pass The Unknown Doppelgänger on the Fernleigh the other day. I say this because I passed a guy hammering away on a rigid steel 29er with an Alfine rear hub. If it were the Unknown Rider, I doubt I would have caught him.

Tomorrow presents itself as a glorious public holiday, and I intend to celebrate my Australian-ness by heading out around the lake. Hope you’re planning something similar.

It’s my last night in town and I’ve finished the days operating and I am patiently awaiting the first of what I will imagine to be many casualties of the Country Music Festival. Moreso, I’m keen to get back to Newcastle and regain my life both at home, at work, and on the bike. It’s all coming up Millhouse at the moment with long days, plenty of riding opportunites, ProTour racing on TV and the steady trickle of components arriving into the household.

I’ve managed to clock up a few hundred k’s so far this year, but once again that all grinds to a halt when I have to pack up my life and drive back this way. Riding this week gave way to a myriad of social outings and farewells culminating in a big night out last night and not enough sleep to be of much use today.

First and foremost is the arrival of my belated Christmas gift from Ms Motor Cortex. A nice set of Stans Arch 29ers on some DT240s. Complete with an extra set of Aerolite spokes and DT skewers. This of course is just the first slip in what is going to be an avalanche of new components over the coming months as I need to buy a single speed spacer kit, some tuggnuts, rim tape, valves, rotors, adaptors, and most importantly tyres to get these things installed on the 9r. Then of course comes the conundrum as to what to do with the frame? I’m hoping there’s a titanium answer for that, so stay tuned for updates. In unrelated news, I have a kidney for sale. Enquire below.

In the spirit of reciprocity, I bestowed unto Ms Motor Cortex the gift of a Dutch City bike. I am awaiting the ride report from The Unknown Rider with regard to his Alfine hub. This little beauty has a Nexus 3-speed, and by all accounts its a great little hub. It’s got a very wide range, as you’d expect, but for Newcastle’s flat streets and gentle grades (with exception to the Cols and Alpes I log in Strava), the set-up is perfect. A recommended gift for the bike-widow in your life.

So, what more is there to say? Not much really, except I’ve missed my week on the bike (and I note that the Power Granger has pipped me up King Edward), so I’ll be back with a vengeance. Looking forward to riding on and off the road, and generally getting on with life in the big smoke.

See y’all soon pardners!

Five days and 250km into the new year and I’m starting to feel it a bit. My head has rushed headlong into training and capitalising on my newfound mojo, but the legs are not quite catching up. The last two days have seen two morning road rides with Rossco, and both times I’ve been placed in the hurt-box. The old rule of doing 10% more than the week prior falls apart when the week prior was spent on the sofa alternating beer and bacon. More-so when the last six months have followed that pattern.

I’m going to do another flat tempo ride tomorrow, and then Friday will be a day of rest. Saturday is looking good for a Coghead ride that starts with a 10km 1000m climb. Fun times ahead. I’ll also be waiting patiently by the mailbox for my belated Christmas present: a set of Stan’s Arch rims laced to a set of DT 240s. I’m inching towards my dream bike, pics to follow.

A good start

Well I have capitalised on my New Year’s Resolution(s) and have made it out every day so far. Nothing to write home about just yet, but nice to be slowly getting back into the groove of things. A southerly change has blown through town and dropped the temperature a few degrees, but also added the element of a head wind, the upside obviously being the tail wind (when you can find it). I rolled around town on Monday and rode over a few small hills to log some Strava times and to get the ball rolling. The rides can be shared via Facebook or Twitter, so I can spare the duplicity of reproducing them here in great detail. I’ve never been a big fan of the ‘book, but it looks like I’ll have to relent as there is just so much cycling related stuff on there with regards to training rides etc, so I might give it a look.

Monday’s Ride

Not a bad 58km, going over King Edward, Scenic and Main Rd in Cardiff. Ran out of food about 10k’s from home, and paid for it.

Today’s Ride

Out to work with Rossco, in a very pleasant tail wind. Unfortunately the head wind back was not so much fun. Had a go at getting up Jesmond Hill, only to find out that I’m still off the pace. Still, all these numbers are fun.

Other stuff

I’m looking around at upgrading the 29er in preparation for DirtWorks. I’ve settled on the Lynskey Ridgeline SL (as a frameset, with the plan to transport all the upgrades from the 9r and restore it to its original spec), and I’m now waiting to scrape together the bananas to pay for such a purchase. I also note that The Unknown Rider’s mini HD camera has arrived, so I’ll be looking forward to seeing how that sub-$20 piece of magic goes and whether it’s worth me getting one too. There’s talk of a decent Watagans ride on Saturday which might be a go-er (once I get the gear lower on the 29er). Other than that, it’s just a few more road rides, then a date with the scales at the end of the week. Hopefully once I’m back from Tamworth I’ll be able to sneak in a race or two.