Monday, August 18, 2014

JRA – Just Resting Along

Wow! It’s been two years. I really couldn’t have imagined after my last post that I would be gone for so long. In fact a mere 4 months after being run over I got back to riding and was so happy. However mere weeks after that I was so close to being squished by a bus that didn’t give way at a roundabout that slowly riding slipped away from me. And this was compounded by ongoing issues with my back.
Anyway, I am not here to dwell on the past, but to share with any of you who might still be interested after all this time that I’m back on my bikes and I love them so much. However this being back on the bikes a very very recent thing and getting back into writing about it is part of my plan for ensuring the addiction takes hold again.

Today I did something I wasn’t sure was possible. I rode up Rapaki. Now riding up a great big hill when you are unfit after being fit is very different from doing it when you are unfit and only just starting out riding. In some ways it’s easier and in others harder. For example when you start out it’s actually pretty intimidating and scary and you’re not even sure you can do it at all. My first ride up Rapaki included at least 2 lying down crying tantrums. However once you’ve been fit you know that all you have to do is just ride slow and keep going. However the other side of the coin is that there’s a voice in the back of your mind that likes to remind you that you used to be so much faster, it didn’t use to hurt, walkers didn’t use to pass you (runners yes) and the litany goes on.

Luckily for me (I guess) I’ve been so injured and through so much in the last couple of years that that voice didn’t really have a chance over the voice of complete and utter joy at being in the hills in the sun on my beloved bike. Joyous voice had a lot to say.

“Oh my god I’m riding, up a hill!”
“Wow, it is beautiful today”
“Hmmmmmm long fingered gloves are hot”
“I wish my bike computer was working”
“This bit in the trees seems longer”
“My legs are doing well”
“My sit-bones hate me”
“My *censored* hates me more, flippin ow”
“Don’t think about the pain, you’re riding”
“Hmmmmm my back aches”
“Wow my lungs don’t ache”
“Gosh it’s peaceful”
“My front rotor is rubbing a tiny bit”
“These gloves are really hot”
“Shut up thigh and keep pedalling this is awesome”

You get the idea.  A litany of thoughts tumbling over each other in the excitement of being on my bike. And over them all “You should write in your blog again”, which is how this is happening. Out of that incomplete list of brain babble there were a couple of thoughts that I did need to pay attention to, my back and my lungs. This can be difficult when you have sit-bones screaming that you are an evil witch, but they are the two things I need to really look after now that I’m a battered old woman. So while the cacophony of thoughts raged I quietly monitored my back, which ached a little by the end, and my lungs which were really good all things considered. Of course if my bike computer had been working then this whole head noise situation wouldn’t have occurred as I would have been pleasantly preoccupied with speed/time/distance maths. Off to get a battery tomorrow.

And finally I would like to share that I have at last been able to achieve Just Resting Along. This is when you reach a portion of the ride that is a little easier than the rest (or ideally a lot easier) and instead of pushing your speed up you relax. Just spin along slowly, not worrying what anyone else thinks. Relaxing, dropping your heart rate, cruising. Just Relaxing Along is freeing. Sure others may blast past as if you are standing still, but hey, you’re not. You are still moving and your Just Relaxing Along means you can ride longer than you would have been able to if you slammed yourself. JRA allows you to achieve things you didn’t think possible. Like riding to the top of a bloody big hill after no riding at all for a year.

So I’m back. Hi! I can’t wait to see where my wheels take me. I’m like a child in a candy store, but at the moment I don’t have much fitness currency.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

This is what being hit by a car is like

Warning: the following account of my recent incident with a car is long and may be upsetting for some people. I've written it in the hopes of getting people to think about the consequences of their actions. Please pass this onto your friends and family, please be safe on the roads.

I was riding home from work mid-afternoon on Friday the 15th of June.  It was rainy and cold so I had my fluro orange and wonderfully water-proof Ground Effect She Shell on. I was riding my lovely Linus duchess so I wasn’t zooming along. Just gracefully cruising home as I usually do. I got to the intersection of Collins and Brougham St where the intersection is currently blocked to cars going through to Simeon. However the workmen had left a space for pedestrians and cyclists to cross. I waited on the road on the right side of the car that was turning left (not wanting to get run over you understand) and when the lights went  green I checked to make sure that no one was running the red before heading off.

I do this check every time I’m stopped at a red since the February earthquakes; there seems to be an epidemic of red light running in Christchurch. I safely made it to the gap where the crossing is in the middle of the road and observed a red car that was pretty much stationary at the lights. Of course I thought it was safe to continue, I was on a green, the red car seemed to be stopping, the car beside it in the further lane was stopped and had been for a while so I pedalled on. And the woman in the red car put her foot down.

She hit me when I was right in the middle of her bumper and everything becomes a blur of images for me here. I remember seeing the sky and feeling the bonnet give as I landed on it. I remember feeling shocked that this was happening, disbelieving that someone could be so stupid. I remember the back of my head striking the road and feeling my helmet do its job (I'm pretty sure if I hadn't been wearing my helmet I'd be dead or a vegetable), and then the rest of me hit the road on my right side. Then I’m pretty sure I blacked out for a couple of seconds as everything was blurry and fuzzy, but as my senses came back the first thing I did was wiggle my toes. Thank God they were moving.

Then I realised I couldn’t breathe and there was a woman standing over me saying “Sorry” and “Are you ok” over and over. As I gasped for air the pain hit and I began to make the most horrible wounded animal sound. I didn’t want to make this noise, it wasn’t me making it, it was the pain. I managed to roll into the recovery position on my left side and when I stayed still the noise stopped.
I gasped to the woman, still not believing what had happened, “Did you run a red light?” and she started explaining that she did, but she thought that it was blocked off so no one could cross. She even said she didn’t check because she didn’t think it was necessary. This made me so angry that I started sobbing and I pointed out to her that children cross here all the time and if it had been a child she would have probably killed it. She is lucky she only hit me.
Owie from hitting the road.

Lots of people appeared and told me not to move, which wasn’t a problem because my world became pain if I so much as flinched. A really lovely lady brought me a pillow and covered me in a blanket. I lay there on the road, curled in the recovery position, feeling the cold rain falling on me, being so grateful for the my Ground Effect jacket that was stopping the water from soaking me, and my new thick long Chalkydigits jersey that was keeping me warm. I told everyone I was ok, that I was warm enough and listened as they called the ambulance. I stared at the bumper of the red car and noticed a dent in the middle of it. I thought of how upset my husband was going to be. Once the ambulance and police had been called I got one of the lovely women looking after me to call my husband. I could tell he was so shocked and I yelled out to him that I was ok, hoping to calm him down. Then I had to wait.

I lay on the road in the cold rain with trucks and cars whizzing past me, looking at the grey sky. That grey sky is what I see when I try and sleep at night. That and the shape of the red car suddenly moving forward and there’s nothing I can do to stop from being hit.

The ambulance arrived really quickly and stabilised my neck before putting me on the backboard. Oh the pain. I was now lying on all my really sore bits and trying not to blubber. They lifted me up and got me in the ambulance and just then my poor husband arrived. He looked so scared. And seeing me in the ambulance didn’t seem to make it any better. I tried to tell him it wasn’t serious, I hadn’t broken my back, that I was ok, but it didn’t make a difference.

Then the ambo’s had to cut my clothes off me to get the collar on. I cried when they cut into my ChalkyDigits jersey, I’d just bought it the night before and I was so happy with the way it had protected me from the cold road. Then the horrible collar was on and it was time to cut the rest of the jersey and my She Shell off me.  The ambo’s laughed at this to cheer me up. They were really wonderful.

Finally I was covered in electrodes and being fed orange flavoured panadol liquid. It did nothing for the pain. Then they gave me NOS. I sucked the canister dry and it did nothing for the pain. The ride to the hospital seemed to go on forever and then when we got there it felt like another eternity till they gave me more pain meds. Even that wasn’t getting rid of it, just winding the volume down. When I finally went for my x-rays it was pretty rough going for me and for the young trainee techs. Every little movement I made would be agony and when it was over I was relieved.

After the xrays I got more meds and finally the pain was bearable. I just couldn’t stop crying though, I was so very angry. Eventually the doctors came and told me I hold some damage to my pelvis, but that it looked minor and that I could go home. They got me to stand up and I almost passed out from the pain. I had to give a urine sample to make sure my kidneys weren’t damaged, but I couldn’t walk so I had to have crutches. It was agony using them, but my kidneys were fine and my lovely mum in-law arrived to take us home.
Nightly meds - the liquid is particularly traumatic

Now the final indignity was upon me as I had no clothes so I had to wear disgusting lost and found clothes home.  I ate pizza and ice cream and codeine when I got home, but I couldn’t sleep at all and ended up awake till 5 in the morning. I managed to sleep till 7 when the cat woke me. Sigh

Saturday things weren’t so bad. I could move about with only a walking stick and managed to sleep better that night, although I had to listen to a podcast of Through the Looking Glass to stop my brain seeing the grey sky and the red car. The next day, Sunday, everything went wrong. I woke up sore and when I moved I screamed. My back ribs on the right popped out of place and the pain for shocking.
We managed to get me dressed and back to ER we went. I stood in line for 10 minutes holding my ribs in place and finally got triaged as a high priority. Another set of painful xrays and there were no punctured lungs so I was sent home with horrible strong pain killers and instructions to see my GP on Wednesday.  The next few days were pretty rough. The pain was really bad a lot of the time and I couldn’t sit up or stand up without my husband helping me. I was completely helpless. I could only lie on my back.

My awesome GP turned all that around with a great routine of drugs. Now I say great because it has completely got my pain under control, but I hate it. I don’t like taking drugs at the best of times and now it feels like I’m taking great handfuls.

So almost two weeks on I’ve got one or two broken ribs, a bruised lung and a damaged pelvis. I’m pretty much stoned out of my mind all the time and can’t really move round much. I can sit now and can get myself up and down if I’m very careful. I’ve missed a week of work that ACC doesn’t cover so I’m a grand down just on wages. I’m lonely at home by myself, and I have no idea when I’ll be able to ride again. The woman who hit me is being charged with Careless Driving Causing Injury and the policeman I’m dealing with is really good.

So there you have it. That is what it is like to be hit by a car. Please try and avoid it and most of all try and avoid doing it. Maybe send a link to this onto your friends and ask them to avoid doing it too. Cars hurt a lot. Way more than crashing into a trees or gateposts or the ground. I am very very lucky to be alive, and pretty much intact, but I’d be fine if the woman had obeyed the road rules. Please please please don’t run red lights, Ever.  On your bike or in your car, and if you are in a car and see a bike run a red light, remember that your car is deadly if it hits a pedestrian or cyclist, just because someone else breaks the law doesn’t mean you can.  Please obey the road rules. It could happen to you.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

I’m turning into Nancy Drew

I’ve begun work on the lovely Empire in earnest now. At the weekend I stripped her of all her parts, with the help of Bob. This meant a visit to his magic shed where I got to drool over his Facile’s divinely pin-striped rear wheel and see progress on the forks. It was very exciting. Bob helped me extract the extremely stubborn stem, but the drive-side cup on it was beyond both of us. My cheap cup removing tool was apparently made of cheese and bent like a wire coat-hanger when I applied all of my brute strength to it.
This is what 60 year old grease and bearings look like, yummy!
This meant a trip to see Keith at Cycle Traders and the purchase of a new tool, very similar to the cheese one, but made of actual metal. I also meant to buy some bearings for the headset and one of the pedals but I forgot them. Duh! The pedal needs a lot of love, so much so that I was able to remove it without a tool, it was so badly seized up. Luckily Bob and his vice and expertise came to the rescue and he was able to remove the cap that covers the axle. Phew, I wasn’t keen on having to track down more pedals.
A present was waiting for me when I got home on Tuesday
After my visit to the shed of wonders I made the big decision that I am going to get the frame cleaned down and powder coated. Although it has a lot of lovely pin striping on it, someone has touched up the damage to the paint with some sort of fence paint and it just looked rough.  My plan is to redo the pin striping by hand once I get it back from the powder coaters. I’ve very carefully photographed all the original lines and I’ve also drawn them up with measurements on distances from lugs and depth and so forth. 

Carefully draw pin striping plans

This weekend I shall start practicing on the frame I have left over from the path racer build. While drawing her up I made an interesting discovery of an old grease port in the bottom bracket. Unfortunately it is not threaded and will function as a very efficient water delivery system into the bottom bracket. Not so good. The lovely Bob has kindly offered to help my remedy this problem when he has a moment spare. These moments are rather elusive with his vast project tying him to his lathe and his expert pin striping skills meaning he is in high demand by many.  
I didn't notice this until I saw red paint inside the bottom bracket, handy oil port

I’ve also discovered that the cranks, stem and seat post are all nickel plated, rather than chromed. This is quite an exciting discovery and has had me scouring the internet for more information on my lovely lady in an effort to put an age on her.
Gold paint on the left, nickel ready for polishing on the right
Believe or not, the internet does not know everything and I’ve been unable find anything on her. Today however, I caught a lucky break. I decided that after yesterday’s snow fall I should get out and enjoy the gorgeous sun and also get my bearings in preparation for a weekend of fettling. Once more I ventured into Cycle Trading and this time Keith had a treat for me. He’d found an old Empire catalogue and in it was my girl. She is the Empire Lady’s Sport. Probably dating from the early 50’s. Unfortunately she is bereft of her chain guard so I’ll have to keep an eye out for one. (Or if any of you dear readers have a spare chain guard for a 1950s women’s bike, I would be willing to buy it off you).

I spent the rest of the afternoon cruising around on my Duchess, enjoying the sun and the stunning snowy scenery. My knee is still quite niggley since the operation and I'm not up to much more than pootling. Although I did finally manage to ride one of my mountain bikes yesterday, braving the snowy conditions to get to work, only to be sent home again. Unfortunately the snow had become more treacherous on my return journey and I managed to fall off. Ouch.
Mandatory snowy tree shot
Tomorrow I must remember to get myself some plastic wire wool to start polishing up my chain ring and cranks. I’ve stripped the gold paint (strange!) from the chain ring and now foresee many many hours of gentle polishing to bring the nickel up to a nice rust-free finish.

Meanwhile Bastian has not been enjoying the snow and has had a bit of cabin fever as he has been pretty unwilling to get his dainty paws cold and wet. I’ve included, for your amusement, this action shot from last year’s snow when he decided it was fun to attack the snow. Hover cat – deploy!!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Urban Gorilla Art and Innerspace Photography

It seems that since I tidied the garage and hung up my mountain bikes I’ve only been riding my Duchess, with a brief interlude with my path racer. The Duchess is really the perfect vehicle for exploring the quake ravaged heart of Christchurch as little by little we can get further into the city. This shrinking of the cordon has inspired me to create an installation of pieces which reflect my frustration at the loss of the city to demolition companies and the army, and also make me feel a little bit more like I am taking my city back. 

I spent a lovely 2 hours riding around the city setting up and photographing my tiny tableaus and have created a website – CBD Exiles – to celebrate their existence. It’s been a couple of weeks now and many of them are still in situ. I’m interested to see how long they last as more and more people return to the city.

I’ve also been Tweeding again. An epic 20km tweed ride along the Heathcote River, with plenty of pubbery and a little crazy BMX tracking. Unfortunately no racing took place as the evil Chumly Pogward injured his delicate back. Ahhh well, it’s probably for the best.

And in the biggest news of the last couple of weeks I headed in for arthroscopic knee surgery last Thursday, to tidy up some long existing meniscal tears and floaty bits of cartilage. The operation went well, but resulted in a very disappointing prognosis for my knee. I went back to the surgeon yesterday for my follow up appointment and was informed that my knee is “Munted”. This is NOT a work you want to have associated with anything you care about, your city, bike, house, sewer system, but especially not with a part of your body.

Then the lovely Mr Penny told me that it may not be a problem for a long time due to the fact I’m not fat (his words – he is truly a lovely man) and because I ride my bikes lots. Unfortunately he then went on to explain the baffling photo’s I’d received after my surgery (the squeamish should look away now). While they look like pictures of faraway planets (or to the more filthy minded something else) they are interior views of my knee showing the damage removed and the damage that means my knee is basically a ticking time bomb of falling apartness.
Bad streaming trendils
Bad lump of meniscus that was causing my knee to lock
Very old cartilage tear causing some locking
Random floating bits
What it boils down to is the cartilage inside my knee is so damaged that in places it is non-existent and that’s bad. To be honest, I’m kinda meh about the whole prognosis, I’ve had trouble with my knee since I was 14 now, it’s just a normal part of my life so I’m not too concerned. I’ll just ride my bikes lots and lots, stay strong and fit, and hopefully get 15 years out of it before I need a whole new knee. 
Scoring in the cartilage
The top right is just bare bone now - rather bad news
Nasty ulcer in the cartilage
Luckily with the help of the lovely Bastian I’ve healed up quickly from my surgery and am riding to work already.

I just need to get rid of this man-flu I currently have and I’ll be hitting the road and the trail again to build up for an epic ride on the Longest Day. In the meantime I’m going to start work on my lovely Empire for the Great Poms and Cassels Tweed Run in July. You should come along to it, it is going to be brilliant!

Monday, May 14, 2012

The L’Esprit – Complete

Sometimes fettling with old bikes is not all bread and roses. Sometimes it’s bruised and skinned knuckles, stripped threads and damaged, hard to replace parts. The L’Esprit has been all of these things. On Thursday morning (day off work) I began what I hoped was the final assembly process, but at lunchtime was called into the office. Being a diligent employee I downed tools and headed in.

Once work was over things just didn’t go well with the reassembly process. The thread had stripped off the tiny screw that attached the derailleur to the frame and my tired brain also struggled to remember how to attach it once a replacement was stolen off an old brake. Then I couldn’t get the newly rebuilt rear hub to the correct degree of tightness and I had a tube explode while I was polishing up a rim. All in all I became a little irritable with the bike and went to bed.

Unfortunately Friday was not much better with a hideous day in the office leaving me rather grumpy and impatient. Chain dramas were enough to send me to bed for an early night, knowing I had to be up bright and early to work on Saturday.

The problem was, Saturday was D-day. I needed to have the bike finished as a Rowdy Tweed Ride was planned for the evening and I really wanted my hubby to accompany me on this. In the end I bit the bullet and replaced the chain, which made me happy as everything was looking shiny and I wasn’t overly excited about attaching the rusty old thing back on the now beautiful bike. 

Built up it looked great and after a few tweaks and a couple of test rides and more tweaks it was ready for its night out. I felt so proud as my lovely hubby zoomed through Hagley Park, the bike looked great and so did he. I have only the Red Empire left to fettle, however I think I may leave her be for a while and perhaps tackle the creation of a Victorian Woman’s Cycling costume. You know, something a little less greasy. 

No photos of my beloved Bastoolio this week, just lots of the L’Esprit. Enjoy. 
Just to remind my dear, tolerant readers of how it looked before...
... and now like new after

Drive train is running great

Blinging cable guides

Cloth bar tape and some spray and wipe applied to the hoods and the cockpit is looking fine

Hub stripped, cleaned, regreased and polished. Looking like new

Mid Rowdiness at Smash Palace. Great fun was had by all

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Further down the Rabbit Hole

Well the last week has mainly been spent cleaning and polishing. Polishing chain rings and cranks, cable guides, handle bars, and a seat post. Now it’s time to move onto the really grimey stuff, bearings, cups, axles, cassette, hubs and rims. I’ve realised I actually don’t love cleaning and polishing rims. It is a big messy job that often batters one’s knuckles into submission. In the meantime I’ve been procrastinating by taking a trip to Dunedin with my lovely friend Rachel and picking up my new acquisition from my lovely friend Celia.
I shall name her Emmeline

The red Empire is even more stunning in real life than she was on the interwebs. Her narrow steeply upswept bars are jaunty and a little odd. Her fenders are shapely with chrome detailing and a built in rear light. Her carrier is like a freaking crocodile with the strength of its grip. And most surprisingly and endearingly she is still festooned with beautiful hand painted pin striping. Not bad for a girl who’s most likely in her 60’s.

Having little in the way of electrical knowledge I suspect it is unlikely that I shall be able to get this working again

The narrow, high bars make for an "interesting" ride

Original pin striping is still clearly visible

The discovery of the pin striping has led me to the realisation that she’ll be receiving a genteel restoration. The frame will be carefully polished, not stripped and repainted as planned. I rode her to work today and she runs beautifully, although it is going to take me a while to get used to riding with a coaster brake again. I’m itching to finish the L’Sprit so I can start work on the Empire and hopefully in the process put an age to her.
This is the head tube badge on a mean's frame

She’s lead me to become somewhat of a detective. She came without a headtube badge and my original thought was that it had been lost. However on closer examination I see that she probably never had one, given the clearly visible pin striping and lack of rivet holes.

As you can see Em has no rivet holes, but plenty of pin striping
 In my search to discover her age I’ve found she was made in Wellington at the Summit Cycle factory run by Hope Gibbons. A chat to the amazing Keith Guthrie at Cycle Trading turned up some gems of knowledge, mainly that Empires were produced from about 1930 to 1950, predominantly ladies’ and gentlemen’s cruiser style bikes, but with a few high quality racing bike models. I have various sources out looking for more information on the brand for me, but I suspect any further tid-bits will just be a repeat of what I learned from Keith.

The journey of the red Empire back to Christchurch was a lovely one with an extremely pleasant stop in Oamaru to investigate the historic precinct, which I hadn’t previously visited. Needless to say I highly recommend anyone with a vintage or steampunk fascination make a point of stopping, especially if you are passing through on the weekend. It is really magical.
Moeraki boulders on a stunning day

This awesome skull is actually the viewing mechanism for a kaleidoscopic moving picture display

40 times !?! I  must have one. Oh, wait...

In actual bike riding news I have actually been out riding, but not a lot. I’ve been taking the path racer out on “training” rides over the Cashmere Pyrenees. Knee shattering good fun. I’ve been cajoled into a bit of a race and at this stage I struggle to push the big gear up the little bumps, let alone sprint along. I suspect the race is going to be a fiasco, but great fun.

And, of course, here is my lovely Stoon deciding the not only am I a great and warm cushion, but also that the camera strap is just the right sort of toy for a lazy, happy cat.

Monday, April 30, 2012

The Path Racer rides; and more grease under the finger nails.

Last week I put the finishing touches on the path racer. You know, mere aesthetic details like working brakes, repainted lugs and a head tube badge. A big thanks to Dave and Aaron at Velo Ideale for fettling my brakes in submission so that they actually work now.
She looks right at home in the forest

Today was a momentous day. After a few frankly vigorous rides to work, she’s got a big gear on her my lovely lady, I took her out to where she belongs, the dirt paths of McLeans Island for a blat. To be honest I was slightly concerned that my knees would explode riding up the stop banks but all went well and it was actually my wrists which gave me the most gip. I will be tweaking my cockpit for a better level of bar and perhaps discussing with Bob further shimming options.

Anyway, being a lovely day I took a few shots to showcase Jimmima’s beauty in the setting sun. I couldn’t quite believe how well she handled and she railed the berms out there like none of my other bikes. I think she shall become my official McLean’s bike.
In other news my new found obsession with fettling continues and I have started work on my hubby’s bike from his school days. It is a large framed L'Espirit ten speed, which had unfortunately been covered in hideous Yak stickers.
There is a front wheel, it's just in the shed.

Despite these glaring horrors I was able to see that under the years of grime and dust there is a rather lovely old bike waiting to come out.

Progress has been good so far. Working with just one bike rather than bits from one and a frame from another, is much easier. The bike has been fully stripped of all parts and the laborious cleaning and polishing process has begun. I find it so satisfying to take a dirty rusty piece of bicycle and transform it into a sparkling piece of bling.
Lovely detailed little tab off the gear change levers

Old, crusty Suntour rear derailleur

Shiny bling one

 I suspect I’ll have this boy ready to ride by the end of the week. Then I’ll just have to persuade my lovely man to join me on a Tweed Ride (the next one being Sunday the 13th of May which I highly recommend all Quake dwellers with steel framed bikes and a penchant for dressing up all fancy like, join us for – see the Stalkbook group).

Finally both Bastian and I have been enjoying the glorious autumnal weather. I’ve been exploring the fringes of the red zone and have discovered that the central city is being reclaimed by nature and it is lovely.

I’m not sure where Bastian has been exploring, but wherever it is there are a lot of grasshoppers there as he’s been bringing us at least one or two grasshoppers every night for the past few nights. Mostly they survive and are released but I suspect when we move the furniture around next there will be a number of little green surprises waiting for us. Bless him.
PS - I have purposely included an error in this blog somewhere, the first person to guess right will receive a much coveted "I want to ride my bike" sticker made by the lovely Mel at Black Swan Designs. If they want it.