Thursday, February 23, 2012

And now we return to your regularly scheduled programme

And by that I mean talking about bikes. Because yesterday, when I was feeling so sad only one thing could make me feel better. That’s right dear listeners; I have bought another bike! And now I believe my number of bikes is the coveted s – 1, especially since spur of the moment bike buying is not something that makes for a completely harmonious evening with one’s partner or spouse. n + 1 is not an option. Luckily I have an amazingly wonderful and understanding husband who, while rather annoyed that I just bought a bike without discussing it with him (I am a terrible wife), is glad that I have cheered up and enjoy this new bike so much.

So what is this wondrous creature that has lifted my spirits from their quake ravaged low? Well it’s something that I’ve been thinking about for a long time now, a hardtail 29er. To be more specific it’s a women’s Trek Mamba and it is hot. While not specced with high-end components everything on it is adequate for my needs and will be replaced as things wear out. The frame is lovely and is the same one they use of their racing model and the geometry fits me perfectly.
You can almost make out the little gold sparkles in the black paint. Love!
I took it for a blast around Bottlelake last night and I was quite blown away by it. The big hoops felt strange initially and the front wheel appears to stretch off into the distance for miles, but it didn’t take long for it to feel quite normal. The first thing I noticed was how well it carried it’s speed, and the second thing I noticed was that I didn’t really know how to go round corners on this thing. Luckily the big wheels smoothed out the ride greatly as I occasionally popped off the side of a corner.

This bike urged me to smash myself and I ended up pretty much singlespeeding the whole ride as it was a pleasure to get out of the saddle and power up the pinches (something I never thought I’d say). As we got towards the end of the lap I finally got the hang of cornering, realising I had to aggressively weight the front wheel and then the bike handled like a dream. Down the final straight I decided to sprint after my extremely fast friend and I ended up laughing with joy as the acceleration of this bike took me by complete surprise. It was like every pedal stroke I made in the sprint was magnified.
I also love the black and white colour scheme and the nice wide bars

By the end of the ride my legs were happily aching and I knew I’d made the right decision. The Trek Mamba is wonderful, and I know it’s going to make an amazing touring bike. I might even take it up the hills this weekend and see how it climbs. I have to thank the great guys at Hub Cycles for hooking me up with such a great bike. I love those guys and that shop, they look after me and my fleet (yes that is the appropriate word) so well.
Big hoops are big. Do my legs look short in this?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

This day in History

This isn’t a post about biking. This is a post about me and about my city. A year ago today this city I live in was felled by a 6.3 earthquake which made the 7.1 we had the previous year seem like a gentle nudge. This quake threw down buildings, from heritage icons, to old shops and facades, through to so-called modern buildings. 185 people were killed, thousands injured, hundreds trapped. All of us changed. 

I know I have changed. Today, on the anniversary I’m still struggling to come to terms with what has happened to this city. I struggle with the guilt I have about my difficulties with coping when my friends and family came through unscathed and our property, which was in a state of chaos anyway, was undamaged. I can’t help but think sometimes, what have I got to be upset about, there are so many who really have to struggle. 

And that is the problem. There are just so many who are struggling, fighting the bureaucracy, fighting the insurance companies, fighting EQC, my heart goes out to them all. I’ve biked all over this city and I’ve seen the outskirts of the ghost suburbs and my heart breaks for these families. I see the houses teetering on the cliffs above Sumner and I think of all the treasured possessions that will never be recovered from them. I hear the stories of the looters, the arsonists and I feel sick.

Worst of all I think of that first night, I think of those people trapped in the CTV and PGC buildings, the ones on their phones to loved ones. The ones who were trapped and begging for help. The ones who were so very brave, but who were not saved. No one was pulled from the wreckage of CTV alive, and the thought of that night in the rubble haunts me. 

And as time has gone on the fear has crept in. Only in Christchurch does your neighbour opening a sliding door with a rumble, a truck or train going past or the sound of your house expanding and contracting in the heat and cool cause your heart rate to shoot sky high. It’s hard for me to remember a time when there were no shakes. There was even a time when the little shakes didn’t bother me. But as the year has passed and the aftershocks mounted up to over 10,000 my resilience to them has gone. My mind jumps to what ifs. I feel like a rabbit in the headlights, waiting for the next big one to mow me down.

The scars of this disaster are every where and seem to touch everything. The central city is unrecognisable, so much of it is vacant lots filled with weeds and gravel. All the places that I treasured about this city are gone, the spaces that were defined by the buildings all join into a huge vacant lot. Everywhere you go there are these tall weeds which tell the story of a city that is wounded. The roads are scarred. In places by the monsters that have devoured the buildings, but mainly by the grey ooze that compounded the misery of us all, filling homes, streets and back yards. Fresh crisp squares of seal mark the spots where the roads were dug up to get to the sewer lines twisted and buckled by the shaking and the ooze. In back yards throughout the city there are covered over latrines, but there is always the thought that they’ll have to be reopened.

Even biking in Christchurch has changed. Half the singletrack in the Port Hills is either closed due to rock fall or destroyed. No longer can you head out for a glorious day riding from Halswell to Taylors Mistake on sweet challenging tracks, enjoying stunning views. Now there is a short loop and Greenwood Park is isolated and alone. Road riding has suffered similarly. With Evan’s Pass and the Lyttelton to Sumner road closed indefinitely not to mention long sections of the Summit Rd, many popular loops are gone. And for those riding on the flat there is of course the bumps, holes, cracks and constant road works to contend with. BMXing hasn’t escaped either with the awesome North Avon track at Bexley Park badly damaged and closed. 

Everything reminds me of that day. It is still fresh in my mind. The fear when the ground threw me about, the sick worry for everyone I knew. The horror as we listened to the radio and cried as the extent of the disaster slowly became clearer. In that week and the months that followed it felt like we were living in a war zone. There was the constant thump of helicopters over head. The streets were filled with army vehicles. There is something so surreal about driving out of your street and giving way to a LAV. 

It is only now, a year on that I’ve realised I need help to come to terms with all this. And that if I can’t I don’t know if I can stay in Christchurch. I need to get past my guilt, my feeling of helplessness and my anger. I know my story and my feelings are ordinary, this is what life is in Christchurch. Some people are coping well, some people are not. I hope that we can all heal, that Christchurch will be a great place to live again, but for now we have to wait and the future is uncertain.  

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Diagnosis: Fanatic

fa•nat•i•cal  /fəˈnatikəl/
  1.   Filled with excessive and single-minded zeal.
  2.   Obsessively concerned with something.

This is a strong word, and one which has many negative connotations. However when I recently went to the doctor and had to see a locum this word came up. I was at the doctor’s to get a referral to a therapist for my decreasing ability to cope with even the smallest after shock. We had a quick chat, there was some discussion of my Chronic Fatigue diagnosis and a very brief chat about how I’ve coped with it. From this the Dr gleaned enough about me to write in his referral letter to the therapist “Fortunately she is an enthusiastic, if not fanatical cyclist…” He gave me a copy of the letter and I laughed rather loudly at this description. He was of course worried he’d offended me, which he hadn’t. I am proudly fanatical. I dream about biking, I do it almost every day in one form or another. It is my medication and currently my salvation. And I know I’m not alone in this.
Yes, I was as cold as it looks.
I’ve recently been enjoying more cycling in Central Otago with a day spent riding the gondola at Bob’s Peak again, for my birthday. It was brilliant. I even rode another black diamond track, Thingamagig, which was super steep, swoopy and incredibly fun. I really wanted to ride the Majestic Thingamagig in the middle, but the risk vs. reward equation wasn’t quite right for me. After another stunning day riding my bike down a hill (with one little burst of up hill – OMG steep! – to see what the uphill in the Super D Enduro will be like) I finished my ride with a brief and shocking plunge into New Zealand’s deepest and coldest lake. It felt great.
It was a couple of days later when my legs had stopped hurting sufficiently to ride again that I discovered why my brakes seemed a little off by the end of the day. Ooops.
Surely those holes mean they'll work better? Oh wait!
Since returning to Shakey Town I haven’t managed to do a much riding, but I’m rectifying that now. I had a great ride with ma chickas on Sunday, which inspired me to get out yesterday and tackle Kennedy’s Bush. It was a grey day, which a front menacing throughout the climb. My legs were strong and I couldn’t help but test them to their fullest by pushing the biggest gear I’ve managed yet up the steep road. I continued this theme up the front of the hill and then the 4wd track. After a rather sedate, cow avoiding run down Siberia Flats I discovered that my legs were not going to put up with this treatment for much longer. Up the next climb it was a bit of a struggle and I took the opportunity where it levels briefly to socialise with the Belted Galloways. I almost ended having to modestly turn away as the frisky bull decided to take his mating rights. Fortunately Mrs Cow wasn’t having a bar of it and shoved him away before continuing grazing. He wasn’t put out, grass must be damn good.
Happy family pastoral scene
After almost reaching the top I decided the approaching front was getting a little too close and I was woefully unprepared for cold weather and rain so headed back down. Time to book the bike in to get my brakes bled, as my front lever kept journeying to my grip on the trip down. Oooops again. 

The view from Kennedy's Bush is why it's my favourite climb

The ride down the Crocodile was very fun with the corners having been widened, but many of them had large holes in the apex which made for a bit of a challenge. I managed to get home just as the rain came with legs feeling happily toasted. I definitely need to do more of this!

In other news, I’ve managed to get roped into helping with the rather awesome Lyttelton Urban DH race that’s happening on the 24th of March. I’m really enjoying been involved with such an exciting race and entries are coming in now. Wyn Masters has signed up, as has local favourite Nathan Rennie. It should be amazing to spectate with huge jumps and gaps, and all sorts of crazy stuff. Check out the blog I’m writing for more info.
Gross, that is all!
And finally, for those of you who read Bike Snob's brilliant blog, you'll know that he often refers to pants yabbies. If you've never been aquainted with the creature we colloquially call a yabbie here in NZ, here is one I caught while fishing on the Poolburn Dam. I think you'll agree that if your pants yabbies looked anything like this hideous thing you'd be off to the doctors and definitely still a virgin!