Thursday, March 29, 2012

Crossmarks – Not the Ideal Wet Riding Tyre

In our shed at home we have a stock of tyres, bought when they were on sale. They are all Maxxis Crossmarks. That’s because we live in Christchurch and in Christchurch when it rains the tracks close. This means that I don’t do a lot of riding on wet tracks, maybe a splash about Bottlelake or McLeans Island, but nothing technical and certainly nothing rooty and rutty in the wet (ew eeeerr!).

Yesterday, after an evening of heavy rain, I ventured back into Redwoods to see if my legs were feeling any better after their run the previous day. I knew the tracks would be wet, but I felt hopeful that it wouldn’t be too bad after a sunny morning. Being the lazy beast I am I caught the shuttle up to the drop off point on Tawa Rd and headed straight into Huckleberry Hound. It was pretty dry and I had fun hucking my way down. Then I made the Best Decision Eva and decided to go down Corners rather than Little Red Riding Huck. Cornering is one of my favourite things so I felt I couldn’t go wrong with a track called Corners. It was absolutely fantastic. For Canterbury locals think Yankee Zephyr to the power of 10, without that horrid climb to get there (if you’re shuttling). Corner after perfectly formed corner caught my skittish tyres and guided them safely onto the next one. The track was a little wet (as it was my first run I actually thought it was pretty wet, but was proved wrong by my later explorations of the forest). All I could think on the way down was how great this track is and how I want to ride it in the dry. If it is the only thing I ride today when I drag myself out of bed I’ll be happy.

Corners conveniently drops you back at the shuttle pick up and I caught the last shuttle of the day back up to the top. I asked some Aussies who’d ridden the top tracks earlier what they were like and they assured me I’d “be fine” on them. Which was a nice compliment considering they’d never seen me ride. Spinning up to the start of Billy T my legs and lungs actually felt pretty damn good, and soon I was into the track and sliding all over the place. It was wet. I had zero traction. But it was still super fun. Sure I was going a lot slower than the previous day, but because control was tentative at best it was still thrilling. There were a few dabs and unplanned stops, but no crashes so all in all it was a success. I quickly decided that riding the tracks in the wet on Crossmarks adds 1 to the grading of the tracks.

Now I was off into unfamiliar territory and into G Rock. It was plenty wet, with large soak holes and deep wet chutes. It was in one of these chutes that I had a very minor crash where my front wheel clipped one wall of the chute and then wedged itself firmly in the opposite wall, forming a wheel dam in the chute. I gracefully tumbled onto the bank and thought I had just applied an extra layer of mud to my leg. I had forgotten about the cheese-grater nature of the Rotorua’s volcanic dirt and soon the mud was leaking red. ALWAYS wear your knee high socks when riding in the wet.

Soon after this little mishap I was out of G Rock and taking the relatively straightforward Chesnut Link into Rollercoaster, riding an upper section I hadn’t ridden before. All started well and then I came to a wide section that was a deadly looking rut fest to the left and what appeared to be a smooth line to the right. I rolled slowly into the right and saw that my smooth line dropped straight down before levelling out a bit. It dropped away so quickly that I couldn’t bail and ended up riding down it, sure I was going to die at any second. When I safely reached the bottom I was shouting and giggling like a mad person amazed I’d escaped serious injury and stoked to have ridden something so full on in the wet.

The rest of Rollercoast was a slippy slidey mess, but I found the little pinches way easier, which pleased me greatly.

Then it was onto Old Chevy. This is a great track, lots of climbing, rewarded with fun fast descents (well they would be in the dry), choices between challenging and less challenging lines in places, and long. Very very long. Everythime I thought I was getting close to the end I’d find myself climbing back over a ridge and heading deeper into the forest again. I began to wonder if I was lost. On I pedalled, loving how well my legs were responding to this challenge and then came my second crash of the day. Down a steep and unusually rocky section into a tight wet right hander. Unfortunately there was a bloody great stone in the middle of the track and I chose the wrong side of the stone to head down, straight into a wet patch and slidey slide slide. A tiny amount more gravel rash and I was kicking myself for not taking the rocky high line, after all, I know how to ride rocks. Finally Old Chevy popped me out at the entrance to Yellow Brick Road and I couldn’t resist heading into it. Mellow and windy, it had gentle climbs and descents and a back ground soundtrack from the Wizard of Oz provided by my slightly energy starved brain. Good times.

It was a great ride and restored my severely dented faith in my fitness and then to top off a great day’s riding, and an awesome 7 years since my wonderful husband and I got together, we found a fantastic Mexican restaurant and I got to quench my hunger on an epic burrito, and drink delicious cocktails. The burrito was so huge that I had to share it much to my hubby’s delight. And now today it is sunny. Oh yeah.

And here is the view of my monster getting a little snuggly on our return.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

After the Storm

Apparently there was a significant storm in Rotorua last Wednesday. Hubby and I first noticed signs of apocalyptic style destruction on our 11km ride from the Airport to the completely awesome Rotorua Thermal Holiday Park. You may wonder why I’m noting the distance of the ride when it seems so short. Well it turns out riding that far with over 17kgs on your back in a big pack which forces your helmet forward and completely precludes you from turning your head to check for traffic while turning is something of a mission. Even more so when it is 20 degrees and muggy and you’re wearing jeans. Then having that amount of weight on your back feels like it is all being directly transferred to your seat via the hard raised seam in your jean’s crotch. I’ve put that as delicately as I can, I hope no one was offended. Needless to say I will not be volunteering to carry the heavy pack again.

I was pretty knackered after this effort and subsequent trips into town for a Zippy’s feed and crucial supplies that upon returning to our quaint log cabin I fell asleep while hubby went out to “suss out the trails”. Unfortunately, or fortunately for him, he met up with a group of Aussies and ended up doing an epic 3 hour ride and returning back to the cabin a babbling hypoglycaemic mess. Lucky beer and lollies soon remedied this and we later took the lazy option of taxi-ing into town for a massive fed at the Pig and Whistle where we caught up with the Aussies again and chatted till the early hours of the evening. I say early hours because we headed back to the camp around nine and after a very enjoyable soak in the complementary thermal pools enjoyed a rather good sleep.

Today we woke bright and early-ish and I was able to convince my hubby to take his first ever shuttle. Soon we were most of the way up the hill and warming up by grovelling up the steep little bit of fireroad that leads to Billy T where we met up with the Aussies again. Oh such heaven, the track, not the Aussies. It’s been a long time since I was in Rotorua and now I felt completely comfortable attacking the trail rather than tentatively inching along. After plenty of drops, roots, ruts and bermed corners I was at the bottom, to meet the boys who weren’t far ahead. We went our seperate ways here as I was desperate to ride Split Enz again (one of my favs) and they were hitting up G Rock.

Split Enz was just as I remembered it, fast, flowing and bermed to perfection, from there it was down the steps on Pondy Downhill, which then became a descent down a fireroad due to logging, and then popping into the fantastic Pondy New. At this point my trail descriptions get a bit blurred, there was climbing and swooping down through the forest, drops and bridges, challenging rut/root combinations and just generally awesomeness. Then it was into the second half of Rollercoaster, aptly named for its up and down nature and then with the help of some awesome local knowledge onto a new track called Moonshine. This is a slightly technical wee beastie with a number of slippery off-camber roots that test your line selection and commitment. I loved it and came out the bottom with my traditional grinning like an idiot face on.

After failing to play on Pump because of downed trees, we cruised down the road to Spring Roll where we began to encounter more and more fallen trees blocking the track. It was a fun little track and then we were on Sweet N Sour, which was a climb (and therefore not my favourite), with little challenge other than the portaging of bikes over the recently fallen. This track seemed to go on forever and I was feeling quite fatigued by the halfway point. On I ground and after what felt like an eternity (who says I exaggerate) we were out on the road and ready to tackle Dragon’s Tail. Here we encountered some slightly lost riders and with the combination of our two different maps managed to get them heading on the right track. We must have seemed like we knew what we were talking about as they thanked us with a hearty “Thank you friendly locals”. Funny. Dragon’s Trail was brilliant (apart from one particularly annoying fallen tree which required some bush bashing to get around as over really wasn’t an option). Lots of little pinches were rewarded with tight fast corners and a few drops, and just a few bits of techy rooty goodness thrown in to keep you on your toes.

From the end of this trail it was a blast down Red Tank Rd, to hook into Mad if You Don’t, where we had a brief conversation with a rider who’d spent almost an hour lost in the logged area and was quite frustrated at not being able to find any tracks. I suggested that a shuttle ride would immediately place you on the correct side of the forest to avoid all the logging mayhem and he seemed quite keen.
Mad if You Don’t flew by and I was feeling great on the bike, if completely knackered, I rode the track hard and fast and even managed a rather nice jump at one point. At the bottom it was back down to the base for some greatly needed food and delicious cold chocolate. Heaven.

Right now it’s raining outside, so hopefully it will stop sometime in the night and tomorrow will be good for riding. I’m very keen to hit up the two Huck tracks and maybe even slog my way to the top of Hot X Buns. I love it here. 

PS - That night we had the most epic pizza eva, so delicious and vast that we couldn't even eat the whole thing. If you're staying at the Rotorua Thermal Holiday Park I highly recommend ordering from the Pizza Library, or even walking around the corner and eating in. Ordering is better though because then you get to see the crazy delivery vehicle.
And finally here is the cute camp cat.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Look! Up there on the Trails…….. It’s some Chicks! Doing hucks! It’s Suuuuuuppppeeerrr V!

With such a dramatic entrance I feel I’ll need to write a rather good entry to do justice to the brilliantness of the Super V in Wellytown last weekend.  My lovely friend Michelle provided me with a much coveted GE Bodybag to transport my bike (and to be honest also taught me the skills to ride the Super V), so much thanks to her.

I got up at the abominable hour of 5:50am on Saturday and loaded bags into car and bike onto rack and we were off to the airport. It was the work of moments once there to remove the front wheel, insert the fork and brake spacers, put the bike into the bag, carefully insert the front wheel and then pack my shopping bag of clothes etc inside. Want one of these rather badly.

The flight to Wellington was nice, with some gorgeous ground fog adding a mystical element to the sunrise. Soon it was a smooth landing in Wellington and in no time I was meeting the lovely Jo (thanks for picking me up so early) and we were on our way to her house.

We had time to spare so plenty of chillaxing and catching up (and cat snuggling) went on. Then it was on with my rather stunning (read hideous) interpretation of a skin suit and off to rego. The weather in Welly was perfect and after checking in we were soon loading our bikes onto the shuttle and heading up the hill with a mad Irishman driving. Unfortunately there was a little holdup as the road we were using was also being used for a longboard race.
Chick shuttlez

These crazy boys, men and a couple of hardcore chicks barrel downhill, round corners and over bumps on brakeless death machines. Crazy! It was actually pretty fun to watch and gave me the chance to introduce myself to my sometime boss, and superlative photographer – Caleb from Spoke.
When we finally made it to the top we were all soon off down the hill on the extremely long course. The first few hundred metres were by far the most technical and I quickly discovered my front brakes weren’t quite bedded in yet as I skidded and slalomed down the damp steep grass.  My first run down the hill was pretty tentative, I’ve never ridden these trails before and there is plenty of exposure on the right hand side of most of the track so all the blind left hand corners were taken at quite low speed.
Photo: Shane Wetzel. The less said about this the better

After the first stretch of down we were soon into the rather unwelcome climbing section. It just seemed to go on and on and a couple of the pinches were so steep I couldn’t ride them. Oh well. The lower section was bliss, really fast and swoopy, weaving through tightly spaced trees, some fast flowing corners, some tight slow switchbacks and lots and lots of down. By the bottom my back was killing me, but I was grinning and I’d come down in about 43 minutes, fairly standard for the majority of the field.

With the course being that long Jo and I agreed that one practice run was enough so we sat down to some lunch and chatting. I met loads of cool chicks and we talked on and on about bikes for the next hour while enjoying the sun. My idea of bliss.
Photo: Caleb Smith

Then it was race briefing time, numbers were allocated, toilet stops were made in the bushes and shuttles were loaded. Up the top the views were stunning, but a rather biting breeze had us cowering in the lee of a large concrete structure till it was our turn to go.
A stunning Wellington day to be riding in the hills

As I rolled off the line onto the dreaded slippy grass I immediately knew my front brake was working perfectly now and actually felt in control. Confidence up I gathered speed and felt that amazing feeling you get when you’re one with the bike. I could tell I was going much faster and did my best to power up the climbs. I still had to run a couple, but I knew I was giving it everything so that’s ok. Down the stretch called Rollercoaster I was flying, not literally, no jumps for me, but as on the first run I overcooked the speed into the turn and ended up track standing millimetres from the turn arrow. Bugger.

At this point I could hear the brakes of the woman behind me and I knew she was reeling me in on the ups so I really dug deep. Not deep enough though and I was gutted when she called to pass just as the climby bits were nearly over. As I struggled up the last bit she put a small gap in and I thought to myself “You better be fast on the downs lady or I’m going to have to repass you.” And as it turned out that’s exactly what happened. Once all the climbing was over I was completely in the zone and riding right at the edge of my comfort zone. It felt awesome. I made a muppety repass and soon I was reeling in the woman in front and passing her. By the time I got to the bottom I wanted more. I’d taken about 3 minutes off my time and was a stoked little chicken.
Photo: Caleb Smith, thanks for making me look comparatively good! You truly have the madcore photo skillz

As the final riders came in Jo and I loaded our bikes into the car for a quick post-prize giving get away and I was glad to get out of my not very flattering, but fun outfit. Note however that bike shorts under jeans are not really very comfortable. The prizing giving was amusing and I was very pleased to come away with a souvenir  bottle of home brew for travelling the further to attend.

I was shattered, it’s the first time I’ve raced that hard for that long in a couple of years and I loved it. That evening was spent catching up with the lovely Jude and Shane, and snuggling with Cinti. In fact today’s cute kitteh pic(s) are of the lapnapper himself. Cinti is a super friendly, playful, purring machine and I loved spending time with him. Jo is lucky to have such an awesome man in the house.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


Being a member of an active NZ Cycling Forum I’ve noticed that cyclists tend towards rather tribal behaviour. The roadies flock together in great bunches, and have secret and esoteric rules that must be obeyed. Their legs and machines are smooth and glistening and many will have a stable a different road bikes for different occasions.

Even more complicated is the mountain biker, whose tribe seems to fracture into more sub tribes with each passing year. There are the XC racers, sneered at by others as weight weenies and jeiboys. The trail and backcountry adventurers. The freeriders and their cousins the Downhillers, which contain within their ranks the infinitely mockable grommies. The jumpers and the urban trials riders. The relatively new tribe of 29ers.
Then there are those that fall into what I’ll call the hipster tribe. The singlespeeders, with their flair for the insane. The fixie riders. The tweed riders. The frocks on bikes women. The whole vintage/retro brigade, including the loonies on Penny Farthings.

Of course amongst all these tribes there are the crossover tribes, the cyclo-cross riders, the cycle tourers, the BMXers and of course the singlespeeders must be mentioned here.

Then finally lowest on the pecking order the recumbent riders.

Often the bicycles in your shed define your tribes and (sweeping and unfounded generalisation warning here) most cyclists will only have one or two types of bikes, even if their total number of bicycles numbers in the double digits. For some, their personality becomes an expression of their collection of bikes, for other their bicycles are an expression of their personality. I believe the last is true of me.

My shed contains 6 bicycles, all different, all ridden regularly and all make me grin. I have my BMX which makes me feel like a kid again and is stupidly fun. I have my singlespeed mountain bike which has taught me how to ride better and made me stronger. I love its simplicity. I have my road bike, which to be honest is more of a winter bike, although I do love the feeling of speed and power I get from riding it. I have my full sus XC bike which is still my favourite. It climbs like a dream, is awesome on the singletrack and can handle the downhill stuff too. I have my newest acquisition, my hardtail 29er. This bike handles completely differently from all my other bikes, it is insanely fast and a challenge to ride. And finally I have my Duchess, my shopping bike. It is this bike that I ride the most. It is my car. It makes me feel free, happy and something none of my other bikes do, attractive. Strange I know. It is this bike that is leading me down a path which will mean my statement that I have attained s-1 is wrong, but more on that later.

Firstly a quick replay of the awesome ride I had on Friday at Greenwood Park before the blasting and earthquake remediation on the road up there closes it for easy access. (It is open Sundays and in the evening from 6pm). My first lap was a bit of a muppet fest to be honest, but it was great fun and by the bottom of the track I was keen for another lap. The ride up the Summit Rd is both lovely, with no traffic, and in one place quite scary, with a badly cracked rock face looming above – waiting to deposit a boulder or two on the slow rider’s head.
Not only does Greenwood Park have outstanding singletrack, the views are exceptional

The second lap was much better. The thing about Greenwood Park is that it is a lovely combination of flowing stuff and really rocky technical stuff. Only recently have I gotten good enough to ride it, previously I freaked out about the rocks instead of just keeping pedalling. I’ve discovered Greenwood Park is a mind game, everything (well apart from one rocky uphill pinch at the end that I have no idea how to ride) is rideable.
In the beginning there was a climb
After my second lap I was getting cold and having pushing my legs harder up the road my tummy was grumbling. It was just what I needed.
Ahhh, tricksy narrow rocks, you won't catch me again!

Then on Sunday, I crossed a line. On Friday, when not riding, I spent most of the day in various op-shops (pining for the quality ones in Dunedin), sussing out an outfit for a Tweed Ride. I was in two minds about going on this ride, firstly I didn’t know anyone else in this group of velocipedes (velococycsts? velotweeds?) , I always find new people intimidating; and secondly I’d been warning that joining this ride could well be a slippery slope to further bike ownership. Putting these worries aside I donned what I hoped was an appropriately period styled if not entirely tweedish outfit and cycled off on my lovely Duchess to the nearby meeting place.
A Cheesecutter is the equivilent of a helmet

I was immediately welcomed into the group, and I really shouldn’t have worried. After all I had in common with these people a love of bicycles, a love of dressing up and a love of things from a bygone area. After chatting and drooling over the many simply beautiful and sometimes amusing bicycles, we were off.
I lusted muchly over these two bikes in particular, with the one on the right being my favourite by a nose

It was a wonderfully leisurely ride through the park, with the crowds entering the Ellerslie Flower Show seeming to appreciate our dapper appearance and glorious machines. On through town we were momentarily halted by the ever shifting road closures and then it was onto Pomeroy’s via the broken riverside roads for some well earned refreshments. I took mine in the form of Pimms, a most civilised drink before noon on a Sunday. Revitalised it was back onto the bikes and onto the Pegasus Arms for yet more refreshment and then off to Hagley Park for a brief, but energetic turn of speed in the form of a sprint race round the outside. I have to say my Duchess performed admirably, and was only really hampered by my need to hold my skirt down while pedalling vigorously.

The Tweed riders collection is quite diverse..

... and lust provoking

After such exertions it was back to our starting spot for the obligatory photos and more talking of the cod shite. I enjoyed this ride immensely and can say that I have been fully converted to the joy of the Tweed Ride by this single outing. In fact I have been trawling the pages of Trademe seeking an appropriate old bike to turn into a singlespeed to race at the velodrome for the next ride. Thanks so much to the Tweed Riders for welcoming me into your group. Such Fun!
Racing time!
Refueled and ready to ride

And to round off this rather lengthy diatribe here is a gorgeous photo of my monster’s black jelly bean feets. I just want to nom them.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Big Wheels go Up and Little Wheels do Hucks

The weather has been “interesting” of late and so on Friday when it was merely overcast I decided it was time to see how the big wheels went up a hill. For some strange reason I decided that Huntsbury should be the climb I tested them on, not the gentler and less covered in tar seal Rapaki. I think I had delusions of Mt Vernon the fun way and then back up for the Traverse.
I may have spent extra time on the lower slopes taking photos for strategic reasons
The lower slopes of Huntsbury went well on the big wheels, but once the gradient pitched up on the section by the water reservoir on Huntsbury Ave I started to struggle. Now I have to admit I’m not sure if my difficulties were due to the bigger wheels or my new found lack of fitness, but by halfway up I had to find a convenient side road and do a couple of circles on the flat to get my heart rate under control and stop the little dancing dots in front of my eyes.
Nearly at the top, time for another photo
The uber steep pinch near the top of the seal nearly did me in and the subsequent three steep pinches on the 4wd track left me gasping and my legs shaking. It was not pretty. Finally I made it to the top and cruised across the road to take in the view, safe in the knowledge that with legs like damp noodles I would not be taking on Mt Vernon.
Awwww, she looks right at home up here.
After the obligatory photo stop it was back on the bike and onto the fun singletrack of the Traverse. This was the first time I’d ever ridden the Traverse on a hardtail, let alone with big wheels, so I took it fairly easy. I loved the way the Trek cleared the rocky section where I usually dab and where I’ve had more than a few offs. Through the fast flowy, twisty bits I didn’t feel at home yet. A combination of brakes I’m not used to - must adjust reach on levers - and the way the wheels ride the corners meant I was pretty tentative.

This didn’t stop me dropping down to Brake Free and then onto Sesame St. The big wheels loved the bermed goodness of Sesame St and although it was a little bit rougher than my Anthem it was still great fun. Thumbs up on the downhill.

So the first really good test of my Trek is done and I’ve learnt a couple of things. This bike is going to make me fitter going uphill. I really need to sort out the brakes. 29ers eat rocky sections for breakfast. It’s fair to say I’m in love.

Then today I went to the other extreme. I had to make a trip out to Hornby so I threw my tiny bike on the back of the car and headed to the BMX track. It’s been a long time since I’ve been to the Hornby track and I really loved it. 10 laps had me almost passing out and my legs completely destroyed, but man it was fun.

My pumping skills have definitely improved and slowly but surely I’m getting more air over the jumps at the start. Now I just need way more cardio. Must ride my BMX at least once a week. It is stupidly fun and great interval work. I recommend that everyone gets one.

Oh by the way, I've decided to reward you, my lucky loyal readers with the most precious treat available on the interwebs, cute cat photo's. They will all be of my black monster Bastian (known variously as Bastoolio, Bastaloon, Stoon, Stool and some hideous baby talk names that will not be mentioned here). Today I give you Zombie Paws

You're welcome