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.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Path Racer is Born

After last weekend’s exertions I suffered rather badly from the sleeping sickness last week, with most 24 hour periods having 15 hours of sleep in them. This makes for very short days and it is very lucky I work flexible hours and have an understanding husband and boss. In my waking hours I spent a lot of my time scrubbing rust of old bike parts, but I did manage today to get out for a lovely ride at McLeans Island with an awesome group of girls.

The time spent scrubbing was well worth it. Almost all the parts I stripped off in the “Born fettler” post have the majority of their rust removed and a shiny finish buffed up.
The Christchurch term for this bearing face is munted. Luckily the wonderful Bob was able to supply me with a replacement part

The brake levers came up well

Rather proud of disassembling the pedals and removing the rust
The faux Raleigh chain ring came up very well
I got rather bored of polishing the fully laced rims and only did the back wheel. In the loooong process of cleaning up the back wheel I discovered the inner tube was now bonded eternally with the cotton rim tape and the rim itself. I scrubbed as much rust out of the inside of the rims as possible and then got some heavy duty plastic rim tape applied and now things are looking happier. The rims exteriors came up wonderfully shiny so I was happy with that. Yay coke!
Cleaned up rear hub, luckily all the bearing faces here were in good shape

Then today came the big exciting day. The visit to Bob’s legendary shed to build it up. It was just as I dreamed. An Aladdin’s Cave of wonderful tools and beautiful bikes. I feel deeply privileged to not only have visited Bob in his natural environment, but to have his extensive knowledge and generous nature to help me build up my path racer. Not only did he assembly the beast for me, he provided parts, refaced the bottom bracket and cleaned up the treads on the frame. Legend. I cannot say enough good things about Bob and I won’t go on much more lest he blush.
The entrance to the "magic cupboard" where Bob is build his amazing bike from scratch

After a number of exciting and brilliantly informative hours I was wheeling my brakeless stead from the magic shed of wonderment with the biggest grin on my face. She is a beauty and after a brief ride up the street I discovered she rides wonderfully and smoothly. All that degreasing of hubs was worth it. Tonight I spent a certain amount of time attaching a front brake to it so I can ride it to work tomorrow.

Jobs left to be done. Get a correct diameter seat post. Get correct inner tubes. Remove hideously pink decals. Attach polished up brass head tube badge from the Mayam. Reattach the other grip and attach the back brake. Finally, and if I have the funds for it, replace the seat with something a little more fitting. Perhaps this.

And finally tonight I give you Bastian doing his best Superman impression in his sleep and at the same time inflicting that common disease cat paralysis on my beloved and patient husband.

I say patient because in addition to this beautiful path racer I managed to purchase a rather lovely old Empire cycle on tardme on Friday. It’s staying in Dunedin till I can get down there, which is a good thing for our marriage.

Monday, April 16, 2012

A Weekend of Two Halves

 Despite my recent all-consuming preoccupation with old bikes I actually managed to do a race at the weekend! Even better it was a team race and my lovely hubby joined me on the team.  We were entered as a team of 4 in the Krank 8hr race at Hanmer Springs with the effervescent Anna Ross and newbie to racing Greer Swinard. It was a horribly early start as we decided to go up the day of the race which meant a pre- 6am wake up call. Bastian provided us a distinctly unwelcome one just before 5am and I couldn’t get back to sleep after that. Bloody cat!
Monster alarm clock enjoys fresh washing
The drive to Hanmer was uneventful and the setting up and registered chaotic as I thought the race started at 9:30, but it started at 9. Lining up on the start line I was feeling flat as a pancake so when the gun went I was very glad to have Michelle to ride with and push me to go a little bit faster on the first deceptive climb. I’d taken the 9er with me for this race and as soon as we got into the singletrack I realised this was a mistake. I couldn’t corner to save my life and wasn’t carrying speed which meant I was on the brakes and working harder than I should have been after most corners.
Sooooo glad the first lap is over
There was then a rather unfortunate organisational breakdown with no marshal being stationed at the most ambiguous corner of the start loop, which was meant longer than all the other laps. Luckily a local directed Michelle and myself back onto the right track and soon we were all alone in the autumnal forest as half the field had gone the wrong way. I had more troubles with the big hoops in here and found it to be a slog. Then we were finally under the bridge and the climbing began in earnest. Up the biggest climb of the day I was impressed I managed to ride all the way to the top, but blasting down the other side I just couldn’t trust the cornering and was much slower than I would have liked.  A gentle (read slog) climb back up Dog Stream and then onto Mach 1 which was a mixture of climb and descent, then another longish fireroad climb and back to the camp. The lap seemed to go on forever and I was an extremely grumpy and underfed bunnie after an hour 16mins of riding.
Greer coming in after her first ever lap in a race! Great work
Luckily I had 3 hours to recover and by my second lap felt surprisingly better, plus much shorter than the first monster long one. Bike control was a little better, but I missed my Anthem still, especially since Anna had her shiny new one with her.
Michelle being epic again
Despite the course being in the opposite direction to the way I like it was still a fun day out and was great hanging out with my awesome teammates and heckling/cheering for people.
Anna and Pete enjoying the comforts of our pit site between laps
For a recovery ride I was lucky enough to have a tweed ride to go to the next day. This one was to convene in Sumner, so I gave myself plenty of time to ride there. Along the way I met up with the divine Lady Andrea and her husband Kevin and we braved the causeway in a fierce headwind together. Andrea was riding a lovely old bike from 1914 and did an amazing job powering into the wind while I made use of my gears to spin along. Unfortunately a fit of optimism had seen me strap a pentenque set to my rack and with every bump the heavy metal balls would crash about making not only an awful racket, but making the bike feel quite unstable.
Myself and Lady Andrea looking very spiffing
Luckily we made it to the carpark in Sumner in once piece and joined the rest of our finely dressed compatriots with their array of lovely bicycles. Cruising pleasantly along the esplanade we drew many an admiring glance and at the end a challenge was laid down about riding up the Taylor’s Mistake hill. I was initially apprehensive, having smashed myself the previous day and frankly struggled in the headwind on the causeway.  Plus having about 10kgs of metal balls strapped to the arse end of my bike didn’t make the idea a pleasing prospect. 

Half the group.....
.....and the other half
After making excuses about tiredness, high heels and weight on the back of the bike I was provoked into a duel. It would have been a fairly uneven match without the heels and the petenque set on my bike as I have the luxury of 3 modern gears, whereas Chumly had only his strength and the size of his chainring to power him up the hill. He took off like a bat out of hell, lithely bunny hopping off the curb and streaking up the hill. I had to find a driveway to go down so didn’t manage to get a sprint on at all. Halfway to the first bend and my legs were demanding I drop a gear and suddenly life was much better. I found Chumly doing the chivalrous thing and waiting for me at the head of the corner, but I continued onwards for this was a race of endurance. Halfway to the next corner I decided I had made my point and hurtled back down the hill. It was awesome fun. I’m almost tempted to take the Duchess to Halswell and see how far I can get up Kennedy’s Bush Rd on it!
Victory was mine!!!
More riders venture forth encouraged by Chumley and my sterling efforts. Note Chumley's excellent cornering form in the background
We then toured around the back streets and containers of Sumner for a while before settling in at the Thirsty Mariner for well-earned drinks and a staggering and sometimes unidentifiable array of deep fried snacks. There a plan (ill-fated for me as it turns out) was hatched to head to the Brewery. Andrea, Kevin and I headed off with a now gentle (soooo typical) tailwind speeding us across the causeway, while the others drove down to Ferry Rd to park up and join us by cycle for the rest of the ride.
Beautiful delivery bike
In no time at all we were enjoying the live music, fine beverages and witty banter at the Brewery. However dark clouds of impending doom (well deep embarrassment) were fast forming on my horizon. As we were leaving to partake of the path beside the Heathcote I came a cropper due to a combination of a sudden stop, a weighty rear end (of my bicycle) and my stylish high heels. I found myself sprawled on the ground, one shoe arching gracefully over my head and the contents of my basket strewn about me. It was incredibly mortifying. I still feel a bit sick about it today.
Pipe smoking is a very serious Tweed past time
I gathered my things and the tatters of my dignity and off we set along the Heathcote. This bit was brilliant and very challenging with gapping cracks everywhere and tight turns to catch out the unwary or those with a limited turning circle. After much hilarity we were back at the others’ cars and I was, for the third time, heading along Ferry Rd, this time with home in my sights. It was a truly marvellous day out and I can’t wait for the next one. In the meantime I have plenty of rusty bike parts to polish and hopefully a visit to Bob’s mythical shed to look forward to.
The joy of the Tweed Ride clearly evident

Friday, April 13, 2012

I’m a born fettler

Something has stirred within me. It has been slowly awakening over the weeks and months as I’ve watched the progress of the Geared Facile. Something that has always been in me. And then I joined a Tweed Riding group and the monster that has lain dormant since I owned a 1975 Facelift Capri has awakened. The urge to tinker, to fettle, to play with bits of machinery and get grease under my nails.
So I’ve got myself a little project, I’ve been donated a small old roadie frame from, and I quote, “an Adonis of Tweed” and I bought a Japanese copy of an old Raleigh off tardme for donor parts. Both have been sitting in the garage for weeks, whispering their siren song to me every time I go in there. And finally last night the magic began.

The slow, incredibly fun process of stripping the old Jap of its parts. I had so much fun with my spanners, screw drivers and socket wrenches. Coaxing each rusty nut from its equally rusty bolt. Removing the old horn, the brake levers, the calipers and then moving on bravely to the cranks. I used the official Bob approved method of removing the non-drive side cotter pin: a socket and an F clamp (although a G clamp would have been preferable I did not have one of those available). Unfortunately my current state of feeble strength was not enough to free the beastie, but with the mighty arms of my husband we had the bugger out in a jiffy.

The drive side crank turned out to be an entirely different matter and with the light fading we decided to leave the bugger clamped tight under pressure overnight and I would take it to the maestro himself on the morrow. I felt I had achieved a lot in my 2 hours of fettling and spent the remainder of my evening polishing my horn (oooo missus!).

Today, after a trip to Mitre 10 and Repco for various stripping and polishing things I called into the office where the still lightly scarred Bob employed his G-Clamp on my resistant cotter pin. But to no avail. The little bugger would not budge. Bob now informed me there was nothing for it but to bash it stoutly with a hammer, while employing a steel rule as a guide to the hammer. Back at home I was quick to try this out and with three resounding whacks the cotter pin was out and not too badly damaged in the process.

My next task was to remove one of the grips so I could free the bars from the stem. A bucket of boiling water was employed as I fiddled about with the headset and forks. They are beyond salvage, but fortunately young Bob says he can “hook a burva up”* with a headset. After a decent amount of soaking the grip was worked off and the bars were free! I was very happy not to damage the grip in the process they are rather nice and in good nick.

Now the only task left to me was to remove the axle. I had no idea how to do it, but the lovely lads on Vorb provided awesome advice and before you could say “My, what a big wrench you have!” my hands were covered in ancient, disgusting grease and the axle and bearing cups were free. I also discovered why the axle felt so grindy, it’s missing 3 bearing in the drive side cup.

Now I have all my parts off the donor and the fun of rust removal and polishing has begun. I’ve started with the worst affected part, the bars. To be honest I thought these were a right off, but am pretty impressed with how well they’ve come up so far. Unfortunately my hands are much worse for wear. While long fingernails may be great and convenient for removing hardened grease, hardened grease seems to be impossible to remove from under fingernails. And my fingers are now tinged a “lovely” rust colour, as if I’m a French hobo in my late 60’s with a 3 pack a day smoking habit. There’s only one thing for it. I’ll have to get some swarfega! Yay.

And this evening I give you Bastian doing the “I’ll get you strange black thing behind me!” dance. He’s soooo silly.

*I believe Bob has never said the words “Hook a bruva up”, that is just my interpretation.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

6hr Super D Enduro - an old woman in a young man's game

I didn’t quite get round to writing up my last day of my Vegas adventure before heading down south for my next adventure. Brief synopsis, the tracks were dry, I was tired, Corners had a punga stump that tried to cause my death by impalement on a fallen tree, B Rude Not 2 was awesome and so was Mad if you Don’t.  All in all Rotorua was brilliant and just the break we needed from Christchurch.

And after a brief trip home to snuggle the cat and wash a vast array of stinky mountain bike clothes it was into the car with me and down to Queenstown in the company of legendary hard man and epic ride enthusiast Oliver Whalley. The trip down to Q’town flew by as we discovered that we both liked to sing the guitar riffs of songs. Entering Q’town we got our boy racer trousers on and got the bass pumping and the windows down.  I got in touch will my inner teenager by hanging out with someone over ten years younger than me.
Photo Caleb Smith: Ollie flying into second place

After dumping Ollie and installing myself in my dorm room at Pinewood it was straight down to Ferg Burger with my lovely Pinewood companions for a feed before a rather early night. Driving for 5.5hours is knackering. Luckily I had very considerate dorm mates and slept well, sneaking out in the early dawn hours for breakfast at Ferg Bakery, and preparing my gear for the day. A quick pedal through the school and we were soon setting up our site in a primo position and registering. I caught up with a lot of people I hadn’t seen in a while, which was great, but I also started to feel quite sick with nerves.

After talking to a number of people I got the feeling I had really bitten off more than I could chew and when I discovered we were starting in numerical order and I was number 22 it’s safe to say I was freaking out a bit. I chatted nervously with the guy I shared the gondola ride to the top with and then we were off. My plan was for a conservative, stay alive approach to the race, however adrenalin got the best of me and after about 2 minutes of riding I was coming in too fast to a steep rooty corner and heading straight over the bars onto my head. In front of a marshall. Which I suppose was a good thing, but was very embarrassing and I raced to reassure him I was alright and to clear the track. I let a number of riders pass and got back on my stead and immediately noticed that my helmet kept dropping over my eyes. Not good. In fact so not good that very soon after I was on my head again and beginning to think that this was the end of my race.

At this stage I was pretty sure I had a leeeeetttle concussion as I had a big wiggly blind line in my left eye and I was positive my helmet had seen better days. Not to mention a headache. I continued down the hill, the words of my colleague Bob warning me that I was going to axe myself in this race, floating around my head. (Turns out he’s one to talk, below is a photo of him following Le Race when adrenalin got the better of him in the final corner. He’s a much harder man than I, but he’ll never admit it, and still finished the race looking like a cross between a mugging victim and a mummy).
Oh Bob, why did you jinx yourself by worrying about my skills so much?

Into the first climb and I decided if I was still have vision problems or if my headache was worse than the slightly dull ache it was at that point when I got to the bottom I’d pull the pin. This thought made me feel sick and very disappointed in myself for being such a muppet. As people streamed past on the climb that seemed to go on forever I had time to adjust my helmet ensuring I could at least see better on the next downhill bits. The nice singletrack climb (yes I did think it was nice at this stage of the race) dropped into Hammy’s with a rather nasty tight rooty and hastily cut steep corner that I wasn’t alone in not being able to ride.

I eased down Hammy’s and into the weird messy little bit above Singletrack Sandwich then it was back into Hammy’s before a nasty poorly formed switch back climb which almost everyone was running or pushing. From there it was a nice drop into lower Singletrack Sandwich and out to a steep pinch up to a slow grassy section of corners that I just couldn’t find flow on. From there it was all pretty much downhill and by the bottom I knew I was going to keep going.

I had a brief stop at the pits to get the super amazing Jo to fix my bike as the front gear cable had become dislodged in one of my crashes and I was stuck in the little ring. While she did that I removed my visor from my helmet and got it fitting right again. Yes it did have a crack in it and yes, I probably should have stopped riding once I discovered that, but I just couldn’t face only having one lap next to my name.
Spot the crack

Up the gondola again and this time I had great flow on the track, no crashes or near misses, the climbing wasn’t  too bad and I was grinning again. I really enjoyed that second lap. Another short stop at the bottom to let Jo know I was ok and then back up again. Now I was really loving the steep sections in Thingamajig and couldn’t work out how I’d managed to crash so spectacularly. The climbs however were taking their toll. And pain I had felt from the crashes was completely obliterated by the screaming of my legs on the climb and I knew I needed to stop after this lap and eat something substantial.
Photo Caleb Smith - once more making me look like a talented rider rather than a concussed muppet

At the bottom I eased into a chair and hoed into an astoundingly good ham and cheese croissant and gulped some V. Then some sour snakes for dessert and I was off again. I was still loving the downhill stuff, but the uphill was really hurting and some of the freshly cut transitions from one track to another were becoming quite scary. I used a tree to brake once to stop from going over a bank after I corner I’d ridden easily earlier had started to blow out and I couldn’t find traction.

There was more walking on the uphill singletrack section, under the guise of being polite and letting the fast riders past, and I also took the opportunity to stop and help a young grom who was experiencing cramp for the first time and was rather distressed. After helping him stretch a bit I gave him a handful of snakes and was on my way again. On the way down the blown out stuff was getting more blown out and I was getting more fatigued. I looked at the time and realised that I could fit a couple more laps in, even if I had ten minute breaks in the pits to recharge.

At the bottom I settled back in my chair and started on my second ham and cheese croissant. As I sat talking to Jo and my other friends coming in for food my stomach began to get tight. As the others headed off for more laps I sat thinking about the near misses I’d had in the last lap, and weigh them against the fun I was having getting air in places I’d been too scared to earlier. If I’d gotten up and ridden to the gondola just then things might have been different, but I sat a little longer and the fear took firm hold of me.

I was riding with a cracked helmet. I was very very tired. I ached all over. I had pretty decent headache. These thoughts wound through my brain and I decided that was it. 4 laps was enough. I walked back through the timing tent and turned my transponder in.

The rest of the afternoon was awesome, just hanging out, talking to cool peeps, cheering my amazing friend Michelle who was also soloing it and was just a machine. I dished out snakes to people in need and cheered for skids. It was great.

Photo Caleb Smith - Michelle showing her awesome steez and just generally blowing my mind

Later that evening I stood on the step of a podium for the first, and probably only time in my life. I’d got third in the hotly contested Veteran Woman’s solo section and I felt great as people clapped and I was handed a great pair of Specialized gloves as a prize. It was an awesome fun scary race that challenged me more than any other event I’ve ever done. And it wasn’t until the next day on the drive home (where I found an amazing pump track in Omarama, but only had legs for one feeble lap) that the regret hit and I wished I’d gone out for at least one more lap. You see I may have got third in my category, but I also got DFL and that kinda sucks. I’d like to say I’ll be back to do that race again, but with ongoing bouts of chronic fatigue I just don’t know if I’ll ever be able to put the training in to make it a less painful experience. But I’ve done it once and I’m rather proud of that.
Omarama pump track, worth stopping for

And here's my Bastian monster being cute outside.