Sunday, July 11, 2010


Canberra to Coast 200 was on this weekend, and while I wasn't there, I woulda if I coulda. Here is a link to some nice coverage

Looked like a great day (if not weekend) and I hope to do it next time, and the next.

In other news, the next long softroad session will probably be to try to get to either the snow (on Franklin) or go to Wee Jasper via the alternate, far more dirty route, Doctors Flat road. I reckon it will be next weekend and I do promise to let people know how it goes!

Winter rolling

Too long! Yes, it has been way too long since I put anything at all up on CSC. And there are a few reasons, some of them better than others.
Reason 1: I've been excited about our unborn baby
Reason 2: I've been fiddling with builds (more on that latter)
Reason 3: The best softroading that I've been doing has been at night and I havent been able to take many decent pics.

So reason 1 is self explanatory.

Reason 2. The Ritchey MountCross has arrived and its very very fast! But the news is not all good. The fork can only fit a 40mm tire, and its a pretty tight squeeze at that size. It has 35mm Locusts on there now and its fine, but I really was hoping to be able to run a 45mm. Anyway, Its super light, and climbs very very well. The DT RR1.1 rims built up so nicely... I think it's my best pair of wheels, both build wise and parts wise. The H bar is pretty good, though I think a flat or riser bar is the way to go.Here is a pic.


I also picked up a $350 dual sus Kona the other day. At that price, I couldnt let the opportunity pass. It should open up some other riding possibilities in the future and I'm stoked with how well it is performing. No play in the rear linkages, shifters are fine, brakes arent super powerful but are OK, the fork and shock are both working well. So I will think about some adventures that I can use it for.

Reason 3. Night riding really is tops. Wednesday nights have almost become a regular soft road session in Canberra. We even had THREE people a few weeks back. We hang out on Bruce ridge and Black mountain for about 90mins and then hit Wig n Pen for a beer and a feed. The snosages pictured below have been the highlight of the solids on offer so far. They have a gas heater out front so its the perfect spot. Ty has been hammering his 'goose shod with nice fat WormDrives and Tom brought out the Spesh one night, only to fall victim to a hellish number of punctures. We have a circuit mapped out for a dirt road criterium and now all we need is another 5 or so guys to bang elbows with. Nice 2minute climb, very steep 30sec downhill to test small tire volumes and about a minute of flat in between. Its going to be ace :)


And finally, there was a day ride a few weeks back that was glorious. Canberra is just starting to get its act together and put on some clear days and cold nights... perfect for a ride.


Sunday, May 16, 2010

New tires and traction

This weekend was all about the new tires. I went into Mal's and got some el cheapo cross-ish tires. The brand is DURO, the model (from what I can tell) is BRAVE. So advanced that the big feature advertised on the sidewall is "NYLON". 700x40c but they look almost identical in width to the 35mm Randos that I just took off. Anyway, they are better than I could have hoped for! Lower pressure, more traction on straights and corners and under brakes... I know I was talking last week about lack of traction being a good thing, but of course I was lying.
Saturday was a ride along the firetrail at the base of Majura and Ainslie for a warm up and then some singletrack in Majura, on the Jackson and riding with Joel and Bear. The tires were tops.... fast enough on the bitumen getting there but with a little pressure released they were pretty comy on the sinlgetrack too. I was expecting a bunch of pinchflats but not a one! We even did Auto Alley, though far from clean. I'm definitely feeling better about the brakes and the forearms took a good battering against the tops as I was descending on them always. I guess it was about 2 hours of riding, and it was fun.

Today I took my singlespeed out for a spin on Stromlo, and it is glorious. I've just put some Ultimate Vs on it and the improvement from the XTs is massive! true one-finger-no-matter-what braking. I even did some nice front wheel skids in the deep sand. I did, however fail a lot on trails that I used to be master of the universe on. I couldnt even MAKE myself climb through a bunch of rocks on heartbreaker that I used to not even take notice of. Anyway, its been a while and I can only get better. A pic is attached.

During the ride I got a call from Tom and got ready to ride with him on the firetrails. He turned out on pretty much the exact bike that I'm trying to build. Nice old touring frame with external butted seat tube, unicrown fork, 42mm Ritchey tire up front and a 35 rear, near full M950 group, single digit Ti brakes. So... very nice! We rode about an hour or so, through the same firetrail that I rode last Saturday, and the bit of extra cush in the tires (maybe theyre taller in profile) made the ruts and rocks of last week feel like nothing. I was again having a ball washing outa bit in the sand pits at the bottom of hills, and having someone else there made it all the better. The great bonus was that I learned the way to ride to work on firetrail! I had a good time... good chats about all sorts of anything. So hopefully this week I can make fireroad commute happen and get in the groove. Riding trail before work always feels almost too much, too lucky to me. The day is already a great one before you even sit at your desk... something great has been achieved :) This is Tom on his rig, my legs are almost but not quite long enough to ride it.

Tom also loaned me the 1999 MBA that has a review of the Mount Cross... It does get a great review, though with a few caveats. I saw the Ibis Bow Ti in there as well and it is now the bew object of desire... ultimate retro 24hr racer? 5" of travel almost seems too long to believe.

I'm changing around the idea of the build for the Mount Cross. Currently sitting on 2x9 with Paul thumbies, XT and Ulterga mechs, DA downtube shifters, sram cassette and chain, Titec h bar, at least to start out.

Monday, May 10, 2010

6 hour Mt Franklin out and back

Yesterday was one of the best times I've ever had on my bike. I was thinking about spending the day relaxing and maybe mowing the lawn, but after reading a couple of other blogs, I thought I should get out and do mine proud :) So I did the ride that I had planned to do, Canberra to Mt Franklin hut. I guess it's 30km or so from my house to the start of the dirt and then another 25km on dirt to the hut, which is at around 1500m-1600m. I left the house at around 11:30am with three sandwiches, 5 mint slices and two 750ml bidons of water, lights and a tight knit cotton work shirt (hard yakka style). The plan was to eat a sandwich when I got to the dirt, and then 2 biscuits or a sandwich every hour after. The water was there because I thought I might need it, but it is autumn and I was about to spend most of the day at 1000m altitude or above.

The sealed road part of the ride is road that I've ridden many, many times before... good riding and very hilly, but not much to report other than it took a bit over an hour to get it behind me. From the start of the dirt to Piccadilly Circus (an amazing circus with elephants, lions, very tall and hairless people and marching band) is 9km and it's all up. the road had been freshly graded and was easy going in terms of being in control.... there was a LOT of first and second gear action, and I doubt that I got above third for the 45 minutes it took me to finish this section off. It was kind of a pain, and I had started to blow through a bit of water.... 5 kph isn't quite quick enough to generate that nice cooling wind that I was banking on. From Piccadilly Circus to Tumut is another 90km or so, and I think it's all dirt.... I'm thinking about organising a group ride through to there at the end of winter, so stay tuned. I'm sure there is somewhere to stay overnight at the other end.

The next section, from Piccadilly to Mt Franklin was up and down (but generally up), and the condition of the road got worse as it went on. The trees turned from a lot of pine (plantations) to small white gums... not quite snow gums (or at least not the wind tortured snow gums that I remember) but I felt like I was getting way up there. Looking down from ridgelines I could see other mountains that topped out a fair distance below where I was riding. some really nice rocky faces, too... It felt like I was back in Korea because of the steepness and tree cover. I ended up at the new hut on Mt Franklin at 3pm, which was my predetermined turn around time. It's a corrugated metal shed which is pretty swanky looking, and was apparently designed by Adelaide Uni students. I ate my second sandwich and also put on the work shirt... It was getting cool, and a lot of the riding was in the shadows on the ridges.

The way back was quite the reward for all of the climbing on the way up :) The tires (35mm Vittoria Randonneurs) did a great job and only suffered one pinch flat on the way back. I am now on the look out for 40mm tires, though. I'd like to be able to really bang down hills without fear of caving in rims. I was out of phone coverage from about an hour into the ride, and on the way down I started to work out how long it would take me to walk to a spot where I could call someone to help if I really did taco a wheel or have some kind of problem... I guess I was at least three hours from contact and tried not to think about it. So the two and a half hours climbing was descended in an hour and fifteen minutes, and that was a conservative hour and fifteen minutes, on the brakes whenever things got a little rough, which was most of the time. I had my last break on the dirt at around 4:30 and the sun was starting to set across the fantastic valley just off the sealed road. It's worth taking your road bike a few km up the dirt to see the sights up there, if you're interested.

I was particularly happy with a few things about the ride. My shirt was exactly what I needed. It cut the wind and added a tiny bit of warmth. The whole bike was again fantastic, I feel as though I've discovered its real strength. The eating strategy. I was feeling good enough to get out of the saddle even a few kms from home to power up the last of the hills. Some things I would change... Leave the house earlier and have more wiggle time in the schedule. I became more and more aware of how isolated I was as I got further along Mount Franklin road and further away from telephone coverage. I'd also like to go in a group or at least a pair next time! But overall, massive success, a great day.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Business socks

I was going to include this in the last post, but I'd say it deserves its own post, such is my passion about my foot coverings.

Business socks can do just about anything that I can... just about. They can look respectful or whatever when you're sitting at your desk in the office, but that's just the beginning! I like socks that have high wool content (for what should be obvious reasons), and the highest ones that I can easily find are usually made for suit types. They're thin, light, warm and cool.... and usually a lot stronger than CoolMax and other materials that "cycling" socks seem to use. I've not put a big toe through any of my dress socks but I don't know that I have ANY cycling socks that don't have any holes at the toes, and my dress socks are certainly older. They are long enough to not have stones go down the top of em, and you don't look too "roadie" in them. They don't stink, and don't make your feet stink. They dry fast, and even when they're wet, they're warm. Theyre cheap. I run in mine too. I'm sure some people strain things through theirs, at a push.

Two hours over the back of Stromlo

Another perfect Autumn day... Started out pretty chilly, maybe around 3 degrees or so but no clouds, not a breath of wind. I got on the Jackson at about 1:30pm after spending the morning moving a bunch of music onto my phone, which I'd been meaning to do for ages. I loaded up some Queens of the Stone Age and rolled off. I was going solo today, which is good and bad... good that I can ride to my feeling, but bad that all the rad stuff that happens is pretty much just for me (a great reason to write about it!). So I went through Stromlo via cockatoo switchbacks and then some fireroad. I "caught" a guy on a dually 29er on the switchbacks, though I think both of us were just cruising... It was fun to go around him and the other couple of bunches that I saw during the ride, especially when I was getting stuck into it on smoother sections like the one shown above :)

I went straight through Stromlo and I guess left the end of it when I went through the gate that told me that I was near the "Space Weather" measurement something or other.... Space Weather! I can't be sure what it means, but I think the little shed that I went by should be on Canberra's list of top attractions... there can't be many of them in Aus.

Anyway, from there it was up to a ridge line and then a T intersection, and the road was sort of deteriorating. I've ridden it on the MTB before and I sort of knew what I was in for. A right at the top of the hill after following a few roads to quick dead ends and I was on my way down a valley and started to formulate my first important observation of riding softroads around Canberra. I guess it's sort of obvious, but here it is anyway: The steeper it gets, the deeper the fingers of water way across the road. This has its consequences both up and down hill, especially on a bike with 35mm slicks pumped to 80PSI. So the photo below is one of the bits that 'popped up' when I was getting excited about going fast down one of the first hills. I guess it was nearly two feet deep in parts. Coming up to this and almost stopping in time (that's not a typo) also made me realise the other few things that I learned today:
1. Drops are fantastic, especially descending. It was waaaaay too rough to rely on hanging onto the hoods, and down in the drops you get all that leverage on the brake levers...
2. Canti brakes are fantastically hopeless! At least mine are. People who know me well will know I'm stubborn about some things, and working on my cantis is one of them. They've always been underpowered but I won't let anyone else work on them for me. BUT that's not the point. The point is that they don't work that well, and that is perfect. If I had full on stopping power I wouldn't have had the same number of 'coin clamping' moments as I had.
3. Tires that are too narrow, and too bald are great fun. I was sliding, skidding, spinning and drifting all day :) I wouldn't have changed to grippier, bigger tires for anything. The hammering that I took was pretty epic, but as usual, I took a lot of pleasure in watching the fork flex like crazy, trying its best to isolate me.

By about an hour in I was ready for a snack, and all of the corrugations had taken it's toll on one of my lemon creams, but the silver lining of that non-cloud was that it emptied a little lemon cream onto the mint slices that it was sharing the container with.... lemon mint slices, worth trying, for sure! Nowhere near as bad as a choc-banana big M

I saw heaps, and heaps and heaps of kangaroos and even a herd of nice fat looking cattle, and managed to snap a pic of a kanga, which I was desperate to do for the hundreds of international followers of this blog. The kanga is the darker spot on the left of the road. With ears... like a stand-up rabbit.

I was lucky enough to turn for home down a road that sort of went in the right direction, and in a half hour or so I was back among the MTBers on Stromlo (which is only 2km or so from my house). I did a little more singletracking, this time hunting out groups of people to try to catch, and the difference between my skills at the start and end of the ride on the singletrack was night and day. Without blowing my own horn too much, I really didn't suck at the end of the ride. There's a pic of some lovely Stromlo singletrack above

I found a lot of love for old man Jackson out there today, but was a little disappointed by the tiny deposit of dust around the fork crown that was all that hinted at what had just happened.

I finished up putting on the "Stars and Water Carriers" DVD that I found when I was looking for tunes this morning... Eddy was looking strong as usual, and the Talisker in my glass topped a good few hours nicely. Pepper!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Frames and tires and noodle bar

Here are some links that you might like a look at. They are framesets and tires and a bar that I reckon would do well softroading around here.

Ritchey Mount Cross
. This is the bike that I'm about to build up. It also has good clearance, but maybe not as good as the Salsa Fargo. BUT it's lovely. I'm not sure how many framesets TR brazed after 1999, but I dont think it's too many. Yes, I'm a bit ridiculous when it comes to bikes, but I appreciate having something that other people haven't seen before. Mine is blue and I will surely post the build session here :)

Kelly knobby x
. I've recently had the chance to build (or help build) two of these up into bikes and they are very sweet... the TIG is really superb (gently filed?) and the fork is ultra slender, really nice and flexy. I think we will run 35 rear and 42 front on Kristen's (my wife's) bike. It needs a longer bb spindle than a roadie so we are putting on a nice square taper crankset with a 118mm unit.

Salsa Fargo. This really is a pretty wonderful bike. Pretty much everyone at Mals has one and in truth, I'd like one too if i didn't have bikes that individually do one of the many things that the Fargo can. Massive clearances for 2"+ 29er tires, a million and one bidon cage mounts, fully rack ready and a pretty cool rambo colour. Drop bar, flat bar, no bar... almost all of these options seem to work on it. The only issue that i sort of have with it is the fork... It's straight and pretty burly looking, and that points in the direction of stiffness, which I dislike, especially for long days.

Michelin Transworld Sprint tires.
These look like they have a nice diamond pattern in centre which seems like it'd be good for hardpack. They are heavy, though, at 800+g for a 40mm. I want to try em out. I think they'll roll better on the bitumen between dirt than the more "pure" cross tires.

Maxxis Wormdrive tires. These aren't coming up on the Maxxis site but I have a pair of the 26" version and they are quick! They come in a 700x40 and they might be perfect. I will try em soon

Maxxis Locust tires.
Narrower than the others but it looks like the sort of tread that does well on Canberra's dusty singletrack. We will try these as a start.

IRC Mythos cross tires. Mal had a 35/42 combo on his Jake the Snake the other day and they looked wicked. I can't find any decent links to them but am trying to hunt down a pair to try. Nice low frofile centre, though a little more going on than wormdrives, and nice side knobs. For singletrack these could be the go.

Nitto noodle bar. I've used these before and love em. I'll try to eventually get another set of these on. They have a nice amount of flex which I can imagine being wonderful on corrugation.