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Sunday, June 18, 2017

Breathe


Him: “Would you rather your child be smart or good?”

Her: “Can’t she be a bit of both?”

Him: “No. The distinction therein is the crux of the question.” 

Her: “Well, it’s a stupid question.”



I felt sick in the stomach.

Dilip had just convinced me of the need to return to India. Or rather, of the need for me to be part of the team heading back to India. And that we would do it again over the Christmas break. Maybe it was the hot chocolate. I always get a bit bloated when I drink too much milk. And I did have a bowl of cereal a little earlier. I must be lactose intolerant. It could be that. But I also hadn’t planned on going back. Not anytime soon. In any case I felt sick. Or bloaty. 

India. I do not see her as part of my identity. She does not define me. Certainly not any more than anything else in my life. I prefer to see my identity in the routine of daily life. My work defines me. That’s expected for something that takes up so much of my time. And I would take offence if someone tells me that I do not do a good job. I am a cyclist and I enjoy riding my bicycle. It is my most fun regular activity. Sure, I'm not as fast as I used to be, but I stepped up to A-grade and not everyone can say that. Races are faster now. But I was - and still am - a cyclist. And I’m a runner. A slow runner who would be lucky to run 4min k’s. But I identify as a runner. And I’m a brother. A son. An uncle to two beautiful children. A friend. A person who believes in the power of reason. And a votary of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Not everyone has to sail an ocean to find themselves.

And not everyone needs to know the meaning of life to be happy. But if you live long enough then that question is bound to come up.

So once a year I go to India. That’s seven years now. Seven camps with Dilip in exasperating, exhausting India. Any measure of productivity would see that much activity is inefficient. And sometimes ineffective. But some good gets done. The good is very, very good.

India's a problem I don't need.

It’s just before 5AM on the Jinker Track. The stars are out. My breath fogs the air and the chill stings my arms. I rub my ears to get some blood into them. I pull my gloves on, drop the saddle, and hit the trails with lights blazing. Those that have tried it will know that night riding pares down the choice of available lines. Today I'm on point. I feel faster and more agile than I know I am. Focus. And pure joy. In a couple of hours I will be telling jokes and doing what I am paid to do. I get great satisfaction from the work and the mingling. I am part of a great team. In the meantime I have a clear run of the tracks. Solitude. I might be the luckiest guy in the world. 

And yet I can be better than that.

Life can be guided by a few simple rules. Take chances. Breathe. Have a bit of self doubt and reflection but not too much to be crippling. And, never trust a man wearing pointy shoes.



Him: “I’m not saying that being smart or good are mutually exclusive. Rather, I’m asking which you value more.”

Her: “I value both. You cannot measure between the two.”

Him: “But if you had to?”

Her: “But I don’t.. You really have some silly ideas.”



Sunday, May 14, 2017

Evolution


2002 On One Inbred (size 16”)
Steel, 1070mm wheelbase, 40mm BB drop, 71º HT angle
1x1, lock-on grips, clipless pedals  
26” wheelset with chainring guard 


Rider’s fitness & strength rating: 7/10
Height & weight: 173cm, 64kg
Riding style (timid - aggressive): timid
Natural habitat: Brisbane Forest Park, Bunyaville, Daisy Hill, Tewantin, Nerang

Was it fun to ride? Yep




2012 Santa Cruz Chameleon (medium)
Aluminium, 1074mm wheelbase, 0-20mm BB drop (eccentric BB), 68º HT angle
2x10, 120-150mm front suspension, disc brakes, lock-on grips, clipless pedals
26” wheelset


Rider’s fitness & strength rating: 5/10
Height & weight: 173cm, 66kg 
Riding style (timid - aggressive): timid
Natural habitat: Brisbane Forest Park, Bunyaville, Tewantin

If ever a bicycle chooses its rider then this (the 26” all-mountain hardtail) is it. Takes skill and confidence to shred on a bike like this. One day I’ll drop that post, screw on flat pedals, relax my grip, and harden the f*** up. #BBdropmatters




2014 Scott Scale 700SL (small)
Carbon fibre, 1074mm wheelbase, 40mm BB drop, 69º HT angle
1x11, 100mm front suspension, disc brakes, ESI grips, clipless pedals
27.5” wheelset

#bringbackthemojo


Rider’s fitness & strength rating: 6/10
Height & weight: 173cm, 63kg 
Riding style (timid - aggressive): timid
Natural habitat: Mt Cootha, Daisy Hill

Was it fun to ride? Yep




2016 Trek Fuel EX 9.8 (17.5”)
Carbon fibre, 1137mm wheelbase, 17mm BB drop (excl suspension sag), 68º HT angle
2x11, 120mm dual suspension, disc brakes, dropper post, flat pedals, lock-on grips
27.5” wheelset


Rider’s fitness & strength rating: 6/10
Height & weight: 173cm, 63kg 
Riding style (timid - aggressive): timid
Natural habitat: Brisbane Forest Park, Bunyaville, Daisy Hill, Tewantin

Was it fun to ride? Yep





Sunday, April 30, 2017

Fakt 196


One thing I have learnt from pottering around my garden is that completion of a task - laudable as it is - is not the sine qua non of accomplishment.

I learnt another thing while riding my bicycle. Wide handlebars, while great for technical descents, are a problem on single track with closely spaced trees. More to the point, find the hand position that you are most comfortable with then cut your bars so that the grip does not extend beyond the outside edge of your hand. You are much less likely to smack your hand against a tree than clip the outside edge of your bar.




No matter how clever you are in estimating gaps and getting the timing just right there will be plenty of opportunity for you to be distracted, over-confident, tired, or carrying just a bit too much speed to get it all wrong. Do it. You can thank me later.




Sunday, April 16, 2017

Five Ten Spitfire






Skilling up on a mountain bike is most cost-effectively managed in the following order:

Flat pedals
Cycle-specific flat pedal shoes
Dropper post
Dual suspension mountain bike 

In the real world things aren't that simple. Regardless, the cycle-specific shoe stands out on the list for the scrutiny placed upon it when thinking about cost vs benefit. It shouldn’t be. 

For a start these shoes are not much more expensive than the pedals of equivalent quality (not to mention far cheaper than a dropper post or full suspension of any quality). And just because flat pedals appear unsophisticated doesn’t mean a pair of old runners will be up to snuff. Especially when things get a bit technical.



Great running shoe. Just not made for pedalling.


The Five Ten Spitfire (RRP $100 USD). The dark grey model comes loaded with a set of dope orange laces but a pair of black laces come included.


The flip side. The DMR V6 nylon pedal (RRP £14.99) awesome value when starting out on flatties. It might even convert you before losing too many plastic knobs or developing play at the bushings. You can then get a proper pair of flat pedals like the V12s, or another pair of V6s if you are worried about metal studs destroying the back seat of your car (or you could remove your wheels then unscrew the pedals then cram everything into the back the car and do it all over again after the ride making sure not to leave behind anything like your helmet or a through-axle.. or you could buy a bike rack.. or even better an SUV..  *sigh*). 


The clip-in pedal (confusingly called “clipless” in the old lingo when it was compared to a pedal fitted with toe-clips) arguably provides better control and power transfer for the majority of situations. After all most top level riders - from XC to DH - race in some form clip-in pedal. But when you don’t possess any bike handling skills then the flat pedal is well worth a look. Nothing beats the ability to get your foot down when things get out of hand. And if you are roadie like me and riding unclipped is about as alien as some tentacled thing sucking your face then also remember to drop your seatpost or invest in a dropper post. 

Once you commit to flat pedals then there are some good reasons for also investing in a platform-specific (cycle or skate) shoe. The Five Ten Spitfire is a good example of such a shoe. 

Here are the reasons:


The Spitfire has a sticky sole.

Five Ten’s famous “Stealth” sole.


It is narrower around the forefoot.

Removing the supportive flare of a standard running shoe means the shoe can sit further inboard on the pedal and thereby reducing the Q-angle.


But retains length in the sole.

Maintaining fore-aft freedom in pedal placement.


Just check the sizing.

Five Ten Spitfire.

Asics Gel Kayano.


It has a sturdy construction with padded support below the ankle and a reinforced toe box.

Yep.


And a flatter profile.

Duh.


It is less flexible longitudinally and torsionally.

Putting the power down.




I don’t normally get too excited about shoes but these Five Ten Spitfires are simply superb. 





Sunday, March 26, 2017

Tongariro Northern Circuit

(anti-clockwise from Whakapapa Village)



Day 1








































Waihohonu Hut











Oturere Hut




















Day 2








Mt Ngauruhoe





























Tongariro Crossing (distance to left) meets Tongariro Circuit (right)





























Mangatepopo Hut in the distance







(photos by Anthony H and Greg B)