Want to go for a spin?

Hey you!

I’m planning a bike-packing trip to the Munda Biddi trail in WA, and I want to make sure that I invite along anyone who thinks they might possibly attempt this sort of trip one day. Because maybe today is that day.

The Bidjar Ngoulin shelter on the Munda Biddi trail. There are 12 of these shelters on the trail, I'm planning on using five of them.

The Bidjar Ngoulin shelter on the Munda Biddi trail. There are 12 of these shelters on the trail, I’m planning on using five of them.

Where: the first half of the Munda Biddi Trail, starting near Perth, Western Australia.
When: 20-27 September 2014 (first week of the Qld school holidays)
Distance: 432 km is what Plan A looks like, an average of 62km per day. Longest day planned is 72.8km.

What’s the terrain like? Most days have around 800 metres of vertical ascent across 60-70 km of riding. So it’s not flat, but it’s also not in the least ‘alpine’. Plenty of pea gravel, so I’ve heard.

Are there towns on the way? Yes. Chance to re-supply food almost every day.
Are there cool shelters to camp in on the trail? Yes, the Munda Biddi trail has purpose-built shelters for bike-packing mtb riders, with bike parking, water tanks and toilets.

Have you mapped out the route, day by day? You know it.

Day 1 http://ridewithgps.com/routes/4317343
Day 2 http://ridewithgps.com/routes/4317397
Day 3 (part 1) http://ridewithgps.com/routes/4317446
Day 3 (part 2) http://ridewithgps.com/routes/4317557
Day 4 http://ridewithgps.com/routes/4317701
Day 5 http://ridewithgps.com/routes/4317748
Day 6 http://ridewithgps.com/routes/4318375
Day 7 http://ridewithgps.com/routes/4318546

Where are you finishing? I’m planning to finish at Jarrahwood after seven days riding, and next morning (Day 8) take a bus to Busselton (about 30 mins by bus) to meet up with my very patient wife for the second week of school holidays, down at Margaret River.

Busselton is a large town (about 25,00 people), with frequent bus services back to Perth. And a regional airport too.

I have the complete set of MB trail maps (on loan from the touring guru Sholto), but my route only covers the first 4 (out of 8).

Interested? Let me know. I would love to have your company!

In praise of scabs

Unionists deride
but scabs are armour,
dressing and hospital ward
for my knee or thigh.

A reminder of a moment
of stupidity
or bravery
(or a bit of both)
that bridges the mind’s gap
from short to long term memory
by that physical presence
that lifting,
so slowly revealing
the pinkness of new-formed skin.

Fun on the run, not much sun

Take two good friends, some bike paths & some fire-trails, a sensational hill-top view, add threatening skies on a Monday evening and people testing out their new lightweight camping solutions and what do you have?

Well you have last night’s micro-adventure to the Eastern Escarpment Conservation Area. Hit me with your hashtag.

Myself and Brad (a.k.a. Mr Cyclocross) and Emma arranged to leave from my place, and pick up some dinner from a certain sandwich shop before cruising through Toohey Forest and heading south on the V1. From there it was Logan Road and then Underwood Road, which took us into Daisy Hill forest and eventually by a series of linked fire-trails and little section of bitumen road to the base of the climb up to the top of the Eastern Escarpment Conservation Area.

This is a hill well known to mountain bicycle riders, especially those of us who are regulars on the MTB Dirt forum. For several years there was a regular Friday morning ride from Daisy Hill to the EE and back.

I decided we would follow that same loop, and just see how it all played out.

Things I was testing out for this particular micro-adventure:

  • Camping with just a hiker’s fly as my shelter
  • Setting up said shelter (sometimes called a hutchie) using only guy ropes, no tent pole.

Things that Emma was testing out:

I don’t think Brad was testing out his equipment, although he did have the largest possible sleeping mat. It was like a giant self-inflating Thermarest (or similar).

The ride to the EE went without much incident. Night-riding through the forest is good fun … but we were staying on fire-trails rather than singletrack, because our bikes were all loaded up with stuff. There were occasional moments when I wasn’t exactly sure if we were on the right trail, which of course made it all even more fun. Being the self-appointed navigator at least gives the rest of the group plenty of licence to heckle you when you look uncertain.

We rode and trudged and rode and trudged to the top of the EE. It’s a pretty big hill, and we were at the top around 8pm.

Then it was on with the fun and frivolity of setting up camp. Most of the novelty was in setting up Emma’s new hammock. I managed to get my hutchie pretty much right first go, except for bending one of my new aluminium tent pegs, using a found rock hammer.



Brad looks for Martians inside his tent.

But the hammock was a more complicated beast, involving webbing and knots and carabiners and trees and a fence and it was at the second attempt that Emma crawled into her nylon cocoon and declared it habitable for the night’s rest.

So with camp all set up, we ate chocolate and talked about things bike: cyclocross gravel grinders Munda Biddi etc and so forth until suddenly it was 10pm and past our bedtimes. So with a nervous check of the rain radar we all said good night.

We had a couple of light showers throughout the night, but everyone remained safe and dry, each in their particular shelter until we were greeted by a foggy morning. Also greeting me was a worried text message from Annette: “Oh dear, heavy rain here!” The message was sent at 1.10 am, and I must have been sleeping.



The old ‘take a photo while still lying in bed’ trick.

It took us a while to pack up, and head off towards some breakfast at the Underwood Road shops. But on the way back through Daisy Hill, my McGuyvered Carradice Bagman rack began to exhibit some problems, leading to the transverse bag dragging momentarily on the back wheel. Bolts were tightened and off we went again, only for the problem to reoccur almost immediately. So as I messed around tightening things up, Brad quipped: “Tighten it until it goes loose and then back off a half turn.”

Next thing I did indeed shear off one of the bolts holding the rack strut to the frame. Fortunately there was still some of the bolt jamming the strut to the frame, so with a few cable ties holding it place we continued.

I was starting to be concerned about making a meeting in Ipswich on time, and so the ride back through the suburbanity was perhaps not as relaxed as would have been ideal, but the next thing you know we were back in Salisbury, thanking each other and heading on our way to the rest of our lives.

We all (I think) had a great time, and as a bonus we managed to find (and fix) a fault in my bikepacking set-up. Much better that it manifested itself in Daisy Hill than on the Munda Biddi trail. As we rode along Schoeck Road, Emma turned to me and said: “We should have a micro-adventure EVERY WEEK!”

You betcha.

Five ways to work

waystowork

There are small variations from time to time, but here are the main five routes I use to ride to and from work. (I’m easily bored).

I don’t really know when I roll down the driveway at home whether I’m going to turn left or right. It’s often a surprise to me to see what happens.

But this pic is on part of my favourite way to go home … the only way if I’ve decided to ride the Black Hornet.

S24O: Camp Mountain via Bunyaville

Great ideas come from somewhere. There are three ‘movements’ in the having-fun-on-a-bike space that I think are pretty cool, and of course I’m all about adapting these ideas to suit me.

Here are the big ideas:

  • S24O (sub 24-hour overnight) is what Grant Petersen (of Rivendell Bicycles) and his friends do, from their base at Walnut Creek, California. From the pix it seems that all their rides go up into the hills, and they camp somewhere with a view, and come down the next night.
  • Micro-adventures. Has been covered already on this blog.
  • Bike-packing. This seems a bit more hard-core to me. The zenith of this concept are the massive long-distance off-road events, such as the Tour Divide. But the basics are: a hardtail mtb, set-up for riding offroad with a minimum of gear, carrying only just enough food to get you from place to place.

It’s my plan this year to try to get to Western Australia and ride along the Munda Biddi Trail. A few things will have to fall into place for that to happen, but I’m still hopeful.

And that’s where the Black Hornet comes in. I don’t think I’ve actually posted on here about the Black Hornet, but over Christmas and January I built up (with the help of Bike Bestie and RLC Sport/Cyclinic/Aiden Lefmann) a very nice aluminium-framed 29er hardtail. It’s got a Cannondale Lefty, the frame is a Specialized Carve, the bits are mostly Shimano SLX (2×10).

So if I really am going to ride for a week along a trail in September, I better get started with a few overnighters. A few of them S24Os.

But my life is pretty full, he said in a whiney kind of voice. So February came and went, and even though I had enough gear to get started, I didn’t go anywhere. And a couple of times Emma and I tried to align our schedules for a weekend trip, but so far we’ve put that off till later.

Eventually I found a night, and off I went. I rode out from work soon after 5pm, heading towards Bunyaville, where there would be a meeting at which Queensland Parks and Wildlife staff would explain the current state of mtbing in QPWS-administered areas. I was going to go to that meeting, and then head into D’Aguilar National Park afterwards.

But as I struggled/cruised out through the northern suburbs, along bike path and back street, it became increasingly obvious that I would be late for the meeting, and that I couldn’t really afford both the meeting and the overnighter. My legs and the weather (showery!) were the two deciding factors. One would have to give, and it was always going to be the meeting.

So from Bunya Rd it was along Linkwood Rd and into Ironbark Gully, across to Lanita Road rail trail leaving Ferny Grove towards Samford, and then up the steep bitumen climb of McLean Road, to the entrance to the forest closest to Camp Mountain and Bellbird Grove.

I’ve been on this trail quite a few times before. When I train for the Flight Centre Epic, this is part of a big loop I like to do a couple of weeks out from the event to find out if I am ready.

With the touring gear on board, and light rain on a summery evening, McLean Road seemed even steeper than before. And longer. Eventually I was into the forest, along Link Road firetrail. Past the three dippers, and I got to a decision point. There was no way I had the legs to go with Plan A, which was through Bellbird Grove, and up to Centre Road, and South Boundary Rd up to the Scrub Road shelter.

But the Plan B I had told Annette that morning wasn’t a great idea: Bellbird Grove. I looked at my phone, and realised that there was no way I would have good reception down in the Bellbird Grove hollow.

So Camp Mountain became Plan C. I have climbed Camp Mountain (long) once before, with Emma about four years ago. Maybe five years ago. And that was on a pleasant winter’s afternoon, and I had ridden my old Gary Fisher all the way to the top. And Emma had ridden all the way up that day as well. I remember us being at the picnic area at the top, debating which way we would go back down.

But with the touring load on the Black Hornet and the constant showers, and my current relative lack of fitness, I managed only about the first third of the Camp Mountain climb this time.

So it was one foot after the other, trudging to the top, dodging cane toads.

The picnic area was a welcome sight. And a nice site too. Set myself up in the concrete shelter, phoned and texted my whereabouts to folks who wanted to know, and settled in for the night.

About 2 am I woke up shivering. The combination of the Reactor sleeping bag liner and the Escape Bivvy were not quite enough for the cool breeze blowing through the shelter. But I had a softshell rain jacket, and putting that on was enough to get comfortable again.

The only other incident was around 4 am, when bright lights disturbed my (light) sleep, as another mountain biker rode through the picnic area. He didn’t stop, so I can only assume he was just out for a very early ride.

I was up and gone from Camp Mountain by about 6.15, and had a lovely coffee at The Lodge in The Gap shopping centre on the way to work.

I have no idea why I am fighting sleep at 9.10pm. Oh yes I do. But it was worth it.

Let’s do it again soon!

It’s not cheating if it replaces a car?

The eZee Sprint, with Briztreadley-branded accessory, parked outside my bike shed.

The eZee Sprint, with Briztreadley-branded accessory, parked outside my bike shed.

The very first question that almost every bike rider asks when they first encounter the electric bike is: “Why?”

There are so many great things that we love about riding a bicycle that seem like they would be diminished or would disappear completely in the case of electric bikes.

A bicycle is very simple. You get on your bike, you ride, your legs power you, up hill and down dale, and you arrive at your destination through your own effort, your own sweat.

An e-bike, or a pedalec, or a power-assisted bike just seems like it’s probably a form of cheating. The simplicity thing gets a bit lost too, when you have to remember to re-charge your bicycle in between uses.

Well, after sharing a pedal-assisted bike for a month with the other members of the BQ staff, I’ve come to the conclusion that e-bikes are excellent, and I would love to own one. I’m not quite ready to plonk down my own $2500, but given the slightest encouragement by other members of my family, I certainly would.

The first time you sit on the saddle of an e-bike and take it for a spin, it is kind of disconcerting. It’s like an invisible hand is pushing you in the back. Your pedalling isn’t what is causing you to accelerate easily up to 30km. But there’s barely any sound of a motor either. And because you control the power assistance by the act of pedalling, it’s nothing like riding a motor scooter or motorbike.

The eZee Sprint that I used had five power-assist settings. I most commonly used it on ’4′, the second-most powerful. Sometimes I would drop back to ’3′, if it looked like the battery was being used up too fast. With the power-assist on level 4, my 11km commute from Salisbury to West End was nearly effortless, and almost as fast as driving my car.

The disconcerting thing about an e-bike is that when you get to a hill, you actually pedal softer, rather than harder. That way you let the electric motor do all the hard work. You keep soft-pedalling, and the bike charges up the hill. It’s weird, but also exhilarating.

The travel times for my commute are (going the fastest way, I often commute by bicycle using many alternate slower routes, for various reasons):

Mode Time
Driving (no congestion, say at 5am) 15 minutes
Driving (peak hour) 20-30 minutes
Riding a bicycle 30-35 minutes
Riding the eZee power-assisted bicycle 25 minutes

The commute example starts to give an inkling of what I liked about the pedal-assist bike. For existing bike riders, I don’t think that e-bikes are competing with your bicycle. You already understand the physical benefits of riding a bike and there’s no way you would give that up.

But if you don’t already ride? Well you probably aren’t reading this.

But if you have a partner or a friend who doesn’t ride because of hills, or because of lack of energy or fitness, or because they don’t want to end up all sweaty … the e-bike addresses all those concerns. Arrive at your destination faster than by bicycle, only slightly slower than a car for trips around 10 km.

For the existing bike rider, an e-bike extends the number of trips you can take without resorting to the car. So you rode to work and home again, but now you have to go out to pick up some groceries or visit friends or go to a community meeting in the evening? The e-bike is perfect to replace the car for those short utility trips. Most e-bikes on the Australian market have plenty of load-carrying capacity. The eZee Sprint I tried had a capacious front basket, and a rear rack which would also take panniers. The average office worker, even one who took a laptop to and from work every day, would have no problem carrying everything they need. Likewise, a shopping trip for a couple of days groceries would be easy to manage with the eZee.

My household has three drivers and three cars. It would only take the occasional co-ordination between the three of us to cut down the number of cars by one and replace it with an e-bike.

The process for charging the e-bike is simple, as long as you remember to do it. The charger plugs into the battery, nothing needs to be taken off the bike for charging. For a round trip commute of 20km, you could easily get away with charging every second night. But maybe charging every night would establish a routine which ensures the bike is always ready to go.

The eZee Sprint was loaned to Bicycle Queensland by Electric Bikes Brisbane.

http://www.electricbikesbrisbane.com/collections/electric-bikes/products/ezee-sprint

Feel the hum / the wheels never rest

Some poetry for you today. I didn’t write it.

But I hear it in my head, as I ride along …

The peloton’s set
The start awaits
The eyes of the world
are on our state

Anticipation, as the time draw near
in the south of the nation
The event of the year!

Feel the hum!
The wheels never rest
Machines of steeeeel
Faaace the ultimate test!

Hour by hour
Shakin’ like thunder
Cycling power
It’s the Tour Down Under!

Feel the rush
As colours blur
Feel the rush
And hear the purr of wheels in motion
Wheels in motion!

Feel the rush
as pedals whir
Feel the rush
As colours blur in wheels in motion

Wheels in motion

Nerves as tense as spokes on the wheels
Every sense says this is the real deeeeeeeeeeeeal

Legs are screaming
Lungs are bursting
Energy’s waning
Body’s hurting
Crowds are cheering
cycles by
under a clear South Aussie sky

Feel the rush
As colours blur
Feel the rush
And hear the purr of wheels in motion
Wheels in motion!

Feel the rush
as pedals whir
Feel the rush
As colours blur in wheels in motion
Wheels in motion

At the Tour DOWN UUUUUUNDDER yeah!

Music is a funny thing. This song, an advertising agency’s version of a pub rock anthem, with the cheesy lyrics about bike racing and South Australia, is so firmly stuck in my head at the moment that it would need a crowbar and a jackhammer to remove it.

Here’s hoping I can get it stuck in yours too.

Update: Big ups, as the JJJ kids say, to Andrew Castleden who deciphered a couple of lines in this song that had me baffled.

 

Australia, Australia, Australia we love you. Amen! Crack a tube.

So, an Australian, holder of the Australian national champions jersey, racing for an Australian team, won Australia’s only ProTour event, which finished on Australia Day.

This particular Australian.

Nice work, Simon Gerrans. (And nice photo, Nick)

This other one, didn’t win. But raced his heart out.

(Another from Nick’s Instagram … check out the funny look from Kate Bates of Foxsports, far right. What is that about?) 

Second by a second. Sorry Cadel. But Adelaide, and Australia, and bike riders everywhere, still love you. This is literally true … Cadel was mobbed after the last stage presentation, and was followed across the Adelaide parklands by the fans as he left. And when I got back to the Hilton Hotel, where the TDU media centre is, there was a scrum on the steps of the hotel, which was caused by Cadel’s arrival at the hotel. #yellforcadel #theysuredid

So here is what Nicholas O’Donnell and I thought about it all. This is Episode 7 of the Squeaky Wheel podcast for the Tour Down Under, and once again we have added in a few bonus minutes of rambly goodness, for your special enjoyment. Don’t thank me, it’s entirely my pleasure!

 

Any Porte in a storm (TDU Squeaky Wheel ep 6)

richiewinsstage5

But only one Richie Porte up Old Willunga Hill today.

Richie blew the Tour Down Under away, a great ride. And behind him, in the chaos of the hill, Simon Gerrans gapped Cadel Evans in the last km and took enough bonus seconds to regain the Ochre jersey.

Cadel, brave Ulissi and Gerro fought out the Battle of Willunga today. Ulissi took second behind Porte, but Simon Gerrans won the war.

Cadel, brave Ulissi and Gerro fought out the Battle of Willunga today. Ulissi took second behind Porte, but Simon Gerrans won the war.

This 2014 Tour Down Under officially wins my prize as the most combative Tour ever.

Here is the 6th episode of the Squeaky Wheel’s special Tour Down Under podcasts … we’re getting longer as the Tour goes on, sorry about that! There was a lot to talk about today!!

Jensie ... 10 years ago I would have done it easy with one leg behind my back.

Jensie … 10 years ago I would have done it easy with one leg behind my back.

Friend of the Squeaky Wheel Jack Haig is looking very solid in the White Jersey for best young rider.

Friend of the Squeaky Wheel Jack Haig is looking very solid in the White Jersey for best young rider.