Friday, November 23, 2007

Back on the Road

Being picked up in 45 minutes to go cycle Lake Taupo. Am riding fixed, but have fitted a dingle cog to have a backup gear (giving 42/17 and 36/21 - oops, thought I had a 38). The route is famously hilly, although mostly the first half. Have no idea how things will turn out - how hilly is hilly? Either way, I'm down to the one bike right now (due to a bottom bracket failure on my favourite) so I'm girding myself up and determined to have fun.

Also have no crew to ride with, but surely will find some companions among the thousands enrolled. There is talk about organising a bunch of us in commuter getup, but who knows if that will pan out. Had hoped to organise a relay team from work and ride alongside them, but that sort of thing is not my forte.

Being on my own, I opted for bus and campground, but bus won't confirm space for the bike so have ended up getting separate lifts for it and me. I get there around lunch, and will miss having a bike to cruise round on all afternoon. Hopefully it arrives around seven, but I'm not optimistic. As for camping, this will be my first chance to try my new hammock(!). The campground requires me to use it hung from poles not trees, but eventually I couldn't resist and am leaving behind a 'normal' tent kindly lent to me. I am nervous whether it will offer the illusion of security in an inner-city campground, and provide sufficient space to sort my kit out before bed tonight. The ride kicks off at 7:15, so want a quick start. (Not that I had trouble being awake in time for today's pick up. Am quite excited.)

Wish me luck.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Professional Sport as Pinnacle not Entertainment

The editorial at the front of the latest Practical Pedal caused me reflect on my objections to professional sport.

Professionalism was promoted for Rugby as a due reward for the effort required to reach the top and practical support necessary to reach even higher heights. (Let's forget for now about
the important aspect of keeping players from defecting to League.) That sounds good enough, but I see the heart going out for the game as it becomes just another entertainment for TV to package ads into. Perhaps the fact that fewer kiwis seem to play these days (is this true? If so it is as much a general cultural trend as any fault of the Rugby Union) makes it harder to see those achieving-excellence arguments as so relevant, but they do seem fair in principle.

Perhaps I can accept payment to support athletes at some level, but advise caution increasing with the popularity of the sport to non-participant spectators?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Harsh Chemicals

Heather has been playing with homemade deodorant, as she is sick of throwing out little plastic bottles. The internet is full of helpful pages, but some of them drive her inner chemist to despair.

Apparently using baking soda allows you to avoid harsh chemicals, but the same writers go on to mention that using too much can cause irritation. What did they think they would get when they put sodium bicarbonate in water?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Infinity and Beyond!

Late Friday night I took the plunge and ordered a Nuvinci hub from the US. It offers the fascinating prospect of continuously variable transmission, rather than the stepped gear ratios on most bicycles. Not only does this offer experienced cyclists an optimum ratio for their pedaling power and the road steepness, but it should be much easier for new cyclists to pick up. (A couple of years ago I was out with a friend who hadn't ridden for a while, and they kept switching the wrong set of gears or in the wrong direction. Nothing like making things harder just when you need them to ease up to ruin your day.) The shifter comes with a cleverly designed indicator which is reported to be very intuitive.

At the moment you can only get these hubs on certain upmarket new bikes, or from two US distributors who don't seem to have established connections to NZ. Conveniently, QBP seems to have recently made their catalogue available for retailers to put on their websites and a couple have realised the opportunity in shipping internationally. The famous Sheldon Brown has it up on the Harris Cyclery site, but Alfred E. Bike seems to have tacked on a smaller margin (and cheaper indicative postal rates, which have yet to be confirmed for my order) and thus won my business. Once the hub arrives, I have arranged for it to be built into a wheel by Bruce at Adventure Cycles, then I can finally try it out.

Hopefully buying the hub contributes to them becoming more widely available. I'm sure that the price would drop if they were turned out in the millions. Maybe when my parents retire back to NZ (in a few years?) I'll be able to afford a couple of these on the basic old bikes I would hope to hook them up with. They ought to work well with electric motors, too, which would gladden my Mother's heart and extend my ambitions as to what I can carry on a bike.

For now we wait. The big question is: "How robust is it?" I'll be sure to post on how things turn out, but for now leave you one of the official promo videos:

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Professional 'Sport'

Minutes away from the first serious game for the All Blacks in this Rugby World Cup, I am seated in front of the television full of both tension and ambivalence. I will be watching the game, and in fact watched their first game, but each time I wonder whether I should be. Why? Because 30+ men turning up to work isn't sport, and I delude myself to think I share in their success.

Professionalism may have stopped the flow of players from union to league, but I reckon it will prove to undermine the All Blacks in the long term. They are no longer the normal men who prove to be different by the commitment and skill they demonstrate in their 'spare' time. Neither is there continuity between them and the schoolboys and team players; professionalism draws a vast distinction in terms of material rewards, life structure (fulltime training etc) and consequent quality of play. Young players may be lured by the 'big time', but will they identify with the All Blacks in the same way?

Will kiwis as a whole identify? [Not that my flatmate is showing any lack of identity as the French team have just beaten 'us'.] Do the grassroots players, particularly those past the change of going pro, identify with their playing companions who get paid for it?

I have further concerns about how hard we use the bodies of sportspeople. Similar questions have been raised elsewhere - can people be said to be exploited by actions they choose to engage in? How much do they realise the health issues they buy into? How much are they dehumanised and treated as cattle by the team management trying to maximise success? (Not to mention how much sportsmanship may be suppressed.)

So far, I haven't been able to stop watching.

For the record, it was a cracker of a game.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Daylight Savings

Two people in our house think it's hard getting up earlier due to Daylight Savings today. The other thinks it's great to be allowed to go to bed earlier!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Trip recap - day 1

A haze of flu has stoppered my roiling thoughts over the last week, so I won't post as many details on my trip as had been hoped. Here for your enjoyment, however, are notes on the one day of real solid cycling.

Firstly, here are my notes made at the end of the day itself:
  • Only 85kms, but very enjoyable.
  • Lost momentum sitting in Octagon eating late lunch. [For over an hour]
  • Final stretch a bit hard, as essentially out of water so stopped eating snacks also. From town out.
  • Got fairly tired a couple of times, but seemed to move through that.
  • Just realised forgot to buy cereal for breakfast.
  • Left some stuff in locker in town. $1/day - super value.
  • Bum a bit tender in shower, but not feeling bad.
  • One patch of numb feet. OK after shifted feet.
  • Best drink ratio is 1/2 strength raro. [Later added ~1/3t salt to 2L. 2/3t was too much.]
  • Airport to Dunedin: 36.1km in 1:57, ~18km/h even with hills. 3:10 elapsed.
Mishaps:
  • Past Octagon without noticing it [due to Gay Pride event combining with covered pedestrian paths distracting me from wider (and octagonal) open area the road passed through].
  • Apparent off-road cycle path at junction Kirkbride Rd and George Bolt Memorial Dr dumped me back onto the wrong side of a 100km/h road in the middle of a long block.
  • Left bike lock key at home with keys I actually didn't need.
  • Got stuck on Mosgiel-Dunedin route where signs ran out. A friendly local escorted me on an alternate route he was taking.

Extra notes as best I recollect:
  • I left home at 4:49am, arriving at the airport at 5:59 and finding the supermarket had only day-old bread for my breakfast. 22.17km, 18.6km/h avg. (okay, I had that written down.)
  • Packing the bike took longer than expected - even longer to return home.
  • Bike weighed 15kg, with luggage the same again. Just on my limit.
  • Most campervan people not very friendly. Keep to selves. - perhaps because was weeknight?
  • Arrived at campsite at 4:30. Very civilised, and plenty of time to figure out unfamiliar tent.
  • Dunedin really is quite hilly.
See also my Flickr set, which has comments covering scenery and other bits of cycling. My biggest hill was climbing to the spine of the peninsular on the way back to town. The first 7km of Highcliff Rd were almost all at snail's pace, and I walked one stretch of about 100m. It didn't help that there were about three false crests where I stopped to rest and take another round of scenic photos. It felt good to stretch the body, though, and after a couple of relaxing days I felt ready for a workout. Now if only I'd gone to bed early every night I was down South...

Friday, September 21, 2007

Trip stats

Well, I made it home safely and enjoyed my trip immensely. 230kms total, in about 13 hours. The only big day was the first, on which I did 85kms including two solid climbs between Mosgiel and Dunedin. After that there was too much to see and enjoy to get many miles in. Not that I managed to see much of the famous wildlife -- no penguins, no sea-lions : just a few shags.

My food and fluid worked well. Ran out of water late on the first day, after being too shy to refill at a petrol station in Dunedin, and really felt the difference. The bike held up well, although there is some obvious wear.

The back wheel has a visible flat spot. I was watching the odometer tick up to 100 while enjoying the sweet downhill leading to the Albatross Centre at the far end of the Otago Peninsular. Looking up, I realised that there was a cattle grate about 3 metres in front of me! My 45km/h of speed wasn't enough to jump clear over it, and the rear wheel hit hard on the 1" lip of the far side. Oops.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Off we go

Just about to sleep before the trip. I feel overpacked - my two panniers are quite full, with tent, bedroll and day-pack on top of the rack. I have a plastic bag from the mattress store to ship the bike in - seems to conform to the airline's instructions on their website, and I gave up on carting a box around once I'd rolled the thing up and seen how small it wasn't.

Several posts remain unwritten in my head. Had a great chat last Sunday week about what a Christian Left theology might be - my interlocutor expected liberalism, which doesn't fit several I know will be at the conference. No time to write on that now - perhaps I'll get time on my return, and I certainly expect to have more thoughts in that direction.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Joy of Cycling

Got to love this advocacy project from Germany, care of the eCAN newsletter, especially the quote from Saint-Exupéry.

From the same source, apparently the rental bikes in Paris are going well.

Spring

Heather asked me to take her for a walk at lunch, since I was home sick. Just to the end of the cul-de-sac, in the wheelchair. Even in that distance there are so many flowers, and you really notice them better at walking speed. Yellow oxalis was my favourite, even if they are an invasive nuisance. Even a bird of paradise on the driveway.

Travel preparations

With less than a week remaining until I go to Dunedin, my preparations lag somewhat. My friend who had offered me a bag to stow the bike in for flight had misunderstood that I needed to carry the thing around. He has offered me some cardboard bike boxes, and perhaps I can make the cardboard work as a bedmat then re-assemble at the airport. Other schemes are also being hatched.

Several times I've thought it would be nice to take my trailer and use it as a frame to box the bike, but a) it is probably too heavy, b) it still awaits painting, and c) there are a couple design changes that would make it easier to use that way. An interesting idea for my next trailer...

I'm having a second crack at snack making, having chopped the oats much finer this time. Hopefully this will make them closer to the 'quick oats' in the American recipes I'm using.

Marmalade Mistake

Don't add acid to marmalade to tart up the flavour at the end of the process. We now have three large jars of tasty gum which cannot be spread with a knife, and I blame the acid. There is a chance that I overdid it because the gas hob transmits far more heat and for once the jars took longer than boiling the jam.

Monday, September 3, 2007

One visitor triumphs over another

A pop quiz for your edification, with visual clues:
  1. What should turn up in the Timms trap on Saturday morning?
  2. And who should turn out to have trapped furs for pin money during school?
  3. And what did we have for tea on Sunday night?
  4. And what is nailed to the underside of the lounge floor?

And just to test out the technology, here's a clip of Claude shaking the rigor mortis out of the wee beastie.

video

Friday, August 31, 2007

Budgeting

Looks like I'll be running some discussion sessions on budgeting at church. Willem, the pastor, was recommended some materials from Willow Creek (in the US), and I'll get a chance to look at that soon. I took a few minutes to scan their website, and saw no obvious points of dispute. I'm nervous that churches often tend to either ignore money or get focused on tithing as it is important to their institutional survival.

Presumably we'll cover at some point why Heather and I only give ~20% of our donations to the local church. We have a review scheduled for December/January, when we adjust the overall budget, of what proportion of donations goes to each category. We started with a scheme, but have picked up various causes over time and feel a need to check over the big picture.

I volunteered because Heather and I have found it very liberating to have detailed accounts and budget. Heather apparently enjoys keeping the books, and I share in the rewards. My only burden is having to keep receipts, and explain the discrepancies every Tuesday. We choose to make decisions together about budget categories and unusual expenditures - this means that we have to declare our preferences and work through differences, but that's not a bad thing.

Lots more to say on this, but I have to get to bed. It's already almost an hour past pumpkin time. Watch this space.

Salut Claude!

Tonight I rode home from work with a guest who will stay for the weekend. Claude contacted us through the Warm Showers website for touring cyclists. He is our first guest through the site - last year the three people who contacted us all wanted to come during the fortnight we were away on holiday.

Claude has already cycled from his home in Montreal to Vancouver, and plans to be in NZ for three months before heading on to Australia. He hopes to work for board on organic farms (through WWOOF), which seems to be a growing trend. Presumably we'll learn more about each other when he's had a chance to sleep off his flight.

Update: Heather informs me that there should be no comma in the greeting I chose as my title. I love commas, so that was hard news to bear.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

CAA AGM

Last week I went to the AGM of Cycle Action Auckland. Most of the business was routine, but I managed to get myself signed up as a junior to a couple experienced guys trying to establish themselves as quick-contact people for local council engineers needing a cyclists's opinion.

Three presentations at the start were of interest:
  • Good Gears, who are starting a bike rental business across the main centres this Summer.
  • Bike Central, who are opening a parking/shower/locker facility near Britomart by Summer.
  • Alex, who is running for mayor. Seems better than most candidates I've run into, and certainly has some purty transport policy. Haven't looked closely enough to actually endorse anybody yet, but please don't let's have John Banks back.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Apricot Bars

On my way in to work today I trialed my first homemade muesli bar option for use in Dunedin and later for cycling round lake Taupo. The apricot bars were tasty, but more chewy than I think I want to struggle with every 20 minutes. (They have 100calories each, so 3 an hour would cover me for steady, hard riding.) The major problem was with breathing, as my sinuses were clearing in the morning air and my mouth was full. I had to pouch the food in my cheek while I breathed, then chew between breaths.

The recipe called for quick oats, which are probably finely ground and less chewy than the porridge oats I used. Less cheap too, at our store, so we'll try some other options.

Two more things I noticed. I've broken two spokes since I swapped bikes, and although I'm in lower gears a lot I can get up the steep slopes quite easily once I let the cadence drop. That tells me that my strength (and possibly endurance for long, slower riding) improved on the fixie.

Bright new Cateye EL-220

Put my new bike light on last night, before popping over to pick up a possum trap from a guy at church. Much brighter than I'd expected, and a good wide-angle beam that increases the chance of being seen by cars turning into the road. Not bad for a freebie - I bought this with a gift voucher earned in a focus group mapping out cycle routes for the regional transport people.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Death to Possums

A combination of stiff neck and loud neighbours woke me at 3am. Looking out the bathroom window in search of the party, I saw a possum brazenly picking over our garden. Yesterday morning I noticed that our newly planted blackberry had had its buds picked out, and I think we have a clear culprit to hand. Looks like we'll be borrowing a trap.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Som Tam

Last week at the local Sunday market I noticed a Fijian stall selling green papaya, so tonight we had Som Tam. I don't think I'll bother going back to substituting with carrots. Three cheers living among a sizeable Pasifika population.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Spun Out

Apparently, riding a fixie hasn't done much for my pedalling cadence.

I've gone back to my geared bike this week, as I plan to take it to Dunedin for a couple days holiday before a conference and want to check its condition. At the start of the week I taped onto my bike computer the speed I would achieve in each gear if pedalling at 90rpm, and have tried to gear down whenever my speed dropped below that level. It turns out that I have little power at that cadence, and on the long-but-not-that-hard climbs I am used to grinding up on the fixie I slowly sink to lower and lower gears. By the time I'm crawling up in the lowest gear, my legs are all spun out.

Part of my problem seems to be that my legs don't quite keep up with the pedals. I thought that I was doing 90rpm before I got the fixie set up (having only had the computer for a couple months before that), but perhaps was changing up at 90 rather than down at 90. That difference, combined with a drop towards 75rpm on the fixie (for the small bits of 'flat' on my route), adds up to a challenge. Hopefully the body will get on top of it soon, and at least I am getting a very good aerobic workout according to my heart rate monitor.

Interestingly, I had been thinking that the fixie kept me working hard on the commute. I tend to slack over time, but this is supposed to be exercise as well as convenient transport. The fixie offers more of a hard-grinding workout, with an effort required to keep the cadence above 60 on the many and varied hills. The up and down variations come so regularly that I never get to develop a steady cadence, and while some people may report approaching 200 rpm I find myself losing control whenever I go past 130. Consequently, in conjunction with the terrain of my commute, I am almost always trying to slow down not speed up once the cadence rises. Perhaps I should keep swapping bikes to keep interest and fitness up?

--------------

Another new game has been carrying soft white bread in my shoulder bag on the way home. If I bend over to get more power then the bread gets squashed, but it remains safe if I hold my posture correctly. I eat lots of strangely shaped bread.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

hesitantly he enters the fray

Tradition dictates that I post an excited opening offering, whereupon the muse apparently dries up.

Having resisted for some time the expectations incumbent upon a blogger, my urge to fling periodic comments into the public forum has overcome me. We shall see where this leads.

No introductions for now. You should gradually get to know me, all things being well.

M.