Saturday, December 29, 2007

Covering some ground

They say that the best training for cycling is to ride your bike, so I have been.

Lake Illawarra from Henry Graham Dr

Escarpment from Marshall Mount Road

Apollogy on the road

Got a new helmet yesterday, a new MET to replace my old Bell. The Bell was a huge leap forward when I got it back in 1994 (yes that's right 1994!) and has travelled well. Times have changed though and the Bell didn't have the ventilation that the new helmets have. The Bell for example had 12 holes, the new MET has 23. Strangely the MET is 50g heavier than the old Bell - go figure. The new helmet is blue and is cool - literally.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007


Lovely day yesterday spent with the family and eating too much. I hope you had a good one too.

Santa came good on his promise of a dynohub and lighting, though he's being a bit slow with the dynohub but it should be available in a couple of weeks. The good folk at Cheeky Cycles are building the hub into a Velocity Dyad rim. I did receive my DLumotec Oval Senso Plus. however.

DLumotec Oval Senso plus

It should be a pretty cool setup when its all together, the DLumotec has a Xenon like light and pretty powerful illumination of about 16 lux. I plan to just run a battery taillight at this stage but am thinking about a proper LED taillight from Busch & Muller like the Seculite plus when I get mudguards on the Apollogy.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Xmas ride to Picton

Fronted up for the Wollongong Audax christmas ride to Picton yesterday and suffered terribly.

Recent time away from the bike had impacted on my fitness so I felt kinda weak, which is not such a good thing when your on a route that takes in 1110m of climbing. But I'm glad to say I made it, but not without some misadventure.

Firstly, I found that I was overheating a lot, particularly on the climbs even early in the ride when it wasn't all that hot. This could be a result of my now quite old helmet which is heavy and probably not as well ventilated as it could be. The second thing was hydration particularly on the return ride when I rapidly drank through my 2 bidons and was really suffering in 30 degree heat. I'm thinking that a hydration pack might be good insurance and also give me a little bit more gear room. Henry and Richard use camelbacks and keep their bidons for supplements on longer rides. I'm thinking abut the Spinal Tap from Ground Effect which seems about the right size and is way less expensive than the camelbacks. Irrespective of these issues which I can solve, the Picton Road a pretty miserable place to ride even when your going downhill. Its got the lot - poor surface, zero shoulder, fast traffic, lots of trucks and almost nothing to look at.

The other thing was getting hit by a drink can thrown at me from a moving car.

Man, it hurt and I was really lucky that it wasn't my head or I probably wouldn't be typing this now. It also gave me a burst of adrenaline that got me up the rest of the long climb. The car was a white Hyundai Excel, and the can was a "V". I couldn't get their license plate but I'm pretty sure the karmic hammer will even things out sooner or later.

It's not the first time I've had stuff thrown at me, but its certainly the first time I've been hit. I hope it's the last.

Anyway the descent down Mt Keira was great and the remainder of the ride uneventful. My next challenge will be the 200km ride to Tallong in January and I hope to get in at least 1000km between now and then.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Weekend adventures

Made good on my word and got on the bike for a 40km ride on saturday and another ride up most of Mt Keira today.

Yesterday was overcast with a strong southeast breeze, which gave me some conditioning riding back from Bulli. On the ride the Apollogy was creaking a bit on the powerstroke and I diagnosed a loose crank bolt. Tightened him up and all seems OK.

Today was sunnier, but quite humid and I set off fairly early for a ride up Mt Keira. I haven't conquered that mountain on the Apollogy as yet and I'm keen to ride with the Wollongong Audax christmas ride to Picton next saturday which takes in the climb.

Apart from the first steep bit, where I walked for a hundred metres, the rest of the climb seemed pretty good, until that is I encountered a few wasps. First thing I knew my left ring finger and armpit and side started stinging like bastards and I knew something was wrong.

I stopped and swatted and rubbed and swore. The last time I got stung by a wasp (on my ear!) the pain was excruciating and the swelling was enormous. Fearing the same reaction, I turned and fled back down the mountain.

The pain passed, very little swelling and by the time I got back home I was regretting my decision to run. Then, more agony, this time on my shoulder. Seems I still had a passenger from the mountain!.

Jersey flies off and wasp gets squashed, not before raising a ten cent sized welt on my left shoulder. I washed the bike as a victory gesture.

Anyway, end of the weekend saw a brief but necessary and useful 57 kms of riding, a nice clean bike and the added confidence that wasp stings won't kill me. Not quite what I was hoping for, but a result all the same.

In other news, I have asked santa for a new front wheel with a SON nabendynamo and a Dlumotec LED senso light for christmas. I'm reliably informed that he has ordered one through the good folk at Cheeky Transport in Newtown. Lucky me!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Fixie consciousness

Its been a wet November and coupled with a rather nasty virus I haven't had any real time on the bike since the Gong Ride. I'm losing condition rapidly but am aiming for a good couple of rides this weekend.

In other news, while off the bike I have been developing fixed gear awareness. I remember talking to a guy on a flipflop fixed on the Big Ride earlier this year and thinking it was cool and more recently on the gong ride I saw quite a few fixed bikes. Further exploration found a number of sites and blogs including a couple of ride reports from the 2007 PBP from Emily O'Brien and her partner Matt and Sheldon Brown's advice on going fixed. Inspired I had decided to look out for a suitable frame to convert.

So this morning, on my way to work, driving through a village that is having its annual council collection and spy a bike frame out of the corner of my eye. Not just any frame though, but a red Apollo. I quickly looped around the block and pulled up to check it out.

No wheels, a bit rusty looking, but about the right size. Put it in the boot of the Peugeot and continued on to work. I figured that at the worst it could be brazing practise, but I was pretty happy with my find.

A little while later and on closer examination, the frame appears to be a low end roadster style bike equipped with a single front chainring, and an old Altus derailleur, dia compe side pulls, and a rusty port rack.


Rear dropouts however, are fixie friendly - horizontalish and quite long. Looks like a perfect candidate!


Later still, I have commenced stripping the parts off and cleaning up the frame. Suprisingly, while there is a rust on the various nuts and bolts it doesn't seem to be too bad. Mostly mild powdery surface rusting that makes me think this bike hasn't seen a lot of action. The drivetrain doesn;t show and serious wear and the chain is quite flexible and free of corrosion and dirt. Everything seemed to be pretty well looked after though. The seat post and stem, while showing rust, pulled out easily and were well greased and looked in servicable condition. There's some mild damage to the off side chain stay whilc may indicate some form of misadvnture but it eyeballs true and the dropouts line up.


The serial number identifies it as a 1983 build, but quite low end - the frame is pretty coarse and seems a world apart in quality and details from the Apollogy but it will make a fun fixie project and I have named her the Apollogytoo.

The hunt is on now for suitable bits, which will include wheels, bottom bracket, cranks, pedals, stem, seatpost, handlbars, saddle. I think I'll reuse the existing brakes but look for some new levers.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Sydney to Gong Ride

The Sydney Gong ride last Sunday was a great ride and fabulous first experience for me.

Despite some early rain, me and about 11,000 others rode from Sydney Park in St Peters through the southern suburbs of Sydney, around Botany Bay through Sutherland, Roayl National Park and long the coast to Wollongong.

My day began early with some fast coffee at 4.20 am and dash to Wollongong railway station to mark the 5.20am fast train to the city. The platform was packed with lots of cyclist on all types of bike, from my 1980 era Apollogy, to Carbon monococques, mountain bikes and dragsters. A couple of young girls looking the worst for wear after a long night out seemed a bit surprised by the crowd of flashing, luminous helmeted cyclist on a normally deserted train station in the small hours of a sunday morning. It was raining steadily.

Train trip was uneventful, picking up more and more riders until eventually in the murk of a rainy dawn we alighted at St Peters and crossed the road into the park to commence the ride.

The Gong ride is very well organised and leaving the park at 7.10am was pretty easy, though the rain and crowded roads brought an edge to the event, you could hear the brakes grind on rims and caution was the rule to avoid awkard early collisions. I saw a lot of early punctures in the slow run up the Princes Hwy in the crowd by once through to the suburbs around Botany Bay the rain lifted and clouds began to break up and by 8am it was quite sunny and I stopped to remove my rain jacket.

Stopped at Loftus for a Muffin and coffee and felt pretty good, a lot of people happy with the first 30kms, and I set off for Heathcote. Riding along I caught hold of a pretty quick group and enjoyed a really fast run averaging 29 - 32 kph along the hwy to Heathcote were we had to stop to await grouping to descend into the Royal Nation Park. As we waited an ambulance drove out with a couple of riders who didn't make it down in one piece. Again caution was the word. True cause the ride attracts a really broad range of riders and experiences. Not everyone is comfortable or able to go fast, and that's fine, but it can hurt when things get out of shape.

The RNP is a highlight of the ride and I really enjoyed cycling through it. Chatted with a lot of people on the way and admired some nice bikes. A lot of old ones still being ridden and getting along nicely too.

Climbing out of the park it was geting hot with just the beginnings of a southerly beginning to blow which was becoming welcome.



From there, one last serious effort up the short sharp climb to bald hill at Stanwell Tops and the magnificent views down the escarpment to Wollongong.

A steep controlled descent behind a police motorcycle (that saw me begin to cramp) and we're off again on the last leg towards North Beach and home. Amused by the Borat Mankini team, I slugged long, occassionally drafting or being drafted behind in a kind of leap frogging affair into a steadily increasing south wester. It remained sunny though.

Arrived in Stuart Park at the finish line to find Sue and the kids waiting with camera and smiles, 3 hrs 49 minutes after leaving posting and average speed of 24.9 kph. Pretty pleased with that and enjoyed at beer or three later tat afternoon.

Thanks to the organisers and my sponsors on the ride. All up the ride raised more that $1 million which was a record.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Apollogy continues to evolve

In preparation for the Sydney - Gong ride this coming Sunday, the Apollogy got a new 39t chainring and a large Topeak aero wedge bag last weekend. The chainring is a quick compromise to drop the gearing to a useful 37 inch climbing low gear for the big hill out of the Royal National Park and other hills that may come my way. Test ride on saturday demonstrated that it was pretty useful on the steep bits while the 52t big ring still gives me plenty of flat grunt. Short term I would like to drop the 52t down to a 49t to avoid some close ratios but I haven't yet been able to source a 49t.

Ultimately I'm aiming for a triple ring with a 50, 42 and 32ish type of range for carrying a bit more load under fatigue but I'm optimistic that the 39 will cut the mustard on short rides and resolves a whole lot of flow on problems in converting to a triple.

The Topeak aero wedge is another compromise but will happily handle phone, wallet snacks and spray jacket. Tools and spare tubes are going into a bidon tool box slung under the downtube. It should be useful for rides up to 200km.

I have a larger and much older Karrimor saddle/handlebar bag which has a useful capacity but doesn't really fix properly on the saddle or handlebars. Again, long term goal is a nice handlebar bag to improve capacity for longer rides. There's a nice Vaude model that I like, but ultimately one of those rack mounted Berthould bags on trad bikes would fit more with my aesthetic.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

100km Brevet

Completed my first 100km Brevet today with the Wollongong Audax guys. Lovely day for it too. Hardly any breeze early on though getting hot after lunch time. They call the route the coast run which follows a big circuit north from Dapto to Bulli for coffee at Ruby's cafe and then south along the coast to Shellharbour, down through Jambaroo and then up over the mountain through Albion park and back to Dapto.

I felt strong and rode quite well today and ws very happy to complete the ride in 5 hours 15mins with about 4.15 in the saddle. Average speed was just over 24kph which just goes to show how much faster you ride in a group.

A few adjustments still required for the Apollogy, will look at smaller chainrings to replace the 52/42 set currently in place. I need a lower low gear for the climbs hereabouts and think I might be able to get a 39 small ring on. so look at something like a 49/39 setup.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Loop around the Lake

Storms rushed through the Illawarra last night, but this morning dawned clear and bright with a south-east breeze. Time to hit the road!

I drove south to Berkley on the Lake with the idea of following the KBUGs lake ride. Heading west I road through the back of Horsley and West Dapto, then scooted down Marshall Mount Road to Yallah and along the cycleway past Macquarie Rivulet. Serious head wind travelling south west and but I kept my head down and thought about turning to ride with it with it when I got passed Yallah.


The path here is really nice and for some reason doesn't see much traffic. From there its a mixture of cycleway and on road riding back around the lake to Windang, Warrawong and across t0 Berkley and the car.
Apart from a taxi pulling out in front of me it was a fairly uneventful ride.

46.8kms in 2hrs and 5 minutes averaging 22.8kph with a couple of quick stops for photos and directions.


Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Walk to work day

Last friday was walk to work day and a bunch of us from Wollongong decided to walk to work in Campbelltown. OK, So we didn't walk all of the way, but managed a 16km wander along the 10b fire trail through the Dharawal State Conservation Area to Wedderburn.


It was a beautiful day and one of the joys of walking at this time of the year, in this part of the world is seeing the gorgeous flowers. There's been plenty of rain over winter and the Teleopea's were fabulous.


We were raising money for the Cancer Council and managed just over $1000 which was great.

Not much cycling in the last few weeks, just a few short trips around to the shops, though I'm feeling fit for the Sydney to Gong ride in November and hope to do a 100km populaire with the Illawarra Audax group in a couple of weeks.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

100 km!

Yesterday I rode the furtherst yet in a single ride clocking up just over 100km in a round trip from home to Jambaroo roughly following the Illawarra Cycle Clubs training ride from bikely.

The 100 km took just over 5 hours inlcuding stops here and there for refreshments. I averaged 19.8 km/hr for the ride.

It almost didn't didn't happen. In the first kilometer I both broke my chain (hadn't refitted the conex link properly) and got clobbered by a Magpie at the corner of Crown street and Mt Keira road. Didn't know what had hit me.

Coasting into to Spearman cycles with blood dripping from my ear, I didn't have to explain anything. The bloody bird has been getting everyone who rides by!

The rest of the ride was less dramatic though pretty challenging at times. I took a wrong turning at Bong Bong road in West Dapto and ended up riding a few kilometers up a very steep hill before realising my mistake. Coming down the hill I topped out at 72 km/hr though which made the detour worthwhile.

Another Magpie wanted a piece of me at Marshall Mount but I managed to escape, squirting the bird with my water bottle seemed effective.

The climb up through Jambaroo was challenging. I really think I need to arrange lower gearing but that's another story. The descent was good and I stopped for coffee and cake at a Cafe in the village.

From there I rode back toward Shellharbour through scenic rural landscapes and a stong headwind before regaining the coastal cycle path that zips along the coast. Stopped again for a late lunch at Diggies on Northbeach and then home.

Recovering today I realised that I needed more regular food during the ride and should pack some snacks in future. Also, the saddle is getting better all of the time but I'm quite sore today. Gear changing was a bit fraught at times, lots of ghost shifts and rattles and while everything held together, I'm growing to think that the Apollogy may not be the right ride for the longer distances. At least not in its current form.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Harder than it looks

I lined up for my first 100km populaire "Cafe Ride" yesterday with the good folk in the Illawarra Audax group. The ride was from Dapto to Fitzroy Falls and return taking in the imposing Macquarie pass - a climb of about 800 meters in 8kms.

Short story is I didn't make it and turned around about 1 km up the pass. A 42 x 28 low gear not low enough for a heavily laden and unfit (buggered right knee) rider.

Longer version is I was hanging off the back of the small group from Dapto down the Princes Hwy and Illawarra Hwy into a headwind, slowly losing ground. The other guys were averaging about 27kph on mostly carbon bikes with light loads. I carried a pannier full of tools, clothes and food.

After turning back I had glorious ride back to Dapto and as often happens regretted turning around. The knee pain told me I had made the right decision though and need to take things easier for a while at least.

Later on Saturday Henry rang to check that I was OK and to suggest a few things - lighter load, training rides and don't give up. The next brevet is "on the flat" mostly so my road gearing might be OK. Alternatively a triple ring could be arranged (and a new transmission perhaps?)

Final outcome is, I've learned a lot from the ride and brought the mileage on the Apollogy to 200km.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Sydney to Gong Ride 2007

I have registered for the Sydney to the Gong ride on Sunday 4th November 2007. My fund raising page is if you would like to sponsor me on the 90km ride.

Should be a great ride this year!

Monday, September 3, 2007

Stanwell Park and return

Took the Apollogy for a spin up to Stanwell Park and back on Saturday 1.9.07. What with the after effects of a lousy flu and the new Brooks saddle it was a difficult ride with a fair degree of pain experienced. Its mostly uphill after leaving the cycle way at Thirroul and I ran out of puff (and gears) on the last big climb up through Coal Cliff. The road section of the ride is quite nervewracking as the shoulders are non-existent the route is pretty popular for drives on the weekends and not every car of tourists appreciates the narrow spaces.

On the ride back I succumbed to hunger and feasted on a Burger and coke at Ruby's cafe on Bulli beach. Just on 70 km for the ride in about 4 hours with stops - averaging about 23kms/hour which for me is flying - but I was feeling it afterwards.

As a bonus for Father's day I received three new bidon holders and a Cateye Velo8 bicycle computer. They are now installed and waiting for my posterior to recover enough to want to go out again and commence recording boring statistics. For the record, in the last week the Apollogy has clocked up about 160kms.

I really hope that the pain I'm going through now will pay off in coming months.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Apollogy Project ready to roll

The Brooks B17 special arrived today and is now installed on the Apollogy, so as of today I'm prepared to call the project completed (mostly). Impatient as I am, I took it for a run to Shellharbour last weekend with another (uncomfortable) saddle and despite the pain I was really happy with the way the old girl tracked and road. She seems very well balanced, predictable but responsive. As a bonus, nothing broke or fell off, so I was very happy.

It has been a long time since I've sat on a fast bike and I can see many more miles a coming in the next few months.




The Vittorio Randonneur 700c x 28 tyres roll beautifully and the new SPD pedals are a huge improvement over the old toe clips and straps. The gearing is working well though perhaps a bit too tall. I am planning a ride to Stanwell Park this saturday so will see how the saddle breakin goes.

While there is still much more to do and bits to save up for (Son generator hub for a start) its goof to have got to the point where its rideable again. I'm looking forward to having some adventures on her again.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Dharawal walk to work recce

In October a group of us from work will be walking to work on National walk to work day 5 October 2007. We will be walking from Wollongong across the Dharawal nature reserve to Wedderburn in Campbelltown a distance of about 15 kms.

IN preparation for the walk a couple of us did a reconaisance (by bike) of the route on Saturday. The Dharawal is a bete noir of mine, having bitten off more than I could chew (or drink) last summer. Middle of winter though is a different story and it was a pretty good ride on mostly well groomed management trails.

The hardest bit is the descent and climb out of the Georges River at the flying fox weir, very steep and I had the uncommon experience of slowly falling off my bike thanks to a stuck cleat. Gillian, my riding buddy for the day hadn't been on a bike for years and was a real trooper, especially on the return leg which was mostly uphill. A profile of the route is on stepwhere - the walking equivalent of bikely.

We will be raising money for the Cancer Council, so if anyone wishes to sponsor us, drop me a comment.

In other news, the Apollogy project snails along. I now have a new 700c x 28 rear wheel of medium quality, new 7 speed cluster, new SPD pedals and a new chain with one of those fancy separator links. I am still waiting for the Brooks special saddle which they tell me is coming soon, any day now in fact. The friction shifter is all rebuilt and working a treat, but I'm still having trouble finding appropriate fenders.

The other big decision is tyres. Everything seems fast and skinny these days and finding a tyre over 25mm is getting harder. I'm think at this stage that I'll go for Vittorio Randonneur as they're available locally and seem pretty good though their are some schwalbe tyres that may be just the ticket. Problem is finding them.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Ride to Shellharbour

Glorious day on saturday 14th and joined the IBUG riders for a trip down to Shellharbour using the coastal cycleway. 5 of us met at Le Vendi's at Belmore Basin and struck off south under glorious winter clear skies with a light southwesterly headwind to keep us honest.

It was a great day for cycling and we saw lots of others out on the track. It is almost possible to ride on cycleways the entire distance to Shellharbour and the Shellharbour City Council are currently considering plans for the Barrack Point link that will add another headland to the trip. Even though I have cycled south a few times in the recent past, this trip with my new friends openned up a few less travelled ways. The coastal cycleway has to be one of the great cycle rides in Australia, the contrast in environment, natural and man made are profound and there's always something to look at. Its also mostly flat so its accessible.

Stopped at Shellies cafe for refreshments in Shellharbour before heading back, a bit pushed for time but with a tailwind to help us along. By the time I arrived home I had clocked up 70km's which was a bit further than I thought we'd go, but felt great all the same.

Unfortunately I didn't take the camera so have no photographs. Next time......

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Apollogy coming together

Decided to join the IBUG easy ride to Ruby's cafe at Bulli this morning. Glad I went. Sun shining on the ride north - gloomy, antarctic conditions coming back - things change really quickly. But it was great to be out again after all of the lousy weather the last few weeks or so.

In other news, the Apollogy project continues albeit slowly. Most of the bike is back together with a variety of reused bits. Its starting to come together nicely I think. I took it out for a cautious spin around the block (only the front brake was fitted) and nothing fell off so I'm counting that as a success.




A few unforseen problems have emerged. Couple of broken spokes on the back wheel which on closer inspection I find is an older 27 inch wheel so I will probably replace it in the short term. Also the nylon friction washer in the downtube shifter has collapsed and a replacement part is no longer available.

That's it in the front left.


I'm working on fabricating one out of some nylon rod or part of a chopping board depending on what is easier to find. In the absence of a lathe I hope that I can mount it in the chuck of my power drill and turn one out. We will see....

The Brooks B17 Special (black) is due for delivery sometime in this month. Still looking for mudguards.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Budding constructeur...?

The weather has been awful the last few weeks so as an alternative to actually riding anywhere, I've been watching the paint dry, cleaning parts and putting together a shopping list for the Apollogy project.

One great find on the net, is the latest Brooks saddles catalogue for 2007. I'm after a B17 special and will be asking my local bike shop to order one in for me - not sure of the colour yet honey is just ahead but the green one is pretty special. I'm hoping that the Brooks saddle will fix my numbness issues that arise every now and then.

I've also been pricing a Schmidt 28 dynamo hub. They're pricey at about $300 (plus the rest of the wheel), but desirable and probably the best solution for long audax rides. Cheeky transport in Newtown supply the SON and build the wheels. I have wired up the frame following the respray, so it should look neat.

The only other new bit will be mudguards. Hammered Honjo's would be lovely, but am not sure if they are available in Oz. Will research further but probably end up with the SKS thermoplastic ones with stainless steel fittings.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Apollogy - painted!

Ok the colour is on and despite the not so good photograph I'm pretty happy with the results.


Must be patient now while the paint hardens before adding as much clearcoat as I can to keep it shiny. I am currently experimenting with decal designs identifying the APOLLOgy branding - so that should keep me distracted long enough to let the paint dry.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Royal National Park - Lady Carrington drive Ride

The Royal National Park in southern Sydney (or northern Wollongong) is the second oldest national park in the world and it makes for some pretty fine riding. I decided to catch the train up from Wollongong and ride into the park from Heathcote, scoot along Lady Carrington drive and follow Lawrence Hargreave drive and the coastal cycleway back to home to Wollongong. The first part of this ride was a modifcation of the trip found in Bruce Ashley's Cycling Around Sydney and it's a pretty popular place to ride.

After catching the 7.48am train to Waterfall and changing for Heathcote, I got on the bike at 9.15am and headed off down the management trails to Farnell Ave and the entrance to the park. Met up with a few other riders who helped me out with directions. The steep descent down to Audley was great if a little cold and some guys I met rider out recommended that I leave my gloves on.
Lady Carrington drive starts at Audley and is closed to cars - only bikes and walkers are allowed and you follow the Hacking River south through a range of flora - quite a few red cedars. At one point, hurtling along I startled and was startled by a Lyre Bird running across the track in front of me. To9o slow for the camera unfrotunately but it was only the second Lyre Bird I've ever seen in the wild.

I stopped for a break and some dates at the end of Lady Carrington Drive were it joins the Lady Wakehurst Drive before climbing (slowly) up out of the park. It was still fairly early and only a few motorcyclists roared by. The southern end of the park is pretty popular as a tourist drive and can be tricky in places for cycling.
Stopped for a well earned coffee and energy drink at the Otford Pantry before heading down Lawrence Hargreave Drive and the coastal cycleway from Austinmer to Wollongong. The whole route is on bikely and I recommend it

Monday, May 14, 2007


Browsing the web, as you do, and perving on bike porn, I found an example of how I'm hoping the APOLLOgy project will turn out, (well sort of) at Pereira Cycles.

This particular bike can be seen from many different angles here and is described as a French Bordeaux touring bike in the spirit of Alex Singer and Rene Herse. Love the details - particularly the integration of the lighting system. Nice. The APOLLOgy is more Chianti!

While mentioning Rene Herse, the Chainring blog has an enviable tale and pictures of a junkshop gem Rene Herse found in Australia. Lucky....

Riding around the lake

Had a chance for a ride this afternoon so decided to ride a loop around Lake Illawarra from home on the Montari. It was a good ride, uneventful except for a small problem with a dog and its owner at the boat ramp at Port Kembla. Otherwise, it was an enjoyable excursion. Some low cloud, mild temperature and no breeze to speak of.

While most of the ride is on quieter backroads or offroad cycleways, there are a few lengthy sections of high (and fast) traffic along the Southern Freeway north of Albion Park Rail and the Princes Highway. Both fast roads have a mixture of on and off road cycleways, however the quality and predictability of them is a problem. Many of the offroad cycleways are works in progress, poorly signposted and difficult to decipher from actual footpath. This confusion creates problems in that the path sometimes just end and you find yourself bunnyhopping back into the traffic lane. Don't get me wrong, the cycling infrastructure around here is great, and it's getting better all of the time, however the incomplete nature of a lot of it is frustrating and potentially dangerous. Recent research is suggesting that the most dangerous interface for cyclists is when they are joining or re-joining traffic and at intersections generally. Despite this (or perhaps because of it) the road designers continue to just dump cyclists back into the flow without any warning when their construction budget runs out. In the end I judged it safer to remain on the road and cycle predictably and defensively than to run the gammut of incomplete pathways.
Despite these observations I felt pretty good with the ride, and made sure to stop and smell the roses (or rotting seaweed). The 50k loop took a leisurely 2 and a half hours of riding time.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Where's this all headed?

So the big ride 2007 was great and on the ride I get the taste for doing bigger and better rides. On the drive home to Wollongong I start to think about my old bike up on the shed covered in dust and rust and get sentimental about it. Somewhere between Raymond Terrace and the F3 I have this really great idea to get it back into service. Make it my training bike, do some long rides.

I'm thinking at this point of just stripping it down, giving it a clean, a lube and put it back together again. A good plan and a nice project to while away some hours during the semester break from uni.

The project starts, stripping it is easy everything comes away nice and easy and the cleansing commences. While polishing rust off the chrome (with diet cola and aluminium foil) the mind is allowed to wander and my plans for the bike begin to grow. Having been looking at websites like Rivendell, Vanilla Bicycles, Pereira Cycles and other assorted bike porn like Peter White's website, I'm beginning to think about custom frames and fancy Japanese and German parts and begin to mentally improve the aesthetic of the bike with some bright lights, leather saddle and hammered fenders. I happen across some frame building resources, like Little Fish Bicycles and the frame builders forum and decide that I really should try my hand at customising the frame - just a few H2O bosses and cable guides.

Not ever having brazed before I commence a steep learning curve. There's heaps of material on the web but brazing is a tactile skill and its not easy to learn from a book, I complicated things a bit by choosing to use a Bernzomatic MAPP gas torch which was cheaper and easier to get a hold of than a full oxyacetylene rig. There has been plenty of discussion around MAPP gas for frame building on the various frame builders lists which was ultimately helpful but many builders questioned its heat generating properties. Not knowing any better, my first few attempts failed because thinking MAPP was colder I would overheat the metal and boil off the flux cooking the joints and leaving me with a black lumpy mess. I persevered and eventually I get some successful joints. The more I practise the better they get.

The next challenge was finding an accessible source of brazeons. If your in Europe or the States its pretty straightforward, but the closest I could find was in Melbourne at St Kilda Cycles. Still I was going to end up paying more for postage than for the bits themselves and I was impatient to get welding. Ironically after giving up on the web and resorting to the phone book, I found a source of brazeons at Hillbrick Racing in Minto which is literally 10 minutes from where I work, so $20 later we're cooking with MAPP gas. I probably should have spent more time learning and practising, but the end results not too bad and I now make a solid braze with good penetration and a nice shoreline.

Tonight, after a couple of weeks of filing and sanding I laid on the primer (6 coats), so that the Apollo now looks like a lemon. The basic frame now has two rack mounts on the seat stays, two cable guides on the top tube and 3 sets of water bottle bosses. The new bits are visible in the photo and look a lot better with primer on them than I though they would!

I'm planning to finish it off in a burgundy red, similar to its original colour and have renamed it the "APOLLOgy" in deference to my brazing skills and by way of atonement to the original builders of the frame.

I have started a list of stuff I want for the bike, but I must save my pennies for a while so I'll be reassembling with most of the original parts where serviceable and slowly build it up from there. The big priorities for new stuff are a Brooks B17 Special saddle and a Schmidt dynamo lighting system so I can ride comfortably in the dark.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Digression, but why cycling?

Long story, my father and grandfather used to run a newsagent's in Newcastle and maintained a fleet of bikes for the paper boys to make deliveries on. Nothing too special but hard working porteur style bikes with big front racks for carrying the loads, leather saddles, (one had a board in the frame triangle advertising tobacco). I remember being very young and wanting to ride that bike and even though the top tube was above my head I would occasionally scoot around on it when no-one was looking.

Grandad showed me how to repair punctures with vulcanising patches and would let me hold
tools and help repair them. I enjoyed getting dirty and learning to use a spanner.

I read a lot as a kid and would often visit my local library and once I had saved up and got my Speedwell, I'd ride to the library and more often than not borrow books on bicycles. These books had a big influence on me.

A couple of my favorites were "Richard's Bicycle Book" by Richard Ballentine, and Robin Adshead's "Bikepacking for beginners" which informed my purchase of the Apollo III.

Ballentine's book is a classic and I still enjoy reading through bits. It takes me back. I found/find the maintenance section very useful and he also had good advice about dogs and avoiding collisions. Most of all I was apalled at his account of the 1972 destruction of bicycles in Paris by riot police. My humble Speedwell meant alot to me and someone smashing it up was unthinkable.

Adshead's Bikepacking was something altogether different and I guess philosophically the two authors couldn't really be further apart. Ballentine was a bohemian idealist while Adshead, an ex Gurhka was more conservative and pragmatic. Nevertheless they were united in my mind as they both loved cycling, and promoted it in a way that involved your entire lifestyle.

Robin Adshead detailed construction and fettling of his beautiful custom Jack Taylor touring bike. Even though it was reproduced in black and white photographs I knew that this was the style of bike for me. Adshead, introduced me to fenders, padded handlebars and the formula for gearing calculations that would inform my preference for bikes for the next 30 or so years.

So, I'm a little bit retro, maybe even a bit indiosyncratic. I like lugs and fenders, leather saddles a-and a comfortable trail. Exploring the web and finding the likes of Rivendell Bike Works, Heron and many others, means I'm not alone.

Big Ride 2007 pt 1

I'd never been on a big ride before, so was very excited about it. Training rides around Wollongong lifted from and from the IBUGs Tour de Illawarra were great and slowly I was getting fitter, riding farther and faster.

One of the more notable training rides was up in the Dharawal Nature Conservation area, a popular spot for mountain bikers. I'd chosen a route - about 32km of well maintained track riding down along O'Hares creek and back up to the plateau. Looked promising and I planned my Saturday morning around it. Comes the morning, the forecast is for high to extreme temperatures but I ignore the weather reports reasoning that I'd only be out an hour or two, had plenty of water and I was riding along a creek.

So all was going well until I down into the gorge and past the mostly dry creek and start climbing back up to the plateau. The track became very sandy or alternatively very rocky but mostly very steep and I frequently had the resort to shouldering the bike. After a while of this and with the temperature rising dramatically as the morning wore on, I realised that one of the water bottles was missing from its carrier and the other one was very nearly empty. Big Oops!

I calculated that I was about 8km from the car (and water) but it seemed a hell of a lot further. I had no mobile coverage and no idea where the full bidon was so I had little choice but to push on in the growing heat and my rising panic. It seems a bit silly now, reflecting on it, from the comfort of my office, just how scared I was.

I eventually made it, taking it slowly stopping in the shade as much as possible, riding slowly but all the while it was getting hotter and I was seriously worried and thirsty and sunburnt and heat stressed by the time I got to the car. The temperature topped out at C 43 degrees.

The Big Ride itself was terrific despite some very hot conditions but I reckoned I had trained for it. The Avanti, even with knobblies, was great to ride and could spin up the hills without any problems. Sure it wasn't as fleet as some bikes on the ride but then neither was I. The important thing was that I was riding again and getting ideas about riding further.


Story is...I used to cycle a lot, ever since I saved up from my paper round when I was eight and finally convinced my mum that I wouldn't die under the wheels of a truck when I became the proud owner of a Speedwell Mustang Dragster with a Sturmey Archer 5 speed.

I loved it! The freedom, the speed, the sights, the hours in the garage tinkering (breaking), modifying and fixing. Many adventures followed. Next, as I'd outgrown, and let's be honest, broken the Mustang came a racing style bike in 1981, an Apollo III replete with Shimano Altus centrepull brakes and derailleurs, Sugino cotterless cranks, Dia Compe brake levers and alloy wheels with quick release. This bike carried me enormous distances for many years and was my daily commuter, touring and recreational bike. It really flew.

But then life got in the way and the riding became less frequent and as it became less frequent it got harder as I got less used to it. Familiar story no doubt.

So after a long while of at best infrequent rides, a couple of years ago we found ouselves newly arrived in Wollongong. I hung the Apollo on the garage wall and got myself a nice shiny new aluminium MTB - Avanti Montari. Nice bike. I did ride a bit more, but time, oh time - If you don't make it it isn't there.

That is until late last year when I turned 40 and getting fat and lazy began to beome a likely reality. As motivation I rejoined Bike NSW and began cycling more regularly. My partner, Sue chimed in a gave me a ticket to the NSW big ride for christmas 2006, so I have to get fit. So ride I did.

But enough 0f the back story, (I'll post my story of the big ride later on) these days I'm finding myself more and more interested in Audax (or randonneuring) and in the art of bicycle construction and framemaking. Recently and as a result of this interest, I've been renovating the Apollo for long distance riding and I hope to document that process as I write on. It could be boring, but its supposed to motivate me to ride and write, and I at least will enjoy it.

In case you're wondering, redux means to restore or bring back. The OED says "of crepitation or other physical signs indicating the return of an organ to a healthy state" which pretty much sums it up.