I cracked the ton! Backwards

For the first time in… not sure… I weigh less than 100kg.  The numbers from the Tanita body composition scale are:

  • 99.2kg
  • 24.3 % body fat (still a bit high, but trending well)
  • 3.9kg bone mass (sometimes 4.0, sometimes 3.9)
  • visceral fat 13 (normal range 1-14)
  • muscle mass 71.1kg (this seems a little low, there’s at least that much in my legs alone)

I should qualify the achievement by saying that this month has been quite stressful (my lost passport was only replaced today!) so I haven’t been eating as heartily as “normal”. But I haven’t been skipping meals or avoiding the odd glass of wine either.

Remember, my numbers from 13 months ago were 115kg and 30%. In fact, I just noticed that on 1 August 2013 I bounced up to 110.4kg and stayed above 108kg until mid-September. No wonder people are telling me I’ve lost weight recently. I’ve been looking across 13 months of slow improvements and not noticing the recent changes.

BTW, I am making no promises about my numbers after 3 weeks of earnest eating and drinking in Japan. Any bets?

Cycling – 12 months on (belated)

For many years my Cannondale mountain bike remained dormant (fallow, having a spell) while I contemplated selling it.  It was fun to ride cross country on rough grass fields, but every time I tried any type of dirt riding I felt like I was too high and too ungainly to be safe. That changed on 31 December 2012 when I ventured onto the fire trails near my house and was hooked. I was very sore, but vowed to keep it up.

On 1 January 2012 I tracked my ride with MapMyRide (since converted and uploaded to Strava) and explored more of Mulligan’s Flat.  The initial fire trail gave way to narrow tyre tracks and loose quartz on steep (to me) climbs.  Despite bursting my lungs and frying my legs I was getting into it.

Mulligans Flat – 12 months on

To celebrate New Year’s I retraced the route from 12 months before.  I probably rode at 80% effort to maintain a steady pace and not redline.  So how did I do compared to last year? About 40% faster!

  1. Kangawallafox Climb 5:52 to 3:55
  2. Mulligan Downhill 1:58 to 1:36
  3. Left Coach to Standup 6:11 to 4:06. Considering that the fast, hard clay downhill section was metalled and had rain bars cut in during September and used to be a top gear run, that’s a very good performance.
  4. Standup 1:12 to 0:38

12 months of change

It’s easy to have huge gains in the first year, especially from a low base of activity and fitness, but that’s no reason not to celebrate:

  • Weight fell from 115kg to 103kg
  • Body fat fell from 30% to 26.5%
  • Visceral fat fell from 15 (bottom of unhealthy range) to 14 (in the healthy range, just)

Fitness gains weren’t obvious until October and my weight plateaued at 105kg.  While my times were getting faster my heart rate remained high even on medium-high efforts.  Suddenly I was smashing out times equal or better than previous bests but with heart rate 10-20bpm lower.  I even rode a very steep section between Mt Ainslie and Mt Majura, hit 195bpm at the steepest section and my heart rate dropped to 170bpm as the slope moderated slightly to the peak.

12 months of learning

Things that you learn, often the hard way.  Fortunately, there’s help around if you ask and are lucky to have willing coaches.

  • Road/MTB: Correct position on the bike is vital.  The wrong position will cause pain, suffering and general hatred of cycling.  Get measured by an expert and take their advice.
  • Adjust gradually.  Don’t make too many adjustments too far too quickly.
  • Road: If you are not a supremely-fit and flexible athlete or sponsored, get an endurance bike.  You will be faster because you will be more comfortable.
  • MTB: Tyre pressure makes a big difference.  I’m still quite heavy so I leave 35-40psi in tubed tyres.
  • MTB: It is the opposite of what seems right, but put weight on the front wheel.  Grip and cornering confidence will result.  The back wheel can work out things for itself.  Often.
  • Road/MTB: Ride with others.  Whether they are faster or slower or at the same level matters not.  Riding with someone else makes the distance shrink, is safer and the coffee tastes better.  You’ll learn from others and learn more about your own riding too.  Just make sure that at least one of you is carrying a puncture repair kit and a pump.
  • Always offer help to fellow cyclists in need.
  • Don’t be afraid to extend yourself.  It’s only too far and too fast and too difficult until you do it.  My longest ride sat at 70km for months until I almost doubled it to 133km on a Saturday morning for fun.

And for 2014?

For 201, I shall be mostly riding, Audax.  Plodding along over great distances suits me more than racing.  So I’m considering several 100km events this year, culminating in a crack at Fitz’s Challenge.  I just have to learn how to climb unremitting hills.

So, what will you be doing this year?

The Shocking Truth – Fox to Rockshox blocked, oh cock!

My old Cannondale…  It is a 2000 (maybe 1999) Super V 700 SX.  I bought it new in 2001 for $3400, reduced from a staggering $4800.  After riding it a few times I became convinced that it was far too much bike for my meagre abilities.

I had it serviced in September 2012 with the view of selling it, but two things made me change my mind: 1. being told that the bike was venerable, quite rare and might even be a one-off and 2. a colleague had launched themselves into cycling to recover from a heart attack.  It wasn’t until 31 December 2012 that I actually rode the thing properly off-road, but I was hooked.  Year To Date I’ve covered a recorded 1442.1km on that bike alone and over 2600km on all bikes.

But I am attempting to retire it.  There’s no denying that modern suspension is less prone to pogo-ing when out of the saddle, brakes are vastly more powerful (especially compared to a rim brake, even if it is hydraulic) and bikes are somewhat lighter yet stiffer.  And a Lefty fork, while gorgeous is a scary prospect for repair.  I like to be able to repair things myself.  I’ve worked on my Prius and Citroën so why should a bicycle be any different?

The rear shock seems to be a weak link.  Despite maxing 250 psi into it and losing some 10kg in unsightly fat this year, the sag was about 50% (!) and I easily bottomed out the shock.  A new seal kit to fit every Fox shock from 2000-2010 for $35 and a surprisingly easy maintenance method would do the trick, right?  Well… my shock must be from 1999.

Firstly, the decal on the shock says “Fox Air Vanilla FLOAT”, but every Fox Vanilla shock has a coil spring.  What it meant to say was “Float”, as in the most basic shock.  Fox’s website listing for the Super V 700 is a Float R (for rebound control), which mine doesn’t have.

Fortunately the videos of the maintenance procedure showed that replacing seals was quite easy whatever the air shock model.  As soon as I twisted off the air can one worn seal was immediately clear.  The other seals were in good condition and the dirt seemed to be confined to the outside.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t match all the seals in the shock to seals in the pack.  A wide, blue plastic piece was not represented, though this didn’t seem to be very important.  More importantly the seal with obvious wear did not have a replacement in the pack.  There was a bigger one or I could reuse a perfectly serviceable smaller seal, but neither would fit.  I had no choice but to reassemble with the worn seal.  The new seals might be enough…

But no.  It seemed that the only solution was a new rear shock.  After a few googles I found some options, but I thought that I would try my LBS first.  Rear shocks are usually replaced by buying an entirely new bike and therefore are rarely purchased separately.  Prices start high and keep going.  I had found some bargains, but they looked too good to be fair dinkum. Eventually I was offered a Rockshox Monarch R for $240, which was nice.

10 days later (!) the shock arrives at the wrong store, so I get across town to pick it up on Friday night to fit it for a weekend of gentle rides.  The pack included a shock pump and set of seals; how very thoughtful.

While the length was right, the end pieces were somewhat wider and the washers from the old shock would not do.  I pressed out the rubber bushings from the Fox shock with 10mm and 15mm sockets and a small vice.  But try as I might, there was no getting them into the Rockshox.  Another visit to Bike Culture, sadly on a busy day when they were down one staff member.  I returned after Brent closed the shop, but now he found that while he had brought all the bushes from the other shop, he had forgotten to bring the bush press.  Attempts to jerry-rig a press were unsuccessful.  So I had to wait another day.

Returned the next day.  Took all of 5 minutes to fit with the proper tools!

First ride

I’d been off the bike for three weeks recovering from a few bugs, so the out-of-action status was not only on the bike.  First ride back was going to be a Mulligan’s Flat gate to gate easy lap.  Well… easy got thrown out the window when the newly taut rear-end and its effect on drive became clear.  Pedal effort when to pushing the bike ahead, not up and down. Climbing was so much easier, acceleration was instantaneous but not as the expense of comfort.  Poor Amandeep was hammered by the surprising turn of pace, but I couldn’t slow down.  Of 10 segments ridden I PR’d 7 and had 2 seconds and a third.

Keeping an old bike rolling

Retrofitting non-standard parts is tricky but starts to be necessary when fixing an old bike.  Fortunately on this occasion the cost/benefit was easy to prove, even if the fitting was a bit tricky.  In fact, the bike is riding better than new.  There’s only so much that a basic suspension design can do to avoid bob (it can’t) so a new design shock had more of an effect than expected.

Now, if only I can fix the front brake…

2013… how shall I put this?

I’m glad that 2013 is over. It was no annus horribilis but it wasn’t quite up to expectation.

I finished a few major projects, of which I should be very pleased.  But they were quite draining.  I also expected to travel overseas to support the product, but apparently non-experts are better.

I had expected to follow-on to a number of small, simple projects but lack of organisation by the business introduced delays, so much so that we had to let go of some contractors before we could finish.  How bloody long does it take to approve requirements?

On the positive side, the major projects brought together system teams like never before with a much better understanding of the integration points.  We were far less likely to get a defect ticket dumped on us; more likely to get a collegiate approach to troubleshooting.

The federal election was disappointing.  Firstly, the Labor that had achieved so much decided to implode.  Then it was all too easy for the massively-biased News Limited papers to dupe the feeble-minded that three-word slogans were more than enough reason to vote for the other mob.  At least some journalists tried to ask probing questions, such as of Jaymes Diaz and Confused with the Six Point Plan to Stop the Boats [three-word slogan], none of which he could remember.

And a special mention to the Australian Independent Media Network for great analysis, sorely missing from mainstream media for the most part.

I wish that I had attended more events for Canberra’s Centenary.  While many were existing, annual events riding on the coattails of 2013, it was nice to see so many things happening

On the positive side, I have a lot to show for 12 months of cycling amounting to over 3,100km since 31/12/2012.  Firstly, my old mountain bike hasn’t turned out too badly; new tyres, new saddle and new rear shock have brought it up to date a little.  I’ve ridden a lot of different terrain and built confidence that was missing.  I should have been riding much more.  I even resurrected my 25 year-old road bike and got it working better than new.  I bought a new Trek Domane road bike in July and have been smiling even since.

As for performance, I’ve dropped 12kg since 12 months ago, from 115kg to 103kg.  I plateaued a little at 105kg, but started to drop weight again in October as my fitness improved.  My times have typically improved by about 1/3, especially the climbs.  I’m riding further, faster and harder than I thought possible.  I still have a way to go to keep up, but the early starts and freezing mornings are well worth it.

Maybe I shouldn’t be so down on 2013, but I’m glad it’s over.