Hang on… I’m doing a 50km off road run in May!

It’s all dawning on me now. Last September my wife entered both of us into the Ultra-Trail Australia 50km (UTA50) in the Blue Mountains.


My wife wanted to do a 50km event in her 50th year. Fair enough, however she was convinced that an on road ultra marathon would be boring. So let’s try one of the hardest 50km events in the world!


For weeks before entries opened we discussed it, watched YouTube videos made by successful runners and finally committed to it. Within two days of opening the entries for the 100 and 50 were full. I worried that I had taken a place from a real ultra runner, but my mate Steve said that not everyone is in the elite class and that runners were still arriving at the cut-off time when he did the UTA100.


This is a tough event.On Easter Saturday I ran/walked the Centennial Trail from Hall to Gungahlin for 23km and 472m of ascent. There’s about 2400m of ascent and descent in the UTA50. 472m is probably the ascent in the last 6km alone!


Saturday 19 May 2018. It only seems close because it is.


Yeah. I’ll even reveal my training and equipment secrets in future posts.

The eggy, scramble happy ending

There have been so many stories of cyclists abused, injured and killed recently that it may appear to the casual observer that cyclists and drivers are at war. Australia is far from the friendliest place in the world to cycle; however there is a lot of love out there. Maybe Canberra is a bit special with so many recreational, commuting and racing cyclists that the attitude of drivers is more friendly.

In fact, my most recent encounters have been overwhelmingly courteous, such as the Linfox driver who gave me extra space or the Cappello contractors who patiently waited behind me on East Tallegandra Lane before overtaking safely.

I have just bought Cycliq Fly12 and Fly6[v] cameras to replace my old Fly6. Hopefully, I’ll continue to see examples of coexistence; now from two angles.

So anyway… last year I was hit by an egg while riding. This was so bizarre. Who throws an egg? Who carries eggs in a car and then throws them at a cyclist? Continue reading “The eggy, scramble happy ending”

I drove over 1000 miles in a single day in my electric vehicle

Guinness doesn’t have a record for “Farthest distance driven in an electric vehicle in 24 hours”, but it should. Achievement unlocked!

The Tipping Point

tesla_CDF2You hear it all the time – can’t go anywhere in an EV, they’ll never work in Australia, takes too long to charge. However, last week I drove 1635km in a single day in my Tesla. Yes that’s right naysayers: 1015 miles.

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Swap from rear wheel to KICKR without adjustment

Has this ever happened to you? You have a KICKR, LeMond Revolution or other smart trainers with integrated cassette and every time you change your bike from trainer to wheel you need to adjust the limit screws on the rear derailleur?

You could just put a 30-year-old steel-framed bike and fit spare parts and stuff you were lucky enough to get for free and somehow got working together. But it might be easier to match the alignment of wheel and trainer.

Cassette locknut to axle locknut is the key

The rear dropout presses against an axle locknut AND Shimano 10-speed cassettes have the same spacing; MTB and road.

So the position of the cassette relative to the edge of the axle locknut must be the same on your rear wheel as on the KICKR… or close enough. That means that the cogs will be in the same position above the derailleur in each gear too.

From https://www.sheldonbrown.com/cribsheet-spacing.html

Brand and model Center-to-center
Sprocket Thickness Spacer Thickness Total Width
3.95 mm 1.6 mm 2.35 mm 37.2 mm


A vernier caliper makes this easy, but any good metal rule with fine markings will work.

IMG_3783 (2)
Vernier flush against the axle locknut, probe against the cassette locknut – 2.8mm

Measure the rear wheel and then the KICKR and calculate the difference. I used the edge of the cassette locknut, being careful to avoid the taper. You could use the flat of the smallest cog; just be consistent.

Start with the rear wheel

(The rear wheel must be true and centred on its axle.)

Adjust the derailleur for the rear wheel first. Sweet shifting on the road is the most important benchmark. Check that the cage doesn’t interfere with spokes in the lowest gear or the chain stays in the highest.

Space the KICKR’s cassette to match

Add or remove spacers from the KICKR to match the rear wheel closely. Shimano 10-speed cassette spacers are available in 1mm and 1.85mm sizes, though I’m sure I have a 0.5mm one somewhere.

Fit the KICKR and check the shifting

Shifting should be the same on road and on the KICKR. Some fine-tuning at the barrel adjuster  may be necessary

The cassettes can be different; I had a 28T-11 on my KICKR and a 32T-11 on my wheel without a problem. As long as your derailleur can take up the chain on both, it will work.

Marginal gains – little things to try

If the shifting is close but not quite the same, you should look for other differences. For example, I found two other factors on my bike that had a minor effect, including a problem where my long cage derailleur touched the KICKR case in my lowest gear.

Protruding dropout screws

The screws holding the dropout were protruding and pressing against the axle locknut on the KICKR, but not so much on the rear wheel. That millimetre or so was enough to affect the angle of the derailleur cage on the KICKR. I filed the screws down to sit flush. The other benefit is that the locknut now sits squarely against the dropout and not just on a few stress points.

IMG_3779 (2)
Tiny QR skewer nut and the very tiny dropout screws (Trek Domane)
IMG_3781 (2)
Dropout screws filed flush. Note: the axle locknut had been touching the screws

Big, old quick release skewer is more powerful?

I suspect that it takes more effort to close a lightweight QR skewer compared to a big, old QR. So it is easier to put more clamping force on the KICKR than on your rear wheel. I can’t directly measure the difference; I just noticed that the derailleur cage moved inwards more after clamping on the KICKR. A slight reduction in force made a difference without compromising the connection to the trainer.

Or use an old bike

Enough with the advice. Time to play TrainerRoad on my 30-year-old steel-framed ‘ute’ with 10-speed spare parts and free bits.

IMG_3785 (2)
Barely any space between the smallest cog and the dropout adapter!

Amy’s by the numbers

A bit of an update to put some stats around the ride.

Watts/kg at 1 Hour – 1.98

I’m really happy with this. It’s a Strava estimate, but my long-term average has been around 1.5W/kg.

My last FTP test on a KICKR was 238W for an hour, so an estimate of 214W is plausible for the start of a 5 hour effort.

Garmin Recovery Time – 67 hours!

And I thought that the 58 hour recovery time calculated after l’etape was bad.

I can’t agree with this metric as I felt quite good at the end of the ride. I could have ridden home if Chris and Christopher didn’t have to get back to Sydney so quickly. 

Vmax 86.4km/h

At this point I’d been coasting from the small climb after the loop. Smooth, straight, steep road and a tight tuck. 

2017 Amy’s Big Canberra Ride

Pedal Power answered our demands

Amy’s Big Canberra Ride has the right destination in Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve. But some of the particulars left something to be desired until now.

  • The 120km started at 0700 instead of 0800 (was going to be 0630, but that would require lights.) We had finished the Tidbinbilla loop by about 1100.
  • The 120km started without the encumbrance of the 68km riders.
  • Aid stops were nicely placed:
    • At the corner of Uriarra Road and Brindabella Road (as normal)
    • Tidbinbilla visitor’s centre, with a free coffee (located at the bottom of the hill, not after a 12% climb like two years ago)
    • Cotter Rd opposite the Cotter Campground entrance (not buried in Casuarina Sands Reserve like last year)
  • Tidbinbilla loop was clockwise like it was two years ago. That means a tougher series of long climbs to start, but no dangerous cross-over at the loop intersection.

They didn’t have the 60 km/h speed limit throughout the roads like during Fitz’s 2016; however, there seemed to be little traffic this year anyway.

Well-timed, well-placed rain

Saturday’s rain was rather heavy down South. However, on Sunday the roads were dry and the shoulders didn’t hold any surprises. However, there was gravel washed over the road in sections; not least around the fast descent near the Gravel Pit. They were probably caused on Saturday because there hadn’t been many cars to sweep clean runs.

Some out-of-town riders noticed the stench of roadkill for the first time. (Have you smelt the Harbour Bridge walkway on a Sunday morning?)

But our noses were more than compensated by the explosion of aromas in the Tidbinbilla Reserve; no doubt awakened by the rain. Bloody glorious! Christopher didn’t see an Antechinus this time, but the aromatherapy made up for it.


A south-easterly wind picked up on the way out. I was down to my 28T for most of the minor climbs from before the Deep Space Network until the Tidbinbilla turn-off.

It made for good times on the ride back, though. I lead a small group for most the way back until the series of climbs around Pierces Creek..

28c is how I roll

Fat tyres rule. But one must take care. Last weekend I burst the sidewall of a Continental Grand Prix 4000 S II 25c that had 6000 km on it, so I took the opportunity to put on 28c tyres. Everyone knows that 28c roll better, especially on coarse roads.

Despite fairly wide rims, the rear tyre bulged to 30.5 mm and rubbed against the rear brake bridge. It wasn’t just a bit of rubber, it was touching at every bump.

After changing the 30.5 mm Conti Grand Prix 4000 S II for a 28.5mm Schwalbe One on the rear I could roll without rubbing. They roll so well over everything. I set some PR and got close to others doing even less pedalling than before. I absent-mindedly rode over a pothole without spilling my drink. I did have a hairy moment on the loop when a corner tightened unexpectedly. I grabbed a bit too much brake and the rear kicked out a bit.

And I took another second off my Pierces Creek Descent time for a 47s time though I coasted longer. (Video on YouTube shortly.) I now have a straight flush of times from 47s to 51s.

If you are doing any riding out the back of Canberra, get fat tyres and keep the pressure low. I used 95psi (6.5 bar) because I am very heavy.

Garmin Edge 520 v11.0 – Now with faster grade calculation

I use the grade display on my Garmin 520; however, it used to take a long time to recalculate on change of grade. The new firmware is much faster.

So now I know why the road after the Uriarra Climb is so hard; the apparently flat road is 4%!

But every Garmin upgrade seems to reset the screens the take so long to configure and switches on live segments. I do not need reminding how far I am behind a racer mate of my on the first big climb of the day.

New records

I took it steady on the way out just to make sure my legs were OK. My legs felt very strong, which made a difference on the long climbs, despite dropping the 32T to a 28T cassette. Or perhaps because of.

And my descending was unencumbered by nervous descenders or slow traffic.

  • Tidbinbilla Ring Rd Climb (clockwise) 8:48 > 6:51
  • Tidbinbilla Road Climb (from after loop intersection) Cat 4 13:33 > 11:12
  • Pierce’s Creek Descent [2.4km -157m -6%] 2:47 > 2:34 (Vmax 80.6km/h)
  • Pierces Creek Descent [0.9km -97m -10%] 48s > 47s (average 75.5km/h, Vmax 80.6km/h, all time equal 12th fastest)
  • Cotter Climb Casuarina to Equestrian Trunoff [sic] Cat 4 25:24 > 25:05

Who breaks a chain link?

SRSLY! I do not mash the gears, I don’t change in a sprint and I clean and lube my chains like they were an intimate partner. I even have a Birzman chain stretch checker, which is why I changed my Ultegra chain with .75% stretch after 6000 km for a KMC chain with very few km on it.

I noticed my chain skipping at the bottom of the Cotter Road Climb. How I could have a stiff link at this stage was baffling; probably some grit. I pushed hard up the Cotter, dropping a cog when I could, and took 39s of my previous best. The stiff link wasn’t affecting me when in gear; I just had to take care when shifting, as I always do.

I stopped at the top of the climb, expecting to wiggle the chain a few times and then sprint down Cotter Road. But I could see immediately that the pin had popped out of the inner link and was a few millimetres out on the outside. Then I noticed half of the inner link plate had snapped off! The pin hadn’t pulled out; the pin didn’t have a hole to fit into!

How does a link even break like that?

I nursed it home from there.

So that’s 3 tyres and a chain for 120km. At least I’ll be fine for the Bobbin Head classic.

Thanks to Pedal Power and the wonderful volunteers. See you next year.

Fitz’s Challenge – This Fitz just got real

That was a ride and a half!

I knew that the 165km and 3000m of climbing would be a stretch, which is why I entered. I’m not much of a climber yet, but I do prefer long distances to short sprints.

The weather did not help. (Maybe a slight NW tailwind on some of the out climbs.) Early morning rain dampened the road making drafting sometimes splashy. The road was not so wet to be slippery.

Calm, humid and overcast; unusual conditions for Fitz’s. I recorded 12° at the start and about 20° by mid-morning. It dropped to 12° again just before Cotter and the second last climb.

The return was into the teeth of a 35-40km/h NW winds with gusts of 65km/h. Steve drafted me back, but I couldn’t avoid the big hits.

Then the rain. With about 35km to go it started. Big drops right in the face. Shoes full of water, face full of grit, drenched and getting cold.

Personal Records – Climbs

When Dave flatted at the top of Mt MacDonald, Stu and I kept going. I rode ahead to the Gravel Pit (33km) on my own. Steve and Dave wanted to keep rolling, so Stu and I jumped on. Somehow I got to Tharwa first. So I’m quite happy with the PRs I set, including this lot.

  • Pierces Creek 8:37 > 7:26
  • Break My Spirit 14:01 > 12:30
  • Paddys River Rd Climb 9:48 > 8:25
  • Fitz’s Climb 23:39 > 22:41
  • Cotter Climb to Stromlo KOM 27:50 > 26:52


Personal Records – Descents

Since Steve Richardson told me to not attack descents but to tuck and recover, I’ve been posting some of my best times. More importantly, I’ve been able to recover and lower my heart rate ready for the next climb.

It does make riding in a group difficult. I’m slow on the climbs but very fast on the descents. Sometimes I waited for the others to catch up. Sometimes I caught riders who had been minutes ahead. 

On Fitz’s Descent I did a 2:04 at an average of 71.9km/h, for a ranking of 30/2138. For Vmax Strava says 94.3km/h but my Garmin says 95.5km/h, which is the figure I’m going with.

Didi’s granddaughter is all grown up!

No photographic evidence, unfortunately. Photographers appear at the top of a few climbs to catch those magic moments when your heart is thumping and your tongue is hanging out. As if to reinforce these feelings, the photographer on Paddy’s River Road had a companion in the shape of what could only be described as an unfeasibly sexy young lady in an unremittingly sexy devil’s costume, with trident. She whispered words of encouragement as I passed. It may have been a Halloween promotion. Or a ruse from the photographer to get lots of photos of pounding hearts and tongues hanging out.

This is Didi. He encourages cyclists. His ‘granddaughter’ achieves the same, but with more subtle methods.

Fitz’s is not the only hill

After Fitz’s Hill lies 14km of climbs before the turnaround. The last climb is marked as 2.2km at 5.8%. That belies how steep the climb gets in between the brief flats. I measured 17% a few times. Arguably tougher than Fitz’s Hill.

Then there’s the 1.3km 7.3% climb out of the recovery zone! There were walkers on that hill.


I feel better after this year’s 165 than after last year’s 105. Admittedly, hot temperatures take more out of you than cold, but so does the wind. I just rode smarter this year.

My back and knees hurt and for some reason I got up at 5:00 to write this, which indicates a certain amount of discomfort. But my muscles feel good. I’ve just ridden the toughest imperial century in Australia and it feels like a normal, long, hard ride.

l’etape should be a doddle.

Nice things

Roads are not closed during the event and there are no alternative routes. But this year there was a 60km/h limit along the entire length and Police motos for enforce it. There seemed to be less traffic this year and it was generally more pleasant on the road.

Climbing Pierce’s Creek I was overtaken (no surprise!). I looked across to see a girl on a flat-bar bike wearing a school tunic. I was not expecting that! As she passed I saw the poster for ‘bikes for girls in Africa’, who give bikes to girls so that they can go to school much faster and safer than walking. There are several such organisations and I’m not sure which one she was representing so I won’t add a link. Just look for the cyclist wearing a school uniform and going faster than you and ask them.

At the finish I noticed a pregnant woman had also completed the 165km. That will be a great story for the baby book.

The sun came out for a few minutes on the Cotter Road climb. (That’s it.)

210km Fitz’s Epic next year?

That’s a big step up. We’ll see.


Fitz’s Challenge – Classic 165km preparation

Apparently one is not supposed ride the 165km Fitz’s Classic as one’s first imperial century. Instead I should find a flat 161km event and pootle around. Something in my favour this year is that I will be riding as a group of four; among which is a 30-time Fitz’s veteran. The support, guidance and morale-boosting will be invaluable.

Well… I missed my 15kg weight loss target by about 12kg. I haven’t retested my FTP since September, but I suspect it has improved.

I have made some effort. I have ridden some famous climbs for the first time, including Red Hill, Mt Majura, Mt Pleasant and a successful summit of Fitz’s Hill a month ago. I’m not overawed by it, but it certainly demands respect, especially as it is after 70km.

Looking back at last year’s post mortem (numbered below), I have some updates and improvements for this year (bullet points).

  1. Indoor trainers teach continuous pedalling.  You can’t underestimate the efforts that your legs, feet, bum and gentleman’s area go through on a long ride without traffic lights and intersections.
    • True that. My legs don’t fatigue like they used to. I can turn for 2 hours without stopping.
    • There is always tension on the chain at the set power level, whereas on the road the freewheel doesn’t tension the chain. Perhaps legs become more circular indoors?
    • Three words: Aussie Butt Cream
  2. Strava arm warmers will also keep you cool in hot weather and free from sunburn.  I have slivers of burn on the tiny gaps between my gloves and sleeves.
    • I found Bontrager arm covers that are thin and cool but SPF50+
  3. I need something under my helmet to prevent “horns” from being burnt into my forehead.
  4. And something to stop sweat pouring into my eyes on descents.
    • Ditto on the skullcap.
  5. Load the course into your Garmin.  Knowing what you are about the face and how long you need to face it is very good for pacing and confidence.
    • Done
    • I would have liked to have trialled the course on my KICKR.
  6. If the course is not downloadable from the ride website, try www.plotaroute.com or similar.
    • I copied it from a friend who completed it last year.
  7. Prepare your bike.  My tyres were new, I degreased the drive-train before full tuning, brakes were tightened for fast response.  My KMC chain doesn’t like my Ultegra top jockey wheel, but at least I never missed a shift.
    • I just discovered that the KMC catches the next cog on the Deore cassette slightly every half-rotation, which explains the noise.
    • Ultegra chain also catches, by to a far lesser degree. Shifting is sweet.
    • Tyres aren’t new, but I found two tyres that were in good condition.
    • Tioga tubes are hopeless. Replaced all around with tubes that lose 1psi per day, not every 5 minutes.
  8. Keep it steady for the first third.  If you feel good, then push it.
    • The group shall.
  9. Ride at your pace.  Jump on a train if you can, but don’t burn up trying to stay on.
    • The group shall.
  10. Eat and drink regularly.
    • I’ve got gels, salt tablets, seaweed strips from the Kyoto Marathon.
  11. Some drivers have no idea about overtaking.
    • Safety in numbers
  12. Motorcyclists have more respect for cyclists than drivers do.
  13. Have fun.

We’ll found out tomorrow. Weather should be OK for the out, but expecting a big NW headwind and possible rain for the return. I’ll earn it.

New wheelset, sweet as

Picked up the new wheelset from Ride365.

  • H PLUS SON Archetype rims
  • Double-butted black spokes with red nipples
    • 24 front
    • 32 rear
  • Novatec hubs
  • Total weight 1660g including skewers
Photo doesn’t do them justice

About $900, though I got a 10% Pedal Power discount even on the labour, bringing them down to $810. Sweet as.

What are they like?

The lighter weight (cf. 1720g + for Bontrager Race TLR) is not immediately obvious. My climbing times have improved, but I’ve been training more. I rarely do explosive efforts, so I can’t compare acceleration. And I can’t put the old wheelset on for an A-B comparison!

Surprisingly, the most obvious difference is during fast cornering. The wheels seem to hold their line so much better than my old wheels. I might improve my descending times as much as my ascending.

Braking was much improved too; however, I have only just worn through the anodised brake track so I’ll have to wear them in a second time. Might be time for new brake shoes, too.

Custom built for Clydesdales – Just get some

The wheels that came with my bike retail for $750-800 a set. Even a fairly exotic custom-built wheelset can be less than $1000; the highest quote I have found was $1200. Spec Dura-Ace hubs, bladed spokes and deep-section rims and the price will go North.

Some said the double-eyelets were the only way to ensure spokes would not pull through, even at high spoke counts; however, others (including Paul at Ride 365) say that a strong rim band is just as important. (My first Bontrager Race TLR failure was acknowledged as a manufacturing defect because the rim band was machined too much.)

Every big bloke I’ve talked too (well, George) has had many years of trouble-free service from their custom-built, 32- or 36-spoke wheels and use lighter wheels with fewer spokes for racing only, which may only last a  year or so.

If your LBS is on board, they should credit you the wheels that came with the bike against a custom set. Maybe minus a ‘restocking fee’.

Broke another rear wheel, found a wheelset


I like my wheels true. I built two 27″ wheels under the tutelage of Dr Charles Coin in 1988 for my old tourer with DT Swiss double-butted spokes. The spokes were probably worth more than the rest of the wheel. The 2-cross front wheel has been trued once. The 3-cross rear wheel held together after a nasty slide into a gutter and was laced onto a new rim. I only retired that wheel when the cluster freewheel seized and it refused to unscrew from the hub.


My Trek Domane 4.5 came with Bontrager Race TLR wheels. Asymmetric rear  wheel suggests strength and quality. Sadly, there was a manufacturing defect that machined the rim too thin. The result was all 12 drive-side spokes pulled through to some extent. I rode home gently, took the wheel to Bike Culture and received a warranty replacement, no fuss.

Last Sunday I noticed a slight wobble in the rear wheel. I trued it up a little and took a 100km ride. Friday morning I took the wheel in for a proper truing. Immediately the mechanic noticed a crack in the rim around a spoke nipple. (He found 2 more later.)

A pulled spoke, yesterday. And 2 years ago.

I was looking for a new wheel anyway, knowing that a warranty replacement would not be ready for a Saturday ride, but I did expect a warranty. Just before lunch my LBS called to say that the wheels was more than 2 years old and was therefore not covered by warranty. As nearly as I can tell, the last wheel failed on 26 July 2014 and was replaced about a week later… so it was just 2 years. In any case, how does this happen to a wheel if not for a manufacturing defect?

Sure, I am 195cm tall and 110kg heavy; however, I don’t ride aggressively or race. What forces can pull spokes through the rim, especially on an asymmetric rear wheel?

A bit desperate

Lunchtime Friday I rang a number of LBS looking for Mavic Ksyrium Elite or something from the Super Clydesdale website list. Nothing in stock.

Late afternoon I contacted Ride365, who suggested Campagnolo Khamsin as a quick replacement. But when I arrived, Paul suggested a wheelset that he had built for a cycling team. H Plus Son Archetype rims with Novatech hubs and QR skewers. About 1600g and probably $750 a set.

Then something remarkable happened. Paul took the wheels off a bike and offered them to me as a loan!  He fitted the cassette from my old wheel, took my details and wished me well. What a gent!

What a ride!

I only managed a short ride on Saturday after a 1 hour indoor session. It was very windy and cold (2c) and I had to stop under a service station awning for 15 minutes during a rainstorm.  The 4 PRs I set were probably down to the 40km/h tailwind.

Sunday’s ride was much longer. Almost immediately I noticed that the wheels felt smoother and more comfortable. None of the occasional dead feeling over bumps.(My rear wheel may have been dead for months.)

Faster? I didn’t think that 100g would make a difference, but it seemed to.

I will gladly build them myself, though maybe with 32 spokes at the back to be safe.