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.

Tailwind

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!

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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

top-of-fitzs-hill

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.

tour-de-france-devil-didi-diablo-01
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.

Recovery

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.

Throwing objects at vehicles now a criminal offence in ACT

Now here’s an interesting thing in light of my recent experience… on Friday 9 June 2016 the ACT Legislative Assembly passed the Justice and Community Safety Legislation Amendment Bill 2016, and one of the amendments was to specifically target that act. The explanatory statement 5 May 2016 (PDF) reads,

The Bill introduces a specific offence in the Crimes Act 1900 to clarify that the practice of throwing or directing objects at vehicles (including riders of bicycles) is criminal conduct.

and further…

There is no specific offence presently prohibiting this conduct in ACT legislation, either in the Crimes Act or road transport legislation. Prosecution of this behaviour using existing offences (such as assault) is possible but problematic.

I doubt that it would have made much difference in my particular case as the ‘assailant’ was motivated to admit to the incident. However, like the 1 metre rule sets a standard that can be reasonably adjudged, so too that act of throwing or directing and object at any vehicle can’t be argued down under the ‘no harm, no foul’ schoolyard rule.

Fitz’s Challenge: 105km first timer

I finally entered Fitz’s Challenge after first hearing about it in 2013.  Strictly speaking I only entered (and completed) the 105km Tharwa Challenge, which doesn’t include Fitz’s Hill.

Before for start of Fitz's 105km in 2015
Before the start of Fitz’s 105km – 2015

How hard?

Website testimonials tend to be upbeat, optimistic and slightly rose-coloured… and written by the staff.  Pedal Power didn’t get that memo.  The testimonials for Fitz’s include one “great ride, something for everyone” with the rest summarised as, ‘I was reduced to a babbling, drooling idiot in a foetal position.  Will definitely be back next year.’

Numbers can be deceiving

The 105km course is described as 1660m of climbing with grades up to 12%.  How does this compare to the Bobbin Head Cycle Classic 104km?  Same distance, but the Bobbo seems to have the edge for total ascent (the website does not show an ascent number, but most GPS report about 1,950m).

Fitz’s Bobbo
Distance 105km 104km
Total Ascent 1660m c.1950m (measured)
Max Altitude 704m 207m
Climbs 11 3
Climbs, really about 50 about 20
Categorised climbs Five Cat 4 Cat 3, 4 and 5
Longest climb 2.82km “Cotter Rd Climb (Full)” 10.72km  Not on Strava as a segment: Start ‘Akuna Bridge’, finish “McCarrs Ck to Thai @ Terry hills”Carrs Ck to Thai @ Terry hills”
Average gradient of
longest climb
4.4% 1.6% (sections average 4%)
Highest average gradient 9.7% 2.7% (sections average 6%)
Maximum Gradient Over 12% 9% (measured)
Time cut-off 7 hours

Drill down and the numbers paint a different story.  Of the 11 climbs on the Fitz’s profile, 7 have an average of over 5%.  My Garmin 500 measured short sections over 12% on most of those.

I admit that even the Bobbo will bite; any gran fondo can.  Ride either course and you’ll find that numbers and elevation profiles are rough guides at best.  Most of the Fitz’s climbs are too short to get a CAT number, but they are very steep and long enough that momentum won’t carry you over.  The Fitz’s roads are coarse unlike most of the Bobbo, which coincidently is situated in the electorate of our cycling ex-PM.

Remember, the 105km is the second-shortest distance on offer at Fitz’s.

Numbers don’t lie

Seriously, my heart doesn’t seem to care how fast it beats.  I peaked at 196bpm at the bottom of the “Uriarra Climb”, but I managed it down to the 170’s by the top.  (I later discovered that I had reduced my time from 12:16 to 8:54 this year, so I shouldn’t feel too bad.)

How’s that first third feel?

13km in and it wasn’t looking good. On “The long and grinding road” along Uriarra Rd I wasn’t great and felt in danger of being isolated as I couldn’t afford to push hard to join an echelon.

Fortunately, isolation meant that I could descend “Ragazzo Grasso Possibilità” from Mt McDonald very quickly, setting a PR on the curves.

So I felt somewhat better at the base of “Pierce’s Creek” and “Break my spirit” and got over them fairly comfortably (with PRs) by just sitting back and grinding them out.  I’d only ridden them once before, but they were familiar.  Watching other riders grinding along at more or less the same pace can be strangely comforting.

To help with climbing I have a Garmin screen with Altitude, Gradient, Cadence, HR and Speed.  But I noticed that my HR was not dropping on descents or flats as much as I’d expect.  I had barely ridden in the weeks before let alone trained, so I focussed on at least trying to keep below the 190’s for the rest of the ride.  I also realised that I was calling “car BACK!” and “moto UP!” at top voice; so my lungs were in fine form even if my heart wasn’t.

Burn carbs today

High HR means burning carbs.  My big, low-GI breakfast was gone by 33km at the Gravel Pit check point.  I sacrificed a very fast descent I was leading to turn off and refuel in fear of not making it to Tharwa.  The profile of the 26km from Gravel Pit to Tharwa to goes from 507m to 704m and down to 580m, and there is probably 500m of climbing.  My speed varied from 7 to 70km/h.  The first of the 105km riders were returning, including all of my mates, before I reached Tharwa.

(According to Strava, I spent 3 hours at threshold and nearly 1 hour at anaerobic.  No wonder I was hungry.)

At Tharwa (60km) I ate, drank and rested for about 30 minutes.  But I felt confident and I was having fun.  Being over halfway helps.

As more riders from the 165 and 210 started to ride through Tharwa I decided to leave to try to get aboard their trains.  After the very steep climb out of Tharwa, I managed 2km of drafting behind two 165km riders at 35km/h. That was all I dared until the end.  As riders overtook me I couldn’t risk blowing up trying to hook on.  Instead, I rode alongside a familiar half-dozen of so riders, losing them on the climbs and blasting past them on descents.

The climbs too much for some, reduced to walking or even stopping under any shade they could find.  One recurring character was Ian, with whom I spoke at Tharwa.  His distinctive red kit was easy to spot.  We must have caught up, passed, stopped and caught up again half a dozen times between Tharwa and the Gravel Pit.

Second time at the Gravel Pit I took all of the cake, snakes and liquorice I could stomach.  There was an immediate 2.77km climb, plenty of bumps and the Cotter climbs to go in only 16km.  I’d already had twinges of cramp that had go no worse during the climbs, so I was confident.

What goes up, must come down

“Pierce’s Creek” climb is character-building.  “Pierces Creek Descent” is the reward.  I didn’t hit the top of the descent as fast as I would have liked, but I don’t think that I used the brakes after that.  Clocked 83.6km/h (according to Garmin) @ 49s and was the fastest of the day.

Nice.  Now to climb the Cotter.

Last climb (but one)

The “Cotter Climb to Stromlo KOM” segment is 7km long with two sections joined by 1km of slight downhill.  I sighted Ian near the beginning, in the shade, coping with cramps.  You can really have quite a conversation at 9km/h.

My cramps were not getting worse and my HR was orange, not red so I kept on.  I was surprised to reach over 40km/h on the false flat and carried some of that up the last 1.5km and over to blast past down Cotter Rd to the finish.

Ah… before the finish the new 400m climb up Opperman St was not on my course, but by then it was just a roll across the finish line.

Result

My elapsed time was about 6:15 with a saddle time of about 5:08.  However, according to the first results published on Wednesday 28 October, I came first with a time of 3:19 (average speed 31.6 km/h).  Pedal Power have since fixed the error, which was down to my transponder being detected twice at Tharwa.

What I learned

  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.
  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.
  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.
  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.
  6. If the course is not downloadable from the ride website, try www.plotaroute.com or similar.
  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.
  8. Keep it steady for the first third.  If you feel good, then push it.
  9. Ride at your pace.  Jump on a train if you can, but don’t burn up trying to stay on.
  10. Eat and drink regularly.
  11. Some drivers have no idea about overtaking.
  12. Motorcyclists have more respect for cyclists than drivers do.
  13. Have fun.

See you on the 165km in 2016.

Fly6 camera test on a cold, foggy morning

I saw the Fly6 safety camera on Kickstarter a few months ago.  I didn’t contribute at the time, but I did register interest.  The idea was so brilliant, so well conceived, or should that be “resolved”.

Timely too.  The number of bicycle accidents this year has been off the charts.  I do most of my riding alone and while drivers are generally courteous, there’s always the inattentive and the odd dickhead that gets too close.

I was invited to be one of the first to buy, offered at a discount so I bought two.  Yesterday’s delivery was after a two months’ wait.  Well worth it.

First test was this morning.  Despite the cold (2°c) and the fog (99% humidity, 100m visibility) I had to get a mid-week ride in.

Here’s a few minutes of unprocessed video to demonstrate the picture quality, stability and colour balance despite the awful light conditions.  Number plates of cars in the near lane are clearly visible, as are the bus destination displays.

The more of us have these, the more drivers might think twice about taking risks at a rider’s expense.

Frankly, this isn’t much of a review, so read all about it at the Fly6 website.  I’ll post more video under different conditions… just as soon those different conditions arrive.

  • Road: Kate Crace Road and Flemington Road Gungahlin/Harrison ACT
  • Those things in the picture: Top, saddle bag; bottom, mudguard; behind, Amandeep.
  • Why is it bouncing? That’s the Trek Domane, baby.  Smoooooth.
  • What time? It was 0730 on 2/07/2014 (today), not 22:30 on 1/07/2014.

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.

Mental anguish from a lack of riding

Oh the irony… just as I seem to be making gains in strength and fitness, I’m off the bike because of illness. Not in sub-zero conditions, fog or the exhaustion of exertion, but just at the start of Spring weather.
A bug, maybe two bugs; chest and stomach. There have been so many good rides in the past three weeks and I have had to stay away from all of them. Most disappointing was missing The Berm ride of the Canberra Centenary Trail; 140km in one day. I’m currently missing the first day of a two-day ride of the same trail.
The stomach bug has left me quite crook in the mornings, but generally not too bad. The sniffles and slight asthma symptoms have been annoying rather than debilitating. I suspect that I have greater lung capacity that has compensated for the congestion.
The worst effects have been mental. I am serious missing out on the feelings of pleasure and pain. I am seriously going spare waiting to get back on a bike.
By the same token, staying off the bike has been useful Despite the lack of activity, I’ve lost 1-2kg over these weeks but I’m sure that my leg muscles have more definition.
My first ride will be tomorrow at the Onyabike Giant Demo Day at Mt Stromlo, where I’ll try the 27.5 versions of the Trance and XTC; my first hardtail. I would like to have a few lazy k’s in my legs before attempting a serious ride, but a quick ride tonight is probably all that I’ll get.
New goal: Before the centenary year is out I must complete the Centenary Trail.
No ride, no life.

The Bonner Widowmaker and creating segments in Strava

Strava view of Bonner Widowmaker segment
Strava view of Bonner Widowmaker segment

This morning the fog was quite thick and had only just burnt away when I went for my ride. I intended to explore a few new tracks identified as segments on Strava.  The Border Run has an alternative downhill section I wanted to check out and I also wanted to create a segment that Amandeep and I have ridden (and in my case walked) recently.

Bonner Widowmaker

That name comes from the Widowmaker Hill Climb that I saw on Wide World of Sports 30 years ago.  The main event features 1000 ft (305 m) of climbing on a nearly impossible hill.  Despite modifications such as paddle-wheel style tread rear tyres and very long chain stays, only 19 riders have reached the summit in over 4500 attempts.  I can’t find a gradient measurement, but it is beyond steep.

The Bonner Widowmaker is steep and silly like its Utahan namesake.  The average gradient is 11.25% (the figure above for distance is rounded to the nearest 100m.) with sections as steep as 23%.  It is almost too steep to walk, let alone ride up.  Or down.  The path is mostly grass with thin tyre tracks in the hard clay.  Pink quartz is scattered in sections, making the path quite bumpy.  It is so steep that your front wheel is very light and can easily leave the ground and it’s all too easy to loop the bike.  Even sitting on the nose of the saddle with my hands on the bar-ends with elbows bent and my body forward and low wasn’t enough to prevent wheelies.  But at least I was able to keep a fairly straight line.

I stopped five times.  My elapsed time was 18:18, which felt like my earlier attempts.  My resting time was 12:41, time that I spent sitting, admiring the view and waiting for my heart rate to fall to a human level.  So my riding time was 7:27.  Had I stayed on for the length of the climb, I’d say that 7:27 was a good time.  With better fitness, I might just be able to climb that hill in a single go, or at least without stopping for death 5 times.

On my first attempt on 6 April 2013 I walked 90% of it.  I simply couldn’t stay balanced when the front wheel bounced around and it was almost impossible to get my clips into the pedals to push off again.

My second attempt on 12 April 2013 with flat pedals was much better and much steadier, as previously reported.  I spent a lot of time riding across the hill and zig-zagging up it.  I only walked a 10m section just before the top to get better grip.

Props to Amandeep who has ridden the entire length a few times.  He had to stop now and again, but unlike me he rode it.

Strava – making a segment

This is very simple.  Take an existing ride and mark off a section of it, give it a name and save.  Cross-referencing with the map and altitude graph makes it easy to pinpoint the section.

I might have missed something on MapMyRide but I got the impression that I could only create a “Course” from a real map; not from a Workout.  And since many of the tracks I took weren’t on maps, I couldn’t create a Course.  (Please correct me if I’m wrong.)

Segments are best made without pauses or stumbles

My segment has a few wobbles.  As my iPhone was in my jersey pocket (I can’t find my waterproof case anywhere!) when I stepped off the bike, a new wobble was recorded.  It also put little dips on the tracks that aren’t there.  It wouldn’t make sense for Strava to automatically straighten out a segment, especially if those dips and shuffles were part of the track.

I think that the solution is for me to walk the track (without the bike) and use that straight run as the basis of the segment.  I’ll record that as a walk so as not to post another impossible time.

Today’s time and my previous, impossible times

Strava recorded 18:18 as my time on the climb.  That was the elapsed time but I spent 12:41 of that resting for a total riding time of 7:27.

My previous times recorded on MapMyRide, converted to TCX files and then uploaded to Strava are 4:25 on 6 April 2013 for my first ride (or walk) and 5:03 on 12 April 2013 for my second.  Both seem to have been affected by the auto-pause function and seemed to have been tricked by my very slow progress.

The only way to post a fair time is to ride the climb in one pass or getting straight back on after stumbling.  I’m working on it.  My elapsed time of 18:18 should crumble soon as I didn’t need that much rest.  My riding time of 7:27 was slow and steady.   I wonder if I’ll even beat the impossible 4:25 one day!

Border Track detour – Mulligans DH

I’ve noticed a few Strava users taking a different line from the Border Track along a segment known as Mulligans DH (down hill).  About 1km from the junction of the Border Track and Mulligans Circuit and just over the second climb you’ll see the Treecreeper Gate to the right.  Through that gate and Mulligans DH is the track along the fence.  You avoid two steep climbs and a somewhat tricky descent adjacent to a pine forest on the Border Track going this way.

Mulligans DH is a nice down hill; no jumps, moderately rough terrain and some 90° corners just for fun.  Though the newly-metalled parts were a bit squirmy.

I took it easy at the top and let it go about 1/3 of the way down.  The final sharp corner and small climb caught me out a little so I took at fairly easy to the finish; the Curlew Gate on the Pipeline Track .  After seeing my Starva time of 3:00 was only 11 seconds behind the KOM, in hindsight I could have gone a bit faster.

Using Strava for the benefit of mankind

Perhaps that’s too high a goal.  But I am using Strava as a benchmark for my own times; firstly to log what I’m doing and secondly to see if I am improving as I go.  It would be interesting to combine heart rate and power over a ride because that’s where an improvements will be subtly obvious.  I mean that my time might be slower for a particular run but if my heart rate is relatively low, then I completed the ride more efficiently and I’m getting fitter.

The rides are a bit too hard to be in the zone for burning fat.  A 166 average HR is about 30 beats higher than it could be for a good burn and I spend 1/3 to 1/2 of the time above zone 3.  I’ll start using my cross-trainer for a steady HR-specific workout.  Winter sometimes gets an early start on ANZAC Day; we’ve had a few sub-zero mornings already.  Hopefully I’ll stick to a reasonable riding routine during Winter and be bursting by Spring.  Whenever that decides to visit.

Finally Found Kowen Forest

The location of Canberra within the ACT. Canbe...
The bit on the right that looks like it’s waving at you.  That’s Kowen Forest (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Well, that was an interesting weekend…

As even the casual reader would know, I’ve had some trials finding the trails at Kowen Forest.  My Navi takes me to a forest area off Sutton Road that has been constructed for logging truck access.  There is two small parking areas, but not much cycling action.

So… I thought that I had made a plan to meet Trevor at Pushy’s ‘car park sale’ so that I could follow him to Kowen Forest.  (Bought long gloves with cuffs for Winter for $15 reduced from $80 and two $3 cable outers.)  After spending some time and little money and not finding Trevor, I drove aimlessly towards Kowen Forest.

At my third attempt I found “East Kowen Forest, Canberra” on [the old] Kings Highway.  This link to Google Maps shows the location of the car park.   I found Trevor’s car, so I was at least in the right place.  I missed the reference to “Sparrow Hill” and instead rode Northwest to some trails.  Marked with blue arrows and fairly good signs it was easy to navigate.

My first impressions of “The Kow” were just how the tracks flowed so well without requiring much climbing or superior technical skills.  It was fairly easy to maintain pace through twists and turns and really have fun.  The narrow and unfamiliar tracks did catch me out a few times; partly from the dappled light from the mid-autumn mid-morning sunlight through the pines, partly from the pine needles on the track making the edges unclear and the surface slippery and partly from being a bit absorbed in the ambience and not concentrating.

After the 4km loop I returned to the car park and then across to the Sparrow Hill trails to the South of Kings Hwy.  Again the tracks were well-marked and I must say, well-decorated.  Big thanks and respect is due to Self-Propelled Enterprises at http://selfpropelled.com.au/ for excellence in trail-building, trail-naming and trail-decorative arts.  The decoration ranged from the practical (a dual-flush toilet on Dunnies) to the abstract (cow bones tastefully arranged on another) and back to the practical (yellow reflectors hanging from a tree like a mobile or 1970’s bead curtains).

Once again I was so memorised by the beauty of the trails that I ran off on an uphill corner!  Someone had hidden the curve behind a tree and hadn’t told me.

This footage taken at the Mont 24 Hour race in 2012 gives some impression of the trails and the setting.

There was only one section that I walked: a jump that was well-marked, but I came upon it before I had worked out my line.

As for times… Strava was quite generous.  I rode the 4km loop in 17:01 for 25 place from 128 riders.  I was pushing fairly hard, so that’s a good result first time.  I finished the 11km loop in 59:00 for 189th out of 355.  I had a few off-piste excursions here, so I was a bit more careful as I progressed.  There were some sections that I seemed to take at blinding speed, though this was probably more to do with taking a wide line right to the edge and holding my nerve on the curve.  If I knew the track better I could probably go faster on the right line.

Kowen is much easier to ride than Mt Stromlo.  The physical challenge is not as great so the ride is more fun if you’re not entirely fit or you want to take it easy.

5 stars

Oh, and I returned via Pushy’s to buy the cables to match the outers, some arm warmers and a pair of 3/4 length knicks.  More to come.