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.

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 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.

Saturday ride – new pedals = new legs?

Today was a second attempt on the ‘widowmaker’ climb out of Bonner.  Last week I managed to climb the concrete path (average 5%, probably 8% in parts) without dying.  However, the grassy climb (well over 5% and probably 10% average) was well beyond my abilities.  Pedalling was hard enough but I simply couldn’t stay balanced long enough to make any sort of attempt at it.  Several times I went off-piste because I couldn’t keep the front wheel down and in turn, couldn’t ride up the steep track.  And since I use clip-in pedals, it gets a bit hairy when you start to tip and you need to get your foot out.  It’s even worse when you’re trying to take of and you can’t quite engage the pedal.  At best I rode 10% of the track, walking the rest.  My colleague Amandeep stopped a few times but did ride the entire length.  His effort was telling as after a short climb I asked him to take my picture and it took him 2 minutes to get his gloves off!

So in preparation for today’s ride I purchased flat pedals.  My reasoning was that I could move my knees in and out much further and retain balance much more easily.  I could also start off without struggling to engage.  The reduction in power, because I could only push down on the pedals and not in a (more-or-less) full circle, should be balanced by… balance, I reasoned.

Time ATAC and Shimano SAINT pedals. Big difference
Time ATAC and Shimano SAINT pedals. Big difference

The difference is quite obvious when the pedals are compared side-by-side.  In the picture above, the spindles are both aligned to the solid line on the left; it appears different because of parallax.

  • Width (from crank): 120mm vs 85 mm
  • Contact width: 100mm (20mm~120mm) vs 60mm (25mm~85mm)
  • Weight: didn’t measure, but the Saint pedals are lighter.

The ride, the climb, the pedals!

I wore an old pair of 3/4 cross-trainer shoes.  While the grip was not perfect and slips did happen, grip was regained very quickly and without interruption to pedalling.  (Though I will have to modify my bunny hop style.)

Back to the climb Take 2: everything was suddenly less frightening.  The climb was no flatter than last week and I suspect that my front wheel lifted on the same bumps.  The difference was that I could remain upright without much thought or effort.  This was a real surprise.  I had expected to be moving my knees side-to-side in a rather comical way to maintain balance, but that was rarely necessary.  I had to stop about 6 times and I admit to walking a very steep section of about 10 m, but I got up that bloody hill.

The rest of the ride was the border track, then the flat Pipeline Rd, up to Goorooyarroo and along to rejoin the Pipeline Rd.  Instead of dropping to Horse Park Drive for an awful ride back to the cafe, we turned around at the peak of the Pipeline Rd and returned to Mulligan’s Flat North track, through Forde and back to Cafe Guru (Canberra’s own coffee, don’t you know.)

It’s true that the pedals did not hold on to my shoes like clip-ins.  There were a few moments when my shoes slipped, but never far enough to be bothered by it.  But there was something else happening beyond balance…

Balance is not the only thing, grasshopper

There was something better about these pedals and I reckon it was the increased width of my feet.  I suspect that up until now I have been pedalling with my feet too far inboard.  Moving my feet out by 30mm or more has obviously changed the alignment of my legs.  I noticed my quads being used for first time in a while; I think that my hamstrings (and lower legs) have been doing most of the work.

It felt like I was using more of my thigh muscles, with the result that they hurt all over.  No, it actually felt like the work was spread out a bit.

Here’s the 3D flyover version of the route.  And no, I can’t embed it for you…

Canberra: Hottest day and 10th Anniversary of the Darkest

2003 Canberra firestorm
2003 Canberra firestorm (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

UPDATE 19/01/2013 22:05: The Bureau of Meteorology has recorded 42.0°c as Canberra’s maximum temperature for 18/01/2013; a record for January and 0.2°c below the all time record.  Weatherzone is back to 42 too.

UPDATE 19/01/2013 09:39: I’m a little confused about yesterday’s maximum temperature.  The excellent Weatherzone website listed 42.0°c at Canberra Airport yesterday, but have since revised that back to 41.0°c and I’ve seen 40.2°c on other sources.  At time of writing, the official Bureau of Meteorology historical observation had not been recorded.  It was definitely the hottest day in 2013.  And read about the 2003 bush fires instead… that’s the interesting part.

Today the temperature hit 42.0°c with 30-40km/h winds, the hottest January day in Canberra’s history.  It beat the previous record of 41.4°c set on 31 January 1968.  The highest temperature ever recorded in Canberra is 42.2°c on 1 February 1968 (no surprise).

Somewhat eerily, 18 January is the anniversary of the 2003 Canberra bushfires, the deadliest bushfire in Canberra’s recorded history.  It was a 40°c day with 60km/h winds.

Map showing the progress of the fires over time
Map showing the progress of the fires over time (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Three fires had been burning for almost 2 weeks in remote bush before the gates of hell opened.  The three combined and generated a weather system that was far beyond anything that models had predicted.  There were 4 deaths and almost 500 homes and other properties were damaged or destroyed.  (Before this fire, only 4 houses had been lost to bushfires in Canberra’s history.)

The speed and intensity of the fire caused CSIRO to rewrite their models of fire behaviour; in particular the wind generated by the heat and rapid intake of air to fuel the fire.

As it happened, I missed the lot.  Chikako and I had arrived from Japan on Friday 17 January.  We’d left on the Thursday after a brief snow shower in Kobe brought the temperature down to about 0°c despite the sunshine afterwards.  First thing on Saturday we drove to Sydney to see my family at my sister’s house.  As we neared the Royal National Park south of Sydney, I noticed very thick smoke rising from a fire that had probably started only 10-20 minutes before.  “That’s going to be bad”, I thought to myself.  Had my rear vision mirror been capable of seeing 200km behind me, I would have seen the beginnings of a fire-storm that would dwarf any bush fire I’d experienced.

Returning on the Sunday, by now having seen the news, we stopped at the Eagle Hawk Hill, just before the ACT border; the story of the Duffy petrol station exploding made me wonder if any petrol stations would be open in Canberra.  when we got to our apartment in Bruce, I found burnt leaves on our balconies.  The nearest fire had been some 10km away and at a lower altitude.  The wind must have been strong.

For a much more comprehensive coverage, here’s today’s live blog from the Canberra Times.  Look at the wedding photos; no-one’s forgetting that day.

First ride of the new year

Mulligans Flat Reserve
Mulligans Flat Reserve
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Happy new year. I recently got my mountain bike serviced; I was unfamiliar with its hydraulic brakes and single-sided fork and I used to fix my old bike with a 15″ shifting spanner and Mr Sheen. I took it out 2 days ago to ride some tracks in the Mulligan Flat Reserve and enjoyed it so much I thought that I’d have another go.  Despite the hot weather, there was enough of a breeze to keep things pleasant enough.
The tracks are a combination of groomed fire trails, tyre tracks of packed clay, metalled roads and narrow tyre tracks with scattered pink granite. The surfaces were generally good with my relatively poor handling skills tested only a few times. There’s a mixture of steep and long climbs, but generally nothing too taxing; I only used the granny gear once. The Mulligans Flat Reserve is surrounded by a high, electrified fence and baited against foxes and feral dogs.

Might not look inviting, but it protects the reserve
Might not look inviting, but the electric fence and poison baits protect the reserve

Fauna seen on the journey included 6 [feral] rabbits, a lizard sunning itself and about 200 kangaroos.

Just five of the estimated 200 eastern grey kangaroos I rode past
Just five of the estimated 200 eastern grey kangaroos I rode past

If all goes well, you should be able to see the details of my ride displayed below from using the MapMyRide+ app.

The view to the south-east. Mount Majura and Horse Park Drive in the centre background

UPDATE: It would be obvious by now that the MapMyRide code isn’t working. disables code it considers risky. If I hosted a blog, I could add the MapMyRide plug-in to my plug-in folder. Sadly, all I can do is post a link… and once I figure out how to do that; the link generator on MapMyRide produces the same bloody code that is blocked.  You can find the MapMyRide embedder here.
If you’re in North Canberra or ride Mulligans Flat, I’d like your comments and advice.
Here’s the workout (?) as text.

Workout: Mountain Biking – General
Date: 01/01/2013
Distance: 11.22 km
Duration: 48:27

To view ‘Biked 11.22 km on 1/01/13’, follow the link below:

You can also view my profile and add me as a Friend here:

I sent this from MapMyRide+, available in the iTunes app store!


UPDATE 10/01/2013: is running a promotion to win an iPad 2.  Just log a workout before 13 January and you go in the draw.  There’s nothing in the email to restrict the prize to residents of the USA, so I’m in!

2012 Canberra International Electric Vehicle Festival – My impressions

Two Detriot Electric vehicles from the 1910's.  This EV thing is a fad.
Two Detriot Electric vehicles from the 1910’s. This EV thing is a fad.

This was the third CIEVF I’ve attended and it was interesting to compare to those of earlier years.


The move from the lawns near old Parliament House in previous year to the Civic Walk was a change that probably paid off.  The relaxed, open, green fields and the blocked roads for full-throttle Tesla rides were replaced by a slightly cramped mall (which was constrained by some construction works) and slightly cramped parking area.  There have been car shows there before and the multicultural festival takes up ever available cobblestone, but I wonder if the electric boats and hybrid trucks of earlier years were kept away by the lack of space.

Fortunately, it worked out quite well; there was sufficient parking reserved and power to run loops of London Circuit and level access to the mall was nearby – though the Detroit Electric with its big, wire wheels was able to drive straight over the kerb!

Where the previous site was known to those in the know, Civic brought a lot of passing traffic who would not have otherwise been exposed to EV let alone driven one, which some lucky visitors (me included) were able to do.

Change of Date (and with it, change of weather)

I understand that various reasons delayed the festival from its usual September to December.  The prospect of pleasant weather brought with it more favourable temperature conditions for charging and discharging batteries.

As it happened, the weather was very hot and windy to start but became more pleasant when a threatened thunderstorm brought only spots of rain an a cool breeze.


The standard of exhibits was good.  The Better Place stand was the largest, staffed with well-dressed, well-versed, well-enthused people.  They showcased the Holden Volt and Commodore EV while promoting their public charging deal (see below).

The Detroit Electric cars (see above) took many for a ride of the future from almost 100 years ago.  No noise, no steering wheel, driver in the back facing the passengers… must have been quite a sight driving around London Circuit.

CIT had a display for their mechanics course, teaching the service requirements of hybrid vehicles to apprentice and experienced mechanics.  (I’m more interested in a short course were an old Prius will be refurbished and an EV built.)

Lots of electric bicycles and motorcycles on show.  Everything from ones with baskets to Dutch/Danish style delivery bikes to scooters to motorbikes to racing bikes.  Bamboo-framed bike was startling enough without its bright green highlights.

Canberra EV had a display of some of the principles of EV, in particular how electric motors work.

Corrie from NilCO2 was back again with 2 cars, including a Gen II with a K140 pack by Jen, the Canberra installer for NilCO2.  (Jon, you would have loved what she has done with her car.)  Now I’m tossing up between the K40 supplementary battery or the K100 HV replacement in my Gen III.  Corrie showed me some of the new cells rated at 5000 cycles; up from 2-3000 in the previous generation.

There was a very good display from Beyond Zero Emissions explaining the fantastic notion that Australia could convert to a completely carbon-free energy future that would only take 10 years to implement at a cost of $37 billion per year, or 3% of GDP.  Download the plan from the website above.  And read it.  And write a letter to your MP asking what they intend to do about it.

loop, “the world’s first truly sustainable residential, commercial and retail experience” had a display of its development surrounding the Belconnen Fresh Food Markets.  If the brochure is anything to go by the future is driving Mitsubishi i-MiEVs.

Cars and Bikes

The Holden Volt overshadowed the single Tesla Roadster for rarity value alone.  (Though the carbon fibre interior of the Tesla beats the bright, white dashboard of the Volt hands down.)  As for specs, the Holden Volt appears to be a slightly localised version of the Chevy Volt (appearance, engine and ancillaries) with suspension tune closer to the Opel Ampera.  Only one trim level (the top one) is available at $59,990 or about $64,000 on road.  In ACT the stamp duty when purchasing new is $0, but it isn’t clear if you will get discount registration.  (Come on ACT!)

A very exciting car was one of the 7 Commodore EV developed by EV Engineering.  The battery (estimated range 150km) is more or less the shape of the  transmission of the rear-wheel-drive donor vehicle with the section in the engine bay extended upwards to the top of the firewall.  It only extends about 20cm from the firewall so that the battery can drop without fouling the steering gear and cross-members.  Yes, the car has battery swap ability and therefore could be a game-changer.  In July 2012 one broke the world distance record for an EV – 1886 kilometres of driving over a 24-hour period, in large part because batteries could be swapped for fully-charged ones in a few minutes.

There were plenty of DIY conversions from Canberra EV members, as usual.  Everyone was more than willing to discuss their cars.

DIY bikes were also in force and in some cases in competition up and down the mall.  They ranged from the elegant (Tony Castley’s Suzuki conversion) to the engineered and ended up with the Scrappy, a vision of a petrol free future on the post-apocalyptic side.

General observations

  • The Canberra EV members wore polo shirts to identify themselves and where approachable and informative.
  • However, I think that overall the festival was too passive.  For instance, there was an introduction, but no further PA announcements explaining what was happening.  (Maybe there was a restriction on PA in the mall?)
  • The Canberra EV stand could learn from Questacon.  People are fascinated by science and simple displays can explain so much.
  • Why not have a FAQ?  There are a lot of myths about EV and a simple Q&A and a few posters could have cleared things up.
  • One word: Merchandise?

My tip for next year

Invite Robert Llewellyn of Red Dwarf, Scrapheap Challenge, Carpool and Fully Charged fame.  Is there anyone else doing more across more platforms to promote EV, hybrids and alternative energy while defending all right-thinking people from the worst effects of Jeremy Clarkson?

Big thanks to Heather for her stories, Karl for letting me drive his i-MiEV and everyone else.  See you next year. – FREE ACCESS * TO CANBERRA’S LARGEST ELECTRIC CAR CHARGING NETWORK public network access December 2012.pdf?mkt_tok=3RkMMJWWfF9wsRonv6zJZKXonjHpfsX56OUpXLHr08Yy0EZ5VunJEUWy2YAGSdQhcOuuEwcWGog8wglMDuWHbIxB+fAP.

AFAIK, this is a first big push by Better Place to promote its public charging network in Canberra.  Put down a deposit on a cable, get 24 months free charging.

UPDATE 17:20 01/12/2012

It really is that simple.  As confirmed by Better Place at the Canberra International EV Festival, put down $400 deposit on the cable and you can use their public charging network around Canberra.

Well… there is one catch.  AFAIK none of the spaces is for the exclusive use of EV (or PHV or ERHV).  For months I’ve seen anything but electric cars parked in the spaces at Belconnen Fresh Food Markets, even as the number of spaces has grown from 2 to 5.  In fact there was a skip parked in one of those spaces until recently.

Now I’m not going to name and shame the drivers of ICE cars who park in those spots; they’re not contravening any restrictions.  In an recent email reply,  Better Place pointed out that the spaces belong to the property owners and they could do with them what they liked.  Better Place also hoped that they would change their mind.

Canberra is not teeming with EV and most drivers I spoke to today said that they don’t expect or rely on charging facilities anywhere but at home.  However, put $400 into the equation and suddenly you’ve paid for the privilege and your expectations change.  Those spaces are going to be used.

What can you do?  Write to Belconnen Fresh Food Markets and ask if they are reviewing the use of the 5 spaces.  Perhaps they could make the spaces:

  • exclusively for EV with no time restriction
  • exclusively for EV with no time restriction, however the charging cable must be plugged in at all times
  • 15 minute spaces for ICE cars and unrestricted for EV
  • valet service only.  With car washing facility.

If not, Fyshwick Fresh Food Markets might put in some EV spaces of its own.

Remember to keep yourself nice when you ask nicely for something that would be nice.