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.

Bicycle Parking – making the streets safe for more cycling

Everyone, like even your mum rides a bicycle in Japan.  As transport options go they are cheap, easy to maintain and easy to park.  The last one is a bit too easy sometimes.

Railway stations often have large parking areas for bicycles, sometimes outhouses with multiple levels of racks.  Take  a walk around a Japanese city or outside a department store and the sheer number of bicycles and mini motorbikes is astonishing.  So too are the signs imploring the always polite and law-abiding not to park bikes there.  Recently the problem of bikes parked and abandoned must have reached a crisis point and the friendly reminders needed some reinforcement.

In Sannomiya, several de facto parking areas have been converted for paid, secure bicycle parking.  Garden boxes have been removed to install racks with integrated locks and a pay system.

Bicycle and motorbike parking warden issuing warnings (orange notices).  Bicycle parking area behind
Bicycle and motorbike parking warden issuing warnings (orange notices). Bicycle parking area behind

All bicycles are registered, so issuing an infringement notice is relatively easy.  I’m not sure if owners are being fined or merely cautioned with orange bits of paper; I haven’t seen any bicycles impounded though that option exists.

Bicycle Parking -Sannomiya Kobe.  Suddenly there's a footpath to walk down!
Bicycle Parking -Sannomiya Kobe. Suddenly there’s a footpath to walk down!  And yes, that red bike does say “Ferrari”.

Motorcycles are also catered for, though with cables instead of racks.

Parking area for 50-150cc motorbikes - Sannomiya Kobe
Parking area for 50-150cc motorbikes – Sannomiya Kobe

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…

Calculating the ideal weight for cycling (UPDATED)

English: The graph shows the correlation betwe...
The graph shows the correlation between body mass index (BMI) and percent body fat (%BF) for men in NCHS’ NHANES III 1994 data. The body fat percent shown uses the method from Romero-Corral et al. to convert NHANES BIA to %BF (June 2008). “Accuracy of body mass index in diagnosing obesity in the adult general population”. International Journal of Obesity 32 (6) : 959–956. DOI:10.1038/ijo.2008.11. PMID 18283284. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

[This is adapted from the article Let there be Light by Selene Yaeger published in the Autumn 2013 edition of Ride magazine.]

What’s an ideal weight?

That very much depends on what you are doing.  Carrying a few kilos is fine for recreational cyclists (in fact, a little fat is usually better than next to none); however, a lower weight will help you become competitive and climb like a tiny Columbian, allegedly.  Since every extra kilogram above my ideal weight will make me 20-25s slower for each kilometre of a climb [Hunter Allen], then I need to figure out my ideal weight.  And reach it.  Here are the 3 methods and 3 rationales to determine ideal weight:

  1. Losing a bit of weight;
  2. Getting lean and a little mean;
  3. Competing at a high level.

What about BMI?

Body Mass Index is a fairly blunt instrument and much older than you might think.  Here is a mathematician tearing into it.

SIR – The body-mass index that you (and the National Health Service) count on to assess obesity is a bizarre measure. We live in a three-dimensional world, yet the BMI is defined as weight divided by height squared. It was invented in the 1840s, before calculators, when a formula had to be very simple to be usable. As a consequence of this ill-founded definition, millions of short people think they are thinner than they are, and millions of tall people think they are fatter. 

Nick Trefethen 
Professor of numerical analysis
University of Oxford

The Economist 5 January 2013

Wii Fit using a BMI of 21 expects me to aim for 83.5kg.  Starting from 115kg on 1 January 2013 it didn’t look like that was physically possible.  When I was quite thin about 15 years ago I was 90kg!

Using the slightly more realistic BMI range of 18.5 to 25 from the Heart Foundation’s handy calculator, at 195cm tall that gives a range of 72 to 95kg.  More realistic, but a bit vague. See also New BMI Calculator (below)

There are alternatives to the BMI that are better at determining risk factors of obesity, including two that only need a tape measure.  Or I could use three that are a more accurate.

1. Ride more weight less

The first method assumes that you are riding recreationally, maybe you used to ride a lot or perhaps you are trying to lose some weight to gain performance.  This formula is more advanced than BMI, but not by a lot.

Step Men Women
1 Baseline 48kg for the first 152cm 45.5kg for the first 152cm
+ 1.06kg for each extra cm + 0.9kg for each extra cm


 kg  kg
2 Frame size  


>165cm <158 158-165 >165


14-16.5cm Small <14 <15.2 <15.9 Small
16.5-19cm Medium 14-14.6 15.2-15.9 15.9-16.5 Medium
>19cm Large >14.6 >15.9 >16.5 Large


3 Ideal weight Small Baseline -10% Small Baseline -10%
Medium Baseline Medium Baseline
Large Baseline +10% Large Baseline +10%
My Ideal Weight (for now) is…  kg  kg

Step 1 is a fairly simple calculation based on averages.

Step 2 takes into account your inherent body shape, good for 10% adjustment either way.  The adjustment for women is more complex by virtue of a bigger range of shapes.

Step 3 is to compare the calculated amount with your current weight.

Based on 195cm my baseline weight is 94kg.  My wrist is 19cm which is a large frame (just), so I can add 10% to take my ideal weight to 103kg.


I’m now 104-105kg (down from 115kg at the start of the year) so what does this mean?  I’m interpreting this as indicating the end of the first stage towards fitness in readiness for more intensity.

And if the weight calculated is less than your current weight, then you need to move to the next formula.

2. Body Fat Percentage

Let’s say that you are riding several times a week, training for an endurance event, you want to change your body composition for more power, or you current weight is below the ideal weight calculated above.

The healthy body fat range is 10 to 25% for men and 18 to 30% for women.  Too little fat can compromise your immune system, so less is not always more.

 1 Measure your Current body fat %
 2 Goal body fat % Male 10-25% / Female 18-30%
3 Current weight x Body Fat Percentage Mass of body fat in kg
4 Current weight – mass of body fat Lean body mass in kg
5 (1 – Goal body fat %) Proportion of lean body
Result Lean body mass ÷ proportion of lean body [step 5] Ideal weight

If I use 27% as current body fat (average of recent measurements by a Tanita BC-522 scale) and 20% as my goal and 105kg as my weight, I have about 28kg of fat, 77kg lean.  From that my calculated weight is about 96kg.


This weight looks like a next step.  Assuming that I reach 103kg (see above) shortly, then 96kg should come with increased training.  That goal seems achievable by not being that far away and would be expected after an increase in training that I was about to undertake anyway.

3. Competitive streak (not bacon)

This is one’s “fighting weight”.  If you are not going for the highest level of the sport, then this weight will be a step too far.  If you focussed only on dropping to this weight you may actually lose power in the process!  But let’s do the sums and see what happens.

The creator of the Cycling Bible series coach Joe Friel analysed top cyclists to see what weight they carried per centimetre of height and found this range:

  • Male – 375g to 430g per cm
  • Female – 340g to 394g per cm

This empirical measure can’t explain everything (Cadel Evans is as wide as both Schleck brothers side-by-side!) but with statistical methods and a big sample you get very close.

So at 195cm the male weight range is 73 – 84kg.  Sampling the Tour de France squads, all but one rider near 195cm fits in that range:

  • Michael Schär BMC – 196cm 74kg
  • Bjorn Thurau Europcar – 193cm 78kg
  • Laurent Mangel FDJ – 195cm 83kg
  • Johan Vansummeren Garmin-Sharp – 197cm 79kg
  • Olivier Kaisen Lotto-Belisol – 195cm 82kg
  • Mercel Sieberg Lotto-Belisol – 198cm 82kg
  • Stijn Vandenburgh Omega Pharma-Quickstep – 199cm 83kg
  • Jens Mouris Orica-Greenedge – 197cm 91kg (!)
  • Christian Knees Sky Procycling – 194cm 81kg
  • Mirko Selvaggi Vacansoleil-DCM 195cm 73kg

4. New BMI calculator

While its author warns that the new BMI is still just one number, and that he is just a mathematician, the new formula at least normalises for height.

  • Current formula: BMI = weight/height2
  • New formula: BMI = 1.3 * weight/height2.5

Based on the new BMI Calculator I return to the Healthy range at 102.1kg.


It has been interesting to break up weight loss into goals that align to purpose and intensity of an activity.  Telling me to drop to 83.5kg from my former weight of 115kg is just absurd, even if Wii Fit Board is cute when he says that with a smile.  But if I make that weight via 103kg and 96kg, then 84kg seems reasonable; as long as I accept that I will be riding in most of my spare time every week and I’d better start racing to make it worthwhile.  I could ramp up to that.  Or I could slack off and be satisfied with something in the low 90’s and thighs that could break macadamias.  Wouldn’t that be nice?

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.

Keeping track of cycling and training

I’m starting to get a bit serious about cycling.  It’s one thing to ride every weekend (regardless of weather) and put down the k’s, it’s another to establish a training program.

(Spoiler alert: I do not have a fully-fledged training program yet, but I’m getting together the pieces.)


A fairly simple step is to track activity.  I’ve used MapMyRide, Strava and now Garmin Fit to keep track of my rides.  My current preference is Garmin Fit because it is easy in Australia to find accessories that are compatible with it, whereas both MapMyRide and Strava work with proprietary adapters. (That’s probably true of the Garmin too, but at least I can get Garmin stuff.)

Sharing with others is not essential.  Websites will not compare your times to others if you mark your rides as ‘private’, so you won’t know where you sit in the pack.  I suggest that you keep rides public.  If you are at the back of the pack, so what!  I tend to be at the rear for climbs, but nearer the front on flat or downhill sections.  What does that tell me?


The parameters that you record will have a big impact on what you can analyse.  The combination of parameters may even influence the accuracy of the analysis:

  • Speed, distance and time can be recorded on a classic cycle computer for a few bucks.  You could fiddle and produce an upload file for analysis, but just buy a GPS device instead.
  • Using GPS gives position at a given time and therefore speed, distance and time second by second.  You also get elevation over time, which means slope or grade. With grade and distance you can see climbs in terms of category.
  • Cadence is the rotational speed of your pedalling measured in revolutions per minute (rpm).  Most cheap cycle computers have cadence.  Knowing your cadence on a road bike is especially useful when attempting endurance rides, where a high cadence usually means longer endurance.  On a mountain bike cadence is trickier to maintain because of the variation in terrain and speed.
  • Knowing your Heart Rate is very important for training.  Understanding which heart rate zone you are in will have a big impact on the effectiveness of your training.
  • Power is useful, but very expensive to monitor.  Some indoor trainers can be used to measure power as a function of speed, load and cadence.  But to measure on the bike, you are looking at $1600-2000 for pedal, crank or hub sensors.


If you rode the same route on a few occasions, then your best time would mean the fastest and the best ride, right?  But what if one day the traffic light faeries were smiling, the traffic was light and you didn’t have to stop or even slow down.  The total time taken is not a reliable guide.

However, your times on a defined section of road (or track) are comparable and often give a good indication of performance.  As you improve from fitness or technique, you’ll find yourself beating old times or matching old times with

MapMyRide, Strava and Garmin Connect all have graphs and averages and maps and stuff.  It is up to your taste which one suits you.  I liked MapMyRide, but the website was clunky (since improved).  I used Strava app on iPhone until I bought the Garmin ABT+ adapter that it wouldn’t recognise.  So now I use Garmin Fit on iPhone and upload the GPX files to Strava with premium membership.  The extra features are just about worth it, especially if you have a heart rate monitor and/or power meter.

BTW, using Garmin Fit as my app means that I can’t see live Strava segment times.  Probably for the best that I just ride steadily and not try to beat a particular time.

Yes, but how did you feel about that?

I’m starting to record how I felt during the ride as a score out of 10.  This can be more useful than time.  If you feel crappy, then there may be something wrong with your training, position on the bike, clothing or general mental well-being.    Some days you should stay off the bike and some days being on the bike can make it better.

Hint: I get cheered up whenever a warm breeze blows, as one did on an otherwise cold and calm Canberra morning last Tuesday (scored 9/10).  The trick is to keep up there even when the breeze turns cold.

Recently I’ve been up and down in how I’m feeling but my times have been my best or close to my best.  And I’ve re-based the score so an old 10/10 is now 7.5/10 to give me a bit more room at the top.


As luck would have it, my boss is not only a racer on- and off-road but also a level 2 accredited cycling coach.  It has been great to discuss my weekend’s riding and get expert analysis.  Every week I’ve been able to make a little change or notice a subtle difference, whether it be maintaining high cadence or knowing what part of a climb to attack.

I also subscribe to for tips.  I haven’t bought any of their training packages yet, but the combination of a Kirk Kinetic indoor trainer and training DVDs seems a good way to learn.

Noticed anything?

In the past two months I’ve noticed a real improvement in my fitness.  I’ve been slowly improving my times since 30/12/2012, but the recent changes have been fairly dramatic.  Sections that used to knock me out are now covered much easier.  Climbs that had me redlining at 195 bpm (or higher!) are now peaking at 180-185 bpm.  On a very steep and loose section I briefly hit 199 bpm but my heart rate started to fall, even though I still had a few minutes left on that climb and averaged 175 for a very tough section.  And I rode the whole thing.

When I ride with my colleague, I can converse with little effort while he is struggling for breath and I spend most of my time in zones 1 and 2 (or 2 and 3, if you use the Garmin zones).

It seems that the endurance riding I did during Winter never allowing my legs to get lactic is paying off.  I recently completed some steep climbs nearby at a 95% effort and didn’t feel any soreness afterwards.  The theory is that low-intensity distance riding builds capillaries throughout the muscles and if you get lactic during that time, the capillaries burn and the effort is lost.  When your muscles have dense capillaries, you can feed and remove waste much more easily.  Therefore it is easier to push harder without the burn while you’re riding or the pain afterwards.

There’s still a way to go.  But seeing the green shoots of fitness and some further weight loss is more than enough encouragement to aim for longer and harder challenges.  Such as riding the 140km Canberra’s Centenary Trail in a day next weekend or attempting a 200km Audax.

Measure for measure


What do we want in a Local Bike Shop?

Interesting article in the Wall Street Journal about trends in bike shops.  Here’s a taste:

Around the country, bike shops are shifting gears. The National Bicycle Dealers Association 2013 survey of 4,000 establishments found that 12% have coffee bars, 11% offer spinning classes and almost 5% serve beer. About 1% offer massages, yoga or full-service restaurants.

I hope that Australia does not follow this particular trend.  Sure, bike shops can benefit from engaging with their customers on more than one level and that benefit goes both ways.  But there’s a limit, surely.

They don’t have shops like they used to

In the 1980’s Newcastle NSW was second to only Adelaide SA for the number of bike shops per capita.  There was a dominant LBS owned by a famous cyclist.  Great range, good prices and nice staff.  Families bought bike after bike from there; 2 or more per generation.  But the only things I ever bought there were New-Old Stock (NOS) parts to upgrade my existing bike; a Sugino triple crankset, 105 brake levers, Deore front and rear derailleurs.  In hindsight, I should have bought a brand name bike from him, but I convinced myself that a custom bike would be a better choice.

Sadly, I purchased my custom bike from what I later discovered was one of the most complained-about bike shops in Newcastle.  The wheels went out of true within metres of the shop, the frame weighed a ton, flexed like a slinky and was missing braze-ons for the shifters, bottle cages and a dérailleur hanger.  I had bought a dud for the same money that I could have bought a proper machine.

Then there was “Dodgy Maurice”.  His hovel of a bike shop was my favourite because there was always so much to discover in there.  Invariably Maurice would show off some exotic groupset, frame, pedals or wheels and would always make the same two statements about the item [read with an outrageous French accent]:

  1. “zis is the only one in Australia…”, and;
  2. “…but you cannot buy.”

If you were prepared to dig around the dusty cabinets you could find some parts for that old bike.  It was a bizarre experience that I couldn’t help but share with my cycling friends.

Europa Cycles had unusual and exotic bikes and beards.  These guys were serious, the brands were serious and the prices were serious.  The mechanic rode a fixie to work 2 decades before it was fashionable.  The first shop was in the middle of Hunter Street near a liquor store; an odd place for either since no-one lived in the city.  They moved next to the Greater Union Cinemas in King Street.  They once let me use their workshop to re-lace my rear wheel onto a new rim after I’d slammed into a gutter sideways, only charging me for 6 new spokes and a few minutes of truing and centring instead of a full hour.

Canberra’s bike shops are generally very good. (Oddly enough, one of the few that does serve coffee is the one I would not recommend as the staff are too busy chatting to themselves to bother serving customers.) It is easy to find a shop that you like and just spend all of your money.  My current favourites are The Cyclery (who service my Cannondale) and Bike Culture (from whom I bought my Trek Domane 4.5).  No coffee, no masseur, no chakra realignments.  But both have very knowledgeable staff, a great range of stuff and comprehensive bike fitting services.  (Have I mentioned how essential comprehensive bike fitting is yet?)  What else could you possibly want from your LBS?

As Bernard Black once said, “Coffee and books is a fad!”  If I hang out at a bike shop it’s because I want to explore all the cool bikes, cool accessories and cool tools, not drink free trade mocha lattes.  That’s for the end of the ride.

BTW, I hoping to visit some groovy bike shops in Japan, including the “Above Bike Shop” in Kawasaki, home of the “Starf***ers” brand crankset.  Worth the price of the tickets alone.

2011 London riots looted bike shop
“I asked for SOY!” 2011 London riots looted bike shop (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

PR on every Segment – Mulligans Flat ride

I had a great day for results today.  I PR’d every segment I rode and smashed some old times.  I was feeling 9/10 and even though the wattle pollen was noticeable.

Name Dist Elev Speed HR New Time Previous Best
Mulligan’s gate to gate east 3.3km 32m 22.9km/h 164bpm 00:08:30 00:09:07
Kangawallafox Climb 1.7km 29m 24.1km/h 171bpm 00:04:15 00:04:34
Quoll Gate to Curlew Gate 1.4km 9m 21.2km/h 164bpm 00:03:50 00:04:55
Mulligans Not So Flat – The Rest 1.5km 22m 16.0km/h 169bpm 00:05:50 00:05:50
mulligan’s gate to gate west 3.3km 33m 20.3km/h 159bpm 00:09:32 00:10:03
Mulligan’s Sanctuary to Gate 0.5km 9m 21.0km/h 169bpm 00:01:31 00:02:09

On segments 1, 2 and 5 I waited at the top for my colleague Amandeep, so there’s almost 20s to gain there.  On those segments I pushed quite hard, maybe 90-95% effort.  The big difference was that my legs provided power without question instead of crumbling as I reached the top.

Makes me want to set some goals:

  1. Mulligan’s gate to gate east in 8:00
  2. Kangawallafox Climb in 3:45
  3. Quoll Gate to Curlew Gate in 3:40
  4. Mulligans Not So Flat – The Rest in 5:30 (I should aim lower, but I’ll just have to see.)
  5. mulligan’s gate to gate west in 8:00 (which should be easier than going East if the current times from other riders are anything to go by.)
  6. Mulligan’s Sanctuary to Gate in 1:25.

Now that Spring is starting, I might start morning rides and chase these times down.

It also appears that my average heart rate, while still high, is moderating and my recovery time is improving gradually.



New Road Bike… at last

Finally bought a new road bike.  After months of test rides, research and calculation I have finally ended the frustration for at least one bike shop by buying something. What a thing the Trek Domane 4.5 is.

A Trek Domane 4.5 yesterday.  Mine is not quite as clean

The options

My existing road bike was adequate; surprisingly so.  After the heavy wheels of my MTB, it was great to accelerate comparatively light 27″ wheels.  But as I repaired one part and then another and found parts hard to come by (where’s the eccentric bike shop owner with loads of dust-covered New Old Stock) I considered a new road bike.

My first thoughts were to buy a Cyclo-cross bike, which have only recently appeared on the Australian market.  Why not get a frame capable of taking wide or skinny tyres with braze-ons for mudguards and racks and powerful disc brakes.  I could ride on- or off-road by swapping wheels.  That would be great for blasting good times on the smooth tracks that would never be beaten.  Among others I considered the Specialized Tricross.   However, the reality is a bit harsh: you pay more than an equivalent road bike, the frame is heavier and less compliant.  The ride was not much smoother than my steel bike, despite the wide tyres.

Immediately after, I rode a Specialized Roubaix Comp.  The ride was so soft by comparison to the Tricross that I thought I’d broken it.  The frame was so plush and compliant that the footpath bumps dissolved, but the Pavé seat post was bendy to the point of being disconcerting; the saddle rotated rearwards under light pressure from my hand let alone my weight.  It felt like the sag on my MTB before I pumped up the rear shock.  A few weeks later I tried the same bike with a solid alloy post and found it much nicer.  Though I was assured that I would get used to the sensation.

I checked out the Trek Domane.  A week before one of the staff at Bike Culture offered his 62cm 6-series Domane as a test ride, even allowing me to ride the Federal Highway if I so chose. I rode a mere 7.5km (I’d already ridden the Fed a bit that morning) with a stupid smile on my face.  The ride was smooth and lovely despite skinny tyres pumped to the max and my riding over bumps.

While I was still making my mind up I stumbled upon the Cannondale Synapse.  Apparently half of the people who test the Synapse and the Roubaix chose the Synapse.  Having ridden it I think that I can understand why; the damping seems to be throughout the frame, not just rotation at the saddle.


These bikes are sold at full retail with no discounting, though you might get some extras thrown in.  Then along comes the Tour de France and suddenly the specials come out. Both Trek and Cannondale dropped their prices by 20%, but not Specialized.  My research (well, research conducted by Velonews) showed that the Roubaix was best at absorbing big bumps but the Domane and Synapse were equal or better at small bumps.  The Trek seemed to offer more for the money and had allowed for fitting mudguards.  I’m sure that a proper accounting would show any differences to be minor and/or justified by other factors, but take 20% off and it’s hard to stretch to the Specialized.  The Cannondale looks boss with its paint scheme and bold decals and 20% off put it under $3000 for Ultegra groupset with nice wheels or under $2200 for 105.

The decider

Three great bikes and two great bike shops; so how to decide.

It looked like I’d blown the Trek with the last three 62cm Domanes sold out in the previous week leaving only a 60cm 4.5 in the shop. But I had a quick test ride with the saddle at maximum height and it felt the right size.  Perhaps I was in-between sizes.  Brent at Bike Culture put my name on the bike to hold it, but insisted on a fitting before he would sell it to me.

Thursday’s fitting was an immediate success.  Brent had dropped the saddle 20mm from the maximum I’d ridden it at a few days before.  Now wearing my cycling shoes and pedals (as opposed to my mountain bike boots and plastic pedals) combined with the lower saddle the size seemed to be almost exactly right.  A second opinion from George and a wider saddle (with titanium rails, no less!) shifted slightly forward and the job’s a good’un.

After the fitting I kept my pedals on the bike… I guess I’d made up my mind.