Sunday rides and Strava v. MapMyRide

Phoenix chainring
Phoenix chainring (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Started so well.  I rode to Coffee Guru at Bonner, which is likely to become a favourite start/finish line for such rides.  I got down to the bottom of the concrete path near Mulligan’s Flat Rd and Rob Riley Circuit (known as “Bonner Training Climb” on Strava) and had a bit of a stretch.  The climb on the middle ring felt OK, a fact confirmed by my time of 5:21 and King of the Mountain status on Strava (first place out of 2 riders).

Scrambled over to the bottom of the grassy climb.  The inner chainring (the granny gear) was not letting go of the chain.  I flipped the bike upside down to find the sticky link.  A few wiggles and the problem should have been solved, but then I saw some burrs of alloy on the chainring, which I cleaned off with a screwdriver.  Until I found one almost the size of a grain of rice.  This was not so much a burr as a tooth that had been folded backwards and no amount of scraping would remove it.  It will need to be ground or filed off.  Even liberal lashings of lube that worked when the chain was not loaded could not overcome the jam when the chain was loaded and was therefore seated deeply into the chainring and hard against the burr.  The old chain would catch a little, but must have been just wide enough to not get stuck.  There would be no attempt on the climb today and walking it would have been pointless and misleading.

The rear shock pressure was just about right at 250 psi and about 15mm less sag.  The pogoing has reduced but not disappeared, I can stand and pedal with reasonable success and I was a good 10mm from bottoming out, even after some big bumps on my return ride.  However, I had to let out some air from the front fork; 180psi was way too much and 150psi was more like it.

But I really need to get the brakes bled.  The front brake lever almost touches the handlebar before it starts to work, so I had to avoid picking up speed where it would be tricky to reduce it.

Joined the border track near the Mulligans Flat Rd/Gundaroo Rd roundabout and continued on my normal run.  But this time I ended in O’Conner in the hope of seeing some bikes at Bike Culture.  Well… at least the 39 Steps cafe was open and I had a free coffee on my card!

Return was around the Southern side of Mount Ainslie.  On Telecoms Rd I was stopped by a personal trainer who sought advice on the tracks heading to Mount Ainslie.  His mission was to take “sloths” from the Department of Defence building to the East and give them an hour of pain they wouldn’t forget easily. I’m not sure if there are tracks heading from the fire trails to the peak, but there must be.  We chatted about options for a little while and then he set off to try some out.

Oasis of green in parched bushland.  Three small gulleys empty into this spot.  Sadly, I scared off the parrots that had been feeding there moments before.
Oasis of green in parched bushland. Three small gulleys empty into this spot. Sadly, I scared off the parrots that had been feeding there moments before.  132kVA poles in the background.

I took the Blue Metal Rd and turned left to follow the 132 kVA lines until I ran out of track.  I climbed the walking track until it met the fire trail.  A few moments later I was climbing a steep and rocky hill when saw a man and an 8-year-old girl jogging down the hill towards me.  They had just cleared the steepest and rockiest section when the girl tumbled forward onto her face.  Her father went all drill instructor on her arse telling her to stop crying and that the fall was nothing to worry about.  He said this even as he wiped dirt from her teeth and removed stones from a cut in her hand.  I stopped to see if everything was OK (apart from the drill instructor dad bullshit) just long to wonder.  Oh, and to put things into perspective, they were at least 1.5km distant and 50m above the nearest house or hope of first aid.  Nice one drill instructor dad.

Return was back along Goorooyarroo and Mulligan’s Flat.  Bum started to hurt, more from chafing than from pressure.

Strava was a bit of a change from MapMyRide.  For a start its display is dark (which probably helps battery life a little) with a single start/stop button.  The only stats are time (nice big numbers), distance and average speed.  I’ve since discovered that you have to swipe to see the map, though it only takes up 1/3 of the screen.  First attempt at uploading did not go well.  After 5 goes it seemed to work.  I uploaded the return journey successfully over WiFi when I got home.

A very big difference is the amount of analysis you can do in the app.  For MapMyRide you can get some information on the app but you need to use the website (and click through several levels) for analysis.  By contrast, Strava has every segment (course) you’ve ridden with leaderboard, filters, accurate grade, distance and altitude measurements.  And the units are consistent.

It’s obvious that the Strava community is much larger than the MapMyRide community. Or perhaps Strava encourages competition.  On my out ride I rode 13 segments, compared to a no courses on MapMyRide and 8 on return compared to 1 on MapMyRide.  I’ve already had a comment from the person upon whose segment I achieved KOM..  He has vowed to beat my record on Tuesday.  I’m treating that as friendly and neighbourly competition.

Sunday ride – pedals, saddle and finding Mount Majura

I carried it most of the way up here, so why stop now

0900 start for a Sunday ride was just achievable after a Saturday night dinner party.  I spent some of the time removing the spacers from the pedal studs for an extra few mm of grip ready for the early start.

Not off to a great start

A 10km ride to Dickson and I wasn’t feeling great.  Kneecaps tingling, legs just OK, not quite with it.  I had a female rider behind me who flew past on Phillip Avenue and was 250m ahead in no time.  I wasn’t warming up like I had hoped.  Today was going to be a struggle.  Amandeep had suffered on the previous day too, so we would probably have to be satisfied with a reasonably long but gentle ride.

For some reason I shifted my body forward on the saddle and pedalled.  Immediately, the pain in my kneecaps was gone.  Maybe I had found another magic position change.

Saddle position?

I met Amandeep in Dickson at 0900.  Before the ride proper I shifted my saddle forward about 15 mm; it had been almost fully back on the rails.  I think this originated with my first road bike when I discovered that the head and seat tube angles were 77° and I put the seat back to try to get some room.  When I got my mountain bike I put the saddle up to road height and felt very top-heavy and unbalanced.  As we can see, I’m starting to put these bike position mistakes right.

The first 1.5km was flat but I could already notice a difference.  At the 2.5km point we entered the Mount Ainslie Reserve and chose a first lap clockwise from Hancocks Rd.  From the beginning of that long climb the extra power was obvious.  I was a bit sore from Saturday, but my legs moved really well.  The Telecoms Track descent was a bit trickier with the number of walkers (never like this at noon) and the rolling hills to follow were dispatched with relative ease.  Maybe Amandeep’s suggestion of a second lap as we started the first was not so far-fetched or unattainable after all.

Mount Majura, where art it?

I few weeks ago I didn’t reach Mount Majura.  Twice.  My first heroic attempt got 3/4 up a very steep hill and I am proud of that.  The peak at 730m seemed a little unspectacular but I took a panorama series of photos anyway.

The second attempt was from Majura Drive and the access road.  The locked gate had no facility to crawl through and the big signs warned me not to trespass the civil aviation site.

By the start of our second lap I was feeling good enough to try to find the route to Mount Majura again.  Clever dicks who are currently asking “But it’s the highest peak, so why didn’t you just look up?” are invited to try to find a peak when standing at the bottom of a eucalypt forest.

Hancocks to Hacket track and then up the Blue Metal Rd.  Taking the left track towards Majura Pines (instead of the right curve towards the fake Mt Majura) we were at the bottom of a gnarly singletrack going up.  I managed to ride sections of it but the narrow and rocky track was definitely not made for cycling and it wasn’t clear where the track headed.  Maybe it was the sound of children from above us that helped the decision to continue.  We had come this far and decided to walk to the peak.  (I later discovered on MapMyRide that the climb from Blue Metal Road to the peak is 2.85 km long and 197 m up at an average of 6.9%, or a Category 3.)

Soon we stumbled across a vehicular road that must join with Majura Pines.  While it was steeper than the singletrack it was at least wider and offered some hope of being rideable.  We attempted a few times but it was a bit of a scramble.  So we walked.

At the top of that climb was a T-intersection where a family was having a picnic.  Now that was a surprise.  We got quite useful information from the many walkers, such was the peak being 1km away.  However, no-one was able to explain that it was also 110m higher than where we were.  Quite a few sections were rideable, but there was still some pushing.  We set mini goals to ride to a tree or a flat section to break up the mountain into molehills.  And its nice to get encouragement from others, who have expended no small effort to get there themselves, albeit on two legs.

The final push was very steep.  Hikers had made a narrow walking track on banks above the road.  I took the rough and steep road because the idea of falling off the high bank while riding didn’t appeal.  Made it a tiny way up before being passed by a poodle.

At the top of the path is a gate… and then you see the access road.  (So, I can’t ride up the access road, but I can climb the dirt road and then go through the gate.  Right.)  A short, steep climb and we were on the peak at 888m.  The view is spectacular, not least because of the red, rotating radar just below.  Amandeep took his gloves off with little hesitation (good sign) to take my photo.

(BTW, if you look at my 6:11 time and 10.6km/h average on MapMyRide it will appear that I screamed up those hills.  However, the auto-pause setting was overactive.  Even when I was travelling rather quickly the screen showed that auto-pause was active.  The correct time was closer to 20:30 and 3.2km/h.)

Amandeep on Mt Majura.  Trusty bike on background.
Amandeep on Mt Majura. Trusty bike on background.

The downhill was interesting; we passed about 20 hikers and it’s hard to stop when the front brake is a bit squidgy and the rear tyre is scrambling for grip. Instead of taking the steep track to Majura Pines we continued straight down a singletrack with some great little obstacles. It got a little congested with hikers (it is their track, after all) and some of the steps were tricky to negotiate.  Maybe the “no cyclists” sign was supposed to be heeded.  We turned off to the 132kVA track and Blue Metal Rd.

After coffee and a croissant at Good Brother we left separately; Amandeep to his car and bike rack, me to The Cyclery.  The downhill was not fun with a front brake that was very soft at the top of the hill and slightly firmer by the bottom so I looked for a brake bleed kit.  But bought a new chain instead.

I’m not finished

Return trip… hmmm.  I was feeling genki so I headed for the dirt once more: A 20km return instead of the 10km road ride.  Rode the lower Ainslie track, climbed Hancocks (3rd time) to the Hackett Track and descended through Watson to the Federal Highway climb.

But why stop there.  Last week’s ride along Horse Park Drive was not pleasant and since I was feeling quite good I crossed HPD and descended along the fence line of Goorooyaroo.  The entry point is just below the handle where the bike lane crosses the uphill off-ramp.

I’d only ridden back along Goorooyaroo for the first time on Saturday and that was from its peak.  But my legs felt fine (bum a bit sore, though) so I was up for it.  Got quite warm and windy, so I didn’t push too hard.  But just as I reached the gate at Mulligans Flat I ran out of water.  I hoped that I would make it home OK, even if I had to do it under reduced power.  By now it was nearly 1400.  Big thanks to Conservation ACT who gave me some drinking water as they packed up their sausage sizzle.  A big drink was enough to get home.

Post mortem (not literally)

Position on the bike is very important.  Being 195cm tall I know that more than most.  But subtle changes can reap huge benefits.  Paying someone $100 or more to fit you to a bike is not a waste of money at all.  For the first time since I was a student I can feel the whole leg working to move me along.  If I pedaled out of the saddles before my quads would scream.  It appears that it wasn’t using them to cycle and they were suddenly awoken with a rush of blood and lactic acid.

And I no longer have lower back pain, perhaps from the hamstrings pulling the muscles.  I still have tingling fingers and some numbness, so there’s still work to be done.  Apart from a slightly sore and chafed bum and a dark cyclist tan (dark forearms, light hands and watch band, dark knees and outer calves, light thighs) I feel great.  And that’s after over 90km of intense cycling (and climbing) on the weekend.

I have next weekend off the bike for my sister’s visit, ironically because her husband is riding from Sydney to Canberra for Police Legacy.  I doubt that he’ll be in the mood for a dirt lap at the end of his journey… but you never know.