Mt Stromlo – Lost and Found

Funny ride today at Mount Stromlo.  Beautiful day to have another go at Loop 2 to avenge my poor performance last time.

Lost – Granny Ring

Changing my old Sachs chain for a new Shimano seemed a great idea at the time.  Sadly, I forgot to compare the number of links with the old chain.  A sudden attack of chain suck indicated a tight link; not unusual with a new chain.  Then I realised that the rear derailleur couldn’t take up enough of the chain to clear the rear cluster when on the smallest front chainring.  I could only access the 2 lowest gears at the rear when on the granny ring at the front.

I didn’t have my chain breaker tool and I wasn’t sure that I could reuse the pins anyway.  (UPDATE: You can use any pin.  Just press them out far enough so that they remain attached to the other link. I took 4 big links or 8  links in total off the new chain.)

On the plus side, I should probably be using the middle chainring anyway; you just can’t get over obstacles when you are spinning the pedals.  Despite this the pedals took a beating (I really must pay more attention) on rocks, tree roots and the trail itself.  I saw a large chunk of a plastic pedal on the track after a rather nasty obstacle.  I feared that the studs I had extended would be bent and snapped, but all was well, if a little scratched.

Lost – XC Loop 2

Revenge postponed.  Loop 2 was closed from Red Rock Lookout, about halfway.  (This also affected Loop 4.)  So today Loop 3: rating Intermediate / Advanced with a suggested ride time of 60 to 90 minutes.

Found – mad skillz and power

I was surprised at how many sections I was able to clear.  Loop 3 is challenging with a lot of rocks right in the middle of the lovely track you’re riding. As previously reported, my new Shimano Saint flat pedals and my wider stance as a result has given me much better balance and somewhat better power from my legs.  Several times I was all but stationary on an obstacle and managed to get the power down on the right line and clear it.  I did plenty of walking (there are sections that defy belief) but I rode sections that I barely walked on Loop 2.

Found – Lost Garmin

At 14:40 I found a Garmin 500/510 on the side of the track on Shady’s, still running.  I’d let 3 overtake me and there was a group of about 8 riders that had left the previous junction just ahead of me.  It shouldn’t be too hard to find someone looking for a missing computer.  If I had to stand in the carpark and yell “Lost Garmin!” and see who came running.  Worst case I’d put a message on Garmin Connect.

At 14:50 I met a rider coming the wrong way, one who had overtaken me earlier.  Sure enough, it was his Garmin.  Shane then spotted my vintage Cannondale Super v 700 SX and then we chatted about his bike, a Specialized Stumpjumper and discussed what bike I should buy next.  (The 2011 Specialized Camber Elite XXL on special at The Cyclery.)  He answered a call from his friends with the good news.  After a few minutes and a good yak, we started the right way up the track.  Despite the track doubling back on itself, Shane was soon out of view.

Lost – Loop 3

The signposting on Mt Stromlo is generally good, if sparse.  Some loops share sections.  I’m sure that one day I’ll learn all the tracks.  This is especially useful when there are trail options… or if I need the fastest way back to the carpark for whatever reason.

I reached the end of one trail and there was no signpost to greet me.  I rode to a nearby trail end and found a sign for Loop 4 and 6; no mention of 3.

So I rode Missing Link (blue and unnumbered) until I found a sign for Dingos.  I had to ride some distance from the sign and turn sharply to enter the trail; 2 warning signs I shouldn’t have ignored.

Lost – all sense of direction

“Dingos” was great fun; tight berms, some drops, trees at my shoulders.  A good skills challenge.  However at the end of the trail the sign was facing the wrong way.  Or rather… I had just ridden Crimtrac the wrong way!

Comparing my MapMyRide trace to the Loop 3 map it seems that I missed the Telegraph Junction and ended up on the wrong side of Crimtrac; and you don’t want that!)

Two riders were just about to enter Crimtrac the right way.  Keep them in my sights and I should be OK.  I let them pass (nice track stand in a wide part of the trail) and struggled to keep them in eye- or ear-shot.  At the end of Crimtrac I could see them climbing towards Dingos, so at least I’d ride that the right way.

Found – Loop 3

I was now on the downhill stretch.  There were small climbs and uphill berms to negotiate, but the vibe was “coming home”.  MapMyRide had me quite close to the carpark, but there’s an unknown number of twists and turns to get there.

Stats from the ride

I switched off the auto-pause feature on MapMyRide because I was concerned that any slow sections might be interpreted as pauses and may under-report my true times, putting me at the top of the leaderboard on any courses I rode.

I stopped a few times; to check the chain, deflate my tyres, take a “natural break”, decide whether I wanted to play anymore and handed back a lost Garmin Edge computer.  Riding the same track twice doesn’t help.  The track also stopped a km or two from the finish, for some reason.  My real time was probably just under 2 hours.

  • Distance 17.53km
  • Time 2:23:56.  Somewhat more than the suggested ride time of 60-90 minutes.
  • Climbs Cat 4 and Cat 5
  • Calories 2548
  • Heart Rate: Ave 177, peak 197, 62% was above zone 3.


I’m really happy that those happy accidents happened. I found that I could finish Loop 3 without too much bother, negotiate gnarly obstacles (mostly), help someone and get lost and find so much.


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…