Tuesday, September 4, 2007

1 Sept/ 31 Aug

1-9-07 The whole family biked round to Lyall Bay (about 5 km) to watch Anna play netball. This is a first because Tessa (7 and a half) can’t ride a bike. So I attached a small pillow to the cross-bar of my XTC 1 (longer top tube) with a stretchy and plonked her on that and away we went. Much to my surprise, because she had nowhere to rest her feet except against the frame, she enjoyed it. We even caught up Catherine and Anna.

Tessa can ride a bike round a field, but isn’t capable enough to ride on the road. More to the point, she doesn’t want to and, sadly, as much as I’m an advocate of cycling (we don’t have a car) and it would be useful to us if she could ride, we’ve been very slack about teaching her. Also, I’m ambivalent about kids on bikes because the sad truth is that cycling in NZ is very dangerous. I also worry, in a stupid liberal parent way, about how essential it is for kids to know how to ride a bike these days. We don’t have a car, but Anna and Tessa can get around well enough by foot or bus. I’d like them to be able to bike, but then they’d have to negotiate the kinds of narrow squeaks I have to every time I cycle into town. The chances of them being injured or killed are quite high.

On a bike, you’ve no seatbelt and no protection. When’s the last time you heard on the news ‘A cyclist and a car collided today: the cyclist is unhurt, while the driver of the car is in hospital recovering from serious injuries’?

Motorists often complain that cyclists break the law, and that’s true, I certainly run red lights and bike on the footpath. But my main reason for doing so is actually to get out of the way of the cars. If I just plonked myself in a crowded lane and rode like a vehicle as I’m entitled to do, someone would simply drive over the top of me. By going on the footpath and ducking through red lights when it’s safe, I avoid holding up traffic on the clogged and narrow roads.

Motorists also complain that cyclists sidle up the inside of traffic queuing at intersections. Yep, we do, and I’ll be happy to stop doing that when motorists sit patiently behind me instead of pushing me into the gutter by sidling past me on the outside. I won’t squeeze past you on the left, if you don’t push past me on the right.

NZ drivers are the worst in the world. They do many things wrong, but there’s one basic mindset behind their many failings: they have no concept that there is anyone else on the road other than themselves. Hence, they may be good rally drivers, but put them with other road users and they are likely to drive into each other. For example, the death of Possum Bourne (or whatever his name was). He collided head-on with another rally driver on a test run – neither having considered the possibility that there might be anyone other than themselves on the road.

So if NZ drivers crash into each other all the time, don’t indicate (there’s no one else on the road to see it, remember?), drive too fast, fail to drive to the conditions (too fast in bad weather and on bad roads), you can imagine how they handle cyclists. They drive into them and, quite often, just keep going. The number of cyclists who are hit from behind is staggering. If you are on a bike and approaching a left-hand corner, it can be terrifying knowing there’s a car behind you because the driver, failing to slow down, will cut onto an inside line and practically take you out. The ones that don’t hit you swerve alarmingly at the last minute and, going too fast, cross the centre line. Head-on collisions are a popular form of accident in NZ.

As a kid on a bike I was hit by a car crossing the centre line while turning at a T-junction. Luckily I went over the bonnet (leaving half my knee on it).

Don’t get me started about the police or confrontations with those drivers who use their cars as weapons.

31-8-07 TT 28.55. Splits 6.30, 13.30, junct 26.23. Strong NWer. If you compare these splits to my personal best on the 24-8-07, you can see how the strong head-wind affected the ride. The quarter and halfway splits are slower, but not too bad, but by the junction the wind has taken its toll. Went up to the GB and decided to head down to the south coast via the Bunkers. I last did this on 19-6-07 and cleaned the final loose descent for the first time but failed to get up the short climb to the bunkers. I decided this was to do with the geometry of the 07 Giant XTC 1 as opposed to my previous bike, an 03 Giant Iguana, the XTC 1 having a longer top tube and a higher front end due to the Reba forks being stuck on 100 mm travel.

Anyway, this time my front wheel slipped out halfway down the final loose descent, just as the gradient was lessening. I hopped on again and coasted down no probs, but that momentary lapse in concentration cost me a clean descent. So I was pissed off about that.

The next test was to see if I could clean the short climb up to the Bunkers, which had never been much of an issue on the Iguana. The main problem is the surface, which is very loose. The only line is hard right on a thin (six inches?) grassy verge. So there’s no wiggle room, you have to hold that front wheel straight and steady. Well, I could get about halfway, even three quarters of the way, up, but then the back wheel would slip. I tried about 7 times before finally changing into my bottom gear – I had been in my second to bottom – and flicked up it without any hassle. So, maybe that was the problem last time – I can’t recall what gear I was using.

Climbing something short and steep is all about getting your weight in the right place so that the front doesn’t start to lift forcing you too shift too much weight forwards, which then causes you to stomp and the back wheel to skid (I’m not sure which occurs first). This climb was complicated by the tight line which allowed no room for front wheel meandering, so you had to sit very steady and control direction simply by leaning – which is hard on a steep up. Obviously I wasn’t quite strong enough to keep the pedals spinning in the second to bottom gear, so at a certain point I’d lean too far forward and the back wheel would lose traction and slip. In the granny gear I could keep spinning and keep the weight on the back wheel without the front end lifting.

I still think my 07 XTC 1 isn’t as good for climbing because of the front end and the longer top tube, though it was great to finally clean the final Bunker climb. I’m now interested to know how the bike would go on a sustained steep climb, such as the first climb on the Karapoti. I don’t mean the warm-up climb (which I’ve cleaned the last 2 times I did it), I mean the first climb proper after you’ve ridden up the river. That’s the hardest climb for me, and the last time I dabbed about 100 metres from the top (on the last really steep section). I expect to clean the warm-up climb and the third climb, and hope to clean the first climb, but haven’t the last couple of times I’ve done the Karapoti. I wonder how much easier or harder it would be on the XTC 1?

Anyway, I like the Bunkers as a place. They’re sheltered from strong northerlies, so I lay in the sun for half an hour before riding down to the stream scramble. I like the ride down to the stream too, it’s tricky, but you’re never going to hurt yourself and it’s fun to see how close you can get to the stream (I get within about 10 metres). The only pain is the scramble itself. I’m not one of those people who likes hiking their bike – to me Mt biking is about riding and if you have to walk or dab, the ride loses its rhythm.

Went round the coast and home.

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