Full Cycle

A year ago, this very day, I came home from Ballarat with a brand new ebike.

The next day, the first of December, I cycled for the first time in about 30 years. A good friend had encouraged me to take this bold step so I wrote to him …

Hi John

Went for a ride this morning on my new bike. I rode 37 km at an average speed of 16 kph. Top speed was 35 kph which I can assure you was down hill with a following wind. I was praying not pedalling. I ended up buying a Merida tourer/mountain bike with a Shimano motor. I hope to be able to walk tomorrow.

Cheers

Rob

I turned the engine off a few days later and soon after I bought a Mountain Bike. That kept me happy for a while. There are plenty of gravel roads and forest trails around home. Not too many mountains. I still use it occasionally. Variety is the spice of life.

But quite soon I was unable to resist a road bike. Or a head unit, a heart rate monitor, a power meter and lots of lycra.

In 12 months I have ridden 12,900 km and climbed 65,500 m, my longest ride so far is 200 km and the biggest single climb 1,358 m. I’m 14 kg lighter today than I was a year ago.

This is the highest point on the Great Alpine Road. I am a tortoise rather than a hare but reached more than 60 kph on the way down. It is testament to how far I’ve come that I didn’t start praying. I was too distracted by the smell of burning coming from my brakes.

And I could walk the next day.

So Much Cycling …

Because a certain pandemic has rearranged everyone’s schedule we had overlapping Grand Tours. The Giro d’Italia finished yesterday. The 7th stage of the Vuelta a Espana goes off tonight Australian time.

The last stage of the Giro was a 15.7km time trial with the leaders, Jai Hindley and Tao Geoghegan Hart separated by just hundredths of a second. It was hard to decide who I should barrack for. Jai Hindley is an Australian like me. Tao Geoghegan Hart is a pom, like me.

When it come to the cricket I go for Australia over the poms but Tao is a Hackney boy as am I. Apparently he played soccer on Hackney Marshes as did I … and my father and my grandfather. On the other hand Jai is from Perth, WA. Although I affirmed my allegiance to Australia the Covid virus has clearly demonstrated that I am a Victorian not an Australian. State borders are closed to Victorians, indeed the WA state border is closed to everyone.

Both lads have done remarkably well. Both started the race as domestiques not anointed GC riders. Rather than get out the voodoo doll I decided that I would be happy whoever won.

Congratulations to the Hackney boy! When are you migrating to Victoria?

Coming from behind …

Like Uncle Kel I did have a cape for rainy rides. It covered everything from handlebars to saddlebag with just my head sticking out the middle.

I am not so old that I remember carbide headlights but when I bought my road bike I had to ask the shop assistant how to change gears. Things had most certainly changed in the thirty or so years that I had been without a bike. Thirty or so years during which the shop assistant had been born!

Now I carry a couple of CO2 cylinders instead of a hand pump. The bike has a computer on board that displays heart rate and power and keeps track of progress via GPS. Clipless pedals keep me firmly clipped onto the bike (yeah, go figure). Disc brakes help me stop. After the ride I upload to Strava (or it could be Training Peaks or many alternatives) and analyse my effort, record it for myself or share it with others. The lights come off and get recharged via a USB connection. Thanks to carbon fibre the bike is the lightest I have ever owned. I am still the engine but even that is voluntary. And how heartening to learn that my quads are more powerful than the engine in a Nikola truck.

I like the changes. I do not hanker for the good old days. But of all the changes the one that blows me away the most is my radar. Most of my riding is on country roads. They are usually quiet but the traffic is not hanging around. I don’t have eyes in the back of my head and I can’t bring myself to desecrate the bike with a mirror. I have been known to wobble when I turn my head to look behind. My Garmin Varia RTL515 radar unit tells me when it’s safe to look around.

It picks up approaching vehicles from behind as much as 140 meters away. It doesn’t see over hills or around bends so traffic may not show until it’s closer. Mine is married to a Wahoo Elemnt Bolt computer so its behaviour is a little different than on a Garmin head unit. It was a breeze to set up and works like a charm. It doesn’t replace turning your head but you can choose a moment when you know that there’s nothing close (but bear in mind that a vehicle traveling at 100kph covers 140 meters in 5 seconds).

In Motion …

“Behold,” boasted the electric vehicle (EV) company Nikola. “The 1,000 HP, zero-emission Nikola One semi-truck in motion.”

The claim was technically true. The lorry was indeed moving. But as the Arizona-based start-up admitted last week, it was moving because it had been towed up a hill and then left to roll.

“Nikola never stated its truck was driving under its own propulsion in the video,” a spokesman defiantly declared. “As Nikola pivoted to the next generation of trucks, it ultimately decided not to invest additional resources into completing the process to make the Nikola One drive on its own propulsion.”

After the admission forced Nikola’s chairman and founder Trevor Milton to resign, shares in the company plunged on Monday.

Daily Telegraph (UK)

Le Tour …

It’s almost over.  Tonight’s (Aussie time) brings le Tour de France to its conclusion on the Champs-Élysées in gay Paris. The race for the yellow jersey is done and there are no more mountains. It will be a field day for the sprinters and a celebratory procession for the rest.

I have watched it on SBS with all the passion of the born again. The commentators Robbie McEwan, Matt Keenan and Bridie O’Donnell have done a splendid job although some coaching on their pronunciation would not go astray. To call a water bottle a bidon is in keeping with l’esprit de la course but to pronounce it “bidden” is a travesty, not to mention the gender and ending scrambling.

I am certain that the riders are pleased to be reaching the end after 3,483km but I’m wondering how I will fill the void it leaves behind.

And what a finish. Stage 20 was a time trial, a mere 36.2km long but ending with a brutal climb. Team Jumbo Visma had led their star rider Primoz Roglic to the very threshhold of victory. He’d worn the yellow jersey for 11 days. Breathing down his neck was another Slovenian Tadej Pogacar, a debutant in the tour and 22 years old tomorrow. It was Pogecar that rose to the occasion. He gets to take home the Yellow Jersey as overall winner, the White Jersey as the best young rider and the Polka dot Jersey as the King of the Mountains. All he needed to be happy was just to take part!

Meanwhile Richie Porte from Tasmania was in fourth place behind Miguel Lopez and breathing down Richie’s neck was Mikel Landa. He had to recover a minute and a half to overhaul Lopez and ride well enough to stay ahead of Landa in the process. He knocked it off at an average speed of 37.5kph.

Kudos, Richie, kudos. He will be just the second Australian to mount the TdF podium.

Stage 21 is for the sprinters. Can Caleb Ewan, the only other Aussie, add another stage win to his collection and repeat his achievement of last year?

Inspiration …

Youth would be an ideal state if it came a little later in life.     

Herbert Henry Asquith

      or perhaps lasted for ever but that’s not how it works. What departs with it depends a lot on the accidents that befall us along the way and the less wise decisions that we make. Most of us have the capacity to hang on to a lot more for a lot longer. This is the story of Gayle’s Uncle Kel, largely in his own words.
Kelvin was born in 1927. Before he was big enough to ride in the saddle he would ride his father’s bike standing on the pedals with one leg through the triangle of the frame. This was the era when …

For night riding the bike was equipped with an acetylene light mounted from the handlebars using a sprung trapezoidal frame. The light had a lower compartment to hold carbide and a water compartment above to allow a regulated drip through to the carbide which generated acetylene to be burnt in front of a reflector to supply light.

Kel bought his first bike in 1937 …

with money earned from delivering morning newspapers. This was the only time that I can recall my father being angry. He seized the new 24 inch wheel bike and later returned with a 28 inch bike that I would not grow out of. I rode this bike from Westgarth to Preston for school for three years. On wet days I used a waterproof cape which extended over the body and forward over the handlebars.

He joined the scouts …

In the early 1940’s, preparations were made in anticipation of Japanese air raids and the Air Raid Precaution Organization was formed. Various scenarios were practised, using scouts on bicycles as messengers to relay information between headquarters and “bomb sites”. In other scenarios, the scouts were used to play the part of injured civilians who needed first aid and to be transported to hospital. My family did not have a telephone at this time, so a person living in Regent was rung to pass a message to his neighbour (another scout messenger) that his services were required at Air Raid Precaution Headquarters. This scout would jump on his bike and collect me en route to Northcote Air Raid Precaution Control. The Scouts were allocated roles as messengers or the injured.

During these war years new tyres were not available so we learnt to retread our own tyres by spreading a rubber solution over the tyre and sprinkling the tyre with crumbed rubber. At night, the suburbs were blacked out to prevent any enemy aircraft from identifying the geography of the city. Even our car and bike lights conformed to blackout rules by having shields to cover the front light and thereby permitting only a glimmer of light to escape.

About this time, my paternal grandfather came to live with us and he took to riding my Dad’s bike. I was amazed! He was 81 years of age and still able to ride a bike!!

The bicycle is fun for kids but to most adults of Kel’s generation it was merely utilitarian. The motor car slowly took over. Eventually, though, Kel and his wife, Gwen were blessed with grandkids and they seem to have been a catalyst …

Many years later our young granddaughters were given small bikes, our daughter, Helen, received a new mountain bike for Mother’s Day and I was given a hybrid aluminium bicycle for painting their house. I joined a Bicycle Victoria event and along with my five and six year old granddaughters we rode from Carlton for the 50 km over the Westgate Bridge to Williamstown and back through Footscray to Carlton. Then when the girls were aged seven and eight and I was 77, we completed our first Great Victorian Bike Ride from Port Fairy to Geelong and never once walked nor required the sag wagon! I continued to participate in the Great Victorian Bike Rides for a further six years.

After six years on the hybrid, I changed to a Jamis, steel framed road bike, but changed the handlebars from flat to butterfly bars to give me a better hill climbing attitude.

By 2015, my wife, Gwen’s health deteriorated, necessitating her move to an aged care facility and I began riding my bike the 5 km from Eaglemont to Alphington every day to visit her. Looking for a new activity, I signed up with the Banyule Bicycle Users Group (BUG), made up of a group of retired men and women in their 60’s and 70’s. I was then 87. Banyule BUG ride two days of the week, travelling along bicycle paths, roads with bicycle lanes and some minor back streets over distances of 30 -95 km

Arriving home and feeling tired after the Banyule BUG ride, and still with another bike ride ahead of me to visit Gwen, I began to look for an electric bike. I chose a CUBE brand, step through frame with derailleur gears. I ride this bike in the evenings to visit my wife. It suits the hilly terrain when I have a heavy load and I am feeling tired. The ebike is heavy and ponderous and I find my road bike much more responsive so I prefer it for the weekly BUG rides.

At nearly 93 years of age, I enjoy my bike riding and look forward to active, safe riding for the next few years.

Amen to that and thank you Kel for taking the time to contribute this blog.

If you want to know the time …

Ask a policeman.

When I was a lad in England this was a popular song often played on the wireless. My father, a policeman, would tell me that it was evidence of the trust we placed in the men in blue. If I were lost or just wanted to know the time I could safely approach a policeman.

In fact the song was written by Edward William Rogers in 1888 and was a monster hit in the Music Halls of the day for Mr James Fawn. In runs through five verses and choruses of innuendo that the audience of the day would have latched onto in a flash.

The first chorus sets the scene …

Chorus.
If you want to know the time, ask a policeman.
The proper Greenwich time, ask a policeman.
Every member of the force has a watch and chain, of course,
How he got it, from what source? ask a policeman.

The police were drawn mostly from the working classes and paid a meagre salary how could they afford a watch and chain, expensive items in those days?

If you didn’t click the link above do try it now and if you’d like to learn more of the song’s history and see the full lyrics there is an excellent site <HERE>.

But those days are long gone. So much has changed. In those days you could ride a bike without a helmet, a deristricted sign meant that there was no speed limit, the police couldn’t stop you without a reason, there was freedom of movement, freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the regard in which we hold the police. Christine Nixon, former Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police did her bit by lying to the public about the role of African gangs in Melbourne’s crime statistics, topped off by going out to tea with her phone switched off as Victoria burnt one Black Saturday. Simon Overland, former Chief Commissioner, was in charge of the Purana Taskforce during the period that Nicola Gobbo, lawyer to the stars, was informing on her clients. Graham Ashton, former Chief Commissioner, has just been excoriated by a royal commission for suggesting that such outrageous behaviour passed “the pub test” because it was all in a good cause.

The present Chief Commissioner, Shane Patton, has shown himself excellently well qualified to run a Police State. His force managed to subdue and handcuff a pregnant woman in front of her children in her own home for a facebook post. I understand that she may be facing a 15 year jail term. Well serves her right, she should have organised a Black Lives Matter rally or a union protest both of which are exempt.

Mr Patton has resurrected or borrowed or invented the offence of outraging public decency. He should be careful with a hairstyle that does just that.

Welcome to China, have a nice day. It must be part of the Belt and Road agreement.

And the winner is …

I happened upon an interesting video which reminded me of an incident in my own illustrious career. First the video …

In the hope of a holiday in hospital for a change of scenery and routine prisoners will occasionally harm themselves … in a calculated way . When I was a resident a prisoner was admitted who on x-ray had knife, fork and spoon plus a couple of coins making their way through his alimentary canal. He was otherwise well and in no discomfort.

This being Australia a sweepstake was immediately commenced among the hospital staff. Our money went into the kitty. I drew a blank so no chance of winning. Those fortunate enough to draw an object waited to see what would emerge first.

To everyone’s surprise it was a toothbrush that hadn’t been picked up on x-ray. It was followed by the coins and cutlery. No active treatment was required.

Everested …

It was a warm one yesterday. Late in the winter that can only mean one thing – a north wind, and to make sure we noticed it blew up a gale last evening. Not too much of a mess this time.

Today the weather is perfect, cool, sunny and just a light wind. Ideal for a ride with my very own Gayle at the end of which I checked in with Strava to find that I’d climbed 8,750 meters for the month. If I really was climbing Mt. Everest I’d be at the South Summit. That is very definitely in the death zone, no place to linger. So I got back on the bike and rode off to my favorite hill.

The Cornice Traverse is a knife-edge. On my left there is a drop of 2,400 m down the north-west face, to the right 3,050 m down the Kangshung Face. Getting the bike up the Hillary Step is a bugger of a job but …

It’s done, 8,848 m. It took me 21 rides over 27 days. The current record holder is Ronan McLaughlin. He did it in 1 ride of 7:04:41.