Friday, March 30, 2012

Unusual getaways - Norfolk by bike

A few months back now I was lucky enough to be invited over to Norfolk Island to check out the cycling opportunities on offer. I spent a week checking out the island, exploring roads, and even better generally relaxing and enjoying the hospitality of the friendly locals. For anyone with some geograhic knowledge it is not surprising that the tiny island (a territory of Australia) doesn't spring to mind as a cycling destination.

Initially settled as a penal colony, and later by the descendants of the famed "Mutiny on the Bounty" Pitcairners; it is Norfolks isolation and history that are it's more regular attractions to visitors. However a fairly forward thinking group of locals is keen to put on new events to reinvigorate the tourism market and MTB came to the top of the list. As such, the Island will host the Norfolk Cross-Country MTB Tour from July 02-04 this year. Comprised of hillclimb, rogaine, Crit, "road race" (although the roads are that rouch an MTB is preferable!), and 2 x MTB lap races. If you are interested email

How's the serenity? Anson Bay. Check out the long switchback descent down to the beach. Awesome fun, and it seems too far for many to bother with so you get a pretty quiet and almost private beach.

This is the Norfolk take on a road bike. With such rough and pot holed roads 29er is the go. Road tyres fitted of course!

Shuttling anyone? With shipping costs to get anything to the island so high, and the total area being quite small, the island is full of these tiny wee flatbed trucks. Awfully handy for bike transport. Check out the custom racks.

Rooty trails anyone? Western Canada has nothing on Norfolk.

Spectacular veiws to be had all over the place. Ok, so Luke and I may have poached a hiking trail to get to this location, but it was early morning. Since most of the tourists are retiree's enjoying more civilised starts to their day; we figured we were pretty safe from trail conflict

The major road hazard... cow's. By some quirk of local law everyone is entitled to road side grazing rights. I guess since its an island they figure it'd be hard to lose their cows. So they just roam free. And somewhat disconcerting in their ambivilence towards humans/vehicles

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Muc-Off bro...

Muc-Off bro... hands off my bike! You'll get it dirty. No question a clean and shiney bike is pretty cool. So long as it looks good and fast eh?! However, the importance (and effect on performance) of keeping a clean and well looked after bike is something that we do should never underestimate.... While it may be hard to emulate Gavin McCarthy standards; we no longer have any excuse for not maintaining immaculately presented bicycles. Our bikes have never looked better and thanks to our recently signed partnership with Muc-Off that will only continue.

We'll save you the marketing speil; suffice to say this stuff really works. The range is massive. Everything from cleaners, to degreasers, chain cleaners, bike spray, polish, an endless array of cleaning brushes, and of course a great selection of quality chain lubes. Even goggle/lens cleaners and anti-fog treatments. Safe to say we're well covered for MTB, Moto, and even swimming. We're stoked to be benefiting from the range.

Excuse the poor photo above. The bike was so gleaming my cheap camera couldn't cope with the glare.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Black Dirt double double

So I'm not the only one... it's only taken 4yrs or so, but it seems I may have finally suckered Nic into the benefits and training possibilities offered by the weekend double header. As hard as it may be on the body, while work commitments limit the available training time; making best use of available event opportunities is becoming increasingly attractive.

And so it was we found ourselves cramming the car full of bikes and gear for a Friday evening dash to Auckland for leg one of a pretty exciting double header weekend of racing. The main attraction was The Dual. A once a year opportunity to ride and race on the beautiful islands of Motatapu and Rangitoto in the Hauraki Gulf. Its a pretty unique event and one of the jewels in the a very busy event menu put on throughout the year by Total Sport

With sold out fields in both the 30 and 50km MTB events, and hundreds of runners and walkers pushung participant numbers close to 1700 it is pretty hard to argue with the formula. A return ferry trip across the gulf, excellent logistics, great marshalls, spectacular scenery, and a challenging race course. Challenging races in interesting places, we couldn't ask for much more.

Having not done any races longer than 1hr30 in months, the Dual really challenged us. With around 1400m of climbing spread across 50km of gravel, 4wd, and steep farm tracks on energy sapping grass it was a real test of power and fitness. In the mens event Graeme Norman and Tom Reynolds had too much of both for me. I dropped on the first real climb, but pleasingly was able to TT my way back to the front and then push the pace in the middle sections. But by approx 35km (and the steep grass pinches) my legs had enough. Graeme inched away from Tom, and I drifted off the back. I nursed it home for 3rd, a few minutes back from Graeme.

The womens race proved to be a real battle between Nic and Louise Mark. A very strong multisporter and adventure racer, Louise stretched it early before Nic determindly clawed back to a lead on the tough steep grasslands (quite the opposite of me!). It was a pretty tough battle, and Louise came back strongly. No doubt added by her 29er wheels in the final few very rough km's. A close 2nd place for Nic, but an encouraging result.

Whilst Tom and Nic enjoyed a proper post race chill out (above), the complementary finish line Speights Cider must have gone to my head very quickly, as I found myself lacing on the running shoes and lining up for the 10km trail run event starting just 40min after I'd finished the MTB race. I was just going out at a steady tempo with no intentions of "racing". Unfortunately the early leaders dropped off and at 4km I found myself in the lead. I was running very gingerly on what was a gruelling course (~400m vertical and mostly rough farmland). It proved a bit too much for my fatigued muscles and I "pinged" a calf with 2km to go. I hobbled back to the finish, still recording a win, but a bit angry with myself.

Unfortunately the second part of the planned weekend double (triple?) header required an early departure from the island so we could gap it back to Katikati. Otherwise we would have been able to enjoy another of the great bonuses put on by totalsport... a concert on the island by Don McGlashan. Next year...

A nice relaxing evening in Katikati with Nic's parents saw us relatively refreshed (well as much as was possible after the previous days endevours?!) for another super early start as we headed into Mt Manganui Sprint Triathlon. For me it was mixed emotions. I couldn't run, so lined up to Swim/Bike at least. Difficult to get motivated knowing I was going to dnf... but I tried to stay positive. Swim was decent, and then I tried to push the bike. Despite being non-drafting the attitude of many seemed to be that since there was no draft busters they'd just do it anyway as "everyone else would". So my target soon became to try and hold the gap to the front... since there were four of them together. I only lost a few seconds before rolling into transition and dnf'ing. So reasonable training salvaged.

Nic pleasingly had a solid race. Right behind me in the swim, she battled through the bike leg without the drafting help most of her competitors were enjoying. SHe must have been going ok as she had many she passed drafting her.... A strong run (one of the fastest womens of the day) brought her home in around 7th overall. A good honest days training and capped off a hard weekends work.

Less than 3 weeks to XTERRA so time to rest and recuperate so we can bank some quality training in the next 14 days or so.

Monday, March 19, 2012

First double header of the year

Busy weekend and I am left feeling pretty stiff and sore today. Partly fatigue, partly minor injuries.... but it feels oddly satisfying. Following a summer devoid of racing (through injury) its kinda nice to be able to damage myself

First up was the Tarawera Ultra Marathon. While this ridiculous fit (and sightly crazy) bunch of guys trotted their way through 100km of trails, us mere mortals opted for the relay option. Having acted as lead rider on my MTB for leg 1, I was nicely warmed up for the super hilly 18km leg ahead of me (actually warmer than I'd hoped... had to ride quite hard uphill to stay ahead!). Leg went well. After letting loose over the final 5km of descent to Okataina I'd erased all but 40sec of a 5min+ gap to 1st. Guess I'm running ok? With strong efforts from Thomas Reynolds, John Gray, and Old Man Pearson we ended up a close 2nd to 3 time champions the Hamilton Flyers. Forcing them to break their course record to win. Next Year....

Sunday saw the iconic Triplecrown. My arm might still be a bit weak, but I had a bike to test and I couldn't turn down a day of shuttles, long Super D descents, and general smack talking.

I learnt trying to race fast on a track you've never ridden is pretty hard. Two over the bars crashes within first few minutes of Tihi O Tawa soon took the wind out of my sails and made me pull my head in a bit. Soon resorting to fast XC speed (rather than a competitive Super D pace). On the plus side, it did get the fear of cashing on my plated arm out of the way though.

Forearm got pretty achey pretty quickly. Still a lot of strength to be regained, but at least I can ride with some confidence. Having backed it off to 80% I wasn't overly competitive, but it was still a cool day. Got some good practice in, gave the arm a good workout/test, survived some crashes, and finished 20 something'th.

So sore arm? Check. Bruised thigh form crashing on roots? Check. Sore calves/hammies/butt from fast trail running? Check. Satisfied to be back mixing it up again? For sure!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Napier National XC

A wee bit late in posting this, but life's busy schedule has a habit of delaying such things! Wind the clock back about 10 days, and we made a whistlestop trip down to the Hawkes Bay for the final round of the NZ National MTB Cup series.

For Nic a chance to see where fitness was at. And for me... well an excuse to ride on my awesome new 2012 Avanti + ENVE carbon wheelset. I'd only ridden once since my arm injury and figured I may as well jump in Masters and have a non-pressured play on what is always an awesome race course laid on by Hawkes Bay MTB Club. Off course it also meant I could make my recent once per season appearance in the series, keeping the 14 season streak of National scene appearances going. Man I'm old.

Race went well. Followed the fast starting Weasal for the first climb before skipping ahead into the first descent. Didn't want to get the sharp looking new Black Dirt Kit dirty from roost after all.

Was able to pull a good gap and pretty much ride my own race after that. Which was nice, because my repairing arm was getting pretty angry with me by the final laps. Was a good fun hit out, and man are those wheels impressive. So stiff the handling of the bike was much more precise than I have been used to. Highly reccomended.

Nic took a wee bit of time getting acustomed back to the lap race XC format. A late and rushed arrival at the venue wasn't the best prep and she was feeling kinda flat. Still, was great to get back into the scene and put some good consistant laps in during a race situation. And helped her define some specific goals and targets for the coming months.

Thanks also to everyone who has made nice comments of the new kit/brand. There has been a few questions, and yes there is some kit available (in a variety of sizes). Flick me an e-mail if interested.