Paris-Roubaix challenge – Ride report – 11 April 2015

With the numbness in my body slowly subsiding & my eyeballs finally stopped rattling around my skull, I thought I’d give a ride report to share the exquisite pain endured before during & after this iconic race/ride. Rightly called the ‘Hell of the North’. It was a very tough ride & I feel Like I’ve been riding on a jackhammer for 4 out of 8 hours. The race was 165 kms of which 52km is cobbles – 27 sections rated from 3 to max 5 stars in difficulty. We also did an extra 5kms when following a bunch of Scotts who took a wrong turn.

But firstly my thanks to all who helped me have a crack at the ride. A leave pass from my beautiful tolerant wife who came to watch (shop), another stunning performance by my Giant bike, my old school mate from London who brought my bike to Roubaix, Brownie built wheels that withstood the punishment (unlike me), mtb training from Briony, Admin, binners & Zlatko’s bridge, advice & encouragement from many & disbelief that I’d even survive from others. Having a fellow ER & hobbit –  Highlander join me to share the pain was special & an added bonus.

Although reasonably fit, my preparation was hampered a bit by sore shoulders I’ve had for the past year & annoyingly in the last 3 months has extended to my left elbow & although I can push down I have been unable to lift anything heavier than a beer with it. My main fear was not being able to hang onto the bike as that is a common reason why many do not finish. I also hadn’t ridden for 4 weeks & ate & drank lots of good uk & dutch & french fare. I gained 4 kgs.

Advice from an aussie pro-cyclist who had ridden it was ‘try & hang the f**k on’ – and then he went on to explain he didn’t finish it. A Dutch pro-cyclist I also met said ‘after ze 1st 2kms of cobbles ze will be wanting to make peace with your god’. Encouraging stuff given we had 50km of it!

Anyway excuses out of the way, I was determined to give it my best shot.

Now the Paris-Roubaix pavé consists of centuries-old farm tracks where uneven cobblestones stand proud with jagged edges, while many of the cobbles are missing, leaving gaping holes perfect for buckling wheels.  It all adds up to a very bumpy ride, especially on road bikes. Mountain bikes would of course be more comfortable, but they have suspension & they’re rather frowned upon.  There were lots of these though & around the 80km mark I got bumped off my bike  by one who had swooped up the bank & tangled his handle bars in mine & I landed heavily on my left side & my handle bars got twisted, my hip has a huge bruise but worse I think it broke my timing chip.

This is the 3rd year of this ride & last year 1,500 riders started, but only 900 finished.  300 were never seen again presumed buried in the infamous Arenberg Trench. Of all the cobble sections that one was truely a nightmare – wet, slimy boulders with bikes flying in all directions. We followed an ambulance down the track to pick up one of two people who had i later heard had  broken their legs. 2/3 of the riders bailed before half way & rode down the spectator path. My mtb training held me in good stead & I gunned it (12km/hr) down the middle. I was amazed watching the wheels on the bikes in front of me slip 10-15cm to the side each way every few meters.

What Bike & wheel tyres?

We tried hiring bikes from 3-4 different European/UK sites and soon as you mentioned paris -roubaix they turned us down, I suppose fed up with only getting a pair of ‘Bucky’ handlebars back at the end of the race and not much else.  So we decided to take our own bikes – mine a Giant Defy Advanced 3 (2012 model) and Highlander his Trek Domane (2014 model) which were both supposedly up for the task. Double tape for the handle bars, double gloves, & double nicks to cushion the blows, but most importantly we needed wheels that would withstand such a brutal challenge.

Queue Brownie, some Belgium beers and a ‘grand design’ plan to build wheels fit for purpose. We learned a whole new vocabulary about tubes, tubeless and tubular with a min of 32 spokes, and ‘panzer’ treads etc.  We chose Mavic Reflex wheels with 36 spokes and Vittoria Corsa SC 28mm ‘tubular’ tyres. The wider the better to try and not get caught too much in the crevices and tubular to minimise pinch flat punctures of which stories have people getting 11 or so of these. Thanks mate as we had no punctures & I really punished them by riding every section down the middle.

Race day: in ER lingo the PARIS-ROUBAIX for me was slightly more strenuous than a 3 Peaks challenge, but with 50km of it on rubble only fit for a mtb. Unlike the 3P though I feel like I’ve been run over by a French tractor, & my thumb & middle fingure of my right hand are swollen & feel like a hammer has hit them & I cant grip anything with it. Ironically the pave therapy seems to have fixed my left elbow. The race does not ride from Paris but starts well north of this at a place called Busigny. It does finish in Roubaix though.

Conditions were fine all week but on race day the nightmare unfolded & it rained, was a bracing 7 degrees and winds hit a gusty 25 knots. I was up at 4am & rode through Roubaix in nice weather to catch a 5am bus to Busigny. But 4 kms from busigny it started raining. I met Highlander at the start line at 7.30am. I wore thermal socks, booties, leg & arm warmers, long finger gloves & a waterproof gillet with zip back pocket so phone, pumps etc did not fly out. Some riders were just wearing shorts, thin tops and track-mitts in hardy Belgian (Flash/Turnip) style.

The first few kilometres took us through the streets of St Quentin and out into the rolling countryside of northern France. After only 12kms we hit the first pavé & we went from cruising along a wide tarmac road to suddenly hammering down a rough track just two metres across with bottles and pumps flying off bikes and bouncing around on the cobblestones. We heard cursing in 20 languages & added some Aussie of our own. Lots of riders got punctures and were forced to stop and every time we hit pavé another few tyres would go and there must have been a rider fixing a flat every 100 metres. I saw 4 riders crash during the day – 5 if I could’ve watched myself come off. I was travelling at 20km/hr – but luckily had double niks & a good jacket on so only had bad bruising. There must’ve been many many crashes as everyone else i spoke with either had one or saw lots.

Meanwhile, riders still moving started shaking their arms to try and counter the shockwaves coming up through the forks and bars. The pain and punishment metered out by the jagged stones was relentless. My elbow hurt real bad & had gone numb and I was struggling to hang on. Repeat the above for 20 more pavé sections.

After about 70km, we hit the Arenberg Trench – one of the longest, hardest and most famous treacherous sections of pave on the route.  One pro rider once famously described this as like “riding across a ploughed field, covered in rocks that had been dropped from a helicopter”. Just add water & it was like a slippery slimy rocky river bed.

The cobbled sections kept on coming, and the constant switch from tarmac to pavé to tarmac and back again felt like interval training.

At 85km we stopped for lunch & was looking forward to some French cuisine. i was starving & could’ve eaten a meter long baguette. They only had quartered oranges & waffles in plastic packets. I inhaled 8 of them.

At this stage both highlander & i thought it wasn’t too bad after all & the rain had stopped.

I was wrong & the relentless pounding started to wear me down. Highlander though was still strong & it was good to have him with me. I cramped up bad & had to get off to stretch. Both legs cramped on every stroke for the next 40km & i was starting to doubt I’d make it.

I had one last card to play- the Z card. As we rode through the pretty town of bourghelles i spyed a pub & rode up the footpath into it. Highlander came back to find me ordering 2 belgium Leffe beers. They worked & the cramps dissipated.

With 20km it started raining with gusty winds that at one stage blew me off riding along the crown & into the tyre rut beside it. We then hit the other famously long and hard pave section the Carrefour de  Arfour which wasn’t too bad but at 3.7kms long was very very tiring.

With the Carrefour done, it was just 15km to the finish with just one last stretch of pavé and the ride finished with a half-lap of the legendary Roubaix Velodrome. To my delight my wife, and mate & his wife were there to cheer me in. We were exhausted but elated.

A little swoop up the concrete banking & the intention was to finish together so I stopped peddaling so we could join up but heard highlander say thats not a good idea so dropped down to finish over the line. Before i got off my bike my mate handed me a Belgium beer & it tasted so good. A kiss from the wife & then I visited the open shower cubicles where all the greats have a plaque on them. I was in awe.

We’d covered the course (& it covered us) in around 8.5 hours. The weather was not ideal but we hadn’t punctured and we made it safely. Highlander had to leave with his tour group whilst my mate had booked us into a restaurant over the border in belgium. I could hardly sit down on the train to it & was very very weary.

Blue & pink we saw a tandem doing it so you’re up next. Satnav there were quite a few fixies so book that trip now. The most bizarre though was a cycle scooter. Two normal bike tires with a flat section low down between for one foot & the other pushes like a scooter. No idea if they made it.

The next day we followed the professionals which was a real treat although they got it easy and had good weather. We got a picnic lunch, wine & a great spot on the arenburg trench. I grimaced every time they hit the cobbles & watched one riders wheel break in 2. If only he’d used Brownie I thought. Another rider broke his collarbone & rode one handed the last part.

The next stop my mate had lined up was a pub in a lovely town where he’d stopped in yesterday to have a beer whilst hoping to have seen us go by. Guess what – the same pub I had played my Z card at & we missed each other by just 20 mins!

The Last stop was the roubaix velodrome where we caught the tailenders arrive.

I’m ever so happy.

See you in a few weeks.

Cheers

Le Dopey

The penultimate ride report for 2014

An early departure under a clear blue sky was the most welcoming of sights….so of course it had to be another epic adventure on the Hobbits. With hardly any traffic on KPR, the 6.35 M2 tunnel rendezvous was made with ease. But would there be other Hobbits on such a glorious morning? As I waited for the appointed time, there came the rumblings of a some prehistoric beast smashing its way the dense vegetation. Was this a dinosaur of epic scale or the first reported sighting of the yeti in Australia? Tree limbs creaked and splintered asunder as Dopey steered his way through the brambles on his new mountain bike steed. My instincts justified on both accounts.

It was a BT paced ride which meant there was a 100% chance that anyone could catch us, it was just a question of where and when.

The Hobbits is a very pleasant, sociable sojourn: there are long downhill sections and only 2 steep category 4 climbs. It is clearly the best way to start the day and the connoisseurs choice of the best ER route (yes Schlecky – you know it’s true). One day, they will make a movie based on the Hobbits ride (maybe a trilogy) and someone famous will probably write a book, that will become a best seller. Remember, tell your kids you heard it here first.

No traffic and the only incident of note was Dopey losing control whilst negotiating the short 20m off road section under Lane cove bridge. He was out of sight for sometime, but made it out from under the bridge with a wide smile.

A rafter of riders was happily nesting at the B&T as we carved our way through the construction site that is Dalgety road. Weather was perfect for a ride into town, the company was marvellous, and the conversation memorable.

Departure times set for 5:15pm. Get plenty of sleep before the ride home – it doesn’t get better than this.

Tomorrow’s morning coffee debate will be on the 2015 challenges. Be bold, be brave, share your aspirations for 2015 (in no less than 20 words please). There is nothing like peer pressure and banter to help you achieve something you didn’t think you could ever achieve. NNNick: you can just roll forward your 2013 goal another year.

Farewell 2014. We will miss you.

The T-accounts in Strava start from zero – Yehaaa 2015, here we come….

Stealthy (in BT’s absence)

Steelie Day Out

And so it is written that SatNav had cycled up Mount Sinai and had returned with two tablets of solid steel.

“I have been to the mountain” he cried “and I have heard the word of the disciple. Go forth good people of the steel, and Conquer ETTALONG!” He cried, and the people rejoiced for many of them had never been to Ettalong but had heard tales of its great beauty and excellent fruit toast.

Not for nothing is it known as Etta-LONG and so I did a quick audit of my personal fitness, cross-checked the vertical climb charts of some Ettalong regulars, and realised that while Steel is real, I was going to park the single-speed steelie at home and trot out the regular alloy bike instead. With its clear lacquered finish it is still a celebration of all that is metal and so I would “fake it” in order to make it all the way.

The day dawned and it was GOOD DAY indeed. Some light cloud cover, a little rain overnight to bring the temps down. Meeting Binners early in Chatswood, we were joined by his mate Ben. We rolled up to Turra for the off. Ben, who is an oncologist and so a total super-hero in my books, unfortunately got called into work. Seemingly “some prick” hadn’t made it in today. Disappointment was written all over his face as he turned south back down the highway.

The turnout at Turra was excellent and about 20 of us set off up the highway. The pace was pretty good with VD and WBA up the front and SatNav ranging up and down the side checking everyone was okay. I settled in three rows back and (I’ll admit) tried to coast as much as possible. This strategy was paying off, until we encountered some hills.

The old Pacific Highway is lovely. It was getting more rural. There were some beautiful descents and challenging climbs. We had a re-group at Mt White and then about half the group split and headed back. We didn’t know it at the time but we had lost 2-3 along the way. Sorry guys. Glad you made it back okay.

That left six of us, with VD again leading from the front and the rest of us slotting in behind. Highlander and I battled for Lantern Rouge honours. It was great to have his company for a while but I eventually solidified my position as LR. VD peeled off at Calga and we definitely missed the nice hole he punched through the air for us.

The road was beautiful now as it headed towards the central coast. Windy with not too many long climbs. There were cool mossy corners. We had some helpful attention from a red cop car which shadowed us for a while. This was reassuring as there had been the occasional motorbike totally going for it through the tight twisty stuff.

Eventually the descent into West Gosford came up. We were on the main road now. Making the descent was a lot of fun on a bike but I do love driving down that road so I was undecided what was more enjoyable. Certainly it’s more fun in a car on the way up.

From there it was pretty but the headwind was strong. My legs were really starting to pack it in. We had a great group going with Zlatko in the lead. DtB offered to take the lead and I couldn’t hang on. We splintered and I fell back. Luckily Ettalong wasn’t too far off.

We got to the café with 12 mins to spare to be greeted by B1|C and Murray who had been on their own epic adventure. Happy Luke had taken the time to order ahead from the road but even so the café was in disarray. My order of a strong flat white somehow became a very hot flat white. Exiting the café with only a minute before the ferry it dawned on me. I now had a very hot drink in one hand and an almond croissant in the other and it was too far to walk to the ferry. I was going to have to perform a circus trick if I wanted to take both with me. I took a couple of scalding sips of coffee and ditched it. Later, Zlatko demonstrated how to deal with this situation by riding one handed and pulling a croissant from under his jersey. (And no, that’s not a euphemism.)

We duly got on the ferry. It’s a beautiful trip across if a bit rough today. We were standing and stretching and getting fairly tossed around. We joked about getting a KOM on the ferry. Magoo has it already apparently.

Our numbers had increased thanks to B1 and Murray. B1 offered to show us a way out of Palm Beach that didn’t involve the busy main road. It did involve rather a lot of hills though. By this time I was really struggling but the ERs were looking out for me. B1 offered another hilly deviation but this time I decided to take my chances on the main road. It was a case of I’ll take the high road and you take the low road and we popped out at about the same time.

Back on the ferry Zlatko had mentioned going for a beer in Manly. This worked in well with where I was going and I figured seeing as I kinda missed out on coffee at Ettalong perhaps alcohol would quieten down the little voice in my head that kept saying “coffee coffee coffee”. So after the main group split off to Church point and Happy met up with family, Zlatko and I fluffered down to the Bavarian Beer Café in Manly, the Z-man being the only ER to actually complete the full Steelie Day Out on a steelie. Chapeau.

It’s no surprise that a nice guy like Z had nice friends too. They were good enough to speak English just for my sake. Apparently they meet there every Sunday for Oktoberfest. “Starting early this year?” I asked. “Oh, we like to celebrate Oktoberfest all year round.” One of Zlatko’s friends replied. What a great tradition.

A quick Paulaner Pilsner and some hot chips and I was off. The rest of the journey home was a dreamy, slightly inebriated cruise via Balgowlah and then down onto The Spit. Just before Parriwi I sidled up to a couple of Rapha boys. They turned in perfect sync and both gave me a sneering look before they took off. I felt like yelling after them “I bet you haven’t already got 140 kays on the clock, smartarses!” but I didn’t have the energy.

I got home about 1:00 expected to be feted as the returning hero but there was no one home. The dog was happy to see me though. Man’s best friend, truly. Jason, I’ll send you a photo if you’d like.

All-in-all, a great day out and an epic ride. Thanks SatNav for organising and for everyone who took leadership on the day. It would’ve been great to do it on the steelie. Maybe next year.

Four Little Hobbits – Respise

One of the others stayed under the covers watching the rain as it ran down the pane
Of this riding in bad weather, He never did treasure;
His two wheeled mounts, of which there are more than can count
He uses for leisure, they are a thing of great pleasure

The silvery Subaru is the transport today
With heater, a roof, wipers and screen;
An engine with turbo aghast if you’re green.
But it certainly isn’t the second best way …..

Four Little Hobbits

Four Little Hobbits went out one day
Down through Lane Cove and far away
The rain did fall and all got wet
It’ll happen tonight again I bet

One Hairy Hobbit didn’t feel the love
Got to Naremburn and pulled the plug
So just three of us at Cava did shiver
Just about as wet as in the Lane Cove River.

Poem for a wet day

Six soggy souls on the OTP,
Pink said she’d catch the train – ‘NO’ said DT.

Tandem carving through puddles, we take extra care.
Eyes sting with rain through the hair.

Descending fast, but climbing real slow,
A tandem’s rhythm has its own flow.

Blue’s glasses bespangled, he peers through the haze.
Clothes soaked through, too wet for Café’s

Gear hung under my desk on my cable tray
Hope it dries somewhat before the end of the day.

Pink (and Blue)

THE WOMAN FROM SNOWY rivER

Originally by A.B. “Banjo” Paterson

There was movement in the peleton, for the word had passed around
That the steed of Eddy Merckx had got away,
And had joined the wild Mountain Bikes – it was worth a thousand pound,
So all the cracks had gathered to the fray.
All the tried and noted riders from the Pelotons near and far
Had mustered at the homestead overnight,
For cyclists love hard riding where the wild Mountain Bikes are,
And the stockbike snuffs the climb with delight.
There was Finchi, who made his pile when Cadel won the cup,
The old man with his hair as white as snow;
But few could ride beside him when his blood was fairly up –
He would go wherever bike and man could go.
And Clutters of Canoon came down to lend a hand,
No better rider ever cleated in;
For never a bike could throw him while the skewers threads would stand,
He learnt to ride over Stromlo way.

There was SatNav on his single speed, calm and collected,
with wit as dry as dry.
There was Flash, all sort of hairy,
and Norman, no rider had quite the staying power over the long and windy.
Young Drastic came along, to keep the group in check,
lest any should make some smart remark.

And one was there, a stripling on a small and scratched frame,
It was something like a roadbike undersized,
With a touch of Raleigh – three parts SWorks at least –
And such as are by mountain bikers prized.
It was hard and tough and wiry – just the sort that won’t say die –
There was courage in its quick and lively sprocket;
And it bore the badge of gameness in his bright and fiery gleam,
And the proud and lofty carriage of its rider.

But still so slight and weedy, one would doubt its power to stay,
And the old man said, “That bike will never do
For a long a tiring sprint – girl, you’d better stop away,
Those hills are far too rough for such as you.”
So she waited sad and wistful – only PD stood her friend –
“I think we ought to let her come,” he said;
“I warrant she’ll be with us when she’s wanted at the end,
For both her steed and she are Collaroy bred.

“She hails from Snowy River, up by Kosciusko’s side,
Where the hills are twice as steep and twice as rough,
Where a bikes wheels strike firelight from the flint stones every peddle stroke,
The woman that holds her own is good enough.
And the Snowy River riders on the mountains make their home,
Where the river runs those giant hills between;
I have seen full many mountain biker since I first commenced to roam,
But nowhere yet such rider have I seen.”

So she went – they found the steeds by the big mimosa clump, (just South of the Bridge) –
They raced away towards the mountain’s brow,
And the old man gave his orders, “Boys, go at them from the jump,
No use to try for fancy riding now.
And, Drastic, you must wheel them, try and wheel them to the right.
Ride boldly, boy, and never fear the spills,
For never yet was rider that could keep the steeds in sight,
If once they gain the shelter of the autobus.”

So Drastic rode to wheel them – he was racing off the front
Where the best and boldest riders take their place,
And he raced his steed past them, and he made the ranges ring
With the sound of his whoop, as he met them face to face.
Then they halted for a moment, while he swung the dreaded chain whip,
But they saw their well-loved mountain full in view,
And they charged beneath the whip with a sharp and sudden dash,
And off into the mountain scrub they flew.

Then fast the riders followed, where the gorges deep and black
Resounded to the thunder of their tyres,
And the chainwhips woke the echoes, and they fiercely answered back
From cliffs and crags that beetled overhead.
And upward, ever upward, the wild steeds held their way,
Where mountain ash and kurrajong grew wide;
And the old man muttered fiercely, “We may bid the steeds good day,
No man can hold them down the other side.”

When they reached the mountain’s summit, even Drastic took a pull,
It well might make the boldest hold their breath,
The wild hop scrub grew thickly, and the hidden ground was full
Of pot holes, and any slip was death.
But the woman from Snowy River let her little steed have his head,
And she swung her multi-coloured socks around and gave a cheer,
And she raced it down the mountain like a torrent down its bed,
While the others stood and watched in very fear.

She sent the flint stones flying, but her steed kept its traction,
She cleared the fallen timber and tree roots in her stride,
And the woman from Snowy River never shifted in her saddle –
It was grand to see that mountain cyclist ride.
Through the stringybarks and saplings, on the rough and broken ground,
Down the hillside at a racing pace she went;
And she never drew the brakes till she landed safe and sound,
At the bottom of that terrible descent.

She was right among the wild steeds as they climbed the further hill,
And the watchers on the mountain standing mute,
Saw her ply the chain whip fiercely, she was right among them still,
As she raced across the clearing in pursuit.
Then they lost her for a moment, where two mountain gullies met
In the ranges, but a final glimpse reveals
On a dim and distant hillside the wild steeds racing yet,
With the woman from Snowy River at their heels.

And she ran them single-handed till their frames were white with lactic acid.
She followed like a bloodhound on their track,
Till they halted cowed and beaten, then she turned their heads for home,
And alone and unassisted brought them back.
But her hardy mountain bike could scarcely rotate the crank,
It was blood from headset to bottom bracket from the cleat;
But its pluck was still undaunted, and its courage fiery hot,
For never yet was mountain bike a cur.

And down by Kosciusko, where the pine-clad ridges raise
Their torn and rugged battlements on high,
Where the air is clear as crystal, and the white stars fairly blaze
At midnight in the cold and frosty sky,
And where around The Overflow the reed beds sweep and sway
To the breezes, and the rolling plains are wide,
The woman from Snowy River is a household word today,
And the Easy RIders tell the story of her ride.
“The Man from Snowy River” originally published in –
The Bulletin, 26 April 1890.

Backdoor Ride Report 5/6

In the darkness and the rain they waited,
Fingers crossed and breath a-bated,
Alas Van Diemen never did appear,
As if the conditions where something to fear.

Stealthy and Flash continued their affair,
Matching bags, hats and in years to come, hair?
I ponder if Flash is actually Stealth in a future sense,
The possibilities of the space-time continuum are immense.

C.Hippo’s Jesus slippers continue to brave the weather,
As CFO they have been banished from my consciousness forever,
Although his commitment to the cause is to be respected,
His hairy big toe leaves me a little dejected.

SatNav rolled in with all his friends in tow,
Setting the pace until a certain roundabout, where he slows,
Phantom’s rear lights hovered in the distance yonder,
Mesmerised by their beauty I was almost clipped by a Honda.

Chilled and sodden was this group of six,
Yet showers await, providing a quick fix,
If it wasn’t already clear, let us declare it henceforth
These six are true hard men (and women) of the North.

Memorandum: Socks

The Office of the CFO has recently been approached by several ER members in a state of confusion around sock height.

The following memorandum should help ease concern:

First of all, as a member of ER, as a cyclist and potentially as a human being (*) you must wear socks. Naked feet in cycling shoes is potentially worse than 6 year old white knicks worn in the rain. The CFO recognises that those strange people who engage in “triathlon” tend to neglect to wear socks, but do you really want to be seen to be a triathlete?

Secondly, and importantly, socks draw attention to your feet and your calves. If you have great legs (Finchy, Rob, Jason), you have the right, if not the obligation, to wear amazing tall length socks. If you have cankles or hairy legs please be discreet.

As per the Rules, ideal sock height is quoted as being “Not too long and not too short”. How exactly does this translate?

  • If the socks are so low they cannot be seen, please refer to the above.
  • Ankle or “anklet” socks are the property of your 12 year old daughter. Please give them back.
  • Short socks, made popular by the MTB brethren many years ago, are slowly been weeded out of clubs and races everywhere. Take this as your warning.
  • Business socks will be allowed, as length is generally in line with regulation (as long as they meet the criteria below)
  • Those STUPID calf guard / compression things that go up to your knee ARE WRONG.
  • Aim for mid calf. As discussed below, the better the rider and the better the legs, the higher you can go (to a point known as “cutoff”).

What about the socks themselves?

  • They must be EQUAL in height
  • They must MATCH
  • No holes in your knicks, no holes in your socks.
  • They must retain elasticity and not slide down
  • Tight socks are one of lifes pleasures. Go on. Buy some.
  • Merino socks are fine. Fluffy wooly socks are not, unless your name is Russell Coight and you are driving a 4wd in the desert.

My feet are cold, what do I do?

  • Please invest in merino socks. The sock can remain thin while warm is maintained.
  • Booties rock. As long as careful consideration into length, brand and colour is taken.
  • Oversocks are also totally cool, but must remain “fresh” and clean at all times.
  • Toe covers, as long as they are subtle and barely noticeable, are allowed.

Please enlighten me as to colours?

  • The rules will allow any colour, however;
  • As a general rule for the cyclist new to sock selection and outfit coordination, black shoes/black socks and white shoes/white socks is a safe bet.
  • If you are a man or woman of style, socks can be used to compliment or provide juxtaposition to an outfit.
  • Fluro socks are in. Be wary, the same fluro socks on one man can be brilliant, on another horrendous.
  • The better rider you are, the more you can get away with.

* It is yet to be determined which alien race Chippo forms part of. Normally wearing Jesus sandals while riding would be considered a CFO breach, however we are considerate to all cultures and religions, even those from outer space.

 

Yours in good looking feet,

 

Rider of the Week – Gretel (or is it Hänsel)

1. Tell us a bit about yourself

I’m originally from Germany and came to Australia with Hänsel in late 2010. Of all the different places I’ve lived at I enjoy Sydney the most and I really hope we stay here happily ever after.

  Gretal 

2. What got you into cycling?

I find this a strange question. Where I come from pretty much everybody cycles in one form or another. This could be a trip to the nearest pub and back for Frühschoppen (pre-lunch beer with friends; mostly, but not always restricted to Sundays) or a social ride on a beer-bike.

Beer truck

Also, growing up in the countryside with only one bus a day, I had to cycle to see friends or go anywhere.  And that was faster by bike. 

I’ve always enjoyed cycling at speed, competing with my Dad on family rides who could go down the hill fastest (very much to the bemusement of my mom as you can imagine). My first “serious” road bike was a pink Peugeot Aspin with a 105 groupset. It was the pride of my teenage cycling years. By that time I was competing in cross country skiing races and cycling was a way of building stamina during the summer.

Looking back the only time I didn’t ride was for three years when we were living in London and I was too scared and the weather too poor for cycling.

3. How did you come to join the Easy Riders?

Hänsel and I had been riding to work for a while prior to joining the ER. We lived in Wollstonecraft at the time. Our micro-commute left at around 7:40 each morning when the ER had already had their first coffee at the B&T.

Moving to Chatswood meant we finally had a good reason to join the ER. So we got in touch with SatNav via the website and the rest is history.

4. Tell us about your bikes.

I have a few bikes back in Germany, but the only one that matters here is my beloved Canyon. It was love at first sight. Back in 2004 Canyon was one of the few manufacturers that made specific women’s bikes. The difference in comfort to any of the other unisex bikes was immediately apparent. The triple chainring means I can climb up walls.

Canyon

Apart from an old MTB the Canyon has been the one and only for the last nine years. The next bike I am considering is a cyclocross with hydraulic disc brakes for commuting on wet days, and (note that Hänsel suggested “or”) a serious MTB.

5. If you could ride anywhere in the world, where would it be?

So many places! I’d love to do more tours and off-road riding. I’ve heard great things about desert-riding in Utah and Arizona.

6. Tell us a riding story.

The ride of total dehydration comes to mind. I only meant to go out for a quick spin but the legs felt good and, at 90 km onwards, still did. I had not taken any food and only one water bottle and soon started feeling thirsty. With no café or service station in sight I was getting desperate. I passed an orchard, but there was barely any fruit left on the trees apart from a few worm-eaten and sour cherries. I climbed over the barbed wire fence in my cycling shoes and ran to the tree as if it was the tree of life, hands reaching for the cherries. Boy, those worms cherries tasted good.

7. Do you have any advice for the riders at the back of the ER peloton?

It’s a good place to be – I like hanging out at the back. Don’t be shy to call out if the pace is too fast.

8. Lastly, tell us something we don’t know about you.

I’m a volunteer guide at the Botanic Garden in Sydney and an absolute geek about anything plant-related.