26 09 2010

When the annual Audax riding calendar is released I sit down quietly and mark out the rides that I plan to do. My goals for the year ending 31 October were modest.

1. Ride at least one 200km or better randonée each month
2. Complete a Super Randonneur Series before end of June
3. Complete the 1000km Western District Wanderer
4. Complete Perth -Albany- Perth randonée (1000km + 200km)
5. Improve flexibility (from a low base I must add)
6. Improve core strength (again from a low base)

Although the year has not finished it is wise to progressively check how you are going in relation to your goals. Well that is what all the management gurus tell you and who am I to disagree.

Lets have a look at them:
1. I can honestly say that this goal is firmly on track. The Audax year is eleven months on and I have managed to ride at least one brevet in each month. There have been the odd month when I have had to complete a ride on the last day of the month. As an example: In January we had planned to ride a permanent out of Bright. We felt that the weather was too hot to attempt a 200km ride and as a result the only ride left on the calendar was Buckley’s Ride on the 31st. The weather on this day was hot and windy. I had no choice but to ride if I wanted that Year Round Randonneur award. To cut a long story short, I suffered through the day and made it home a little worse for wear.
Lesson: Plan to do a ride early in the month.

2. At this stage I have not yet completed a Super Series. This is unusual for me. I try to get this done as early as possible. I still require a 400km brevet ride to satisfy the requirements. The first 400km attempt ended when due to torrential rain in Lancefield, I decide that conditions were too dangerous to continue after 300km. It was a hard call, but riding at night is dangerous enough without adding heavy rain.
The second attempt in September saw me complete 300km when due to a $7 spring breaking in the Campagnolo freewheel I was unable to continue.
I have one more opportunity. 30th October, last day of the Audax Year.

3. The Western District Wanderer was a disaster for me. I was feeling good and riding well after having climbed over Lavers Hill. Despite thos There was a problem the cleat on my riding shoe was sliding and there was noting I could do to tighten it. At Dunkeld (around 400km) I reassessed the situation. Knowing that there was still some serious climbing through the Otways on the way home, I did not want to risk any injury, I made a sensible decision to live to fight another day.

4. PAP is being held next week. I feel I have a reasonable about of kilometers in my legs and enough randonneuring experience to complete this ride. At the end of it I will have completed the requirements for a Woodrup Award. This is the Australian equivalent to the Randonneur 5000 described in the glossary. The award is named after Graham Woodrup a well known racing cyclist and Audax member who held many Australian long distance records and the world 24 hour tandem record. He also established the Murray to Moyne 24 hour ride to raise funds for local hospitals and charities.

5 & 6 . These two are closely related, so I will deal with them together. When I was positioned on my bike Steve Hogg told me that my flexibility “sucked”. Unfortunately, after two years it still does. I completed 3 months of Yoga early in the year. I then hurt my Achilles and have not been back. I also do not stretch enough.
These goals that need to be at the top of my agenda.

I do not profess to be an expert. But over the years, both professionally and in my cycling, I have learnt that it is better to plan and fail, than not to plan.

If you have any doubts have a read of David Rowe’s Book “The Ride of Your Life. I provided a review of here .

Mark Ronson – The Bike Song

21 09 2010

I first saw a reference to this song on Kent’s Bike Blog. I tried to play it but the following message appeared on screen:

This video contains content from Vevo, who has blocked it in your country on copyright grounds.

My intention is to discuss aspects of cycling and randonneuring,but it makes my blood boil when distribution rights are fragmented between countries. Much is written about being in a global economy, but this only applies when it suits. The sooner film and music companies start to release on a global scale the better. Why can I watch something in the USA, but am unable to watch it in Australia?

Then I found the video clip at and this time the video does play in Australia.

The Bike Song
Uploaded by rockohoward.

Once you listen too it the music stays in your head. I am sitting here before breakfast singing ” I’m going to ride my bike until I get home” over and over again.

What it probably means is that I should get off the computer and go and ride my bike.

I hope it inspires you to go for a ride.

Benefits of Cycling

16 09 2010

On of the joys of cycling is being able to ride alone or in the company of friends. On those occasions when I find myself enjoying the serenity of the Victorian countryside alone the mind seems to wander aimlessly. What generally happens, for me at least, is that I have come up with introductory paragraphs for university essays and sometimes a range of ideas as to how an essay needs to flow. Of course while riding a bike it is not possible to write the ideas down when they first come into your head. But during a long distance randonnée you can usually find a coffee shop and jot down ideas then. I still have notes on the back of paper napkins. I relate this back to some ideas I remember from various training courses , where you are advised to keep a pencil and paper on the bedside table to jot down random ideas.

I never try to analyse why this happens until this morning I found this article in the online Bicycling Magazine.
The Cognitive Benefits of Riding, Your Brain on Cycling: Three ways your brain benefits from riding your bike


CONCENTRATION Activities that require balance, quick reactions and decision-making skills— like martial arts, gymnastics and cycling—best control ADHD in children, says psychiatrist David Conant-Norville, MD. A Vanderbilt University study shows that these activities may help adults with focus and concentration too. Participants who performed a short but complex exercise were 40 percent more likely to solve a puzzle than idle participants. The takeaway: If you’re stuck on a problem, go for a ride.

STRESS AND ANXIETY Research has shown that vigorous exercise is so effective at quelling anxiety and depression that some patients have been able to reduce or eliminate the use of medications such as Prozac and Zoloft. In a study at the University of Southern Mississippi, participants who suffered from generalized anxiety disorder and exercised at 60 to 90 percent of their maximum heart rates for three 20-minute sessions per week saw significant decreases in anxiety sensitivity and fear after just two workouts. Further research has shown that people who get regular vigorous exercise are less likely to develop anxiety disorders and depression.

MEMORY For the hippocampus—a region of the brain that controls long-term and spatial memory—bigger is better. And as with the rest of your body’s muscles, exercise makes the hippocampus grow. A University of Illinois and University of Pittsburgh joint study found that physically fit participants had larger hippocampi and performed 40 percent better on memory tests. Other reports show that exercise helps older adults retain cognitive function and avoid disorders like Alzheimer’s and dementia.

So next time somebody asks why you ride a bike rather than driving car you can tell them that you are preparing a university assignment or writing a report. The reaction is priceless.

Mattheis, C. (2010). Your Brain on Cycling. Bicycling Magazine. Retrieved from

Gold Rush Randonnee – The preparation

17 07 2009

or How I prepared myself to conquer a Californian 1200km ride.

The Gold Rush Randonnee is not an easy ride. The information put out by the ride organisation suggests that the ride contains between 26,000 and 29,000 feet of climbing. This compares favourably with the elevation gain on PBP of around 30,000 feet.,but as most randonneurs know these statistics can be very misleading. The climbing on the GRR was all contained in the middle sections. But I am getting ahead of myself.

This adventure started after Martin Haynes returned from his Cascades/Rock Mountains foray in 2008. Over a red wine or two we discussed upcoming 1200km rides. He suggested that Gold Rush would be a great ride to attempt. Never being one to shirk a cycling adventure the ride became an excuse to have a holiday in the USA. Linda and I had previously been to California back in 1994 but had never been to the East Coast.

At the Great Southern in 2008, somewhere in the dark of night, I raised the prospect of GRR with Carol Bell (a New Zealand ex-pat, living in Maryland, and a member of Audax Australia). She agreed nearly immediately. Nothing further happened until January. I received an email alerting me that the interest list for the Gold Rush had opened. I immediately put my name on the list.

This is where the story gets sad. Carol suggested that to make the holiday worthwhile,I should also partake of a new 1200km ride in Canada. This was the Granite Anvil, starting in Ontario about 4 weeks after the GRR finished. The wait list for this ride was also open and I again put my name on the list.

Carol, feeling partly responsible for this predicament also put her name down for both rides. She wanted an International Super Randonneur as well as the CanAm pin that is awarded to riders successfully completing a Canadian 1200 and an American 1200km in the same year. I had not though about the bling, but thought to myself “that’s cool”. To tell the truth I was mainly after the International Super Randonneur Award. During my period at the helm of les Randonneurs Mondiaux, I had affixed the seal to a half a dozen of these awards.

ISR awards
This award is administered by Audax UK on behalf of RM.A rider can complete a Super Randonneur series, that is, 200, 300, 400 and 600km rides under the Randonneur Mondiaux code, with each ride in a different country, over any period of time, and become an International Super Randonneur.

Elevated ISR awards are also recognised, for instance a rider completing three 600km rides in different countries in Europe and one 1000km in North America would be designated a 2 Continents International Super Randonneur 600.

I calculated that I could claim the ISR for four 1200km rides completed in four countries :

PBP 2007 (France)
Great Southern 2008(Australia)
Gold Rush 2009 (USA)
Granite Anvil 2009 (Canada)

This would constitute a 3 continent International Super Randonneur 1200. To see a list of current recipients refer to The Audax AUK site

This is probably not the best reason to ride a 1200km brevet. But then is there ever a good reason to punish your mind and body? We are all different, and the best reason for anybody is “what ever gets you through!.”

Both of these rides required a qualifying Super Series. This is not usually an issue, as one of my aims is to complete a Super Series in each Audax year. But I thought that I really should have a training program. In the past I jut got on the bike and rode. Before the GSR I was commuting to and from work. My current employment situation, meant that this source of mileage was no longer available. At the same time I was aiming to achieve the Audax Year Round award. Well at least I will have a certain consistency for riding brevets.

As the months rolled on, I found I was spending less time on the bike. I was also studying for a BA (internet Communications) via Open University. This was taking up a fair chunk of time. I was studying something that was outside of my immediate comfort zone and needed to come to grips with things such as HTML and CSS and other computer jargon. So my plans to prepare a program went out the window. I went back to what I had done in then past, ride when I could and use my previous experience to finish two 1200km brevets.

With this type of plan, I was bound to be successful. Around this point of time information was being sent out by the Gold Rush organisers. After seeing the route profile, and descriptions I began to worry a little. The route profile looked intimidating.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Journey Begins

29 06 2009

Well actually the journey actually started Sunday afternoon. I was lucky enough to have scored a free night accommodation at the Hilton Hotel at the airport. It made a lot more sense to spend the night at the airport and then just casually walk accross the road to get on the plane.

The room was great, you really get lost on a king size bed. The window ovewrlooked the airport. It was fansinating watching the taxis and people coming and going. All this while enjoying a glass or two of “sparking wine” (I still call it champagne, but the French object).

After a good night’s sleep, we walked across the road to check in our luggage. As I asked the lady behind the counter whether Linda could have a window seat for the domestic flight to Sydney, she informed me that this was our lucky day. We had scored a business class upgrade for the Sydney- San Fransisco leg. (Hope the luck holds for the $90million Tatts draw on Tuesday).

I will publish some photos from the hotel room when I can get onto my own computer to download some photos.

Bags Packed

27 06 2009

It is still two days before we leave on our USA adventure and our bags are packed. This must be a record for us. Usually I pack clothes into a backpack only the night before. On the other hand, I do always have the bike packaged up a good few days before we leave. This time I am especially glad that it was done early.

In the months leading up to this trip I had agonised over how the bike was going to be transported. In the past I always used a cardboard Qantas bike box. These have always served well, but the trips were always a return leg form a single airport.This time we were going to travel 10 flight legs on a round-the-world ticket. The bike box, in my opinion, was not going to last. The box also is not easily transportable around airport terminals.

During the January long week-end at Bright, I got to talking and the SciCon AeroComfort Plus was recommended. On investigation it seemed like the perfect answer. The advertising blurb read in part ” The extraordinary ease of stowing the bicycle in Aerocomfort Plus (you only have to remove the wheels), the quicknessof this operation, and the minimum space required make it a truly unique product.” I was especially interested, as most people that know me will attest, I am not particularly handy with tools of any description.

To cut a long story short, I decided to make the investment after Mr Rudd’s generous stimulus package came through.

So on Wednesday, I decided to pack the bike into it’s new packaging bag. I inserted a set of skewers into the Scicon anti-shock frame , removed the wheels from the Baum and “bingo” the Baum was safely fastened to the frame. Now came the test. Zip up the bag. No mater how much I tried The zip would not close over the handle bars. This called for a new strategy. Time for a glass of wine and return in the morning.

A good night’s sleep failed to come up with a solution. I then did what any good cyclist does in times of crises. I put on the Lycra and went for a bike ride. It was on this ride that I reasoned, That I should remove the handle bars and stow them along the bottom tube. This would, however cause the top of the bag to crumple, the handle bars actually forming part of the bag’s structure (in a manner of speaking). Next issue was to get a narrower set of handle bars to attach to the bike during transport. I put out an appeal on the Audax Australia chat list. This bought forth an immediate response. I am amazed at the various bit and pieces that we keep in case of a rainy day or another cyclist’s needs. Problem solved, a narrow set of bars and the bag zips up nicely.

It only remained to add some additional protection around the rear derailleur and bubble wrap and foam rubber around the frame. I also added some cardboard to the internal wheel bags.

Baum: Packed and ready for transport

Baum: Packed and ready for transport


It remains be seen what damage the various baggage handlers can inflict on my precious cargo.

Nervous Apprehension

25 06 2009

It’s Thursday morning. Nobody else is awake and I am thinking about our upcoming trip to the USA.
Surely this is a time to be excited? In normal circumstances I would agree. Looking forward to the adventure is a normal reaction. This however is no normal holiday.

Let me take you back. I was enjoying a glass or two of Australian red wine (the style and type is not important, all Australian reds taste good) with good cycling friends. The discussion turned to our cycling plans for the 2009. I had half heartedly thought of completing a 1200km randonnee in the USA. Martin had earlier completed the Cascades ride as well as the Rocky Mountains ride. He suggested that the Gold Rush out of Sacramento sounded like a good ride. My immediate reaction was “ok. lets do it.” A day or so later Carol from Baltimore advised me that the waiting list was open. Not needing a lot of persuasion, I immediately registered my interest in riding.

No problems with that, seven or eight months to qualify for the ride, do the ride in July and then enjoy a holiday. Dear reader, nothing so simple. Carol suggested that to make the trip worthwhile, I should also consider the Granite Anvil in Toronto starting mid August. Well, to cut a long story short, I registered for that one as well. What was I thinking? Two 1200km randonnees in a matter of six weeks!!

The trip was taking a shape I had not imagined. A round the world ticket seemed to make sense. Linda suggested that we could visit a good friend in the UK. A little planning and we could also stop in Singapore and then visit our daughter and family in Perth. It worked well, the son-in-law was about to celebrate a 40th birthday. Great timing!!! A visit to the Qantas travel office and we were the holders of a round the world ticket.

The Itinerary:

  • 29 June: Melbourne – Sydney – San Francisco
  • 12 July: Sacramento – Baltimore (via Dallas)
  • 10 August: Baltimore – Toronto (via Chicago)
  • 18 August: Toronto – London
  • 22 August: London – Singapore
  • 27 August: Singapore – Perth
  • 31 August: Perth Melbourne

Our holiday was now book ended by two 1200km bicycle rides. I am lucky that Linda supports me and my hobby, I am doubly lucky because Linda enjoys travelling and discovering new places.

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