Sunday, May 9, 2010

And who said bike trails are lame?

The other day during lunch, another fellow bike rider commented that he’d never ride on bike trails around Melbourne because the trails are boring, so he stays resolutely stays on road for all his travels. This got me thinking as I’m an avid fan of the bike trails as I don’t fancy the idea of having to constantly dodge semi-trailers during my ride.  So on this perfect sunny morning, I set out to proof that bike trail riding can have its own kind of reward. 

Here are some of the images taken during my little pedal, starting from home, to Dandenong & Carrum via Dandenong Creek bike trails, onto Port Melbourne via Beach Road bike path, and returning home via Gardiner and Scotchman’s Trail. 

Bike of choice – my trusty GT Tequesta (Modified for maximum road efficiency, of course) 023
Subject to Flooding?  Err a slight understatement! 031
First obstacle – waist deep water from the overnight rain in the underpass.  Believe it or not I rode through it but I wasn’t too happy about it afterwards. 021
Sun’s up, drying me out after earlier scuba diving. 027
Leaving the industrial town of Dandenong behind – this is what most people don’t get to see. 033
A boat floats by while I took a pee break at the river bank…. 032
Home of the rich and not always famous.  Patterson Lakes. 034
50km mark & I was starving.  Luckily found a great little Japanese shop opening early at Chelsea.  Teriyaki beef & chicken roll, salmon and avocado roll and tuna rice ball. 035
View from Beach Road bike trail at Black Rock.  (Hot bikini girls jogging on the beach edited out to keep this blog G-rated.) 040
St Kilda Marina. 042
A sculpture making an ideal backdrop for my bike to pose with 044
St Kilda beach & some kind of wind sailing racing in the foreground. 048
Station Pier & that little boat called Spirit of Tasmania beached. 050
Southgate – tricky to take a photo where there is no one in sight. 054
Next shot – people are everywhere. 058
Couldn’t resist an arty shot…. 055
Heading home via Gardiner bike trail next to M1.  This sign is difficult to miss. 059
Trail next to the Yarra River – no car to fight with for the next 5km. 060
109.11 Km in 4:45.  Not a bad way to spend a morning ride. 062

I think the pictures above speaks for itself.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Summer Gravity Camp

After nearly 6 month of think about it, worrying that I should put my money into my home or do something less costly as a vacation, I've finally paid for and signed up for this. Summer Gravity Camp with Andrew Shandro (Yeah that guy) plus a week at Crankworks watching the world's finest MTBer doing stuffs that I either have no idea or have no balls in trying to do myself.

Been doing plenty of flat pedal riding lately, Northshore stunts have no room for a clipped in man.

Next item - a quality camera to take plenty of photos!

Roll on August. Whistler here I come.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Infamous GT LOBO!

Doing my usual eBay trolling and this gem of a baby popped up......Extremely tempted to get my hands on this. I don't need it, it looks butt ugly and I know LOBOs are notorious for falling into bits just sitting there on their own, but this is a real piece of GT history. Steve Peat scored his first ever world cup victory onboard one of this ugly suckers......and looks like most of the parts are pretty accurate representation of that decade.... 6" Boxxers, pull action Super Delux, cable disc brakes, Michelin Wild Gripper tyres....ah only if I have spare cash laying around.....or maybe I should just do it? Decisions. Drools. Argh!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Good to be back!

It's been awhile since my last post. Small things in life such as having a girlfriend and buying a home can take so much time away from riding! Then to discovering your blogsite has been hacked just topped things off. Well, that girlfriend's dumped me, mortgage paper's been signed, and new PC with uber firewall is up and running, it's time to get back into my number 1 passion, riding my GTs and keep the silly reports coming.

A lot has happened since, from another strong race outing at Otway Odyessey XC marathon, to going over the bars at Mt Buller International DH track, to reviving another disowned old GT and turning it into my new super commuter bike and having a ball riding flat pedal again, it's been great to get back on my bike. But the most exciting news is yet to come - I've signed up for Andrew Shandro's Summer Gravity Camp in Canada this winter, followed by another full week of taking part in the Crankworks! August cannot come soon enough for me!

Will follow this post up with some of the happier riding activities in the past months. Stand by.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

2009 KONA 24 HOURS, Forrest, Victoria

KONA 24 HOURS was a mess this year. And for their superhuman efforts, this year's race belonged to Andrew Wade and Brenton McRae. Fittingly, Andrew's Wade's words below of summarise this year's event where everyone got more than what was expected in a 24 hour race. Enjoy.

If not for mega dollar bikes
They could be refugees
Fleeing from their ravaged lives
Or over from the seas.

One by one by one they comeEntering the field
Wheelbarrows are the choice for some
But mostly trolleys wheeled

They gaze around that football ground.
Searching for a base
To build their mini city
From where to make their race

We’d made good time and picked the best
All setup finally done
Marquees tents and all the rest

Now time farewell the sun

Some clouds the sky it does acquire
No star filled views tonight
By 10 o’clock it starts to spit
To bed I now take flight

I hear small drops upon the tent

A pleasant little noise
Sleep comes shortly now
Despite the campground noise

A bang, a flash I’m now awake
Reeling from the sound
Of a billion angry raindrops
Smashing to the ground

The tent it shakes from wind that roars
Across the footy field
Not rain for now it pours
From bed I do not yield

I contemplate checking
Our gear if it’s still there

But my bed so warm & cosy
Hardly do I care

The morning comes I do awake
And far to my surprise
The rain and clouds have gone
Replaced by clear blue skies

Egg and bacon, coffee too

We chat and wander round
Hearing tales of tents, marquees
Blown about the ground

As hours go by our friends arrive
And ready for the race
But so do some new clouds
And blue sky they displace

Paper, rock and scissors

Andrew Liu’s up for the first lap
We line the fence he passes by
We cheer and give a clap.

Timers on and guess an hour
Prologue traffic always slow
Steve readies now
As soon he’s the next to go

The first guys are in,
They sure are guns
Really belting they have been
On these slippery runs

Stephens off as Andrews in
First lap down today
It’s good to see Liu’s muddy grin
As he explains the lap away

My turn comes and I go out
To see the course first hand
Not bad for all the rain
But will 24 it withstand?

I struggle to warm up it seems

My heart and body cold
Not long before my legs do scream
Perhaps you are too old

But then I see that big grey climb
Memories of home
I drop it down a couple of gears
My chain it seems to groan

My heart rates up,
The legs are now live
I question now

If my lungs survive

It levels out I catch my breath
My heart rate doesn’t drop
Then I churn right through
The bog hole at the top

The trails familiar
From rides in past
But mud does add an element
Especially where it’s fast

On the road and down the hill

Not long this lap has to go
As I know the way from year before
No excuses to be slow

Down the hill and through the trees
Left right then dismount
Past the timing people
Now this lap will count

Brenton’s ready
Gloved hands slapped
Now he’s on his way
For 09’s virgin lap

One lap more each
Then night laps come
We double lap
For the late night run

We’re doing well
Too well in fact,
I miss handover
To my pair of laps

Good thing we’re close
I hear the call
I’m ready though
A minute more

We check the time
Well under an hour
An extra lap
If we keep this power

Doubles done
And rest achieved
Its singles now
A bit relieved

Yesterday we banked
On twenty four
But now it looks like
We could do more

At least plus one
Or maybe two
If this pace can
Just see us through

I check the time
If Brenton’s back by six past
Twenty six perhaps
If I can get through fast

………It can’t now be done
The time is past
I then recall
My clock a little fast

Some minutes go
And then he’s here
I say “one more”
“I’ll wait with gear”

I push and push
We want one more
I give it all
I’ll miss for sure

I bet its close
I think it’s lost
But what the hell
I’ll give my most

I make it back
There’s time to spare
Not much though
But I now don’t care

Laps Twenty Six
Of that we’re proud
And twenty second
Within our crowd

Results come out
I see with glee
That overall
We’re 53

The mud the rain
It’s over now
But this year
I’ll remember how

The colour all
The races became
Because the rain.

Andrew Wade - December 2009.

(Photos by Steven Rowe, Brenton McRae and Andrew Wade)

Monday, October 26, 2009


IT IS HARD TO BELIEVE that it's been 12 months since I last tackled this event. Amazing how life can pass you by so quickly when the pressure of life takes over. Work, house hunting, mortgage, aging parents and a new girlfriend have all become the dominating factors in my life for the past 12 months. Yes I still ride here and there but the focus on racing was absent and the fire in the belly to do well at race events has long been replaced by food, wine, movies, and stress.

SO WHEN THE EVENT ENTRY arrived at my email inbox in July, the mental debate of whether to tackle this event or sit it out took its usual place in my mind. There’s a saying that “Competitiveness is a Curse” – a term for years that I have failed to comprehend - right now sitting here at my computer thinking if I should enter this event or not, the phrase “Competitiveness is a Curse” had all of sudden became crystal clear. I mean, who in their right minds would spend their hard earned cash just to go and “have fun” at the races? Only a handful of people will win, most of us will end up losing. Sure some people may say "It's just great to take part". Well in my view it means you are either just testing the water, got roped in by mates or you're not really taking the whole racing thing very seriously. We enter races because we all have a point to prove to ourselves. For the most dedicated and most prepared, they will come with podium aspirations, others will come with hopes of an above average finish, but for the majority of us mortals with 9-5 day jobs, racing’s an avenue to prove to ourselves if our riding skills are up to scratch, to test against others how good our MTB kung-fu are; and to take home the bragging rights to whomever would listen. As you pare it back to basics, we take part in MTB races because we’re all driven by our natural instinct in wanting to have an edge over another person. But, and this is a big subject here, the fear of a possible, totally utter failure by embarrassing ourselves in front of others for having your arse completely whipped by the rest of the field, and even worse, by your mates, that holds us back from doing what our instinct wanted us to do.

SO RIGHT NOW, I have at least 10 excuses in my head why I shouldn’t be entering this year, ranging from lack of funds, needing to spend quality time with girlfriend, to overgrowing lawn, the list goes on and on. But brushing aside all possible excuses, my personal fear was the thought of me being left painfully behind by others as result of too many cups of hot chocolate and lack of training over the winter. And as I'll be competing in a team with a friend, the thought of me taking him down with me from my poor performance is holding me back from entering. That’s it. Not because I don’t think I lack the skills to ride a bike fast, or scared of taking part in a race and possibly crash my brains out trying too hard. It was a case of simple pride induced fear of looking like a total loser in front of my friend.

SO A DOSE OF REALITY CHECK, I asked myself. Why the hell did I spend all that money on all those race bikes for? Why did I pay to join a MTB club? What is the absolute worst thing I have to lose beside pride? Judging by my performance in this event the previous year, there is no real reason why I can’t go out and give others alike a run for their money, even if it was for a glorious lap. I know I can be competitive as long as I race smart. I have the relevant experience, the right equipment, and the right team mate to get the job done. So why am I sitting here trying to rationalise my decisions and fretting about entering this race? The fire of competitiveness was building up by the hour, eventually burning hot enough for me to put aside all my doubts and the real possibility of becoming a laughing stock in front of peers, to again enter this event. Hell it will be a chance to really see where I am at if I’m scheduled to tackle the next two major race events, Kona 24 and Otway Odyssey.

FOR THIS YEAR, I have a new team mate for this event, Stuart Gibson replacing Damien Waddington who’s decided to go solo. However due to injury to his back, Damien was a scratch from this event. As this would be Stuart’s first race in Males Pair, I took on the leading role of organising the race marquee setup, registration and so forth. Got to the race site nice and early to cure any race nerves, and plunked our marquee conveniently next to the race line, just like how Damien would. With hours to spare before race commencing, I took on a reconnaissance lap to see what laid ahead in a new race course format and I liked what I saw. New single tracks linking on to the original race track, without any great deal of steep climbs or technical terrain. Perfect, although ever present dry powdery sand was a bit of concern, it was not enough for me not to take a gamble and try running the Maxxis 310 semi slicks dry racers. Again, what do I have to lose but the possibility of getting a puncture, when I can gain a huge chunk of speed by running super fast rubber?

SO TO THE RACE, being the earlier arrival between myself and Stuart I took on the lead lap. As usual a messy start was expected, the race commenced with a compulsory mad dash on wheels for a front running position, which all came to naught as we all got bottle necked at the single track entrance. Waste of energy but what can you do about it? So it was a case of taking my time and pick off slower riders as I move through the race pack, and hoping like hell that the boys (and girls) will be sorted from the men (and women) as the race settles in, the goal's to minimise the time lost playing cat and mouse with others and get a decent break from the maddening crowd around me.

OUR RACE STRATEGY was to rotate and do a lap each and break the event into mini-sprint laps over the 6 hours. So after the first lap full of traffic jam and pile ups, I gladly pulled in to our pit to hand the race over to Stuart, who took off like a banshee. Knowing Stuart was a strong climber and he’ll see to himself to do well in this event as the big hills are non-existent. Besides, Stuart was riding the latest specification of Specialized Epic S-Works race bike so he wasn't exactly going to be hanging about mixing it with others. Definitely not wanting to become a case of “all the gears and no idea”. There it is, personal pride on the line during a race. So with great turn of speed, Stu caught me by total surprise with his impressive lap around the course and returned from his maiden lap a full 10 min ahead of what than I expect him to do. This was looking good for our team, but so was the fear of letting Stuart down by going too slowly and undoing his hard work of flying first lap.

ANOTHER FEAR FACTOR was the presence of other riding mates who were also taking part in this event. Both Andrew Nurse and Matt Davis were present at this same event and they have set up their race camp uncomfortably close to ours. Although they're not competing in the same race category as Stu and I, the simple geographic proximity between us and them means the 'friendly rivalry' was ever present. If you fail or bail, they'll be the first to know.

DURING RACE EVENTS, or for that matter whenever I’m riding with others watching, I feel the pressure to be at my best, all the time, and I can't help it. I want to improve my best constantly, every ride. But the fear was that my best is pathetic in comparison to many. It's a pride thing. Really it was a case of do your best or don't bother. So after Stu's flying first lap it was now my turn to build on the momentum we have created. I was moving fast and not holding back. The combination of full knobbies at front with semi slicks on the rear was working well, aside from a few controlled slides and drift, the gamble of running 310 semi-bald dry racers was working well. By now the race pack had spread out nicely and it was time to really bang in fast laps. I saw both Matt and Andrew in front of me and I was catching up to both of them fast, but wasn't enough to overtake either before I reached the pit for Stu to take over again. Why did I want to catch and overtake Matt when it really didn't matter at the end of the day? It was a pride thing, ego? But I don’t like that word. Looking back, all that effort trying to chase them down was all a bit unnecessary..

IT WASN'T TOO LONG before Stu was back again and my turn to head out, a cycle we repeated until the sun begin to set and fatigue also starting to kick in. As usual, the cramp in leg crept in but this time a well prepared dose of sports drink and organic food saw the end of that. However there was a physical limit my body could take and hill climbs in mid ring was dropped into granny ring affair. Upon my return to pit, discussion was raised if I should let Stu take on a double stint to give myself time to recover. But then that was a defeatist talk and a polite way in saying the word "I am giving up"......Fear of looking bad in front of mate kicks in. Personal pride was at stake so as Stu returns from his lap, I was all gear to go for one last bash.

ONE THING ABOUT RACING AT NIGHT was the difficulty in recalling whatever happened that lap, as you’re too busy trying to work out what’s in front of you instead of running into it, especially when your body was fairly taxed, so I was glad that that I completed my final lap without crashing into anything that I didn’t want to, although I do recall having a few moments here and there. Nevertheless, I got back in time before the cut off time to allow Stu to head out for his final lap. Ditching the filthy bike with pride staying intact, I was quietly content that I’ve done my fair share of work in this race event. Looking across the marquees, Matt was in agony suffering from cramps, while Andrew was still out there in the darkness circulating somewhere, both of them having their own little ding dong battle all in the name of pride, and not wanting your mate to out do you.... is not fun, but I love it. Depending on your definition of fun I suppose.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Evolution of the Species – GT LTS

THE YARDSTICK BIKE OF THE MID 90S. You are not a true GT fanatic unless you recognise this bike. Like the original GT Zaskar which pushed things onto the next level, the GT LTS raised the bar and set a new standard for all to follow. A revelation of its time and a bike that holds special memories for those few who were fortunate enough to own one back in the days. I'm glad I've still got one.

THE MID 90’S WERE A CRAZY TIME in the development of off road bicycles. It seemed every month there was a new dual suspension bike design being released. Doubts no longer existed that dual suspension was the way forward. The public was willing and eager to jump onto the dual suspension bandwagon and there were no shortage of choices.

SPEARHEADED BY THE NEW GENERATION of bike designs such as the Answer Manitou FS, Proflex, Cannondale Delta V and Trek Y series, the GT RTS was soon outgunned by these new comers as other manufactures grasped the rules of engagement. With availability of better suspension components, suspension travel has gone from 1.8” to 3.1” overnight and even though the GT RTS was still a great bike, (both factory GT DH racers Mike King and Nicolas Vouilloz held on to and kept racing the GT RTS as long as they could, even after release of GT-LTS) the writing was on the wall that a replacement to the rapidly aging RTS was needed desperately.

ONE OF THE CRITICISM of the old GT-RTS, though at the time of launch it was actually considered as strength, was its lack of a plush and active rear suspension. Public were becoming more educated and the demand for an active suspension bike that worked constantly increased exponentially. So in fall of 93, GT began testing an all-new design, designated LTS (Linkage Tuned Suspension), to restore GT back to forefront of dual suspension bike war, both from pure suspension performance perspective, as well as regaining lost ground in the showroom.

ESSENTIALLY A 4-BAR LINK DESIGN, the LTS employed the Horst Link that populates the entire Specialized FSR range today. As a matter of fact, if you look at the pre-2007 Specialized Stumpjumpers FSR range, you’ll be able to see LTS’s DNA lurking beneath these Specialized bikes. Equipped with then cutting edge Rock Shox Judy forks and Super Delux rear damper, the LTS provided incredibly plush suspension action that was unmatched in its price category. The LTS was so good, it took out MBA Bike of the Year in 95 uncontested, and the record sales of LTS globally meant Specialized had to take action to enforce the FSR design patent to ensure GT could no longer continue selling the LTS and evolution models after 1999.

WHEN IT CAME TO COMPETITION, the LTS crushed its opposition. The strength of the LTS was its versatility over different terrain and bump eating performance. Downhillers loved them, and the race results backed it up. The biggest winning margin in the history of World Cup DH race was established with a derivative model of the original LTS concept. The infamous GT LTS Boomerang. Ridden by Nicholas Vouilloz, the prototype GT LTS won on debut at the incredibly rough 1995 Cap d’Ail event by a massive 14.13 seconds, a record that remains unbeaten today. A year later at 96 Cairns World Championship, Nico, now onboard a Thermoplastic framed LTS DH running first generation Rock Shox Boxxers, defeated American sensation Shaun Palmer, who raced onboard the arguably the greatest DH bike ever, the Intense M1, to showcase how good the basic LTS design truly was, even against the latest generation of super bikes. An unknown British rider called Steve Peat was also winning British National and European regional events onboard a LTS. Back home, Michael Ronning, Scot Sharples and many other future World Cup racers also all kick started their racing careers onboard a LTS.

TILL THIS VERY DAY, the GT-LTS remained as one of the plushest mass production dual suspension XC bike ever made, and this is unlikely to be rivaled as the modern day XC bike design tend to employs air shocks instead of coil spring unit. As it was built during the 90’s, where fashion trend dictated that everything had to be CNC machine, anodized or ball burnished, it ensured a LTS cut an unmistakable profile in the crowd. However, the LTS was not without faults, despite all the astounding performance it offered. Soon it became clear that the multitude of pivots and bushings wore out all too fast, and the high mount shock mean the center of gravity was on the high side. Also, the scissor-action shock linkage means that when going down a steep hill with brakes applied, a V-brake equipped LTS will display one annoying trait – a tendency to ‘stink bug’, or rear suspension jacking up under heavy braking. This was easily cured by running a rear disc brake, so GT provided holes on rear drop outs on bikes built after 96 to enable a rear disc brake be fitted. However, as the threat of Specialized lawsuit on bikes with Horst Link design approached, GT had to abandon its most successful dual suspension design, one that enjoyed enormous global success both on the showroom floor and international race circuit, to commence a totally new and radical design in which the brand still depend on today. The GT I-Drive System.