Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sweet as...the SSWC'10 New Zealand report.

With daylight saving and jet lag conspiring to have me awake at 5am this morn', i thought i would use the time to put a few words down on SSWC 2010 in Rotorua, New Zealand.

The first thing you need to know about New Zealand is that it is a long way away. Unless you live in Australia, you're going to have to be in transit for quite the long time before you set foot on its emerald shores. As it happened, i needed a bit of headspace, so 38 hrs of sitting on planes or in airports was ok by me.

Once i rolled my toyota hire car onto Pukuatua Street it took about 2.7 seconds to locate Zippy's coffee place and a further 14 seconds to order a cup of liquid energy. About 4 seconds after that, i bumped into Damo and Libby from Cog Bike Cafe and despite my total lack of personal hygiene it was hugs and smiles all around. At that point i knew i was finally at SSWC 2010.

In short order, food was consumed and i caught up with the local crew of Anja, Tristan, Leif, Ollie and Rossco. Minutes (or so it seemed) later, my bike was together and we were flying along some of Whakarewarewa forest's famous, buff singletrack.

Created over just a few years, Rotorua's riding is extensive and seriously smile inducing. The elevation is not great, the trails are by-and-large flattering and the redwood forest with its myriad ferns is one of the most beautiful places i have ridden.

Of course, local knowledge helped me hit a lot of good trails very quickly, but if you were to visit, trail maps and local group rides seem incredibly easy to access.

After a fine meal with Anja's dad i retired, utterly broken, to bed. 48 hours+ with no sleep and then a good bike ride in fresh air will do that.

Next day we again hit the forest for some uplift action. Basically a big bus with a large bike trailer would haul our lazy asses up the hill, then we would bomb down. My bike repaid the karma by falling off the trailer and being dragged a ways up the hill, but the damage was minimal and i could easily keep riding.

The only issue was my numerous punctures, no doubt caused by removal of the tubeless rimstrips and replacement with minimal light strips that were doing a poor job of covering the spoke holes.

After, we went down to town for more refuelling at Zippy's just as some more of the usual suspects began to trickle into town. Jacquie Phelan was around - somehow remembering everyones name - Dejay, jake and the Ohio crew were around...

... and Chewie was busy cracking smiles and telling story. Billy and Morgan showed up after an urban bivi at the airport.

No doubt a few beers were drunk and then a few more. Then we did some 'bear racing'...dont ask, i cant really remember...

All too soon, there were chalk lines where the few had fallen and after a very late night pedal into the hills with a spattering of rain i again fell deeply unconscious. I could get used to this!

The blighty squad were in attendance and while they removed areas of skin on the street/luge in town or owned the trails, i got my bike back in working order...

Friday was a bit of a blur. I'm sure we rode. I'm sure beer was drunk. I'm sure we attended the pre race briefing and i'm sure we went to the incredibly accommodating Copper Donkey pub after that. Taxis may have mowed Possums down. All too soon it was race day. The course was some 20km ridden twice and after a huge rolling donut race start that saw me and John dead last (at least before some cheeky queue hopping - all in good spirit of course) the 900 or so riders ran for the hills. No doubt having 800 riders in front of you as you hit singletrack will lead to a little walking but the banter was well worth it. The sun was shining and the trails were wicked quick. Just as i began my second lap i heard some marshals talk of the race winner but i was just looking forward to winding through the trees again. As the heat increased, my water bottles ran dry and a couple of energy-beers robbed me of any impetus. I spent some time sitting in the shade watching riders whip by and on remounting to ride nearly had wee-jOn beheaded as i slammed into the back of my saddle due to an inopportune T-bone from a wandering rider. No worries! another few minutes in the shade settled the sicky feeling....

Costumes seem to be integral to singlespeeding in New Zealand...and there were plenty of good ones. However, it was an Aussie that stole the show just as it was a Kiwi (Garth) who pipped Schnell for the tat at the last beer slam. Aussie Heather took the honours for the girls and our Anja took 4th.

After a last minute ride around the end of the sulfur-belching Lake Rotorua...

... and a blissful wend through the redwoods it was time to bid farewell to John and Joni as they took off to tour the South Island and i jumped in the toyota to head back to Aukland for another 38 hour transition back to the rain and cold of Scotland.

Fortunately, my wife hadnt laboured in my absence and so: onto the next adventure...

Reflecting over breakfast in Hong Kong airport, i knew my time in stinky-town had been a most egg-cellent trip...

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Black Owls

It is not often that a singlespeeding musician saves your life, but it happened to me in Rotorua, prior to the singlespeed worlds.

Dave Butler, gracious and talented vocalist and drummer of the Black Owls pressed a copy of his band's new album into my hand, with a nod and a wink i *knew* he knew i had driven from Aukland in a rental with nothing other than the radio to listen to. Sometimes that can be good, but in New Zealand, well, not so much. As i say, he saved my life: June '71 is a great album.

The Black Owls rock. That is all you need to know. I would *highly* recommend picking their albums up....its easy to download, or get from Amazon, but id recommend buying a physical copy - the art work is superb....

Friday, October 15, 2010

SSWC NZ '10, yo!

Ok. So Minneapolis was my first singlespeed worlds, in 2000.
Then i was in Wales for 2001.
2002 i headed over to Downieville.
In 2003 i was in Australia.
I leapt 2004 (where the venue was Berlin, but came back strong for State College in 2005.
Then in 2006, we all went to Stockholm in Sweden, at which time my Bros and me won the right to put the race on in 2007, Scotland.
2008 i travelled to Napa.
The next year we hit Durango.
Next week i will be in Rotorua, New Zealand for my 10th singlespeed worlds.

From what i can tell, i may be the only person walking the planet today to have been to 10 worlds. Chewie is a possibility but off the top of my head i cant think of anyone else who has been to that many.

You'd think i'd have learned by now. Guess i'm just stoic, eh?

Monday, October 11, 2010

SO much to say and too little time...

Fortunately, i wasnt wasting time...know what i mean?

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Supposed to be.

I'm supposed to be at the first cross race of the season. But i'm not. Riding stoke is low. I'm just up: upstairs had a party last night and i didn't get much sleep. It's raining. Blah.

So instead i picked up a magazine and started flicking though. Magazines are sort of distilled stoke to my mind. Or at least good ones are. Not like books, too many pictures and often very temporary.

There are several magazines around i rely on to get me though times of low-stoke. A new one has recently joined that list: Privateer.

I know some of the people involved, so it was always going to be special to me. But thats not that unusual. When you've been throwing a leg over an mtb for 22 years on a relatively small island, you do get to know some of the movers and shakers.

But having sat this morning with a cup of coffee and read a significant portion of it, i know that it is a unique british bike magazine.

It is no secret that the team behind Rouleur are behind Privateer. Rouleur is a pretty serious magazine. Road riding is pretty serious. The quality of Privateer is that it follows the adult, cerebral themes of Rouleur, but catches the irreverence of mtb'ing perfectly. It has no tests, no interviews with the latest feather-fringed day-glo cover star, just good, solid comment, history, general interest mtb articles for those who have already cut their jib.

Issue one ranges in topics from the older style of multidisciplinary race (as they all were, and recently have been reborn with the fantastic singletrack weekender), through experience of the Megavalanche, to reflections on the retro bike scene. My favourite? a photo essay on the bike mechanic by Geoff Waugh.

I suspect that if it will appeal to you, then you already know it will and probably already have it on the coffee table.

What a pleasant way to spend a morning. Better than cross? .... maybe...maybe!