Monday, October 26, 2009

Knowledge Tends To Democratize.

Ok, so I've been a bit serious of late, what with all the ranting and complaining and layperson's political polemic. And what better way to counterbalance that than an internet campaign to elect someone to something totally undeserved?

Vote 1, Brendan Bailey, for the Scody 2009 People's Choice Cyclist of the Year.

Because Stuart O'Grady and Cadel Evans have already won enough awards. Because the cyclist of the year shouldn't be some pro who you never see battling into the wind on the way home from work. Because I'm an aging fixie punk with bad tattoos and questionable personal hygiene. Because I like going to fancy dinners. Because "People's Choice" should mean "One of the People". And if I'm nothing else, I'm definitely a person!

You don't have to be a cyclist to vote, just an Australian resident. Nominations close this Friday.

Here's the link:


Friday, October 23, 2009

I'm A Poor Boy Now.

People are attracted to pretty things, and that's ok. For example, I have a really nice red shirt from Ben Sherman. It's all fitted and really bright and I look totally hot in it. That's cool. I didn't, however, only buy the shirt because I look totally hot in it, although I do. The first and paramount purpose of a shirt is to cover up nakedness and, in my case a few dodgy tattoos. The secondary purpose of a shirt is probably to keep me warm. Only after these two does me looking totally hot come into the equation. If, by some strange warping of logic, my priorities became all skewed and I started valuing my appearance above everything else, well, I probably wouldn't have bought the same shirt. Or I might have, but I might have just hung it over my shoulder and walked it down the street. At any rate, all of a sudden my shirt wouldn't be about anything practical, but rather aesthetics, perhaps even at the expense of practicality.

While this epic (which should be taken here to mean "unapproved") Boski x Cinelli Collabo doesn't necessarily come at the expense of practicality (even if it doesn't have a brake), it certainly places aesthetics above all else. And apparently aesthetics are expensive indeed - the complete bike is selling for $2750, whereas some calculations I pulled out of my butt has the parts/frame coming to about $1700. That's a cool thousand dollars to have different coloured letters on the frame.

Now, don't get me wrong. I don't care if you want to make your bike look pretty, and nor do I care if you spend a lot of unnecessary money on it. I do, however, start to upchuck a little bit when you talk more about how your bike looks - or what parts are on it - than you actually ride it. And this Collabo seems to be placing the emphasis firmly on the former. No, here we have a bike as an object to be consumed visually, rather than ridden.

I know that these kinds of things are "dropping" daily, and that this particular bastardization shouldn't bother me any more than a stroll through fixed gear gallery. But it does. And I think that's mostly because it's happening here, where I live. And I can tell you now that Boski has never supported any underground cycling events in this town. Hell, I quickly scanned through the one hundred and eleven people who told facebook they're attending and I think I've only ever seen five or six of them out riding. I've certainly only ever seen a couple of them at events. Like the people who listen to Blink 182 and tell people they're into punk, these folks seem to be into cycling without the jagged edges, taking the easily consumed parts of the culture but refusing to give anything back, even by way of participation.

So, here's what I propose. On the 7th of November, at 1pm - the same day and time as the launch of this abomination - get your friends together and go for a ride. Head out of town - you can take the Merri Creek bike path all the way to the Ring Road bike path, for example, and then join up to the Craigieburn bike path. There's a nice bakery in Craigieburn where you could stock up on carbs before heading back the way you came. It's about 60ks all up. There won't be any free beer, of course, and no one will win a set of Deep Vs. It may, however, be a really nice day. Leave a comment if you need a map.

I Don't Owe Him Nothing.

It might sound kinda dorky, but on a day like today, when the sun is out and there's a southerly blowing, there's not much I like to do more than sit at Tre Bicchieri and watch people ride their bikes up Rathdowne Street. A nice big bike lane, a tailwind and bare arms feeling the springtime warmth. A coffee, a comfy chair and waitresses who know what you drink. That's a good day.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

We Don't Want A Bigger Piece Of The Pie. We Want A Different Pie.

The Sugarspokes crew mentioned on the internet the other day that they were going to head down to the Harrison Street Velodrome on their weekly ride. I knew I'd be in the neighbourhood and so volunteered to show them around. Despite my incorrect genitalia they took me up on my offer and rolled up at around seven last night, looking nervous as hell but equally keen.

I'd made some vague plans about various activities, but really, when you've not been out on the track before the best thing you can do to familiarise yourself is just to roll around until you feel comfortable. So that's pretty much what happened. After a while I suggested they form a paceline, and they did that for a few laps, then a couple of them had a crack at flying 200s (apologies are due to Hillary here, as she took the best line and really hit it hard, but the stupid timekeeper forgot to start the stopwatch). Nothing too exciting, but their enthusiasm was infectious, and I had an awesome time.

Tara is back in town and was rolling around with them. Before she left the country she'd been pretty burned by the bike scene around these parts, but earlier in the day she had texted me about the Sugarspokes ride. "I got back from the states," she wrote, "and everything is more positive. It's turned my views on it all around!"

I wrote a few weeks back about training there, and about how the sitting around sharing battle stories and talking shit was as important as the training. Nik Cee commented something similar when I quoted Liam about Alleycats. But this only works if you've established a community of equals, whose experiences are similar to yours, whose stories mesh with your own. This community was lacking for women cyclists, but instead of continuing to feel marginalised as individuals (or worse, hanging up their bikes altogether), these women got together and created something new and awesome. Something that seems to be growing by the week, in numbers and in heart. Something that is gradually altering the status quo of cycling, and is fucking fun to boot.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

It's Understood.

It's no secret that when it comes to design, I'm no Picasso. Hell, I'm barely even a cut-rate Kandinsky. Which is why I'm opening up this opportunity to the general public, rather than battling it myself.

Brunswick Cycling Club are having an A grade Keirin night on the 24th of November. It will be excellent. But it needs a poster. And I thought that some of the more skilled design heads out there might like to have a crack at it.

Necessary info is:
Brunswick Cycling Club presents
A Grade Keirin Night
24th November, 7.30.
Darebin Indoor Sports Centre.
For more info email:

Themes are up to you, but it's Keirin racing, so Japanese style would suit.

I need design ideas by next Tuesday, when I will present them to the race committee, who will then choose their favourites. The winner will be subjected to the xbbx hype machine, which basically means flogging it on here, various bike forums and Facebook.

Email your finished product to


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Ain't Nuthing Ta Fuck Wit.

Sunday turned out nice and clear, which was nice for the Hi-Vis Muppets tackling the Around the Bay in a Day, but didn't really affect those who rocked up to Rock - N - Roller Racing at the East Brunswick Club. The field grew to the limit of 32 riders pretty early on, and boasted a number of former roller racing champions in its midst. Competition was bound to be fierce.

The Cranky Sundays crew rolled up early to get some experience on the rollers, with a number of them looking a little worried about the lack of bolt-down forks. After a couple of minutes each, being held by Brunswick Cycling Club stalwarts Philthy and Greg (as well as a couple of pints of dutch courage), those worries disappeared into the wind. All day long, with a considerable number of newbies involved, there was only one person to fall off, and that was Andy "Track Cunt" White, who really shouldn't have, given he has his own set of rollers at home.

Being early birds worked out well for some of them, but less well for the underage members of their posse. Next time they'll know to bring their mums or dads - which, incidentally, was the advice followed by Nik Cee, even though he's almost thirty.

Riding proper started with flying 200s, to establish handicaps for the later rounds. Proper velodrome experience proved to be the difference here, with the first five places all being taken by Brunswick Cycling Club members. A notable exception was Crankies Member Ryan G, who was perhaps driven to his cracking time of 9.25 seconds by his choice in music. Murray McKenny didn't go quite as well, possibly because he chose the Benny Hill theme song.

The commissaires retired for a break after qualifying to figure out handicaps. The crowd were reminded at this point that the handicappers could be bribed with brownies. Only one rider came through with the goods, however - Team Handsome member Ben Ladner.

Match sprinting was next - evenly matched riders, without handicaps, over one lap. And the riders were definitely evenly matched, with a number of races being decided by less than half a tyre. Shannon Wuoti showed some early form here though, taking out Jamie "The Jams" with ease. Latecomer Blane also showed some skills, having scored Pip's place when he retired early.

A call went out at this point for riders willing to tackle the Brunswick Challenge. A hundred dollars was up for grabs for the rider who did the furthest distance on the rollers in one minute. After some creative and helpful heckling this was later split into two, in order to create a women's division. Anyone, regardless of gender, who reached 1600 metres would score a further hundred bucks as part of the Chooka Challenge. Coffee Ben had an early crack, but his mark only lasted until TC hit the imposing distance of 1175m.

Round Three was handicapped racing, and it was here that Philthy - and all of those who rode his bike - showed the benefit of having 98 gear inches. Campbell, fresh from coming 7th in the national Scott 24hour mountain bike endurance thing (and qualifying for the worlds!), busted a gut here to take out his good mate Jerome. Lano also had arrived late - with Safa in tow - and he had a crack here, but without a decent warmup couldn't quite do enough to make the finals.

A second call went out for the Brunswick Challenge, and a few more beers into the afternoon there were more takers. The creation of a girl's division set some female hearts a'racing. Megz was first to step up, setting the ultimately unbeatable distance of 975 metres. But she was given a run for her money by Sabrina, who had braved the commuter crowds and done the 100k version of the Around the Bay in a Day that morning.

The boys then stepped up and began to hurt themselves. Despite a broken collarbone Safa had a red hot go, but was let down by wobbles on the rollers. Chris Hickey brought his road bike out and made it to 1160m - still not enough to take down TC's winning mark. Brunswick Vice-President and Rock N Roller Racing Chief Commissaire NDF looked smoother than George Clooney on the rollers but only made the distance of 1110m. Andy was looking pretty pleased with himself until the endurance specialist stepped up.

And then, having ridden 1190m in one minute, sat back down.

Finals were up next, over two laps, with Megan racing Jamie For Jams for 3rd, and Shannon Wuoti and Ben "Brother Handsome" Ladner facing off for First Place. Jamie gave Megan 50 metres start, but was able to overcome it, his pink'd up Pista metaphorically whizzing past Megan's roadie in a dazzling display of hipster colour co-ordination.

The grand finale was upon us. Brother Handsome donned a Brunswick Cyling Club vest and 93 years of tradition. Shannon flexed his guns and felt confident about his 150m head start. Wu-Tang Clan blasted over the speakers and they hit it. Hard. Brother Handsome had half his catching up to do completed by in the first 200 metres, but took a lot longer to complete the other half. Both riders were smooth and fast. When Ben caught up with 100 to go Shannon stuck on that wheel for a while, but ultimately got dropped and was relegated to second place. Ladner took out first, in a rare victory for Team Handsome, and possibly a less rare victory for the persuasive power of brownies.

Real results are available here.

Thanks especially to Brunswick Cycling Club for providing the rollers and being my favourites, Ray's Bikes for excellent prizes that I wished I could've won, Cycle Underground for their continuing sponsorship - even if no-one ever claims their prizes, Nath for rocking up late but instructing us not to touch anything til he got there (and commissairing), Nik Cee for helping with the hype, Chris Hickey and Blakey for helping set up, Dave for commissairing and being an easily identifiable rego desk, Philthy and Greg for both holding riders and sharing their bikes, Kody and Mel from the East Brunswick Club for being most excellent hosts, my housemate Leith for letting me borrow his car for the millionth time, and anyone who rode, took photos, yelled, heckled, rocked up and sat up the back looking bemused, or just came along had a good time.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Who The Hell Is That? Why The Fuck Should I Care?

From Liam, who by all accounts put on a totally killer alleycat last week, and who comes closer to describing why we race alleycats than anyone else I've read. He also quotes me. Enjoy the circle jerk, readers!

"Where and Why
Sometime in mid 2006 a bike activism related uni project encouraged me to research urban cycling.
At the time 'fixie' culture hadn't hit its straps anywhere yet, but it was well on the way. The internet was my portal to this underground obsession, in particular
I was enchanted and captured by the helmet-cam videos of one NY'er Lucas Brunelle. It opened me up to a world where traffic and city streets became a sports field where incredible feats of skill and athleticism played out.
Alleycat races are traditionally the distillation of the day of a messenger/cycle courier into a fast paced race between many checkpoints simulating the pick ups of deliveries where a manifest is marked instead of a parcel.
The races generally last for 40 minutes for the fastest riders, who tend to be experienced messengers exhibiting disregard for traffic laws, manners and normal rider ethics :).
For most participants the chase is its own reward.
The pure animal thrill of entering an intersection at top speed, against the flow of traffic, and threading through moving cars with 3 other riders on your tail is not something to be lightly enjoyed, yet not easily forgotten.
If you do it right it takes till you reach the other side of the intersection for the drivers to react, an unstartled driver is a predictable one.
Brendan sums it up best with his observations.
At its very best "weaving impossible lines and creating space from nothing" is what it's about, and never has the chestnut "it's about the journey, not the destination" been more accurate, (particularly in my case seeing as I never seem to win anything..)"

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Nina, The Pinta, The Santa Maria.

Like a lot of things, cycling is at its best when you're with a bunch of mates and none of you are taking it all that seriously. It's when you start to take it seriously that things get complicated. Lately I've been taking it seriously. And today things got a little complicated. I don't know enough about the politics - sitting around listening to blokes spin shit only jacks you in so far - but I do know that some fucking irritating and potentially impossible changes are about to happen to my plans for my immediate cycling future. And I also get the impression that my coach - who I've come to both like and respect quite a lot - is not responsible. No, it seems that the worst things about my profession - bureaucrats and administration and the allocation (or collection) of meager resources - also plague my passion. I'd been able to avoid it - and the accompanying meetings - almost completely til now. But like a shaving cut, it's just when you think you've avoided the pain that the blood starts flowing.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Taken By Surprise.

Mostly I go out and do my weekly road miles by myself, with only my ipod for company. It's pretty good company, with long-forgotten records and occasional French lessons able to keep me entertained for hours. But sometimes cycling solo can be drudgery - you have to drag yourself out. So every now and then it's nice to head out with a bunch, especially if that bunch is pretty equal in terms of ability. Even if you don't talk much, it makes life a lot more pleasant to roll turns, chase people up hills, stop for coffee. It makes you remember why you love this, this stupid life that no one outside cycling gives a shit about. It makes you come home with a smile on your face.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Songs They Never Taught You At School.

I'm biting off more than I can chew again here, trying to put into words something I've not even really able to grasp yet. Sometimes, though, you gotta plow on regardless, in the hope that somewhere amongst all the waffling uncertainty there might be a word or phrase or idea that sticks.

When I first started training with Alf Walker at the Harrison Street Velodrome I quickly realised that it wasn't all about doing tempo work or whistle sprints. Sitting around afterwards was just as important. Alf would always be in a good mood after watching us suffer for a couple of hours, and the stories would start coming out. About how blokes used to ride their track bikes for training down on Beach Road, back in the fifties. About riding the tandem on the Essendon Track and rolling a tire. About eating ice-cream sandwiches on the way home from training at the very same track I'd been busting my gut around.

Ewin Williams would come down and train with us every now and then. He was - and still is - freaking fit, but had been around a bit too. His stories were a bit more recent, but equally hilarious. Perched on the benches, listening to the stories going back and forth was like having the history injected straight into my veins. I was new to the game then - and, let's face it, still am - and all of this felt big, heavy and somehow important. It left me with the impression that when I stepped out on to the track I wasn't just some muppet doing laps, even if that was actually the case. No, instead it made me feel like I was part of a continuum, a long line of athletes who had suffered, crashed and occasionally been brilliant before me. As if somewhere in the future I'd be a character in the story, that I'd be mixed up in the combination of history and myth that forms the narrative of cycling in Brunswick.

None of this sounds like a big deal - and I guess it isn't really - but I guess all I'm saying is that it's nice to be a part of something. And a vague feeling that all this history and tradition is to be respected. Even if it does mean that members of Northcote hate us for being Brunswick.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

A Battle Hymn To Celebrate.

This article rules precisely because it places the responsibility to act (or not, as the case may be) exactly where it should be: on men. And also because it's kinda funny.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

I Can't Get No.

Something About You, Girl.

Well I'll be. This American Cyclist is now US women's omnium champion, as well as being fortunate enough to be one of my friends on facebook. Nice work, Cari.