Thursday, August 30, 2012

Set Your Flag On Fire.

Welcome to another Friday Roundup. Before I get too far into this one, I have something to confess. Last week I banged on and on about finally getting to see Premium Rush, but like most of my predictions, I was wrong. All illegal downloads seem to be flawed or password protected. If anyone out there wants to provide me with links, burnt copies or even full USBs, well, that's my email address listed under "Contact".

A couple of non-cycling things first off. If you happen to be wandering through the city at any point in the next few days, you should totally stop by the CFMEU picket and offer your support to the workers holding the line. Sure, unions are flawed institutions, and are never quite as revolutionary as you want them to be, but it's workers' rights by any means, folks. And if you're still wandering around on Wednesday, come say hi to me on the steps of Parliament House. I'll be the teacher wearing red.

Next up is my friend Adam's movie blog, Reel Important. He's got good taste in movies, is funny, and is very local. I'm always stoked to read about what he's been watching, even if I'm never going to get around to watching any of the movies mentioned. You've seen what it was like when I tried to watch Premium Rush.

Ok, I've mentioned this before, and I'll mention it again, because it's not this Saturday but the next... The Captain Planet Alleycat! I'm kinda keen to ride it, especially now that my bike once again reflects more innocent times. For those of you without Facebook, rego kicks off at 3pm at Edi Gardens on the 8th.

You know, speaking of folks I only know on the internet, some folks I know started this game up, and I initially thought it was totally dorky. But as the game wore on and folks started getting more and more into it, they kept revealing cool little parts of the city that I'd either forgotten, ignored, or wasn't aware of. And that's pretty rad. I reckon as the weather gets warmer the competition will also heat up, so you should totally just quit work and concentrate on bike tag.

And finally, more details have finally come out about this. These are exciting times, folks. Check it out.

And that's about it for this Friday, the last day of Winter. There's sunshine coming this weekend and I'm already making plans for summer. It's a good time to be alive.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

I Stole All Of My Songs.

Earlier this term Deb was getting rid of a whole bunch of records, and I put my hand up. Actual records, not just CDs that I call records for slang and hipster points. Billy Bragg, The Violent Femmes, a whole bunch of country and jazz, it all went into the bag. I hadn't seen her for a while, and it was good to catch up, but it was even better to hear her reminisce about these records, where she had bought them, when she had first heard of them, how she felt about them now. She's a little older than me, so had a different perspective on music - one I really liked hearing about. So when she popped up on Facebook tonight I figured it would be worth asking her to do a guest post, even though she'd never read the blog before. She agreed, so here goes.

One of the original rock chicks. Hey I was her back then. Loved her. Wanted to be her. Was her in my 14 year old way. Saw her at the Corner in  the 80s. Came on with her back to the audience & asked “You all wanna go to Devil Gate Drive? Yeah? Well come on”
Love that bass man.

Rancheros just make me sooo happy.  They remind me of a night in Mexico DF: mariachi, tequila and men in pants with silver toggles hanging off the side.

Ok, It’s the Seekers but I love this song, good for my life at the moment, especially the line “If I never see you face again then it’s all the same to me” Good little riff.

Whilst I’m not a huge Enya fan, we sing this song in the Vic Trade Union Choir & it’s one of my favourites. I want it sung at my funeral. “How can I keep from singing?”

A song that always makes me sing out loud! Apparently one of the Violent Femmes lives in Tassie.

Stirring number this one. Gotta love a woman with a big voice!

Monday, August 27, 2012

The 415 Area Code Seems So Fucking Far From Mine.

I used to write all the race reports for Dirty Deeds. It was a pretty fun job, I gotta admit, even if it was time consuming. As well as getting to make any number of jokes about Lewis’ foot fetish, I got to tell the stories of the races, and that’s always the best bit. An added bonus I didn’t anticipate, however, was that I got to know a whole bunch of the folks I was sending these reports to.

One of these folks was Molly Hurford of Cyclocross Magazine – the Girl With The Cowbell Tattoo herself. After the Australian season was over we kept emailing back and forth, and eventually became pretty good friends. I sent her a shirt from this year’s DDCX and she asked me to review her new book – Mud, Snow and Cyclocross: How ‘Cross Took Over US Cycling.

I thought that perhaps I’d have to take off my friend hat and put on my cynical reviewer hat, and that that would cause some ructions. But there was no need – the friendly voice Hurford uses in her personal correspondence is exactly the same as the one she uses in her professional writing. It’s relaxed and breezy, and the fun tone makes the book incredibly easy to read. I sat in the back of an Italian class and knocked over fifty pages without taking an eye off students conjugating verbs.

It’s also obvious that Hurford loves the sport, and she brings an insider’s perspective to the writing. She’s obviously spent a lot of time with the people she’s interviewing, and her familiarity seems to put them at ease – her subjects are generally candid and honest, even if they are disagreeing with each other.

The emphasis on oral history means there are a good variety of voices, and Hurford has gone to considerable lengths to ensure that she has spoken to both a demographically representative sample and also the right voices from the early days of US CX.

Reading this from an Australian perspective gives a good picture of just how far behind we are. This is the first year Australia has had a national series; the States had the SuperCup in the late 90s. The States are hosting the World CX Champs this year; Victoria is hosting their first State CX Champs this year. But it also gives an excellent outline for how the sport can grow in this country. This is particularly true of the chapters outlining the various CX races and series across the states – it’s basically a blueprint for how to grow the sport.

Perhaps even more than other kinds of cycling, CX is about personalities, and Hurford doesn’t neglect this. The section on individual racers gives an excellent idea of who is who in the US CX scene, makes us care about the racers, lets us know the riders who until now were simply names on a results sheet.

My favourite section, however, was easily the CX hijinks chapter – perhaps the best thing about CX is the shenanigans, the willingness of even the elite riders to take the piss. And a chapter dealing with some of the best pranks in US CX is always going to be a highlight. I won’t give away any of the lolz here, but rest assured the book doesn’t shy away from the details.

All in all, it’s a pretty sweet book from a pretty sweet individual, and I enjoyed it a lot. I'm pretty sure you can get in on Amazon, or alternatively go bug Malachi at Northside Wheelers - if anyone could get it in, it's probably him.

I Think We're Dying.

The Heavy Metal Monday office is, for the first time in about four months, beginning to smell like sweat again.  This is, admittedly, partly due to my not having done any washing for about three weeks.  However some of the stench is being caused by having started to, for want of a better term, 'train' again.

Basically, I'm riding my bike a bit.  And it's pretty good.  Brendan's back racing and tapping out miles as well.  New Timer house is waking up from the winter slumber.  The slight scent of spring is in the wind that's blowing through the back door.  And with Hurley in my ear about racing this Saturday, it's all beginning to feel a bit fun again.  If I wasn't listening to so much Bongripper I'd almost feel energetic.

'Training' is probably a misleading term.  I trained a bit last year and it didn't really work for me.  I didn't like the regimented nature of it.  It got to the point where riding my bike became, not so much a chore, but at least something that I didn't have a choice in.  Which is of course obscene.  My new approach is more centred around the 'gonna ride pushies a bit'.  Because, you know, that's ultimately my favourite thing to do ever.  Regimented training is a good way to forget that.

Racing, on the other hand, is a different story.  I'm often asked by friends whether racing takes the fun out of riding due to it becoming 'more serious'.  If anything it does the opposite.  Racing has taught me lots of stuff.  How to ride in a bunch, how to ride a paceline or an echelon (though people at Footscray still yell at me when I do it wrong).  I've learnt about little faux-pas that non racers don't learn about, like half wheeling.  These are little benefits which, though meaningless ultimately, help you to become a fuller, more complete cyclist.

On a slightly more existential level, though, racing can deliver fairly amazing highs/lows.  Riding a bike fast can be, without hyperbole, the shittest thing you ever do.  That said it can also be the absolute pinnacle of your week/month/year.  That pendulum swing is what's addictive, and what creates that desire to keep putting stupid cloths on.  It's during these quasi chemical highs that one has these pivotal reminders that riding bikes, in its simplest form, is simply the most fun you can have outside of a Slayer concert.  

Riding lonely miles in the rain because you have to train is a good way to make you hate yourself and your bike.  Turning yourself inside out with a bunch of mates for a few hours, then retiring for avocado on toast and long blacks is one of the better ways to stay happy and engaged with life.  At least that's what I've discovered. 

Racing creates goals and direction which, though perhaps a little silly or overly ambitious, give you good cause to ride your pushie around with friends.  As a corner stone to life, frankly, you could do worse.

I'm kind of aware I sound like a broken record here, and perhaps for some of you this is so bleedingly obvious it hurts, but it's been fairly important to me. 

Riding pushies is fun.  Race them if you can.  Just so it gives you an excuse to spend time with friends, to eat avo on toast and drink coffee.

The crux of it for me, I suppose, is that bikes just mean good times with friends.  

Get amongst it.  But stay grim.

Friday, August 24, 2012


Ok, when I first heard about this movie, I figured it would be pretty fucking naff. And, still not having seen it, I'm almost absolutely certain that I'm going to be right. But I didn't care. I was still convinced that it'd eventually come out in the cinemas, and I'd organize a huge FOA group excursion to go watch it. And we'd heckle the screen and go "OH AS IF!" and generally be annoying to the general public. Which would be a totally good time. But as time went on it seemed like it wasn't going to get that elusive Australian release. So instead I'm going to watch a downloaded copy tonight. Screw you and yours, Joseph Gorden-Levitt. Apparently it only got 6.7 out of 10 on IMDB, and I'm a firm believer in the xkcd system of movie ratings, but I'm pretty excited regardless.

Nearly as exciting is the next round of the Dirty Deeds Urban Cyclocross Series this Sunday. I'll be down there talking all sorts of crap on the microphone, but I'm going to have to be somewhat restrained, due to a multitude of noise complaints from the locals. This is probably good news for all of you, and definitely good news for me, because it means that I won't have to drink as much vinegar this time around, you know, in order to save my voice. Thank Christ for that, because after the last one I smelt like a fucking fish and chip shop. Apparently, as well as my "expert" "commentary" there will also be some racing. That'll be ok, I guess.

I suppose I should touch on today's big controversy involving Lance Armstrong, but to be honest with everyone, I just don't give a fuck. What folks seem to forget is that The Tour has always been about cheating. Dudes used to get caught taking the train, for fuck's sake! In fact, that's a kind of cheating I could really get behind. If it was less like procycling and more like Wacky Races, I would totally chip in some sponsor money myself.

But I was talking to KO today about how little of a fuck I give, and she disagreed. "It's awesome that they keep catching dudes," she told me, "because it means that the guy coming 30th is going to try that little bit harder to come 29th, just in case the 28 dudes in front of him get stripped of their titles thirty years down the track." I couldn't really argue with that. Of course, I countered that with so many dudes losing their palmares there was certain to be a chance that the ASO would award a podium spot for me soon. You know, because I'm straightedge.

Oh, and there's DISCO Track this Saturday night. That's kinda cool. Although as a punk, I'm inherently opposed to anything with the descriptor Disco, I'm absolutely certain that it won't be as shit as anything by Abba. Who, incidentally, are one of the worst bands ever. In fact, they're probably in my top five all-time all-genre worst famous bands. Like, it probably goes - in no particular order - The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Abba, The Doors and Radiohead. Oh, fuck man, I hate Radiohead so much. I can't believe I forgot them until last.

Thursday, August 23, 2012


Last night, when I had lots of energy, and was feeling expansive, I agreed to ride a Madison tonight. Dan Nelson's teammate has been injured and he needed someone to take the place. He told me he'd chase and sprint, and that sounded pretty good to me.

Right now, however, with a storm rolling in, soft music on the stereo and a weird, kind of ominous yellow light to the sky, riding a Madison is pretty much the last thing I want to do. But the Madison is a bit of an anomaly amongst the mass-start track events, in that you do it as a part of a team. Further to this, tonight's race is the last of the series, and anyone not riding forfeits all of the points they'd previously gained. Dan has ridden all of the races, and I believe just needs to finish tonight to end up doing ok.

I don't mind letting myself down. Hell, I do it all the time - I've pulled out of races, failed to finish, made more mistakes than I care to count. That's on me, and I can deal with that, rationalize it over time, put on some mopey music, lay in my bed and work it out. But there's no way in hell I'm not going to show up tonight. And, further to this, there's a good chance I'll turn myself inside out on the track, working my ass off to ensure Dan gets the points he needs. I don't mind letting myself down, but I refuse to let others down.

I don't make many promises, and I don't make promises that I'm not sure I can keep. So when I do say, "I promise", you know that it'll happen. Whatever it may be.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Chaosphere. The Astral Mind. The Horned Goat.

This post is not endorsed by xBrendan Baileyx.  

Heavy Metal Monday headquarters has recovered from the pop hits of the past few weeks.  Instead, I've been entirely focusing on stoner doom for the past few days.  Being a cyclist, and having a penchant for music that romanticises intense psychedelic entrapment/rapture, can be troublesome.  I don't smoke, never have.  My brief experiments with hallucinogens resulted in me laughing hysterically at Ace Ventura Pet Detective II, collapsing on the floor as what appeared to be the Astral Mind closed in on my consciousness.  I should stress I saw the physical form of the Astral Mind.

Don't ask.

Anyway.  Being a largely sober kinda guy (penchant for occasional violent bursts of binging notwithstanding) does appear to be at odds with music that is surrounded in proverbial and often literal dope smoke.  But there's something so incredibly, I don't know, heavy, about this music.  There's no speed, barely any technicality, and often no lyrics.  

It's just yourself and the riff (and occasionally the Astral Mind).

The music is hypnotic and it does indeed pull you into a different world.  Time slows down, small things seem more profound, and the desire to go outside halves.  

"Drop out of life, bong in hand.  Enter the world of the riff filled land."


"Get outta my face motherfucka!"

Satan Worshipping Doom..the cosmic door awaits.

Within the smoke...lies the truth

Await the Sabbath

If you have an hour....enter the Realm.

I do not endorse recreational psychedelia.  Unless you think it will be fun.  If you think you are having problems with how you view the world, due to the music above, please refer to Minor Threat, Fugazi, Bane, and Youth of Today.

They'll set you down the righteous path.  But for those that want to just drop out, the above, is for you.

Enter the Chaosphere.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

In This At Least, You're Just Like Me.

My coach, who I still call my coach, despite not being officially on his books for months now, was down at the track the other day. I went up to say hi and he asked me how I was feeling. He'd seen my name in the results and was wondering where my head was at. "Just mucking about at the moment," I told him, "I'm going to see how it goes for the next month or so, and if the body holds up, I'll think about getting back into it."

A month! I've been off the bike six months, battling this fatigue for more than twelve, and I'm considering stepping back up to those twenty hour weeks, those sessions in the gym, those long hours on the road, those ergos after only a month back? That's kind of crazy. But really, when I look back on my approach to cycling, I've always wanted it all, and wanted it now. When I was a D grader on a Tuesday night I was always thinking about making it up to A grade. And when I was an A grader on a Tuesday night I was always thinking about being an A grader at Opens. And riding off scratch in Handicaps. And winning road races. And racing the NRS. I didn't achieve all of those things, and probably never will now, but I certainly had the drive and desire to do so. How I thought all that'd be possible is beyond me now. Bodies simply don't work that way - you can't just throw everything at them at once. You need to build slowly, over a period not of months, but of years. Sometimes I forget this, start thinking that my body can handle anything. But then, while reading an advance copy of Molly's new book, I stumble upon this quote from cyclocrosser Mo Bruno Roy:

“There seems to be a time warp in people’s minds. For the amount of work they’ve been putting in, they seem to want results to be so much more than they are. This is my tenth year racing a bike and I feel like in the last two years, my body is finally getting it."

Talk about hitting the nail on the head. I know that time warp well. Sure, I can occasionally try to convince myself that I'm going to take it easy, just race for fun, see if I get fitter by osmosis. But as soon as I roll out onto the track I know that this is exactly what I want to be doing, and that I would do anything to do it better, that I want to be there, at that end point, right now. But if I get carried away with this kind of thinking - and I'll be the first to admit that I often do - I'll end up doing myself more harm than good. I gotta slow down, enjoy the feeling of getting fitter again, fall in love with riding bikes all over again, notice the changes happening with my body and feel the strength come back into my legs. That's not easy for an impatient guy like me. But the times that I do manage to slow myself down a little, when I can somehow stop my brain from rushing ahead, are the times that I love riding my bike the most. 

Slow down, I hear the voice saying. Enjoy this early stuff. 

It ain't easy. But when it happens, it feels pretty damn good.

Monday, August 20, 2012

We Build Al-Qaeda In Washington.

You step delicately
into the wild world
and your real prize will be
the frantic search.
Want everything. If you break
break going out not in.
- Michael Ondaatje.

FJ is off gallivanting around the city again, leaving me no other option than to write another Heavy Metal Monday myself. I was going to write about metal myself, but given that my exposure to the genre is somewhat limited - pretty much just Gunners, Metallica and a little bit of Slayer, really - I figured it'd be better leaving that to the experts (a humility that hasn't stopped me from writing about cycling, incidentally).

Whenever FJ can't think of what to write about I always tell him to just think about his last bike ride, and write about whatever he was thinking about during that. That works alright for this blog, which is by nature introspective, and ostensibly about cycling. But really, my last ride wasn't that interesting. I did a couple of laps of the Boulie with Hurley and FJ. Hurley was tired, Jamesy wasn't feeling too great, and I was too relaxed to give a shit. We'd started late and headed out on High St, before stopping for Preston Pies. A couple of pies, a bit of After Pie Thinking, then we headed back past New Timer House and hit the Boulie.

Later that night, however, I was in bed reading The English Patient. I kinda get what Elaine is saying in the clip at the top - it's an impractical novel, probably difficult to read if intimate descriptions aren't your thing. It's not even my favourite Ondaatje novel. It's In The Skin Of A Lion that keeps calling me back, that I've read over and over again. Probably partially because of the locations - it's a very Toronto novel, even though it's set in the 1930s. They talk about building the Bloor Street Viaduct and I remember catching the bus over that bridge on my way to Kingston for the start of the University year. They talk about Danforth Street and I remember my friend Caroline who used to live down that way. But also because the novel is so local, so grounded in community. It's almost as if Ondaatje is sitting outside a cafe pointing to local characters as they walk by - look, there goes Alice, she was once a nun but is now an actor; there goes Caravaggio the thief; that man is named Patrick, he is on his way to pick up his daughter Hana from school. As much as it's about the characters, it's about the city, the narrative of one symbiotically resonating in the other. I like that a lot - the idea that part of our identity is geography, that where we are is at least partially responsible for who we are.

In The English Patient, however, the protagonists - all of them - have lost their sense of place, and are trying to rebuild. Two of the main characters are continued from In The Skin Of A Lion - Patrick's daughter Hana (who, incidentally, is actually his stepdaughter, but is referred to throughout the latter novel simply as his daughter), and Caravaggio, who is Patrick's friend. It's the process of them rebuilding that sense of identity that makes the novel kind of amazing, not the romance. Well, actually, I guess the romance is kind of part of it. They find each other and build their new identities through those relationships, through the love that they find. These days we scoff at that kind of thing, because we're all supposed to be independent and not lean on anyone. But that's just bullshit. Every single person we interact with effects who we are, changes who we are, even if only a little. Like Ondaatje himself also writes in the poem that opened this post,

If I speak of death
which you fear now, greatly
it is without answers
except that each
one we know is
in our blood.

I guess, in a way, that the two books are different because one is enclosed within Toronto - or at least Ontario - and the other has the whole wide world to deal with. I guess that's how things are for me at the moment too. Before I only ever thought about the bike, about this small world that wasn't significant to anyone else. But now there's so much more to the world, and that can be a little confusing, a little overwhelming at times. When you're open to the whole world you feel things more acutely, more passionately. I will, however, say one thing. This is better.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Think I'm Cracking Up.

You take a really sleepy man, Esmé, and he always stands a chance of again becoming a man with all his fac—with all his f-a-c-u-l-t-i-e-s intact.

- JD Salinger.

You know what? The weather looks crappy this weekend, so I'm going to try to suggest a bunch of indoor activities. One notable exception, however, is the Melbourne Gravel Grinders King of Lake challenge. These rides are, by all accounts, always a total freaking blast, and I suggest you make your way out to the Hursty yards with your best beard attached. 

Right, back to the good stuff behind closed doors. Useless Children are launching their record on Saturday night! Jamesy bought a copy off them a while back, and it's a total banger, with equal amounts of menace and expertise. That's a fine combination. Check out the details on Facebook here

Next weekend at DISC is DISCO track, a Saturday night racing extravaganza presented by the good folks at Brunswick Cycling Club. Cam MacFarlane is organizing it, so that means the races will be inventive and the commentary bawdy. 

But this weekend at DISC is the Sunday Roast, which always rules. You should go to there. It'd be really good for your racing, trust me. 

But really, what I think you should do this weekend is get some sleep. Whether you stay up late to watch Useless Children and then sleep through most of Sunday, or whether you go to bed early on Friday night in order to storm into Saturday, it's probably best for you to approach the weekend in the hope of becoming a person with all their faculties intact. 

The Clock On The Silos.

Today was a pretty good day. As such, I don't have much to write about.  But I am going down to DISC tonight to race in the Northcote 50k points challenge thing. I reckon about 48 of those kilometres are going to royally suck, so I'll probably have something to write about immediately afterwards. It'll be a grateful post about the guys who took it easy on me for eight laps.

I am, however, starting to come up with a plan for getting kinda fit again. It's the kind of plan I've much derided in the past, geared as it is towards getting fit, rather than fast. There's not much targeted improvement in this plan, just racing, motorpace training when possible, and a decent ride on the weekend. I'm not going to win any big races with this plan, but there's a chance that after a couple of months I'll be able to hold on in races like the one tonight. If that turns out to be the case, and my body hasn't packed it in again, that's when I'll start thinking about riding my bike more seriously again. Until then, it's purely fun times on the bike with the guys I like to ride against. For the time being, that's all I care about.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

To The Heavens, Earth And Seas.

One crowded hour of glorious life
Is worth an age without a name.
 - Thomas Osbert Mordaunt

Yesterday morning I got into the car and started the engine. The engine is doing that again now, which is nice. I was in kind of a rush to beat the traffic, so I peeled out straightaway, figuring I'd decide on music once I was moving.

I was in a pretty damn good mood, probably the best mood one can be in when they're running slightly late for work on a Tuesday morning. But I still hadn't decided on music by the time I reached the East Brunswick Project. That was ok, I reasoned. Some song would pop into my head while I was waiting for coffee, and I'd put that song on when I got back into the car.

No song appeared. I crossed Lygon Street without a tune. It was kinda strange. I got in the car, pulled back out into traffic, held the iPod in my hand, scrolling through the list of artists. I'm a guy with eclectic tastes, and up until now I was certain that I had something, some genre of music, some song for every occasion or whim. Lygon turned into Holmes, which then turned into Nicholson. I got stuck behind a tram for a bit, turned right onto Bell, immediately left onto Elizabeth. Still no song. When it came time to head right on Murray Road I gave up and put the iPod back into the dashboard. All along Plenty Road, all the way into the Coles carpark, over to the Red Rooster opposite school, I drove in complete silence.

So today's Music Wednesday isn't about music, but rather the absence of it. I was pretty confused by my momentary inability to choose a song, but wasn't upset or annoyed. Like the other day when I couldn't find any words, I just figured there was stuff going on that I didn't understand, that was beyond my comprehension, that was bigger and more important than anything I could stick words or music to.

That kind of thing used to bug me, but for some reason, it doesn't now.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

She's Gonna Get Her A Skirt.

I'm running late again. Well, I sort of am. I'm racing track tonight, and senior racing doesn't really start until 7.30. Most folks get there around 7, talk shit for a bit, do the warm up, tinker with their bikes a bit, then race. Me, well, I like to get there early. Roll in as the juniors are still racing, keep an eye on them. Clean up my bike, make sure everything is ok with it. Hang up my tool bag, claim two chairs - one for me, one for my feet. Pump up tyres, wipe them down, put the warmup gear on. Bike mechanicals happen before getting changed - it's all about minimizing the time in lycra. Once the bike is right it's time to go get changed. Have a quick look on the table to see if anyone else has signed up yet - if they have, that's cool, get a number. But if they haven't, wait til after the warmup. You want to be number 1 at the end of the race, not the start.

Go get changed - I'm not going to gross anyone out with the details here. Get back to the bike and go on the rollers until warm up. No efforts here, just ticking the legs over. When the last junior race is up, get off the rollers and ride real easy around the warmup area down the other end of the track. When the race ends head out on the track. Wipe tyres down as you roll onto the concrete. Roll around easy, then turn it up a little, then turn it up a little more. A couple of laps fast. Then roll off for a little bit. When you roll back on, head up to the top of the track for an entry. Keep rolling around til enough of a gap appears, then hit it. That should get the systems activated.

Roll off the track. Hang up bike, put shoes back on. Check phone. Look around to see which other folks in your grade have turned up, and adjust gear accordingly. Best not to leave the warmup gear on. Go have a nervous wizz. Come back and get back on the rollers. Do a couple of five second sprint efforts - no more than five. Then tick the legs over until the grade before you is up. When their race rolls out, head down to the warm up area and roll around. Chat to the other folks in your grade. Check who is there. When you get the call from the commissaire, line up, and pay attention to what wheel you want. The race starts here. If you don't get the wheel you want from the fence, be prepared to bully your way onto it once the commissaire gives their orders.

And now you're racing.

Monday, August 13, 2012

When We Have Nothing Left To Lose.


That's what I would be yelling at you from across the proverbial room if a) I had watched the race and b) mountain bike racing was good.

Given my incredibly lax journalistic style, a lot of you probably already guessed the former.  As for the latter, well, it's more of a general rule that no one really wants to face up to.  What I can guarantee is that the three blokes who did watch the race (probably all together) almost certainly fell into a 29er/650b/26 inch debate directly after the completion of the race.  That is, assuming of course, that all three gentleman got through the eighty three hour race without succumbing to cardiac arrest brought on by sudden and violent boredom.

Therein ends my analysis of the race.  You want more?  Go read cycling news or something.

Today, instead, I am going to talk about tubulars.

I have long since come to terms with the fact that I am, without hyperbole, probably the second or third worst bike racer in the entire world.  Unsure of how to deal with this uncomfortable truth, I started searching around for more cool shit I could stick on my bike to make myself feel better.  As is the case with most of the excellent decisions I make, Sean the Man got in my ear re. tubular wheels.

His offer was this: I could borrow his Ambrosio tubulars, laced to Dura-Ace hubs (perhaps the sweetest hub ever) with Sapim bladed spokes.  I could ride them as much as I wanted.  I could race on them.  I could even train on them.

As backstory, these wheels are down around the 1300gram mark.  They are stiff as hell.  Riding them feels a bit like flying.

I had my doubts.  Wasn't this a bit of a wank?  Tubulars for training?  What if I got a puncture?  (The new vernacular is punny, btw).  The idea of me knee deep in shellac out Whittlesea way with no ability to get home didn't appeal.  Sean stuck a spare tub under my saddle with a pedal strap, told me to stop worrying, and go ride.

So I did.

It is about a month later and I can report back that riding tubulars on high quality tyres is indeed one of the best things you can do to improve your life.  Sean described it as running through a field with a strawberry blonde girl, laughing your troubles away.  This is probably the closest I can come to describing the experience of riding tubs.

Training on tubs belongs to the small sub-category of 'so dumb it's awesome'.  When other cyclists see the tell-tale spare tubular under the saddle, tucked away, they can immediately infer two things.  Firstly, this rider is an idiot.  Secondly, this rider is a mad dog.  It's a bit like smoking, only cheaper.  Going through this cyclists head are the conflicting images of me getting a punny, and me cornering much better than him because of my sweet supple tyres.  It troubles and haunts this other cyclist.  He kinda pats his spare tube lovingly, but also kinda wishes he could spend an afternoon sinking beers glueing a single tubular.  It's not efficient, but damn it's classy as hell.  Kinda like smoking.

I'm now in the awkward position where I don't want to give these wheels back.  I look at my Dura-Ace race wheels, my Mavic Ksyrium training wheels, and am filled with despair.  All I can think about is harsh riding, terrible cornering, and quick and easy tube changes.  There's none of the risk, the stupidity, the god damn classiness of riding tubs.  It's just so pedestrian.  With clinchers, I'm just another hack.  On tubulars, I am the ubermensch.

I don't think I can go back.


Thursday, August 9, 2012

My Hands.

The car has broken down again, refused to start, leaving me stranded in the Red Rooster carpark on Plenty Road. The RACV are about half an hour away. The things I was hoping to do this afternoon, the little after work chores that fill the end part of my day are now an impossibility. Instead I’m being forced to sit in the passenger seat and think, listen to music, stare out at the traffic, and perhaps write a little bit.

I don’t know why the car won’t start. The stereo and the lights work just fine, which leads me to believe that the battery isn’t totally flat. I’m entertaining the idea that maybe it’s the starter motor, something that exists to me as a name only. I don’t know where it is or what it looks like. When it comes to engines I have no idea. This has been the case for my entire life, ever since I realized getting sent out of engineering class with my friends was way more fun than staying inside and doing the work. I’ve come to terms with it – there’s a reason why I pay the extra for roadside assist.

While I enjoyed being sent out of engineering class, I never felt the same way about English class – indeed, some days English (or its immediate cousins, Drama or Literature) would be the only class I would attend. I’ve always been in love with language, with the manipulation of words, with stories and poems and essays. Eventually I began writing outside of school, spilling my guts into a journal, then into a zine, occasional opinion pieces, then eventually into this blog. I’ve been writing for nearly a third of my life, I guess.

The problem with writing, however, is that it’s essentially an attempt to describe the indescribable, to put into language things that are beyond language. I’ve always thought that the glory lay in the attempt, that writing that resonates with us does so because of the passion or skill of the writer simply trying, rather than because they’ve been successful. It’s an extension of the Platonic ideal, I guess – we have the ability to envisage perfection, but not achieve it, and it’s that vision that drives us to continually reach for it.

I thought, when I started this blog, that it would be interesting to write about music, because, as some famous guy once said, writing about music is like dancing about architecture. It was an explicit attempt to challenge myself, to attempt the impossible, to see how close I could get. As time went on and I started writing more and more about cycling I found that while the subject had changed, the challenge was the same, that it’s just as difficult to describe the physical exertions of the human body as it is to describe the creative exertions.

Recently, however, under the guise of still writing about cycling, I’ve been trying to write about bigger things. You may have noticed. And it’s when I’m writing about these bigger things that the words feel particularly useless, that my attempts feel woefully pathetic. It’s like I’m groping around in the engine of a car with absolutely no idea of which bits go where. I’m undoing bolts and doing them up again, removing and replacing the same parts over and over again, getting grease all over my hands, fumbling with spanners and wrenches, convinced I’m doing the wrong thing. Even this paragraph, this obvious allegory, has taken about half an hour to write – probably a blessing, given the circumstances.

Eventually the RACV arrive. It is the starter motor. I can either get a tow truck and have the car towed to my mechanic, or sit and wait another hour or two for the RACV parts guy to come and replace it on the spot. Either option is going to be expensive, so it’s more a matter of convenience. I opt for the latter.

This, I guess, is where the allegory falls apart. When the car breaks down I can simply shrug my shoulders, close the bonnet, make some calls, and two hours and two hundred dollars later the problem will be solved. But when the words break down, I’m left staring into space, incapable of doing anything other than simply feeling, grinning like a fool or crying like a baby.

The RACV call. They don’t have a replacement starter motor in stock. I order a tow truck and arrange to have the car dropped off at my mechanic. He’s a good guy, my mechanic, and this development will probably save me a bunch of money. The money was never my main concern, but I don’t mind saving a little bit, and besides, it’s nice to be dealing with someone I know.

Maybe that’s where the allegory comes back together again. Sometimes my first instinct is to go with the easier option, to bring the parts to me, to get someone else to turn the wrenches and get their hands dirty. I’m like that with words too, using a joke or a couple of swears or a story to make difficult things easier. But maybe I should just shut the hell up once in a while, learn to concentrate on the feeling, to actually feel it rather than attempt to describe it. Words are all we have, sure, but they’re not all we are. I should probably remember that sometimes.

The tow truck eventually turns up. The guy loads up my car and lets me sit in the cab with him. We drop the car around the corner from my mechanic. I make an envelope out of a page torn out of my diary, with my name and the location of the car on it, and slide it underneath his door. I’ll ride my bike to school tomorrow and call him during the day to discuss the damage. He’s open late on Fridays, so hopefully I’ll be able to pick it up then. That’d be ok. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

We Fell In Love In A Hopeless Place

We here at Heavy Metal Monday have been confronted with various awkward realities these past few days.  Firstly, why do we always open our pieces using the first person plural, when everyone knows we are just this one guy.  Secondly, we were unable to pen our Heavy Metal Monday post on, you know, Monday, because on the weekend we engaged in a dogged but ultimately doomed attempt to not get food poisoning while dining in Footscray.  Still feeble, but at least able to sit up in bed, we (I?) know attempt to somewhat make it up to you by presenting you with this weeks Music Wednesday.  But don't worry, I'm not going to bore you to tears with regards to Florida Death Metal, and it's various socio-political contexts but, instead, will examine my favourite party bangers.  Let's proceed...I mean dance.

There's talk in regards to Lady Gaga.  Whether you think she is some incredibly clever modern generation Andy Warhol who kinda, I don't know, makes some kind of statement about fame and US culture by herself being an integral part of it, I wouldn't be brave enough to venture.  What I do know is that this song, perhaps her first big hit, knocked this long haired metal head for six.  This was fantastic!  What a track!  I could dance all day to this shit and not even care that I was sweaty.  The epitome of banger.

While California Gurls is maybe a classically better song, Katy Perry's Part of Me is interesting for kinda weird convoluted reasons.  On the one hand you have the classic 'I don't need a man' to be my own woman' kinda schtick.  On the other, there is the obviously kind of urgent  need to find out just how much the the US. Marines payed Katy Perry to essentially glorify their beloved ranks.  It's irksome, but nor irksome enough to distract me from the fact that this track is enough to make you want to close your eyes, find Sean the Man in the crowd, and kind of entwine fingers with each other, as you both try not to cry and mutter..." go get 'em gurl...".  

It's true that I have developed somewhat of a reputation about this song.  Flat out, it is a banger.  I mean, we can sneer at the twelve year old girls from Kansas who breathlessly leave comments on youtube, the likes of, "Omg!  Surprise ending lol!!11!1!".  Know what?  That ending blew me away too.  Call me uncritical, but I did not see that one coming.  Last time I was out and this song came on I actually kind of shrieked, no, wailed, before launching myself onto the dance floor.  (As an aside, I still haven't really learnt how to deal with dance floors that aren't Morbid Angel mosh pits.  Not only are there far fewer fat men, there are usually heaps more beautiful people.  This doesn't stop me thrashing around like a stunned mullet.)  Anyway.  One hit wonder for sure.  Blue print for the coming ten years of pop?  No.  Banger?  Dunevenworry.

If you want to skip the slightly bewildering intro to this song, skip to 50ish seconds.  Last time this song came on when I was out, I actually think I started crying, such was my emotional vulnerability on hearing the first few hooks.  This may have been related to my alcohol consumption more than anything else, but I like to think Rihanna touched me in some way (insert filthy Sean the Man innuendo round about here).  Anyway, speaking of Sean the Man, he and I were kitting up to ride last week, when this song came on.  I say came on, as if it were on the radio.  The truth is is that I searched for it on Youtube, and clicked play.  Anyway.  As it started playing, we both felt the spiritual party vibe that this song creates in anyone who listens to it.  Standing there in the living room, bib straps hanging by our sides, base layers kind of on but not, Sean and I shared a moment.  I think he even closed his eyes and put his hands in the air, while whispering something.

Such is the power of pop music.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

I Spit Non-Fiction.

Ok, fuck it. I've been back racing approximately five minutes, and it hasn't totally been sucking. So now I'm thinking about the Christmas Carnivals. What the fuck is wrong with me? Just fucking yesterday I was talking about how much I've been admiring Roly for his sense of balance, and now I'm sitting here trying to figure out how quickly I'd be able to get back to something approaching competitive fitness. Ugh. Endorphins are a hell of a drug. And I think I've got a problem.

The thing is, the carnivals are a whole lot of fun. It's four days on tour, racing your mates, so much fun that I wrote it up for Cycling Tips here. And, even more than that, I've done them every year for the past three years. Ugh.

Probably better to not make plans that far ahead.

I'm going to go race my bike right now instead.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Just Like Push Can Come To Shove.

Again, I find myself rushed to write something, jammed as this blog is between work, riding, social life and sleep. Also, Jamesy is sick on the couch, suffering a bad one at the hands of what was apparently Footscray's worst Indian restaurant. So here we go.

I'm a terrible photographer, and so the bloke I attempted to capture for Instagram posterity is the guy just poking his head into the frame (although the main guy, in the Brunswick kit, is also something of a rad guy, who was into a lot of the same music I was into back in the day - when I first met him he was wearing an Orchid shirt. Not bad, even if his name does escape me). Roly had his wisdom teeth out today, and is currently at home looking ridiculous, sipping soup and resting up easy. This is going to be his life for the next few days, so if you have some surplus sympathy, send it his way.

Sometimes I think it's important to notice things, small things, and make explicit comment about them. The people in our lives are there so temporarily, and I'm so paranoid about forgetting, that I sometimes feel like writing them down is the only way I'll remember. And this is what I noticed yesterday at the Sunday Roast, that I think is important enough to write down and not forget.

Roly got popped pretty early in the race above. He looked spent, but found a couple of guys to roll turns with, and together they tapped it out. After a sprint lap the bunch looked like they'd catch them, but they didn't, and when they slowed up to recover Roly and his mate held their tempo, eventually riding their way back into the race. It was impressive to watch, more impressive still to think that Roly doesn't really train, doesn't really buy into the whole bike racer myth, is seemingly content to balance his work, riding, social life and sleep. He races at Brunswick, does a long ride or two on the weekends, commutes to work. And from that, with a little bit of race smarts, a lot of listening to folks, and a whole shitload of grim determination, he's made it as far as B grade on a Tuesday night.

I have no doubt, no doubt whatsoever, that if Roly stepped up his training, did a couple of sessions in the gym each week, plus a couple of sessions on the ergo, plus a crit or road race or hard tempo ride on the weekend, Roly would get to A grade, and even be competitive. But that's a big commitment, a lot of sacrifices, and they seem like sacrifices he doesn't want to make. I really admire that. It's hard, when you start winning races, hurting yourself to finish first across a line, to avoid getting sucked into that endless competition, the need to keep winning, no matter what you lose in order to do so. But at some point, Roly has said no, that he wants his life to be quality, not quantity. That he's not prepared to lose the things that are important - the way I guess I did for a bit there.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that he has the perspective that a lot of us lack. Here's an example. A few of us were sitting in The Fox last night. It was cozy, warm, and occasionally No Doubt would come on over the PA. "I really like this pub," Roly said. I looked around and realized that he was right, that it was a really nice pub, but that in the ebb and flow of conversation I hadn't paid attention. Roly had.

Friday, August 3, 2012

You And I Against The World.

Hey, before I start this Friday Roundup, I'd like to send a huge shoutout to Miriam Welte and Kristina Vogel, who totally won a gold medal in the Team Sprint in London the other day. Surely the raddest folks I met at the Trackworlds earlier this year, I can't think of anyone who deserved it more. Young, fun, slightly unexpected, stoked on racing and bringing this joy every time they step on to the track. You'll likely see these two rocking their gold medals in some London nightclub later this week, and that rules. So, once more, here's a picture I took of them on some hot April night a lifetime ago.

Tara Jayne came over for a bit last night and was equally stoked and bemused to hear that her annual Cup Day ride (previously known as 'Ride Bikes Not Ponies') has gone viral, and will now likely be the next Melburn-Roobaix. I'm totally gonna make T-Shirts. Anyways, if you aren't down with horse racing - and you probably shouldn't be - you should catch the train out to Lilydale at some ungodly hour with a bunch of other muppets and enjoy one of the nicest days of riding possible. Check it out here.

Tony Sly of No Use For A Name died the other day, and that fairly fucking sucks. But my mate James has organized a wake for him in a way that may well give lie to an Irish heritage - that is, everyone is gonna go to the pub, get drunk and sing songs. Fuck, I've been edge since forever, and that's kinda the way I wanna be remembered. Especially if someone sings "A Prayer To God". It's happening later tonight at the Gaso, so you might have to get a wriggle on. Facebook event here.

For some reason I've put my hand up to race the fucking Sunday Roast this weekend. I got Hurley's #1 life advice ringing in my ears: put a 94" on and back yourself. That's probably not going to work out so well for me, but hey, vomiting is more fun when you're doing it with a friend. So come on down! More details available here.


And that's about all I got right now. Have a good weekend, dingleberries!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

All. So. Close. To Breaking.

Hey, today's Music Wednesday is all about local bands!

Fear Like Us are one of my long-time favourites, mostly due to the songwriting of former Novocastrian Jamie Hay (also formerly of Conation / A Death In The Family / A Bunch Of Other Bands). After a bunch of lineup changes they seem to have settled down, and are playing a heap of shows around the place.

At the other end of the musical spectrum is Useless Children, who are perhaps my favourite live band in all of Melbourne right now. Incredible to watch, sonically punishing, slightly intimidating, and yet incredibly nice people to boot. And yes, that is David Yow from the Jesus Lizard in that filmclip.

I just saw Harmony for the first time a month or so ago, so I'm late to the party on this one. Stupid me - I've always been a fan of The Nation Blue's slower, moodier stuff, and Harmony seem to be a vehicle for exactly that. This clip doesn't quite capture the claustrophobic intensity of the live show, but they don't seem to be playing much lately, so it'll have to do for the time being.

And here's my friend Leith's band, in all of their sludgy brilliance.

Finally, though, there's My Disco. Who have been around for ages, who are almost completely different with every record, who are always on point. Who the hell would bother going to see Shellac play with some shit band when they could see Todd Trainer standing on the side of the stage rocking out to this?