Thursday, September 27, 2012

I Guess It Comes Down To What Kind Of World You Want To Live In.

I fucking love this city but sometimes I just want to get the fuck out. Right now is definitely one of those times. The entire city is grieving, crying, lashing out, apportioning blame, trying desperately to find a way to cope with being very suddenly, very noticeably different. None of us know what to do, and in our inability to articulate these feelings we fall back on our politics, our prejudices, our ineffective language. Our lines of communication turn into arguments and in our anger we focus again on our differences, ignoring - or perhaps avoiding mentioning - the one thing we have in common: that right now, we're all scared. Not just of randoms in the street, but of death, of dying, of losing those who we love. Of loving someone who is no longer there.

It's Friday and you're probably making plans for the weekend. You may even have come to this blog looking for ideas. But this weekend I don't have any ideas about how you spend your time. All I want to do this weekend is curl up in bed with a whole loaf of raisin toast and a pile of books taller than me. The only idea I do have is that this weekend, no matter how mawkish or awkward or uncomfortable you feel about doing it, you should explicitly appreciate the good things you implicitly feel about the people around you. I don't care how you do it. Just make sure they know. It won't change anything about what has happened, it won't make it safer to walk the streets at night, it won't stave off dying. But it might make that fear seem a little smaller. It might help us all cope with a little more reason, a little more compassion and a little more care. It might give us all the little bit of extra strength we need to work to reduce the chances of anything like this ever happening to anyone, in our city or in any city, ever again.

Blessed And Powerless.

Jamesy and I are sitting in the living room. It is the first time we have seen each other in days, so of course we are spending this time our respective computers, trolling the internet for lolz. Well, actually, he's making a playlist for his impending trip to Sydney, and I'm looking up Jawbreaker lyrics. Both activities seem equally vital, but in an attempt to engage on some level, may I present to you the newest edition of XBBX and FJ talk pro cycling!

B: So, Jamesy, what's happening in pro cycling these days? I have no idea. I don't even know the website any more.

FJ: Holy shit, I have no idea.  I'm too busy riding in the sun to bother about professionals getting paid to take lots of red blood cells and wear tight cloths.  I mean, Phillipe 'I wear nose strips at all times' Gilbert just won the world champs on a course which was, basically, made for the dude.  Following his victory, the Italians made a lot of excuses, as they do every year, and Gerrans talked about being out of form and too short to do anything.  I just read on cycling news that Contador won his first one day race.  I've never heard of the race, but he looked happy in the photo of him crossing the line.  I suppose he's back on the steaks.  Not vegan.

B: It did look like the Italians handed Gilbert the world champs on a platter, which probably also carried some provolone and a delicious marscapone, therefore also deeming the entire world championships Not Vegan. That's a shame, because I was proper stoked with Marianne Vos' winning ride. What a mad dog. Folks blah blah blah on about Gilbert being the next Eddy Merckx, but hell, Vos has now won world champs on the track, road, and even in freaking cyclocross. I bet she'd even school folks in BMX, should she turn her ambitions that way.

FJ: Yeh it's a shame that she hasn't gotten more attention during her career hey?  We don't need her though!  Because our very own Anna Meares raced cross just the other week!  Seeing a track sprinter race cross must be a bit like seeing a cheetah knee deep in some Belgian mud, trying to lick embro off it's paws.  Read: never.  And, as I say to anyone asks, cross is just as hard as crits, but you go very slow and are covered in mud.  And people throw beer on you which, though it sounds hilarious, is distinctly un-funny when it happens eight times in a row.  So Vos can have that if she likes. 

B: On that topic, hipster target of affection Katie F'n Compton has announced she is going to ride the US National Madison Championships with friend of The New Timer Cari Higgins. I like this idea a lot. I can imagine muddy CX racers flipping out about having to put more than 50psi in their tyres, or realizing that they can wear their skinsuits non-ironically, or that there are races out there that are more spectator friendly than any cyclocross race anywhere. In fact, I like it so much, I may try to convince Lewis to come race the next Vic Madison Champs with me.

FJ: Well, first off, I had no idea who Katie Compton was, so I googled her.  Looks like she races a lot of cycling cross.  Good on her.  In regards to her racing a madison, that should be pretty funny I reckon.  It's funny you mention that track can be super spectator friendly.  We hear all these stories about track cycling being real popular back in the day, especially in rural Australia.  It was the kinda thing you went to watch on a Friday night, just like the footy.  It's almost as if cross has filled that role here, in Melbourne at least.  Which is kinda rad, but also kinda sad, because there's so much other racing that could have the same atmosphere and community, grass roots spirit.  I mean, I can wax lyrical about the creation and fostering of community all I want but, really, cycling has always been a sport where a bunch of scum get blind.  Whether it be at the track in the forties, at cross today, or on the high mountain passes at the Tour or Giro.

B: Not Edge.

FJ: No. Fuck, I love getting blind.

B: You're certainly better at it than you are racing the cycling cross.

FJ: If I had jumped a barrier for every time I have sunk a beer, I would probably be better than Lewis.  Fortunately, we have an agreement.  I am going to show him how to pick up girls if he shows me how to race a bike.

B: But Jamesy, Lewis is really good at racing cyclocross.

FJ: Yes.  We are going to trade equivalent skills. 

B: Uhhh, ok. Good luck with that. Anyways, transfer season is upon us, and your mate Mark Cavendish looks to be heading over to Omega-Pharma-Lotto. It'll be sad to see him and Wiggo go their separate ways, hey?

FJ: Well we can be sure the cornish pastie quota for Sky will halve.  I like to think of Wiggo and Cavendish as this odd-couple, who really love each other, but can't get past each others differences.  Wiggo probably walks into Cav's room, singing 'We Fell In Love In A Hopeless Place', this filthy smile on his face, while Cav just stares intently at replays of his victories on some i-pad like device.  Likewise, by the same token, I see Cav as the kinda guy who would lie in wait in a cupboard for hours, wearing a fitted sheet and a shoebox on his head, just so he can spring out at the exact moment Wiggins is at his most relaxed, stretched out, listening to The Jam, and scare the shit out of him.  The beef brought about by the 2008 Olympic madison has obviously settled but, obviously leading very skinny ankled men up the Alps isn't Cav's idea of fun.  Perhaps, through distance, their love will grow strong again.  I will miss seeing Wiggo in the yellow jersey, mixing it up in the bunch, to get Cav a good lead out though.

B: Yeah, me too. For me, that was one of the highlights of this year's Tour. And finally, Jamesy, I was just over at Velonews and stumbled upon this picture. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

FJ: No wonder they DNFed.  Who the fuck wants to be seen in that kit? You can just tell the short guy looking into the middle distance is watching Cavendish re-arrange his wang.

B: And, we're done.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

I Trace Your Outline In Spilled Sugar.

Hey, have I mentioned recently that it's Spring Break?

Talking on the phone to Rahne just now I realize that while Spring Break is definitely a euphoric time of year, it's also a time where much evaluation and contemplation takes place. Houses are being put in order, seeds being planted, plans being made for the coming year. It's times like these I always think about returning to the ancestral homeland - not just where my parents live, but where my parents' parents lived, where their parents lived before them. I'm lucky enough that neither side of my family has been severed from the land where they first landed - even through the vicissitudes of droughts, floods, plagues and bank managers, sections of both my mum's family in Balmoral and my dad's family in Woomelang still live short stone's throws from where they were raised. I'm disappointed in the end of this song - "and then I woke up and discovered it was all a dream..." - but hey, until then, and despite all the god stuff, I totally understand the inclination to get in touch with one's roots any time the going gets a little uncertain.

This isn't, of course, to say that everything is up in the air. Contemplation and evaluation doesn't necessarily mean change. Sometimes you think about things and realize that you've probably never felt better, that the situation you're in is perfect, that you are straightup, flatout, deadset happy. That's when the soundtrack for Spring Break goes from being introspective to extroverted. Like Nas in this clip, you're still using the minor keys, but you've got your big gold chain on and you got your buddy behind the decks announcing your presence before you even arrive.

And then, all of a sudden, you're all about Kanye. Sean The Man approves.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Between Past And Present Tense.

It is still Spring Break and I continue to spend my time in an undisclosed location. Rest assured that in this location the weather is fine, people are often viewed riding their bicycles, and vegan rice paper rolls are available in abundance.  Earlier this year the brake pads on my pub bike wore out, so instead of replacing them, I took the brakes off and flipped back to riding fixed on the street. I have a long history of making things more difficult due to my laziness, I believe beginning with the day I decided to keep a waterbottle in the shower for when I got dehydrated - you know, rather than simply getting out of the shower. And, currently, I need to put some oil in the car. I have the oil. I know how to put it in the car. But really, who could be bothered? So instead I'm riding my brakeless fixie everywhere all of a sudden, as if 2007 never ended.

Riding brakeless on the street demands more caution, which in turn means that I ride slower than I did when I rocked the freewheel. That's ok by me, because I have two weeks off, and don't need to be anywhere ever. I roll around, skip skid to a stop outside shops and cafes, use backwards pressure to slow down, practice monos, rarely bust out a proper skid. It took me a while, though, to remember the little tricks that make life a little easier - like, when you're stopped at lights and can't be bothered trackstanding, lifting the rear wheel up to position the pedals better; or taking corners a little wider to avoid striking the ground; or how to roll up to the cafe and dismount like a total pro. I gotta say, it's kind of fun. Like LAM says, however, riding a brakeless fixie is like picking a scab - it's interesting, and yeah, a pretty good time, but you know that nine times out of ten it's going to end in blood. For me that'll probably happen the day school goes back and I have to make it to Reservoir by eight thirts. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Languor Rises Reaching!

So Brendan, as you may or may not have noticed, is on Spring Break.  At least, I think he is.  I haven't seen that dude for, like, maybe he's ill, or overseas, or in Footscray at the new Arthouse.

Spring Break means better weather, and with better weather comes post ride eating/drinking.  You wouldn't think something as simple as eating in tight clothing would be that difficult.  But, as we speak, thousands of cyclists across Melbourne are making total asses of themselves in various cafes and eating joints, leading to what I'm going to call 'general cycling distaste.'

GCD comes about when approximately eighty three over weight men riding Specialized Venges with ZIPP 404s all arrive at a small inner suburban cafe, sprawl over any table available, and then demand two flat whites each, looking the wait staff in the eye only to complain there isn't enough sprinkly chocolate on their beverage.  They will then almost certainly start squeezing the sweat out of their head bands/caps/over priced helmet, much to the horror/disgust of the normal customers who, in trying to drink a coffee in peace, have been subjected to the human equivalent of a herd of elephants gathering around a watering hole.

It's fair to say that this brand of Fred has given us all a bad reputation.  Given I do most of my training at night, I quite enjoy rounding the night off with a burrito or a burger.  That said, I'm sensible enough to sit outside, quietly eat my burger, and then get the hell out before anyone else asks what the putrid death smell is.  Despite my caution, whenever I, or my friends, arrive at an eating establishment in lycra, we are looked upon as if we were masked and holding heavy weaponry, such is the fear and disgust on people's faces.  Given that my presence isn't that offensive, I can only conclude that the young beautiful people of Fitzroy, almost all of whom seem to work in hospitality, have undergone horrific experiences at the hands of old men in shiny cloths.

So it is with some hope that we can set the rules straight.  Although a general Fugazi-esque rule of 'don't be a fuckwit' should suffice, it doesn't seem that everyone has got the message.  Here are the primary rules of post ride dining.  Note that this is the bare minimum to avoid looking like yet another midlife crisis on tubulars.

1. Slow down as you approach the eating location.  I can't count the amount of times I have seen some bloke yelling to his mate about how good his aero wheels are, as he nearly knocks over some stressed out waitress, causing her to spill the 9 baby-chinos being demanded by the mothers in the corner.

2. Lean your bike somewhere appropriate.  Although passive aggressive notes on residential fences asking bikes not to be put there aren't exactly great, they are probably brought about by some dickhead placing his bike into a prize winning shrubbery or something.  And, if you can see that the cafe restaurant windows are sparkly clean, maybe don't lean your filthy bike up alongside it, just so you can 'keep an eye on it'.  Mate, you live in Malvern.  No one is going to steal your whip.  Everyone else probably has a better one.

3. Don't try and fit your whole bunch around a small table, filling the footpath with sweaty people.  It's just shit.

4. Gloves, sunnies, helmets out of the way of others and the table.  You wouldn't put your gym shirt on the dinner table would you?

5. Manners. It actually makes me angry how often you see a bunch of cyclists speaking rudely/indifferently to staff at eateries.  Just make a little eye contact and say please and thankyou.  Jesus.

6. Fussy orders.  As a vegan, I'm aware I'm treading a fine line here but, seriously, just have your eggs on toast and bail.  Now isn't the time to fuck around with Hollandaise and shitaki mushrooms.

7. Payment.  This kind of relates to the sweat issue.  Make sure your cash money or card is somewhere where it isn't going to get covered in sweat.  You should see the horror in the eyes of the hospo worker who has to take three crinkled, dripping twenties.  It's as if they just walked into Mordor with no lambas bread.

8. On leaving, try and make sure you don't knock over any prams, run any old ladies down, or generally make an ass of yourself.

This stuff really shouldn't be so tricky, but apparently it is (I have broken almost all these rules at some point).  I'm sure it's the relationship between the euphoria of exercise, coupled with the thrill of 'broing down' with your mates that causes this kind of militant disregard for others around coffee shops and eateries.  But, I figure, maybe, just maybe, if we change our behaviour where we eat after a ride, we're less likely to be abused and nearly killed by the mother of four in a BMW 4x4.

So, yeh, like.  Melbourne Cyclists: listen to Fugazi, don't be a fuckwit.

See ya at the cafe.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

One Time For Your Mind.

Sure, it's Friday Roundup time, but before I launch into a hefty list of events, I gotta announce that Team Brunswick SOP, pictured above in full party mode, did not completely embarrass themselves last night, and actually, while we did not win, defeated some extremely capable opposition. Ably assisted by equally out-of-form ring-in Gavin Sittampalan, we bent every rule in the book and managed to come home in the money. I'm pretty stoked on that.

The most important current event, however, is Spring Break, which I am now officially on. At the beginning of each set of school holidays I like to write a little list of things that I hope to achieve. Though I know that this list is going to be added to over the next couple of days, all it has on it at the moment are car related things - top up the oil, replace the broken door handle, replace the blown-out speaker. I have no idea how to do any of those things (well, except topping up the oil, which I do know how to do, but am just too lazy to do). If any of you are mechanically minded, hit a brother up. I'm happy to exchange cycling know-how / poorly-written political diatribes / decent chilli.

One notable exception to the squadrons of teachers now making their ways to drinking establishments across town is Jen Jen, who has gallantly offered to take a bunch of kids to China over her Spring Break. I'm kinda pissed at her, in that way that you are pissed at your friend who goes off to do rad stuff but leaves you behind in the process. All term we've caught up on a Friday after school, and now that the term is over I was ready to get a little wild. I may have even had two cups of coffee.

Anyways, on to the events. Saturday night my favourite current Melbourne band Outright are launching their 7inch at the Reverence in Footscray. That sounds like a fucking killer show. They're also playing an all ages at some place in Reservoir the day after. Man, that sums up the band for me - no snobby elitism, playing for the kids in suburban hellholes wherever they are. Bonafide legends.

But hey, if raging hardcore isn't your thing, perhaps you should come check out the VICTORIAN CYCLOCROSS CHAMPIONSHIPS on Sunday arvo! Sweet baby Jesus, I can't believe this is actually happening. If someone had told me, as I sat by the side of the Hawthorn crit course three years ago, watching the crazy CX race that Matty Bowen set up singlehandedly, that there would be a Victorian CX Champs within five years - where medals can be won and everything - I would've laughed at them, and suggested that there was more chance of a Victorian Footdown Championships. Anyways, like I said last week, Hamish and I will be there blathering on through the microphone, trying to make each other laugh with increasingly esoteric literary references. It will be a totally good time.

And, finally, casting further into the future, the good folks at Dirty Deeds Cyclocross have something spooky planned for you this Halloween. I don't know what just yet, but I did see Blakey asking Jeremy about lasers on Twitter. That's some serious shit right there.

See you next week! Until then...

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Another Winter's Come And Gone.

Yep, sun out today, and definite warmth in the air. Spring break is upon us - there's only one day left of the school term, which for you means the shopping malls and skateparks will soon be overwhelmed by pubescent teenagers looking for trouble, but for me means two weeks of laying in bed, late nights, long lunches.

At this point, the plan doesn't involve much bike riding, other than to get around town. This is markedly different from tonight, which involves a lot of bike riding. As I mentioned earlier, Northcote are running a teams race at DISC tonight, and - perhaps in an attempt to inflame old rivalries, I told them that Brunswick were going to enter a team. They seemed nonplussed and I began to like the idea. Hurley liked it too, and scheduled some time away from Shepparton. Ollie didn't really like it, but we convinced him regardless. That wasn't a terrible lineup, but we still needed a fourth.

And this is where the fun started. I called around, facebooked folks, followed leads and asked around for phone numbers. People called me with suggestions, apologies, excuses. Work was pretty relaxed and I had some time to spare. As the calls and the messages and the facebooking continued I started to think about what I doing (which, incidentally, most people do before they start doing it). It's a pretty small world, Melbourne Cycling, even at its best and/or worst. I reckon I'd called up about a tenth of it. It went from being an annoying task to feeling pretty rad - these were folks who I wouldn't have ever known with cycling, who would've never turned up to a punk rock show or a vegan potluck, and here I was, asking them for a favour. And a majority of them seemed genuinely bummed that they couldn't help out.

I don't know if I can turn the act of making phone calls into any more of a post than this. I've written enough about community on this blog already. But it's nice to be reminded, sometimes, that the community is there, and that you're a part of it.

Monday, September 17, 2012

I Believe In Desperate Acts, The Kind That Make You Look Stupid.

I don't have much to say at the moment, because it's been a slow day of teaching, ending with me watching all of Billy Elliot in a darkened room with six bored teenagers. Sometimes these slow days leave you more drained than the chaotic times, as if sitting and staring is somehow more exhausting than directing traffic. So I'll just repost a link to this, which made more sense (and was perhaps funnier) when it was sunny earlier this morning.

I Was A Teenage Anarchist.

It is with trepidation that we here at Heavy Metal Monday sit down to pen (type) this post.  Following our nightly training ride, wherein no training was done, but a lot of shit talking was, it has come to our attention that crit season is approaching.

Some know that criteriums are around the corner from the delicate blossom on the still Winter strangled trees, others know it when they find a hole in the shammy of their longs.  Most of us, on the other hand, can tell the circuit racing we love so much is fast on the way by the reappearance of that strange and elusive creature: the crit specialist.

The crit specialist in truly a sight to behold.  Here you are, having buried yourself on the cold, dead roads that is the road season all winter, when suddenly, these loud and chipper fellows appear, as if from nowhere.  Conversation's between crit specialist range from choice of deep section wheels this season, to what beer they are currently sinking (crit specialists are always sinking beers).  Please note that if you ask a crit specialist what racing they did over winter, you will receive a blank look.  This is not because the crit specialist is embarrassed he did not race over winter, it is because he is not aware that there is any racing over winter.  To the crit specialist, bike racing consists of criteriums, and criteriums only.  The only other racing he will accept is sinking beers, but that happens in the arvo, after criteriums.

As a skinny, gutless roadie, who happens to like crits, I have made it my duty to come to recognise the criterium specialist from afar, so that I can suck his wheel and then win.  Please note that I never win, because I am a skinny, gutless roadie.  It is with pleasure, then, that I put to you the most recognisable characteristics of our beloved crit specialist.  Long may you hold his wheel.

1. Size.  Crit specialists are always, how should we put this, of the larger variety.  They tend to hold to the old training moniker of 'saturated fat for saturated power'.  Witnessing a crit specialist come out of hibernation is akin to witnessing a bear stagger out of an all-you-can-eat diner.  Only they are wearing lycra.  Of course, the crit specialist will get down to 'race weight' by the middle of the season, but don't be fooled.  If he takes you down, you won't get back up.

2.  Cankles.  Crit specialists always have cankles.  This is related, it is assumed by this author/journalist/hack, to the girth issue discussed above.  The crit specialist will attempt to hide the cankle issue by either adhering to the track fashion of very short socks, thereby signalling a distinct fashion faux pas, or the roadie fashion of very high socks, which is perhaps even more obscene, given the total lack of roadie ribs showing through the jersey.

3. Bike creaks.  The crit specialist puts down some serious watts.  This is the guy that, when he inevitably attacks three laps in, you are chewing bar tape just to hold this suckers wheel.  As you manage to sit in, you will hear that rhythmic creak, as this strange specimen lays it all out on the road.  That is his carbon frame/un-torqued crank bolts/bar-stem combo literally groaning under the force of this animal.  As you sit there, wondering how this functioning booze hound is thumping you so hard, despite you training all winter when he was literally knee deep in pies, you will have that creaking to keep you company.  It will haunt you.

4. Can't stop/don't wanna attitude.  The crit specialist stops for no one.  Barely even the finish line.  When in a race, this guy will be the bloke who is yelling from the back of the bunch to 'close that gap' even though you are on the front, literally puking up a lung to get that U17 prodigy to please, you know please, come back.  He is also, it should be noted, the only kind of cyclist who can take on the Beach Road Clam (note:   the Beach Road Clam is a driver who swings their car door open, gets out of their car, realises a bunch is coming at them flat chat, and attempts to fit themselves back into their car, closing the car door, without actually sitting back down in their seat).  Such is the power and girth of the crit specialist, they would knock clear through this car door, then curse the headwind which is, 'arking up a bit at the moment'.  Meanwhile, you the roadie, will be sitting on his wheel, wondering which fucking planet this guy was born on.

5. Laughing in the face of danger.  Face it.  Most of the time in crits, you're shitting yourself.  Nothing says shitstorm more than a scenario where a bunch of amateurs race very fast in tight s trying to cross a line before everyone else.  If you are a normal, sane, human being, each crit race will have at least one moment where you are sure, nay convinced, that you are about to die.  It's just racing.  If you are normal, you will probably yell something like 'woah, hold your line mate!' then discreetly shit yourself. The crit specialist, on the other hand, will merely snort, then tell the offending person to 'pull a fucking turn you cvnt', before he dives into a corner on the inside of the bunch, proverbial, or literal, moustache, billowing in the breeze.  

6. Not winning.  The crit specialist rarely wins.  This is not because, as you the roadies suspect, because of his lifestyle habits off the bike, bur rather because 'all these young kids don't know how to race or show respect'  That is in fact true.  All these young kids are very, very fast, and don't give a shit if some fat bloke with cankles is demanding they respect their elders.

Love or hate them, the re-emergence of the crit specialist signals one thing for sure: crits are coming!  And really, what else are crits, other than a celebration of summer, and riding in the good weather.

Bring on the cankles.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

I'm Certainly Not Pleased With My Options For The Future.

Ok, Friday roundup. I got a bunch of stuff this week, and a decent amount of time to write about it. So here goes.

First of all, the second edition of DISC-O track is on Saturday night. I missed the first and will definitely be missing the second. Why? Because the footy team I have chosen to support through the finals is playing, and I'm going to go. Deciding which team was tough. My favorite team, Essendon, didn't make it. Everyone's second favorite team, Footscray, didn't make it. So eventually I settled on Nic Natanui. I don't care much about the rest of the Eagles (although they do seem to do an excellent line in hipster beards, and I did live in Perth for a little bit, and I have a soft spot for Daniel Kerr, and... and... ), but fuck I love that big bloke with the weird dreads. Anyways, if you can't bring yourself to barrack for a non-Victorian team, you should go down to Thornbury and check out DISC-O Track. Because barracking for Collingwood is obviously not an option.

Speaking of track racing, the good people at Northcote Cycling Club are doing a bunch of different and interesting things on Thursday nights throughout September. This Thursday coming there's a sweet teams events, where points are awarded for placings through the four different events. Blackburn have entered a team that looks unbeatable, but, all going to plan, Team SOP will be there to cast the cat among the pigeons. They're worth befriending on Facebook, Northcote, because the stuff they have coming up sounds like a lot of fun - including a 100km Madison. That's 400 laps!

And, in non-track related news, the Victorian Cyclocross Championships are on next week. More information seems to be leaking out about this every day, including start times and a map. Man, that's a sweet location. I thought about it for Dirty Deeds, back in the day, but figured it was probably a bit out of town for our particular demographic (you know, hipsters). But hell, Cycling Victoria are used to running races in far-flung, weird-ass places like Gippsland or Mildura or Geelong, so this is pretty much right next door for them. And in their infinite foolishness, they indulged my ever increasing vanity, told me I was 'the voice of Victorian Cyclocross', and asked me to do the commentary. So I'll be there pretending I know all sorts of things, hopefully with Hamish (who actually knows all sorts of things*) by my side.

And that's about it. Man, wasn't it awesome to have a taste of spring this week? I even wore shorts for a little bit. Strange that even though I'm not racing my bike much any more, I still shave my legs. A life with hairy legs is incomprehensible to me at this point.


In Fact, I'm Pioneering New Emotions.

I've just started re-reading Jeanette Winterson's Written On The Body. Inside the cover, the exgirlfriend who gave me the book has written a note telling me she loves me. The novel begins with the sentence, "Why is the measure of love loss?", the refrain repeated throughout the book. It seems strange that she should've missed the irony there. She was so analytical, could pierce through to the heart of a novel or poem or text while I was still floundering at the edges. And yet, when I tell stories about my time with her now, I often leave her out. I tell people that I lived in Montreal, without mentioning that I was living with her for three quarters of that time. I tell people about riding around Cuba, always using the first person singular. I tell people that I had a friend who worked at Williamstown High. And I'm absolutely certain she does the same. It's not that I'm attempting to rewrite history or change the past. It's just that things that seemed significant then are insignificant now. Because the things that are happening now make everything else seem insignificant.

Fuck it's a brilliant book:

"Love demands expression. It will not stay still, stay silent, be good, be modest, be seen and not heard, no. It will break out in tongues of praise, the high note that smashes the glass and spills the liquid. It is no conservationist, love. It is a big game hunter and you are the game."

I may never race my bike again. That's ok. Because the things that are happening right now, the things I'm doing with the twenty hours a week I used to spend on my bike, the worlds opening up before me, make everything else seem insignificant. Or, as someone else might put it:

"This is kinda exciting. Even if you don't end up doing it, it's exciting just thinking about doing something different, knowing there's other possibilities. "

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

We're Gonna Break Even

After going out with FJ on Saturday night, Cam McKenzie has earned a right of reply.

  • I very much enjoyed Jamesy's recollection of our Saturday night. Since I've had far too many coffees today and can't sleep, I have put together a collection of songs I wish we'd found playing somewhere. Rugs would have been cut. If you open a club that plays this kind of stuff, I'm pretty sure I will move back to Melbs permanently and you will have the entire New Timer crew on your doorstep as you open, every Saturday. Would that be good for business? Unclear.

    For each song, I have extracted a relevant youtube comment and commented on the comment.

    Ginuine - Pony [Timbaland Remix]

    atlpeach93: "a tight dance routine can be made to this song"

    Cam: Good point ATL Peach. I just made a tight dance routine to this song in my pyjama pants. It isn't even hard.

    Beyonce feat. Jay Z - Crazy in Love

    WhiteTigerLeon: "I feel old as hell listening to this lol I remember when it first came out waaaay back when I was like 10 o.0 lol I'm 18 now, where the hell did time go :(("

    Cam: Fuck you White Tiger Leon lol. Your name sounds vaguely racist and you are making me feel old. o.0 Go to Billboards or some shit. Stop commenting on songs I like. :((

    Jay-Z feat. Beyonce - Bonnie and Clyde

    eminemsbitch01: "shes stunning like holy shit her body is incredible, her voice is sexy af, the gurl can MOVE! her face is perfect i mean.... beyonce is amazing. never seen anything like her"

    Cam: Good point, eminemsbitch01.

    J-Kwon - Tipsy

    gibbsisawesome: "How could anyone NOT know this song before they saw Project X?! I remember this song being HUGE when it came out, and I was nine! If you didn't know this song when it came out, you gotta be like, 12 or some shit."

    Cam: I don't know what project X is but I appreciate gibssisawesome's enthusiasm for this, one of the true party jams. And yeah, if you didn't know this song when it came out, you gotta be like, 12 or some shit.

    Britney Spears - Toxic

    QueenGodneySpears [1]:

    QueenGodneySpears [2]:

    Cam: fkyeahbro.

  • Monday, September 10, 2012

    Vulnerability Is Power.

    "I try to keep Heavy Metal Monday a bit lighthearted," James tells me, "because, you know, the rest of the blog can be, uhh, a bit introspective, at the moment."

    I laugh awkwardly, recognizing the obvious truth. Later in the evening, looking over other entries, I also realize that it's been some time since I've really written about cycling. Instead I've been focusing on my illness, my own constantly changing existence, myself. This latter truth was a bit more difficult to come to, symbolizing, as it possibly does, a change in interest on my part. I still love cycling - I think I always will - but these days other things are more important.

    What this means for the blog I'm not quite sure. It's already undergone a series of significant changes - it's certainly not about punk rock very often these days - and the byline (Melbourne Cycling At Its Best And/Or Worst) is often definitionally bent to my whimsical will. I'll keep writing, sure, but aside from the major events that I love to report on - like the Austral, the Bendigo Madison, the Tour, the Worlds - I'm certain that as I'm riding less, I'll be less interested in writing about the day-to-day experience of riding.

    In the meantime, I'll keep asking notable local cyclists to do Music Wednesday for me, James will keep doing Heavy Metal Monday, and I'll keep listing interesting events (sometimes cycling related) in the Friday Roundup. But I'm making no promises about the Tuesday and Thursday posts. Who the hell knows what those are going to be about? Probably mostly about bikes still, because I do love them, but not always.

    Things are changing. These are exciting times.

    Vastness and Sorrow.

    On Saturday night,  the staff here at Heavy Metal Monday engaged in partying with Sean the Man and sometimes contributor of this blog, Cam Mckenzie, of "if you don't like The Bronx, you won't like crits" fame.*

    In what was perhaps a continuation of the style wars sparked on this very blog last week (written while we here at HMM were in fact half cut) various fines were handed out to gentlemen wearing v-knecks.  I'd like to say it's because we were doing our civic duty, but really it's because we weren't allowed into Billboards for being too old and were, thus, pissed off.

    Still, the time passed, with Hurley talking in a high pitched voice about anything that came to mind, and Cam telling everyone how sick it would be to grind a particular urban feature.  Other than confirming that cyclists, as a bunch of people, tend to really like partying, not much else was learnt.  Other than the slightly sordid lesson that, when Ollie Phillips says we're going to Southbank, we're actually going to Crown.  Lesson learned.

    Gin influenced actions aside, I very much enjoyed getting to know Cam a bit better, and a night spent with Hurley is never a disappointment.

    As is often the case with these kind of alcohol inspired moments, all this got me thinking.  Heaven knows there are enough misguided rants about 'community' on this blog, coming from both Brendan, and myself, but I feel the need to touch on it again, albeit briefly.

    As stated above, I ushered in Sunday with a bunch of road racing mates, swapping funny crit stories, three day tour myths, and venting about certain personalities of the bunch (none of them seem to be offended that I am a total hack and thus have no right to make these rants).  Sunday evening I went to a birthday dinner with some of my, for want of a better term, punk mates.  It was all vegan food, track bikes in the hall with very low gear inches (though I spied a few beardo-in-training bikes) and general shit talking.

    Even though these people are all very different, they all like bicycles in some guise or another, and i met them all through bicycles.  By the same token, I feel as if I have gotten to know all these different people much better this year, to the point where I don't reckon I would need a bike involved for me to feel comfortable around these people.

    This is not a 'we are cyclists, we are one' critical mass-esque rant.  I'm not interested in cycling as one community, because it isn't, and never will be.  In the same way that 'motorists' make up no distinctive community, so too with cyclists.  The guy in the Honda Civic has no interest in sinking beers with the guy who is dropping the clutch of his Skyline.  Or, at least if he does, he shouldn't.  In cycling we have beardos and roadies, hipsters and triathletes, commuters and recumbent nerds.  These labels simultaneously mean nothing and everything.  On the one hand we are all just people, regardless of the bicycles we ride, on the other what we do choose to ride, tells us a lot about yourself.

    So I'm not interested in cycling as some sort of bloated 'community'.  What I am interested in is meeting people as a result of riding bikes.  Bikes are a tool.  Whether they are a tool to race, to commute, or something with which to meet like minded people is irrelevant.  What's important is to swing the leg over, and see what happens.

    Now I can have a quiet dinner mates I have met through fixies.  Or I can go to Crown with my road bike mates (though I probably won't go to Crown again unless Ollie Phillips guarantees we go back to Fusion).

    In classic Heavy Metal Monday fashion, none of this is ground breaking stuff.  I've sat here for an hour and a half, desperately willing the words to come, with little luck (plz see above).  Still, it's kinda comforting to know this all came about due to a silly obsession with bikes.

    With all this in mind, and a sense of wellbeing restored in the bike 'community', stay tuned next week for the next instalment of the style wars, wherein Heavy Metal Monday will address some other cycling sub category, and make fun of the cloths they wear, thereby hopefully removing any trace of this god awful attempt at emotive realism.

    *Why not Hotsnakes Cam?  "Because I don't like 2002 pitchfork music.".  Touche.

    Thursday, September 6, 2012

    Something About You, Girl.

    Friday Roundup Time! I got about five minutes before I gotta go meet Jen Jen in Brunswick. I'm currently in Reservoir. This is not going to be a quality post. But hey, thanks for bearing with me when I was wrecked last night. It doesn't happen often these days, mostly because I'm not killing myself out on the bike any more, but every now and then I'm pretty much incapable of forming sentences. Poor FJ. I'd ask him some question, because that's what friends do, and then just stare blankly at him while he replied. It wasn't great. This is the worst thing that the fatigue does - it makes me unable to converse. That sucks.

    Anyways, here's what's happening! Tonight Outright are playing. They are possibly my favorite current Melbourne live band. Check them out. And then tomorrow you should go and race in the Captain Planet Alleycat, because they have the best Alleycat trophy I've ever seen. And then, on Sunday, you're left to your own devices. Check out next Saturday night though, because another edition of Disco Track is coming your way. And that's it. See ya!

    Every Little Thing Anticipates You.

    Man, I was just about to go to sleep - yes, at 8:30 - when I remembered that I hadn't written in this blog yet. So by virtue of my tiredness this will be a short post.

    Actually, fuck it. I am going to sleep. A good ten hours should nip this exhaustion nicely in the bud.

    The worst thing is, I'm in a really good mood. Things are going really well - incredibly well, in fact. But I guess I haven't quite shaken this illness just yet. This news isn't quite as devastating as it once was. I've passed the point of devastation and have become philosophical about this cycle of hope and disappointment. I suppose it's easy to be philosophical, to accept the shitty things, when you feel like everything else is good, when the rest of life seems to be giving you a big ol' hug. Or, I guess, when you have stopped building your life around the one thing your body won't let you do. It's safe to say cycling doesn't mean the same to me as it did a year ago. That's probably a good thing.

    Probably? Definitely.

    I'm not making any sense.

    I'm going to sleep now.


    Wednesday, September 5, 2012

    All Workers.

    No post today. Never cross a picket line, folks.

    Monday, September 3, 2012

    As You Draw Near.

    I've been wrestling with this post all morning, trying to sort it out in my head before I commit it to words. I like to have some kind of clarity before I start typing, but some days it just won't come.

    As part of my job - working with kids who have behavioural issues -  I sometimes have to work with kids who have Asperger's Syndrome, which is sometimes also known as an Autism Spectrum Disorder. I like this latter name better, as it indicates that the severity of the disorder varies significantly from person to person. While folks on the spectrum all display similar symptoms - difficulty interpreting social cues, intense interest in a particular subject, a need to explicitly decipher situations that others intuitively understand, reliance on rules and structures, and considerable anxiety and anger when they are unable to figure out what is going on - some of them are all but incapacitated by the disorder, whereas some - like the kids we usually end up with - are quite social, can form and maintain friendships. These friendships usually occur in the computer room - Asperger's kids tend to love computer games, as those are worlds that are dependable - when they press a button, the gun will shoot, or their character will jump. If there's a bonus life behind a door today, it will be there again tomorrow. That's the kind of consistency that just doesn't occur in real life.

    But I gotta say, the more I learn about Asperger's, the more I think that the spectrum isn't broad enough, that by drawing a defining line at one end of the spectrum folks are missing out on the chance to understand better the way all of our brains work. At the far end of the spectrum, with people who are social and communicate well and can get by, the distinction between those who have it and those who don't seems at best arbitrary and at worst false. Put bluntly, we all seem to have Asperger tendencies, and the diagnostic tests seem to only be a matter of measuring its severity rather than discovering its existence.

    With this in mind, the techniques used to help folks manage Asperger's - mostly Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) - are probably techniques that would help most of us, in one way or another. Mostly CBT is just about taking charge of your thoughts, recognizing when you are thinking something damaging or false and working to, in a way, control those thoughts, then consequently alter the behaviour accompanying those thoughts.

    And this is where I start to wonder about myself. When I first started dealing with this fatigue, and doctors started ruling things out left right and centre, it wasn't long before they started recommending I go see a sports psychologist. I resisted the idea at first, because I don't have a great history with psychologists - I have this tendency to turn my sessions into intellectual contests, chess games that I have to win, which probably isn't the point. I was also really fucking angry that they were suggesting that the problem was psychological rather than physical, that it was somehow within the nexus of my control. I kept going to different doctors, more niche specialists, kept ruling out increasingly esoteric options. Just last week, on the day that the photo above was taken, I was able to rule out any immune disorders, coeliac disease, and a whole assortment of cancers.

    While this seems like a good thing, it still leaves a bunch of questions unanswered. The worst thing about this fatigue has been the uncertainty, of not knowing how or when it would crop up again. All I need is to know that if there's a bonus life behind a door today, it will be there tomorrow. Then I'd be able to put in place some training, some coping strategies, work around it. But because it comes and goes, because I'll be able to string together a few months of solid training before it recurs out of no where, this can't be the case. What I'm capable of doing changes from day to day. And occasionally that freaks me out. I can't figure out what's going on, and I get the anger and anxiety and fear.

    Aww, hell, I still can't figure this out now. Last week at the track my body completely deserted me and I got rolled by a bunch of folks who usually ride B grade. I was pissed and frustrated and looking for answers. When I couldn't find any I started freaking the fuck out, thinking that the fatigue was back, that I'd need to take another six months off, that perhaps I should just give it away altogether. It didn't make any sense, and I couldn't figure it out. After pulling out of the last race I sat down and didn't move, didn't talk to anyone, didn't do anything, just sat and silently contemplated the end of everything. I was fucking ropeable. Eventually, though, folks started coming up to me. And I eventually started talking again. And they started talking to me. And somewhere, in the midst of that discussion, I started to recognize that I was thinking about things in way that was damaging or false, and in turn began to turn it around. At least a little bit. An hour after the race had finished - when the fatigue usually hits hardest - I was ok, still awake and talking. And the next day - the litmus test of this weird disorder - my body was alright. I even rode my bike over to the doctors. As the photo above shows, the sun was shining.

    I still don't think this sickness is all in my head, but I also don't think that the way I think about it is separate from the way it feels. There's a false dichotomy for you. Like the Asperger's kid who freaks out when they can't figure out what is happening in the playground, I've been freaking out every time I can't figure out what's happening with my body. Perhaps it's the same thing. Perhaps I'm a little Asperger's too. And perhaps it's time for me to work on how I think about that.

    Settle For Nothing.

    Although distinctly un-metal, the weather in Melbourne for the past few days has been, to quote the bard, "fucking excellent".  The Heavy Metal Monday staff engaged in a bicycle ride of epic proportions (compared to current riding levels) on Saturday.  Short knicks were worn, and long socks were donned.  The fluro brikos were brought out, and an outrageously good time was had.

    But we rode with triathletes.  So short were the ankle socks, and so long were the aero bars, it's all we here at Heavy Metal Monday could do to take to the obscene bicycle antlers with a hack saw.  They would thank us eventually.

    Motorists lump us into the same category, but I was struck by how different the mentality, the riding, and the general attitude was between roadies like me, and my new triathlete friends.  

    Which brings us to roadie chic.  Just as the inner city is currently overwhelmed with young beardos in training, Beach Rd is literally groaning under the weight of embrocation and Oakely Jawbones.

    As far as I can tell, these are the rules of roadie chic:

    1. Socks.  Must be long.  Six inch cuff seems to be the current trend.  Last season seemed to be all about white, but black definitely seems to be making back ground.  I've been asked as to why the trend is skewed toward the longer socks.  As a former (and it pains me to admit this) fan of the ankle sock, I can't explain my current obsession with tall socks.  I could probably come up with some clever reason, but the real reason is because I'm an outrageous fashion victim.  Why is it the fashion though?  Calf definition?  

    2.Knicks.  Short if Frech and a climber.  Long if a time trialer.  Why?  Cos.

    3,  Shoes.  White.  Road grime you say?  Booties mate.

    4.  Sunnies.  Here things get tricky.  If you wear Oakely Jawbones, you are a jock.  This is non-negotiable.  If you wear Brikos (current generation) you are probably a hipster, or some kind of stupid trendy.  If you wera old-style Brikos, you are either a mad dog, or a FYXO fashion victim.  Anything else?  You're probably sponsored.  Please note that the minute you take off your helmet, your sunnies go on the top of your head.  Nothing says triathlete like fluro sunnies on your actual face.

    5. Wheels.  If you don't race, it is cool to run your Zipp 404's on Beach Road as you ride to Mordialloc.  If you race, 32 hole wheels with some stupid heavy hub are super chic for training.  Racing?  Run your ENVE's.  Bonus points for winning.  Bonus bonus points for rolling a tub.

    6. There is a lot of talk about loft re. cycling caps.  Loft entails putting your cap on the top of your head, like an absolute fuckwit, simply because Eddy wore it like that one time, probably when half-cut.  Heavy Metal Monday fully endorses loft.

    Critics will note that none of the above is related to actually riding.  That is as it should be.  Roadie chic has nothing to do with riding.  It is about the projection of image.  If you can look good and smash it, you are probably not interested in cycling blogs.  For the rest of us, we can either look bad, or look good.  Winning is an added bonus.  In the case of the staff from Heavy Metal Monday, perhaps the most inept bike racers ever to emerge from the suburbs of Melbourne, any chance to shine on the bike is welcome.  If that glimmer comes from our glistening legs, or the reflection of our Brikos, rather than the sparkle of victory, so be it.

    Ladies and Gentleman.  Summer awaits.