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Tue, 28 Feb 2006

Jokes only a cyclist could love - 17:02
In theory this should probably go in my /amusing category, however the title is somewhat accurate, these are a hell of a lot funnier if you are a cyclist.

Earlier today I was searching the web for one of those lists of "You know you are a cyclist when" sort of things. It took a while (my search terms were not returning much for a while) so I thought I should link to them. Especially because I got a huge giggle out of one I had not seen before. I had at some point received an email with the list of things to look out for I think.

You Know You're Addicted to Cycling When... is pretty much what I recall seeing in an email a while back. I found a link to a page of cyclist jokes, on which this list also appeared, however I had not previously seen the list Craig's Beginners Guide to Preparing For a Cycling Trip. Oh so true, we cyclists really can be a disgusting lot in public and there may be some pain involved with lots of cycling.

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Mon, 27 Feb 2006

Winning XPD in style - 11:52
This morning at 05:05am Team AROC Mountain Designs paddled into the finish of XPD to win the event, a time of around 4 days 22 hours. At the moment no other team has reached the finish so they have won by at least 7 hours. It is good to see they have had fun in their win though, such as their outing to the pub on Saturday night for a meal and some drinks. The team has a report online from the race already also.

If they keep at their current pace I expect Dave and Julie (team Tangerine) will finish sometime tomorrow morning, Randall and Alex (Entropic) are likely another day behind them. There was a pretty good photo of Dave from Day 4 too.

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Sat, 25 Feb 2006

Ozlabs and Einstein? - 15:21
So reading Metafilter last night I saw a link to a website on which you can get Einstein to write messages on a chalkboard for you. A rather cool an geeky app. The site saves the images generated, in the top 20 at the time I had a look were a message referring to David Gibson and another referring to Mr Kerr. This makes me wonder, did someone at Ozlabs happen to stumble upon the site around the same time I did last night.

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Fri, 24 Feb 2006

XPD an exercise in sleep deprivation with a view - 18:08
If anyone thinks doing a 24 Hour MTB Race solo sounds intimidating you may want to sit down now. A number of my friends frequently participate in Adventure races, multi discipline (MTB, Running (and Trekking), Kayaking, Ice Climbing, etc etc) endurance races (the big races, or Expedition races as they are known tend to have the winning teams finish in around 5 days) in the middle of nowhere, at all times you have to be on the ball with navigation or risk losing a lot more time.

Right now the biggest Expedition race in Australia is happening down in Tasmania. XPD run by Craig and Louise (ex Canberrans now living in Queensland) of Geocentric Adventure Racing is a Expedition length (600 KM this time) race covering many of the disciplines available and racing through the Tasmanian wilderness for up to 10 days (course cut off). The inaugural XPD race was held in the Australian outback in 2004 near Broken Hill. Team AROC won that edition, and currently are on track to win this edition (though anything can happen in this style of race over such a large time period through such remote areas) just over half way through the race for them. (AROC also run short races in Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne and other places around the country, between 3 and 5 hours for most teams, held during the day, for anyone who wants to give Adventure racing a go a chance to try it out in a less extreme manner)

A number of my friends are competing, Tom (of Team AROC, though alas his wife Alina, the team captain in races usually is injured so has had to sit a race with the team out for the first time ever), Dave and Julie (on Team Tangerine), Alex and Randall (on Entropic), Matt and Michael (on team Mont Crank) and a number of other people I have met in passing also. So I, along with many other people, have been glued to the online coverage on the Sleep Monsters website. Notably the leaderboard and also the reports and other information that appears on the XPD race page. Some photos, news from marshals and people on the course, reports posted to the website by people down there and race HQ in Hobart (where the race will finish, right now many of the teams are still up in the North West corner of the state) and a forum in which you can write messages to the teams that are handed to them as printouts at transition points during the race.

I am jealous of all these people doing this incredible adventure, though I would prefer to do it at a much slower pace, maybe 2 weeks, and enjoy the scenery and the outdoors more than the pain and suffering. The list of teams entered is up on the XPD site if you wish to know who is in each team by the way.

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Wed, 22 Feb 2006

Crossing the streams - 09:21
At a supermarket the other day I discovered Latte flavoured Tim Tams, as everyone (in Australia at least) knows Tim Tams are the world's best Chocolate biscuit. However this Latte flavour could be dangerous, there are to potential reasons for this. 1) Combining the Coffee addiction and the Chocolate addiction, who knows where it will end, we may all begin overdosing on these wondrous new tim tams soon. 2) If you are in the habit of having a Tim Tam Explosion, using Tea what will happen when you cross the streams, Tea causing the Latte explosion, anything could happen.

As a sacrifice to science I will endeavour to research this and learn to the best of my ability what will happen, I may be gone for some time.

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Mon, 20 Feb 2006

Commodity mp3 players - 18:18
Before the 2004 24 Hour race I decided to buy an mp3 player (in case I found I wanted some music while doing laps around 3am). I found I was never particularly interested in the distraction of music while riding. However I still have the mp3 player. A Frontier Labs Nex IA, this fit with my requirements of, solid state (compact flash or similar) and uses removable (AA in this case) batteries. Both points mean I was less likely to damage a spinning hard disk when using it in rough environments and if the batteries ran out I simply popped a few more in I did not need to be near a power point to recharge it. I paid around AUD $150 for the unit at the time (September 2004) and have since bought a few large CF cards to have a variety of music hot swappable.

Today I was in Jaycar and saw a player that satisfies the above requirements, the cost was AUD $31. It uses SD/MMC as media and takes a single AAA battery, mp3 players really are commodity items now days. It comes with earplugs (which cost around AUD $20 miniimum in shops anyway), a AAA battery, a neck strap and a usb connection cable. You can buy 512 MB SD cards for AUD $60 if you know where to shop.

Admittedly this device does not have fm radio or display track names or make navigation easy (ie no folders and directories which the mp3 player my sister has now does allow, though hers does not have a removable battery) so it is somewhat like an Apple Shuffle in this case (the lcd display simply shows track number and time in the track).

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Fri, 17 Feb 2006

An organic mouse at work - 15:45
About two years ago there was some discussion in the department where I work about a mouse, (an organic one that runs around the place) that had been spotted in the building a few times. I do not recall if we caught that one or not, however there has not been talk of it since. The other day one of my colleagues mentioned he had seen a mouse again, running down the side of his desk in his office.

A short while ago I was siting at my desk and glanced at the sandwiches I had next to my computer thinking about eating lunch. Strange I do not remember there being large holes in he sandwich bags when I made those sandwiches. I did not eat my lunch from home yesterday as I went out to a farewell lunch, thus I left my sandwiches, some fruit and a muesli bar on my desk overnight.

Then it twigged, the holes in the sandwich bag are round and slightly serrated, not simple tears in the plastic as I often see after they wear out. The mouse is indeed loose and it got into my lunch overnight. Maybe we should think about trapping this mouse, ahh well it is a bit of variety from the inorganic mice we plug into computers on a regular basis I suppose. For me now I think I will wander somewhere and purchase some hot chips.

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Mon, 13 Feb 2006

Connected once more. - 20:18
Ahhhh, that sweet Internet connection is once more available at home. Two days before leaving for Victoria at the start of my recent holiday my Internet connection at home failed. I had no time to deal with it and there seemed nothing obvious wrong. The pppoe logs however showed PADI packets being sent out and nothing coming back.

My guess eventually was that the ADSL modem had died, however I could not do anything much about it until I got home. Today I purchased a new ADSL modem (D-LINK DSL-502T) and what do you know, everything works again now.

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My latest NZ trip photos are now up. - 17:33
All if you wish to see them my contribution to the photographic record of the NZ trip Crash and I just did is now online.

As I may have mentioned somewhere, Crash has 550 or so photos somewhere, so you may want to consider the 76 photos here a bit of a warm up. I will post a link to them when they appear online.

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Wed, 08 Feb 2006

Sweet flowing Rotorua single track - 20:39
After a bit of a rest yesterday, where I read a lot and wandered into town for lunch at Zippys (a cafe that is one of the main mountain biker hangouts) we were ready for some more riding today. Gary had again said he was keen to show us around some of the trails in the mtb park that had not been part of the race course. Jim alas was still feeling far too sick to ride this morning so had to miss out again, poor guy it really would be a sad thing to be over here, so close to such a huge number of fantastic riding areas and be feeling too unwell to ride.

Gaz said there was rain forecast for the afternoon so we would be best to head out in the morning. We rode over to the N-ZO offices around 10:30am to have a look around before starting. Gaz has a huge steel ring in the garden that is taller than Mike fashioned to look exactly like a disc rotor, very cool. They also have all their design capability, materials and sewing gear there to make mock ups or initial examples of new designs to test out before they get manufactured. Also the offices are almost as close to the mtb park as they could be on the edge of town near there.

The three of us hopped on and headed over to the park via the campsite and start finish area of the race. At a bbq in Wellington the night we arrived there last week Ahnadoo (who I had ridden with a bit last May and was at the bbq) said there were three tracks that were fairly new that were a must ride in the park and that they would not be in the race course. The three tracks were "Gunna Gotta", "Hot Cross Buns" and "Roller Coaster". As we started climbing up to the first single track Gaz explained the main objective of the ride was to ride the three tracks Ahnadoo had told us were so good.

I had a crash riding down "Gunna Gotta", following Gaz over a jump and missing the landing a bit, however do not let that detract from this beautifully sculpted flowing piece of amazing track. At the bottom Mike Metz rolled up to meet us and ride with us again. We then headed through "A-Trail" and "The Tickle" an on to the base of "Hot Cross Buns" (which is also where "Be Rude Not To" starts). The climb up to the top of "Hot Cross Buns" takes 10 to 15 minutes lots of it in the granny ring and on open fire road. Once more do not let this detract from the experience. At the top are some great views out over Lake Rotorua and some other mountains all around, then you have a 10 minute descent down yet another sculpted and amazing piece of single track.

After this we headed over to the climb up to the top of "Roller Coaster", although all three of these signature tracks we rode today required some fairly steady climbing to get to I can guarantee the effort has a huge reward when coming back down. "Roller Coaster" lives up to its names with sculpted berms and sections where you are going up and down over tummy drop sort of ridges at 30 KMh or faster. We stopped at one point to wait for Crash and he appeared giggling his head of enjoying the track like nothing else he had ridden in years. Next we rode a slightly sloping up hill trail ha was still a lot of fun to link us back up to the top of "Be Rude Not To". This link track and the last two thirds of "Roller Coaster" were about 2 KM in length and had been cut in about three weeks. They had hired a small earth moving machine on which one man stands, with a compressing mechanism at the back, it had been able to bench cut and compress this track fast during construction.

At the top of "Be Rude Not To" we were met by Morgan, the guy who owns Zippys cafe who was out for a ride, so we finished off the ride down "Be Rude Not To" and the two tracks that follow directly on from there, and then out through "Exit Trail" at the bottom. I have a lot more to write, maybe sometime next week, about the track construction and track ownership stuff they do here in Rotorua, some of which I hope CORC can adopt or encourage in Canberra. However all I can say is I can not properly describe how good all these tracks are, all I can do is strongly suggest you all hop on a plane and go spend a week or two in Rotorua, you really will be glad you did.

Just as we finished the ride the heavens opened up and monsoonal seeming rain dumped down on us, Gaz offered us a lift into town for lunch at Zippys which was a great finish to the day of kick arse riding. Thanks again to Gaz and the others for some great rides in the region.

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Mon, 06 Feb 2006

Taupo and Kawakawa Bay rides - 20:18
Jim had lined up Gary Sullivan from N-ZO to show us some trails today and there is a plan for more tour guide stuff on Wednesday sometime. Today the plan was to head down to Taupo where Gaz planned to show us around some of the great Craters of the Moon tracks then after lunch maybe some other place near the lake.

Getting a local or a group of locals to show you trails is always going to be a good idea if it can be arranged as you get to see the best riding terrain and trails that way, this definitely turned out to be the case here. Alan Vogt and Garrett Macdonald who had also flown across from Canberra for the race joined us for the morning riding. Gaz had a friend along named Jonno from Planet Cycles bike shop in Auckland, riding a rather sweet looking Santa Cruz Nomad (according to Jim, quite rare in Australia still) and we met up with Mike Metz out there who was riding a stupidly light (9.5 KG) Turner Duallie (tricked out to the max with light parts).

We parked at the sports centre in Taupo where the 100 KM Rotorua to Taupo road ride finishes and headed for the trail out past Huka Falls. There has been a lot of work on this trail in the last 6 months according to Gaz and it was pretty damn good. Fun techy riding all the way out to the mountain bike park in the forest. Some impressive bench cutting and supports to keep the trail there in both directions and safe next to the river and other fun things such as a tunnel under the highway.

Once we got to the lower trails in the park, with Gaz in the lead we really started hooking in. I stayed on Jonno's wheel and with Gaz in the lead, Gaz, Mike, Jonno and I tended to drop the others fairly regularly. I have to say, one of the resounding points in favour of N-ZO clothing I think is that the owner and designer rides a lot and is also a damn good rider, out there testing his product all the time and he rides with a lot of people who give him good feedback from a lot of riding in the gear. I was having to work to keep up which for me was a heap of fun, it is really good to ride with people who can ride faster than you as it helps your skills a lot.

During all my laps of the 24 hour race on the weekend I noticed my middle chain ring skipping and when I looked at it I found it was indeed worn almost smooth, it is almost surprising anything was able to grab the chain at all. By this point in the ride today I was slipping on every pedal stroke, so I had to stop using the middle chain ring, and use only granny or large chain ring. Due to this when we headed into town for lunch, we found a bike shop open (it was a public holiday today) who were able to provide and fit a new middle chain ring to my bike. Fortunately it was not the Corner Store who I had such a negative experience with last time I was in Taupo, if you wish to go to a bike shop in Taupo do not go to "The Corner Store" they are no good.

After lunch we drove around to the town of Kinloch about 20 KM around the lake shore from Taupo to ride to a place called Kawakawa Bay. The Queen Charlotte Track is a 76 KM single track maintained for both walkers and mountain bikers by the Department of Conservation, this track is a 6 KM out (and 6KM return) in the same manner, for use by mountain bikers and walkers, and it is similar in nature, however it is a hell of a lot more fun. This is saying something considering the Queen Charlotte track is one of the most enjoyable mountain bike rides around. This 6 KM of tight twisty climbing, descending, ridgelines, rain forest, beech style forest and all manner of terrain and obstacles is a must ride if you are in the area I suggest. I am amazed the Kennett brothers book (Classic New Zealand Mountain Bike Rides) only mentions it as another ride in the area and does not dedicate a full entry to it, this is an incredible single track, some amazing views, a lovely campsite by sparkling clear fresh water at one end of it, all in all a fantastic place.

Unfortunately for Jim he had come down with a virus and though he got through the 24 hour race he was not feeling too good so decided to give the afternoon ride a miss in favour of returning to Rotorua and collapsing into bed. The rest of us loved it, Jonno had never ridden the track before and really hooked in on some of the descents. Thanks to Gary for a fantastic day of riding and I am really looking forward to some of the treasures he says he will show us in Rotorua on the bike on Wednesday.

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Sun, 05 Feb 2006

N-ZO N-Duro 24 Hour mtb race, Rotorua - 19:20
As mentioned a few times I was competing in the N-ZO sponsored N-Duro 24 hour Mountain Bike race this weekend in Rotorua, New Zealand. With a team of 5 of us it was going to be a fun and not particularly hard (when compared to solo or pairs) effort. The team consisted of 4 Australians, Michael Carden, Jim Trail, Heidi Flaxman (who lives in NZ now), myself and one New Zealand native, Lisa Morgan, entered in the mixed category we would not be directly competing against the most competitive category of 5 person males. Our team name was Australian Mountain Bike, the magazine Jim writes for in Australia.

Heidi, Lisa, Mike and I had driven up from Wellington on Friday evening, Jim had flown in from Australia on Friday and we all hooked up at the race site setting up the camp on Saturday morning. Rather bizarrely for us (Jim, Mike and I) more used to the Mont and other large races in Australia the camping was almost empty 3 hours before the race and we had prime choice of spot. After putting up a few tents and prepping stuff Jim, Mike and I wandered into the Fat Dog cafe in town for breakfast (2 hours before the race start).

I personally was amazed at the small turn out for the race, I competed solo in the Moonride 12 hour last May here in Rotorua, with a 24 hour race tacked on to the same course at the same time there were around 2000 people there that weekend, admittedly most of them were competing in the 12 hour rather than the 24 hour race. Thus the race format and forest itself can attract higher numbers. Thus to rock up to the N-Duro and find only 300 or so competitors when I would expect around 1000 was a shock. Gary Sullivan from N-ZO suspects the event may be just a bit early in the year, too soon after Christmas, people return from holiday and do not have enough time to fit it into the calendar and organise teams and travel for the race.

Heidi and Lisa competed in a team last year at this event and when we rode some of the extra trails in the area that were not in the Moonride course back in May, trails such as "A-Trail" and "Be Rude Not To", Heidi said they were part of the lap in the N-Duro 24 Hour course. This made my mind up then and there, any 24 hour race that included such incredibly good single track has to be on my calendar to compete in. I suppose I should not be surprised the Moonride did not include some of the better tracks in the park. Speaking with Gary about this last year and again this week, he sets the course for the Moonride, however the event organiser does not let him include more technical or challenging parts in the Moonride, thinking he caters better to beginners and average punters by keeping the course simpler. Fortunately for all of us there are events such as the N-Duro that can include some of the most amazing single track anywhere in the lap.

Anyway the race started at midday, and unlike most Australian races it was the most laps you could do in 24 hours which meant you last lap to count was before 12pm Sunday, if you returned from a final lap at 12:01pm it would not count. We decided on the running order with me starting for the team on the first lap, followed by Heidi, Mike, Jim and then Lisa who wanted to do a double lap. Held up in traffic for a lot of the first lap, and including the run I got around in a fairly respectable 49 minutes. Heidi knocked off a good 46 minute lap and we were underway reasonably well. My next lap was around 44 minutes which I was happy with. Come night time and we had been pulling into first place, however the rain also started falling fairly heavily.

Due to the nature of some of the tracks, and possible damage to both tracks and riders in heavy rain, at midnight the race organisers decided to stop the race until 6am, due to how heavily the rain was falling this was probably a good thing to do. We all bedded down as best we could in the tents as it continued to rain. The organisers also modified the course slightly and removed A-Trail. I headed out for the 6am lap, which would end up being my final lap of the race, followed by Heidi and then Lisa on a double. Mike and Jim finished off the race for us at around 11:35am on Sunday, too late for any of us to fit another lap in before midday.

In the end we each had completed 4 laps, for a total of 20, we won first place in the mixed teams of 5 category (the race had Solos, Pairs, Fives, and Tens), the prize for which was a free entry next year. I wonder who will be keen to fly across for this race next year? It was fun to watch near the end of the race some of the really fast riders pulling out laps around 36 minutes and one rider who had done a 36:18 a few hours earlier heading out at 11:24:05 in the hopes of getting in before 12pm in order to secure over all first place. (he came in about 30 seconds too late and damn was he moving)

The race being small and the nature of presentations and the people there was great to compete in, far more laid back than many races back in Australia, I definitely recommend anyone who can that they should enter this race, if only for some of the single track in it, I really can not describe how good some of these tracks are, Maybe Mike or Jim will be better with the superlatives.

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Thu, 02 Feb 2006

In Wellington - 10:06
Crash and I just rode the Queen Charlotte Track for two days, and yesterday arvo hopped on a boat across to Wellington. Had a good bbq with a bunch of people last night and will be riding Makera and stuff a bit today in Wellington before heading up to Rotorua for the N-Duro 24 Hour race on the weekend. All is fun and good here.

I have photos but wont do much with them until I am back in Australia. Crash has been taking even more photos so I can link to his site when we get back also. Right now I have some of my less geeky friends wanting to stop the Internet thing and go do other stuff in Wellington so I had better stop for now.

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