Minimum Safe Passing Distance Petition

The metallic blue Subaru swooshed pass me with only centimetres to spare. I was only 5km away from home and was shaken. The tuned car had a big WRX sticker and tinted windows.

500 m further down the road was a red traffic light and when I rolled alongside the stationary car that had almost taken me out, I swallowed hard before knocking at the passenger window, fully arming myself against an argument with a young male driver.

The window came down and gave way to a puppy bed and a little dog on the passenger seat. At the steering wheel was an elderly lady, done up to the ninth with freshly coiffered head, full make-up and bright red lipstick on the pursed and thinning lips.

She looked just as surprised and curious as I must have looked. Politely I described how she had scared me to bits and how dangerously close I had come to crashing. A concerned and deeply sorry face almost made me regret my colourful description. She launched into long and sincere apologies. She hadn’t noticed me, was probably distracted by her puppy.

While this little true story illustrates that not every close passing car is driven by a hooning or malicious driver – even if the type of car initially suggests that – it is an every day reality that if a motorist overtakes another road user really closely and a cyclist gets hurt, the driver didn’t even breach any road rules.

This blog is not dedicated to cycling advocacy but I still wanted to put it out there that there is new Minimum Safe Passing Distance Petition.

http://www.parliament.qld.gov.au/work-of-assembly/petitions/e-petition?PetNum=2109

So if you want to make Queensland roads safer for you, your family, friends and all cyclists out there, put your name to it!

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This time last year…

Not one day passes where we don’t play this game called “Do you remember what we did this time last year?” I love playing this game because it brings back many fond memories. There are also not many days where we wish we could go back and do it all over again.

And sometimes we wish we could go back for unfinished business. One of the climbs I’d love to give another crack is Muro di Sormano near Como. It was still early days of our European adventure. I unclipped half way up, got going again but the gradient was punishing and when I saw Alberto rolling back down, I gave up mentally. Sometimes I wonder if I had managed to ride all the way to the top at the end of the trip, after I had mastered the Passo di Fedaia, the Col de Marie Blanque or the Bola del Mundo and El Angliru in Spain, climbs that would have prepared me well for the Muro. But on 7th May 2012 I only made it half way up before we turned around around and took the actual road.

Muro di Sormano from Jered Gruber on Vimeo.

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Just hiking up to the start line appears to be an accomplishment in itself…

A work colleague emailed this to me today, knowing I had bought a new bike. Thankfully, my hardtail 29er is not suitable for this type of riding… phew!

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n + 1

The ideal number of bikes to have is n + 1 with “n” the number of bikes you currently own. Truth is, I went n – 1 a couple of weeks ago. I sold my old mountain bike. It was a case of wanting to hit the trails but the good old trusty Mango Giant wasn’t cutting it anymore.

But at least I’m now back to n – 1 + 1 = n. And “n” in my case is four!

When I first heard about 29ers I thought it was a fad. But everybody is still talking about those bikes so when it came to choosing a new mountain bike I looked a bit deeper into it. Why choose a mountain bike with 29 inch wheels rather than the standard 26 inch?

I asked a German friend of mine who knows a thing or two about mountain bikes. This is what he had to say:

“In 99% of cases, a 29er is the first choice when it comes to hardtail mountain bikes. It rolls better over any obstacle. On a steep section of a hill, the front wheel won’t lift as easily, and on the downhill you don’t feel like “going over the handlebars”. And what you shouldn’t forget, it also rolls better on sealed roads. It’s almost like an “egg-laying woolmilkpig”.”

So I went and ordered a Focus Black Forest 29R 3.0 and guess what? Now my courage and single track skills have to catch up with what this bike can do…

What’s your “n” and maybe even more importantly, what will be your next +1?

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The Project Bike

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Ever since I bought my Canyon, the Time Edge has only seen 1260km of road (vs 10,590km that I rode the Canyon and a few hundred kilometres on the Fixie). That’s fairly normal.

But whenever I do take the Time out for a ride, I love the feeling of riding that bike. It just fits me like an old glove. It feels comfortable. It absorbs the road vibration far better than the Aeroad. The Aeroad is a much faster bike. The Aeroad allows me to score Personal Bests and I would never even attempt to take the Time up McAfees if I’m aiming for a personal Strava record.

The Powertap wheels are heavy and make the Time handle like a tank. But downloading the data and seeing the power numbers is still fun, even though I’m not training. Old habits die hard.

In Europe I got to appreciate my compact gearing. I raved about the advantages of compact vs normal gearing in the past. You probably guessed it already, the Time has normal gearing. The 39/25 feels like a hard slog up McAfees and I miss spinning up the mountain in my Canyon’s 34/27.

And there is another issue. What was once a shiny white background behind the bright red letters on the decals is now a faded, sun-bleached yellow. It makes the bike look tired and worn.

But despite all this, I’m not ready to part with the Time Edge.

What to do with an old bike that has some flaws but that is like a familiar and trusted old friend? It’s not the kind of bike that suited to a second lease of life in Africa. I’m not ready to just sell it either.

Alberto painted his Cervelo a while ago and it’s a marvellous looking thing. And ever since I read Robert Penn’s It’s all about the bike I dream about building a custom bike. Every cyclist has a project bike, right? And so the Time Edge became my project bike.

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Creating the project spreadsheet and researching all the options has turned out to be great fun. Reading magazines and internet product reviews has brought my product knowledge up to speed. Who would have thought there are so many group sets out there to choose from? I compared weight and prices, and I had no idea that there were hundreds of wheels out there… and that’s just Mavic. My brain went all dizzy with colour and paint job ideas.

I wanted the Time to become a fresh looking and lighter bike with compact group set that I can enjoy riding for hours on long, easy Sunday rides. And after all the research I now have a fairly good idea that I will go with

a) Dura Ace 7900 compact because I loved this group set on my first Canyon and it is the cheapest option considering weight.

b) Mavic Ksyrium SLR or R-SYS SL because these wheels are light and stiff and roll well.

c) And a custom designed paint job with dark grey, light grey and some red and white for a fresh look.

This project would set me back about $3500 and now that all the research is done, I’m just not sure anymore whether I want to go ahead and actually do it. Maybe I should just put up with the flaws and enjoy riding the Time as it is, for a few more years, on rainy days like today, and save the $3500 and continue researching and put the money towards a complete new custom bike in a couple of year’s time?

A Pegoretti maybe? One day?

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O’Reilly’s and Lamington National Park

Even AMR looked somewhat perplexed when I told him what I wanted for my birthday. Other people want big parties, expensive jewellery, perfumes, or a big bouquet of flowers. My biggest wish was to ride up O’Reilly’s.

Despite being right at Brisbane’s backyard, the Gold Coast hinterland, I still hadn’t managed to do this famous ride. A lot of Brisbane cyclists actually make it a big day out and ride all the way down to Canungra, climb the 25 km up into the Lamington National Park and turn around at the dead end car park of O’Reilly’s Mountain Retreat to ride home, making it a 200km plus day in the saddle.

This is probably the main reason why I hadn’t done O’Reilly’s. I never felt up for the long distance. And a 200km ride wasn’t my intention on my birthday either. What I had in mind was a nice cabin in the forest, a sumptuous dinner that I didn’t need to cook, maybe a spa or pool near by… and a little ride.

And guess what? It was exactly what AMR surprised me with: A weekend at O’Reilly’s Mountain Retreat including a 70km bike ride down and up O’Reilly’s. The perfect birthday present!

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The climb is beautiful. That’s what I expected. What I didn’t know and only learnt at the resort was that there was also an enchanting story hidden up there in he Green Mountains. The story of Bernard O’Reilly, the Stinson airplane crash story of 1937, the story of two survivors and the story of the O’Reilly family that started the creation of a national park. It’s a piece of Australian history, and I was amazed by it.

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Even so the ride was the whole reason we spent the weekend down there, it was hard to get on the bike on Sunday morning after all the relaxing, reading, eating, and drinking. We didn’t overdo it with the bushwalking and I could have sworn I had gained five kilos over night with all the delicious dinner the night before and the huge breakfast buffet. The 35 kilometres downhill to Canungra allowed at least for some time to digest.

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From Canungra the road climbs gently into the valley, with gradients between four and six percent all the way to the Alpaca Farm. There are several cattle grids that are best ridden over at some speed. Only the last nine kilometres after the farm get a bit hairy at times. The landscape changes from wide open valley views and gumtree forest with some light scrubby undergrowth to dense rainforest that doesn’t allow for any views pass the green wall of plants.

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But that’s ok because from that point on I had to concentrate on the road anyway. The narrow one lane way got pushed up by powerful rainforest tree roots over the years and rain and weather created craters and gravelly patches. And if that wasn’t challenging enough, they also put some 13-15% steep sections at the end of the climb. I was perfect finishing up right there at the resort at the top. I couldn’t quite imagine doing this climb in the middle of a 200km ride.

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After a quick dip into the pool we packed the bikes in the car and drove home. Now I just hope it won’t take another year and another birthday wish to zoom down the road and explore more of this beautiful part of Queensland. Beechmont, Springbrook, Mt Tamborine… there a lot more climbs to explore.

Click here for details of O’Reilly’s

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