What it takes

JC, Border Crossing

JC, Border Crossing

A little while back my friend JC was on the verge of returning home to Adelaide for Xmas from Melbourne.

A keen cyclist, keener on going up rather than anything else and in the shortest and steepest fashion possible, especially off-road, he has a certain knack for the pedals.

Back in the Day
Over the course of months riding together the mountain bike rides extended from 3 to 4 to 5, even 6 hours duration covering all the landscapes around Kinglake, the Dandenongs and further afield.

The dial really got turned up when JC began to ride to the start of the rides. A 2-hour commute to the beginning of a 5-hour ride became normal. The same ride home just a warm-down. Continue reading

Each goal starts with a pedal stroke

Another of the rewards, Mt Buffalo VIC

Another of the rewards, Mt Buffalo VIC

Every mountain climb starts and ends with the same thing, a revolution of the cranks, a pedal stroke.

What’s the significance in that?

It is but such a small effort, but it’s not just a lever propelled by a shapely leg to get you over the top, often it’s a lever that’s pushing a big hairy and heavy personal goal. Continue reading

Cycling’s Big Question: What for?

What for? Or Why wouldn't you?

What for? Or Why wouldn’t you?

Just riding along, (or JRA) and that big question lobs up once again “What am I doing this for?”.

Most profoundly it appears during the middle of a long hard race or as a car door almost takes you out. Some way up a mountain when the view is already teasing you with it’s mystery, it starts to call out in time with the pain in your legs.

There are many logical answers to the “what for” question, but they fail to answer the deeper query that continues to resonate for years to come. Continue reading

On the start line

Counting down to the start, Gerrie Knetemann Classic

Counting down to the start, Gerrie Knetemann Classic

You’re on the start line ready to roll. You’ve prepared for this day for months. The regular weekly training rides have built you up to a physical and mental peak that you’re quietly comfortable with. Legs are feeling good. You’ve broken out a new kit just for today. You’re the embodiment of splendour as far as you care.

You’re next to one other, five others, maybe one thousand others, or is it 10 thousand? Maybe you feel all by yourself.

On the start line, Gerrie Knetemann Classic

On the start line, Gerrie Knetemann Classic

Someone just stopped the countdown to the start and then removed the clock. The finish line just vanished. There is no race, no competition today. Your number just got ripped off.

What now?

Are you lost, annoyed, frustrated or maybe it’s relief, anticipation, joy. Your heart’s probably racing.

The competition was just annulled, but your adventure took a giant leap forward. Without a race, without fighting to beat another, you’re left to battle yourself.

Will you win?

GO!

GO!

GO!
Ringing Aart Vierhouten’s 2004 Profronde Maastricht Winners (trophy) Bell for the start. Aart was Robbie McEwen’s lead-out man.

Happy lads, rolling out, Gerrie Knetemann Classic, Amsterdam

Happy lads, rolling out, Gerrie Knetemann Classic, Amsterdam

Location: Amsterdam, NL
Event: Gerrie Knetemann Classic

Beyond shiny lights work the brightest stars

Mary Cherry Cupcakes

Mary Cherry Cupcake (Photo Credit: Mary Cherry)

Cupcakes. Sweet morsels determined by a sponge-like base and coifs of cream or a spatular slathering of frosting. A hot topic in Montpellier, France at the moment.

Much like the vision of a glamorous femme fatale sporting 3-inch heels on a bicycle, cupcakes exude a hint of luxury, decadence, quality-time shared with close confidantes. Or a brief escape to another era, someone else’s, or your own moment of fantasy.

It was with great pleasure that I became acquainted with a Montpellier bright star recently. Unbeknownst at the time, but a cupcake shaped star would shine soon enough.

The Stars
Surrounded by bright industry leaders at the DigiWorld IT Summit a few weeks ago, it was only when the lights went down that I found myself walking amongst the stars.

These stars weren’t out to promote a new App, Device, Internet of Everything network communications package. Looking directly they tended to move about, but were always obvious in the periphery.

For another time is the introduction of the other stars Musee Transversal, developed by Didier and Corinne, here and now, it’s all about the cupcakes: Mary Cherry.

Discovering Montpellier
After Summiting DigiWorld over the mountains and valleys of forums, networking opportunities and gala dinners, I had a growing interest in discovering the real Montpellier. Beyond the strong university presence, a growing population, strength in design and animation (film), I wondered what really made it tick. Luckily, Mary Cherry offered to introduce the local’s view of Montpellier. Thank goodness, a real chance to avoid the city ant-trail.

What do you normally see on a city tour? This monument, that historic marker, that guy died there, that lady was born there, that thing was painted 18 times in the 15th century.

Montpellier walking shadows

Walking Shadows

Not that that’s not important but what mesmerised me on Cherry’s Tour de Ville was passion for life.

The tour took place during the period of “Design Tour Montpellier” another summit of sorts for designers across fashion and interiors. (Mary Cherry has a piece on it here). Design is a big influence for Mary Cherry.

Whilst we toured…we talked.

During the tour, Mary shared personal favourite destinations and I could not have been more pleased.
Tour Highlights:
– What must be the perfect template of a cafe mixed with retail operation: L’heure Bleue

– Street art by “BMX

Street Art by BMX Montpellier

Street Art by BMX, Tandem?

– Truly chic interior design using *gasp* Ikea furniture: In the mood for Ikea

In the Mood for Ikea, Montpellier

In the Mood for Ikea, mind-bending metallics

– Cool art and interior design pieces at: Metropolitan

Marlene at Metropolitan Montpellier

Marlene at Metropolitan Montpellier

– Coffee by Fairview Coffee

– And the piece de resistance, the parcours to Parcours (This place blew my doors off. Due to be demolished, it was once a squat-house, now urban artist’s house of design.)

Parcours Montpellier - Illegal

Parcours – Illegal?

– Okay, one more, PapaDoble, driving innovation in cocktails.

Papadoble menu

Papadoble drinks menu

Making your Mark?
But the real stand out was the conversation. The general theme was how does one make their mark in the world? Especially if you don’t subscribe to the ‘normal’ channels or blueprints of what’s on offer. Along the way I also met Manu, a marine biologist who also happens to knit extremely well. She was passing on her expertise (in knitting) to Fredric, a total fashionista keen to extend his capabilities. Talk of living by the sea intervened regularly.

Mary Cherry is a bright star working to create her own path, one that will provide endless satisfaction to the appetites of people from all over. You may think, well cupcakes, it’s simple. It’s not that simple when you’re working at being the premiere cupcake business in Montpellier. France is a conservative place, a grand protector of tradition and artisan style. Cupcakes are not French, they are American (and we all know how popular Lance Armstrong is with the French).

In Your Face
It’s like cycling in the south of France, you’re not just working against gravity up mountains, you’ve also got a 100km/h wind in your face and it’s 5 degrees. You may not think that’s ideal and you’d ordinarily take one of the three variables, but when there’s blue sky and sun shining, why wouldn’t you? And so it is, Mary Cherry’s mountains and wind are the forces of culture and bureaucracy, but the sun of innovation and blue sky of possibilities drive her spirit.

Mary Cherry will find her mountain pass, because she has a spirit that says “I have a duty to my art”. Her art is not an office occupation, a travel agent, a scientist or a teacher, it’s in visual and culinary delights.

The mountain pass lay fraught with hiccups, risks, challenges and a wrestle with the climb, but at the precipice awaits unknown rewards and a fast ride down the other side to the finish.

One’s Own Path
By choosing to create one’s own path, the responsibility for each boundary, each decision, each probe into the unknown, rests with you. There is no deference. Mary Cherry knows this. Making the decision to go it alone and try a different path has not been without its pains, for there is no template, no career ladder, no performance appraisal or structured dossier. It’s whatever you want it to be. Paradox of choice? Perhaps.

In the Mood for Ikea, Montpellier

In the Mood for Ikea, swirling

Once that decision was made by Mary Cherry, those things didn’t matter anymore, because they weren’t relevant to her mission.

Tour of Tours
As we moved through the streets of Montpellier scanning the environment for influences and eye-catchers, the true beauty of the untrodden path began to emerge. I’d somehow managed to convince Mary Cherry and friends to take part of the tour by bicycle, just like Paris’s Velib, this was Montpellier’s Velomagg.

Her acceptance represented the attitude of stepping outside comfort zones and not just eliminating barriers, but ignoring them. Mary Cherry was sporting some serious heels and her friend’s niece was just a smidgen shy of fitting on a bike by herself. No matter, a way was invented to make it all work. All with a ‘can-do’, ‘pourquoi-pas’ flair.

Velomagg on the move Montpellier

The mode, the style, the heel

From what I gleaned during that tour of tours, the core of the cupcake certainly represented that attitude. A melange of singular decisiveness to take an unknown path, the wherewithal to consciously push boundaries outward or ignore them altogether coupled with a knack for accepting and synthesising influences across diverse interests for better outcomes.

The Mont
And I can report that the ‘Mont’ in Montpellier is with good reason, indeed the city is built on a hill. No matter for my ardent new pals in 3-inch heels and porting a pint-sized passenger, these ladies literally rode up that hill into a headwind with the poise of the Paris-end. In art as in life.

Glamour on bicycles Montpellier

3-inch heels and a Velomagg. Glamour!

The rewards for a day in Montpellier? Many. Plus a cupcake treat (okay, two).

Enormous thanks to Mary Cherry, her man Alex, her BFF Marine (and Niece) for Le Tour of Tours. Merci Beaucoup.

If you find yourself in Montpellier, be sure to follow the stars.

Follow the stars in Montpellier

Follow the stars in Montpellier

*Thanks to JC for additional inspiration, yet another star not shy of a mountain.

It’s that time of year – New Bike Syndrome strikes again

The dawn of new season bikes emerges around September and continues through to December each year (and let’s not forget the Nouveau Beaujolais sitting pretty on Nov 15th!). For the southerners, that’s Spring. After which the weather only gets better, along with the range of new bikes becoming available. It’s a difficult time for cycling enthusiasts as the spending cycle increases toward Noel Nirvana.

For the northerners, come winter, it’s three months being wrapped up next to the fire in the ski lodge pouring over the latest glossies (on their tablet mind you), in between gulps of warming liqueurs from bulbous crystal goblets. No less torturous for them as cycling and sun are such distant realities.

New Bike Syndrome
With immunity from New Bike Syndrome (NBS) or ‘Upgrade Fever’ low, what’s the best way to make sure your upgrade is a total winner? Thousands of hours on the steed have made you one with your current love, how can you know the next will be just as passionate?

Bo-Bo
Enter Bo-Bo, a Beach Rd aficionado (and Engineer) from way back. Not long ago, the conversation topic of NBS intruded on a fast paced 3-hour ride on Melbourne’s best bayside black carpet. He’d been struck by the fever.

Being a technical, scientific type, Bo-Bo knows geometries, angles, carbon-layers, composites, metallurgy and physics. My contribution dabbled around project management speak, pilot tests, baselines, charts and other pleasantries.

Wheelsets
One thing that was surely agreed was the overwhelming contribution a wheelset makes to the handling and performance of any bike. It’s on the critical path you might say. The other agreement at 45kph was the preferred choice of wheelset for training, climbing, racing, ie the great all-rounder.

Benchmarking
The reason behind going into this is that to compare bikes, particularly frames, a good quality wheelset (including wheels, tyres, tubes) that you’ve ridden for some time will give you the ideal benchmark for testing how the new frame performs. Eliminating the wheelset factor helps focus in on the frame characteristics.

The Pilot Test
It’s a simple test. You’ve spent weeks adoring your new love on the interwebs, sharing stories with friends over coffee, swooning over colours and fighting the need to have a quiet chat with your current love about your unshakeable fever. You know what you want.

One weekend afternoon, you head to your favourite store, you’re already well known by the staff from all those after-work meetings you’ve been attending ‘off-site’. You take your cycling shoes and your wheels from your current bike, maybe even in wheel bags for protection.

Assessment and Impressions
After this morning’s ride you’re feeling a bit guilty about what you’re going to do next, but it’s happening. The first test ride you want to use your current wheels, maybe even the second ride too. This is the critical part of the assessment, initial impressions.

Using your existing bike’s measurements, have the bike set-up as closely as possible to your current position. Rolling out slowly to get settled, this is the time to take note of the impressions compared to your current bike.

Steering – is it heavy or light, twitchy or composed?
Acceleration – fast and snappy or sluggish?
Slow corners – predictable or is it a wrestle?
Fast corners – stable or wallowing?
Taking a few chicanes or esses’s (S’s) – is the change of direction swift like skiing or does timing feel out of sync. Do you feel like you’re ahead or behind where you want the bike to really be?

Ideally perform the test a couple of times to determine whether it’s similar to what you currently enjoy or different, and how that meets with your performance expectations and needs. Perhaps even try across a few different bike models and brands if doubts start to creep in. After texting and instapic-ing all your crew, whack a few notes in your smartphone.

What If?
And don’t worry if your wheels are ‘better’ or ‘not as good’ as the new ones that come with the bike, this is about reducing the influence of variables on your purchase. The same test can be applied in reverse too, use your existing bike to try out a new range of wheels that you’re interested in buying.

A Swift NBS Recovery
Following your various tests, you’ll have a suite of benchmarked test information that’ll go a long way to ensuring the fever doesn’t induce that other affliction, cyclist’s remorse.

It takes a bit of effort, but one hour here or there is a useful set-up for the next 500, 1000 or 2000+ hours you’re going to spend enjoying with your new amore. Now, what colour is it going to be?

Your Experience?
What has your experience been changing bikes? Please let us know how you’ve approached your decision too and whether it worked out as intended.

Thanks to Bo-Bo for that illuminating NBS discussion on Beach Rd. On another ride with Bo-Bo at Bright VIC, the discussion was about compact cranksets and gearing, but that’s for another time…

Globe-trotting strava cyclists will be into this!

For the Strava / GPS users out there that happen to travel with their bike, you’ll appreciate this little web tool.

By referencing your Strava Rider ID and uploading all your cycling history, this tool will create a global Google map with all your rides. A nice little virtual pin-board to drop in to your next post-ride cafe banter.

Options include:
– Specify Date Range
– Zoom
– Colour / Opacity

The Maarq Plot

Maarq rides on the global map

Showing all Maarq Strava rides via the Garmin 800

Credit to the Dulwich Paragon club for supplying the link.

[Disclosure Statement]
Maarq has no affiliation with Strava, Jonathan O’Keeffe or the Dulwich Paragon Club UK.