Tuesday, March 31, 2015

S 24 O

S 24 O. W.T.F. is an S 24 O I hear you mumble?

Well dear reader, it is a Sub 24 hour Overnight. How it works is someone, me in this case, chooses a camping spot. I get the latitude and longitude and send it to other like minded bike-packers. Then we ride as much or as little as we like from wherever we choose to start with the only fixed point in space being the camping spot.

I threw this out to the other crazies um, I mean keen bikepackers to see who could make it. Being a Sunday night, Andrew of Briztreadly fame, was the only one to put his hand up for some stealth camping.

I had a problem with my plans in that I was helping man the BBQ at the last Brisbane South Mtb Club Summer Sprint round. This meant flipping bacon, eggs and snags from 6am to midday then rushing home to spend 3 hours packing my bike up. Did I mention I was away all week beforehand and had not even set eyes on my new frame bag? No? Well I am spread thinner than salmon paste on a cowboy's sandwich at the moment!

Anyway, the races went well with large fields in all categories, especially the kids races. MTBing is in a good place as long as somebody gives these kids something to aim for. Below is the start for the A grade kids. Some serious body language there!

Once home I quickly threw my gear together, stopping briefly to admire my new frame bag from Bike Bag Dude. It has been custom made to fit the Muru frame and also sports some inspiration that I sort of hope will be conversation starters as well.

I always amazes me how much gear you can fit into bikepacking bags. Too much sometimes!

I was eventually ready at about 4pm and jumped in the car for a 45 minute drive to Beaudesert, my starting point. I had wanted to ride from home but time was against me. Andrew was also starting out from Beauey but I had no idea how far ahead or behind me he was. I would just meet him at the camping spot.

I pedalled off into the evening light and into the serenity that only cycling provides. The first 20-odd kilometres were sealed, so I made good time as I watched the world roll by.

Open fields on one side........

.....and crops on the other. My destination for the night was on top of that range of hills just to the left of centre.

The sun was sinking more rapidly now but my light was working a charm as I sped along, pumping out good wattage from the dynamo hub.

And generating good charge was of increased interest today as I am running my cache battery. It is a Limefuel Blast L60X with 6000mAh capacity and weighs in at a mere 131grams(4.3oz).

 To give you an idea of it's size, it is like an oversized cigarette lighter.

The beauty of it is that it can take charge from my USB charger while it is simultaneously outputting to my gps/phone/camera/headlight. It also has a neat LED light in the end of it for rummaging around in the tent or saddle bag.

I was soon turning into Duck Creek Rd and stopped for the obligatory photo. I have ridden this road a few times before so if you want to see what it looks like by day, please check here.

A kilometre or so along the road I noticed a blinky red light in the distance ahead of me. That must be Andrew! I powered on and very soon we were chatting away. 

Well, until the climb began that was. We got to the base of the climb just as total darkness descended. Well, not total darkness as there was a third quarter moon shining quite brightly which gave some light to our steep climb.

I waited at the first lookout for Andrew and saw the very last of the twilight fade.

We spent the next hour grinding up the long, slow climb. The next lookout seemed to arrive quite quickly and I let my eyes adjust to the moonlight and took in the vista out toward Mt Barney in the moonlight while waiting for Andrew to arrive.

We soon moved on to the camp site which was only a few hundred metres further up the hill. It did not disappoint with sweeping views back toward Brisbane and lights twinkling in the distance. We quickly set up camp. Andrew had a cup of coffee in his hands in record time, then we both ate a hot meal thanks to our jetboil stoves. Mmmmm....Moroccan Lamb.....

Not a bad afternoon's ride at all! 

Some mates had ridden up the road earlier in the week and having the co-ordinates of the camping spot, left us a little surprise. A good surprise that is. We soon found a lovely bottle of red wine, thanks Chris, but alas neither of us drank red wine! Andrew kindly offered to haul it down off the mountain. It would make a good "brownie point" earner for him later on at home.

Trying to keep the weight on my bike down, I had left my sleeping bag at home and was sleeping in a Sol Escape bivy with a silk bag liner inside. The Thermarest air mattress that I bought second hand a few weeks back was also getting it's maiden test. Sleeping in just shorts and a merino undershirt I did wake up during the night feeling a bit cold, so added my down vest to the ensemble. Despite me being a bit chilly, even though it was a warmish, if windy night, I slept about 8 hours so I had judged it about right for the night. Any less sleep would have warranted a proper sleeping bag. The Thermarest was quite comfortable, if a little narrow but feels very thin and susceptible to puncture.

Andrew said he was snug in his minimalist setup. He was rocking a sleeping bag, inside a Sol Escape bivy, upon a groundsheet, under the stars. Nice.

The view in the morning.

All packed and ready to roll, Andrew was going to accompany me about 1km up the hill to see the point where the vegetation changes from open Eucalypt forest to rain forest. Yes, it is that abrupt. 

Exchanging good-byes and thanks, Andrew peeled off down the hill while I continued up the road, past Luke O'Reilly's farm and onto the main road to Canungra.

It was then time to put my head down and get my arse to Canungra for breakfast and more importantly, water. I was a bit light on for water last night, only packing about 3.5 litres along. I rationed it overnight but found I still had plenty so drank freely this morning.

There are some pretty spectacular views as you drop of the mountain and it helped having a clear morning to take it all in.

Into Canungra for some fuel and water, I wasted little time getting on the road again.

I took the back way through Biddaddaba(don't do yourself an injury trying to pronounce that one) which presented me with nice quiet roads.

Quiet, because it was a "no through road".......except for mountain bikes. I snuck along a gazetted road that was overgrown with long grass, just following in the tyre tracks. No, possibly not best practice health and safety.....

After bouncing along in the hoof prints for ten or fifteen minutes I stopped to take this photo in a slightly more open area when I noticed that one of my bags was open. 

Of course, my phone wasn't where it was meant to be. Oh shit! It is going to be a nightmare to spot in all of that long grass!

I turned back, thinking the worst but hoping for the best. I must have been kicked up the arse by a rainbow at some stage because it was lying on the track in one of the only spots that didn't have 2 1/2ft high grass!

The remainder of the ride was just dirt road grinding with a little traffic dodging on the blacktop into Beaudesert. I arrived back at the car quite refreshed, if not a little disappointed that I couldn't keep riding.

I had covered about 110km(70mi) and climbed 1200m(3900ft) in a total of 7 hours cruisy riding. The bike was heavy to manhandle being loaded up but it was still quite pleasant to pedal. It still climbs well even with the added weight of all my bike packing gear which was a nice revelation. Maybe the gym work and training is paying off? I just need to get some aero bars set up so that I can duck out of the wind a bit more and I am pretty well set it the bike department. 

My Limefuel cache battery did it's job. It ran my gps all evening, charged up my phone from almost dead flat in the morning, then ran the gps again. When I checked it at home it was still fully charged. It should have enough capacity to see me through the Tour Divide as today was a mere 4 hours pedalling.

Now, I just need to find more time to get out and do some more of this................

Cheers and thanks for checking in.

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Power To Shine - Dynamo Powered

Yesterday was another big day in the Tour Divide training schedule. 

I was up early, partly to get a jump on the day and partly so that it would be dark. Yes, my dynamo hub wheel build was finished and it was time to test the K-Lite electrickery set-up on my bike.

 While K-Lite's 1000 lumen bikepacker light won't fry koalas at 50 metres(metric yards) like many other lights it is more than enough to get along at a good clip. The beauty of this set-up though is that as long as I pedal, the light stays on. To correct that, even after I stop pedalling the light will stay on for another 10 minutes via a capacitor/standlight built into the system.

Standlight/switch box
I was also testing my Sinewave Revolution USB charger. This little (literally) unit does an amazing job of converting the electrical output of the Shutter Precision hub into something that can be consumed by a gps, phone or camera, just to name a few items. Sweet!

The direction of the hub's output can be switched between the light and the usb charger. Today I had the charger powering my eTrex 30 gps directly, while I am waiting on a cache battery to arrive. Then I can have the charger charging the battery, while I run the gps/phone/camera from the battery.

So it was that I departed at 5am. The bike was loaded with enough sugary food to put a kindergarten full of kids into a diabetic coma, 3 litres of water and a bleary eyed driver. Through my bleary eyes I could see the path ahead quite nicely though. Thanks to Kerry from K Lite!

Today's ride would take in a large section of Brisbane Forest Park, similar to the training ride I did a few weeks ago. I wasn't 100% sure of the route, thinking I would just make it up once I got to the cafe on Mt Nebo. The early sections were easy to piece together as there is only one way from home when heading northbound and that is through Daisy Hill. 

I had the place to myself.

I passed the meeting spot for the Regular Daisy Hill Wednesday Morning Ride- about 17 minutes too early for there to be anyone waiting...............oh well.

Making easy kilometres(metric miles) I had time to take in the sweet running of my new bike. The SP hub was working as advertised and I was playing with the functionality of the top cap switch, switching between light and gps.

Almost like being in the bush already.....

I was soon on the south east bike way doing battle with cyclo commuters on their way to work. I had one flat pedal Fred drafting me for quite a way. He was quick but after a while I eased over to the left onto the sketchy edge of the path and with his skinny tyres, he got the hint to move along. I had a long way to go, so no racing for me.

The leafy suburbs on the southern foot of Mt Cootha beckoned and I was away from the hum of traffic. Not even the hum of mountain bike tyres could be heard on this stuff.

Climbing Sth Boundary road. 
For me there is something a bit soothing, almost comforting about settling into this climb. I guess I know it pretty well and know what to expect. It isn't the ugly monster that I once thought it to be. It has it's share of slogfest climbs and hooting/hollering downhill sections. Of course, the best bit is that once you get to the top, there is a cafe waiting for you.

However, today I was almost too early for the cafe'. My prefered one was still closed so I had to backtrack to the Boombana Cafe where I dined and perused my map.

I decided on a reverse lap of last month's ride and headed for Lightline Rd. On Forestry road there was a patch of smouldering bushland and many bush fire units parked up.


As I rode past the meeting that was going on I was asked by one of it's attendees if I was going down Lightline rd? "Why, yes. I am hoping to go down there" I replied. He informed me that it was closed due to the fact that they were going to have a controlled burn along it this morning. Bugger. Then, to his credit, he asked where I was intending to go. I said I was going to keep on going and going.....I wouldn't be coming back up. "Sweet", he said. "We won't be starting for an hour or so, so you will be fine. On your way."

The next half hour was awesome fun as I bombed down Lightline rd, with just the occasional climb.

I soon came to the bottom at Lake Manchester, which was blocked off for the burn.

From here I was planning on riding the new-to-me Mermaid Mountain rd. It was pretty much the only way to get back toward the eastern side of the forest but I did notice parts of the trail seemed to go up some serious contours on the map. This wasn't going to be easy.

Not too long after this it began to spit rain and as I bombed through a shallow creek crossing I heard a sharp hiss and the front end went all wobbly. Bugger! About as far away from home as I could be! I had staked the tyre and the hole was big, because the small bucket of Stan's sealant that I had put in the tyre just yesterday was no match for the hole. So, a tube went in

The trail around here was actually quite nice, being overgrown fire road with a dirt bike formed track in the middle.

Then, I came to the climb. And what a climb it was! Pictures never show how steep hills are but this one was like standing there and seeing the entire trail, all the way up to where it disappeared over the top. Great!

I tried to get a photo to show the steepness but to no avail. The trail just disappeared out of the bottom of the shot. On the plus side, this was great hike-a-bike training. I was reduced to pushing my arms(holding the bike) out, grabbing the brakes then taking one step up the hill, then repeat. This went on for about 35 minutes(according to the gps). As I reached the top I was pleased to note that while sweating profusely in the muggy 32C(90F) heat, my arms, back and importantly achilles were all doing it easy. There wasn't a twinge from any of these muscle groups. My strength training must be paying off!!

After patting myself on the back for this and while still grovelling up the slope I spied a bulge on my front tyre sidewall. Oh, no. The sidewall was slashed open and the tube was starting to burst out like something from Alien.I quickly let the pressure out of the tube. 

I was almost at the top of the climb now, so I focused on the next task of solving this tyre issue. I immediately thought to myself "why haven't I put a tyre boot in my kit yet?"  I needed a soft, yet solid piece of flat something-or-other to put in the tyre between the slit in the sidewall and the inner tube to stop the tube exploding out through the hole and me imploding in the middle of nowhere.

Luckily I had bought some spare batteries (in case the dynamo hub didn't function) and I was able to cut the clear plastic bubble that housed the batteries into a nice flat shape. While rummaging in my frame bag for my Leatherman, you could imagine my pleasure at discovering I had not one but two multitools along for the ride! Urrgh! But all good training I guess....?

I inserted the boot in between the sidewall and the inner tube. Pumping it up again and I was back in business. It held!

The next few hours involved much pushing up stupidly steep hills followed by white knuckle descents down equally steep, rocky hills. This was really testing my upper body strength as having the drop bars and brakes on the hood makes for much less controlability.  There were nice views back across to the ridgeline that I had just travelled down via Lightline Rd.

And a few sweet, forbidden pieces of singletrack goodness.

But it was mostly rocky and rugged. Perfect training territory!

Somewhere around the 100km(62mi) mark I must have missed a turn because I popped out in someone's backyard! I hadn't seen a trail off to my left but it must be there. I circled for a minute then headed off on a very disused looking section of trail that headed in the right direction.

It didn't.
When it came to a dead-end, I noticed that the ridge line was about 30m above me to the left. That is where the trail would be but how do I carry my bike up there?

As you can see in the photo above, the hillside was stupidly steep. Time to put that gym work to the test again! I must say, at about 7 hours into the ride I was pleasantly surprised that I had the strength to shoulder my bike and walk it up that slope without it feeling like hard work at all. Go gym work!!

Back on the Mermaid Mtn trail again I soon came to the Gold Creek Boundary break. I had ridden this trail years ago with Nick while on a training ride for The Epic. I was pretty green back then and I just remember it as a suffer fest. It was time to reacquaint my memory with the reality and the sign wasn't looking promising.

The next hour or so consisted of sceaming down steep, rocky descents with the brake levers pulled back to the bars, followed by hopping off and pushing up stupidly steep climbs. I must say, I was stopping often to check the map to avoid any unnecessary deviations from my intended track. This was getting tough!

The map AND the gps were assuring me I was on the right trail and I must admit to being a bit relieved when I finally saw Gold Creek Reservoir appear below me.

I celebrated by eating a banana as I cruised across the dam wall. There is a nice walk around the dam that I can bring the kids back for one day as well.

From here, there was a shortish climb back up to South Boundary Rd and I would be pointing homeward again. About 5 minutes into the climb my Camelbak ran dry. No water until Gap Creek now!

Once I was back on Sth Boundary rd, that familiarity kicked in. It felt paved road smooth and the pedals turned easily again. I was back down at the tap(spigot) in Gap Creek reserve before I knew it and greedily gulped down my fill. It was still hot so I put about 2.5litres into the Camelbak to get me home. That turned out to be about 500ml too little.

I dedcided to go home a slightly different way, through the Southbank precinct.

Here I was, covered in dust and shit, weaving my way through tourists eating ice creams and taking selfies with the city in the background. It felt so weird.

My photos taper off here as I noticed that my front tyre was slowly going flat. The Muru's handling is dramatically effected by the front tyre pressure which makes it very obvious when there is an inflation issue!

The next 20km consisted of me stopping every 3-4km, pumping the front tyre up as hard as I could, then riding until I was nearly pitched off on a corner or bump, then repeating the process. Around this time I had my first encounter with a Spot stalker - in the form of OutDoorGaz! His distinctive yellow FJ tried to cut me off/take me out just as I was slowing to pump that flippin' tyre again. A few minutes of chat brought me back to some semblance of sanity. Thanks mate. Right time, right place. ;)

My plan was to make it to 99 Bike Underwood to have a new tyre fitted. I made it just before closing time! Here they sorted me with a tyre and even tubelessly set it up. Cheers guys.

I hammered it home in peak hour traffic and couldn't get off the road fast enough to once again hit the trails through Daisy Hill. It was just going dark as I dropped down "Birdwing" in Cornubia and then I was home! I sort of peeled myself off the bike. Sore feet and a sore top of the rear of the legs region were my only real complaints.

So, all up I did 163km(102mi) with 3300m(10800') of climbing. I would have sworn that I did 4000m climbing though! It felt like I went up a LOT more hills today.

The take homes from today? 

  • My dynamo hub works a treat and I can't wait for my buffer battery to arrive.
  • The strength training that I have been doing is paying off
  • The Muru is a very capable mile-eater
  • I need to carry a tyre boot to patch cut sidewalls
  • I need to look at some custom foot beds for my shoes
  • I need to buy a quality pair of nicks that don't chafe me around the edges!
  • If I am tired or down, how that effects my outlook
  • I need to make sure I'm not carrying around 2 multi tools! Tool!!

To be honest, I am not sure how effective the training has been so far. Could I have ridden 164km on rough dirt prior to the training? Maybe.  Can I back up day after day for 3+ weeks of this? A big ask but one question I guess that I will be able to answer in about 12 weeks.

12 weeks?!! I'd better get cracking!

Cheers and thanks for checking in.