May 27, 2012

More milestones

Well, the last couple of weeks have been fun.  :) 

1550kms on the clock, so only another 50km to go and I'm officially out of the break in period.  I've been a little naughty occasionally getting up to 7k rpm (supposed to not exceed 6k) and on the whole though it has been fun.  That jump from 4k to 6k opened up a new world of acceleration, but while very pleasant it wasn't an 'oh shit' event.  I suspect in part because a lot of my riding initially was smaller trips, and spread out over quite a bit of time, I've had time to adjust and get comfortable on the bike.

Ali did ask if I was comfortable accelerating flat out from stop up to speed (albeit gear changing at 6k) and I wasn't sure - hadn't really tried 'flat out', though I've certainly been quick.  So I tried it today - answer is a qualified yes.  A tad stomach dropping, but pretty comfortable on the whole, and she gets up to speed pretty quickly.  Of course, the real qualification is insofar as that was twisting the wrist as far as I was comfortable doing in my regular riding grip - I didn't feel any 'stop' though, so I suspect I could twist harder, and it would probably accelerate harder again too...  Something to experiment with a tad more yet perhaps.  But if it isn't as flat out as the bike can go it is certainly quick enough to get me out of trouble I think, if I need to do so for whatever reason.

Now, I mentioned milestones in the post's title, and there is another milestone or two that can be mentioned here.  Both occurred on Friday just past.

First was riding in to the office in the rain.  Constant, soaking, heavy rain.  I was actually pretty comfortable to be honest, though obviously more careful than ever in the wet.  Put the occasion to good use by cornering with my body weight consciously transferred so the bike didn't need to lean as much, and that really is good practise when, on a normal commute, I hardly need to lean the bike at all anyway...

Note to self however:  You bought waterproof over gear.  Put it on.  It started raining just as I hopped onto the bike.  I hoped it would clear up again quickly.  Bad move.  I should have just bit the bullet, taken off my gloves and put on the waterproof pants.  Would have saved me a very uncomfortable, cold soaked crotch.  'Nuff said.

The second milestone was on the ride home.  I had my waterproofs on.  It didn't rain.  (Did I mention Murphy is a sod?)  What it did instead was somewhat more disconcerting.  It blew a gale, with gusts of up to 70km/h according to the observation data from the BoM.  70 km/h crosswinds.  That was fun...

The practise I got hanging off the bike to keep her more upright in the corners that I got on the ride in stood me in good stead, as I spent a large part of the ride home at about 90 km/h, hanging off the bike just to keep going in a straight line and not switch lanes unexpectedly.  Counter steering as needed to compensate for lulls and heavier blasts.  It was fun, in a stressful and disconcerting kind of way, but when I got home I felt like I'd been wrestling for an hour and a half....

So...  nearly 1600kms down, and I have to say, I'm loving it.  :) 

Stay upright, and let the good times roll...

May 10, 2012



Well, I've successfully commuted in on the bike a few times now, and I've just had the 1000km service done.  All in all I have probably racked up close to 950kms riding experience now, across a variety of roads and conditions including country roads, freeways and inner city/CBD driving.  I've not ridden in more thank light drizzle yet, and am definitely not keen on meeting an icy freeway any time soon, but on the whole my confidence in my ability is slowly improving.

At this stage I'm still taking the train far more days than not - if I need to train it for some reason then far and away the cheapest way is via a weekly ticket (or even monthly) but obviously that has an effect on the economics of riding.  It is ironic that as bad as our public transport system is, it is still cheaper for me to train in than to ride once I factor in maintenance and tyre costs.  Fortunately it is probably only a difference of about $30 a week or so.  That is a price I'm willing to pay for a much more enjoyable commute experience, but I do need to get myself better organised first.

Having a locker would help, and a routine to allow a quick and efficient change into and out of riding gear - but that will come.  :) 

The travel time is another issue - travelling at the same time as I train is quicker by bike, but not much.  I'm copping some pretty heavy traffic at times on the freeway (both ways) when in close to the city, and Flemington Rd in particular is pretty appalling.  I suspect if I leave earlier (on both legs) I'd meet less traffic, but that may be hard to organise.

All that aside, while (especially in winter where bad riding conditions are likely to abound) I may realistically be riding to the station and training in quite a bit I do plan to commute more and more by bike as my skills, confidence and organisational abilities improve.  :)

So, what have I learnt along the way?

Relaxing is really important.  Don't be in a rush...  this really applies to the heavy traffic situations - freeway riding at 110kms is pretty much a no-brainer for the most part as long as you stay aware of what is going on around you.  I've only had a few 'oh shit' moments, but they were all around intersections, light changes etc.  None serious, or even overly embarrassing...  more a concern for crap, did I run that red light.  In stop start traffic just flow with it - if you aren't filtering or lane splitting (and I'm not) then give yourself space, be early on the brake light (just let the guy behind you know what you are doing) and be aware of the traffic flow.  The only bit I'm messed up is being aware of when the light will change...  once or twice I've followed a car through when I probably should have stayed put - although be aware of what the guy behind you is likely to do too...  don't stay put if you will be rear-ended.  :|

Controlling my speed precisely is still a tad tricky for me - more practise will iron that out I guess, but especially in the inner City 50 and 60 zones I don't want to be edging up over the limit.  I don't need the fines, or the demerit points.  Seems almost every car on the road is happy to do so though... 

On the freeway there really isn't much call for worry about cornering lines - everything is pretty gentle and slowly sweeping, but it is an area I know I need to continue to work on.

Crosswinds...  oh how thou art a pain.  Mild counter steering against a buffeting crosswind helps me to keep my line stable, but I do need to work on not tensing up when I'm being buffeted by winds.  Oh, and note to self.  On a windy day, think seriously about the heavier earplugs.  Boy does that wind noise get loud.

But overall impressions a month on, with 1000kms on the clock.  Fun.  Definitely fun.  :D