Friday 28 December 2012

Gammy legs

Took the legs out for another spin this morning - I can now see why the pros don't stop riding in the days before a race. After just a week off the bike, my legs are seriously rooted. It's like they've forgotten how to spin up to speed. I feel like the captain of a coal fired ship yelling into the speaking tube, "Engineering - turns for 30 knots please" and finding that the stokers have all gone on strike.

Thursday 27 December 2012

Aborting the food baby

Like me, you've probably finished Christmas with a fridge full of left overs (hello turkey sandwiches!) and a "food baby" (a tummy resembling a six month pregnancy).

I knew this would happen, so I have been preparing for a solid round of cycling over the holidays.

Except that sleeping in has been much more enticing - especially as the weather in Sydney has been absolutely crap.

But come this morning, there was no choice - the food baby was starting to resemble twins. So off I went.

Normally I go east. I don't want to go anywhere near work for the next few weeks, so the first place I went was west - I thought a lap or two of the Homebush Olympic precinct would do the trick.

Just one problem - every man and his dog was passing me. That doesn't usually happen. Sure, a few speedsters on TT bikes will blat past me, but I can generally hold my own against most cyclists, being passed by only the skinniest and speediest blighters.

Not today. Every person on two wheels went past me. I was giving orders to the legs to give me turns for 30-35km/h, but they simply refused. I was lucky to be doing 26 - going downhill. After a week off the bike, the legs had completely gone to sleep.

On my second lap, I was passed by a young lady with a nicely developed set of glutes. I thought, "Blow this - I'm not getting overtaken by a woman", and suddenly the turbo kicked in and off I went.

There's life in the old dog yet - you just have to know which buttons to press. And the oldest and most basic buttons work best.

Thursday 20 December 2012

Ford gets makeover

Aaah, that's better.

Tuesday 18 December 2012

Coming soon

I'm collecting my thoughts on an interesting topic - how the bicycle can help us understand the economic history behind why we now drink a lot of beer from bottles.

How does that sound?


I'm not suffering from blogging fatigue - it's pure physical fatigue that has flattened me lately. I've lifted my mileage on the bike by 75% over the last few weeks, and the sudden shock of the extra work has laid me out each night. I know, I know - you're not supposed to lift your work rate that suddenly, but it's hard to add say another 10% to my ride the way I do it. The best way for me to add more miles is to ride on the weekend, and if I'm going out on Saturday morning, I might as well ride 50km as ride 15. The immediate impact was that I took the belt in a notch this week.

I'll be used to it soon. Or I'll get on the turps over Xmas and that will limit my riding. One way or another, I shall be back more regularly.

Monday 10 December 2012


It's never pleasant seeing (or hearing) a cyclist hitting the deck with a thump. But that's what happened this morning.

The day started much earlier than usual - I was awake at 0500, staring at the ceiling and listening to the wind howling outside. I was in no mood to get up and go anywhere - I spent half an hour trying to get back to sleep, and then gave in and got up. There are times when you just have to face the day.

I hadn't heard any rain falling, so I was a bit surprised when I opened the door to find a wet world awaiting me. The rain had stopped, but the roads had clearly had a good soaking overnight.

Things were miserable enough to convince about 95% of the usual dog walkers and fitness junkies to stay in bed. Rather than the usual shoal of cyclists heading into town, I saw only 3 other blokes on bikes.

As I was slogging up one of the hills that litter my route, a bloke when whizzing down the hill in the opposite direction. I thought he was moving pretty quickly even for ideal conditions - that hill has a couple of sharp corners, and the road surface on each corner has been minced by trucks grinding their way round the bends.

Sure enough, a few seconds after seeing him tear by, I heard a crunch behind me. I looked back, and there he was, picking himself up in the section where the tarmac goes from smoothe to lunar. He would have made it if it was dry, but he had no hope in the wet.

There endeth the lesson.

Saturday 8 December 2012

Wonder if they booked him?

On the ride into work yesterday, I came up behind a bloke who was wobbling all over the bike lane. As I overtook, it was pretty clear what was causing the wobbles - he had one hand on the handlebars and another was holding a cup of coffee. Some people can ride pretty cleanly one-handed (or even no-handed), but this bloke couldn't.

He also wasn't wearing a helmet. Not that I care too much about that, but if you're going to increase the risk of crashing because you're carrying a cup of coffee, it would make sense to take more measures to protect your noggin.

I went belting past him, and then zipped up a hill. As I crested the hill and went around a bend, a police car went past in the opposite direction.

I couldn't be bothered doing a U turn to see if they booked him. I reckon they did - I've seen plenty of cops out lately booking motorists with gusto.

Thursday 6 December 2012

Another bloody car in a bike lane

What can I say? Someone really screwed up on the way to work this morning. On the right we have the City West Link, which is one of the main ways of getting into the city from the west. Flat road. No bend. Dry surface. Light traffic. Somehow, the car sitting partly on the grass has managed to slide across the nature strip, through all the bark chips, over the shrubbery and spin through 180 degrees without ending up in the water. There were two police in attendance, and they had the driver sitting in a fold up picnic chair next to the car.

How did they do it? No idea. But it was a pretty spectacular looking mess at 0630hrs. The car was pretty beaten up for such a short trip through some scrubby bushes. Might have been a bit different if they'd gone head first into the power pole, or one of the thicker trees along the water's edge.

It wouldn't have mattered if they'd gone over the edge into the water - it's only about six inches deep.

Amazingly, it was not a Ford.

Wednesday 5 December 2012


I'm told there was a gaggle of people using a radar gun on cyclists on the western approaches of the Anzac bridge yesterday. The were standing at the bottom of a long slope, where a speedy cyclist can hit 50km/h if they so desire.

My guess is that they are irked by cyclists doing 50 whizzing past pedestrians doing 5km/h.

How long until we see a press release from Harold Scruby and his fax machine bemoaning "reckless" and "dangerous" cyclists putting pedestrians at risk?

Here's a thought, Harold. Cyclists go down the path pretty quickly because some idiot engineer at the RTA decided to design the path as a "big dipper" instead of creating a long, flat slope. Go blame Bob Carr - he was in charge back then. Ask him to fix it. He's got more chance of fixing this particular footpath than say the problems in the Middle East.

Monday 3 December 2012

It actually gets slippery when it rains

Amazing as it sounds, some people don't seem to get this concept. Actually, I didn't really get it when I first started riding. I have some nicely faded scars on the fingers of one hand as testament to my belief that tyre grip didn't diminish when confronted by liquid water.

Happily, I am not the only one to bask in the warm inner glow of stupidity. I was taking it easy as I went around The Bay, being careful not to pile into sharp corners at a high rate of knots. A cyclist behind me got a bit impatient with this cautious approach, and he went around me with the sort of huff that I usually make when I overtake slow coaches.

Less than 100 metres later, we approached a bend that I know to be a menace - it is surrounded by pine trees, and their needles get exceptionally slippery when they get wet and squished by traffic. He leaned into the corner slightly, hit the needles, and I watched with amusement as his back tyre started going sideways.

He managed to stay upright, but he ran off into the grass looking mighty upset. He was very lucky to slide off at a point where the path was not lined with a high concrete kerb. I cruised on past, feeling very nonplussed.

It was actually a beautiful morning for riding - the rain was falling as a very fine mist, which was enough to keep the temperature down nicely without falling hard enough to be running down one's face. It was certainly enough to keep all the wimps indoors - I rode for 15 minutes before I saw another cyclist or a jogger. I pretty much had the paths to myself. I felt like the last human on earth there for a short period.

Saturday 1 December 2012


With the eventual return of some hot weather, I've dusted off a favourite summer dish - jewelled couscous.

Until I googled it, I had no idea there were so many variations on how to make it. I've been using a single recipe from one cook book, thinking I was pretty fancy. Thanks intertubes - for making me feel like a right goose.

Here's some variations:

Something similar to what I make

A really short version of the recipe

Five different ways to mess around with couscous

Beetroot - why didn't I think of that?

Olives and tomatoes and other stuff

Here's how I do it. Since no one else in the house likes it that much, I generally make up enough for me for two meals on its own. However, it goes really well with lamb chops, fish and chicken cooked just about anyway you like.

1 cup couscous
1.25 cups of water or stock - or water with a stock cube in it
knob of butter

Get yourself a  nice big bowl - you've got some mixing to do, and you don't want couscous flying all over the kitchen.

Put 1 cup of couscous in the bowl.

Boil the water or stock. Add the butter (so that it melts).

Pour stock/water and butter over couscous, mix it a bit with a fork and go away for 10 minutes. Or go away for 5, fluff it with a fork again, and then go away for another 5 minutes.

When I put the water on, I go and sit somewhere and peel pistachio nuts. Once it's boiled and poured over the couscous, I peel some more. The amount of pistachios that I end up with after 10 minutes of peeling is how many I throw into the bowl when the couscous is cooked.

You can add any nuts and fruit that you like. I usually fill a dessert bowl with raisins, toasted almonds, pistachios, toasted pine nuts and dried cranberries. Now that I have read the recipes above, my next version will probably include dried apricots and chopped dates - and a pomegranate if I can find one.

Whilst the couscous is taking 10 minutes to absorb the stock or water, you can also use that time to toast the pinenuts and/or almonds. If you've got three hands, you can peel pistachios and toast the nuts at the same time.

Zest an orange, and then juice the orange. Don't do this the wrong way round.

Once the couscous has had 10 minutes and you've fluffed it with a fork, throw everything into the bowl and mix it around. Splash some olive oil over the top and mix that in too.

I usually don't add any herbs or spices, except for coriander (if I have some in the garden). However, I like to chop up some mint, add it to natural yoghurt and have that on the side.

My comments:

Chicken stock is better than water - with water, it's a bit bland.

Just remember the ratio of 1 couscous to 1.25 water/stock. Make as much or as little as you like.

You can add as little or as much fruit and nuts as you like. I reckon I added about 1.5 cups in total last night (I wasn't bothering to measure).

The orange juice along with the orange zest adds a nice sweet zing to it. If you prefer lemon, go for it.

Couscous on its own can be a bit dry after a while, so I like to eat this with something juicy. Last night, I chopped up a tomato, doused it with salt, balsamic and oil and had that on the side. I didn't throw in any basil, as basil tends to contrast badly with this dish (in my opinion).

I don't like eating this dish hot. Warm is good. Cool is fine. I just ate the leftovers straight out of the fridge - they were good too, but a bit cloying when cold.

Sucks to be this bloke

See the rather forlorn bloke on the right leaning against the fence? He's the rider of the motorbike parked on the footpath.

The motorbike that's parked in front of an unmarked police car (you can see the flashing blue light in the windscreen).

He looked most unhappy. Sucks to be him.