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April 2016

Nzo Double Feature

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This week’s newsletter is a double-feature.

In the first episode we have a hotelier in North Canterbury who has taken the bold move of banning people wearing lycra from his establishment. He is pictured squatting next to a blackboard sign that praises the bicycle (as it should), but also bars entry for bike-riders wearing stretch knit synthetics. Presumably women in tights are ok, as long as they don’t arrive on bicycles.

My first thought was well, that makes a large and growing sector of the scone-eating public who will no longer visit this guy’s watering hole.

I shared it on Facebook with a snarky comment to that effect. Then I got a text from California with a link to the story in one of their national dailies. Within a couple of hours social media was clogged with regurgitations of the same image and story… the exposure this story has received could be worth thousands, possibly millions, of dollars.

That so many newsmongers picked it up and re-delivered it supports our view that there is something about cycling that really gets their collective goat. Getting about in most cities is actually faster and more convenient for people on bikes. That annoys anybody who is stuck in traffic. So do people out riding for fun, even though the inconvenience they cause is momentary and inconsequential. Bike riders running stop lights or taking shortcuts: even if all the risk in such activities is born entirely by the cyclist, it drives some people almost mad.

But it is lycra that really rips their 100% woven cotton nighties.

What is it about skin-tight fabric stretched becomingly across the butt of a harmless fellow human that causes such pain and anxiety among otherwise liberal citizens? We don’t know, but we aren’t going to stop wearing these for our road rides just because it might scare the horses.

Then there is this: some of our colleagues took part in the Rotorua-Taupo Flyer a few weeks ago, a 100 kilometre tarmac bash across the central plateau.

One of our squad slotted into a good bunch after a frantic start, then punctured. One of his friends was among the dozens of riders who streamed by as he struggled with his roadside repair.

Moving again, he got into a small group and they slowly reeled in some of the riders ahead, including his friend, and when his group caught her she was moving fairly slowly.

Afterwards they compared notes, and she was at a loss. Training had been good, she had felt good at the start, then she had stomach trouble, unusual for her. The only thing she could think of that might have caused her problems was the energy gel in her race-pack, which was a brand she had not tried before.

Our colleague held up a sachet from his race-pack. Yup, his friend agreed, that is the one.

It was a raspberry and honey scented sample of shampoo.

 

Rocks and mud, or mud and rocks?

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Sunday night was a big one for bike fans.

At Lourdes, the little town in the French Alps where St Bernadette saw the blessed virgin, or possibly a seagull, the downhillers were kicking off their WorldCup pilgrimage. In Paris, the roadies were heading for Roubaix, over 250 kilometres away via a heap of cobbled farm tracks.

All over the world, people would be hunkering down in front of their tellys, armed with RedBulls or beer and chips, depending on the event they selected.

We had the opportunity to go and watch the road race at various places, and the temptations offered were impressive. One party featured Belgian beers and chips with mayonnaise to be consumed as the riders passed through their feed stations during the live broadcast. Figuring on two or three of those, plus additional servings to coincide with some of the 27 sectors of cobblestones, there would be no driving home afterwards. Another was hosted by a guy who has experienced Paris-Roubaix as a rider, and still coaches people taking part in this year’s edition. That would be a chance to get some real insights into the ins and outs of a race that has been a classic since its inception in 1896.

Complicating matters was a bike ride on the Moerangi trail, taking the logistically simple but physically ridiculous version I have sworn never to repeat on two previous occasions.

Bad weather threatened, but cleared as we drove into the wilds. On to the bikes, and trail conditions were close to perfection if you didn’t count the bits that were too steep and weathered to be rideable. Still, grovelling uphill, pushing for a while, pedalling the lowest gear for as long as possible before walking again, and clambering over a few slips and what-not for an hour or so is all worthwhile when the trail tips downwards on the far side of a hill, this one in particular.

We motored (well, they motored, me not so much) along a trail that was by turns amazingly good, almost overgrown, and in one place, completely gone. A pleasant little brook once exited into the stream we follow, and some act of nature we can’t imagine had scoured the brook out to bedrock, five metres deep and double that in width, depositing a thousand truckloads of mud, rocks and smashed trees into the stream bed. Amazing. But not impassable. We continued on to a lunchstop 22kms in, then turned around as a light rain began to fall.

That became a solid deluge, not cold, but turning the trail into a watercourse of its own.

The trip back turned into a bit of a death march, for us at the back anyway. We finally emerged, covered in mud and some niggly little hooked seeds that stick to leg hair and socks, and all sporting a couple of patches of nettle stings.

By the time we had driven back to town and got clean, dry and fed, I was ready for bed. Both bike events went by unseen by me, and parties unattended. First thing in the morning we watched the downhill, and the last, epic kilometres of Paris-Roubaix.

Live, more or less.

 

the best 47 cents you will ever spend

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Cruiseliner DeLuxe Review from NZ Mountain Biker

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Every now and again a product comes along that completely redefines mountain biking. Suspension forks did this. Disc brakes did this, and dropper posts are arguably such a product. There is no argument, Nzo’s Cruiseliner shorts are not such a product- they’re only under-shorts after all, and when was the last time underpants were credited with changing the world? OK, fine, you got me - Superman.  But(t) all that aside, these are without a doubt the best chamois shorts I’ve used.

What’s so great about them? I’ll make a list: the fit is great. They’re notably not designed just for 4% body-fat athletes. That doesn’t mean they’re baggy (that’s what NZO’s outer shorts are for), it means they fit without pinching or bunching anywhere, even when I’m ‘winter-weight’. The much-wider-than-usual waist elastic is a big part of this, such that, aside from bib-shorts, these are most comfortable cycling chamois shorts around the waist that I’ve ridden in. I do like bib shorts, especially for really long rides, but bibs are not always ideal – for instance, these are so much easier to take a nature break with, noticeably cooler on a hot day, and you can’t accidentally forget to put the bib-straps on and be reminded of it by a stranger as the straps dangle out the back, threatening to get caught in the rear wheel (I was the stranger on this occasion).

Also, the legs do not have grippy bits at the bottom of them to ensure your tan lines are really sharp – nope, they’re free to sit where your leg moving up and down wants them to sit – ideal. Next point: the legs are made from a mesh material that breathes really well and is sometimes noticeably breezy, especially if your outer shorts have mesh bits in them too. It does mean that if you ditch your baggies and go for a swim you’ll be wearing fitted tight black mesh shorts, which may be something you do anyway – I don’t judge. Luckily, the front and back middle portions are not mesh material, so you won’t, legally speaking, be exposing yourself. In any case, despite the name, these aren’t made for swimming in the pineapple-shaped pools of cruiseliners, they’re made for riding in. Speaking of which, the super-comfy chamois is just the right thickness, it sits in the right place (unlike some of my shorts where the most important part of the chamois sits half-way up my back – what’s that about?)  and it’s soft on the skin. I still use chamois cream on longer rides, but on shorter rides I don’t have the need to.

What else? They last for ages and they’re affordable. The best chamois shorts are usually really expensive. While more expensive than a Farmers 12 pack of briefs, for a riding short, the Cruiseliner DeLuxe is a bargain. Any niggles? Only that you won’t have much use for most of your other chamois shorts once you have a pair (or two) of these.

 

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That glass is half full already!

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The Moonride has been a feature of Rotorua’s mountain biking calendar nearly every year for the last 22. The last three editions have been the Nzo Moonride, and this year’s model was held last weekend.

The weather forecast was abysmal. Pretty decent conditions until more or less start time, serious rain for the 24 hour duration of the event, then clearing from the west. Awesome.

As race-time loomed the glass-half-full people looked at the sky with hope, but 5 minutes after we had set up our tents there was a pretty decent shower, filling any half-empty glasses that might have been kicking around.

The 24 hour race started at 10pm Friday, by which time anybody with any sense was tucked up in bed. Anybody with any sense, and also sponsors. I listened for rain, and didn’t hear any. Went to sleep with my fingers crossed. The morning was grey, but not wet.

I took a raincoat and gumboots, figuring that being prepared might somehow stave off the pizza-like stuff upwind on the rain radar. All very well to look out at a scene with no rain and feel hopeful, because that is exactly what the latest rain radar indicated: no rain in the morning, a big deluge at about 1pm.

The scene at the forest was positively cheerful. Hundreds of riders of every stripe were either racing or getting ready to, tents and caravans were full of gear and supporters, and the only downside was a pause in the 24 hour race that had been called at 8am. The forecast rain meant a course change to protect the most vulnerable trails from damage, so the racers had been stood down for two hours.

At ten they were off again, closely followed by the 12 hour and 6 hour fields. There was a brief shower, but 1pm came and went in actual sunshine! By the 4.30 pm prizegiving for the 6 hour event it was hot, and the glass-half-full people started talking about dodging a bullet, isn’t this lovely, etc.

The fluffy white clouds billowing over the top of the forest from the north darkened, then suddenly turned into big black ones, with thunder.

Nervous glances skywards, then somebody got a text from up Mamaku way that said it’s hosing down. The text turned up about three minutes before the real thing.

A spatter, then steady rain, then a biblical, end-of-the-world type thing like you might expect in the jungles of Borneo. It rained so hard that everything went underwater across the entire paddock, immediately. Tents kept water off anything above ground level, but the ground itself was inundated, under tents or not.

Brave souls continued to race, one guy did a Woodstock-inspired gutslide, everybody else holed up in their shelters, and giggled.

Barely audible above the racket of the rain on the tents, news came that the race was abandoned, and if escape was possible, do so. Anybody with any sense took that advice, including sponsors.

All in all, a good day out. If you were there, good on you. If you weren’t, come next year!