It’s a glorious spring morning. For once there’s no wind. I’m actually not away somewhere.

And it STILL takes every bit of willpower I have to pull on a jersey and go for a simple ride.

It’s been thus for a while. No interest. Zero drive. A lack of desire to overcome even the most elementary road block.

This morning feels like a win.

This time last year, I was racking up miles every week. I’ve ridden three times in two months this year. No Great Cycle Challenge. No City To Gong. No Tour Down Under in January.

And I’ve not been kind to myself either. Back on the junk food like a 5yo at a birthday party. Stretching? Walking? I won’t even walk the dog.

I’m busy with work, sure, but who isn’t? Work has been a battle of sorts, too – if you think you can avoid politics as a freelancer, think again.

It might be my increasingly solo lifestyle – as I get older, the less time I spend – and let’s be honest, want to spend – in the company of others.

And that’s down to the simple fact that I don’t feel particularly confident any more, and less inclined to want to wade through the mire of communicating with people I don’t exactly align with.

I feel old, overweight and… isolated? Less relevant? Not sure of my place in the world? Dunno.

It’s been quite the month wider family-wise too, so there is that, I guess.

I note that we are in November, a month that’s dedicated to raising awareness of mental health issues. I guess I’m writing this to take a step towards doing a bit better, and if you’re feeling the same way, a fist bump goes to you.

in the meantime, I’ll take five minutes here, then head back into a super hectic end to 2017.

My pledge to myself – don’t beat up on yourself, chuck out the M&Ms and stretch a bit.

Small goals… but they’re usually the best ones to start with.

The Ol’ Crank swore BLIND a couple of years ago that his racing days – such as they were – had come to an end… but no. He’s back. Idiot.

Actually, I’m more like a racing mechanic today. You know, like the fellas that hung off the side of old 1920s race cars to help the driver not die as quickly.

The Young Crank is having a run at Thredbo in the highly agreeable Rollercoaster Flow series run by Rocky Trail Entertainment, but the downside is that Thredder’s Flow Trail is closed all day. Solution? Enter the race!

And I get to look like an idiot…

I’ll also debut a new bike – a Transition Patrol that I picked up cheap as an end-of-year special frame. Add some Shimano XT, some X-Fusion Metrics and my current Zelvy wheels, and we have a big mountain banger that we can both use.

I’m also trying out a new tool in the shed; a Quarq Shockwiz. Invented by a young Western Australian who sold his idea to SRAM (he now works for them), it’s a simple to use but fiendishly clever suspension setting tool. I’ll tell you more about that later, but it works for Max!

(A quiet word on the serious; we just happened to pass through the area of the ACT soon after ulta endurance racer Mike Hall was hit and killed in Friday. I’d planned to go and cheer a few riders through the Gong next week, but instead I’ll raise a glass in Mike’s memory tonight. He was a young bloke who packed a lot into a too-short life. Vale, mate.)

The Ol’ Crank has been riding from before the internet was even a thing, and he tests stuff that he’s bought and paid for unless mentioned otherwise. If you want more info, hit me up at facebook.com/theolcrank

While these road shoes are a couple of seasons old, they’re still widely available, and they’ve been on my feet for about eight months now. Here’s a real world test of how they’ve stood up to my chubby and slow style of riding.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Paid: $199

From: cellbikes.com.au (in store)

Weight: 680g (size 46, pair, with Shimano cleats)

Tester: Robbo, 110kg, Bianchi 928 C2C road bike

 

So, what’s with these shoes?

Choosing road bike shoes is as personal as choosing intimate apparel; get it wrong and it makes for an uncomfortable day out.

And even though online retailers often have great deals on footwear, trust me on this; bite the bullet and go for the bricks and mortar bike shop option when you want to get your next pair of boots.

I’d come out of another pair of Shimanos that I loved and wore to death over the course of a few years, but in that time, it looks as if Shimano has updated the way it makes shoes, with a distinct difference in sizing right around that crucial $200 mark.

The company now offers a line called Road Performance that’s topped by the RP9, and while the R171 looks to have dropped off the list, it’s still widely available online.

The R171 has a synthetic upper teamed with a carbon fibre sole. When it comes to doing them up, it’s got two wide Velcro straps that team up with a neat two-way ratchet strap.

The inner isn’t one of the fancy heat-mouldable versions, but I run my own inserts anyway. I do run the standard inner soles most of the time, though.

Worth noting, too, that the inside upper piece of the R171 actually wraps right over the top of your foot, so when you pull up on the pedals, you’re pulling against a piece of the shoe, not the straps.

 

Yeah, right. What’s the sole like?

It’s carbon fibre, and it’s very stiff. There’s a rubberised heel for traction and a rubber toe bumper, neither of which are replaceable. It’s is a little annoying, but it’s not a deal breaker.

Fitting cleats is easy thanks to marked grid lines, too.

 

And how do they fit?

Here’s where the Shimano range gets a bit weird. I tried on the then-new Shimano RP9, which was essentially the next model up – and the fit of the 46 was nothing like that of either my old Shimano or the R171. Narrow and short, it just felt all kinds of not quite right.

This suggests to me the Road Performance series is built on a new, different last (the bottom bit of the shoe) than previous gen stuff, and it’s another reason that going to an actual shop for shoes is a really good idea.

The R171s are generous in the toe box and wide through the arch, and are well sized for boofy Aussie feet. The ratchet system offers a coarse action when tightening them up, but the release lever works to fine-tune the fit with a much finer action – like a half click versus a full click.

The bottom part of the strap can also be moved; there are two mounting holes that locate the strap more forward or more rearwards (mine are forward).

It took me zero time to get used to them on my feet, with no odd rubs or irritating spots.

2017-03-29 09.10.55

 

And how do they go out on the road?

Yeah, pretty well, actually. They’re reasonably light for their price, and they don’t run too hot in Aussie summers, either, which is great.

Wet weather performance is good, too, with the R171s not absorbing excess water over the course of a couple of hellaciously wet rides.

The sole is stiff enough to transfer your effort, but it’s also flat enough not to cramp and hurt your arch or ball over 50 to 80km/h distances. The stock inners are pretty good, too, though there’s no doubt you can improve the fit if you run your own.

The soles don’t scuff up too badly, either, while the uppers are resisting scuffs and marks admirably well.

Using Shimano Ultegra pedals, I can happily report zero issues with hot spots or numb soles – my average ride is about 60km, and I do climb off a lot, so take that as you will.

 

Anything wrong with them?

Not really, actually. Truth be told, the all-black RP9s do look more awesome, but they simply didn’t fit well enough for me to buy them. The black/white thing… meh. I can deal.

As mentioned, fit is subjective. These are a 46, and they are pretty roomy through the toe box, but don’t slip on the heel.

While a 45.5 would be spot on, they weren’t available, and I figured that too tight would suck more than too loose…

 

So… not too bad, then?

Nope. If your shop stocks Shimano, there’s a good chance they’ll be specialling these out at the moment.

Oh, and if you’re thinking of going into the shop, trying them on then buying online? Sorry, but that’s actually a pretty shitty act, and you should go away. If we don’t use shops, they go away. Simple as that.

 

Rating

Fit 8/10

Finish 8/10

Function 8/10

Fashion 7/10

2017-03-29 09.09.37

 

 

Looking for a bike that can take on just about anything you can think of? The Aussie-designed Cell Brunswick 1.0 has more than a few tricks up its alloy sleeves

THE cycling industry loves a sub-category to headline a new marketing campaign. Add a jazzy name, a few bright colours and voila, a new supposedly must-have segment is born.

The thing is, though, that most of these newly invented labels have already been around the block once or twice, and choosing the right bike still comes down to analysing just what you want to do it.

Australian cycling mail order house and retailer Cell Bikes has resisted the urge to call a spade a long-handled material displacement component, marketing its Brunswick as a cyclocross machine first and foremost. The Brunswick can, however, do a lot more than just pedal around a muddy field in the middle of winter; in fact, it’s a rather brilliant, very affordable adventure bike that can do a host of jobs.

Based around an alloy frame and carbon fork, the Brunswick isn’t an off-the-peg design. Cell Bikes product manager and bike designer Dave Musgrove has hand-picked the component set, dimensions and even the frame’s tube thicknesses to offer a machine that really defies its $1200 price tag.

0q8a0110It’s a great looking rig out of the box, too – and unless you buy your Cell from one of the company’s Sydney or Melbourne outlets, that’s how you’ll get yours, by the way. The subtle grey paint is well applied and the low-key decals offset it perfectly. It’s well bolted together with decent quality fittings, but don’t forget to get it serviced after a few weeks; this first tweak is the most important of any bike’s life, and will save you money and heartache in the long run.

This is the second go-around for the Brunswick, and it’s been updated with a few key changes for 2016, not least in the area of tyre clearance. It comes with a set of 700c x 31 tyres as stock, but our tester has been equipped with a pair of ultra-wide tubeless Maxxis Rambler 700c x 40 knobblies, and there’s still room to spare around the fork crown and rear stays.

The alloy wheelset is built for strength, not weight savings, but the stainless steel spokes and brass nipples of the 28-hole build are a nice touch. The spokes on our tester’s wheels settled and loosened a little after a few rough kilometres, but came back into true very easily; an important point if you plan to head back country. Disc-equipped wheels, too, can handle more of a wobble than a rim-braked version without momentum-sapping rub.

0q8a0184

Equipped with Avid cable disc brakes and a clever mix of SRAM Apex road and GX mountain bike 10-speed groupset parts, the Brunswick’s finishing gear is all in-house branded stuff, which works very well. The compact drop bars are well shaped, the four-bolt forged stem is neatly designed and the narrow diameter seat post offers some flex to iron out road and trail chatter. Even the stock saddle is pretty good out of the box, though personal preferences will vary.

Neat touches abound, including the ability to carry three bottles, a full complement of front and rear rack mounts, drillings for mudguards and fully enclosed cable housings that run underneath the down tube. This is a nod to the bike’s main focus as a cyclocross racer, where riders often have to hoist the bike up on a shoulder to jump over obstacles.

It’s available in five frame sizes from small through medium, medium/large, large and XL, and our large tester was almost spot on for our pair of 180cm-plus testers. It feels somewhat short in the top tube even with a setback seat post in place, and one tester complained of some toe overlap with the front tyre – a sign that the front-centre measurement may be too small for the rider, despite what the size chart suggests.

0q8a0203

Out in the real world, the 11kg Cell is about 3kg weightier than a typical road bike, but nowhere near as hefty as a similarly equipped and priced mountain bike. Its wider tyres can be run at up to 75psi, but a lower figure of 60psi provides the Brunswick with a lively, quiet ride that doesn’t drag on hard-packed gravel or rough tarmac.

Its slender seat post and padded saddle also take the sting out of the rear end, while the carbon fibre fork does an admirable job of isolating the hands from chatter. We’d replace the stock thin bar tape with a thicker, more padded product (and even run gel inserts underneath the bar tops) for even more comfort, but it certainly isn’t painful out of the box.

0q8a0221

The Brunny gets a fair clip going along firm-packed gravel and dirt roads thanks to a wide range of gears, and the cable-actuated disc brakes are a great addition, requiring a lot less hand effort to bring speeds down.

Drop bars and road bike-style levers are a bit trickier to use in twistier terrain, but we belted the Brunswick around our local singletrack with no drama, surprising the riders of more off-road orientated machines in the process.

Apart from a few spokes that needed tweaking and a rear wheel skewer that didn’t want to behave, we’re struggling to criticise the Brunswick, especially for the money. Some personalisation of bar tape and saddle wouldn’t hurt, and swapping in Avid BB7 brake calipers for the stock BB5 units would give a bit more adjustability out in the field – but it’s a tweak, not an issue.

0q8a0178

The Brunswick is a real Swiss Army knife of a machine. Simply by swapping the tyres for ones with a narrower, smoother tread pattern (not as easy as it used to be thanks to tubeless sealant etc) you will create a brilliant long-distance touring rig that can cut it on both tarmac and gravel. Add racks and panniers, and its mechanical simplicity and relative affordability make for an ideal touring companion, and throwing on some lights and mudguards gives you a top-line commuter rig that can handle the cut and thrust of inner-city warfare.

The model you see here has been a smash hit already – so much so that Dave tells us an updated mid-year version is on the way. Now that we’d really like to see.

0q8a0428

VERDICT – The Cell Brunswick 1.0 is a jack of all trades drop-bar touring bike at a brilliant price. No matter what kind of riding you’re thinking about, it can handle it.

SCORE 8.5/10

Specs

Cell Brunswick 1.0

Price                         $1,199

From                        cellbikes.com.au

Frame/fork            aluminium/carbon

Groupset/brakes SRAM Apex/GX 10sp, Avid BB5 discs

Weight                     11.05kg (with pedals, not supplied)

First published in Outdoor magazine Oct/Nov 2016

It’s hard…

October 7, 2016 — Leave a comment

It’s crappy out there at the moment. Crappy crappy crappy. Blowing a freaking gale, rubbish all over the road… it’s tough to get out there, too, with a full case load of real world jobs.

It doesn’t matter a jot, though. Having an overnight bag packed at all times, just in case your kid’s temperature goes up by half a degree and you have to dash back to hospital… that’s hard.

Seeing a nurse gown up with thick rubber gloves, overboots and safety glasses because the chemicals that she’s about to inject into your kid is so toxic… that’s hard.

Seeing another new, tiny admission arrive in the oncology ward, their parents absolutely wide-eyed with dread and fear… that’s hard.

These funds matter. They really do. Every day a new method is trialled, a new idea discussed, another set of the hardest-working people you’ll ever come across try something else to save a young life.

Please, if you can spare a few bucks, click here, and I’ll put myself through the ringer to do my kilometres. Thank you.

img_1500

Max, with his new baby sister Milly, early 2005

image

Thucka thucka thucka PAH!

Recognise that sound? Yep… that hideous noise when your tube, under 100 pounds per square inch of air pressure, decides to make a break for it through the side of your tyre.

I’m pretty diligent about things like tyre pressures – I’m a big guy,  and I’m quite averse to the notion of plucking road base out of open wounds.

I’m conservative when it comes to changing tyres, too – which is why I was so shocked to see the bead emerge from the sidewall of my almost new Continental Gatorskins; shocked and a little angry, if I’m honest.

My front blew out down a gentle hill with no traffic.  My route plan included a very steep, eye wateringly fast downhill where a front flat would spell disaster for me.

The failure is – to me – a straightforward case of manufacturing error – there’s no brake pad cuts, no foreign object damage… after a good run with Contis, I’d just scored a dodgy tyre.

It’s a reminder, though… weird crap can happen at any time. Here are a couple of hints and tips to keep those tyres in good nick – and what to do if it all goes wrong.

PRESSURE UP – Tyre pressures are a crucial part of your ride. Too low and you risk pinch flats, too high and you’ll suffer from a harsh ride. You need to be able to trust your guage; digital versions give a more accurate reading.

For most road-going clincher (regular) tyres, experiment with pressures between 80 and 100psi, depending on your tyre type, terrain and weight. At 110kg, the Crank runs 90psi up front and 100psi in the rear of his 700x25c tyres.

Off-road, start around 30psi for tubeless and 35-37psi for tyres with tubes.

EYES ON THE SIDES – damage to tyre sidewalls can happen if your brake pads make contact, or you hit debris. Give them a look over when you inflate your tyres before you head out. Any damage, bin it – don’t take the risk.

GOING DOWN – If you’re unlucky enough to suffer a blowout, you’ll need a dose of luck to stay upright. Key point – if the ride quality of your bike changes, stop IMMEDIATELY and figure out why. A piece of glass in the tread will feel like a small bump, while a tube escaping from the side of the tyre will have to pass through your frame or fork, which feels bloody odd.

If it’s already happened, do not panic. Send your body weight towards the inflated end of the bike, stay off the brake on the deflated end, keep it straight – and get it stopped!

Got any tips or stories? Let us know!

There are mountain bike vids, and then there is Darklight, a seven-minute epic filmed entirely at night.

Black Rock, Oregon. Philips/Sweetgrass mountain bike 2015.

Black Rock, Oregon. Philips/Sweetgrass mountain bike 2015.

Shot in conjunction with electronic giant Philips, the vision that the team from Sweetgrass Productions and Swedish creative house Ahlstrand and Wållgren have created is just amazing.

Two trucks’ worth of lighting, cables, generators and stands were all moved by hand, 4×4 and quadbike in a shoot that took several days in each location.

Freeriders Graham Agassiz, Matt Hunter, and Matty Miles rode some insane terrain in Southern Utah – where Hunter was bitten by a rattlesnake and needed to be evacuated for treatment in hospital, only to return two nights later! –  to the lush forests of the Pacific Northwest.

How far can mountain bike vids go?!