Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Chris Whitley - latest update

A lot has happened in the last week.

Chris got the tracheotomy tube out on Christmas Eve and was able to enjoy a somewhat pureed Christmas dinner the following day.

Having asked for his laptop, it was apparent that Chris wouldn’t want to stay put in hospital much longer and on Monday 28th he was released from hospital to trial staying at home overnight. Under this system Chris would stay at home at night, but come into the hospital during the day for necessary treatment.

In the event, Monday’s sleep was a little short and Jan had to bundle Chris back into the hospital in the wee smalls on Tuesday morning. After a little more recovery and seeing the various specialists they were given the all clear for him to be released from hospital and for any necessary care to be performed at home. At one point it looked like they were going to have to travel to west Auckland for rehabilitation but a better alternative has been found.

Since getting home, Chris has been able to (slowly) negotiate the stairs on his own, bathe, and also made a trip up and down the steep drive to retrieve the mail. Jan drove him down to the velodrome where they stayed for about an hour, walking and catching up with a few people down there.

Chris is enjoying home cooked meals again and seems very happy to be back at home in an environment where he can rehabilitate in familiar and comforting surroundings. It has yet to be confirmed how much help will be forthcoming through ACC both in rehabilitation and home help but that should be sorted in the coming days.

As indicated earlier in the blog, the easiest time for Jan would be while Chris was still in hospital. Now she will be kept very busy looking after Chris and accompanying him through the steps to come. In that regard, if you find yourselves with a bit of free time on your hands and can help out with little chores about the house please drop a line to Jan, and visitors are welcome in the afternoons.

Chris is still finding getting a good sleep challenging, but if he doesn’t get too tired through the morning and can stretch through the day without a snooze, he is better placed to have a decent sleep through the night.

He has more of his familiar look about him every day, and in spite of the fact it seemed his early recovery was drawn out, it is still a relatively short time since the accident and we can be thankful for that.

Thank you to everyone who has given their time, energy, support and good wishes over this time. I’m sure Chris hopes to be back in your circles again very soon.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Honjo mudguards, part 2

After almost a year of procrastination, I made a couple of long mudguard mounting eyebolts, and a suitable spacer out of some lying-about perspex, to adjust the front mudguard line on Donna's Bob Jackson.

Lowering the guard about 5mm below the fork crown means it sits concentric with the wheel instead of higher at the front.

In this photo the eyebolt still needs to be shortened about 15mm



Monday, December 21, 2009

Chris Whitley - Monday updates

From Peter Alexander:
After battling an infection late last week that had his temperature up, Chris has had a good night last night and his lungs appear to be much better. Antibiotics go so far, but the body has to contribute a lot to the healing as well.

He was able to give one of his riders advice for training while he is away overseas, and had the room in stitches during another visit from a couple of riding colleagues. Though such visits often tire Chris out, he seems to have taken this in his stride a bit better, and a bit of laughter appears to be good medicine for him.

Chris continues to be well looked after, and was even able to get his bed turned around to check out his old stomping ground on the North Shore through the window. The medical staff are still keeping a good eye on him, and again he seems to have taken some good steps in recent days.

Jan is keeping busy around visits to the hospital, and sounded really upbeat this morning. Her strength and focus continue to be an inspiration.

...and from Liz Williams:
Chris has been moved from critical into the high dependency ward.
He still has a trach tube in his throat so can't talk, but is communicating by writing notes which are apparenly legible and make perfect sense.
The doctors have said that every day will be different, and he is expected to recover a lot faster once this lung infection has cleared up.
He was stoked with the card that everyone signed on Friday night so thanks for that.
He still gets very tired so if you're planning to visit please leave a message for Jan, or Jenny and Paul first.
Visits have to be very short, and lots of time between each one.
This is the nature of head injuries like Chris's, he really needs lots of rest!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Wednesday update

From Liz Williams:
Chris had a problem with his lungs which has led to him being transferred back to the critical ward.
He is in the best care possible, and the physios, doctors and hospital staff are working with Jan to try to get him to breathe properly.
While Jan really really appreciates everyones support, she is asking at this time for visits to be kept until he is out of the critical ward. Keep the support coming via the blog, and doing things around the track etc.
Keep tuning in to the blog for updates, keep up the positive vibes!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Chris Whitley - Wednesday Update

From Peter Alexander:

Chris is settling into the routine of recovery. The doctors are keen to see him clear the rest of the phlegm in his lungs which has been present from day one, and he gets physio in the mornings and occasional scans to see how things are progressing. There is a suggestion that in coming days he might be popped onto a stationary bike to test his legs as well.

He still has a feeding tube but is able to feed himself a little as well, and those of us with any experience of hospital food will realise this is not just a physical achievement, but also a mental one!

From here on he will have his good days and bad days and for us it is important to respect his rest time, and balance this with his need for a bit of company and stimulation. He needs those little workouts and then his recovery time, just like any good training program.

He tried to temp me into playing Frisbee with the plastic lid from his plate yesterday, which is another indication that even when tired and feeling the weight of his injuries that the spark is burning inside willing and waiting for the rest of him to catch up.

He has come a long way in a few days, and surprised a few of the medical staff along the way – our hope is that he continues to do that.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Chris Whitley update - Sunday Afternoon

Chris is now in the Neurological ward in Auckland Hospital (out of Critical Care) and is progressing well. He is awake for long periods and while he has no recollection of anything since the accident his mid-term memory appears just fine.

He restarted a discussion we were having about something a week ago and seems to have lost none of his wit. At one point earlier in the day he had Jan and Jenny Vahry in hysterics, and it makes you wonder how long it will be before he is asking to go home.

His body is regaining more of its normal function, but it will be a little while before he is stable on his feet.

There is no doubt that his good level of fitness prior to the accident and his determined personality has contributed to his speedy recovery, but there is still a way to go.

Jan is doing well, and will now be trying to get as much rest as possible before Chris determines that he really does want to go home.

Many thanks have to go out to Jenny, Chris’ daughter, and Jan’s sisters for their support at this time.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Chris Whitley - Saturday update #2

From Peter Alexander:

Chris has continued to improve through the day, and has been responding well to questions from the medical staff and family visitors. At one point he commented he was “wired for sound”, so wanted to know what all his tubes and wires were, and the personality we know and love continues to peek through in these exchanges.

He continues to sleep a lot, but is awake more often and. He is co-operating with the medical staff and understands he needs to take time to heal, and that the best is being done for him.

He is being assessed for moving from to a ward soon so that is an indication of his progress. Once on the ward he will be more accessible for visitors, but shouldn’t be inundated.

Jan will have family around her over the coming week, but she and Chris will appreciate our support in the coming weeks as Chris goes through his various stages of recovery.

Let's keep this quiet...

Donna was away for a few days, so I took the opportunity to replace the broken SKS mudguards on her Long Haul Trucker with a pair or Velo Orange Zeppelins.
So far she hasn't noticed.
Intended for 650B wheels which are larger than the 26" on the Long Haul Trucker, the Zeppelins need some extra effort to get a good mudguard line, which I achieved on the back wheel with this custom stainless bracket, and a less elegant plastic block behind the chainstay bridge.

At present the front guard is too far from the tyre at the front, but it won't be hard to make up a long eyebolt and spacer to put it right.

Saturday update

From Liz Williams:

Chris is making good progress today, he opened his eyes for a bit and recognised Jan, squeezed her hand etc.
His breathing tube was removed and he told the nurse to piss off, which is good.
I think the prognosis is that he is going to be fine, it's just a matter of time, lots of time. Jan is good, but ...please refrain from calling the house, give her space etc, but if you could leave messages here, or email him on
Jan has been very grateful for everyone's support so keep it up. He's not ready for visitors yet but maybe by Tuesday arvo.
If you know the Vahrys, ring them before going up there, or call the house and leave a message after Monday arvo

Friday, December 11, 2009

Some more news about Chris

From Peter Alexander:

"He came off his bike after clipping a roundabout (no other road users involved).
He barely had enough time to pick himself up off the road and move to the side and there were three emergency personnel on hand who happened to be travelling behind.
He has broken his left collarbone and has road rash down the left side of his body, and has suffered a significant knock on the head.
Chris was sedated overnight and intubated and ventilated to assist his breathing.
He had the sedation removed late this morning and is expected to wake up soon as the sedation wears off, and has been rousing intermittently through the early afternoon.
The specialist visited early this afternoon and was able to rouse Chris enough that he could respond to simple instructions.
Jan has been with him most of the day and will stay nearby the hospital for the short term."

Chris Whitley

This morning I heard that Chris Whitley is in a coma in Auckland Hospital after falling off his bike yesterday.
I will update this page as i get updates of his condition.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Stolen Bianchi

Gayle Brownlee's beloved Bianchi Nirone was stolen from her home yesterday.

Veloce groupset 2007 with 08 Chorus cranks
American Classic sprint 350 wheel set
FSA bars
San Marco Ponza Saddle
Look Keo sprint Pedals
Trek batcage bottle holders
Topeak computer
It would be a good thing if someone quietly left this outside the nearest Police Station, before Miss Brownlee herself catches up with the malefactors.
If you should see it about, please GET IN TOUCH

Monday, October 05, 2009

Got myself on the train out of Siena after a frustrating half hour looking for the stazione. Turns out I have ridden past the entrance several times without knowing.
Today I have three or four trains to catch, followed by 20kms riding in the dark from Milan to Saronno.
Tomorrow I could ride somewhere, but somehow I doubt it.
Fly Wednesday, home Friday.

Yesterday, l'Eroica was nearly perfect.
We started early to avoid the midday heat, rolling out of Gaiole about 5:30.
On the first climb, to Brolio, I got into a big bunch of riders, who were either pissed or over-caffienated. This was tolerable on the climb, but on the descent I took advantage of one of their periodic team meetings to slip off the front.

For the first hour it was dark, except for the full moon which hung over the horizon, lightening as I got to the outskirts of Siena, where I had a near-disastrous misinterpretation of the course signage.

Before the first ristoro I rode a bit with Steve, one of the Americans from my hotel, but his pace on the strada biancha was a bit sluggish.
At the ristoro I filled up on crostini di frutta, pocketed some bananas, then left on my own.
Soon passed a couple of riders, and then saw no one for 15-20kms, which, with the absence of superfluous course marking, caused me to be a bit fretful.
At about 70kms a this guy on a 50s Atala caught me, churning a low gear that might have been 46 x 28. He leapfrogged me repeatedly, stopping to take photos then jumping past.

Arrived at the second ristoro probably before 10, fed, divested any remaining warm kit and headed up the hill towards Mont St Marie.
This is the section that I recce'd on Wednesday, and it was certainly easier without a full saddlebag, and much cooler mid-morning.
There was a photographer on the first climb, and a smile from his very beautiful assistant briefly made the gradient a little flatter.
I permitted myself a quick breather in the shade at Mont St Marie, and rolled on.

In '06 I arrived at ristoro 3 a sweaty overheated mess, and took a long time to get myself cooled and functional.
This time I sauntered in to find that I was 20 minutes early, and that cards could not be stamped until 11am.
Just when I had got myself comfortable, the official remembered that he was Italian and started stamping anyway.
Got stamped , grabbed a couple of bits of Nutella-coated toast, and went in pursuit of anyone who had overtaken me at the ristoro.
Reeled them all in, I think, except for Atala guy, who was in a totally different league to me.

The return to Gaiole was via the strada biancha climb back to the castle at Brolio where I rounded up the last of the queue jumpers and watched Atala guy storm off into the distance.
Made an effort to keep the speed up on the descent, then tried to hammer the 4km uphill drag into Gaiole, which, unsurprisingly, was harder than it had felt earlier in the week. Arrived in Gaiole about 12:15, when the queue in the finishing chute was still pretty short.

Consumed, in the course of the afternoon, a panini, a sizeable plate of pasta with salami and prosciutto, some wine, two beers and two gelatos.
Roamed the swapmeet, tried to get my roommate Mark Micheletti to buy a nice early 50's Ortelli with Campagnolo Cambio Corsa shifter, schmoozed with a bunch of great new friends.

Friday, October 02, 2009


My readiness is questionable, but excitement is rising by the minute.

Yesterday we did a brisk 60km bike shop raid to Siena; today a loop around the top of the 205km course, plenty of strada bianca and 1000m climbing in (maybe) 60kms.

There are some super famous guys riding- we found Moser, Gianni Motta and Franco Bitossi on the start list today.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Siena to Gaiole

Spent the AM sifting around Siena, gawping, and stealing wifi.

On Monday, the Gazzetto dello Sport was castigating the Azzuri for their failure to bring home any medals, while pointing out that things could be worse- Cadel's a good guy, clean, lives in a part of Switzerland that could almost be Italy, and best of all, his missus is Italian. I missed Tuesday's edition, but today they had a one page interview with Signora Evans, and no other cycling coverage that I could see.

I tried to find the Stazione, to ease my escape on Monday but after some chasing about I'm none the wiser. Eventually I spotted a sign for Gaiole, so I decided to go there before I became totally lost in Sienese suburbia.

The road to Gaiole is two or three big rollers, followed by about 15km of uphill drag. I have softpedalled it twice before in 2006, but today my legs were actually working, and I rolled up in my manly 47t big ring, and a variety of rear cogs.

Arrived in Gaiole before 2pm, when my room is supposed to be ready, and hoovered a plate of cheesy-spinachy tagliatelle in truffle sauce.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Arezzo to Siena

Zigzagged to Siena today, via the hardest section of the Eroica course, from Asciano to Torre a Castello.

The section is a mere 11km, never much higher than 300m, but the climbs are on loose gravel and feel like 20%.

In 2006 I overheated badly on this section, so I'm glad for a chance to pre-ride it this year.


Monday, September 28, 2009

Arezzo... like two different towns- the new, which is crass and post WW2, and the old, where one could spend a lot of time and money.

I'm going to restrict my spending to tonight's dinner, and head for Siena in the morning.

I have worked out that I can take a detour through the worst of the gravel climbs on the Eroica course and then creep into Siena for a late lunch.

Today's ride was 95km. 1200m climbed, 900 in the first 30km, the remainder almost incidental. The climb was steep enough to be in the 28 a lot, but the road was good, both up and down, and I hardly saw a car.
Can't say the same for the last 40km, which was like the road to Hamilton used to be, except that the truck drivers dont hate you.


Saturday, September 26, 2009

Futa Pass

Today I made one mistake, which was to ride my bike at all.
I woke up feeling like I needed a rest day, but Lizzano didnt look as if it could maintain my interest for a whole day, so abandoning commonsense and the cheapest hotel room in Europe I set out to conquer another pass.

The first 20kms were downhill, so I felt pretty sharp, but my route to the Passo Futa was via a minor road with plenty of climbing, and it was soon obvious that I left my climbing legs on the Passo delle Radici yesterday.

Half an hour misspent looking for a non-existent turnoff brought me face to face with this puppeteer painted on the front of a church. I disregarded his advice and went in the other direction, eventually finding my route a few kms down the road.

The climb to the pass from Castiglione de Pepoli was pretty unexciting- a fairly new road, steepish, with none of the charm of the other passes I rode this week.
In contrast, the descent, heading south to Mugello, is hard to fault- smooth, well engineered, and incredibly fast.
The other big descents I have ridden this week have been sublime, ridiculous and terrifying, sometimes simultaneously. It is not uncommon for a road to change from smooth and predictable to a narrow, badly sealed goat track with bad camber and unpredictable corner radiuses.

So, after descending the pass, I found myself an expensive room in Borgo San Lorenzo to replace the cheap one in Lizzano. It's Saturday night, and the whole town is out, gossiping and gawping at about a dozen vintage Alfa Romeos that are on display.

Friday, September 25, 2009

A day in the Appennines

Rode out of Castelnuovo de Garfagnana headed for the Passo di Radice, and found a shortcut!
Anything that cuts 27km down to 15 has to be good, right?
And it was, a nice steady bottom gear gradient all the way to 1200m where the climb turned into a series of steps and switchbacks at what felt like 20% or steeper.
This section I rode step at a time, gasping and dribbling.
And did I mention the wind? Yep, it was blowing hard, not that you would know it here in thriving Pievepelago where I stopped for lunch.
The afternoon turned into a bit of a slog, finishing up at Lizzano in Belvedere, where I found a 15 euro hotel room.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Overlooking the Mediteranean, briefly

Today's plan was to ride over the Passa de somethingorother (Vestita?) to Massa, and then back to Castelnuvo de Garfagnana.
Thats about 80km, probably 2000m climbing.

Rolled myself comfortably to the top of the pass, looked at the faraway Mediteranean and decided that nearly 2 hours of climbing was enough for today.
Nattered incomprendingly with 3 septugenarians in full pro kit, then turned for home stopping only to get a coffee from a Sofia Loren lookalike at Arni.
This turned out to be a good decision- by the time I got to the hotel, did essential abblutions & laundry, and took myself to the Casa di Sandwich & Beer, I had the shakes.
A sandwich 20cm in diameter did not touch the sides, and the pizza slice that followed didnt seem so big either. Methinks I will finish lunch with gelato, then take a nap, before resuming consumption mid-afternoon.

Vege soup, fried polenta with cheese

Yesterday I learned that it is de rigeur to put olive oil in your vege soup, so I knew what to do with first course of the menu turistico in the local spaghettaria.
I have had polenta before, as a frighteningly yellow slop, but fried, it comes in domino shaped slabs, served with a couple of different cheeses.
Interesting, but probably not to be repeated.

At the table nearby, three Germans have a largish dog,which has not tried to get on the table once during their meal. I suspect it has been sedated.

I was dumb today- drank only half a bottle of water, and felt crap most of the afternoon. I need to recognise that climbing in the mountains I am sweating lots, even though I dont feel hot.

Fabian Cancellara cost me another slab of Tuis today. I have resolved to have no more such bets with Tim Woolford until Fabu goes for the Hour Record when we will wager more slabs of bad beer on the total distance.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Demon trouble

So, 2am today, I was awakened by my demons.
Usually they like to nag about my manifold employment-related failings, but today they had some concerns about this trip, such as;
1/ 'am I actually doing the rides I want to do, or am I just goofing around?';
2/ 'am I in a holding pattern pending the increasingly unlikely arrival of CTB?';
3/ 'will I go home in 2 weeks and be pissed off because I didnt go further, faster, higher, harder?'.
Eventually I packed the little bastards back to the black hole of my subconscious, and enjoyed a few hours sleep.

I was out of Toano before 9, plummeting to Villa Minozzo before clambering up to Ligonchio.
At Ligonchio the demons pointed out that by turning next left, instead of the intended right, I could ride over the 1500m Passa de Pradarena into Tuscany.
Obviously, this would mess with my carefully composed itinerary, but, what the hell, I'm on holiday.

The first couple of kms were steep enough to have me out of the saddle in the 34 x 28 and ready to take the demons to the nearest priest, but I persevered and eventually the gradient flattened out to permit comfortable seated climbing, still in the 28.
I was hoping for a sign marking the top, preferably with a Japanese tourist to operate my camera, but instead I found a restaurant staffed by two luminous beauties, where I had a bowl of soul fortified with some sort of grain, and a desert.

Despite putting on all my warm kit, the descent was cold until about 1200m where I rode into the warm mediteranean air.
The bottom of the descent is 15km from Castelnouvo di Garfagna (hereafter CdG), and since it was only 2pm I considered riding on to Massa, which was scheduled for tomorrow, though in the other direction.
So, cutting to the chase, on this side of the hill it was 28degrees at 3pm (and still at 5pm) so I found an hotel in CdG, did the usual showering and laundering, and am now rehydrating in a bar.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Toano day 2

I'm sitting outside the house in the shade, eating the remainder of the day's provisions ie a banana and half a pack of campagnole biscuits, while willing crucial wardrobe items to dry in the afternoon sun.

Today the sun was out, and after a slothful start I was on the road by about 9:30.
I rolled down the hill that I climbed yesterday a far as Quara, and turned there for Gova, Novellano, Civago, Madonna di Pietrivolta, Frassinoro, Rubiano, Cerredolo, then back up the easier eastern side to Toano.
With eating, picture taking, map reading, roadsign interpretation and lollygagging this approx 70km sub-epic took me about 5 hours.
Like yesterday, about 1700m climbing.
The weather was perfect- fine & sunny, but cool enough that I kept my kneewarmers on until Cerredolo.
Tonight I'm going to venture back over the hill for pizza. Last night's dinner of ham & cheese sandwiches was fun in a desert island sort of way, but to do it twice would be a lowering of standards, wvwn for me.

Tomorrows itinerary is an early start, heading from Toana through Sologno & Ligonchio to No.63, which goes to La Spezia. If I hear that CTB is on his way I will go there and get the train to Milan; otherwise Ill veer southwards towards Massa for more fun in the Appenines.


Monday, September 21, 2009

A tale in three parts:

1/ train from Novi to Reggio Emilia.
Its raining.
Spend an hour at Reggio Station eating, getting changed and checking emails where there is free wifi

2/ get on the road, see a road sign for where you want to go, end up lost anyway.
Go back to Reggio and eventually go somewhere that is not even Plan B, but at least you know where you are.
It is flat, kinda windy and still raining.

3/ somewhere south of Ciano d'Enza it stops raining, and the climbing begins.
First up, a steady hour long climb to Castelnovo ne Monti, then after a 400m descent, a 700m grind to Toano, that makes Mountain Rd look ordinary.

Tonight and maybe tomorrow I'm the only inhabitant of an old farmhouse, converted to holiday home. Its a couple of km out of bustling downtown Toano, and totally silent.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

An unscheduled return to Castellania

Finally got to see Casa Coppi today, in one of those rare incidents that restore my faith in humanity.

The abridged version: planned to do a few hours in the hills round Castellania.
Just out of Novi Ligure met a guy who spoke no English, who guidedme back to Castellania, where we hung out, visited the Casa which was actually open, then did a quick loop up a (maybe) 300m climb then back to Novi via the birthplace of Costante Girardengo, the original Italian Campionissimo. Because he lived to a ripe old age, he apparently doesn't get a bloody great monument.

Breakfast tomorrow will be at the stazione, before catching the 6:20 to Reggio Emilia. I have 2 alternate plans:
1/ ride about 50km to Toana, and stay at the ancestral farm-now-holiday house of my friend Ricki's in laws;
2/ head for La Spezia, and hope that I find somewhere to stay before it gets dark.

On arrival at La Spezia, if CTB is not imminent and I am not totally buggered & demoralised, I will go inland from Massa, and probably loop down towards Lucca.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Spaghetti carbonara and carpaccio in Fausto Coppi's home town

So, it stopped raining, and I got on the road.
Noodled out of Novi Ligure through a series of small towns and nebulous localities, say 'em all together and it sounds like an Italian race commentary.
(Yesterday at the Museo di Campionissimi I watched a vid of the 2002 Milan-San Remo. Out of the last corner its 'Cipollini...Cipollini...Cipollini...Cipollini Vince! ...CipolliniCipolliniCipollini', though my favourite is of Michele Dancelli winning in '70.
After 16 years of foreign winners, Dancelli cries unashamedly while the ever-pragmatic Ernesto Colnago jams a fresh Molteni cap on his head.

You know you're getting close to Castellania by the gradient, and I think it proper to attack it, rather than ride like the tourist I am, but today I was interrupted by the need to photograph some road graffiti, and then by a text from CTB, who was out on the town.

Despite arriving on the right day, I had not arrived at the correct hour for the Casa Coppi to be open, but fortunately the town was festooned with banner sized photos of Coppi on almost every vertical surface.
While looking at these I met an old geezer who took me in hand, showed me the secret stash of Coppi memorabilia and gave me a bundle of Fausto Coppi postcards.
With midday approaching I took myself to the top of the hill to kill a bit of time, then back to the local restaurant for a fabulous lunch.
By 2pm, with no sign of the Casa ever opening, I took myself back to Novi Ligure, to venture out in search of gelato and free wifi.


Friday, September 18, 2009

Return to Coppi country

With my work obligations behind me, I caught the train from Milan to Tortona, then rode the the next 20kms down to Novi Ligure.
The plan is to stay for two or three days, fairly close to Milan in case CTB arrives, and get in some miles. I also want to see the Coppi house at Castellania, which was closed whan I visited in 2006.

Friday AM, I headed south through Gavi, turning left at Voltaggio and over a decent 800m climb to descend into Campo Ligure.
Rain clouds were billowing over the hills from the coast, so I thought better of my plan to lunch at the top of the Turchino, and headed back to Novi Ligure through Ovada.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Noodling around the lakes of Lombardy

With three days free betwixt bouts of work, I took myself on a ride around the lakes north of Milan.

Friday, I rode from Saronno to Luino on Lago di Maggiore, with an 800m vertical detour to a scenic dead end at Campo dei Fiori just out of Varese.
View Interactive Map on

Saturday, I crossed the Swiss border at Monteggio, negotiated the streets of Lugano, crossing back into to Italy a few kms later.
Lunched at Menaggio on the western shore of Lake Como, then headed clockwise around the lake to Belluno.

View Interactive Map on

Sunday AM I headed uphill from Belluno to Valsassina.
Had quiet roads for the first 90 minutes, but towards Lecco ran into the oncoming Milanese Sunday drivers
Made the mistake of following a roadsign for 'MILAN & LECCO' which plummeted me down a series of tunnels obviously not intended for bicycle. Inside, the echoes make it impossible to differentiate cars behind from oncoming, and you are buffeted by weird aircurrents.
Once through Lecco I did some kms on something that looked like a motorway, but, reassured by roadiebunches going in the other direction, stuck it out until a promising offramp presented.
Returned to Saronno via Como, where I stopped for a decent lunch of prosciuto e melone.
View Interactive Map on


Sunday, July 12, 2009

So, what about that Holdsworth?

Readers with long memories may recall my plan to touch up the worst of the paint damage on my Holdsworth Professional frame and build it into a late 60s racing steed as it once was.
The more astute among you might well infer that my long silence on the subject says that all is not well.

After months of desultory action, I gave up on my efforts to touch up the paintwork, ordered a set of transfers from Lloyds and entrusted the job to the multi-talented Walter Thorburn.

A couple of weeks later, Walter called to tell me that beadblasting had exposed a crack underneath the bottom headlug. Being financially and emotionally invested in the project, I rejected the idea of chucking the frame in a skip, and set to replacing the downtube and headlug.

The first problem is that I needed a plain, long point headlug.

The Holdsworth's lugs look like a modified Prugnat Type S, which are probably fairly easy to find, but I decided it was better to make some progress while I was still in the mood.
I dug out a set of Prugnat lugs with triangular cutouts and a some bits of scrap tube, and brazed bits of steel tube scrap into the cutouts. After a morning of filing and sanding I had a passable lookalike of the original.

I quite probably have the correct Reynolds 531 downtube in my inventory, but chose to use Ishiwata 024, because it was closer to the top of the pile, just the right length, and a bit heavier, which seems appropriate on a frame that is earmarked for this year's edition of l'Eroica.
It's a few years since I have replaced a downtube, but to my eyes the end result doesn't look too bad at all.

While I had the frame back, I took the opportunity to cold set the rear dropouts to 126mm so that I can use a 7 speed freewheel. Usually my inner purist would frown at this, but I figure that I was already across the line in the sand when I decided to get the frame repainted, and anyway, a sub-athlete like me needs a wide range of gears for a life threatening outing like Eroica.


Saturday, July 11, 2009

More Condor

Campagnolo Gran Sport rear hub

In response to Oli's question in the comments on the last posting:

When the Condor frame arrived on Tuesday, I had collected most of the parts I thought I would need, and even built up a nifty pair of suitable tubular wheels.
Some of them have worked out, and some others caused me a bit of grief in the attempt to get the bike rideable for the SOLO bunch ride on Friday morning.

First up, the frame needed some love before any parts went on.
At some time the BB threads have been stripped, and rebuilt with bronze, so I ran the Campag taps through, and faced the shell.
The headtube had never been reamed, and is splayed from having oversized headset cups pressed in, so I reamed and faced with the Campag tool, skimming a couple of millimetres off the overall length to accomodate the still-low stack height of the Campagnolo Gran Sport headset.
The forkblades were bent to the right. I did a fair job of straightening them, using my Hague fork jig as a reference, but I may yet ask Oli Brooke-White to get them perfect on his world famous VAR fork straightening jig.

The drivetrain went through a few iterations.
The Campagnolo Record derailler that I wanted to use didn't have the capacity for the 52/42 rings and 14-26 freewheel, so I swapped it for a 1970 Nuovo Record, which turned out to be too worn to use.
Third time lucky, I degreased an '81 Nuovo Record as an interim solution.
Eventually, I'll get the drivetrain configured to work with the Record derailler.

The Campagnolo crankset, bottom bracket and pedals are all temporary.
I have a set of Campag 'con denti'* track pedals in need of a home, and a lead on a set of TA Professional* cranks.

Where I can, I use Suntour Ultra-6 freewheels on bikes with 120mm dropout spacing, but on the Condor the chain catches on the seatstay when shifting from the smallest sprocket. I dug up a nice looking Suntour Perfect 5 speed freewheel, but one of the sprockets was too worn, so I am using the largest 5 sprockets on an Ultra-6 14-24 until I can get an IRD 5 speed 13-24 from the House of Dogboy.

Most of my English bikes have centrepull brakes, so I was planning to use a pair of Universal Super 68 sidepulls, until I found a set of unused Universal Extra calipers lurking in a box of Trademe acquisitions. These are the 'period correct' Universal sidepull, so the 68s can wait for another project.
The gold Universal brakelevers are undeniably a taste crime, but I want to milk the last mileage out of their perished and tattered gum hoods before I swap them for a pair in plain aluminium.

Headset________________Campagnolo Gran Sport
Bottom bracket__________Campagnolo Record
Crankset_______________Campagnolo Nuovo Record 172.5mm
Chainrings ______________Ofmega 42/52
Brakes_________________Universal Extra sidepulls
Brake levers____________Universal
Shift levers_____________Campagnolo Record braze-on
Front derailler___________Campagnolo Record 1st Generation with cable stop
Rear derailler____________Campagnolo Nuovo Record PAT. 81
Hubs__________________Campagnolo Gran Sport 32/40
Freewheel______________Suntour Winner Ultra 6 14-24
Rims__________________Fiamme Red label tubular
Saddle_________________Brooks Professional, butchered
Seatpost_______________Campagnolo Nuovo Record 27.0mm
Stem__________________Cinelli Mod.1 steel 13cm
Handlebars_____________Cinelli Perfection 42cm

*John Barron photo

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Wherein DB blows a trip to Buck House

Gordon Brown called earlier today.
As the man in charge of a major economy headed down the gurgler, you would think he had better things to do, but he said he was calling to thank me for singlehandedly boosting the British economy by the purchase of the 1959 Condor frame below.

Now, anyone who has ever read this blog will immediately realise that I was motivated by not even the slightest flicker of altruism but by a relapse of my chronic CBAD , induced by the curly-lugged fabulosity of this fine specimen of Bill Hurlow's work; however I didn't want to upset Gordo and so let him prattle on a bit.

After a couple of minutes of waffle, he cleared his thoat, hummed and harred a bit, then blurted out that I might like to contribute a similar kings ransom to the British Labour Party, and that in return, he'd fix me up with a knighthood.

I was gobsmacked, and let Gordo know it in no uncertain terms: " You miserable Scots Git, for the price the Condor, I'd expect a peerage"

Fortunately for my personal economy, a quick inventory of the shed reveals a suitable Classic Hits selection of components- 50's Campag Gran Sport wide flange hubs that Simon Kennett rustled up from a recycling centre; 1st generation Record front derailer from John Rhodes; and, just arrived from Wayne Davidson, a Record rear derailler.
If the cable stops under the top tube are not offset to the right, I will use Universal Mod 68 sidepulls, otherwise there's a nice set of Dia-Compes that will serve while I look for some Weinmann or GB sidepulls.


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Money/Mouth v1.2

Timmy: "Just as expected, Cancellara pastes the field in the final TT to win the GC.

We like the 440ml man-cans of Tui DB, just so you know, :)"


"See attached.
Commit label to memory."

Julian Dean: "Whoever wins the opening time trial, which is likely to be Fabian Cancellara in his current form, will likely hold it until we get into Andorra.”

DB: "This is not about athletic form, but a contest of Timmy's starry eyed love for Fabu versus my natural dark cynicism."

Defy Evolution

The new blog of polymath about town Stu Hill will be worthy of your frequent and diligent attention.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Winter Solstice Ride 2009


You might think this looks like the cover of a Pogues bootleg, but in fact it is CTB dispensing whisky to the 14 true believers who made it up Maungakiekie at 6am on Saturday morning for the Winter Solstice Ride.

Fortified with the finest Scotch, CTB led us on a helterskelter tour of suburban roads, cycleways and footpaths of Auckland to Dispensary Bar, which turned us away, and thence to the welcoming Shakepeare Tavern.

After a couple of warming pints, we took ourselves to Headquarters at the Viaduct Basin for breakfast, followed by a laps of Tamaki Drive.


Half a Cowboy Breakfast

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Money, Mouth v1.1

Tim Woolford is very sure that I will be buying him a box of beer after the Tour de France Prologue.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Money, Mouth #2

I feel compelled to report that Celebrity Economist Chris Tennent-Brown has wagered $500 with Andrew 'Walt' Walton, that he, CTB, will crush Walt on the 2009 edition of the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge, and that he will do so riding his Ken Evans or some similar bike with a steel frame, friction shifting and no more than 7 speeds.

It is my understanding that this is, in fact, a vendetta thinly diguised as a bet, and that Walt could get himself off the hook simply by buying the Colnago master frame currently languishing at CYCO.

Money, Mouth #1

From: David Benson
Sent: Friday, 22 May 2009 9:02 a.m.
To: timwoolford
Cc: James Lewis
Subject: RE:

Dude, you're on.

From: timwoolford
Sent: Friday, 22 May 2009 9:01 a.m.
To: David Benson
Cc: James Lewis
Subject: RE:

Box of beers says he buries EVERYONE at the TDF prologue in Monaco!

Tim Woolford

From David Benson
22 May 2009 08:41
To "James Lewis" , Tim WOOLFORD cc

Subject RE:
Our Ref
Spartacus (Cancellara) is a pussy

Tuesday, March 31, 2009


I had entered to ride The Dual on last Saturday, but full of apathy,I deputised the redoubtable Jimmy to impersonate me.
This was a stroke of genius on my part, as I did not feel the slightest pang of discomfort when Jimmy underwent a veritable calvary of by cramp 10kms from the finish.

Not to be totally indolent, I got out on the fixie both days of the weekend.
Saturday I headed into Auckland, catching Carl Dickinson on his immaculate 80s Pinarello in St Heliers, then tagging along with Bob Tuxford and Calvin Bartley from Herne Bay to Mt Eden.
Sunday morning, I headed South expecting a less sociable ride, but found Murray Grace, looking dangerously fit, a couple of clicks from Kingseat.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Front mounting bracket
Originally uploaded by bensondoc
When I got my Breakaway fixie frame, I chickened out on brazing on some mudguard fittings, with the excuse that mudguards on a bike with track dropouts would be a pain in the ass.
After a winter of riding with wet ass, I wish I'd made the effort.
Fortunately the humble ziptie makes a fine substitute for a mudguard eyelet, but the lack of a chainstay bridge called for some ingenuity. Inspired by the nifty seat tube widget that comes with the Berthoud Carbon mudguards,I adapted a Blackburn taillight bracket to secure the front part of the rear guard.


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Best in Show

mar2009 463
Originally uploaded by sal_bass
Although it didn't win any awards at NAHBS, this unpainted fillet brazed Kirk gets my vote.