Tag Archives: group riding

Not a great way to start the day….


Dear Rouleurs,

I have to say I’m a bit perturbed and wondering whether riding on the road in Melbourne between 7am and 8am in the morning is such a clever idea.  Let me explain………

Last week, I’m riding back from Sandringham and I’ve managed to latch on a peloton that’s travelling about 30Km/h.  I’m at the back and enjoying the slipstream on what has become a bright sunny day.  The bunch turns the corner from St Kilda Rd into Marine Drive and speeds through Elwood.  Suddenly, the bunch is breaking and zig-zaging.  A few rude words go through my head, but I stay upright and moving.  Thank God…

A few of bunch stop.  I see the reason why.  There’s rider down and he’s in bad way.  He’s lost a lot of skin, he can’t move and he doesn’t know where he is.  I pull over.  Another rider and I move him off the road and lay him flat on the path.  Someone’s taken bike off the side of the road and more riders are stopping. Traffic is breaking and moving out the lane.

I take a look at the rider, he’s bespectacled, in his 20’s and has gravel pock marks on his face that are bleeding.  He’s in a lot of pain and going into shock.  His mates turn up and are shocked by his condition.  The rider’s name is Raf and the remains of his shredded jersey and bib shorts identifies him as a member of the St Kilda Cycling Club. I pull out my phone and call triple ‘000’.  This poor guy needs an ambulance, quickly.  I realise I  haven’t called ‘000’ in a very long time. It feels surreal.

My call hits an IVR, I request ambulance and about 15 seconds later I’m talking to a human female operator.  Good, I hate talking to phone robots with dysfunctional language recognition. By this time, Raf’s mates have twigged that medical help is needed and start pull out their phones.  They are in shock but have regained their composure to act.  One of Raf’s mates tells them not to call I’m already on the phone.  One of them takes off their jacket and places it on Raf to keep him warm.  Somehow, another of Raf’s mates has his Mother’s mobile phone number.  She’s on her way to meet us.

The operator asks me some screening questions about Raf.  This were I find out that Raf has somehow come off his bike at 45 km/h, detached, hit then bounced over the curb.  He’s slid 6m on the gravel between the curb and footpath and collided with a No Standing sign.  That must of really hurt. This were it becomes tricky.  The operator wants to know our location.  I haven’t got my glasses on.  I ask one of the riders what the nearest cross streets.  It’s Kingsley St, but the operator can’t find it.  Some of the riders use their mobile phones to access Google Maps.  The name of this road is confusing, it could be Marine Drive or Ormond Esplanade.

I’m really worried and becoming frustrated by how long this is taking.  Finally, one of the riders identifies our location as 135 Marine Drive Elwood.  This still doesn’t seem to help the operator.  The same rider identifies St Kilda Road Brighton as the next major intersection.  This seems gel with the operator and an ambulance is dispatched.  Now we wait.  I talk to two riders that seem to know him.  Some of the other riders talk to Raf.  He’s conscious and can speak.  I hope these are good signs. I ring my wife and explain that I won’t be meeting her for coffee.

The Ambulance seems to take an eternity and worse still its headed up St Kilda Road.  Riders wave trying to get the driver’s attention.  Shit…the ambulance going the wrong way .  I reach for my phone.  Fortunately, it swings around comes towards us.  Other riders start to leave.  The show’s over.  Raf’s mates speak to the two impossibly young paramedics who arrive on the scene.  Dear God…they look like kids, there’s a Asian looking guy with goatee and strawberry blonde gal with her hair in a pony tail.  They swing into action.  The trolley is pulled out from the back of ambulance, along with a back board.  They ask questions of riders who witnessed the accident.  Apparently he’s jack-knifed his bike and gone over the handle bars.

Paramedics check Raf’s pulse and his blood pressure.  He’s able to explain that his back and wrist are very painful.  They wipe the blood from his face. Shit…he’s got gravel still embedded in skin of his face. I look at this helment.  Its also pock marked with gravel, however it is still in one piece.  I draw some comfort from this.  He hasn’t landed on or hit the curb with his head.  This explains why he’s conscious.

The Paramedics ask for assistance in rolling Raf onto the backboard and lifting him on to the trolley.  I can’t help, I’ve got dodgy discs in my back.  Raf’s mates help out. He’s being loaded into the ambulance.  I say goodbye the riders I’ve been speaking to and collect my bike. They are figuring where they are going next.  At this point, two people arrive. Judging by their age and gender, its Raf’s mother and sister. Their timing is impeccable as the ambulance is about to leave.

I place my bike on the road, mount the saddle and clip into the pedals.  I ride along the road as it changes from Ormond Esplanade, to Marine Drive, to Jacka Boulevard and finally to Beaconsfield Parade. I wonder why it isn’t just called one bloody name.  I’m soft pedalling and doing about 27 km/h.  I’m really twitchy about the traffic and divert to the bike path as soon as I can.  This morning has left me a little shaken and wondering how fine a line it is between cycling home to my wife and being in the back of an ambulance like Raf.

Until next time, ride safely,


Marv does the MS Cycle 2016

Dear Rouleurs,

A few weeks ago, one half of  Team MMT did the 50km version of the 2016 MS Cycle.  Back in 2013, Team MMT did the 30km version with a few friends.  We also had it in our calendar last year, but untimely bronchitis put  this half of the team into bed for a week.  Needless to say this was poorly timed and made MMT very grumpy for a few weeks afterwards.

Fortunately, the 2016 version was a really enjoyable experience.  Unlike last year’s atrocious conditions, the weather was cool, overcast and relatively windless.  The event started and finished at Flemington, which Team MMT had never visited before. Overall, the event was superbly organised, with one exception. The outbound route looped around through the traffic queuing to to use event parking which put many cars and cyclists in close proximity to each other. Really not cool. The course map is shown below:

MS Cycle 2016 Event Map

MS Cycle 2016 Event Map

The 50km route looped through a number of backstreets, lanes and bike paths in Flemington, West Melbourne, Kingsville and Altona that MMT had never ridden before.  Given the early start, the route was relatively car free and where the route changed direction or merged with traffic, volunteers were on hand to reduce any  road user ‘conflict’.   MMT had three highlights for the day:
1. Travelling over the Westgate Bridge and clocking 70 km/h on descent.
2. The volunteers were clearly cycling fans as they came prepared with cow bells and signs.
3. The village with post-event entertainment.

MMT has a few happy snaps to document the event.

Ready, Steady, Go....its MS Cycle 2016.

Ready, Steady, Go….its MS Cycle 2016.

View from the top, looking towards Port Melbourne.

View from the top, looking towards Port Melbourne.

Climbing leads to descending...which is much more fun :-)

Climbing leads to descending…fast …which is much more fun 🙂

Atrocious selfie on the Westgate. How the hell does Gen Y take these things??

Atrocious selfie on the Westgate. How the hell does Gen Y take these things??

Hanging with fellow rouleurs at the second rest stop.

Hanging with fellow rouleurs at the third rest stop. I lost the triathletes I was drafting here…oh well 🙂

Serious kudos to this rouler who carted his kids round the 30Km course. Finish line in the background.

Serious kudos to this rouler who carted his kids round the 30km course. Finish line in the background.

Overall, it was great fun and hope to participate in the event next year.

Until next time, ride safe


Dealing with obstacles on the road

The Breakaway

While Australian roads don’t resemble the cobbles of the European lowlands, there is no shortage of cracks, road side debris, pot holes, grates and worst of all slippery tram lines, to navigate.  Fortunately you can learn a few skills to deal with them.

The Leadout

I was watching a time-shifted copy of the 2014 Paris to Roubaix and kept hearing, care of Phil Ligget, what great bike handling skills Peter Sagan has. No doubt on the cobbles in French roads, you need them to stay out of trouble and in the race. That triggering me to think what bike handling skills should the average commuter or amateur have to deal with the hazards of the road.

The Peloton

Skill What to do
Pay Attention The best obstacle on the road is the one you see and avoid. Steer smoothly, check behind you and indicate which direction you are moving.  Its good etiquette to point out the obstacle you have seen to other behind you.
Float on Just like the lyrics of the Modest Mouse song ‘Float on’, once you’ve identified an obstacle try to hover on your saddle, keeping the pedals level and your body weight towards the rear. You are then in good shape to negotiate what’s coming up ahead of you.e.
Go faster and apply power This is exactly what the pros do on the cobbles, lower your gear, reduce your revs and apply power. This should enable you to ride over cracks and disintegrating road surface.
Be a shock absorber ‘Float on’ the bike but let you knees and elbows bend with the impacts.  This will hopefully stop pinch flats and buckled rims..
Pull a small ‘wheelie’ Just like the lyrics of the Modest Mouse song ‘Float on’, once you’ve identified an obstacle try to hover on your saddle, keeping the pedals level and your body weight towards the rear. You are then in good shape to negotiate what’s coming up ahead of you.e.
Jump, Jump, Jump Respect to one hit wonders Kris-Kross. I have to admit I’ve never tried this, but I’ve seen the pros do it, particularly over branches and street furniture.  The theory goes, bend down at the knees to compress your calves and thigh muscles. Do the ‘small wheelie’ but a fraction of second later uncurl your legs, causing you weigh to move upwards.  This should lift the rear wheel off the ground and over the obstacle.  Sounds hard and probably is.

Making the best of Melbourne’s windy days

Riding into the wind

The Lead Out

If you are like me, you dread riding into a howling headwind.  Whilst the tougher and dare I say fitter members of the Melbourne cycling fraternity might say ‘Harden up’, the reality is learning to cycle intelligently in the wind is a better option.  This post briefly describes how someone new to cycling can adjust to cycling in windy conditions, either alone or o as part of a group.

The Breakaway

Bottom line: Plan your route and check out http://www.bom.gov.au/marine/wind.shtml, to see the most recent wind forecast.

The Peloton

There are three basic conditions that the cyclist must deal with:

Headwind  Headwind Where the wind is predominately in your face. Using the ‘clock analogy’, the wind is somewhere between 11.00 am and 1.00 pm.
Crosswind Crosswind Where the wind is coming from either your left or right and catching your side profile. Using the Clock analogy, the wind  is either blowing from 9.00 to 11.00 am or 1.00 to 3.00 pm
Tailwind  Tailwind Where the wind is directly assisting you from behind.  The wind is behind you somewhere between 3.00 pm and 9.00 am.

Riding into a headwind

Rise to the challenge use headwinds as a means to build conditioning.  However if that’s not your thing, here’s a few tips for working into the wind.

Cycling by yourself  Your best tactic is tuck down into an aero position where you are seeking to minimize the vertical area presented to the wind, thus reducing drag.  Think racing car profile versus that of a bus.  Tuck your elbows in and place your hands on the drop part of the handle bars.  Try to align your head and torso with top bar of the frame.  If you are like me and have a bad back and tight hamstrings, try to duck down as best you can.  Word of warning, don’t fall in the trap of road watching, or you’ll run up the back of someone or collect an obstacle eg street furniture, pedestrian or as in my case a parked car….ouch.
Cycling with group  Your best tactic is to draft  the rider in front of you and let them create a pocket of broken air that you can slipstream into.  Its worth watching tour coverage of time trials or track cycling events to see how the pros do this.  Most columns I’ve read about this seem to suggest being no further than a bike length back to achieve the most benefit.  Word of warning, don’t overlap wheels with rider in front, lest risking a very angry conversation post-crash

Riding in crosswinds

I’ve always found these the toughest to ride in, particularly where the wind is blowing from 10 o’clock to 11 o’clock and pushing your line out into either the rest of cycling group or oncoming traffic.

Cycling by yourself Again, there’s not much you can do other tuck down into an aero position or plan a route that has some cover to break up the wind up.  On really windy days I’ve done laps of Albert Park Lake to break up the ride.
Cycling in Group Pelotons tend to arrange themselves into an angled formation called an echelon.  The leader bears the brunt of the wind and the rest of the group try to draft in the wind shadow created by the bike/body profile.  The formation resembles a diagonal line pointing away from the dominant direction of the wind. Last year, I saw the peloton bunch up so closely into the crosswind, that the formation looked like a gigantic elongated teardrop.  This made me wonder if this isn’t the preferred pattern for very large groups of competing teams.

Riding with a tailwind

Everyone’s favourite wind and makes you the rider feel like a tour champion, for as long as it lasts.

Cycling by yourself  Plan your route so that you return home with a tailwind.  There is nothing worse than a long slog home.  Keep an eye on the weather forecast to determine whether a change will come through and whether the direction may change.  I look at the BOM wind forecast (see above) to check strength and direction.
Cycling in a group  If you are racing, using a tailwind is a perfect time to launch an attack. Up the cadence, Tora! Tora! Tora!.  But like all good things, favourable winds will end.  Make sure you have left something in the ‘tank’, lest be left  behind.  Also don’t take unnecessary risks with newly found speed, going faster means landing harder in a crash.