Sunday, 29 April 2012

American Flyers - Movie Review

After watching Chasing Legends and A Sunday in Hell (two great films by the way), I was recently inspired to find out what other cycling-related movies were out there. A few Google searches later, I found this blurb for American Flyers on the Bicycling Magazine website, in a list of the 9 greatest cycling movies of all time:

"Pre–Bull Durham Kevin Costner in a mustache is one thing, but Rae-Dawn Chong’s wheel change is the real stunner in this fun story of two brothers who tackle the Hell of the West through the Rockies. Some of the details are ludicrous—the way the Russian pros bob and weave as they attack—but as celebration of the 1980s American cycling scene, with appearances by the 7-Eleven Team and the gone-but-missed Coors Classic, it’s worth your time."

I was hooked. Kevin Costner with a moustache, need I say more?! So needless to say, I sought this out and after a hard day out on the mountain bike I sat down with a beer and re-kindled my love of 80’s cheese. And I wasn’t disappointed.

This movie had it all: moustaches, beautiful flowing 80’s healthy hair, a love story, sports rivalry, montages, a token black man, a lame fight scene, all-star cameo’s (Eddy Merckx no less!), family drama, a health tragedy, a bit of gratuitous nudity and most importantly – awesome 80’s cock-rock. There’s even a scene with that girl from Fame that played Baby! Whatever happened to her career?!

You can’t take this movie too seriously. The story line is a bit lame, and the cycling is questionable. But, if you go into it with an open mind and a satirical mood, you can have fun taking the piss out of the barrage of cringe-worthy one-liners and sudden unexplained plot changes.

As far as the cycling goes, it’s a look back at a bygone era, where the bikes were steel and helmets were for sissies (even the cool sausage helmets). The main character chooses a cowboy hat, rather than risk looking like a dork with a helmet – that look is solely set aside for the ‘evil’ Russian national team! There is some great footage of the old 7-Eleven team, and the fictional race at the centre of the story, the Hell of the West, is based on the epic Coors Classic, which I understand was a brilliant stage-race that drew pro’s from all over the world.   

Overall, it was a fun flick, best enjoyed with your better half. It satisfies you as a cycling tragic, and it’ll satisfy them as a rom/com/drama that provides moment of hilarity with the lame 80’s cliché’s.

I give this one 3 ½ awesome Kevin Costner Moustaches.

Thursday, 26 April 2012


More often than not I find that other cyclists pose more of a threat than cars, motorbikes, trucks, trams and buses on the road! It’s a big call, I know, but when your daily commute includes the Main Yarra Trail, and when you are riding against the majority of the traffic, it is a reality.

It’s all got to do with overtaking. It seems the majority of cyclists out there don’t know how or when to overtake.

In the morning I ride away from the city, and in the evening I ride toward the city, consequently, I am riding into a constant stream of stressed, rabid city workers that are trying to get to work on time in the morning and in the evening they are racing home as fast as possible to get home to catch Charlie on the 7pm Project. On many occasions I’ve almost been cleaned up by some muppett overtaking a slower rider on blind corner. Seriously, my commute is basically a series of near miss head-on collisions!

So please people, pick your overtaking times well, wait for a long stretch of trail where you have ample room and time, and then overtake - just as you would when driving your car. 

Check out the Bicycle Network Victoria website for all the rules, laws and guidelines on safe cycling.

Another problem I see all too often is cyclists overtaking others when waiting at the lights. You know the scenario – you are waiting at the lights and some plonker rides up on his rusty 1980’s Schwinn and heads straight to the front, passing all the other waiting cyclists; the lights turn green and everyone is stuck behind this bloke, waiting for a safe opportunity to pass.

check out the drawing skills... awesome.
Not only is it rude, but it’s unsafe, it forces everyone else further out on the road to overtake. 

Riding up to the front of an intersection at a red light would be fine, if you are a fast, club cyclist, with a lot of experience, and you know that you wont be holding up anyone. If you’re not – just hang back and exercise some patience!

Tell me about your top commuting gripes in the comments below!

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Spotlight on Gerro!

Having found cycling a little later than some, I never really gave myself a chance to find cycling glory, at the age of 29 I started club racing for the first time, and now at almost 31, I do ok, I may even pick up a few placings here and there, but my best days are well and truly behind me - I know that, and I’m ok with it. What I love is when I see cyclists my age really taking it to the younger guys and not just taking it to them, but smashing them! I think this is part of the reason I have developed a serious man-crush on Gerro!

I don’t know much about Simon Gerrans, save for what Wikipedia has told me! Apparently he was born in Mansfield, in Victoria, and he took up cycling after his neighbour, none other than Australia’s first Yellow Jersey wearer, Phil Anderson, convinced him to get on the bike to get over a knee injury!

Over the summer I got to witness Gerro, Australia’s cyclist of the moment, take out the National Road Championships. He burned up the roads of Buninyong, earning himself the right to wear the national colours for the next 12 months, and take the win for the newly formed Green Edge cycling team. This was the start of what I’m sure will turn out to be his best year on the road, since turning professional in 2005.

Soon after the national champs Gerro took out the overall classification at the Tour Down Under (for the second time), and recorded yet another win for Green Edge. There was to be no monkey on the back of Green Edge, no hopelessly waiting around for an elusive first victory, Gerro had other ideas, he effectively gave them a dream start on the 2012 UCI World Tour. 

Then, as our attentions turned toward the one day classics in Europe, Gerro took the win at the Milan – San Remo, outsprinting two of the biggest names in cycling, Nibali and Cancellara. It was a brilliantly calculated ride and surely one of the highlights of his long career.

So often in cycling we see top cyclists battle, year in - year out, to get to the top, to find the form that will write them into the record books. I don’t know why it happens like this, but for some reason at different points in cyclists careers everything comes together and they suddenly go from a talented achiever to a champion. We saw it in 2011 with Phillipe Gilbert. It seems that Gerro has hit one of those elusive white-hot patches in his career and I hope he continues to ride the wave and keep on winning.
Not just ‘cause he’s an Aussie, more because he seems like a great bloke!

And the fact that he’s the same age as me gives me hope that I too can achieve some great things on the bike!  

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

The Online Edge

Apps and Websites for Melbourne Cyclists...

Bay Winds Page – For anyone who rides beach road regularly, this website is a must. We all know how strong the winds are in Melbourne and anything above a 25 knot headwind on beach road is a bit of a pain. This page allows you to monitor the direction of the wind and the strength, in real time. The site is updated fairly regularly, about every 20 minutes I believe, and includes a whole raft of other information including, temperature graphs, rainfall statistics and tidal activity. This is all interesting – and no doubt essential for sailors (who I think the page was originally intended for), but for us cyclists, it’s the wind data that is most useful. The page lacks any bells and whistles, which is refreshing, and helps with load times on mobile devices. I’m not entirely sure who to thank for this priceless resource, the disclaimer states that the page ‘used to be’ hosted by the University of Melbourne School of Earth Sciences, I suspect it is now hosted by some weather obsessed individual! And to them I say thankyou!

Oz Weather App – Ok, this is a bit of a no-brainer, but as my most frequently used app, I have to include it here. Unless you are some sort of sadomasochistic individual that gets pleasure from riding in wind, rain, and hail, most people like to avoid poor conditions if possible. This app allows you to track weather patterns using the radar functions. If poor weather is approaching your can estimate when it’s going to hit and make an educated guess on whether it’s heading for you! This is particularly useful for commuting, you are able to monitor the page and time your ride to or from work so that you miss the worst of the weather. Of course, the app has all those other weather functions that are useful for planning your rides, like long term forecasts for Melbourne and many other Australian cities.

Cycling Profiles Website – This website is simply brilliant, something I wish I’d thought of! The site lists heaps of rides around Melbourne and beyond, when you click on a ride you are given a map and a profile of the ride, with all of the crucial info included; the distance, the elevation, major features to look out for, and the classification, distance and percentage incline of the hills. The site collaborates with many clubs Northern Combine, Brunswick etc.) and social ride organisers (Cycling Victoria, Cycling Australia, Bicycle Victoria), and many professional charity ride organisers (Amy Gillet Foundation, Audax) so If you are doing a mass participation event, there’s a good chance your ride will be on here. The site has the double function of providing a ride calendar, so you can plan which charity/recreational rides you’ll fork over the dough for this year! People can submit their own ride profiles and the rides under the ‘Melbourne Popular’ category are a priceless tool for injecting some variation into training schedules. The site is easy to use and navigate and is regularly updated. With plans to expand the site for other states – I can see the popularity of this site will rapidly grow.

Log Your Ride App – There are a million fitness related apps out there and about half of those are related to logging or tracking your run or ride. This is just another one, but it is one that I’ve found works quite well. It’s relatively easy to use, it has a wide variety of functions and for those stat hungry cyclists – you can track just about everything, including heart rate and post it to your own personalized web page for analysis and gloating! After your ride you can see a map of exactly where you went, your total time, your distance, and your average pace, all of which can be compared to your on-board cycling computer for verification. And, as a little bonus, you can control your music through the app and you can program a chime to sound in your ears every time a kilometer clicks over (this can get a little annoying after while). The app is probably best used for multi-day tours or those closely tracking their training before a big event. Despite all of this, I must confess that I use this app fairly irregularly, and I don’t even try to use it if I know I’m going to be cycling through 3G blackspots (I’m with Vodafail so that means pretty much all of Melbourne!). I’m sure that all of the features listed pale into insignificance when compared to the features of a Garmin Edge, but for those of us without that sweet bit of kit, Log Your Ride is a pretty sweet alternative.

Bicycle Network Bike Event Calendar – There are many calendars available, but I find this one to be the most comprehensive. If you are like me, and you want to limit the amount of recreational or charity rides you do per year (mainly ‘cause they are so expensive!), this is a great site for helping choose exactly which ones to do. The site does not include competitive club road races and criteriums, you’d have to go to a club website for that sort of thing, but if you want an idea of what sort of community events are coming up – check out this website.