Sunday, January 22, 2012

Mind Games and "The Ninja"

Monday saw me road-tripping it down to Wellington after work to pick up my new Yeti ASR5C (what a sweet way to start the week!). I could barely contain my excitement and spent the entire trip with my car stereo cranked up singing along to my favorite riding tunes (that I would admit to this in writing on a public forum really shows I have very little shame). I arrived at Roadworks to be greeted by two things I have been looking forward to immensely for some time now. Firstly, meeting the great man who was building my rig, Oli Brooke-White, and secondly, being united with my long-awaited Yeti ASR5C... And both well-exceeded my expectations. Oli is a such a dedicated, passionate man about his work... His modest workshop is decked out with the coolest bling and memorabilia and he takes such pride in his work. My new bike was an absolute masterpiece at his hands. The geometry and set up was just about perfect, cables trimmed perfectly, and he diarised the whole build in photo form to Facebook, so I could see it unfold. What a top dude! The bike was superb. Nearly entirely black (including the forks) with the odd bit of shiny bling and the gold kashima shocks. With my reputation for being a bit of an expert in the art of stealth, practical jokes and scaring people at work, it seemed that there was no other name for my new weapon than "The Ninja". I piled The Ninja lovingly into my car, thanked Oli for his outstanding work, tripped into the city and had a quick catch-up with John and then headed home to sit the bike in my living room and stare at it all evening...

On Tuesday, I took The Ninja to work with me and had to look at it sitting in my office all day before I could take it out for a blat (what a tease!). As soon as quitting time rolled around, I rocked out the door into a lovely Summer's evening and headed out to Kohitere Forest at Levin. As soon as I jumped on my new Yeti ASR5C, I felt at home. This is the first full carbon mountain bike I have owned, probably mainly because up until now, not many manufacturers made extra small carbon frames. The bike weighs in at 10.7kg (not bad for a full sus rig!) and is kitted out with a full XTR groupset and wheels, Enve Bars, Thompson seatpost, a lovely carbon Ritchey stem, Chris King headset, Fox Float 32 forks and RP23 rear shock, both with the lovely gold kashima coating and my favourite saddle, the Selle SMP Lite 209 (massive thanks to Kashi at Yeti NZ for helping me select the right components!). You can tell by the detail in the frame just how exceptional the quality is (something I have come to expect over the years from Yeti!). It is, by far, the coolest bike I have ever owned. But enough about specs and looks... How does it ride? It feels amazing. The bike climbs like a mountain goat, effortlessly skipping over roots and the rear end tracks the ground really well once you get the air pressure in the rear shock correct. I think it would be safe to say I have never ridden a full suspension bike that climbs so well, and I'm really looking forward to giving it some stick at the St James Epic next weekend, with 1900m of climbing. The Ninja even lived up to it's name rather well as the mountain bike track crossed close to a walking track (I was obviously really stealth and Ninja-like and scared the living crap out of a walker as I ninja'd my way up the trail). As I hit the top of the climb, I had effortlessly beaten my previous quickest time up Warpath, which I was unsurprised with. As I cruised along Top Track, it became quite evident that The Ninja was capable of some pretty dangerous speeds and as I dropped in off the top of the forest on Gardiner track, I was careful to bleed the speed a bit on the descent. The bike rolled exceptionally well and felt stiff, but not rough. It tracked the ground well, much like the 575, and felt really nice and racy. The XTR componentry is a pleasure to ride with... The brakes are super responsive and the gear changes are really crisp. I got a couple of laps of the forest in, but as suspected, my training ride turned largely into a bike porn photo shoot, especially since it was such a lovely evening to be out in the forest. As I made my way back to the car right on sunset, I couldn't wipe the smile off my face. I headed home a very happy, muddy biker.

Wednesday saw the return of my beloved hill climbs and after five pretty hard weeks straight of training, I was really starting to feel the pinch. I had nine 5min reps to do today and to be honest, I felt pretty smashed. It was really hard to fathom jumping on the bike after a long day at work and smashing hills for a couple of hours solid... But there I was, out on the road up Ngahere Park over and over. Unfortunately, I didn't smash my PB again this week, but I did pretty much equal it, and my climbs are getting consistently better... My second climb was much on par with my eighth, which was quite pleasing. It was a really strange session, actually. I don't remember much going on in my head (in fact, I remember I had to keep switching over to the elevation profile screen on my GPS to count how many climbs I had done), but at the end of the session, I was pleasantly surprised with how well the session had gone. Thursday's session came and went with some hard intervals and heinous crosswinds and headwinds to contend with (how come I never seem to get a tail wind???) after a morning plyometrics session.

I was really running on empty towards the end of the week, and Saturday was looking to be a busy day. I got up at 6am and was out on The Ninja by 7am (taking my lovely new bike out for a spin was certainly a good motivator!) for a four hour ride. It was quite a pleasant morning and I headed up and over North Range Road to Ballance Bridge on the other side and back. I felt pretty stuffed, to be honest. My heart rate sat really low, but my average speed for the ride was surprisingly quick. I also found the climbs fell away from under me with relative ease, and I gave a couple of roadies a run for their money up Pahiatua Track on my mountain bike, so it wasn't by any means all bad. I really enjoy the North Range ride. There's a real sense of solitude as you snake your way through the wind farm, rarely seeing anyone else. The windmills swoosh round and round like giant soldiers on the side of the hill and the views are spectacular. The Ninja performed very nicely again, and once I got home, I gave it a quick clean and jumped into my work uniform to head out to Himitangi Beach for the annual Big Dig, which we were sponsoring. I wasn't feeling much like heading out to the event, but I was so glad I did. The weather at the beach was lovely, asides from a small breeze and the turnout was great! The Big Dig is an event that More FM run (and Mitre 10 MEGA sponsor) annually to raise funds for local surf lifesaving. Basically, they bury a bunch of tokens in a fenced off area and you dig for tokens to win a prize... Pretty crazy stuff, but great fun, and it was a really good feeling to be involved in such a great community event.

Sunday morning was another early one and I left memorial park at 8am with a bunch of other roadies for an 80km road ride, which was actually rather civilised. I was pretty relieved to be in a bunch today, as the wind had picked up again and it was nice to rotate through and get a bit of a break from sitting with the wind in your face the whole way. I was home by 11am and quite happy to have a cruisy afternoon of napping, reading, writing, eating, drinking herbal tea and chilling out to some favourite tunes. I'm pretty stoked to have an "easy" week coming up this week, and then John and I head off to the St James Epic next weekend on the south island (it's going to be an absolute hoot!)

Cape Epic is growing nearer at an alarming rate. As a part of our team campaign, we have decided to support a worthy cause. World Bicycle Relief provide bikes to children and women in impoverished areas so they can have access to basics we take for granted... Things like water, food and education... It's a real representation of the grass-roots purpose of a bike and a fantastic cause. Please help us raise funds by donating on our page

I think probably the most defining memory of my week this week (asides from getting my cool new bike!) was how my mindset switched on Wednesday night when I was doing my hill rep session. I just kept thinking to myself "switch your head off, switch your legs on, and just keep digging until you find something that you didn't think was there"... And I did find it... And I kept doing that for the rest of the week, just living out my training schedule running on little more than grit and determination. It's such a great feeling to know I can do that, because I reckon it will matter more than ever come Cape Epic in nine weeks time.

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