Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Around the Bay in a Rotovelo (210kms)

Guest Blogger: Tim Leed

Well, I picked up my shiny new blue Rotovelo, complete with Rohloff hub thingy a few weeks before the Round the Bay (RTB) event. Ben at Trisled had told me that they were having their formal release event at the bike expo there, and it got me thinking. I’d never done RTB before, but as soon as i got Rotovelo and started riding to work, i realised that it was a fairly quick machine, and i started thinking about entering. The big question was: What distance?

After not being able to organise any other Rotovelo riders to ride with me, i bit the bullet and booked for the 210km course. Mind you, this was only about 2 weeks before the event, so i thought i better start training. My ride to work is only 11km or so, but there are a couple of good hills. The wednesday before the event i rode 120k’s, which was fine, i averaged about 29km/h, but had sore knees afterwards (not enough riding practise me thinks!). That means no more riding until the big day.

I was lucky enough to have a mate who lived maybe 500m from the start, and was able to crash there the night before. It would have been a perfect start, if i hadn’t locked the house, just about to get into Rotovelo when i realised i’d left my helmet inside. Spent 15mins trying to wake up my mate, then i was off.

The start line was of course full of eager people on their upright machines, but i managed to find another guy on a recumbent trike up the back to start with. I’d been told to start up the back. Anyway, after waiting around for what seemed like ages, the line started to move, slowly. Heavy traffic was fine in Rotovelo, people didn’t have a problem noticing me, my only problem was going so slow.

I was thinking to myself that i really need to concentrate on pacing myself, but only doing 20km/h with the majority of the riders up the back was just too much. As we worked our way through the lights and inner city streets i started to wind it up a bit, and got the first of what would be a very common reaction from riders as i crept (or sped) past them: WTF!, OMG, Sh##, and lots of other expressions of surprise. Not to mention people asking if i had a coffee machine inside, mini bar etc. Perhaps the funniest was pulling up at one set of lights with one of the 1st Aid Motorbikes behind me. The riders next to me didn’t notice the motorbike and assumed i had a thumping 500cc motor tucked into my shell!

So, by now i’m out onto Beach road, the bike traffic is starting to thin out a bit, and the speeds are creeping up. I find myself sitting on 35km/h now, and feeling real good. I’m getting a few riders frustrated as they tuck in behind me and then realise that i’m too slippery to pull them along.

I stop for my first break at about the 50k mark, it was just before Olivers Hill in Frankston. Well, wasn’t that a great hill to ride up! I had changed the drive sprocket to give me a higher top speed and was concerned about my ability to get up steep hills, but i managed ok. I don’t know how many of the people who had passed me going UP the hill i whizzed past going DOWN. I had some sensational runs heading down where i managed to time the lights just right and overtook 50 or 100 people at a time. Extended downhill sections are almost beyond my ability to describe - I’m in a completely different speed class - got to use the mirror heaps and make sure cars are out of the way because I’m spending all the time overtaking.

I’m really happy with the handling of Rotovelo here - with brakes on both front wheels i can actually help steering by using the brakes - extremely handy when taking emergency avoidance measures at top speed - which on some of these hills is around the 70km/h mark. Soooo many riders are sitting on the right hand side of the lanes. I’m getting really good at calling out "ON YA RIGHT". The run from Dromana on is pretty flat and by this stage i’m starting to feel a bit tired, wondering if i’m going to make it, and then all of a sudden I’m at Sorrento and in the line for the Ferry.

The break was nice, although no chance of getting to the toilets on the boat! One of the cool things about Rotovelo was having room to put stuff - so i had long pants and a warm jacket to wear whilst not riding. Once across the other side we were back into it. This was where the head winds started to kick in, but for me, hills were more of a problem, head winds slow the upright guys down instead! I stopped for a break at a rest stop set up at a servo. Would have been a great photo of Rotovelo next to the fuel bowser!

All of a sudden it started bucketing down with rain - people were dragging their bikes under cover and trying to keep out of the rain. I just put my cover on and hit the road. Well, the rest stop was at the top of a hill, so i let it rip. Did you know that rain drops really sting at 70+km/h? It was a fantastic descent, long straight road, multi lanes, no traffic, and didn’t get stopped at the lights.

Geelong was frustrating - lots of lights, and it felt like the course was going in circles, i was really looking forward to getting out onto the Hwy and pointing towards the finish, not to mention having that nice tailwind. Had my last stop at the BP on the Freeway, and filled up on mars bars and fizzy energy drinks. I knew that we didn’t stay on the freeway the whole way, but it was a real bugger doing all the twisting and turning rather than just sticking on the Freeway.

Eventually i found myself at the Westgate Bridge, and stopped at the base to stick a camera to the bike as i wanted to record the trip over. Going up the bridge wasn’t so bad, even after riding so far. By this stage the bike traffic was really thin and i was in my own little world. I crested the top of the bridge, with a massive gap before the next person in front, and started to go. The whole time up the bridge i had been commentating to the camera.

Then i’m overtaking cars (speed limit was 60), now i’m cracking 75km/h, but the person who was miles ahead of me is now just ahead, and even worse, they are riding on the right hand side of the bike lane, and i can’t safely overtake at speed or yell out to them. So i slow down, ask her to politely move out of the way, then get into it again. But there is not much bridge left now, and i can only get back up to 70k’s before having to turn off. Grrrrrr!

The last bit of the ride was great - mixed emotions from me as i realised i was going to make it. The finish line was good - people cheering, cameras flashing and me zooming in on Rotovelo. Boy was i glad to finish! Met up with Ben and the Trisled team at their display and had a good chinwag.

Final stats: For a distance of 220kms or so, average speed of 26km/h, which i was very happy with considering my lack of fitness and training. Max speed 77km/h down the bridge. No problems with the bike at all. If i had got a dollar for every toot from a car on the course i would be a rich man! Found out that my miniature camera didn’t record - bummer! But do you want to know the funny part? A few weeks later, i was checking over my Rotovelo prior to riding to work, and i actually put a tyre gauge on it, rather than just feeling the tyres (like i do on the mtn bike). Well, the pressure was less than half the recommended, so i pumped them up and had a 10% increase on my average speed. Now if only i had pumped them up prior to RTB!


  1. Yup, tyre pressure really makes a difference. I struggled home at 30kph the other day mumbling under my breath about the headwind only to discover, like you, that my tyres were half flat. Less than 3 bar in the front right tyre, the other two maybe 4 bar. This morning was quite different, I cruised home (the slightly uphill ride) at 35-40kph going "ooh, maybe I've got fitter :)