Indian Pacific Wheel Ride

In March I will be participating the Indian Pacific Wheel Ride (IPWR) and I want this challenge to be more than just me and my goals, I want it to have a lasting impact. So I am choosing to use my participation in the IPWR to support Mates4Mates. Our ‘Mates’ are the wounded, injured or ill current and ex-serving Australian Defence Force personnel. Our Mates deserve support as they continue the journey of rebuilding their lives. So please if you want to show your support for me in this challenge please consider making a small donation to Mates4Mates

https://mates4matescommunityfundraising2018.everydayhero.com/au/mark-croonen
Your support for this charity will provide very real motivation to complete this challenge.

About the ride:
On 17 MAR a band of intrepid riders will undertake a ride from Fremantle to Sydney, a total of 5500kms, it is totally unsupported, meaning riders carry everything they need (including water). For three weeks riders will do 300- 400k a day, starting long before the sun rises and well into night, grabbing a few hours’ sleep along the roadside before doing all again the next day. Food is whatever you can buy from the local roadhouse and a shower is luxury you might see every third or fourth day.  It is a ride of extremes, it starts with the desolate flats of the Nullarbor where temperatures can reach 45 degrees and ends with the riders having to go up and over the Great Divide twice. This is truly a challenge in every sense, mentally, physically and logistically.

For those interested in following the ride, you can view my progress and that of the other riders at
https://indianpacificwheelrace2018.maprogress.com/

And thank you in advance for your support.

Post Activity Report – IPWR qualifying ride

As part of my entry application for Indian Pacific Wheel Race I was required to complete a qualifying ride, I guess to demonstrate my ability to complete the race. Over two days I managed to ride 715 kilometres, here are my thoughts on the ride, what worked and didn’t work.

Day one Strava link
Day two Strava link

Bike Setup
Some notable points about my bike setup, I borrowed the Di2 shifters from my time trial bike for the aero bar extensions, and I rate this as a must-have. I spent a lot of time in the aero position so being able to change gears without moving my hands was definite advantage. Also being in the aero position meant I was taking the weight off the saddle and balanced my weight across more contact points.

People make too much of tyres. My primary criterion is the rubber is fresh, as this seems to be the biggest factor in puncture prevention. For the record, I ran a 23c Vittoria Rubino Pro on the front and a 25c Continental GP4000s II on the back. Why, because that is what I had lying around at the time.

A couple of days before the ride I fitted a Brooks Cambium C13 Saddle. Before leaving I had one ride on the saddle, and that was all it took. Brooks has always had a good reputation as a touring saddle, but it comes with the hassle of breaking them in. With the Cambium, they are ready to go. Coupled with a recommendation to use Bepanthan early and often, I couldn’t have been happier in that department.

For me, the jury is still out wheel selection. For this ride, I used a set of 45mm Pro-lite Gavia. The wheels performed well, but I can’t help wonder if they are the best solution for the race. The problem is the IPWR has two distinct sections. The 45mm wheels will be great for the Perth to Adelaide section which is long and flat, but for the Melbourne to Canberra stage, I suspect a lighter climbing wheel will be better.

Another notable change I am considering is ditching the 53/39 crankset and using a compact 50/34. The logic being I cannot see there will be many situations I would want to push a 53/11 but having a 34/28 would be handy when it comes to crossing the Great Divide.

Electronics
As is the case these days, we have too many devices which require power, gone are the good ole day of just man and machine. Now it is man, mobile phone, lights, Garmin, Di2 and machine. Here is my biggest tip of the article. Turn off all the services on your phone before you leave, it will extend the battery life massively; you don’t need Wi-fi, Bluetooth or mobile data. You don’t need to check your Facebook messages while you are riding. You can of course always enable these services when you stop to post updates.

The two things I used my phone for are music and maps. For music, I downloaded my Spotify playlist. For maps, I use an Android app called Locus maps which has offline maps, so it doesn’t require a data connection. As for Bluetooth headphones, go old school and get some wired ones, the last thing you need is hassle of trying to keep them charged as well.

A sustain for me was the use of the Garmin Varia rear radar. On the quieter country highways with limited shoulders this is an essential piece of kit. It is better than a mirror as it provides an audible alert as a car approaches from about 150 metres out, this gives you enough time to assess the situation and get off the road if you had to. The downside, it’s another device that needs charging. On a good day you’ll get about 7 hours from one charge. Because I had other lights, I only used it when I needed, to extend the battery.

So how did I keep the lights on? By turning off the services on my phone, that survived the day nicely. For my Garmin Edge 520 and the Varia radar I used two separate “power-banks”. For the Edge I used a 2200mAh unit, and the Varia had a 5200mAh unit, total weight 184 grams. For the IPWR I intend to a single 10400mAh device with inbuilt solar panel to assist in recharging, in total 240 grams. Importantly only having one power-bank will make it easier to charge the devices at night. I also enforced “power discipline”, that is, turn off all your devices when you stop. On an average day you’ll be taking about 2 hours of breaks, that’s 2 hours of battery life you can use while riding instead.

Packing
Here is my full pack list. It is more than I needed for a two-day trip but I wanted a full load to test my loading for the race.

Tools Personal care Electronics Clothing
Altum Multi-tool Sunscreen Phone 2 x Jerseys
Patches Lip balm headphones Knicks
Cable ties Anti-inflammatory AAA batteries 2 x Socks
Quick link Pain relief USB cables Arm warmers
Various Spare bolts Caffeine tablets 2 x power-bank Rain jacket
Tyre levers Toothpaste Ay up  front light Cycling shoes
Replacement spokes Toothbrush Garmin varia radar Cap
Chain lube Travel towel Ay Up front spare cycling mitts
Cleaning brush Bivvy bag 2 x topeak rear light Gloves
Wipe/rag Chewing gum Spot tracker Leg Compression
Valve core remover Anti-rash (Bepathan) 2 x USB wall charger Shorts
Emergency boot First aid kit Ay Up charger T shirt
Pump Razor Garmin edge 520 Reflective ankle straps
Tape Hi-vis Sam Brown belt
2 x tubes 2 x credit cards Gillet
Presta valve converter Backsack

Broadly I divided my load into three sections

  • Stuff needed while riding  went in the Topeak TopLoader, this was mainly snacks, Electrolyte tabs. Powerbank Sunscreen etc.
  • Stuff needed while I stopped on the roadside went in the frame bag. Tools, some food, spares, batteries.
  • Stuffed needed for end of the day went in the Revelate Terrapin. Clothes, Bivvy Bag, chargers, emergency rations.

Overall it worked well, but I felt the frame bag was slightly inefficient. I only have about 3kg of gear which is well within the weight limit for the Terrapin so I may look to ditch the frame bag and load more into the Terrapin. I can strap some items under the top tube and get rid of the frame bag will reduce the weight and make it easier to access the bidons.

Another sustain for me was taking a drawstring backsack. Super light and came in very useful as temporary storage for a bottle of water or food.

Food

Listen to your body, every person is different, but this is what worked for me. I quickly became intolerant to sweet high carb things, which you usually associate with high energy requirements. By the first afternoon I could not stomach anything sweet like banana bread. In the heat of the day salted crisps and coke worked for me, it is amazing how far you can ride on coke and chips. On day two I discovered fruit, it was easy to consume whether it was fresh or prepackaged. Other things that worked, milk at night as part of my recovery, it is cheap and high in protein. Just don’t try milk in the middle of day, I can’t sure, but I think the ice coffee I had with lunch led to nasty stomach cramps. Almonds are also a good ride snack and another good source of protein.

On hydration, you can’t get enough of it and remember, when touring never leave town without two full bidons. It can get hot very quickly, and you can suddenly find yourself consuming a lot of water. Be safe, carry water at all times.

Roads
The roads were in good condition for most of the ride. The width of the road shoulder varied from extreme to non-existent as you would expect. Surprisingly I thought the Bruce and the old Bruce Highway were some of the safer sections; both had a generous road shoulder the road surface was of high quality. While the road shoulder on the roads north of Gympie was limited, as you would expect, the traffic was also reasonably light so on balance I felt quite safe there. For me the worst sections where closer to Brisbane, Beerburrum Road and Steve Irwin Road, limited shoulders and high volume of traffic made it less than pleasant.

One good tip came from the local police in Goomeri. As it turns out, they have sealed the rail trail from Murgon through to Kingaroy. The quality of the hot-mix is probably a little below par but still beats riding on the road.

In total the trail is around 43 kilometres long, and after a long day on the bike it was nice to be off the road and able to relax.

Environment
As it happened the date, I chose for my qualifying ride turned out to be on the warmer side of pleasant, with temperatures reaching 35 plus degrees Celsius inland. It was tough on the first day with a lot of climbing and a tailwind which was only strong enough to neutralise any cooling effect from the air you would normally get from air passing over you while riding.

Day two saw a stronger tailwind coming home down the coast, and it would have been a good day except for the evening thunderstorm which had me completing the last two hours on dark, wet Brisbane roads, what could possibly go wrong!

Sun-care
In addition to the standard skin cancer risks which come with getting burnt, it is worth keeping in mind through dehydration and sweat your skin is going to be feeling pretty “tight”, the last thing you need is to compound this feeling with sunburn. You might want to consider the use of sun sleeves, but in the past I’ve found if it is hot, they become too uncomfortable..

Heat stress
The heat was a significant factor, and I see the reasoning why ultra-endurance cyclists ride through the night or in the early hours of the morning. My experience of riding in the afternoon heat was it was physically taxing and challenging to keep the food intake up. It wasn’t just that fatigue setting in, it was noticeable, as soon as the sunset I felt stronger again and was able to continue riding comfortably. There is merit in the idea of starting early, stopping for an afternoon siesta and then ride on into the night.

Other riding notes
The ride was good for me to assess my abilities. In the short term, I demonstrated I could ride 350k back to back. Which is rather cool but I can’t see myself sustaining that pace for the entire race.

The smell!! To keep the weight down, I am looking to do the ride with one set of lycra. Even with rinsing the jersey out overnight it was still pretty ripe by the end of the second day. Image what it is going to be like after 5500k’s. Actually, at times I felt pretty close to hobo status.

2016 My year in review

Overall I would rate 2016 as a pretty good year for my cycling. Once again achieving my annual goal 15,000kms, which included one 300km ride to Toowoomba and three 200k rides to various parts of Brisbane.

The Toowoomba ride was particularly satisfying as it was my first 300k ride in three years and it was good to know I could still do it.

It was a great ride via the back roads of the Lockyer Valley so the traffic was minimal. A couple of good climbs (Mt Glorious and the Toowoomba Range) as well, both are in the first half of the ride so the legs are still relatively fresh when you hit them.  The downside was head wind coming home, the Laidley to Rosewood leg wasn’t much fun when you already have 200kms in your legs. By the time I arrived at Rosewood I was really struggling so I stopped at the local shop to take on some more snacks. While sitting there, working my way through a packet of salty corn chips, the band at the pub across the road started playing “Poor, Poor, Pitiful Me”, summed it up nicely I thought. I don’t know if was the song or the corn chips but after stopping at Rosewood I gained my second wind and the ride home from there was pretty strong.

The 200k rides were

  • A ride to Kilcoy for a pie with Adam. I’ve done this ride a couple of times, nice ride but the climb up the reverse side of Mt Mee after 140k is tough, on a hot day, it’s brutal
  • HWCC Century ride, This is the Hamilton Wheelers annual century (100 mile) club ride. I always add a little extra to it make it an easy 200k and the stop at the Landborough bakery is always welcome.
  • The Brisbane to Gold Coast ride with the added extra of riding back to Brisbane. While it is flat route it turned out to be a tough ride. Even though this is not a race, it certainly travels along at race pace, completing the 100k ride in 2.5 hours.

On the race front it was definitely a good year, with some of my best results in years.

  • 1st Tour de Valley ITT 40-49 age group (4rd fastest overall) –
  • 1st QLD TTT Championships M4/5 (2nd fastest team overall)
  • 3rd QLD ITT Championships M4 (6th fastest overall)
  • 1st HWCC Road Championships
  • 2nd HWCC ITT Championships
  • 1st Interclub Challenge B grade
  • 1st Mooloolaba Triathlon Mixed team (Fastest team overall, 2nd fastest bike leg)

2016 saw the rise of Zwift as a serious training tool for me, racking up over 3000kms on the indoor trainer so the year.  What I particularly liked and found useful was the ability to import my training workouts from Today’s Plan. This made doing the workouts super easy and doing specific intervals on the trainer allows you to them with a high level of precision. No hills, descents, stop signs or turns to interfere with your interval, allowing you to tap out a perfect 3 x 20 minute intervals at 300 watts. Later in the year I discovered virtual  racing on Zwift, It’s really kinda cool being able to race people around the world from your own garage but make no mistake, virtual racing can be as tough as the real thing.

Finally on the club front, it was another year as the Vice President of the Hamilton Wheelers. Probably my most pleasing contribution to the club for 2016 was the proposal for new Time Trial course out at Pinkenba. As it turns out, the course was well received by the riders, so much so that it will now be used as the preferred TT course for the club in 2017. Always nice to give something back to the sport.

The Challenge is on – Brisbane to Townsville

Well it’s started, over the next 8 days I’ll be on an epic 1600k ride from Brisbane to Townsville Why am I doing it? Well I am hoping it is going to be a lot of fun. Also to support the Mater Hospital’s cancer research program and it is not too late to show your support by making a small donation to help find a cure. Just follow the link https://secure.artezpacific.com/registrant/FundraisingPage.aspx?registrationID=838730 In addition to supporting a great cause your donation is also a great source of inspiration for me on the road So thanks in advance and I’ll keep you updated via daily posts on twitter.

The Smiddy Challenge – Brisbane to Townsville

In a few short weeks I’ll be heading off on a bike ride from Brisbane to Townsville over 8 days in support of the Mater Hospital’s cancer research program.

imageAs a last minute effort to bolster my funding effort I have organised a small prize draw as a thank you to all those who donate in these final weeks before the ride.

The major prize will be a new Garmin 520 Edge valued at $399

With 2 minor prizes of consisting of a;

If you would like a chance to pick up a new Gamin 520 Edge simply make a donation of $5 or more using this link
https://secure.artezpacific.com/registrant/FundraisingPage.aspx?registrationID=838730

The prize draw will occur on Thursday Morning, 27 AUG.
Remember all donations are tax deductible.

In addition to everyone who donates there are two offers to say thank you. (Details of the offers will be emailed to you)

  • Today’s plan are offering 40% of your donation back as credit on one their training plans. (to maximum of $50 credit).
  • Winners Sports Nutrition are offering a 10% discount on their products.

A quick word on the offers.

Today’s Plan http://www.todaysplan.com.au/
If you have ever thought about getting a coach or training program I can highly recommend Today’s plan. I’ve been on their programs for about 9 months now and have been extremely happy with the results. All the programs are personalised to your goals (and it doesn’t just have to be racing) and at a fraction of the cost of what a personal coach will cost you.

Winner’s Nutrition http://winnersbars.com.au/
While it might be a cheesy name, their products are certainly worth trying. What I like best about their products is it feels like you are eating real food which has not been over processed like some others are. If you don’t believe me, believe Cadel, he endorses their products :). They are an Australian company and certainly worth supporting. Also as a tip, their products are available in Coles so you can try them out and then if you like them, buy them in bulk online.

* prize draw fine print. Under QLD prize draws without a permit are limited a total $2000. In the unlikely event more than $2000 is raised additional prize draws will arranged with prizes (most likely gift vouchers) to the value of 20% of the money raised. This wishful thinking but needs to said