Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Launched New Website

I have launched my new website - can be found by visiting www.danielcarruthers.com 
Please follow me through Networked Blogs - displayed on the right of the home page and I will be providing the RSS link soon

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Riding with your Wife - Part 2

The previous posting on Riding with Your Wife was a very popular article and recently Jen and I tackled an epic ride from Taipei to Taichung - 185kms with a group from the 7th Park Bike Shop. From this ride, some additional tips emerged that are worth writing about. She managed to ride 120kms before she had to stop and get onto the support bus that was following. It was a record number of kilometers for her, previous best was only 51kms! She does not ride very often and in the couple of weeks leading up to the ride, she did regular "training" on the indoor trainer to get used to sitting on the bike (i.e break the butt in) and give the legs some indication of what is to come. The training noticeably improved her aerobic capabilities and the ability to ride for longer before fatiguing.

Once we were on the wind-swept coast, she commented "Why is everyone just rolling by me like I am standing still?". Most of the people on the ride seemed to be going by effortlessly and she was very discouraged as she was working hard herself (heart rate in the 180s). So, I asked her if she wanted to be pushed and I was granted permission. Up till this point my ride was incredibly easy - averaging only 75 watts with alot of coasting. This changed when I started pushing my wife - I was suddenly outputting alot more power and now we were both passing people like they were standing still. Jen had a blast being in the pole-position, while I was slightly behind her with my left hand on her hip while I pedaled hard to catch up. We were averaging 45-50km/h in places and this was a adrenalin buzz for my wife and more so since she was now passing everyone. The feeling she had before was completely reversed! She now felt like she was passing every one effortlessly and with the speed we both generated, no one could stay with us.

We had a big seafood lunch, Taiwanese banquet style, in Hsinchu which is about half-way to Taichung. However, Jen was having neck/shoulder issues and could only do an additional 30kms to total 120kms for the day. It was sensible to jump on the bus before the condition got worse. She did comment that her legs and lungs felt fine and had she not had the neck issues, she would have made the distance.

Prior lunch Jen maintained an average heart rate of 161 bpm, with a max of 191bpm for 3.5 hours! which is pretty high for anyone over that length of time.

The biggest tip (it was also mentioned in the first article also) is to push your wife along if she wants it. Depending on how fast you want to go, it can be an excellent workout for you while your wife can enjoy the speed without the same effort. However, she is still pedaling hard herself and is still maintaining a high heart-rate. She can coast or soft pedal whenever she wants and she'll be pushed along. This is only advisable on roads with plenty of space.

Further advice is to be always encouraging and be patient especially when your wife is struggling. Words of encouragement go along way and she will continue coming out on rides with you. Just two days after the epic ride, Jen and I went out on a short 30km ride that included a 4km hill and she made it up the hill without any pushing and completed the ride with ease. No longer felt tired like she has been on previous rides.

Jen enjoying dinner post ride

If you have any further ideas or tips for riding with your wife, please leave your comments below.

Beetle Nut Cop

This morning I had a great ride up through the Graveyard Route - the weather is looking good here again in Taipei and I took the opportunity to take some more good pictures. On the way home I had stopped to take a few pictures of the Taipei 101 building at a busy intersection - I had a good 90 seconds from the vantage point I stopped at, however an angry cop wanted me out of there quick smart! He came over to me yelling, his mouth full of the beetle-nut (a legal drug here in Taiwan) and he got more agitated when I continued shooting pictures. I spoke to him in Mandarin, telling him that I still had a good minute before the traffic would start moving again and that I was not in the way. However, he still kept at me and threatening to write me a ticket if I stayed. I snapped a few pictures of him while I was chatting and then told him I'll be on my way. He continued yelling at me as I cruised away. He probably did not like the fact I was un-fazed by him and his threat.

The Beetle Nut Cop looking like he was ready to grab me

Beetle Nut eating has stained his teeth pretty badly - which is common place here in Taiwan. Apparently the "drug" gives you a kick so that you can feel energized. It is used among truck drivers and workers quite frequently. So, this cop probably needed the Beetle-nut in order to remain alert on his job.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

What you missed today...

Great climbing today in the mountains on the outskirts of Taipei - stunning views near Ruifang

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Eight Tips for Photography while Cycling - Part 2

In conjunction with Craig Ferguson, who is a cultural photographer based in Taiwan, I have put together an additional six tips for effective photography when out cycling. You can check out Craig's website if you are interested in viewing some stunning photography and his daily tips. The route I took today for my training is similar  to my posting about Riding in the Graveyard. It contains a full description of the route plus additional photos that were taken with my small Canon point'n'shoot. Today's shots were taken with the Nikon D90 and it was right at sunset time, taking advantage of the "golden light" time of the day as described in my previous posting. 

Craig's Brief tips: 

  • Keep it simple. Take a general purpose zoom lens and nothing else.
  • To shoot other cyclists, try panning. Set a shutter speed of 1/15 of so, start rotating your body from the hips and press the shutter button mid rotation.
  • Try and cycle in a loop route to give you more options for photos.
  • Water holds color and light longer than sky, so early/late in the day, try and include beach/river/lake etc for some added effect.
  • For deeply saturated, blue skies, use a polarising filter.

Further tips given by Kirk Kenny, a Canadian photographer based in Hong Kong:
  • You can ask for feed-back from your friends to improve your shots for next time out.
  •  Regularly look at photos from better photographers' websites for inspiration. You can then try "reverse engineering" it. 
  • "The more I shoot I really think the 10,000 hour rule applies, it was an idea put forward in a recent best selling book -the idea that to be successful at something you have to crack that 10,000 hour barrier".
 You can check out some of Kirk's images on Flickr

Taipei's Largest Graveyard that covers practically a small mountain range

You can add interest to your photos by shooting your companions in the environment

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Six Tips for Photography while Cycling

If you have a passion for photography and also enjoy cycling, then combining the two can make for a rewarding day out. As a avid cyclist myself, I often like to explore new routes and look for eye-catching scenes to photograph. This makes for a training ride that has a double purpose: keeping fit and satisfying your desire to take better photography. When on a bike, you can travel so much further and see so much more than if you were on foot. However, that said, there are advantages and disadvantages with both approaches. The main disadvantage when cycling with a camera is that it can be a little cumbersome the larger the camera. I often carry a small Canon Powershot in my rear pocket on most of my exploration training rides and it works really well for shooting while on the move. However, if you take an SLR camera with you, you'll need to stop more often to compose good shots.

The limitation with the small camera is that the image quality is not as good as the SLR but the convenience of portability is the biggest plus. In a couple of recent training rides I've gone on - 150kms in Taizhong and a couple of days ago up in the Wulai Region, I took my Nikon D90 camera with me slung over my back. It worked well but just had to be more careful about handling the camera and keeping it safe from debris and potential rain showers. I found that my quality of shots improved dramatically and I would spend more time composing good compositions when I found a good vantage point. I don't just shoot any pretty thing I see during my ride, but seek out potentially more striking scenes that can evoke an emotional response from whoever will view the images. For example, as a cyclist I find that looking at images with an empty road snaking through beautiful scenery inspires me to go hunting for those roads myself. I enjoy the thrill of exploring new routes and finding good images to remember it by.

Today's posting is going to close with six tips for taking better photography whilst out riding:

  • Choose either early morning or late afternoon to start the ride as this is the best time of the day to capture the "golden light" that photographers often seek.
  • Always think in terms of what would make a "shot of the day" type of image rather than just snapping any pretty scene you see. Be selective.
  • If you see something particularly striking, don't just settle for the quick snapshot but spend some time shooting the scene from different perspectives. If you are willing to take the SLR with you on the bike, you'll be more inclined to do this.
  • Think about what other people would consider as a great shot that would inspire them to go out exploring themselves and seek their own epic ride images. Also, don't forget to take images that inspire yourself.
  • Explore routes off the "beaten-track" instead of sticking to the popular routes. You'll find alot of gems that are undiscovered by most cyclists or even regular tourists.
  • Sometimes it is nice to include your bike within the composition of your photograph as it adds another dimension of interest.
Stay tuned for my next blog posting as it will be a sequel to this one with additional tips and ideas for taking brilliant shots whilst out cycling.  If you have enjoyed reading my postings, please consider following me on twitter: Bikedan and RSS my website for automatic up-dates to your reader each day.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

What you missed today...

Beautiful gorge up past Wulai, Taiwan

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Edge Carbon Handle-bar Review

Edge Composites is a company that specializes in making top-end Carbon products for both road and mountain bikes. The Fly V Australian Professional Cycling Team use their products extensively.
When I competed in a Salt Lake City Pro 1,2 criterium on the final day of Tour of Utah, I won two primes and one of them was a nice set of Carbon handle-bars supplied by Edge Composites!
These are the same bars that Ace sprinter, Ben Kersten used in his sprint win at the 2009 USPRO Criterium Championships in rainy conditions. Prior using these bars, he was skeptical: "When I was given these bars to use, I thought they would not be up to the task as they seemed to be too light. However, after using them I was surprised they delivered exceptional performance and are extremely stiff and responsive - perfect for me!" he said. 

These great looking bars tip the scales at a mere 200 grams, making them one of the lightest bars in the market. One unique feature is they have built-in end plugs that prevent bar tape from unraveling and you will never lose handle-bar caps ever again!
The bars are also designed to an "optimal diameter that guarantees a great physiological fit to promote a natural holding position, anywhere on the bar... functionality is also taken to another level with recesses that allow clean cable routing"
After the Edge Bars were installed on my Orbea Opal, I instantly noticed a major difference to the handling of my bike on the next training ride. I was impressed. I felt like my acceleration stepped up several notches with these super stiff and responsive carbon bars. I also noticed less road vibration and my hands did not fatigue as quickly. When you ride in the drops, you feel an instant stability and have that urge to get out of the saddle to sprint! When in the drops, you can position your hands wherever you want them and still be comfortable.  I felt superior handling and comfort when cornering in my first local criterium race at Salt Lake City.  During long training rides, the bars helped keep me feeling fresher for longer. When doing out-of-saddle climbing and intervals, it felt like my transfer of energy from the upper body to propel the bike forward was effortless.

When trying to find a fault about these bars, I found none. Except for the price tag, which is a pricey $367 USD. But, this is perhaps worth it for the ride quality and pleasure you will get out of these Edge Carbon Bars.

One of the best training routes in Taipei

Today was a cloudless sunny day, but was a cool 10 degrees and colder up in the mountains. I definitely rate the route I took today as one of Taipei's best loops that is accessible to the city and boasts two decent 30 min plus climbs amidst some brilliant scenery. Part of this route was also used on the way to Yilan and coming back into Taipei with the Columbus boys - Epic Training Ride with the Columbus Team

To get there, you take Route 106, past the Taipei Zoo, out of Taipei and turn right onto the road that takes you to Shiding. When you reach Shi-ding, you take the left turn onto 47-1. You ride on a narrow road to begin with and the climb rises steeply out of Shiding for 8kms to an elevation of about 650 metres. The descent on the other side drops through tea fields and whole line of Buddhist golden statues. The road ends up in Pinglin and you now get onto Route 9 that will climb steadily for nearly 7 kms. As you leave the valley, you will have great views of the river down below and then as you climb higher you'll see layers and layers of mountains in the distance. Definitely some inspiration for photographers and artists alike.

The down-hill from Helen's Cafe at the top to Xindian provides good practice for fast twisty descending. You'll find yourself back into the thick of Taipei's traffic competing for space as you ride home - becareful! A safer alternative is to take the River Path back at the Bitan Scenic Area. Allow for about 2.5 hours for the complete circuit. The climbs are great for doing 20 minute plus hill intervals if you are looking to improve your climbing.

During the second climb, I caught up with couple of my clients who are following my training program and I slowed down to ride with them and offer some tips.

One of many tea fields during the ride

Monday, January 11, 2010

Which Road are you Taking in 2010?

This is one of the many roads that I explored during my visit to Taichung. I thought it was a nice image to post here and use for inspiration for which roads we will follow in 2010! I like the interesting quiet routes and they allow for your mind to focus without the clutter of our everyday lives...

Exploring Taichung by Bike

Taichung definitely has better weather than Taipei right now with its clear blue skies and warmer temperatures!

I met with Colon Lai from Champion System Taiwan and he showed me the National Taiwan Championships circuit. It was a nice circuit, 10km with a punchy 5-6 minute climb. The road was super-smooth and goes through the Taichung Science Park.

The Taichung Science Park circuit is quite popular with riders coming out to practice on. Feng Chun Kai - the national champion from Team Exustar was the clear winner at the Taiwan National Champs late in 2009. I did one "hot" lap of the course, 42km/h average and 20km/h average up the climb. Colon had enough of riding and took me to a cool place to eat breakfast at a cafe where you can take your bikes inside. Breakfast consisted of a delicious tasting black sesame bread roll filled with german sausages and fresh vegetables. Some small brownie style cakes came on the plate and were good with the Latte I had.

After riding with Colon for most of the morning, I continued exploring Taichung on my own. I found myself in the mountains fringing the outskirts of the city - where the Da Keng Park is located in. I found some really nice narrow mountain roads without any traffic and spent the afternoon riding up and down the small mountains that ranged from 250 to 500m in height. There were other much bigger mountains in the distance, however I did not have time to do those as I needed to be back in the city to meet my wife who was doing a commercial shoot.

I clocked up 150kms of riding in Taichung and got a taste of what riding is like. It definitely lives up to the fact that it is sunny 330 days of the year and seldom rains. Makes for even better riding than in Taipei since you don't have to clean your bike every couple of days!

Highly recommended areas for riding in Taichung (at least what I got to see anyway!)

  • Taichung Science Park Circuit - great for doing multiple loops and to race your friends. In the fact, the local cycling community holds races on this circuit regularly - I had just missed a local race that had about 30 riders on Saturday
  • Dakeng Nature Park Area - its the next most accessible area for riding and there are countless number of small roads that zig-zag all over the mountains. Excellent for spending a day to explore and you are never far away from a 7-11 or some kind of convenience store should you need to come out of the mountains to re-fuel

Some additional photos below:

Jennifer (my wife) during the commericial shoot in Taichung

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Beginning of a New Decade

This is just a quick posting to let you know that I am still around and will be writing more regular posts to my blog. I have several good stories that will follow over the next few days. The weather here in Taipei has turned for the worst today, but I'm hoping it will clear up to enable outdoor riding. I still have plenty of yet to be explored roads in the surrounding mountains of Taipei. Since my last blog entry, there have been several great rides that I would like to share with you that further cements the fact that Taiwan is a "Road Cyclists Paradise".

It is amazing to see that 10 years have passed in this new millennium already. 2000 was the year when I first went to China to live and this March I will be back there again to embark on my PHD in Tourism Management for three years. I also hope to sign up with a Chinese based cycling team and compete in what appears to be numerous races throughout China. The sport of cycling in China seems to be on the rise and the quality of competition is improving all the time.

With what time I have left in Taiwan, I will be exploring the mountains around Taipei and providing you with the reports and the photographs that I shoot during my rides (weather permitting of course).

I would like to take the opportunity to thank my sponsors who have supported me in my quest for excellence in cycling and other pursuits in life.  Without their support, I could not have had the opportunity to race all over the world, including representing New Zealand at the Deaflympics that was staged by Taipei.

If you can, please take the time to check out my sponsor websites, you may find something that you require.

Hansaton Hearing Systems - for all your hearing needs
Usana Health Sciences - for a healthy lifestyle
Champion System - for all your custom cycling clothing needs
Albabici - for your saddle, shoes, bike transportation needs
Michelin - for top-end race tires
Uvex - for your helmet needs 
Smith Optics - for stylish and functional eyewear
CycleOps - for training with power needs

At some point soon I will be moving my website to my own domain name. I have yet to figure out the most ideal name for my domain. If you have any suggestions, please leave me some comments.