Sunday, October 23, 2011

So, the Micra is not a sports car after all

I like to think that my Micra is the ultimate sports car: what could possibly be sexier than a Micra with a kayak and a mountainbike, ready for the weekend?  :D

But now it seems my Micra was not really designed to be a sport(s)car, after all :(

Last weekend on the way to Mankele I discovered a very noticable power decrease when driving up hills with the car's lights are on. Switch lights off, car goes. Switched lights off, car won't go. I took the Micra to the Nissan-shop; they discovered that the power-reduction does not happen when the Thule lightbar (model 976) is unplugged.

Their explanation:

My Micra (and all other small cars) was not designed to pull things, so the wiring does not have feedback-protection from single-contact light units. The single-contact lightbar feeds back and interferes with the ABS pump. This could damage the abs pump (among other things). Bigger cars dont have this problem, as they have built-in feedback-protection.

It's a Thule ride-on. I guess I could drive around without the lightbar (i have been for a while) - but the rack makes the car quite a bit longer - probably 1 1/2 metres. After dark I'd like other cars to know there's something between my car's taillights and their front bumpers.

The electrician that worked on the car said for R900 he could convert the lightbar to 'double-contact' ..... but i do not want to spend the money only for them to afterwards realise that that wasn't the problem.
I cant think that Thule could sell lightbars that would be a problem on (all?) small cars, though - it doesn't make sense? 

My questions:
Surely there are other small cars that carry bicycles around - has anyone else experienced this with a Thule light bar on a small car? If I can find someone else who had this issue before, then at least i'll know that the electrician wasn't just guessing, and a different lightbar would in fact solve the problem.
(Saturday at the Jacaranda-ride I searched for other small cars with ride-on racks, but I could only see hanging racks (and often the type that don't need a towbar) - so I guess finding other small cars with Thule bikeracks (and especially lightbars) won't be as easy as I thought. I'll keep looking though.)

The electrician said any 'double contact light unit' would work fine. What brand of lightbar would be plug 'n play, i.e. which light bar can i buy off the shelve, plug in, and it will work? 


Edit 13 December

The Micra MAY be a sports car, after all :D
Thule borrowed me another light bar (same model) and I haven't had any issues with it. The original might have had some or other issue. Thule swapped my broken light bar for their working one, so the borrowed light bar is now officially mine, and my car would be legal for the weekend's trip to Mankele. can't wait :)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

3 Towers: Team Clueless

When Team Clueless entered the 3 Towers months ago, we dreamed of back to back training rides on weekend, conquering the magalies mountains and getting lots of playtime in the saddle. But life interfered, so when we left Joburg late on Thursday evening, I haven't been on the bike for 3 weeks, and Adri hasn't been training in sympathy with my cold and study deadlines and fighting her own flu. At least our bikes were serviced and Linden Cycles looked after us with a 'just-in-case' box of spares and a racing (podium contender) bike mechanic who could take care of any mechanicals. 

Day 1
80 km
total vertical ascent: just over 1700 m
total time: just over 7 hours (riding time was just over 6 hours, indicating a lot of time spent at the water tables)

It was warm. The day started with a long climb, and then we climbed some more. 
The highlight was a rivercrossing at Ryan falls. Adri in the river just above the falls.

The extreme deadly dangerous portage on the other side of the river.

It was a short scramble / portage to the waterpoint where we lubed the bikes, ate lots of bar-one potatoes and filled up with huge blocks of ice. A long hot climb and we finally cycled past the first tower.

It wasn't all downhill from here, but there was a few break checks and a bushtunnel or two as reward for the morning's climbs. The last few kilometers on the cross country tracks made the Trance come alive: have to go back there to ride them when I'm fresh. It was good to finally see the BMX track. 80 km is far with not enough training, and 7 hours out there is a long time for untrained bums :) Dirtrider and his brother Anton cheered us in and we celebrated the first day with lots of vanilla milkies.

The sun (or the lack of training, or the vanilla milkies, or the potatoes flavoured with bar-one chunks) caught up with me, and Adri cleaned the bikes while I felt miserable all afternoon and most of the evening.

Day 2
78 km
total vertical ascent: around 1750 m
total time: just over 8 hours (riding time was about 7 hours, indicating even more time spent at the water tables and the mechanical)

The day started with a long climb, a downhill, a watertable, and then a neverending climb with no shade. The lack of food the previous day soon caught up with me. I walked long bits of the hill while Adri was kindly not riding circles around me - thanx Adri, much appreciated :)

It was a long way up, but finally, finally we got to the second waterpoint: the second tower. Yaaaaay :D

The watertable was well stocked with potatoes, bar ones and bananas. I was still a bit wary of 'heavy' food, so I stuffed my face with extra-salty potatoes. Yummie. We just started with the downhill when my backwheel went pst-pst-pshht-pshhht-pshhhhht. Stans all over the place spraying from a nice 2cm long sidewallcut in the tyre. The tube I had with me was a schrader valve which didnt fit the presta rims ... we were not team Clueless for *nothing* (grin)

Adri's spare tube had the right size valve.... we fitted it and pumped it ... and promptly broke the valve off in the pump. There was enough air in the tube, it wasn't deflating, we didn't had any more tubes ... so we continued with the downhill. Another water point, more salty potatoes and ice blocks, a very long dry climb with a nose-bleed incident, a sharp downhill to the last waterpoint, a sharp short climb ... and finally bushtunnels, bushtunnels, mega-fun, downhill uncongested undiluted singletrack, the BMX track and Dirtrider and Anton cheering us in. The second day was done.

We dropped the bikes at the bikewash (the BEST R15 per bike Dirtrider has spent this year) and then showered and caught a very short afternoon nap before the race briefing for the next day.

Day 3
50 km
total vertical ascent: around 1200 m
total time: just over 5 hours (riding time about 4 hours)

Dirtrider was not feeling well, and he decided to ride with team Clueless rather than his racing snake brother. Flash Gordon rode with us for the first few kays, but he was promptly fired from the back-of-pack when he rode circles around us on the first long climb.

By now everything was aching: arms, legs, feet, knees, hands, lower back, neck, shoulders, bums. Especially the bums. Next time we'll train a bit more. No - wait. Next time we'll train.

But this last day was everything that mountainbiking is: Climbies, major fun technical downhill sections with berms, drops and bridges, more climbs, more bushtunnels and lots of fun bits to distract from the aching bodies.

Dirtrider on the avalanche, the first serious downhill. This was FUN. THIS is why we have mountain bikes :D

Our bikes next to the track while we wait for the racing snakes of the short route to pass us. 

After the avalanche there was some singletrack and then a long climb in the forest. We heard the waterpoint at the last day's tower about 5 kms before we reached it. It was pure torture. The singletrack just before the lat 2 km of climb up to it compensated a little bit.

After the day's highest point there was some jeeptrack, singletrack, a high-fun high-speed deep-drop bushtunnel where I chased, but just coudln't catch Dirtrider. Huge grins, great riding, great people to ride with. 

We ate a LOT of potatoes at the last waterpoint, filled up with ice blocks, and then partially hiked the last little climbie before we finally got to the Sodwalla carnage downhill. It was shorter than I remember form the 'Lost in Da Bush' adventure. Too soon it was over.

A last few pieces of singletrack, round the BMX track for the last time, and the ride was over.

* Adri, it was an honour riding with you. Thank you for looking after me when I had no energy left on that long climbie of day 2. I know I can trust my adventure racing buddies with my life - and sometimes I have to.
* Dirty, I totally enjoyed riding with you. When can we do this again?
* Congratulations to our Linden Cycles Team Mechanic John-Michael, who won the mixed category - well done man!

* The last day of riding was absolutely superb ... for THAT i will do the ride again.

* There's a long weekend in December ... a perfect time to go back there and play on the bushtunnels, avalanche somes and downhill singletracks. These people know how to build tracks; my bike absolutely loved it and I will have to take it back there soon.

* And does team Clueless now have a clue? Well, maybe not really, but we will be back for more!