Make Stuff 2: Nerf Gun Biathlon Target

I haven't had Eurosport since I lived in Lebanon. Back then I used to look forward to getting back from work to watch the Biathlon World Cup races.

Those were the days of the Raphael Poirée - Ole Einer Bjorndalen rivalry. Magdalena Forsberg had just retired after winning six World Cups in a row.

I need to get Eurosport again!

This is the third prototype. I experimented with the hole size and some return mechanisms. None of them worked well enough so I have to reset this one manually.

I’ve tried a few guns. I like The Disruptor the most. The sight seems to work and you can load six bullets. Can’t hit all 3 targets with 6 bullets? Penalty lap!

This video shows that Nerf Gun bullets don't actually fly straight. So there's no point going too far from the target. Two metres seems to work for us.

After Big Forest Frameworks

This is the fourth and final part of a blog series about the bike I built to race the 2018 triathlon season on. Here are the other parts. Part 1. Part 2. Part 3.

So I took the train back to Munich on Thursday morning with my frame protected in bubble-wrap. I was proud of my work and super-pysched to build it and race it.

Robert suggested I build the bike up and ride it before sending the frame for painting. To check alignment again and that we hadn’t forgotten any braze-ons.

In late January I threw on some old components and installed a cheap headset just for test purposes. But with all the snow on the ground I couldn’t get to ride it outside until late-March.

I took two of the boys to the local airstrip in Neubiberg (above). First impressions? I liked it. A lot. Everything worked and the position was near perfect for a day long effort or a blast around Dorney.

In early-May I took the frame for painting at Gutenbiken in central Munich. I went for a deep blue and was congratulated on my choice by one of the mechanics.

Gutenbiken is a cool, alternative bike shop that specialises in renovations, repairs, cargo bikes and touring stuff.

Three weeks later they called and I had the finished frame in my hands. They also pressed in Cane Creek headset for me before I did the rest of the build at home.

The idea was a minimalist 80s aestetic like Mike Pigg’s bike in this website’s logo. For 2019 I’ve fitted a Selle Italia Flite saddle and will finish building the wheels that I started.

I ended up racing seven times on it. Two Sprints, Three Olympic Distances and an Ironman Distance event. The general handling, accelerating, straight line speed and comfort was as wanted.

I’m not going to link to results or anything. But, put it this way, I certainly don’t have any modern aero or carbon bike envy.

My perfect frame-building future plan is to find a local workshop that I can use to keep myself and my family in racing and bikepacking rigs.

2018 Triathlon Season Review

Last week I published my goals for 2019. Tomorrow I’ll repost a few notes from my 2017 season. The year I got motivated to race hard again. In the next few weeks I’ll try and pin the kids down to do a review of their seasons.

Elliot and Etienne raced five local triathlons here in Germany as well as Bischwiller in France and Billingshurst in the UK.

Over the Winter I really started to enjoy swimming and cycling again. I was doing two 4km+ club swims per week, two hard turbo or roller rides and a longer off-road ride at weekends.

I was only jogging once a week. Not because I wasn’t enjoying it, but because I was enjoying swimming and biking more. I was also lifting in my home gym and started going to crossfit Munich.

And. I also had 6 months off work. I didn’t train more than normal. I just stuck to what I liked doing. One workout per day. 20-60 minutes. Maybe longer at weekends. But. I did have more flexibility in my schedule.

So, starting the 2018 triathlon season my objectives were:

  1. Race often and make being on a start line normal again.

  2. Build fitness and skills from race to race.

  3. Keep logistics simple. Early starts. Quick get-aways.

  4. Get to experience as many local events as possible.

  5. Race on the bike that I built myself.

  6. Test a blueprint for long distance training and racing.

Look. I’m not really a results guy. I just like to stay generally fit and then turn up with what I’ve got.

But my early triathlon racing is now just a few memories, the odd paper results sheet and a small collection of scanned photos.

So I want to start documenting my ongoing involvement in the sport, so I’ve included links to my race results below.

I also started taking these transition photos for Instagram (above). Kind of gets me in the mood to race. I think I’ll continue in 2019. So this is what I did:

12th May. Oberschleißheim (1500m/40km/10km). Site of the 1972 Olympic rowing events. Imagine Dorney but more boring. Clean water and a fun, low-key event. Swam near the front, first off the bike and jogged the run. 7th Overall. 1st in 45-49.

20th May. Bischwiller (750m/18km/5km). We went back to Strasbourg for an old-local event as they also have an excellent children’s race. Some history here. This was the first race I won in France. Back in 1996. Nostalgia post to come.

50m outdoor pool swim. 20th into T1. Biked hard and picked off lots of junior. Ran pretty well but got overtaken by ex-clubmates, Jean-Marc and Jean-Phi. 11th Overall. 2nd in 45-49.

10th June. Bad Tölz (1500m/40km/10km). Stefan, the club swim coach, told me on Thursday that the race was hilly. As I run a one-by I fitted a 46T, did a high-cadence session on Saturday and looked forward to a few surprise hills.

The lake is amazingly clear and warm. It ended up becoming one of our favourite canoeing venues. Again, I swam near the front and held top 5 on the first lap of what was just a rolling, 2 lap, course with one bigger, but not too steep, climb.

Starting the 2nd lap I had a big rear-wheel blow out. Not sure why. Was running normal pressures. I fixed it casually, finished the loop and jogged the trail run. Excellent race though. Recommended. 37th Overall. 5th 45-49.

17th June. Erding (1500m/40km/10km). Started in the Regional-Bundesliga wave. Clung onto the second group. Out 20th. Flat and traffic-free bike course. Rode up to 10th. Went backwards on the run. Super-atmosphere in town. 35th overall. 2nd 45-49.

1st July. Tegernsee (1500m/40km/10km). Cycled out to register the day before to start my Outlaw training. Cold water. Too cold for sleeveless IMHO. But that’s all I had. Swam in front group. Rolling 2 lap bike course. Off in 5th. Super-hilly run. Best post-race buffet. 14th overall. 1st in 45-49.

15th July. Karlsfeld (1500m/46km/10km). A big, well-organised event in a suberb of Munich. Sun was low over the lake and I couldn’t see much. Let another guy lead. Easy swim on his feet. Floored it on the bike. Solid run as I knew I was well up. Probably my best race of the year. 6th overall. 1st 45-49.

21st July. Berkshire Tri Squad Club Champs(400m/20km/5km). BTS was my first club. I was a member from ‘89 to ‘95. I then re-joined a few years ago to keep in touch with my old-local scene. I knew this would be a real burn-up as there are a handful of members that are about the same speed as me.

Went vollgas from the gun and used the short swim to my advantage rather than worrying about the unbalanced distances. On the bike, Ed and Chris were taking 7 seconds per lap and I could see them across the lake.

Three of us into T2 together. I don’t run much but can still run hard for 20 minutes if I’m pushed. Chris dropped back and I held Ed until the last KM. Great racing guys. BTS report here.
3rd overall. 2nd BTS. 1st 45-49.

29th July. The Outlaw (3800m/180km/42.2km). Terrible weather but overall the race that I’d planned and hoped for. A kind of fun day in retrospect. Blog post to come.

2nd September. Wagingersee (750m/20km/5km). Not a #guntotape effort. Was on holiday for 3 weeks after Outlaw and then got a cold. Went because I’d heard it was a cool race. It was. Will definitely go back. Maybe ride there and camp.

Conclusion: Best results and most fun season in a long time. Reminds me of the sofa-bed-in-a-transit days and the journeyman-pro-in-France years. This season? A later start to training. Next week. Not sure why. Maybe fewer races. Might slow down a bit. But hopefully the same motivation and enjoyment.




Podcasts I Listen To

I spend a lot of time listening to podcasts. Walking to school. In the car. On the turbo. Working in the cellar. Lifting weights. Cooking. Sometimes while jogging.

Screenshot 2019-01-16 12.40.52.png

As I'm always auditioning and curating I thought it might be good to keep a record of what I'm enjoying at a given time. Here's what I’m subscribing to in January 2019.

I like to keep a balance between highly-produced podcasts, often from big media houses, and amateur efforts with a fairly unstructured chit-chat style.

I bought a Mac last-June. But I don’t use Apple Podcasts. I paid a one-off fee to Pocket Casts. The desktop and mobile versions are good and sync perfectly. Highly recommended.

Make Stuff 1: WTS Transition Zone

While in Nottingham for the Outlaw Triathlon in July my brother suggested that we devote September to using our hands and building as many things as possible. I even drew up this build-docket and posted it on Instagram.

But the return to near-full-time work was more hectic than I had imagined and I really didn’t get much done. A few neckerchiefs and a drawstring bag. Luke did much better, managing some bags and an intricate hand-plane.

So I’m relaunching the concept and intend to post something that I’ve made every Sunday. Here’s a project from Autumn 2017. When I had much more time on my hands!

As my three boys are always practising transitions, running mounts and flying dismounts, I started to build them a classic, scaffold-tubing transition structure.

“No. No. No. Stop Dad! We want a proper WTS transition area!”

So we found some photos online and then I got a closer look when I was in Rotterdam for the WTS Grand Final. Elliot and Etienne helped with measuring and painting.

They now carry them out into the street and also use them to store their bikes in the garage. The neighbours’ children have even asked if I can build more for them!

Day 3 at Big Forest Frameworks

When I arrived at the workshop I got my frame out of the water bath. The flux had gone and frankly, it looked great! There was no more major brazing to do today but lots of finishing off to do.

  1. Braze brake and gear cable stops.

  2. Braze rack attachment points.

  3. Braze rear brake bridge.

  4. Braze chainstay bridge.

  5. Tap thread for under bottom bracket cable guide.

  6. Attach cable guide.

  7. Ream and face headtube.

  8. Ream and face bottom bracket.

  9. Cut a slot in the seat post clamp.

  10. Ream seat tube.

  11. File off some globs of silver that had run on to the tubes.

  12. Wrap frame in bubble-wrap to transport home.

We finished the day with a beer from a local brewery to celebrate the end of my course. In conclusion, the course was fabulous and everything I was hoping for.

I learnt a lot during these three days. Not only about the process of building frames but also about bike mechanics in general.

Robert is an excellent teacher. He provides the right balance between clear instruction and backing off to allow you to gain experience with the tools and processes by yourself. I’m a teacher, so I know a good one when I meet one.

Today we had Italian for lunch and Gleiss 6 for the fourth time for dinner. I was super-exhausted on leaving the workshop and only managed a tiny run.

Part four is about the first ride I took on the new frame, how I finished it off and riding a triathlon season on it. I’ll post on Monday.

Day 2 at Big Forest Frameworks

So yesterday I got the tubes of the front triangle cut to length. I was then able to slot them into the lugs and put the whole thing on the floor to get an idea of what the finished frame will look like. I then finished the day by having my first go at brazing, together with Jurgen, on some tube off-cuts.

Today I was pretty excited to start putting a hot flame to my own tubes. Although Robert was there to guide me through the process at the start, I eventually wanted to take control while not making any costly or esthetic mistakes.

The steps I took on Day 2 were:

  1. Cut chainstays to the correct length.

  2. Braze bottle cage bosses. My first proper braze.

  3. Braze chainstays to dropouts.

  4. Apply LOTS of flux to main tubes before tacking.

  5. Tack the front triangle tubes to the lugs in the jig.

  6. More flux. Braze in the bike stand.

  7. Cut seat stays to correct length. Braze in top plugs.

  8. Braze chainstays to front triangle.

  9. Braze seat stays to dropouts then to front triangle.

  10. Frame alignment checks in the jig.

  11. Put frame in a water bath overnight to dissolve the flux.

We broke again for lunch at 12:00. Yesterday we ate at a self-service place with good German food. Today we tried the fusion-Vietnamese. Again. Solid fare.

No run tonight but I did visit Downtown Potsdam. The streets were deserted and windswept with lots of posh shops and restaurants. So I went back to Gleiss 6.

Check back tomorrow for Day 3 highlights.

Day 1 at Big Forest Frameworks

Part one of a four part blog series about the bike that I started building last January. I’ve also planned a podcast to talk about why I wanted to build my own steel bike frame to race on during the 2018 triathlon season.

I’ve wanted to take a frame building course for a few years. When my brother built his first frame in 2007 there wasn’t a lot of choice. He spent 5 days with Dave Yates in Norfolk. Here’s a link to another guy who went there.

I always thought I’d do a course at The Bicycle Academy in Frome. They specialise in frame building education, have been featured on GCN and boast several established professional frame builders amongst their alumni, such as Rob Quirk.

However, when we moved to Germany the logistics of finding time to travel to the UK got even trickier. I really needed to look around for a local solution.

I couldn’t find anybody who does this sort of thing in Munich so I signed up with Robert Piontek who runs Big Forest Frameworks. On Sunday 7th January 2018, I took the train from Munich to Berlin and then the S-Bahn from Berlin HBF to Babelsberg.

I like German trains. They’re spacious, you know in advance what platform they’re leaving from and you can sit in the bar and get a beer in a real glass. During the journey I finished reading Lugged Bicycle Frame Construction by Marc-Andre R. Chimonas .

The course I was taking was a 3-day lugged steel frame building course. I later found out that it was the first accelerated course that Robert had done. To get my frame built in time it had to be lugged not fillet brazed, without forks and with geometry decided in advance.

On Monday at 09:00, Robert met us outside his workshop. He rents a small space under an organic wine shop in Karl-Liebknecht-Straße. Without knowing it I’d booked an Airbnb right opposite the workshop.

We started the day by chit-chatting about our biking and building experience. I also got to know Jurgen, the other student I’d be sharing the workshop with. He was enrolled on a 5-day fillet brazing course. A 50th birthday present from his wife.

Below are all the steps that I took on the first day. I jotted them down for when I go to build something on my own.

  1. Practice filing a tube using a paper template from BikeCad.

  2. Mitre cutting technique and setting the drill angle.

  3. Select tubes and put in wooden storage box.

  4. Check drawing to understand the tube cutting measurements.

  5. Measure tubes. Mark cuts.

  6. Cut in order to avoid changing the cutter too often.

  7. File off burrs inside and outside of the cut tubes.

  8. Cut a bottom bracket notch in the downtube or seat tube.

  9. Cut the headtube to size leaving 20mm on the bottom.

  10. Dremel out and sandblast dropouts.

  11. Measure and mark chainstays for cutting.

  12. Press chainstays for tyre and chainring clearance.

  13. Drill water escape holes in the head tube and seat tube.

  14. Drill holes for bottle cage bosses in the downtube.

  15. Make a fake lug using two different diameter tubes.

  16. Clean the tubes inside and out with sandpaper.

  17. Apply flux to all aeras the flame will touch.

  18. practice brazing with oxy-propane torch and silver rods.

We finished at 17:00 and I was pretty exhausted. As we were underground I forgot it was going to be dark outside. But I still went for a run as planned.

Then it was back to Gleiss 6, a cool pub with excellent food and beer, that I’d found the night before. Tomorrow I’ll post details from Day 2.

20 Triathlon And Life Goals For 2019

I’ve been jotting down stuff like this for the last three years. I usually tick off about fifteen. I used to include some performance related targets. But that doesn’t interest me now. It’s about fun & fitness. And going #guntotape.

2019 Triathlon Goals.jpg
  1. Have a simple, repeatable triathlon week. Get up early.

  2. Lift. Near-daily. Get to Crossfit Munich once a week.

  3. Eat well. Continue to make improvements. Try new recipes.

  4. Race local, short, often and hard. Enter a team time trial.

  5. Do more XC skiing. Buy some skis. Ice skate.

  6. Do a full CX season. Build some CX race wheels.

  7. Attend an organised Bikepacking gathering.

  8. Improve German. Volunteer. Start a children’s triathlon club.

  9. Work on Version 2.0 of the bike that I built in January 2018.

  10. Train with the boys more. Do the Oberbayern Kids Cup again.

  11. Do the Level 2 Certificate in Cycle Maintenance.

  12. Kick my podcast project out of the door. Blog near-daily.

  13. Thru-run a long-distance hiking trail.

  14. Get home & dock devices. Play the guitar for 30 minutes.

  15. Make stuff. Grow stuff. Sew. Stick to the cleaning schedule.

  16. Take a track cycling course.

  17. Weekly family adventures. Canoe. Hike. Bike. Climb.

  18. Muir Triathlon Tour. Three days. Two races. Camping. Gravel.

  19. Take some triathlon road trips. UK. France. Austria.

  20. Do some serious spectating. FGP, Bundesliga, Roth, UTMB.

    What are yours? Don’t train. Stay fit. Be ready for anything.