Monday, May 23, 2016

Brett Bellchambers - The 'What's Up Skip' Interview

The last time I caught up with Brett for an Interview was in August 2013! That seems like an eternity ago from now. Guns n Roses hadn’t reformed for Coachella, short cycling socks were still not passe, 29ers were only really just coming on the scene and the 24hour race scene was still massive!
It was good to catch up with Brett at Tilleys in 2602 for a brew and discuss the burning issues of late such as kangaroos, coffee and on :)

Nice to catch up again mate. What sort of coffee are you drinking today?

Never have been a big coffee drinker, just considered I didn’t need to be that energetic in the mornings, plus I’m not sure the people at work are ready to deal with me that way. I do enjoy a large, one and a half shot (half a three shot stove top) latte with hand pumped milk and sugar, after the Sunday morning INDR crew ride. Lately those beans have been coming from two before ten, Juggernaut expresso blend.
*blank look from me to Brett*

Oh, what do I want to drink now? Just a latte with two sugars thanks sweetie.

How exactly are you pumping that milk? Oh nevermind…Okay, I’ll be back in a second. *gets coffees*

Are you still riding a singlespeed?

Not sure about the implication behind the term ‘still’, you make it sound like I’m doing something illegal. Single Speeding is still like ‘skate boarding – is not a crime’. I recently tried out 11 spd on a roadie and no doubt in a few minutes I’ll get to explain just how ‘well’ that went for me. I’m still loving single speeding, I still love the immediacy and stupidity of it, all at the same time, I’m even loving being back on the carbon rigid forks, what’s not to like!

Seriously dude, mountainbiking is a really freaking hard sport. Why would you bother making it harder by only running one gear?

Now Jimmy, you should know better than anyone, you gotta play to your strengths. So let’s have a quick run-down of mine. Uphill – good, so therefore riding uphill in a perfect gear and knowing that’s the only gear you have makes sense. Downhill – no quite so good, so therefore running a smaller gear and not being able to go too fast has its obvious benefits. So does single speeding make MTB harder? Depends where you ride and what you ride for. Basically C-Town is Single Speed Heaven and COGS is a good sign of that. That’s like asking people why the speed walk, or XC ski on bike paths J

In our original interview back in the day you said that the optimal single speed gearing was one cog up front and one in the back. Does that still hold true for today’s progressive singlespeeder?

I’m not gunna lie to ya, the good ole ‘one on the front and one on the back’ is the classic old skool single speeders setup. Recently I’ve changed from standard odd teeth chain rings to even teeth thick/thin chain rings, I’m enjoying it very much. As for the progressive single speeder, well there are a few more recent examples. There’s the one that runs a single speed set up on a duallie, by running a derailleur to take up chain slack and shock movement. But the most progressive I’ve seen was Big Kev at last year’s SS Nats in Woodend. He turned up with a 1*9 setup at a SS race! The genius was that the 9 gears on the back all being the same size. So you could still run a shifter and use your right thumb to select the perfect single speed gear!

Yeah I #canteven right now, but as long as it works for you that is all that matters!

Who are your current sponsors? Are they aware that you wore your wife’s jeans on a podium back in the day?

To be honest that podium picture exists in a few spots on the web, so if they wanted to know they could find out easily enough. They could probably also find pictures of me wearing my wife’s jeans as cut-off shorts in Woodend last year, I made them look good!

I’m still living this amazing dream of representing companies that I have a great MTB connection with as a single speeder from C-Town.

  1. Wilderness Trail Bikes (WTB) – Tyres, Rims, Saddles, Grips, valves, rim tape, etc
  2. Niner Bikes – Frames and forks
  3. Race Face (Kona Group Sportif) – Cranks, chain rings, stems, bars, seat posts
  4. Shimano Australia – Race shoes, pedals and Etixx fuel products
  5. Ride Mechanic – Chain Lube, butt lube, degreaser, cleaning products
  6. Yakima Australia – roof mounted bike racks and a skybox for the kombi
  7. Jet Black – NiteRider Lights
  8. DIYMTB – XFusion Forks

That’s awesome mate. It is always a great thing to ride for companies that you believe in.

Caption this one!

I see that you have recently stepped up your social media #game. Which platform is your favourite? Facebook, Instagram or Twitter?

I got onto Instagram last year before 24hr worlds in Cali USA as a way of trying to share some of what was happening, then I appeared on Facebook as myself, instead of an alter ego. It’s a tough world to negotiate and sometimes subtlety can get lost, especially after the brain has been rattled a bit. I’m mainly using Instagram connected to Facebook and try to catch up with Facebook when time allows. It was a great way to reconnect with people after my crash in the 6 weeks I had off. I think my mum was a bit worried about my step up though.

Do you manage your own accounts or do you outsource this work?

Still doing all my own stunts, but I am getting help from the family when required. None of it would have happened without my social media advisor (read wife) setting it all up and making it happen. My son is getting to be a dab hand at picture framing and filter options as well.

I do reckon that Lo-Fi is the best filter on Instagram. It makes everything pop doesn’t it?


*awkward silence*

Ummm….so what are your thoughts on Snapchat?

I like instantaneous non-permanent photos of unicorns farting rainbows as much as the next single speeder.

*simultaneous laughter and snorting*

In the parallel universe Brett's Boutique would be doing a roaring trade

Oh man, that was hysterical…far out…okay so back in February you tackled a small marsupial rolling down Mount Corin at about 80km/hr. At what point did you think….oh fuck…what’s up Skip?

Actually I don’t think I’ve uttered that at all, it happened a bit fast for a long line of expletives like that to come out. Basically I’ve been a bit more like – “I’m still alive and I walked away from it”, figuratively of course. Plus, I don’t have a memory of it, which in most ways has been a blessing in disguise.

Were you riding by yourself or with someone else?

I was out on my last INDR crew Sunday morning ride before I was to travel to NZ the Friday after for 24hr solo worlds in Rotor Vegas. I thought a road ride would be a safer way to get in a last effort ride before the taper for worlds, can’t believe I just used taper in a sentence, sorry. So thankfully I had 5 other guys with me at the time, which was so fortunate. One to ride and get some mobile reception to call an ambulance and put a call through to my wife and others wife’s. One to go up the road and slow down traffic, one to go down the road and do the same. Which left two guys to try and look after me. Thank fully the face clotted quickly, but I wasn’t such a great patient and made it impossible to get me into a recovery position by keeping my legs dead straight, not that I remember that at all.

Wow, that is super lucky dude. So…give me a rundown of the damage sustained to your body?

OK so paraphrasing from my discharge report, as I’m missing 4 days of memory and a bit sketchy on the rest of the details from my 9 days in the C-Town hospital, till I could prove my name and date of birth to a bunch of nurses 5 times a day, correctly.

Primary Discharge Diagnosis

            Intracranial haemorrhage in corpus callosum with diffuse axonal injury.

Additional Diagnosis

            C6-7 spinous process fractures

                T7 compression fracture of vertebral body

Macerated Left ear.

Multiple facial lacerations, left eye surrounds and right eye brow, right chin and left cheek.

Left forearm and right hand lacerations, friction burns to left shoulder

                The doctors’ notes at the end, which I only half understand make for difficult reading about the neck and the brain.

So basically I was ejected from a road bike at speed and had a 1 point landing on the left side of my head and shoulder at a 30 degree angle, or so, to the horizontal, but hardly lost any skin? A bit off the left shoulder and a bit on the knees, but I’ve lost more in very sedate road crashes.

I’ll have to google a few of those things but they sound pretty full on. Did the nurses hook you up with any of the ‘good stuff’ ™?

Well apparently the good stuff is good, Hill Billy Heroin is OK as well, but I was off that before I left the Hospital. Sometimes feeling pain is good, it lets you know that you are still alive and kicking, and that stuff is still healing and it’s good to know that.

Did you get to play Doctors and Nurses at all?

I have a Scandinavian wife, what do you reckon? I got in afternoon snoozes, which are just as good and sleep ins and bonded with my dad over a week of late morning walks and coffees. Even got in some great walks with the wife into town and back for coffees as well, when you’re not allowed to drive or ride or run, walking becomes a viable exercise.

You sly dog! The burning question that I am sure that everyone wants to know….Was the beard damaged in the accident at all?

The beard has taken a bit of abuse in the last year, got shaved off for some facial surgery last May, then started to make its way back and I had that little lay down recently in February that also required a little bit of facial surgery. When I woke up Thursday after the crash, I don’t remember anything before then, I remember going for a wee and seeing the beard and thinking ‘that beard’s a joke!’. Apparently for the first two days they didn’t wash me and I had a red beard of my own doing. Then when I went in for 9 hours of facial surgery they must have cut me close with a pair of scissors, or clippers, either way it was so bad that the first thing I did when I got home was clip that dodgy hospital cut into something reasonably even.

Your Ritchey Steel frame got a bit bent in the crash. Were you able to get it buffed out at all?

Well, I did leave the bike at Monkey Wrench in Hackett for a few weeks before I could pick it up. Now I know those guys are good mechanics, but not even in that time could they buff out the metal folding in that frame. I just assumed it was a write off and mounted it as art to the wall in the bike shed. It was such a random accident, that I still don’t remember, that it doesn’t even cause me stress to have it hanging there with my helmet. I have had a few comments it might be nice to wash the blood off the helmet, but that’s just a reminder that when things do their job, you walk away fine.

What have you found to be the hardest thing during the healing\rehab process?

I’ve been so lucky, no real healing or rehab required. Obviously a lot of stuff needed to be healed and is still healing and I should probably see a physio about my shoulders and neck, but to be honest I needed to see one before the accident. I have been told by a physio before that ½ the muscles in my back do nothing and the other ½ work overtime to compensate. A body that does nothing but bent over riding and spends the rest of its time bent over at a desk. I got an eye opener when I had to get cleared by a physio at the hospital, even with all the damage I did to my body, there were so many other people dealing with things so much worse than me, I felt like an able bodied person in a sheltered workshop.

Riding again has been interesting, the neck has made it hard to check for cars over the shoulder, but that gets better and loosens up more every week. Trying to not let my conscious mind take over from the good riding that my sub-conscious mind does. When riding downhill off-road I have a speed limit that I’m slowly increasing, I just don’t want to crash and hit my head again. But the best bit was sleeping in!

The doctors said have a break for 6 weeks. How long were you actually off the bike for?

My release notes from hospital were pretty severe, with a lot of things I wasn’t allowed to do, like work, fly, drive, ride or run, plus many other things for 6 weeks. I’m a pretty good patient and thankfully we live in a place where generally everything I wanted to get to was within walking distance, i.e. 3km one way. So I actually stayed off the bike for 6 weeks. I started back on my SS pub bike, it’s got the seat that low that I can put my feet flat on the earth, when sitting on the seat. So the first ride back on the race MTB (commuting) was a bit scary, the pub bike has bars above the seat, the race MTBs are definitely around the other way. I’m reliably informed that my first ride in Bruce on the MTB was hilarious. Apparently you could see my conscious mind controlling my body in an unskilful way.

 Lucky you live in the 2602 mate. Did you drive your family insane?

Maybe, who knows, they put up with so much on a regular basis anyway. I got the nickname ‘show bags’ back in my Adelaide days, which I felt was unearned, a knock on the head has only made that worse, my internal filter dropped out for a bit, but it is making a welcome come-back, for my wife at least.

Filters are overrated. Except for those on Instagram…I’m kidding! Oh crap…speaking of insane…do you talk to yourself a little bit more now to remind yourself what to do? Jocks on before pants. Socks on before birkenstocks – that sort of thing ;)

I make more ‘to do’ lists than I did before. I have been doing sports psychology on myself though, “I turn right great, I’m a great right turner” just running that with my inner voice. It’s oddly confusing just how well that works, especially as an engineer. I can eat green beans now, after 34 years of not doing it – that’s a story just on its own.

Wow…that is pretty bizarre

I know, tell me about it. I did try to do something out of order getting dressed at work last week, but I caught it before it happened, can’t remember what it was though.

 What sort of things did you get up to during the rehab process?

I’ve had no rehab – crazy I know! I went to the RILU at the hospital for a day to get checked off. That was a good reminder of just how fortunate I have been. A good mate lent me a tablet with loads of comics on. This meant when I got tired in the afternoons I could lay down in bed, rest the tablet on my guts and just read comics with 1 finger, I loved it, I read and relaxed at the same time, I did it every afternoon for 6 weeks, it was like heaven. I took part in this thing that people do to counts steps, called walking, I didn’t do any counting though, I just went places. I also sat in the passenger seat of a car and helped teach my wife to drive. The accident reignited her ‘drive’ to get her license and we are so close at the moment to that actually happening, which is pretty exciting. So a small car may be in my near immediate future!

Physical rehab is relatively easy. But on the mental side of things did you have to go down to the local sportsgrounds at night to talk to any kangaroos? Did you watch reruns of Skippy? Have you come to terms with these furry animals yet?

It’s quite a weird thing really. I actually don’t have a fear of hitting a kangaroo, but I do have a fear of watching someone else hit a kangaroo. It’s like I can’t picture myself hitting the Kangaroo, but I can picture someone else watching me hit the kangaroo? I did have a chat with a big roo recently whilst wearing boxing gloves with my son, I tried to get the wife to take a photo with the boxing gloves and the roo, but when we got closer and realised he was about my size it wasn’t quite as funny anymore and just a bit scary. I am hyper observant of them now and can always see them well before the others in the bunch do. Then I start to scream out “Human Shield – form the Human Shield

 Did you hear that a few of the original members of Guns n Roses got back together and are doing concerts now? What is your favourite GnR song?

Nah I must have ‘unfortunately’ missed that reunion, though I did see Axl sitting on a chair and singing with AC/DC recently, did that actually happen or did my mind just make that crazy shit up?

Yeah it is legit. He broke his ankle the first night back at the Troubador so he borrowed Dave Grohl’s chair to sing from for the next few weeks.

Yeah right? My ‘favourite’ Gunnars song would be “You could be mine” from the T2 soundtrack. I’ve had that song stuck in my head for days touring alone.

That is the correct answer! Your daughter took the opportunity to get her ears pierced whilst you were hopped up on pain medication. What else did the family do to take advantage of the situation?

Well junior #1 has a very pretty looking haircut, I’d put money on the wife getting some new shoes, but if they were runners I probably agreed with that. I seem to remember a new laptop, or do I?
He says that the shoes belong to his wife....#apparently

 What is the go with listening to One Direction in the car? Is Harry your favourite band member?

You gotta have respect for a man that took his shot at Tay Tay for awhile. Deep down I do think he’s a bit like me. That album was from when they were still 5, or so my son told me J

Sometimes life just gets exciting and you have to roll with it.

Brett railing the bottom bit of Breakout at Stromlo during the RTE 4 hour

That is totally understandable. How much weight have you put on from not riding? Is it a bit harder for people to give you the reacharound ™?

I would have said that I didn’t put too much weight on in the 6 weeks off the bike, but there has been a few tell tales signs that might not have been the case. When standing up after sitting on the couch at the end of summer I had these lines across my stomach and chest from the rolls that had developed out of nowhere! Back at work I pulled on my grey trousers I bought about a year beforehand. They might have been quite tight in the rump and thigh areas, I felt a bit like a track rider. Anyway one of the ladies at work laughed that hard her tears were rolling on the floor and another one I thought was going to choke as she was eating at the time. Not sure how that’s affecting the RA, only time will tell that story.

I thought you were looking pretty cuddly.

Come here. I’ll show you

No, I am okay thanks *laughter* With a pretty substantial head injury sustained you must be having some major snooze issues as the brain recovers. How is that all coming along?

For the first time in a long time I was sleeping in till 7:00am, then having a loo trip, then back to bed and sleeping again till 8:40am, walking my daughter to the local school, then walking to a cafĂ© with dad and having a coffee so I could stay awake for the walk home. I had a great 6 weeks off, completely relaxed and switched off from work. Now I’m back at work full time and doing child pick-ups from sport or theatre 4 nights a week. Things are going well and I feel about 90-95% back to ‘normal’.

This is a loaded question I know…but will you ever be normal again? Do you want to be normal? What the hell exactly is ‘normal’….do you know?

Apparently I’m not allowed to compare myself to normal people as normal people might get upset. But I’m doing pretty good at getting back to normal old me. The filter is kicking back in again and the urge to yell obscenities at people for doing dumb things on the bike path is getting less.

 For a while instead of your normal bike riding commute you were taking the bus. Have you been discovering the pluses of buses ©? Are you the weirdest person on the bus between 2602 and Woden?

OMG, I took the bus 4 times between the 2602 and Woden to make hospital appearances. I think I’ve done my allotted bus runs for the next 10 years. I got a good shot at the title, but I was embarrassed at how easily I was beaten into 4th or 5th place on the bus.

You’re a braver man than I am my friend. I have not caught a bus since 1991. I saw you last week on your bike heading down south over Commonwealth Avenue. Where do you get your passport stamped for that trip?

I’m Tasmanian, so I’m used to passing through two dingo fences when travelling from north to south for family holidays and stuff. Every time you pass a lake in C-Town it’s a stamp, so I get two stamps travelling to work these days from the Inner North to Tuggers, in the old days living in Belco it was a three stamp commute each way.

The struggle is indeed, very real. Are you comfortable riding on the road or do you mix it up on the bikepaths?

I’m comfortable on the road commuting, I’m not scared of being hit and I have good side perception and good instincts for car drivers and their actions from years of commuting. Even so I hit my first car on Northbourne last year. A left turner in parked traffic. I got a bit sweary, but I was OK. I’m riding bike paths in the mornings on the way to work these days, and to be honest that can be a lot scarier than riding on the roads. If we as cyclists loose access to riding on shared path systems, it won’t be coming as a surprise. One Morning on the way to work, in the space of a km or so, I got a hello from the legend that is Blairy, then afterwards I had a guy on my side of the bike path, riding at me, passing someone else into a blind tunnel, well played idiot.

It is like a real life version of Frogger isn’t it? It was great to see you at the GP4 at Stromlo. Is 4 hours the shortest bike race you have done in the last few years? Did you feel like you were ‘back’?

I copped a fair bit of ribbing when I went to sign up for the 4hr and not the 7hr, all good natured of course. I’ve done the 3 Ring Circus a couple of times, that’s more in the ‘bit over 2 hours’ class. Plus, I’m sure you and I have put the boot into the Back Yamma Big Foot 100 a few times and finished in under 4 hours, I think my best was 3:50, it was a fun race though. I’d love to see what time Scott Nicholas would do on that course.
Sandbagging the 4 hour podium

Yeah we smashed it that year didn’t we? You were running a 42x10 ratio from recollection?

Yeah, it was something like that! At Stromlo, I think on that first big fire road climb on the start lap at the GP4 when I went past ole Gaz James and got close enough to heckle Morgs, I definitely felt like I was back at that moment, then we hit the downhills and I had to let ‘em past again J

How much riding have you actually done since the accident? At what percentage of awesomeness do you reckon you are at right now? How long will it take for you to get back to where you want to be?

I’ve been back commuting now for 6 weeks before the race, so around 50+ hours on the bike. Plus a few Sunday MTB rides and some Thursday night MTB rides as well. I’m about 50% of awesomeness. The leg strength is there, the lungs need to catch back up and the confidence on the downhills needs to build (a lot). I’m comfy now, the speed will build, I was never that fast anyway, 6 more months of just getting better at corners and I should be there.

 Right on! That’s awesome! You didn’t get to race WEMBO this year. Did you cope? Did you think, ‘oh man I could have totally beaten these chuggers’?

I coped really well actually, I think the hit on the head has made me a better person. I was really excited for Doris Day, Eddie Mac and The G-Man. That’s a great top 3 and all rode really well and put in loads of work beforehand. I was fit though and it was all coming together for me. I flew up Corin that day (of the crash) with no effort. If I’d crashed being an idiot I would have been really hard on myself, but it was such an accident that I just had to accept it all.

I was probably more annoyed that I missed out on the bike film festival beforehand and hanging out with my brother, his wife and kids, who were in Rotor Vegas at the same time. To get cheered on by that mad man half way through the lap would have be amazing!

Classic! What is next on the race\event list?

I’d like to get to more EvoCities this year than just Wagga that I did last year. Tathra Enduro is back on the cards for this year. I’ve heard BYBF might be back on. SS Worlds in Woodend and two weeks touring in Japan, maybe the Scott 24hr if I can learn to descend at Stromlo again.

Good choices. I am looking forward to the Tathra Enduro again. Will you be back at WEMBO next year?

My daughter is pretty keen on seeing Italy, so is my wife, I’d like to get to another WEMBO and it might be #24 of SS 24hr races, all started and finished. Let’s pencil it in shall we?

Suona come un piano. How is your sock height game these days?

It’s working its way up, new socks are running at a height that is SS acceptable, not crazy roadie wannabe height, but hey I can’t hipster anything, that’s why I have a son.

Okay, I’ll pay that. What are the INDR crew up to these days? Still meeting at Tilleys in 2602 on Thursday night?

The INDR seems to be building numbers at the moment, still meeting at the roundabout and it now incorporates a ‘Firsty First Fursday of the Month’ ride. We ride for about 1-1.5 hours and hit a brew pub for a few brews and a chat. Not as much fun for me at the moment as I go for the non-alcoholic option.

How is the Kombi going? How many km does it have on it?

The Kombi is still rockin’ and rollin’ and meets the rule of the bike racks must be worth more than the car, even without the bikes – thanks to Yakima Oz. I remember it clocking over 77777 whilst doing kombi shuttle runs on the TVT at new years.
If the Kombi is rocking, don't bother knocking

 How has the MTB community been during the rehab time? Any mean people half wheeling you on group rides that you need to call out? I know plenty of places to hide the bodies ;)

Eddie Mac always loves a half wheel on the bike path on the way to Majura on a Thursday night. The rest of the INDR crew have been sticking to me on the climbs around the place. And as for the downhills, they wait for me at all the normal regroup points. However, @ the Commuter Olympics I’ve been chasing down average roadies on the 36:19 every day.

The MTB community has been amazing, they got Janni and the kids to and from the hospital every day for 9 days. They rustled up a bike recovery fund to replace my frame and other broken bits and visited me in hospital and just made me feel very happy to be able to get back to riding again and just hang out with guys at night talking about dubious topics.

 That is seriously awesome. Any #protips for the kids out there?

 I don’t agree with the mandatory helmet rule for adults, but I’m a firm believer as an adult that you should make the decision to wear one. Helmets that fit and hold firm without the chin strap done up is important. Not all helmets fit all heads, try ‘em all on.

Be nice to your wife, you never know when you’ll have to rely on her for everything. Ride with mates and make mates to train with, for so many reasons. Always be nice to your mum, or you’ll hear about it!

Very good points there mate. Do you have any shoutouts for people that have helped you out since the accident?

No 1 goes to the INDR crew that I was with that day. It’s been a bit of a double edged sword for me. I feel bad for putting those guys through something they should never have had to deal with. But at the same time I’m very thankful that I was with such an amazing bunch of guys that had my best interests at heart at a time when I needed it most.

Then obviously my wife and kids who have gone through more than I will ever know as well.

Finally, the amazing community that we have built here in C-Town, from riding, running and schools. It all came together to support us when we needed it most, I can’t express how amazing that felt and how honoured I feel to be friends with these people.

A final thank you to all those people that contacted me via any form, either in person at the hospital or in electronic form over the interweb, those contacts kept me grounded and made getting things together in my mind easier.

Okay mate, thanks for catching up again. I’ll see you on Tuesday morning for commuter Olympics once again!

You know it’s on!