Sunday, 1 March 2015


Strava made me do it... Cut Gate in mild absurd conditions during the Festive 500.

How did this happen? How did I go from being someone who quietly loathed Strava to having two Festive 500 woven badges sat in my bespoke ceramic olive dish. How is it that I am now almost incapable of leaving the front door without hitting the little red button on the holy iPhone?

Back then, before Strava, I conceived of something called Stravanfreude, the vicarious delight in someone else's Strava misfortune: the KOM lost to a savage tailwind? Stravanfreude. Forgetting to switch your GPS on before setting off? Stravanfreude. Snapping your cranks on the Grindleford Goat? Actually that's something different again, let's call it Campagnogo...

But the thing is, I was wrong about Strava. Actually I was part wrong. I still think people who target particular segments rather than just riding are a little sad. And don't get me started on riding road bikes off road in search of KOMs. And letting a segment ruin a perfectly good ride just seems slightly tragic.

The Bonette - faithfully logged and shared.

But there are great things about it too: being able to watch what distant mates are doing in the benighted south for example. Or trailing around Aberdeen. Or, and this is how it started, where your girlfriend is riding as she meanders around the Alps in a camper van. Those things are brilliant.

As are some of the totally artificial challenges. Not because they are always particularly challenging - if you live in the Peak, for example, the climbing ones tend to be a little meh - but because on those special grim northern winter days, they're sometimes the tiny weight that tips the balance.

Which means, sometimes, unexpectedly brilliant or just plain daft rides, like a Festive 500 inspired crossing of Cut Gate in fresh snow last December, which had nothing much to do with riding, but everything to do with just being outside.

Strava weaponry - cross bikes are quick as off road. Which just underlines the nonsense of the whole thing...
And oddly I like the kudos thing. Real kudos that is, not the knee-jerk stuff. It's just kind of sweet when one of your mates notices you've done something half decent. It's like a little wave from a distant hill. Not essential, but sort of entertaining.

I'm not that fussed about KOMs, but when I do get the occasional top ten place, usually by mistake, it does make me smile.

Ahem that'd be the end of Flow Field Switch Bitch on a quasi-commute then.
Ultimately, Strava I suppose, like a lot of things, is moulded by the user. It's what you want it to be. A training tool. A social thing. A personal challenge. A spur to getting out there. Or maybe just a source of gentle curiosity.

So there you go. Not under my own name though. Either of them.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Improving Life For Local People

I was amused to see that Derbyshire County Council's latest corporate vehicle slogan reads 'Improving life for local people'.

As a 'local person' that gives me a nice warm feeling inside, except that DCC's idea of improving my life appears to include flattening some of my favourite local trails and covering them with gravel. At my expense as a tax payer, obviously. Are county councils brilliant.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Not Good...

I walked out of a biking film at the weekend after about, oh, seven minutes or so. It was called Not Bad, ironically maybe it was not so much not bad as bloody awful. It kind of encapsulated all that's depressing about mountain biking culture - the back story, a bunch of riders sponsored by Trek are shipped out to a beautiful, remote area of New Zealand where they behave like a bunch of overgrown teenagers.

This is a film where food fights are the height of entertainment. Where drinking beer is considered hilarious. Where words of more than one syllable are edited out so as not to alienate the audience. It is a culture utterly devoid of any sort of intelligence.

How's that happened? Is it because mountain biking grew up in a post-literature era of instant internet gratification and YouTube bike porn? Is it because mountain bikers are simply stupid? Is it because of the film-makers editing out any vestige of thoughtful reflection?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not asking for some sort of philosophical analysis of why we ride and what it all means, I'd just like to be able to watch a mountain biking film without feeling that my intelligence is being insulted. And trust me, I'm not that bright.

Oh, and one more thing, the music was bloody awful too.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Globetrotter returns...

Meet the Ragskey... as far as I know, he's one of a kind. The world's only fat curved downtube, fat headtubed, 27.2mm seat-posted Ragley Ti. Looks ace, rides even better and looks good with a Sock Monkey.

Huge thanks to Mark Lynskey and the boys over in Chattanooga, Tennessee for finally sorting out a very confusing warranty situation and taking the time and effort to make things right when arguably they didn't have to. And thanks to, to Hotlines for their part in the process. 

Not sure how I ever ended up dealing directly with Lynskey's head honcho when technically I should have been talking solely to the shop who sold me the frame in the first place, but top marks to Mark for responding so quickly and positively when I e-mailed him, explaining why the initial warranty job was as it was - smaller curved downtube, 27.2 seat tube - and for agreeing to sort things out.

It's taken a while, but it's been worth it. It looks like a Ragley Ti with a curved downtube ought to look and it rides beautifully with a sort of controlled, 'faster, faster' urgency everywhere. Stunning.

Friday, 4 October 2013

I miss my bike...

I am conflicted. I miss my Ragley Ti in a way which is not reasonable. It cracked around six months ago, went back to Lynskey to be repaired, came back looking wrong and is now back in Chattanooga, Tennessee being fixed.

And while I know that riding bikes is about riding and not owning. The process not the means. I miss the thing. Ultimately, I guess, because it's so good that it's transparent, it doesn't come between you and the riding. Which meant it was a default choice - as in, going mountain biking? Which bike? The Ragley.

Which means that now, although I'm lucky enough to have a choice of several bikes, the internal dialogue runs: going mountain biking? Which bike? The Ragley... oh :-/

Clearly it's wrong to miss an inanimate object quite so much, but here's the thing. At a point where a lot of stuff was grey and messy and painful, that bike was a sort of gleaming, uncomplicated, beacon of near perfect rightness.

Never mind.