Sunday, 29 November 2009


Given that there are no fewer than six bikes - four mountain, two road-ish - sitting in the bike cave, how on earth is it that today none of them seems quite right? It's grey and wet - that super-cooled rain that somehow hasn't quite become sleet or snow but should have done - and intermittently windy.

The Pace did a tour of duty yesterday around Hope and Hayfield and all points in between. The Wanga, true to form, has blown its front tyre off the rim with Satan's voodoo-equse assistance, the 'vento has the wrong rear tyre and no front brake pads, the road bike is shivering and trying hard to hide in the corner and besides, its brake pads don't do anything in the rain (must fit those Koolstops) and the Rat is, well, just semi-slicked and not quite what I fancy.

Horribly tempted to build a crosser. This year's must have accessory, but somehow it feels like the sort of day it would thrive on.

Ah well. New pads and a new rear Minion DHF for the 'vento then and a quick, chilly, wet two hours it is then. Brrr...

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Fear of singlespeeding...

Saturday morning. Grabbed the Wanga by its ridiculously wide bars, put some air in its tyres and dragged it out kicking and squeaking into a slidey, slippy, grit-slurried November Peak morning. The Pace has eaten its drive bits - chain, jockey wheels, cassette all expensive trash - the 'vento has a flat front and, well, it was the obvious thing to do.

Anyway, cliche or not, it was like meeting up with a an old friend, a good but slightly eccentric one. After a first five minutes of fumbling for shifters and awkward spinnning out, a gradual dawning recollection of why I liked the thing in the first place, followed by a glowing, grinning, warm fug of affection.

I don't do quasi-religious, singlespeed-niche, self-definition - not that there's anything wrong with that, you could be into, erm, unicycling, for example, and that would be considerably worse - but for me anyway, the nice bit of singlespeeding is the way it changes familiar trails into something else altogether. The climb you habitually breeze up on your geared full-susser is suddenly a tricky amalgam of line choice mixed with sudden demands for spurts of step-clearing power.

On long Peak climbs, half the battle is knowing where to be slow. Being able to back off and still turn the pedals, so when you do hit the steep technical step that really does need that turbo-charged moment of sheer power to clean, you have't left it lying around somewhere lower down on the climb.

And that's the bit I'm missing. That top 10 per-cent of the rev range, the ability to push through just one more pedal stroke when your legs are screaming. The point where you suddenly become just lungs and legs and nothing more or less, and the bike improbably, impossibly pops over that step and leaves you bent over the bars, a mess of hyperventilating lungs and lactic-filled legs.

Need to ride it more.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

I believe in miracles.... erm.

Want a miracle? It's easy mate, just buy a brace made from this new fabric and wrap it around your sore elbow, it'll cure it in days. And while you're at it, these 400-quid pajamas made from the same stuff will lower your resting heart rate during sleep by 5bpm. And the baselayer? Er, increased power output, core strength and 100% better recovery.

How does it work? Hmmm, the fabric contains titanium, platinum and aluminium so it releases Infra Red radiation which messes with water molecules so they move across cell walls faster and everything goes from there.

Journalistically I ought to, have to, need to, keep an open mind, but every fibre of my unaligned being is just screaming 'BULLSHIT!' I've been to Lourdes and I've seen the cast-off crutches hanging in front of the holy grotto and strangely, I didn't believe that material anecdotal evidence either. Oh, did I mention that Simone Moro uses the stuff?

But the funny thing is, a small voice in the quiet corner of the mental auditorium, just behind the curtains over the fire exit, keeps whispering: 'Wouldn't it be great if it really did work? We don't understand everything in the world.' And, most persuasively: 'Wouldn't it be great to fix your elbow without evil friction massage and anti-inflamatories and rehab, because then you could lift your bike over stiles again and ride more footpaths.'

And that would be a proper miracle. A fabric that lets you ride footpaths more easily. So I have my fingers crossed, even the broken one that isn't broken because that would be annoying, and when the 80-quid or whatever elbow brace thing arrives I'll dutifully wear the thing and see what happens.

But I'll ride the bloody footpaths anyway. That's what they're there for, miracle fabric or no.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Cracking day...

Had a cracking ride in the Peak yesterday with a big group of folk from the STW forum. Started with quite low expectations - cynical, me - but it turned out to be an ace day in bright autumnal sunshine with just a hint of crispness in the air.

Not a fast ride. Not a long ride. Not even a particularly difficult one, but a mix of old and new faces, a consistent pace with stops that were never quite too long and some ace trails - Shooting Cabin, the gnarly bit above the Hayfield campsite descent, the rooty thing off Chinley Churn for three - and getting to know new people all made it a lovely day and all the more lovely for being quite unexpectedly so.

Thanks all, that was great.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Aftermath... And grippy ice.

It's a grim time of year to be my washing machine. Or my kitchen floor. Or my bath for that matter. Everything is covered in a grating, crunching, indestructible layer of Peak grit that's migrated in with bikes, boots, clothes and body.

There's no escape. Follow the grit trail down the stairs into the kitchen. Across the bathroom. And in a stunning demonstration of its Houdini-like properties, down the back of the leather Ikea Poang chair in the corner of the kitchen.

Damage limitation means undressing in the shower after rinsing grit off leggings and shorts first, then tippy-toed rushing down stairs to the washing machine for minimal floor splatter. And outside the pile of grit from hosed-down bikes is growing into a small, scaled-down replica of the Cairngorms and vegetation is starting to sprout there again.

It's all strangely, comfortingly familiar and will be for the next six months or so. Six months of changing brake pads and chains and chain rings. Of throwing-star jockey wheels. And ride soundtracks that ring like sandpaper being run over every part of your bike, because of course, that's pretty much what's happening.

But the pay-off is trails that are rideable all year round. No gloopy, clinging mud here, just a gritty slurry that rinses off in seconds. And grim, smiley, gritted-teeth rides with mates that are all the more satisfying for being conducted in the abrasive face of Peak winter.

And somewhere in the middle of it all will be the sparkly, special days when temperatures fall below zero and the trails freeze into sandpaper ribbons of frozen velcro. And even the ice with its core of powdered quarzite clings desperately to tyre knobs in a way that makes you imagine each tiny ruggosity being torn individually away.

And why does just thinking about that make me grin like a muppet. New washing machine please.