Thursday, 30 December 2010

The unbearable poignancy of snow.

I love snow. I like the glitter and the crispness and the way it paints everything epic so hills become mountains and mountains boost you instantly into a parallel universe of comprehensive 'too loveliness' - 'too lovely' being a state of quite incomprehensible, well, loveliness really.

And underneath it all, like a quietly chugging base-line, is the poignancy of snow's transience, the knowledge that it's ephemeral, that in a day or a week or maybe, if you're very, very, lucky, a month, it will give way to that sad, dirty, wet greyness.

 Snow today - grey, miserable slush tomorrow.

And unlike the Alps, where that means spring and brightness and warmth, in our benighted British climate, it's just an express ticket to sludgy, damp miserableness.

And that's kind of sad.

But it's also life. Like doomed relationships. And the best novels. And parties. And holidays. And weekends away. And none of them would be quite as good as they are, if things were any other other way.

But it doesn't stop it being sad. But in a way, it makes it even more lovely.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Merry Christmas...

Who says Santa's dead?

Or that tinsel has no place on a mountain bike?

And you can't ride on snow?

 Want this to last for ever...

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Dwunk in charge of a mountain bicycle...

Two pub rides in two days. The first one was an 'alternative works do', me and my fellow home-working / sneaky mid-week riding buddy, a spin on freshly-dusted, freshly iced trails followed by a pub lunch and 'several' pints of Mr Scrooge. Pub rides are what ice tyres were invented for... You can't beat a meandering, crackling, giggling progress through a series of sheet-iced puddles...

Then yesterday, added tinsel to the Pig and headed out local like with the Glossop Youth Mountain Bike Project, a worthy effort intended to delinquentify local teenagers with the help of mountain bikes. A fantastic day with insane clouds, treacherous trails with fresh snow artfully camouflaging plates of black ice and cheery tinsellated company.

It all finished at the Sportsman in Hayfield for, erm, a pint or two of Santa's Sac - really - and lunch, before - you guessed it - a meandering solo, 'just two more hills and a bonus descent' progression home. Lessons: even ice tyres have their limits and the steps on Middle Moor are lethal under ice.



Tuesday, 14 December 2010

The Things You Find...

At the top of Chunal no less. I have no idea why anyone would decide that the junction of the Monks Road and Chunal would be an appropriate place to site an advert for a Barbie pink, Playboy Hummer, but there it was - with a rainbow behind it no less. So if you need transport to the works Christmas do, here's the answer...

Meanwhile, in a slightly different, parallel universe, had a spectacular perfect arctic day on Kinder with my mate Dave and Zak, the crazed springer spaniel. Just lovely, bring back the snow, please.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Flat And Snowy

End of holiday flatness postponed by a knock on the door at 9 o'clock and an invitation I couldn't quite bring myself to refuse. Proper sub-zero overnightness, frozen trails and the fierce crackle of studded tyres on ice. And one sublime descent of Coldwell Clough at 'fast as I dare' speeds in a proper toboggan run of a trough. After which an under-used Shooting Cabin felt flat and anti-climactic. Lovely in a low key, low temperature, crunchy sort of way.

Maybe we should go a different way?
Snap, crackle and pop...
Downfall tundra.
Looks familiar... same place, different bike.
The world in shades of grey.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Orange bikes look great in snow...

They do - one Ragley, one snowy Peak District, the tail-end of a snuck holiday mid-week ride, lights, camera, action-ish.

And then it got dark.

Monday, 29 November 2010

That's better...

I love the way snow glitters like tiny stars in your lights when you're hooning down Cut Gate in the blackness, picking your way along a Scalextric-clean ribbon of grit-dusted snow through the jumble of rocks. The sound of ice cracking under your wheels and that funny round, hollow noise that big, tubeless tyres make on frozen ground. The funny looks when everyone else is heading home and you're off and up onto the moors. The quiet nods of recognition from other people who 'get it' - fell runners, bikers, walkers. And I love the views of distant towns burning bright in the dark. And ears burned by the cold. And the funny people who won't go out because it's 'too cold'. I guess I kind of like winter.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Out oF Time

November. Dark, brooding, not quite winter, not quite autumn. The sound of water evicted by the tyre treads of passing cars and spat into the night. Cold enough for longs. Drowsy. Lazy. Pilot light glowing in a far buried corner waiting for full gas.

A Rat.


A semblance of will.

Shuffling exit delayed by sartorial dithering. Baggies? Over longs? And what's that in the pocket? Gel, ace.  Flavour? A small, orange sachet of sun-block - 'Sun Shots - Five Star UVA Protection'. Blinking and cringing, out of season, out of time.

A small, sweet reminder of summer.

Deposited in the sundries pot. Replaced with matching orange Go Gel.

And out the door.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Trails Hello! style

This week BadlyWiredDog and his glamorous Pace RC405 invited Hello! to sample the delights of their sumptuous local trails. Or something like that...

Anyway, took a London-based colleague and mate and a couple of his Sheffield-dwelling mates for a work-day rumble around some local trails for local people. After a bit of a kitchen kerfuffle over tyres - no, Aspens are not a good idea in the Peak at this time of year. And oops, tubeless Wolverines and DT Swish rims really don't get on unless you have a crowbar handy. And why don't you just borrow these Minion DHF,s eh? - we headed out on a blissfully sunny, chilly and crisp early winter's day.

Tsssk.... you really shouldn't be here.
Just the process of deciding where to go makes you rethink your local trails. Trying to decide which ones are worth the time and the effort and which doors need to be kept firmly closed.So we headed over to Charlesworth on suicide lane - 'I'll just overtake on this blind bend shall I then?' - and up from there along Coombes Edge, or whatever it's called, then down and across the Shooting Cabin in reverse.

Gotta love that climb and you have to love the views of Kinder at the end of it, looking across at the edge sprawled out across the skyline with the fold of the Downfall creasing the edge of the world. And hey, it's a quiet weekday and, well, you've got to show guests the best bits, so it was off round the corner along traversey singletrack to 'that' clough.

Perfect, nicely damped singletrack with the odd rock-step thrown in. Cruising along looking at the views while the other scream off into the picture perfect future. Smiles and laughter. Priceless.

More of the same follows - Hayfield sarnines and Eccles Cakes, then Chinley Churn in frosty sunlight and a final whooped hurrah down Coldwell Clough and a finish behind the campsite into Hayfield before a final, tired drag back over the hill to home with a sinking sun for company.

Brilliant day and nice to be reminded by others' grins and enthusiasm, just how good my local riding is. There's something quite lovely about sharing your trails and seeing them again through fresh eyes and memories, so thanks for that guys. Must do it again some time soon.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

A patchwork quilt.

Two really ace rides this weekend. One with a group of friends, one that started with a group and sort of somehow ended up as a solo outing finishing at home.

And right in the middle of today's ride, I stopped just below the farm full of dogs above Hayfield and just took in the views.

It occurred to me that I knew the trails in every direction, could spot the Shooting Cabin to the left, the road up past the quarry onto Chinley Churn ahead, the track junction below the promentary near Kinder Low, knew where Kinder Reservoir nestles unseen and where the track from South Head that I'd just come down, runs. And Highgate Road. And 20 Trees. And more prosaically, the Sett Valley Trail. And loads more.

All tracks I've ridden over and over again. Laced with memories good and bad, old and not so old. And I thought about the process of getting to know an area, working out how tracks join together and link and overlap, those eureka moments when you grasp that the trail you rode yesterday is just a linking bridleway apart from today's route. Like doing a crossword. Or putting together a patchwork quilt. Not that I've ever done that.

And what I love about it, is that you stop thinking in terms of pre-formed routes and instead, just go. Mix things up as you ride depending on how you feel, how stuff's riding, where your mates want to wander. Or not.

The perfect Bank Holiday Monday begins with a dawn start and no particular place to go, just a bike, some food and a blank canvas.

It might be a short day. It might not. Like the ride over to Edale for a group ride that turned into an epic loop over Cut Gate and home again in crisp, grippy snow. Or the one that was mostly about an hour or two basking in the sun below Hollins Cross and watching the world go by. Sometimes alone. Sometimes with friends. Sometimes with someone you love.

But all possible because in your head, it's all joined up together.

And some of the the best rides with friends, are when you find another patch for your quilt. A new bridleway. Or track. Or footpath. That fits neatly and logically into place. Fills in a hole. Sometimes with the blazingly obvious. Sometimes brilliantly not so.

And I don't think it'll ever be finished.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Feeling autumnal

I've pretty much ridden myself into the ground - quite knowingly, Your Honour, guilty as charged - because the alternative was to look too hard at things I didn't really want to look at. And now my body's stuck two 'are these yours' fingers up at me, pumped up the lymph nodes behind my ears into hard little bullets of rattled immune-systemic spite and packed me off to bed.

Summer's last green calling card...

Just feeling deep-down tired and bruised and slightly broken. The bikes are sulking in the bike cave like unwalked dogs and the Peak has its autumn head on at last. Cold weather test kit keeps turning up with mocking inevitability. A North Face down jacket with nigh-on water-proof outer, several fleece-lined soft shell jackets and a selection of spiky things for feet. Oh, and gloves, ridiculously expensive winter gloves.

Tyres are shifting too. The Voodoo's shed its summer sandals - Dry XCR2 and Racing Ralph 2.1s - for fatter, knobblier winter boots from the tyre pile. Minion DHFs are 'in' and Ardents are 'out' and Mog, like all good cats, is shivering at the prospect of regular baths. And the Pace? The Pace has new, winter-hostile white saddle and grips to match its polar bear forks.

Coming soon to a trail near you...

It's all a bit grim. But I know it's temporary. The sun'll shine again. Grim autumnal Peak days will be mixed up with flashes of magic - nights when the trails freeze into grippy sandpaper friction fests, brooding skies with darkly magnificent cloudy eyebrows and then, one day, it'll snow and everything will be dusted with epic. And my legs'll work again.

But right now, I just want to sleep.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

I really am stupidly fussy.

I killed the Pushed Pike on my Pace. Or the Peak did anyway. Despite regular oil and seal changes, the vaunted reputation of Rockshox for durability and the the use of the finest lubrication - organic extra virgin olive oil or its suspension equivalent - the shiny aluminium patch on the left-hand stanchion got bigger and bigger and bigger.

It was an interesting process to watch - the shiny, polished, burn-scar patch  ridged gently, then like some sort of mutant birth mark started to spread up the stanchion. In a dry region it probably wouldn't matter. In a dry region it probably wouldn't have happened. But in the Peak, the end result was that a mix of grit and water tip-toed past the wiper seal, foam ring and oil seal and contaminated the lubricating oil in the fork lowers, screwed the action and caused yet more wear. Weekly oil changes. Not good.

 This stuff - doesn't like moving parts...

So in the end, much as I loved the Air U-Turn with its Push damper for its ability to wolf down repeated rock strikes at speed and come back unflustered for more, it had to to.

Normally I'd just swap like for like, but Air U-Turn Pikes are like hen's teeth now, so after several calls, mails and googles, it was off to buy a Dual Air Revelation, a 2011 with 150mm of travel. It's white, which after three years of black Pikes is weird. And it's light, around a pound less than the Air U Pike, I guess.

 Memories are made of forks

So anyway, tore the Air Pike apart and swapped the Push bits into the Pig's Pike coil - result - and stuck the Revelation on the Pace instead. Done and ride.

At this point, I'm meant to rave over how amazing the Revelation feels, but actually I'm so used to the Pikes that fresher, lighter, longer, whiter forks feel disconcerting.

I know how much weight shift it takes to lift the front end, not any more, 1lb less makes a real difference. The extra 10mm travel seems to raise the front enough to screw up steep climbs, grrrrr, miserable failure on Lockerbrook fighting just to keep the wheel on the deck, and the stickiness and set-up teething issues mean that the bike feels like a strange, foreign thing. No more plugged-in confidence, just this slightly disconcerting, alien, front-end frisk.

 Darn, innit....

And I don't care what anyone says, you can feel the difference in stiffness, the Pike was somehow just more implacably planted, the Rev just has that little bit less - but then that weight had to come from somewhere and that somewhere is the chassis.

To be fair, it's getting there. The seals are breaking in and upping the negative pressure pulls the fork down far enough to compensate for the extra height and adds small-bump plush as well and I'm recalibrating front-end lifts as well. Give it time. And failing that, give it the Pushed Pike from the Pig.

 Pig Pushed - win!

I don't believe in 'perfect bikes', that's just an industry marketing strategy and I feel slightly sorry for people who seem to be engaged in a doomed pursuit of the bike that will somehow transform their riding, and when something I have just works, I don't generally see the point in changing it unless I have to, because that just interferes with what matters, which is riding.

Oh, and the bike looks odd with white forks. Less solid, more flighty. Which clearly is utterly petty. But there you go. Black forks are stiffer and faster and just work better. Give it time.

And if time doesn't work, then it's off to eBay for another Pike Air.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Just follow manufacturer's instructions...

hey pig
yeah you
hey pig piggy pig pig pig...
Pig on Saturday, Pace on Sunday, Voodoo on Thursday, angst on Wednesday, Road on Tuesday, rest on Friday. So what the hell was Monday?

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Mucho wetness...

There's a tipping point to riding in the rain. When things get silly. And no matter what you do. Or wear. Or which trails you ride. You will get absolutely. Brutally. Completely. Soaked. With a capital 'S'. So you might as well enjoy it. And that was Sunday.

It might look suspiciously like a stream, but this is actually the tarmac track from Mellor Hall - I think - over towards the church. Nice.

And this here's the top of the Shooting Cabin, erm, about 50 metres of foot-deep water. Full pedallo mode on.

Silly and grin out loud funny. Bring on the winter.

Friday, 24 September 2010

It's all about the sheep...

Faith in human nature and bikes roughly restored. And sheep too. So what is it with me, I go riding with mates in the best places and I come home with pictures of sheep. Again.

'If I act coy, will you love me? Will you?'

Not just any sheep mind, these were weird homing sheep that spotted us from the other side of the field, trotted over and stood there looking all clean and blow dried and 'your sandwiches wouldn't melt in our mouths' seductive.

'And now I'm playing hard to get...'

They were some sort of pedigree sheep I reckon. Show sheep. Pampered, prima-dona-ish, glitterati types, fed on prime, virgin alpine meadow grass, specially imported from Switzerland and shampooed daily at an exclusive local hair salon...


... in the Goyt Valley. So maybe not.

Anyway, a brilliant secret singletrack mission, some on tracks I knew already and some on new stuff. And all of it ace in a twisty, rocky, moor-ish - see what I did there. And see what I did there too, lazy or what - forbidden fruit, weekday morning sort of way.

'Can I eat it?' - either participant...

Made all the better by getting home in time to hear rolling thunder usher in an afternoon of blackest, darkest, Peak rain. Good trails, good company, good sheep. What more could you ask for?