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.