Saturday, 17 December 2011

Ooops, look what I built...

Been laid out with some poxy cold for the last ten days or so. No riding. No running. A brain that feels slightly removed from reality and the start of a nasty hacking cough. Bored. Bored. Bored.

So I did what anyone in the same situation would do and converted my bastardised singlespeed hardtail into an überbastardised, singlespeed, 69er, rigid. I've ridden a 29er. For all of about five minutes. And it sort of rolled over things in a deceptively nonchalant manner, but honestly, I'm quite happy with my Ragley and the Pace and as a journalist myself, I have healthy distrust of journos and new things.

Anything new or different tends to gets a 50%+ novelty weighting because, well, journos get bored too. They like new things and shiny things. Prime example, the Whyte 46, different but not in an entirely good way. And once the lingering canon smoke of novelty had cleared, most people realised that.

Anyway, I was kind of intrigued by the idea of stuck  a 29er front on the faithful 'vento, so after a bit of thought and research, I splashed out on the 26" version of the On One carbon fork. The Soma Double Cross temporarily donated its front wheel, stuck a 2.25 Ardent on it and bolted it all back together.

And? I have no idea. It looks okay, quite neat even. But I haven't ridden it yet. Weighs an okay 21.something lbs. From the wrong angle it looks like a modern-day Penny Farthing, but then it would. Mostly though you don't even notice. So there you go. .

Frame's a custom Setavento ti copy of a first generation Marin Rocky Ridge, singlespeeded courtesy of an external eccentric bottom bracket from Canada, erm, Future Components seems to ring a bell. More worryingly, the original 26" front complete with Bontrager XR4 is now on the cross bike. Perhaps fortunately it doesn't clear the fork, but just imagine it with a 2.1 Nobby Nic fitted. Or maybe not...

Friday, 9 December 2011


Not quite as planned. Initially at least... it did get better though.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Soft Sunday

The trouble with living in a valley is that every road out of it seems to go up. And the trouble with living in the Peak District is that there are an awful lot of hills. Which is great. It's easy to ride hill after hill after hill, to sneak out for a gentle roll down the Longdendale Trail and end up honking back over Holme Moss three hours later with warm legs and sparkly eyes... But sometimes you just need to CTFO.

Which is how I came to chuck the Double Cross in the back of the car and drive over to Ladybower in a very mellow, slow sort of way. Then ride gently on mostly flat tarmac and easy trails around the reservoir looking at ducks and russet brown leaves and the sun glinting on the water and the strange misery of Sunday walkers, which is an odd contagion spread by frowning. 

And I was considerate and friendly and smiley. I said hello personally to every dog I passed because, unlike people, they seemed happy to be out in the sunshine. And to top it all off, I had a lavish picnic consisting of a PowerBar.

I didn't ride lots of miles. Or climb any hills. Or inch down desperately steep techy things. I just sort of trundled along in the odd October sunshine. Topped it down with tea and a flapjack and headed home for pastrami and gherkin pizza followed by melt in the middle chocolate sponge pud with chocolate ice cream.

The 100-mile road ride can wait for another day.

Chill The Feck Out.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

My head's at a funny angle...

I've shamelessly stolen this photo from Steve Turner. It's Saturday. Somewhere above Halifax. On a mellow group ride with mellow group people on a selection of really nice trails that aren't made from the Peak's characteristic selection of rock and rubble.

A ride marred only by some wizzened old bat of a dog walker who lectured us on riding footpaths on private land - 'it is you know' - when the council had made a perfectly nice concrete cycle path going roughly in the same direction 'specially for mountain bikers'.

In a better world we'd have fed her to her dog, but there are laws about that sort of thing and the RAC has a long and litigious reach. Besides, the dog seemed quite pleasant and vaguely embarassed by its rabid owner.

So it was a nice day. In a part of Calderdale with mostly good memories. But my head was still at a funny angle.

And today, which is Sunday, went for a proper, aimless meander on the Double Cross. Three hours of mostly riding up hills and breezing down them, except for that descent towards the Fox which was like riding a rigid steel bike with narrow, over inflated tyres down a series of bedrock steps covered with loose rubble with the sun in my eyes. So that wasn't really that much of a breeze at all.

And there were nice clouds in the late afternoon light above Hayfield. The same place the raggety moon was sat the other night, but no relation. I'm writing gibberish now. You can tell this isn't written on the assumption that anyone'll ever read it... Sleep.

Sunday, 2 October 2011


Comedy Friday, Indian summer style and I sneak out into the heat to meet a couple of friends and ride in the sunshine. It starts badly when Rich realises that the lateral movement in his rear end is around the same as the up and down motion and abandons all hope to scoot home.

I am grumpy. It's fashionable to like heat and dust and sunshine, but I don't. I like dry and cold and crisp. I like ice. And frozen Peak ground that grips and rips like coarse Velcro. Given sunshine I mostly want to stop and bask in it. Look at distant hills. Yawn and doze and sleep. I don't want to ride in it with sweat running into my eyes and soaking my clothes.

The wrong bike, skulking. As well it might. Nothing to do with the rider's shortcomings...
And, like Gromit, I have 'the wrong bike'. I have my RC405 which after a change of head angle and fork and return to the original shock feels slow and heavy and just wrong. I have no idea why I brought it. Well I do, a small, quiet bit of my brain thinks it might be 'necessary' for the not very legit', rocky, twisty trail we've earmarked.

God knows why. Why I think the Ragley might not be up to it, it's ripped down everything else round here with a sort of bright-eyed, disdainful, insouciance.

And I ride the trail incredibly badly. Part of it I don't ride at all, I ride round it, and the rest I sort of thump and graunch and haltingly fall down. It's really quite nasty. And meanwhile Emmy makes it look easy and graceful and smooth and streaks off into the distance grinning like a cat that's massacred a whole park's worth of pigeons.

The rest of the ride is similarly rubbish on my part. I feel guilty for being grumpy and cussed. I choose a really astonishingly bad route back out of Glossop and even a new to me, entertaining, twisty, grassy descent doesn't change things.

So on Saturday I break myself in the sun on the road bike. Savouring the oddness of furnace-like heat, bright sunshine and wafting gently down back lanes strewn with autumnal leaves. In temperatures of 25˚C or so. You can't help thinking that however pleasant it is, the world is somehow broken. This is October?

Sunday. Redemption day. Early day. Head out with Dave Next Door and ride a succession of bad things on a weekend linked with the odd legitimate trail.  This time I'm on the 'right bike', the Ragley. Fast, borderline psychotic, and lover of steep things.

And the right one. A tight bundle of aggressive, slack-steering confidence.
 This time we ride the grassy, twisty downhill thing without the bike sucking the life out of it. Then twist our way round, via a chance meeting with a local friend out on his rather nice new bike, to the top of 'the trail'. A rubbly, rocky mix of steps and turns and twists that corkscrews its way down the hillside. It's as good as anything I've ridden in Spain or France or Nepal or the Andes and this time, I ride it properly - neat and composed and smooth.

Feeling relaxed on the bike and just, well, together. And halfway down I start to grin like an idiot, because it's a brilliant trail. And the sun is shining. And the Ragley's ability to slow down time on the steeps and the trickies means I never feel remotely out of control.

It is the right bike. And just for ten minutes or so, I feel like the right rider.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Grey with a hint of purple.

Everything's gone grey with a hint of purple. Which is nice. I'd forgotten how much I enjoy riding into night. Watching the lying sun sinking behind Peak hills. A cat that looks like a badger in the half light, but is still a cat. A dim pheasant playing verge roulette. A field full of long-lashed alpacca. Or were they vicuña? Back lanes littered with a criss-cross matrix of twigs. An owl spread out wide and swooping ahead in the gloom.  A hint of somewhere in the middle chill in the air. And an understated shadow of winter just over the horizon.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Angry Bike

Raindrops against my window. A singlespeed. Ride over to the Fox with two tons of U-lock in my pack which I lock to a handy picnic table before hiding under a handy roofed thing with non-operative wood-burner. Meet people. Ride for two hours badly through gritty slurry and semi-liquid cow pats. Final descent on path composed entirely of the latter. Yuk. Get back to pub. Drink beer. Eat curry. Talk too much about rubbish. Unlock bike. Ride home over Lantern Pike with resurgent curry. Surprised that legs feel good. Brake pads evaporate. Home. Order sintered pads on line. Next morning wake to this... Just like old times :-)

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Capitalist Running Dog

I've always sort of meant to run a marathon, so when Salomon offered me a free spot at Kielder, I said, yeah, why not. Which means I'm trying to reach my legs to run again instead of going round and round in circles.

The theory is that I have some semblance of cardio vascular fitness from riding bikes a lot so all I have to do is teach my legs to run again. In theory. But of course, you use different muscles for running. Which always makes me laugh. Are there people out there with two sets of leg muscles that I don't have?

It's always seemed to me that you actually use the same muscles, but differently. In particular, running downhill uses the quads eccentrically, or something like that, anyway, they have to do that braking, cushioning thing, which doesn't happen on bikes. And then, of course, there's the impact. On every stride.

All of which seems to mean that running uphill is fine and actually quite comfortable, a bit like climbing out of the saddle. And running on the flat isn't too bad. But steep downhills are horrid.

I'm not sure what to do about that except run and run a bit more and trust my legs to deal with it in time, like that have in the past. And ultimately, I just want to get round. I don't care about running a good time, just finishing in one piece.

Oh well. It could be worse. I could be doing it in those stoopid barefoot shoes...

Monday, 22 August 2011


Looked like this. Peaceful, beautiful, no cars.

This'll be why.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Access All Feckin' Areas? Feck right off.

I like the current rights of way legislation as they relate to mountain biking. The mountain bike press love to make a ridiculously complex meal out of it, endless articles by experts and instant experts advocating wider access for bikes, same laws as Scotland, same rights as walkers and so on.

They need to get a grip. It's simple, really simple. The current rights of way legislation in England and Wales is comical. It's based on random historic accident and has nothing to do with suitability for purpose. Tracks which are sustainable for all-weather bike use are classified as footpaths, trails which run over delicate, friable peat or rare psychedelic lichens can easily be designated as bridleways. It's rubbish.

But here's the thing. Here in the real world where we actually ride, you can ride footpaths as long as you use a certain amount of discretion and, increasingly, even if you don't. Some of the best riding on this side of the Peak is technically illegal - I use the phrase 'illegal', but some magazine egghead will have different, more complicated take on it, so let's just say, it's on footpaths - and it's ridden a fair bit.

Meanwhile, the popular main routes in the Peak, the ones which are repeatedly reproduced by mtb journos and guidebook writers with minor tweaks so they can claim to be 'original' are over-run by mountain bike tourists - slow, fat, talentless weekend wannabes who buy the book or magazine and ride the routes.

Yep, the routes in the mags and the guide books. The ones which are strictly legal because they can't afford not to be. Now imagine a world where rights of way are thrown open. Imagine the updated guidebooks, the magazine articles - 'Ride The New Peak - we show you five great unridden trails' etc. Imagine hordes of riders descending on your favourite local trails in all weathers, because the bulk of mountain bike tourists have the environmental sensitivity of a Texan oil baron, and trashing them.

Mincing down the technical stuff, doing that grim-faced 'we're extreme sports people' face they pull for walkers, chewing the feck out the trails.

Stuff that. I like the rights of way legislation just the way it is. The guidebook writers and the mountain bike journos can go on rehashing the same old, same old. The bulk of riders can carry on riding those legal routes. And the rest can stay just the way it is, thanks.

And yes, that may be selfish. Or elitist. Or just plain unfair and wrong. But I really don't care. Thing is, there's nothing to stop you riding those trails right now except lack of initiative and laziness.

Thursday, 4 August 2011


From the nice people at Keep Pedalling in Manchester. All skinny steel Tange tubes and disc compatability and purple-sheened silver metallicness and crossiness and... well, it's just very nice. Big thanks to Rich and Shona, without whom I'd never known it existed.


... a Double Cross DC if you were wondering.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011


Bontrager 24/12 solo 24 at the weekend. It's Wednesday now and I'm almost awake again. The right forearm I trashed at 10 at Kirroughtree, that came back to haunt me in the wee small hours of the morning and again on a final three bonus laps, feels almost normal.

My legs are still sore and heavy. And I'm on holiday. Home-brewed latte in the sunshine. Ian Banks' latest novel half read on the patio table and a pile of unread tomes to follow. A scruffy house waiting patiently to be spruced up and then the world's a slimy sea-shelled thing - Scotland, southern Spain, eastern Europe, you name it.

It's nice to stop moving. Physically and metaphorically. The weekend was ace. The best 24-hour course I've ever ridden by a country mile. A brain-frying mix of slippery roots and fast singletrack, moorland rockeries with scenic ponies tagged on and a great, mellow atmosphere.

Definitely going back next year with a fully-functioning body - touch wood - for another go.

But right now it's kind of nice chilling out on life's hard shoulder.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Don't trash your arm before a massive trade show...

Just back from four days in sunny Germany - Würst, Kartoffeln, Würstkartoffeln, mit Speck, you know, sausages, more sausages and meaty things with potatoes at various prices. Anyway, always good to catch up with people in the outdoors industry, but this year I took my mate 'Crunchy', my interestingly swollen and slightly yellow and audibly creaky right forearm...

I crashed a couple of times riding 10 at Kirroughtree with a mate last weekend. I figure one injury was impact, the other was more of a sprain, both the right forearm sort of area. Anyway, to cut a dull story short, it was a great weekend with nice people and my arm got a bit sore.

The trouble with having a very delicate right arm, of course, is that you can't shake hands with it. So you end up using your left hand. In a weird, Freemasonesque reversed grip sort of way. And then the obvious question is: 'Oh, what happened...'

My favourite brand stand - Dong Garment, one of the big swinging, erm... anyway.
I reckon I told people I'd crashed a mountain bike around 50 times in two days. Oddly, though the arm was uncomfortable, it wasn't sharply or searingly painful. Just a bit sore and ouchy if you twisted your hand too much. But loads of people seemed convinced that it was broken. I don't think so. It seemed to pain them more than it hurt me. Which was odd.

I once interviewed Joe Simpson and he explained that the endless repeated telling of traumatic events apparently helps post-traumatic stress sufferers by making the actual events feel like story that happened to someone else. Ironically in my case, repeatedly telling the story, gave rise to sort of post-traumatic stress of its own.

Eventually I chose to shake hands a risk real physical pain rather than suffer the horror of telling the story once more.

Other things, a small box of Ibuprofen costs almost a tenner at the pharmacy in Zurich airport. At Tesco in Glossop, the same box retails for 42 pence... I've decided not to emigrate to Zurich airport any time soon. And no, I didn't buy them.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011


Woot moggy! We're going racing....
I'm training again properly, have been for the past couple of months - well, properly for me, real racers and that can look away now. In the middle of that funny thing when your body starts doing things that you didn't think it could and the brutal high intensity intervals start to make sense. And that feeds the motivation for the next ones.

I have a bit of a grudge match with a solo at 24/12. Last year's was a mess. Head a bit wonky from memories of the year before's 12-hour solo and the crap around it, thanks for that. Leg a bit wonky after someone knocked me off on a benign arena track catching the end of my bar on a pointless overtake - 'Oh, was I a bit close?' What do you think, muppet... - and then, when I should have just dug in and got on with it, the realisation that no way, back in the real world, was I going to be able to race pairs at SITS two weeks later and, in the process, would badly let my mate Dave down badly.

Which was obvious. And if I weren't so stupid and hadn't been so blase, I'd never have put myself in that position. But the end result was that I bailed on the basis that I'd live to fight another day at SITS. Which I did, but not very well because I'd already done 11 racing hours and my back self destructed at three in the morning.

But anyway - none of that this time. Just 24 solo at 24/12. One aim - to finish the thing and enjoy riding it, because oddly, despite being a not very endurance athlete - all fast-twitch muscle and sprintiness, me - I really like soloing. It feels like good value for money. The pace is relatively mellow. And you get to watch the course unfolding like a good book, shifting and changing and wearing.

And you get to know the course, the smoothest, most economical lines, the bits where you can relax and flow for free speed and...

So there it is.

But first I get to race 10 Under Kirroughtree with a mate at the weekend as a pair. A final blurry speed fest, hopefuly, by Ragley but with fat, fast tyres, to get that out of my system. Then a bit of a taper. A long drive and go.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011


I stuck 1.75 Smart Sams on the Road Rat last week, took off the front mech cos it fouled the tyre and stood back for a look. The idea was that it might give it more ability on the rocky stuff without hitting road and hardpack speed too badly.

Hmmm.... in reality it seems to be bloody horrible. First, compared to Maxxis Raze cross tyres, the Smart Sams drag on tarmac. Next, while they're more comfortable on rocky terrain, you're still on a rigid drop-bar bike and you still know it. And it looks sort of horrible cruising the borderline between monster cross and drop-barred 29er in an ugly, drunken, badly-proportioned sort of way.

The one place where it did seem to make sense was barreling down a hard, gravelly, easy bit of trail where it rolled fast enough and took some of the ping out of the terrain. I guess if I lived somewhere composed of miles and miles of gravel track, it might make sense, but for me, living here, proper cross tyres seem like a better, faster, more versatile compromise and have the bonus that you don't look quite such a niche twat.

Anyone want to buy a pair of barely ridden Smart Sam 29er tyres in 1.75" size?

Missed a trick though, it could have been so many twattish niches in one bike - imagine, a fixed, singlespeed, monster-crossed, drop-barred, steel-framed 29er, with 'alternative' Midge drops and cable disc brakes. Dodged a bullet there... or maybe an RPG round.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Me! Me! Me!

Might have written this... slow, weak, rider coming through on your, erm, left, or er... or not.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Mayhem The Weird Way...

Did Mayhem at the weekend as a sort of last minute substitute for a mixed team - ultimately there were, erm, three of us, when there should have been five. That and a load of brooding storm clouds and incoming isobars meant that I badged up the single-speeded Rockyvento as a Maverick, slapped a Morvelo sticker on the fork and an Alpkit one on the chainstay and slapped a Ragley Ti one on the seat-tube for max confusion and packed a selection of mud tyres.

It was kind of odd being non competitive from the start - normally it takes me a couple of laps - but  had a really good weekend. For starters it never really rained properly. I saw loads of nice people I've not seen for far too long and met some new ones too. The Horror Cat got an outing with glowing red eyes and all. And surprisingly my singlespeed legs worked despite advanced mono-cog rustiness.

Ended up doing two double-lap stints then a triple on Sunday morning. I could have done a quadruple, but it felt like enough and I wanted to be able to get back into 24/12 training mode this week. So, seven laps at a briskish pace for me, lots of climbing, 70-odd miles of singlespeeding, sore hands from that final descent taken flat out every lap cos it was smoother that way, or maybe it was just over faster...

Lots of people thought the singlespeed thing was mad, but actually it worked pretty well there - lots of climbing, but most of it at an eminently singlespeedy gradient and the lack of weight, Rocky's around 22.5lb with no particular effort to keep things light and the lack of complexity help. There's a certain smug satisfaction from listening to folk desperately screwing up gear changes at the bottom of every climb while you just creak serenely on your way.

The Horror Cat did the steering, I turned the pedals, pulled on the brakes occasionally and came along for the ride.

Overall it was kind of reassuring that I could do that with very little singlespeed background this year and still feel pretty strong. Next stop, 24-hour solo at 24/12 but with gears.

Somewhere at the back of my head though, is an insidious little voice that keeps whispering about maybe soloing Mayhem next year on the singlespeed...

Floaty, fluffy, rest-day mode now.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Summer - For One Day Only...

Summer was yesterday. Dry, hot, fast - seemed a shame to waste it, so I didn't. Great day.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Here and there.

My mate Mike stayed over on Tuesday night. He bought curry and covered the front room in lightweight kit before spending hours wrestling with a GPS / lap-top nexus and finally getting up at 5.30 am and dragging a bloody great bike box to Glossop station en route for Manchester Airport.

He's off to ride the Divide, which is ace. And he's kind of scared and excited and wearing ridiculous old clothes to throw away in Banff and watching him filtering ride kit and backpacking kit and kit kit reminded me of packing for a big mountain climbing trip.

And I have to admit I was a little envious. But at the same time, very, very glad I wasn't off to ride endless American hardpack for days on end.

I like stopping and looking at places. The best thing about extended traveling is being able to stop and take in the good bits at will, not rush past them and through them and over them. And I can see why people like the feeling of movement, of passing through, of motion. But sometimes stopping works too.

And then later, when Mike was somewhere over the Atlantic, I snuck out for a ride with my mid-week riding bud, a twice-postponed mission in search of local tech and we found it. Awesomely lovely rocky downhill singletrack with enough flow to keep it fluid and enough rock to make it consistently interesting.

Bloody ace and ten minutes from my front door.

Sigh. Best thing I've ridden for ages and good company too. And with added cake.

Sometimes the best things are nearer than you think.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Secret Squirrel...

Rode two new and potentially brilliant trails the other night, one I've been eyeing for ages, but never actually made the effort to try - obvious line, one slightly sick bit, mostly good fun with added washboard on the latter stages, thank ewe sheep.

And the other one that I had not the faintest idea existed. A storming mix of rhodi-lined ridge-contouring scenic smile territory - 40% attention on the trail and the rest on the views - diving into distinctly un-Peaky, woodsy singletrack, mulch and root and the odd rocky step to keep you thinking and, whoa, nice.

Just brilliant. And amusingly just 20 minutes easy ride from my front door.

You've got to love the way local trails can still surprise you. It's all lovely and familiar and mellow, then bam, right out of the blue. A bit like discovering your long-term partner has a secret sideline as a trampolening fire-eater or the local Indian has a 'secret menu' with loads of interesting new stuff you've never tried before. Not sure that ever happens though...

Don't get me wrong. I like riding new trails in new areas as much as anyone, but there's something properly lovely about rummaging through your local area and coming up trumps.

So where is it? Ah, that'd be telling.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Smooth please.

Local ride last night, local trails for local people. Legs still slightly wooden from the weekend. Slackened Pace feeling heavy, slow and unfamiliar - missed the Ragley for its lightness, precision and bright-eyed speed everywhere.

Anyway, brain wondering around the periphery of the landscape. Hip-hopping along distant ridges and hidden cloughs. Half-wishing I was riding on my own. Remembering why I grate with certain types of group rides, the alpha male stuff.

Thinking. Just how messy and ungainly people look when they're trying too hard to go fast. Thrashing and desperate and frenzied. And I'm not claiming immunity there, I've done it too, I think we all have.

But right now I'm trying to ride smooth and loose and neat. Speed but relaxed, economic speed. Sustainable speed. It just feels nicer. Like running your hand over sanded wood rather than a splintery plank.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011


Did the Lakes Epic thing at the weekend with my mate Davey and it turned out to be mildly epic in a mellow sort of way. Took Rags the psychotic Ragley Ti to save some weight and add some interest and never once regretted it, well, maybe when I was pushing a 2.5 Minion DHF into a headwind, uphill, on tarmac, for ages, on day two, but off road and particularly on the technical stuff, it properly rocked...

Anyway, a sort of loop around the bottom of Skiddaw then down, via Threlkeld to Thirlmere and over Sticks Pass. Not ridden that before. Mostly the climb was a steep carry come push come short bits of granny ring spinning, but worth it for the descent into Glenridding, which was lovey and thought provoking at the same time.

And it got us down to Ullswater for a stormingly, lovely, traverse of the amazing lakeside singletrack - properly ace. Rode loads of stuff clean that I often faff up thanks to the Ragley's poise, whoomph and bright-eyed, big-grin, psychotic ti-grained soul. Got to the end of it and looked round for the folk who'd been with us at the start and they'd just gone.

Sticks Pass from the Thirlmere side - push or carry, your choice...
I'd been kind of worried that the Ragley wouldn't be able to keep with suspension bikes on the more teccy stuff, but the reality was that it handled everything brilliantly, even the fast bits. It really is something else, just over 25lb with a 2.5 Minion DHF on the front and a 150mm Revelation. The front end just feels incredibly planted, the bike oozes va-va-voom and despite the lightness, it never feels remotely fragile or vague or out of its depth.

Hike-a-bike two in the background, track on RH side aiming for that obvious notch.
 There was an amusing post on the STW forum that compared it to a shag-happy nubile, but for me it's more like one of those lightly-muscled folk who look perfectly normal till the shirt comes off and you realise they're all stripped-down, 100% functional, honed power and poise. Good enough to show a clean pair of heels to a Specialized Pitch on nadgery rockery, light enough to climb hard tec and way better than me. Anyway, I love the thing to bits and Brant for designing it in the first place.

All that and it'll handle 60-mile days in the Peak or Lakes too.

Anyway... one more hike-a-bike and some lovely flowing stuff down to the overnight camp at Pooley Bridge, we came in 12th and 13th, so that was okay, but to be honest, it was just great spending a day with a mate, chatting with a bunch of nice folk, riding some lovely trails and being grateful that the rain held off until we'd finished.

Oooops, pitched side on to a serious freak gust - bang, snap, drama...
 Tent pole snapped overnight in the wind. We decamped to a spare Macpac Minaret, slept, ate, and eased into a pretty wet and windy day two. Lots of road, lots of headwinds and a truncated route, but still good to be out.
One slightly bedraggled Davey at the finish of day two - hard on the
Keswick Mountain Festival which looked equally soggy...
 I've run out of words now, but a cracking weekend

Can we go now?

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Cross purposes.

Things I've learned recently. I'm glad I don't test bikes for a living - I have BikeMagic's test Cotic >X< for a couple of weeks and I don't have the breadth of experience of riding cross bikes to put it in any sort of real perspective. And besides, I enjoy riding bikes, not deconstructing them.

I quite like the thing, it's basically a shorter, springier, drop-barred Road Rat with a carbon fork that's taken the horrible solid clang out of the front end. I didn't like the steering, the tyres, the gearing or the bars - yes, I know, a long list - so I changed them all. And then of course it wasn't a standard bike any more.

So you get into the thing about whether you should alter things so they work better or just ride as is. Tell you what though, seven flats in three rides or something, those bloody tyres had to go or my sanity was outta the window at speed...

Anyway, in its lightly improved state - or 'ruined' one, depending on how you feel about these things - the >X< suits me pretty well. With an 11-32 mountain bike cassette out back it climbs properly off road without giving you a hernia on every slight rise, steers acceptably and is surprisingly capable on rougher things up to and including limited rubble fields and small bedrock steps. And it has a 29er-style rollability to it that means it'll run through things if you will.

Not so lovely...
What's really nice about it is being able to mix everything up. Like Sunday, when I took it out on the road, over Holme Moss and on to Marsden via a mix of bridleways and back lanes for cake and coffee with Rich and Shona at the excellent Crumbals, then high-tailed it back home on the Pennine Bridleway. Try doing that on a mountain bike. Or a road bike.

You fair hurtle along the flatter, harder-surfaced stuff. And then there's the more technical off road bits where I sort of picked my way down. And then there was the Longdendale Trail when the front tyre decided to peel off the rim releasing the inner tube to wrap itself balloon dog style around the fork. And the hub. Hmmm... And it didn't even flat. And I didn't fall off. Slightly bizarre. Limped home with slash in the sidewall patched in traditional fashion with a gel wrapper.

I call this art.