Tuesday, 21 August 2012

N + 1

Stuff I don't get: celery, sprouts, N+1... I don't understand that thing where cyclists seem to have a perpetual appetite for owning ever more bikes, the thing where 'N is the number of bikes you own', so the ideal number of bikes is N+1.

It seems quite wrong on so many levels. Surely, bikes are about riding, not about owning? If your bike limits your riding in some way, viz, you have no road bike and therefore cannot ride on the road, then fair enough, but the endless acquisition of new bikes that basically duplicate the function of what you have already - why?

I ride to escape from the awful, competitive, materialistic, 'more, more, more' society we've built. To be in the moment, not in the future or the past, but there in the now feeling tyres rumbling over rubble or skimming silently across freshly-laid tarmac or splashing wetly through summer rain.

And I don't notice what bikes other people ride. 'He was the guy on the purple Cotic tells me nothing'. Try, 'He was the fella with the massive grin whose eyes lit up like catherine wheels at the bottom of Jacob's on the other hand tells me everything I need to know.

How have the basic precepts of capitalism leached into cycling so thoroughly? Of course it's obvious: we have an industry and a media which is founded on selling new stuff - 29ers for the win, you need a whole new bike along with those wheels - and a mind-set which believes a good business is one that creates steady growth in profits every year rather than one that produces outstanding products and has happy, fulfilled employees.

And we have a world stuffed with people looking forwards instead of at where they are, who need the illusion of motion to feel 'not static'. And in that cycling doesn't seem so much like golf as like obsessive DIY: 'If only I had a new sofa, nicer wallpaper, a Bosch washing machine, a new Cotic Soul, my life would be better...'

There's no end to it. Well actually there is. Here's the alternative N+1, where N is the number of bikes you already have and N+1 is the number of bikes that'll push your partner over the brink and create another 'forum regular with a new log-in so no-one knows who I am' post along the lines of 'my partner has left me for a DIY enthusiast' STW thread.

Of course the joy of the alternative N+1 is that it seamlessly morphs into the original. You no longer have a partner, so suddenly the optimum number of bikes is whatever you want it to be. Which brings us neatly back to the start. Stuff I don't get: celery, sprouts, etc...


Sunday, 12 August 2012

STW Photo Pootle...

Snuck out with a motley collection of STW Seb Rogers wannabes in the Peak. Sharpened me elbows. Donned shades. Tried hard to look pro. Failed miserably. Anyway... here are a few slices of the chaos behind the scenes...

I have never seen so many flash-guns in my life. Apparently I accidentally rode into one as well on the Shooting Cabin. I mean, ooops, you just don't expect to find a slave flash sat on the line. Or maybe just off it... ahem.
Yes, that man is lying in the middle of the track with bikes on either side of his ears. Most pro mtb photographers have specially narrow ears for this reason, I've heard.
Wow, it was like a Leicester Square premiere up there... snappers all over the place with flash-guns flashing frantically.
And finally, Sheldon shows what fat bikes actually are good for. Get well soon mate.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Happy Mud Days...

Funny. I think I've physiologically adapted to mud riding to the point where dry 24-hour races just confuse my body. First lap at SITS in the hot and dry felt awful in an 'on the verge of viral doom' sort of way. Cue lots of debate over how few laps were needed and when to do them...

And then it rained for around 30 seconds, hard. The course turned into a familiar quagmire. And suddenly everything felt okay. On with the 1.8 Nobby Nics, a small dose of MTFU, a bit of gentle team efficiency and onwards into muddy familiarity washed in cool drizzle and a dusting - mudding - of Schadenfreude.

Awesome people watching. In no particular order: people who jet wash their bikes into perfect cleanliness between laps, when they must know that in five minutes they'll be back to muddy behemothness; people who fly into a massive strop at the first sign of mud because it was oh so unexpected; people who stand on the exit of lethally slippery corners pulling clumps of mud out of the bike seemingly oblivious to their own vulnerability; serious people who check out your numberplate just in case you're in the same class as them; and people, yep, just people.

Had an unexpectedly great time with nice people, 50% of them unexpected people at that. Big thanks to Rick and Steevo who stepped in at the last-ish moment and just got on with riding and being good company and tapping out the laps in somewhat trying conditions. No dummy-spitting, no complaining, even when Steve lost his rear mech in the small hours of the morning and Rick's meticulously prepped and cleaned bike got mud on it.

It was good fun. And interesting. Somehow, thanks to a combination of soloing and my old Dave Smith training programme - thanks Dave - 24-hour team races feel oddly luxurious; 1. Go as fast as you can. 2. Stop. 3. Eat, change clothes, eat more, chat, banter, drink coffee with mates, eat more, doze. 4. Hang around in changeover chatting with Ros, for some reason Ros always appeared to be there at the same time as me. 5. Go as fast as you can. 6. Repeat until noon on Sunday.

Easily pleased you see. And you can even sleep during the night.

But I think that's enough 24-hour racing. Next year something new, something different, something shiny and bright and fierce and mellow.