Saturday, January 22, 2011

Raising a child.

This morning, over the 7.30am feed Daisy and me conducted a little psychological experiment. We were listening to the theme track from The Wrestler...a touching and entertaining movie about Randy the Ram - a wrestler on the semi pro circuit, close to retirement, trying to chip out a living - played exceptionally by Mickey Rourke. The sountrack is great, a bit like the soundtrack to Dog Town and Z Boys - lots of old school rock - though this one is a little more poodle-permed.

Daisy seemed to be pretty stoked on it...hmmm! i wondered...where did the poodle-perm thing start? can explore this endlessly, but if it wasnt for Diamond dave - yes, David Lee Roth, it wouldnt have been anywhere near as huge, that is for sure...

So Daisy and me sat and watched some vintage Van Halen....She didn't seem *that* interested. I'll be honest, a sigh of relief escaped as i thought of what could have been. Having a huffy teenager listening to Europe, Ratt and Bon Jovi could drive you mad...

Now all i need to do is work out why she is always grabbing for things with her left hand...

Parental advice?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Smoke on the water.

Despite a cold i had to get out and taste some mountain air on Monday. The local trails have been well trodden over recent months and i havent been out of the Postcode for some time so i decided to take a risk and run to the hills.

I also wanted to see if i could close a loop that on a map looked like an awesome trail. I had hit the first part sometime ago: the trail disappearing off into the distance was tantalising as i had to turn tail and head back due to fading light and a need to be elsewhere. The sun was peaking from behind the clouds: time to ride.

This time i approached from the south then gained a broad ridge and went north west. It took 2 and a half hours of grovelling with my weakened constitution to gain the needed altitude.

When it came, the drizzle was welcome as it helped wash the stench of goat from the air. As i climbed upwards, a huge mob of deer passed from the eastern, higher ground, across the trail and down. As ever, catching the fleet of foot with a pocket camera wasnt easy - just a few found their way onto the memory stick. Click to make big and you might see one or two...

Once there i could see the dark clouds gather over Ben Lomond. No doubt there was precipitation. The ground was so waterlogged that riding was hard, but i was happy to deal with this and wasnt super insulated for snow or hail. What little ice remained was avoidable even as i got higher, and i didnt want the trail obscured by a fresh fall.

Needless to say as i reached the highest point, the winds rose and the semi-frozen snow/hail stung as it lashed the exposed areas of my skin. I was pretty surprised at my luck to see a wee house pinned to the very highest rock outcrop up there.

From the volume of snow on the access trail i reckoned the odds of their being anyone home were very slim, but the edge of a solid structure beat lying down in peaty cuts in the land as shelter.

As the snow hit my frame, it instantly became ice, leading to some pretty interesting texture on the bike! After a while, cloud base lifted and visibility was regained, Circulation to the hands took a little longer to regain, but it came and i set off.

From here, the map was indistinct. There was definitely trail for some of the way, and it looked like it would come mightily close to the singletrack as it passed through the bealach from the north east. To find out was the aim for this ride.

Degraded wasnt the best word for the trail as it dropped. Broken, loose, akin to a fast moving river is more likely to give a picture, but i made it down unscratched and there, just at the bottom of the valley - the singletrack!.

From here the trail was initially water logged with several massively over-flowing stream crossings to deal with but it dropped further into a root infested technical playground - that even now, and imagining it dry (ish) i'm not convinced i will be able to clear.

The route is complete. Now i need a day and some weather and a few hardy souls looking for about 6 hours in the hills.

The sun set and a smile lodged on my face. A fine day!

Thursday, January 13, 2011


So i believe the social-grouping -that-is-not-known-as-hipsters anymore call them whips. Maybe. As for hipsters, what are they now? marshmallows? soft and white? who knows....but who CARES when you could get a Smokey and the Bandit cycling jacket....

Regardless, i was getting fed up with trying to get mudguards to mount on a 29er fixed gear running road tyres. Far too much space betwixt frame/fork/tyres etc. A zip tie nightmare....and a bit cumbersome too. I also want to get the RoShamBo back up and running as a fixed *off* road bike. So, for the last few months id been looking aimlessly around for an alternate town bike.

Damn if Brooklyn Machine Works didnt re release the gangsta track as a made in taiwan and slightly geometrically reworked beast that hit the nail right on the head.

Tokyo Fixed Gear in London Town got it in the post overnight and BAM! here we are....

Prolly need to drill out the back of the cluster fork to fit a recessed allen nut in for the calliper brake and i need to do some swapsies, build up a shimano xt M756 hub (front) with a 170mm solid axle and spacers to make a dishless fixed rear wheel when laced with a mavic a317 rim and it should be hitting the tarmacadam asap. Hey! if Brooklyn Machine Works are good enough for Danny Mac, they're good enough for me...

Saturday, January 08, 2011

The Ride.

Those dapper chaps at The Ride Journal have a new issue about to hit the press. Get it.


A few posts up i was waffling on about a new bike. Those who know me well might be a bit surprised by the direction i've been heading this last year. At least in terms of bicycle drive chains that is!

First came a 27 geared road bike, rapidly replaced by a better fitting, 20 geared one. Then the Vertigo arrived with 6 speeds. As a result of this i did a bit of metal work and slotted 5 Dura ace gears onto the Jones - to tame the longer fire roads of the Kielder 100 mile race.

Since then, i have decided that a 9 speed race bike is a must.

Why the surprise? until last year, i hadnt ridden let alone owned a geared bike for around 10 years. That is a long time to be singlespeed or fixed only, but my riding style (lumpy pedal stroke and all) and the scottish riding environment (gritty, wet and abusive as it is) meant that it made perfect sense.

So why all the gears? for a similar amount of effort you can go faster or further in an allotted time. Thats all. I have been fortunate enough to avoid any injuries or problems that meant a singlespeed drive chain limited me, i just might be slower or i might need to get off and walk on the steepest pitches. Or, i might get fed up doing the ridiculous spin on the flats. Other than that, no major issues. It was the road bike that reignited the desire to have gears again. Then barrelling down hill on the Vertigo opened up a new way of viewing terrain and what i could do on that terrain.

So here we are.

I am pretty convinced that 10x1 drive chains will become prevalent over the next 2 or 3 years. The broadening of the rear gear spread has already meant riders are often dropping at least 1 chainring, if not 2. The big players - SRAM and Shimano _ are even offering 2 ring specific cranksets, often with narrower chainline. This is a good thing, not just for reducing the amount of redundancy in the drive chain, but also it makes for a better chainline with 135mm spaced rear ends, and thus more efficient shifting and less wear and drag. Shorter, tighter chains provide snappier shifting. What is not to like here?

If you move to having one chainring, and dont mind dropping the super low gears mountain bikes now have (back in the day, my lowest gear was a 28:28 !) you can run a 34, 35 or maybe a 36 tooth chainring, have an 11-34 or 36 spread at the rear, use a mid length derailleur and have an extremely useable range of gears which is both efficient and light.

But things are continuing to change. Specialized are far from my favourite bicycle company, but working with DT swiss and SRAM they initially produced a 6 speed wide-ish range 9 speed compatible 'powerdome' rear gear cluster. The hub probably utilises a stepped freehub body.

Now, they have worked on a 10 speed version, that has a 9-36 spread. With a single chainring up front, say a 32 tooth, that gives a fantastic gear range. Downsides? well, a 9 tooth cog isnt going to wear well, and the smaller diameter is going to force the chain into a tighter curve that will be less mechanically efficient. But with mud in the picture it is difficult to know whether this will be real-world noticeable. As Davechopsoptions points out, it seems there are more snapped chains with the 9 tooth/small chainrings on BMX bikes...a problem a pro-mechanic supported DH team are unlikely to face.

UK based Hope have also been working on a 9-34 spread freehub unit that fits directly onto the hub, with the pawls inside a machined cluster. No doubt, this will be prohibitively expensive to make, but it shows that designers and engineers are thinking along the same lines.

I suspect it is something we are going to see a lot more of.

{Some of the pictures were lifted from 3 threads on, which is a great source of mtb race and tech info. I downloaded and modified the pictures to better fit my blog. The three articles are as follows:
Well worth a read.}

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Ever decreasing circles.

Here we are. Days blurring into one, or days blurring into 'any' is probably a more appropriate way to put it. Back to the grindstone with January illnesses and flu 'epidemics'. Same old same old. Daisy continues to grow at the frightening rate that only a very young baby can - every day is different! First this, first that. It really is an amazing time. It is also an exhausting time. She seems to have her dad's ability to gulp down food WITH air and that can only mean one thing: screams.

On a related note, Telly Savalas Player and car and nose mechanic Russell persuaded his better half Caroline to produce a baby boy, Noa, on hogmanay. Way to go!....

And in also-related news, good friend and IMBA honcho Frank sent me the most important book i may read this year, and perhaps lifetime, The Three Martini Playdate. Frank is a gem, and i'm all the better for having kept his company.

(moostache and beardette are probably not the models own, nips, though obscured, most definitely are)

What else? the last time i went out for a ride i decided to go somewhere other than the local trails. I just needed some isolation, headspace and a change of scenery. Mistake: ice prevented me entering the forrest and as i slid disgracefully down the forrest road - with the trusty VW at a jaunty angle - on my third attempt, i knew it was probably the case the forrest roads were impassable by bike as well.

From there i headed deeper into the hills, but the road being closed was a bad sign. Retreating to the local trails brought a truth to light. The more you are forced to ride in a small area, the more you *do* with it. I guess thats why the 'local' hotspots of our childhood and youth ended up criss crossed with trails - we were there often enough, and were captivated enough - to put the time into to reroute, go different ways and rake the odd bit of trail out.

The end-point of this realisation was my finding a good way to close not one, but 2 singletrack loops that had kind of been bugging me recently. Options are always good and with a little work on one, and perhaps a little more work on the other, i should have a better way to connect up different trails.

I also entered my first race of 2011: the 12 and 24 hrs of Exposure at Newcastleton. I'm shooting for 12 hrs because i like riding for that amount of time - even if the courses are quite short loops. Give me big back country loops first and foremost, race or no, but 10 and 12 hr races are ok as well. 24 hours of small loops is insanely dull. There you go.

In closing, Neil Fallon is one of my favourite musicians. Clutch, The Bakerton Group, sometime Mastodon vocalist and The Company Band.

Here is some of the latter.