Mountain Bike Shenanigans

Ice Bike Ride
February 24th, 2006

I’d arranged with the Singletrack editorial board to head up to Calderdale and drop into the new Singletrack Office to discuss the possibility of an article for the mags. I arrived armed with cakes from the bakers around the corner and left with some inspiration and a list of objectives. Chipps’ real coffee tasted fantastic and it was great to see the place.

The bike was still in the car from Sunday and I’d taken it and kit just in case there was a possibility of a ride, but in the end the opportunity didn’t materialise and as the afternoon was pressing on I decided to head off to familiar territory. From Milnrow I headed cross-country on a nice drive via Delph over to Longendale. I say nice, but really I was playing roulette with the fuel gauge. Was there enough Optimax sloshing about to make it?

That didn’t really seem as important as taking in the stunning scenery up on the moors. The tops were dusted with snow and it reminded me of the icing sugar on tops of cakes in the Bakers. I rolled in to the car park in Royston Vasey, parked up and kept the faffing to a minimum as I changed kitted up and headed out of town. The bike was completely caked from Sunday, but the car had done a good job of drying it out so it was dry mud rather than wet and the drive train had that crunchy not working very well feeling for about 30 seconds until a big puddle splash was sufficient to get it wet and working again.

For those that don’t know it, the Longendale trail follows the old railway line up the valley from Hadfield to the Woodhead Tunnel. It’s a good route a because it’s low risk in Winter, is reasonably short and is a bit of a test. Today the long climb up the valley was into a bitter headwind. The Endura bibknicks with their three-quarter length cut left my shins exposed to an icy chill, so they were red with cold.

The noise of an emergency services siren caught my attention as it approached over my shoulder and a look up the valley side showed a fire engine out of Glossop heading up towards the Woodhead Pass. I guess someone’s patience had run out, they’d taken a gamble and run out of luck. I’ve diced with death on that road in the past and now know that it’s not worth the risk – your better to sit tight and wait it out, rather than try an overtaking manoeuvre on one of the many blind bends or crests. It’s a road that has taken away many lives including being accredited with the macabre defeat of JMC.

I thought of this as the sleet bounced off the shell of my jacket. It made the same static hissing noise as a TV tuned between channels. The degree of snowfall was only really apparent from the reduced visibility and its slow build up in the folds of my jacket. Even rubber necking to look at the accident on the Woodhead was a problem due to icy chills making my ears hurt. I was climbing, no point getting the beanie out yet. I’ll just end up too hot.

The thrup thrup thrup of a chopper overhead makes me think of one of Jo Burt’s Mint Sauce cartoons. It’s up above somewhere, probably an air ambulance for the accident, but I can’t see it anywhere. Forty-five minutes after leaving the car I arrive at the Woodhead Tunnel. I crouch down behind a wall on the gravel out of the wind and stop for a mini packet of Fangtastics. The sugar rush is great, but you can feel your teeth dissolving as you chew on them

I contemplate taking the route straight back out the way I’ve just climbed, but decide that since I’ve earnt the height it’d be a shame to waste it. Heading further up the valley is where the interesting trails can be found, but it’s a good two degrees colder up here, so the helmet pads come out, the beanie goes on and I’m back on the bike. I think riding the footpath out into the Open Access Area. There’s that trail that always looks so inviting from the car as it switch backs down the slope from the moorland summit.

I decide against it today and head up from the carpark an out onto an eerily quiet Woodhead Pass. It should be buzzing with Trunk Road traffic, but it’s only a solitary passing ambulance that reminds me what has happened about half way up. I grind on into the wind, riding in the gutter until I find the turn off for the Bridleway. I’m right on the shoulder of the valley now and the double track farmer’s access route contours around the hill maintaining its height.

With the wind at my back I carve fresh tracks in the snow, which is a lot deeper than expected. It’s amazing to think that it was only Sunday that I was taking pictures in the sun wearing only a gillet and long sleeved winter top. Today I’m wearing two layers of long sleeved merino and an XCR Mountain Jacket and I’m toasty once I get going, but the water repellent properties of my board shorts have long since expired and while they’re keeping the wind out, I’m wet through and I get the distinct impression that the fabric at the back of my knees is near to freezing.

The sheep are hard to make out against a landscape of greys, blacks and white. They’re only given away by their movement as I ride along the trail. As I pass though a gate, a cacophony of baaing signifies my arrival and soon a whole flock is starting to converge looking for food. I know I’m out of shape and have a green jacket, but surely I’m not so big that they’re associating me with a hay carrying Land Rover? The gradient increases and soon they’re long behind as I fly down the hill. Strange hoof tracks in the snow, make me think of recent yeti rumours in Papua New Guinea, but the rounding of the next bend reveals that the owners of these tracks are in fact a herd of cattle huddled in a hollow on the double track. I have to slow to a crawl and the cold wind makes me pleased that they soon part and let me pass.

As I descend back down to the road, the backlog of traffic shows that I have emerged just below the accident site. Ambulances, fire engines and police still there, but there is no obvious wreckage. I cruise down on the asphalt until the turn off for Glossop and head over the reservoir. `As my speed increases, I’m aware that the tyres make a buzzing sound like a turbo prop plane building up speed. Across the dam and I’m back on the trail. The moorland bridleway was a much better descent, but the snow and standing water in puddles and two stream crossings mean water has tricked into my winter boots and overcome the ability of my wool socks to keep my feet warm. I used to carry an extra pair and Goretex socks when I was using the train to get places. That was you can get warm dry feet, even if they have to go back in the same soaking shoes. It’s a trick I picked up from a Captain on the Royal Artillery range down in Wiltshire years ago.

Cold feet aren’t too much of an issue right now. I’m hammering back on the trail with a downhill grade and a tail wind. My soaked feet are at the back of my mind as I pop manuals over puddles, trying to cut the spray. It feels like I’m flying home, compared to the grind I was enduring an hour ago heading up. Before I know it I’m back to the car. Changing into a full set of dry clothes is a big bonus and warms me up instantly. As I put the bike in the car the ice on the frame and components is a reminder that it really was cold up there today.

New Hope
February 21st, 2006

On Sunday I managed to get out for a ride of great proportions in the Peaks on the back of an invitation from a friend of a friend. It was ace because despite having been riding there for about 9 years I was shown some new trails and some I’d forgotten about and rediscovered. The company was grand and the riding was good. My theory that a hardtail is fine for the Peaks held up, but it did take a pinch flat of the rear wheel to remind me I was no longer riding a six inch travel full susser.

Indy Fab in muddy horror
It’s a burly hardtail now

I think I need a different pair of (wider) bars and some different grips, but otherwise the bike is completely sorted. There was some chain suck but I think that was either due to the tenacious properties of the gritstone mud or the fact that the alloy inner rings on XT Hollowtech II chainsets are just rubbish. The latter is a distinct possibility so I will need to strip it down and change it over with a steel one and check the damage. I’m hoping it’s not too bad. Big thanks to Tim for leading the ride and to Andy for the invite on the day. Photos are up here.

The Rockall Times is a cynical view of the world and is well worth a look. Amongst other news: Islamic rage sweeps Rockall – Scandies advised to leave sacred islet. Check it out.

After going into the body shop for some under carriage alterations to prevent the future pitter patter of more tiny feet in the Childerhouse family home, the former Firestarter is now back on the bike and keen for the post Easter Trans Cambrian Way adventure. As soon as I hear from Scotland I’ll be a bit happier.

I hope that this isn’t a thing that people will see in Windows Vista. One massive Windows error message

Canada’s Cold
February 16th, 2006

I was talking to Cortos the other day who is at McGill doing a postdoc and mentioned to him that Dan & Laura were in Edmonton. He said that it’s so cold there that it makes Montreal look like it is on the Costa Brava. I said I hoped Dan had found a cheap supplier for goose down jackets otherwise he’ll probably freeze to death when he’s changing camera bodies. Not only is Dan still alive in Canada, he has managed to find his camera and a computer. Check out Bear Fodder.

Allegedly Dan has a huge down jacket that covers almost to his knees. As he explained to Cyclenaut, it screams ‘Look I’m a Brit in Canada’. i don’t think he cares. According to the news and here it’s currently -29C, but the important thing is the wind chill, which makes it -39C. That’s a bit chilly.

Unexpectedly I had a cold earlier this week. It’s still in my head making everything sound a bit muffled. Maybe that’s just Radiohead though. I’ve been riding the geared Deluxe a bit as I need to check it’s bedded in for the Peak District outing on Sunday. Of course it wasn’t. Chains skipping. Worn cassette and new chain and too much slack. Sorted that and realised I hadn’t tightened the clamp bolts on the crank up so they’d fallen out. That’d be the second time that’s happened then.

Cyclenaut finally posted her pictures up from Punk Bike Enduro. On the Sunday there was a bank of mist sitting in one of the valleys that was very surreal. I’m really pleased about this ace photo of Tim Johnson and me. There’s a lot of depth in the background:

Photo by Chris Garrison

Sold lot’s of kit. There’s a bit left here. Oh and Macaroons are ace and grumpy old Manc gits need a good kicking for upsetting people I love. Over and out.

Buy me
February 11th, 2006

Live. Buy. Consume. Die. Lots of kit for sale here. Selling stuff is such a faff. I stripped down the Enduro last weekend but it has taken until today to actually get everything cleaned up and take photos. Then there’s the whole businmess of trying to find buyers. If I don’t get takers by tomorrow for some of it, then it’s going up on eBay.

I’ve mentioned Robin Sharman before after he was picked for the GB team for the Worlds last year. He’s off to another flying start this season and has scored some more great publicity for himself and the team, courtesy of a Cyclingnews special feature. Robin works part time in Harry Halls.

I also thought I should give a running update on the tubeless wheels. I’ve been running tubeless on the Enduro (and the FSR before it) and the Singlespeed for some time now. Filled up with liquid latex in either the Eclipse format or Justridingalong’s Art Latex, they’ve proven to be really reliable. It’s reassuring to see the tyre self-heal after a thorn puncture and when I was changing tyres last weekend I pulled half a dozen thorns out of the tyres off the Enduro. Tyre pressures were being maintained, so the latex had done it’s job. All in all i’m impressed and will carry on running it in the singlespeed.

There’s a bit of a debate going on over at the DirtRag Forums at the moment on Identity Card scheme that is currently being mooted for the UK. I believen that the ID cards will be a massive waste of money and will never be implemented properly. There is a little talked about scandal simmering under the surface here in the UK at the moment along similar lines.

Several years ago the government decided to centralise the firearms register. Not many people have guns in the UK due to the tight legislation, but there are about 200,000 who either require them for the their jobs (game keepers, farmers, etc) or are involved in sport (clay shooting, olympic team, etc). Prior to the proposal gun ownership registers were kept by county police forces. There are 39 Counties in England, 13 Welsh ones and 34 in Scotland. The task set was to provide a central database into which each of the police forces could enter data so that there was a real-time record of gun-ownership and licencing. Sound simple doesn’t it?

The national firearms register was ordered in the wake of the Dunblane tragedy – a horrific incident where a lone gunman walked into a primary school in March 1996 and killed sixteen young children and their teacher. It is now ten years since parliament agreed the move to get a grip on more than a million weapons in private hands across the country.

The project has been delayed by a series of technical problems with the computer system set up to support the scheme for example being unable to print firearms certificates, and the police and other authorities involved in the licensing process complained it was running “incredibly slowly”. The flagship project has been hit by other delays including problems developing a link between the national DNA database and the criminal records on the police national computer.

Given the scale of this project and the faiilure to get it to work it is highly unlikely that the UK govenrnment and civil service will ever be able to successfully implement a national ID card scheme. The latest on the gun registration scheme is that the National Firearms Database Management System (NFLMS), will go live at some point later this year and efforts to link the system with the Police National Computer (PNC) will be given up altogether…

Which is okay isn’t it? I mean what possible correlation could there be between criminal convictions for serious crimes like armed robbery and gun ownership?

Finally there’s this which has come in on the email. It may not be 100% accurate.

Click for big version
Wendy sent this in.

February 5th, 2006

When I was doing some fafing the other day i realised that one of the nicest sets of photos I’d taken hadn’t made it onto this latest version of the site. So today I put the Edale Loop ride photos back up on the site. I’ve also added Chilly’s photos from Dusk til Dawn from ’03 and ’02 since he was kind enough to burn a CD for me when I saw him a couple of weeks ago and the infamous Giant-Pygmy is back – you can check it out here.

For a long time I argued i didn’t need one. There was no point – When would I use it? Then they brought out a colour one. Then they brought out one that plays video. Add in a week painting and decorating listening to rubbish on the radio and having to put up with a skiptastic CD player in the car and I was decided. The time has come to join the hordes of iPod owners. It’s a tidy little number with a special USB adapter so I can download digital photos off the camera and store them on the ‘pod. Sounds ideal for this summers trip.

_ Back in Black _ Custom engraving _

The Enduro is leaving the stable. I think I made up my mind after the Painscastle ride last month that we weren’t really getting on. I’ve thought about it a lot since then and I decided that it’s time is up. Not sure I’m that happy really. I feel the big Specialized bike has let me down, especially after I enjoyed riding the older version so much and my FSR being such a classic bike and solid ride for so long. I need something a bit more on-edge and responsive. The Enduro always felt like hard work.

So it’s all stripped down to just a frame set and forks. Everything will pretty much carry over to the new bike. The geared hardtaili has gained the Crossmax XLs and the XT chainset and I’ll use the Deus cranks and be getting a new set of wheels for the next bike. So there’s quite a lot of kit kicking around the flat that is looking for new homes, it’s all money that’ll be ploughed back into the next bike.

I didn’t get out riding today. Instead I dug out all my old rugby kit and played with the team. I think it’s about eight years since I played and although I am pretty rusty and not at what you would call match fitness I played the full match and escaped with only a fat lip and the usual stud-related scrapes, scratches and bruises. My back held up though which is a good sign, I was a bit concerned that it’d pop out.

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