Mountain Bike Shenanigans

November 28th, 2007

First really bad traffic in a few weeks commuting, not that it slowed down the commute, just that it adds to the risk factor of Joe Public getting frustrated and doing something stupid like a U-turn to go the other way and try and find a road that isn’t gridlocked. It was wet too. Not had many rides home in the rain this year which is no bad thing, but as Paul knows there’s always plenty of other entertainment on the commute.

One thing that has puzzled me recently is that over the weekend I developed conjunctivitis. This is odd as I’ve never suffered from it before, despite years of mountain biking in filth and racing through fields littered with cow dung. So for the first time in my life I’m having to deal with eye drop application and have now experienced waking up and not being able to open your eyes ‘cos they’re stuck shut. Strange indeed.

Carron Valley Project
November 24th, 2007

The Carron Valley MTB trails are a community project providing an extremely useful forestry single track destination for mountain bikers to the east of Glasgow, where a consortium has raised sufficient funds to extend the trails. I’ve never ridden the trails but they’re on my to do list next time I head north of the border. The reason for this post is to highlight that the issues that have put the future of the project at risk are actually a bit more complex than reports elsewhere might indicate.

The IMBA-UK website states:

Sadly, issues revolving around the project have delayed the initiative and jeopardised the funding, and have led to a meeting between the project organisers, local councils and the Scottish Executive to resolve these problems. But progress continues to be slow, and IMBA’s new Scottish coordinator Kenny Wilson has now offered IMBA’s services in an attempt to get the project back on track. IMBA reckons that the difficulties can be sorted, and we have approached the Forestry Commission with suggestions which it is hoped will lead to a successful conclusion.

Now to understand my concerns you have to appreciate that the Forestry Commision (FC) Mountain Bike Tsar and the IMBA-UK Chairman are the same person – Karl Bartlett. The committee roles section of the IMBA-UK website doesn’t explicitly state that the role of the Chairman is to “work to create new trails, and keep trails and public access open for mountain biking by encouraging responsible riding, supporting volunteer trail work and cooperating with other trail user groups, land managers and public bodies”, but given that it’s one of the organisation’s core Mission Aims it’s implied that he is responsible for facilitating all of these aims.

In 2002 Bartlett who was formerly a FC Ranger at Mabie Forest was charged with turning the Borders and Dumfries and Galloway into a mecca for mountain bikers. Since the work on the 7Stanes his responsibilities appear to have been extended to a Scotland as a whole. This has involved producing reports on various initiatives like the Carron Valley Development Project (CVDP), identifying issues and making recommendations on how trail building groups should proceed and approving permits for groups to work in FC estates.

In theory this could give IMBA-UK and excellent insight into the way the FC operates and a unique leverage mechanism to promote mountain biking and trail building and maintenance. The current situation leads to one person with two important roles that have divergent interests at times. This generates the potential for serious conflicts of interest and this appears to be exactly what has happened, leading to a farcical state of affairs as reported in September.

The question is two months on, are things getting any better?

Ken Livingstone pledges £20m for London Cycle Network
November 24th, 2007

London news from BikeBiz:

Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone has promised funding of £19.7m to boost London’s Cycle Network over the next five years. Livingstone said: “Thanks to extra investment in local transport schemes, cycling has increased by 83 per cent since 2000 and more than 1600 school travel plans have been approved which encourage and enable more children and their parents to walk to school.”Additionally, the mayor has pledged £742,000 to the boroughs of south London for cycle training schemes. All in all, the city will see £161m to improving transport in the city.

Which only leaves me to wonder what Manchester is going to do. I’m off to a cycle commuters user group next month and I’ll be lobbying for a substantial investment into providing riders with proper cycle routes at least in the area covered by Studentdom.

In the Dark and Porn
November 23rd, 2007

Mid way through the commute home last night HID floodlighting gave way to darkness as the consequences of neglecting to charge the Li Ion battery pack kicked in. Pressing the power button proved futile, the only response were intermittent LED flashes from the headlamp telling me the battery was empty. The final half of the commute was one of those tongue in cheek blasts that pushed the feasibility of centre line riding to the limit. Still once into the final blast through the leafy streets of Victoria Park, like the near miss of the mornings ride in, the potential consequences were eclipsed from thought by the rapidly approaching warmth of home and the ability to get out of the rain.

Planet Cross XS

Over at The Owners’ Club, quite possibly one of the most stunning bikes to date has now been added to the register. It’s a one off cyclocross bike that takes the tried and tested Planet X geometry and the technology from the Carbon and Titanium XS to produce a proof of concept. At over £4000 for just the frame and for a bike that is designed to get muddy and covered in crap, it’s one for the bike junkies who can afford it. The sensible and durable option is a Ti Planet X, but the prototype just has a drool factor…

Inside Fox
November 20th, 2007

Dirt Rag have an insider view of the Fox Racing Shox factory in California. Check out the plushness. Ned’s S-Works Epic is fairly stunning, but nothing like what used to be consider bike porn back in the 1990s. I always wanted an Alpinestars Ti Mega with Elevated Chainstays. Well fashion’s changed a bit since then, although I’d still like to ride one in a really muddy race to see what I missed out on. Finally, how about this for a novel way to charge an iPod – using an onion and Gatorade.

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