Mountain Bike Shenanigans

The Plan vs The Reality
January 27th, 2008

So the weekend was supposed to involve an all day ride out to Hope in the Peaks and back on Saturday. The purpose of this little sortie was to pick some kit up from 18 Bikes, but then some of the stuff I have been waiting for hadn’t come in, so I decided to call it off and spent the day fitting the new fork on the singlespeed. The weight saving was over two and three quarter pounds, which in bike terms is massive. The Deluxe is just tipping the scales at 22lb now with great big Kenda Tyres on it, so something up to half a pound lighter would be possible just through swapping rubber.

Fitting the forks of course was not trouble free. I’d invested in a Park SG-6 steerer cutting guide because it’s a sound investment for someone like me who seems to change forks every 12 months on one bike or another. The spare hacksaw blades I thought I had of course weren’t where they were supposed to be. After 15 minutes of grafting to get half way through with a blunt blade left from some previous operation, I headed off to B&Q after lunch and bought a new saw and some spare blades. They had rubber mallets on offer too, so I picked one of them up as well.

Once they were on the bike, the wheel wouldn’t go around. It turns out that the cast magnesium dropout fouls the disc rotor bolts and just identifying this as the cause had resulted in them gouging a line through the soft metal of the fork dropout. I don’t think the combination of Chris King disc hubs and Hope rotors and bolts is unusual, but in this case a couple of passes with a file gave enough clearance, so I touched the drop out up with some enamel and I’ll keep an eye on the gap.

Today was plan B, get up early do a big ride out and try and find the start of the Midshires Way in Stockport. Well that didn’t work out either. I did eventually get out around 3pm, washed the bike and headed down to the park to snap a few photos before riding – only to discover the batteries in the camera were completely flat and the spare set was at home. Ride home and get them or ride on? Light is still scarce this time of year, so I rode and ended up clocking in 18 miles and finding some signposts to the Midshires Way near Junction 27 of the M60. I still need to explore more in that direction. Reddish Vale is only 25 minutes via the Fallowfield Loop Line, so exploring more should be easier via this route.

The trails had in general dried out a lot, but the council have stuck in a load of trail barriers along the disused railway line above Brinnington Park which is a pain, because they’re just too narrow to fit bars through. I decided to finally find North West Mountain Bikes in Cheadle. It’s been on my places to find for ages and I now know exactly where it is in all it’s graffiti’d glory. The ride back along the Mersey wasn’t the mudfest I’d imagined, in fact bumping into two sullen police cyclists who were pushing through a particularly sandy section near Northenden showed that the trails were in places really dry.

My knee was twinging a bit today. Not sure why. It was worse off road than on road. I’ll have to keen an eye on it. Very jealous of Simon et al. who headed up to the Lakes. My mind just wasn’t focused on it, but of course I wish I’d gone now – it looks like they had a great time. I’m jealous of them all.

January 24th, 2008

When I had my S-Works steel back in the late 90s, I always used to swap between rigid forks in the winter and suspension forks in summer. It made a huge amount of sense then and as I’m now facing a big bill for a new crown/steerer assembly for a pair of Fox Vanilla Forx to go on the singlespeed, I’ve decided that the best solution is to save them from the worst of the winter from now on by swapping to something that is more suitable for the winter grime. I’ve managed to get my hands on some of the last of these bad boys:

New forks

New forks

New forks

Not madly keen on the graphics , so I’m not sure how long they’ll be left on but they’re pretty sure to knock about two and a half pounds of weight off the Deluxe while I decide whether to keep the old suspension forks going or get a new pair… Finally, Si sent this in. I suspect that it wasn’t a news item that made it into The Independent or The Guardian. Still newsworthy material you have to agree:

New forks

Thinking of Tibet
January 23rd, 2008

An old friend of mine who I used to ride with and is now an internationally traveled and almost stereotypical surfer once said to me, you’re either an ocean person or a mountain person. It’s not until you’ve experienced the best and worst of the realities of both environments that you find which is the one for you. It took years to really understand what this meant, but I think he’s right. You can enjoy both, but you only feel truly comfortable or at home in one place. I know that I’m a mountain person. It doesn’t matter if it’s the most amazing golden sandy beach with equatorial warm ocean water and offshore reefs awash with aquatic wildlife. There is no contest to the mountains in my book.

In my visit to the RGS in October, I borrowed a copy of Imagining Tibet from the Library. It’s an academic text, so it’s not really one of those books that is difficult to put down, it actually quite hard to get into the right frame of mind to absorb it. I chose it because Tibet is one of those places I would really love to go and ride a mountain bike. When people talk about traveling in Asia, I don’t think about Bali or Hong Kong, I’m thinking of the ceiling of the world, the big mountains and plateaus. In the book there is a chapter by Jamyang Norbu, called Behind the Lost Horizons which other than making me think of the music from an album by Lemon Jelly, contains a paragraph of text that I think is very accurate. Although not rewritten word for word, it essentially states:

The desire to maintain the cultural purity of such Shangri-la-like societies as Tibet and Ladakh or certain Amazon Indian tribes seems to necessitate cocooning them against the realities of the outside world, especially politics, commerce, and technology. Development for such societies is only deemed appropriate when it is nonmilitary, nonindustrial, and environmentally friendly in nature. Such considerations are probably well meant and sincere, but often ignore society’s own changing history, its role (however humble) in geopolitical strategies and even in the desires of its people, who may be seeking change for their own reasons. When Claude Levi-Strauss said that anthropology is the handmaiden of colonialism, he was probably not envisioning the kind of “New Age” colonialism that the few surviving ancient cultures in this world have to put up with.

So if and when I go to Tibet I want to remember this. I want to be able to focus on the natural landscape that has drawn me there, not the fact that I am privileged to have flown half way around the world to be able to take it all in. I am not going there hoping for a cultural or religious life changing experience. As Norbu writes, however hopeless their cause or marginal their survival, Tibetans are better off living their own reality than being typecast in ethereal roles in the fantasies of the West. In my mind no matter how wonderful the people of Tibet are and irrespective of how jaw-droppingly beautiful its environment, it is not going to save our materialistic and self-destructive consumerist society.

January 21st, 2008

“You’re scum and you’re too poor to have a car and you don’t pay road tax”.

Remarks like this are an unfortunately too frequent retort from some motorists when you pull them up for driving like a crack addict looking for their next fix. So should cyclists pay road tax? Well the brief answer is “no” because a bike is not a motor vehicle, but below is a report by Howard Peel on the subject as originally featured at Bikezone.

Read the rest of this entry »

Long Ride Out
January 19th, 2008

After discussing various plans for this weekend Steve M and I had independently
decided to ride to Sideways Cycles today. It turned out to be a real slog, reminding me why I don’t really miss riding the road bike on roads that have a surface akin to pumice and getting buzzed by traffic – particularly on the return leg, where three separate Stagecoach buses that tried to take me out. Turns out it’s 68 miles according to Google Maps, but it felt like 100. My legs are really feeling it now.

The plan for tomorrow had been to ride from the Warden’s Hut at Sale Water Park along the Mersey to Stockport and then on to Marple and the Roman Lakes before returning home as a variation on the usual river run route? Not that I know how to link through to Marple from Stockport offroad yet. This is only a minor detail – I’m convinced that from Reddish Vale you can get through to Bredbury and pick up the Goyt Valley Way and then the Canal to Marple.

Given the amount of standing water and having taken a look at the section along the Mersey at Cheadle, I think I’ll follow Makin’s advice and postpone this route for another day. All in all the weather was nice quite warm for the time of year and it didn’t rain other than for a bit of drizzle on the way out of Manchester, think is the only interesting part of the whole route is riding past Jodrell Bank, the rest of it was like the sky. Grey and dull.

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