Mountain Bike Shenanigans

Armstrong Returns
October 31st, 2008

So Lance retired (briefly). When he left the sport he said he wanted to try something else. He seems to have done some marathon running and mountain biking, but found them both a bit hard (i.e. didn’t win). Perhaps he then thought, ‘sod it, I’m bored’ and decided to go back to road racing. Alternatively maybe several major sponsors saw a dive in their profits following a drop in sales of products previous endorsed by Herr Armstrong and waved cheques with an increasing number of zeroes at Lance until he could be persuaded to come back from retirement.

There can be little doubt that Armstrong’s return to the sport will boost publicity for the sport and if it gets some more people riding bikes as a result it can be no bad thing. Other riders in the pro peloton, don’t necessarily look forward to his return, probably in much the same way that Formula 1 drivers would be pretty miffed if Schumacher came out of retirement. Both were at the top of their game when they retired. Sure they might have peaked, but the fear will always be that they are so both supremely talented in their respective disciplines that the current batch of competitors would be right to be concerned about them coming back and stealing victories that might otherwise have gone to younger folk.

It’s going to be an interesting year for sure.

Up Yer Kilt Mate
October 28th, 2008

Yesterday was the first ride home of the year with lights. Last night I decided that the commuter (aka the bike that tried to kill me) needed to be resurrected so swapped some pedals over to it from the cross bike (I will need to drill the locknut off the remnant of the spindle to reuse the old pedal body – the lovely people at 2pure have sent some replacement spindles) and fixed the double snakebite in the rear wheel with a new tube. Dug out the winter lights and mounted them on the frame and pretty much ready to go.

Of course this morning as I actually ride it I remember all the little irritating things that need to be done and I’d forgotten about, like the worn out bottom bracket whih means the left leg’s turning a bigger circle that the right leg, which is irritatingly noticeable on the downstroke. The other is the fact that in the crash I managed to twist the seatpost, so now the saddle’s not pointing straight. Still the bike feels properly fast and I buzz along.

All goes fine until the bends of fury where there is another case of piss poor lane discipline when a woman in a Black Golf FSI tries to put me into the kerb. I hold my ground and despite being along side her peering into the window to try and get her attention she nor her passenger see me. As we wait at the lights so I give a polite knock on the window to remind her that I’m there. Shortly after that as I follow the traffic, matching the speed of the cars in front, I’m hooted at from behind.

I’m not sure what the person behind me expected me to do, possibly move to the side so that they could over take. I saw no point doing that because I was going as fast as everything else and I’m not going to be made to eat the kerb again… so I just reached around and gave the old two finger salute. This prompted more hoot-a-tooting and as we rounded the next bend and the road widened into two lanes on the one way street I pulled out, eased off and came along side the car.

The driver of what turned out to be a silver Astra gave me the evils, so I shook my fist at him in a menacing manner and ranted, at some volume in my best Ray Winstone Cockney accent: “You f***** c***! What’s your f****** problem? Stop your f****** car and I’ll bloody ‘ave you, you c***!” Which didn’t really help placate the situation, rather it seemed to piss him off even more leading to much engine revving and a woefully poor attempt to cut me up. His spineless “You little…” comment as he drove off didn’t really seem to carry much weight.

I accept that there’s two sides to all such things, but when you’re all worked up from what’s effectively a sprint to work, dickhead motorists are never likely to be on the receiving end of a carefully crafted and eloquent critique of their driving skills…


Just thought I should add a few comments to say that this is all very out of character, I usually go months without any problems, but recently there does seem to have been a spate of people driving to kill me. I have to write up stuff like this or I’d forget about it!  The most annoying thing is that certain people seem to think that because they’re in a car and I’m on a bike they should have more right of way than me…

This is a theory that won’t get much truck from me. I don’t go looking for trouble, but I will hold my position in traffic because I don’t want to end up eating the kerb or getting stuck under a lorry (lost a friend that way). If the traffic around me is moving faster than me then I will pull to the side and let it pass, but if I am traveling at the same speed I will ride in the centre of the lane so: no idiot can cut me up (been there too many times); I am more visible; and have more room for manoeuvre.

Big Smoke
October 24th, 2008

Yesterday I went to London and during the rush hour walked from Knightsbridge to Westminister past Buckingham Palace. It was a nice evening and I think it’s sad to go to such a spectacular city and then miss most of the architecture by buzzing around everywhere underground. One thing struck me – there are a lot more normal looking people commuting on bikes in London than in Manchester. There’s an article in issue one of the Ride Journal by a dutch writer all about this.

What I mean by that is that here, most commuters seem to be pretty well geared up for the job in terms of cycling specific clothing whereas is London most people I say yesterday just seemed to have literally left their office, hopped on their bike and started to ride home. No lycra, no fluoro yellow safety jackets and in a lot of cases not even a lid. Thought that was an interesting comparison, most exciting thing I saw was a guy on a street-setup mountain bike win the sprint across a junction as the lights changed doing a fully crossed up wheelie. Very cool.

I’m also reminded that public transport when it wants to be can be utterly crap. My train from Bedford to London took about 40 minutes on the way in, but the same journey on the way back took double the time and was mostly spent with a guy who kept asking me if it was the slow train (bloody well feels like it) when he wasn’t drinking Stella, on the phone to his girlfriend, mum, mates or coke dealer – do you have powder? What about rock? Nah, powder is fine. I’m just going to get a taxi, be there in 20 minutes….

Why was the Victoria line closed so I missed the last fast train of the night? I like driving at night, but not when there’s road works every 5 miles with “Workforce in Road” and 40mph restrictions. That’s when the road was open and not diverted via the arse end of nowhere. Getting back to Manchester at 3.45am this morning wasn’t any fun at all.

October 20th, 2008

Today was gloomy. The sun never really broke through the cloud and it just wasn’t very nice out there at all. Didn’t rain, wasn’t that cold, just windy and dark all day. Fitted a rear light today, but decided it needs new batteries as it’s not that bright. Didn’t hinder me from haveing a belter of a ride home tonight though. I managed to get a tow off a bus 75% of the way home and miraculously there wasn’t any traffic to hold things up. And no, it wasn’t a Magic Bus…

Spirits were lifted somewhat by the arrival of a copy of The Ride. I’ll admit it’s joined the pile of magazines that’s slowly building up in the ‘to be read’ pile, but I reckon it’ll be the first one I pick up. Seriously nice work and lovely paper and printing.

Four Years
October 19th, 2008

It’s been four years since some of the world’s best riders gathered, armed themselves with big rig bikes, custom tuned shocks, snorted Red Bull and through caution to the wind and then rode off some great big cliffs, cleared improbable gap jumps and crashed and burned. Recently the event, that brought them together, Red Bull’s Rampage, has returned.

It’s still an invite-only freeride comp for men and despite much hoo-ha about a global quest to find a new venue, it’s perhaps a little ironic that they’ve just moved it a little bit from the original location near Virgin, Utah. The setting is stunning with the Landscapes of the Zion National Park forming the backdrop. Quite how the legal implications that have let the event to be mothballed (due to the increasing risk competitors were taking) for the last few years have been overcome isn’t clear.

The event held at the beginning of October certainly wasn’t without incident with some big names, either playing safe or not quite getting it right and breaking themselves and bikes. The result was perhaps unexpected, but the victory deservedly went to the best rider on the day. Photos from Dan, and more on the event over at BikeMagic.

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