New Tyres

Some new tyres arrived for the M5 today. I thought I’d try some classic race tyres and now have set of Continental Cross Country’s, 1.5″ skinny little things should be fast as chuff once I get them on. Not too sure what the cornering is going to be like, but I reckon it could be a laugh. Anyway since Specialized UK can’t get me the Roll X S-Works tyres I wanted, I needed something else. I guess there were always the Conti Supersonics, but I’m not sure if I fancy fixing punctures every five minutes. Anyway, I’ll see how I get on with them.

Classic line from the bike shop today. A woman came in wanting to buy a multi-tool. She recounted this story from a recent holiday: ‘We were out on the trail and someone had a mechanical, so we stopped so it could be fixed. This guy whipped out his tool. It was the best I’ve ever seen… and I just had to have it”. Comments laden with such innuendo said with such angelic innocence always seem to provoke much mirth amonsgt us…

DC Stickers

Loads of stickers arrived this morning from Tucson, Arizona from Jon. They’re now all gone. Some people’s lives will be changed for ever, others will never know what they missed* (*this may be complete bollocks). Sorry if you didn’t get one, there just weren’t enough to go around. Also sorry if you end up getting busted for looking at his site whilst at work (I forgot to warn that it isn’t safe for work viewing), but then again…why were you on singletrackworld? Shirking off work is going to end in tears.

Road the Karrimor at Coed y Brenin on Monday. Though I’d better get down there whilst the weather held. Best days riding this year. Some lovely flowing sections and the rebuilt FSR is just a great bike for the trails. Scared the living bejesus out of some guy from Derby on the long fire road climb, but that was the only rider doing the route. The sun shone, the trails were dusty, I’ll be going back for more. Bit of bad news on the Cafe front, looks liek the contractual dispute may end up going to court. The whole think stinks in my book.

Should be phoning the US tonight to order some more ti-dye spokes from Marwi, I need to get the M5 going again. Not sure why no one’s importing Union’s Ti Spokes here, but you’re all missing out. The new xc tyres should be in soon too, thought I’d try some of Conti’s skinniest little numbers


Back to Basics.

On Friday I finished building a bike that has been adorning my kitchen wall for the last six months. Free from its captivity as an expensive item of interior decor and having waited patiently for me to acquire all the necessary components to put it back together, we were keen to get on the trails once again. Alas Friday night’s meal resulted in food poisoning that left me out of action all day Saturday.

This morning the clocks had sprung forward an hour, the sun was eagerly trying to break through the clouds, I was feeling like eating something again (I must be feeling better) and the bike was still lurking there, beckoning me to take it out to play. Any plans of getting dirty with each other were shot down in flames when Jo reminded me that I had promised her to spend some quality time with her. So the early morning hours were spent digging out the walking boots and get ready for a day hill-walking in the Peaks.

I have only been on the train to Edale without the accompaniment of a bike on two occasions. Both have been walking trips and yet again today I am tormented by a group of other riders whose bikes are onboard and together with us are being whisked towards the hills. The carriage feels lonely without one of my bikes there and I feel out of place. I should be memorising the route from the map, doing last minute kit checks, psyching myself up too. My day-dreaming is broken by Jo wanting to know whether we are nearly there yet. Our imminent arrival at our destination is marked by the train bursts out of the Gowburn tunnel to find the Vale of Edale basking in warm sunshine.

A quick cup of tea at the Station Cafe and there some more riders are having a mid-ride break. Jo and I discuss a route for the day and whether or not that was a sausage dog that just walked by. Neither of us feel to ambitious after yesterday and the plan is to stomp up to Hollins Cross and traverse along and down to Hope for Lunch. As we contemplate a group of riders stop by to stock up on cake for their ride. Here the potential for subconscious bike snobbery kicks in, ah one of those, not much of a bike by some people’s standards. A second look reveals that they seem to know what they’re doing though and there’s some nice upgrades fitted here and there. Maybe they’re first bikes.

I remember my first bike. I wouldn’t want to ride it now, but then I didn’t know anything more about bikes than how to fix a puncture. My mountain bike was my first geared bike and the first that allowed me to do some real exploring. As I became a ‘mountain biker’, learned about riding the painful, slow, expensive way, I became more and more addicted. As bits wore out or broke, I bought new bits that were a bit better. More gears, lighter, shinier. I remember that have a bike worth more than the car used to ferry it from place to place doesn’t matter. The look on the faces of these people tells me they are happy riders. Big grins from ear to ear, it’s not the bike that matters it’s what the bike lets you do and where it lets you get to.

We set off and soak up the sunshine. It’s a great day and I’m out with in the countryside with my beautiful girlfriend. I explain to her that some of the route were walking are Bridleways that I ride quite often. I’m checking the trail conditions and making mental notes as we walk. After today I’m going to need to be out here riding again soon. We don’t see any riders out on our chosen route. Plenty of walkers with their silly ski poles, but no riders with horrendous day-glo lycra. I’m reminded that the thing I enjoy about walking is that there are more opportunities to soak up the scenery, which in turn makes me realise why I love it out here. It’s not just the great trails, it’s the landscape they run across.

After lunch in Hope, as we sit outside the pub in the sun, a group of riders turn up having just finished their ride. I’m only half listening to Jo at some points in our conversation whilst I eavesdrop on the tales recollected from the days riding and past epics. More happy riders. I’m jealous and planning a day off work tomorrow. The weather has to hold! Tomorrow I’m going to go and ride some trails that I’ve never ridden before and my bike is definitely coming with me.

Laura Boo

Dave Wilson out in Iraq sent in a copy of this article. Looks like Mr Bush has some interesting family history. And this rocked up from Laura:

From: Laura

Subject: No Subject

hey hunny just a quick one! we’ve had tons of snow here! its been dumping all week! done quite a bit of riding! taking the day off chillin with my friends after a pretty heavy night last night! plus some of the roads are still blocked to get to some of the better resorts after a few feet of snow yesterday! my best friend from england is here until to tomorrow so its been awesome to see her! well my spring break is over now! 6 weeks of uni left! whooopeee! ok will speak to you soon Lxx

So where’s the good snow been this year? Well pretty much everywhere from what I can tell, Europe’s been good and as normal the North American resorts are getting plenty of powder. Well, I had one powder day in two weeks boarding this year can’t complain about that, but I do NEED a longer board.

Todays excitement was managing to get food poisoning from last nights dinner. Been as sick as a dog all morning and I still feel pretty rough now and I’m getting hungry. Typical isn’t it just get the bike ready to ride then something comes along to bugger things up. No riding for me tomorrow.

FSR: Rebuilt

It’s finished, it’s finished, it’s finished hoorah! The FSR is finally back together! Bit of a face lift, gone are the v-brakes and skinny cross-country wheels and tyres and flatbar and skinny racing saddle. In are Hope discs, freeride wheels, decent tyres (thought I’d give this tubeless thing a whirl) riser bars and a sofa-like Bel Air saddle. I’m running it with the full 6″ travel and compared with the standard bushes, the BETD bearing kit makes a huge difference to the sensitivity of the rear end – even before you get on the bike. There is actually a real need to adjust the rebound damping on the shock now! Pictures coming soon.

Few e-mails today. The first is from Big Dave, out in the Gulf. Big Jonny has been posting regular messages from Dave for a bit, check out his archives for earlier e-mails from a US Soldier who’s quite frank about why he thinks he’s going into Iraq:

From: Big Dave

Subject: abibil abib

3 times now I’ve had patriots zoom over me. 5 times now we’ve had missiles launched directly at our camp. The missiles have all come from one place….and we’ve been swatting them down with good success. We ended up naming the commander of the enemy unit Abibil Abib. The missiles he is firing at us are Abibil 100’s. Sounds like a cigarette. They are all ranging around that 180k limit. Whatever. They are coming close.

For days the Air Force was being too lazy to find him and would only fly over at 30,000 feet or so. Like you can see anything from that distance. But after yesterday’s launch, we got some Marine A10’s on him real fast and waxed him and the road he uses. He’s been quiet now for about 28 hours. We think he may have a brother, Abibil Ali. We’ll see. I think the the presence of the brits on the ground has him running.

The farce has begun in full force now. I saw a rerun of Mogudishi on tv when everyone started fighting over the food we were giving out. What a sack. We should have lifted sanctions on these guys long ago. I don’t think we have a clue as to how many mouths we will have to feed. It will be interesting to see if a country that sits in the fertile valleys of the Tigris and the Euphrates will ever be able to sustain itself in any way. I’m very disappointed that Bush doesn’t want the UN to help with the future of the Iraqi govt. I hear he wants to start education programs and stuff like that. Damn, he can’t even get that stuff straight in America.

I’m really pissed about the “secret” bidding for rebuilding contracts. What a crock of shit. Kellog/Brown and Root. Damn. Who would have guessed. I hope Bush, his daddy, his lame coke head daughters, and the rest of his cronies (including Colin Powell-he tried but knew no other way that using a big stick) get really filthy rich off all this stuff. Then as america collapses around them, they’ll realize that you can’t eat money. Aiding in the killing so George can drive a stretch hummvee and his daddy can fish for crappie in his Scarab, Big Dave

This is mildly amusing along the same theme too:

From: Iain Subject: Funniest War Story Yet? A quote from Sky News: “Umm Qasr is a city similar to Southampton,” UK defence minister Geoff Hoon said in The Commons yesterday. “He’s either never been to Southampton, or he’s never been to Umm Qasr” says a British soldier patrolling Umm Qasr. Another soldier added: “There’s no beer, no prostitutes and people are shooting at us. It’s more like Portsmouth.”

Highlight of the week: I found out today that on Wednesday a certain bike shop propietor who should know better tried to combine a Hope M4 lever with a Grimeca caliper by cutting the disc hose in half (before bleeding it) and well, lets just say the next bit involved a roll of sellotape. Let’s just say there is one disc brake no longer for sale. Oh how we laughed.

Mini In

Bike shop phoned today. The Hope Mini I ordered has come in. That now means I have both disc brakes for my FSR build up, lets just hope (ahem) the tyres turn up, otherwise I’m a bit scuppered. What else, what else, what else? Well came across this today, mountain biking engineers making nice bits of kit.

Bad news today from the Singletrack Forum, Russ Pinder’s diagnosis is pretty serious. It looks for the time being at least that he has lost the use of his body from the chest down. I never met the chap, but I sincerely wish Russ and his family the best of fortunes for the future and I’m wishing that Russ turns out to be one of these people who battles on and makes a full recovery.

Some of you may have been following the life of Big Dave, a US Soldier in the Gulf, on Big Jonny’s DC site. Well today I had an e-mail from the chap and it seems like he’s been chatting to some of our guys from around these parts. I wonder if they were trying to sell him some Specialized bikes? It seems that Iraqi TV has been showing some of our guys on the TV too, no doubt they have been watching the US coverage of the Afghans held in Guantanamo Bay. Bush beware, Mr. T is on your case sucka! More crazy T action here.


Well by the end of this week the FSR should be taking its final form – if all the necessary bit and pieces that have been ordered turn up that is. Anyway whilst I was rooting through the bits box at home – a ruthless clean out with plenty of kit going to be recycled and binned – I unearthed my old onZa buzzsaw. Yes 36 teeth of stainless steel fury. New dimensions in the world of knee busting single speed gearing have now been opened.

I’ve been home working on the house in Norfolk for a few days. I think next to being out in the middle of nowhere on your bike the next best thing for contemplation and philosophy is chopping wood. I did a lot of contemplating and philosophying. The sun shone, I worked outside for three days. Life was grand. I also has a chance to look at my own work over a modem connection. I now realise the need to optimise the site for slower connections and I’ve tried to do that today. I posted this today on the Singletrack forum. It sums up what I’ve been thinging about the last few days:

I haven’t posted a lot over the conflict, partly because I feel that the topic is out of context on a Mountain Biking website, but I feel it is sad that the certain people are giving the military a rough ride over the war. Ultimately they are just doing the jobs they are paid to do. Few people could deal with the situations that our professionally trained forces deal with on a day-to-day basis and are in general very good at. Many of these military personnel will not come home alive, some may never come home. Others may bear the scars of this war for the rest of their lives. Some will suffer due to unforeseen mechanical or technological failures (like many mountain bikers out on the trails), but theirs will have far more serious consequences.

Whilst the soldiers of the coalition forces go to work in Iraq, remember that the decision to go to war was one made by the politicians. Many people voiced their concern over the war prior to the decision to invade Iraq. Despite some of the biggest public protests ever witnessed and unprecedented intra-governmental divisions – several political leaders listened to what their public were saying and the positions of other countries over the issue and decided that it was time to send the armed forces into combat. It was the politicians who delivered the spin and hype regarding how quickly the war would be over and what an easy conflict it was going to be. Maybe adopting a military campaign was thought to be easier than adopting a more aggressive political stance with regard to the Iraqi government.

The reason I believe that there are still grounds for an anti-war movement are that through protests and campaigns designed to target the political structure, there is still hope. If public opinion shows an increasing degree of social disapproval with regard to the conflict, then the politicians may be forced to withdraw the Forces from the Gulf. It will be sad if such public opinion only grows belatedly in correlation to increasing body counts. The war on Iraq has created the biggest societal divide within this country for generations, no matter which opinion people have over the conflict, it is good to see that people are at least opinionated and expressing their views.

War is a bloody affair and few people deny that. As spectators we are isolated from it by media coverage whose censored images only portray a fragmented story. The strategy and techniques of modern warfare currently being practiced, where much fighting is carried out at a range of many kilometres, appears to be an inherently “clean” and low risk format. It is quite different to the hand-to-hand street fighting that now seems inevitable if Iraq’s urban areas are to be successfully controlled, to attempt this will involve a much greater commitment of human life. Most people support our Armed Forces at war, few think that they should be fighting and dying in Iraq.

We live in a time where we have a man sending us to war for fictitious reasons. Whether it is the fiction of duct tape or the fiction of orange alerts, we are against this war, Mr. Bush. Shame on you, Mr. Bush! – Michael Moore, at the 2003 Academy Awards.

Dangerous Driving

First up a snow report from Boulder, CO.:

From: Laura

Subject: Fluffy White Stuff

A bit of snow! we had 38 inches in 24 hours! they had to close the ski resorts! nightmare!

That by any one’s reckoning is a lot of snow. Definitely a long board powder riding say once they reopen things. Probably not much consolation to those people stuck in an airport or hotel unable to get to the resorts. Anyway whilst the mountainous heart of the USA is smothered in snow, the American military machine starts rolling.

On bike-related matters, the road rage driver who reversed over a four year old girl and her father after he was heckled for cutting them up has been sent down, it seems he wasn’t to happy with the verdict. Full story here. I haven’t much time for people like that it was a malicious and premeditated act and the fact neither were killed by his two tonne Land Rover is a miracle. How can you stop people like that returning to the roads, even if they are banned? Well other than inflicting some sort of serious corporal punishment, I’d say it was pretty damn hard.

An update on the Coed Y Brenin situation came through the post today. A letter on behalf of Bob Farmer at Forestry Enterprise arrived in response to the one I sent regarding Dafydd and Sian’s situation. It merely repeats tha statement previously issued and reported here.

Don’t know what I was expecting really, but it’s good to see that they actually did receive, acknowledge and respond to the initial letter. They’re now also asking for riders input in how the site is developed in future and full details are available on the Singletrack website.

Oh and it turns out some people have been sending me e-mails but I haven’t been getting them. So if you’ve mailed me and I haven’t responded, there’s a strong chance I never received it.

More Safety Fears

It seems that there may be a serious an inherent problem with using disc brakes on forks with normal dropouts (as opposed to bolt through axles) that I didn’t know about. According to James Annan using a front disk brake and a fork with quick release dropouts, leads to the disk brake exerting a huge force on the wheel, pushing it directly out of the dropouts.

A tight QR and decent retention (or lawyer) lips generally hold the wheel in place, but not all the time. When it no longer holds the consequences of failure are very nasty. James’ comments followed a spectacular wheel-fork departure, the results of which are illustrated here. More discussion can be found on the following Google group link: uk.rec.cycling from December 2002.

Now when I was planning discs, I knew that the extra braking forces put a lot of stress on the fork, so I opted for a bolt through pair of Marzocchi Z1 Freerides, but all the above discussion doesn’t make it very clear about what happens at the back end of the bike. So as James seemed to know his stuff I asked him – Are the same forces exerted on a rear wheel with a quick release? This is his response:

From: James

Subject: Disc brakes and QRs

Yes, and I’m in the same position as you. I don’t think it’s a big safety issue, but in my case it is a slightly annoying one. It depends on how the dropouts are angled relative to the disk calliper, and my bike (Ventana El Conquistador tandem) is particularly bad, with rearward facing dropouts which are at exactly the worst possible angle for the disc brake.

The maker soon realised the error and changed to more conventional vertical ones. If only major fork manufacturers were so responsive…. That is another reason why I am particularly aware of the disk brake issue – our rear wheel occasionally slips a bit although now I do the QR up bloody tight and it’s been ok for some time.

It’s similar to QRs with horizontal dropouts for singlespeeding – you can just about get away with it, but slippage is a headache (rear wheel slip while honking up a big hill is not a matter of life and death though). I wouldn’t trust my life to the rear wheel not slipping, but its not a big safety issue in my view since even if the rear wheel slips sideways a bit or pulls out completely, this is only going to cause a skid and not a headfirst plummet to the ground (especially on a tandem with the long stable wheelbase).

I don’t think different disk calliper types will make a significant difference, it’s really just a matter of geometry. The open fork ends should point directly away from the calliper itself, rather than being nearly parallel to the tangent.

So there we go. There is always the possibility of problems. And whilst talking of things disc brake related the old favourite of how to orientate the direction rotation of disc rotors came up again recently on the Singletrack forum. Craig settled the physics by saying that strictly speaking the orientation does matter. Although he doubts the stresses involved are anywhere high enough to worry either us. This is backed up by manufacturers Hope – who stated that the rotation direction was down to personal preference.

If the arms of the disc rotor are pointing backwards then they will act as a tie and be in tension. If they point forwards they will act as a strut and be in compression. Steel is more efficient in tension because you don’t have to worry about buckling of the section under compression, so it’s best to run the discs with the arms pointing backwards (or in the opposite direction to the rotation of the wheel).

War on Iraq looms closer. This is going to go down in history as the war for Oil. Why? Find out more here.

Right time for a beer.