Archive for the 'Bike' Category

Pushing the envelope

Reading Khoi Vinh’s Passing on Periodicals made me stop, put down the Mac and pick up the latest copy of Dirt magazine. I spent most of the evening engrossed in it. One article, Jumpers for Goalposts, got me thinking.

It got me thinking about fitness. It got me thinking about fun. It reminded me that the best days are the ones where you push the envelope that little bit further than usual.

A couple of weeks ago I was out riding with friends in the French and Swiss Alps (the pictures are on Flickr). I’d just spent a day getting angry with myself and my inability to pilot my bike down the various parts of Chatel’s bike park at any sort of pace. I’m never the fastest in the group but this was just ridiculous. It was especially frustrating because just a day earlier I’d been riding out of my skin. I’d lost my self-belief somewhere.

Anton, Charlie, Nick, Garry and myself

The following morning, we got up bright and early and hooked up with the long lost Nick Maher, who took us to a little known trail somewhere near Morzine (nope, not telling). The day started out much like the last. I had no confidence in the bike and more importantly, no confidence in myself. I just couldn’t do it.

I was riding the whole thing at a snail’s pace already, but I got to one bit and just stalled. It’s a big, steep, diving left hander and I was just plain scared of it. The really steep stuff has always been my nemesis. I was on the verge of walking down it, but something inside me said “Nope, you’re going to do this one”. Besides, my mates were all waiting around the next corner.

So I forced myself to ride it. It was slow and it was ugly, but I proved to myself I could do it.

Chatting to Garry about it on the lift back up there helped. Put your weight on the outside pedal and lean the bike into the corner. Oh, and stay off the brakes as much as you can. It all sounds so very simple, but putting it into practise was pretty bloody scary. Nonetheless, it worked. A few more of the evil hairpins and it was starting to come more easily. A couple more runs and I was even beginning to flow down them.

Nick, killing it

Of course, that was just one of the challenges awaiting me. I won’t even get started on the wildly off-camber corners, crazy chutes, rock gardens, drops, gnarled roots, north shore and so on. I learnt a lot that day. The sense of satisfaction I got from being able to ride it all was huge.

Just a day later, I had to go through the same thing in a very wet, foggy Verbier. I started to get angry with myself again, but then I thought back. “Come on Olly. You were riding harder stuff yesterday.”

So I bloody well rode it. It was a real challenge just getting down some of it at all. And you know what? That made it really good fun.


Our local bike shop must love us. We can whinge about how they’ve never got anything useful in stock until the cows come home. But then Brett goes in there and buys himself a shiny new Cannondale Prophet (all the best people have them) and Stubacca lays down his hard earned for a GT iDrive 5 (in a fetching 80’s Honda Civic style metallic brown). They’ve got to be rubbing their hands together with glee.

What’s more, Owen (not that one) had gone out and got himself the mother of all hangovers (not from the bike shop though). What better excuse for us all to go out and play?

So we draged the bikes out, and after some extended faffing, set off. We spent the best part of six hours out there, riding through everything from blazing sunshine to howling gales and snow flurries. We grovelled up big hills and burned down twisting singletrack. We even stopped at the pub for a nice cup of tea.

We did about this many miles (I’m holding my hands about as far apart as they’ll go), so I’ve got that tired but satisfied glow this evening.

Biking rocks. Nuff said.

Moving, keep on moving…

Plenty to catch up on since last time. I’m feeling exhausted as I write, so apologies if it goes a bit random.

The big news: I’ve moved house again. I’m sharing with Brett and Christian again, just like old times. This time though, we’ve bought the place. It’s a nice early-Victorian maisonette in the park area of Cheltenham. If you want/need to know where it is for some reason, drop me a line. It’s just begging for some DIY and we’ve already started re-decorating. Watch this space for some of our more interesting adventures…

Yesterday Anton, Brett and myself drove up to Cwmcarn in south Wales with the downhill bikes, to have a play on a secret track up there. It’s a hell of a push up the mountain and I don’t think we got the top section right at all – we got confused where a load of moto-crosser ruts converged. It was good fun making our way down the random stuff though. The highlight for me was the monster “straight” (lumps, bumps, ruts, rocks, roots, ace!) that feeds into a ludicrously fast bermed corner before spitting you out into a much shorter rock-strewn straight. Chasing Brett and Anton into there was mental, Anton seemed to be climbing all over the front of his bike trying to keep up with Brett. He got a bit over-confident on the steep stuff further down the course and dived headfirst off the side of the course into an awful lot of brambles, slicing his shins up nicely. Mmm, blood. I was annoyed at myself for not riding the evil steep bit (again) but generally had an ace time! I’ll have it next time…

I was absolutely knackered after that, which made it all the more difficult to get up at ludicrous o’clock this morning.

Garry swooped in to drive myself and Charlie all the way up to Llandegla for a blast around the trails there. To be honest I was a bit disappointed with the place. The trails had their high points (there were some nice corkscrews and berms to play on), but they just didn’t really “flow” for me. The black runs were quite fun, but nowhere near the awesome roller-coasters I’d been led to believe they’d be. I thought maybe it was just me, but the other two agreed and the comments in the visitors book seemed to back it up. Still, the place has got loads of potential – given some time to develop it further it could become great. We had fun regardless – after all we were out in the countryside playing on bikes and they quite clearly rock.

Man, I’m proper tired now. G’night!

They failed

Some little scrotes tried to nick my bike from work today.

They sliced straight through the Kryptoflex cable, but thankfully the (very expensive) New York Lock defeated them. Luckily, Tim left work just as they were coming back for a second go, which scared them off.

The greedy buggers clearly wanted the whole bike though: Nicking either wheel would have been pretty easy after they’d cut through the cable lock. Thankfully they were too thick to figure that out.

I think I’ll be borrowing Brett’s uber-cheap “Probike” for the next few days…

I’ve been blog-tagged

Sheila² got me: The object of the game is to reveal 5 things about you, which most readers probably don’t know, then nominate 5 friends to do the same.

So then, here’s five things you might not know about me:

  1. My dad and I went to watch the Isle of Man TT several times on his classic bikes, including a Matchless G3LS (350cc single), an AJS 500cc twin and later a Honda CB750 (the rest of the family followed in an old VW Minibus). The Honda was my favourite at the time, though I look back on the 350 most fondly. The last time we went, the I.O.M. Steam Packet Company crashed one of their ferries into Douglas harbour. Joey Dunlop was a boyhood hero of mine, so seeing him win at the TT was pretty special.
  2. At school we built a wall-climbing robot that got us second place in the local Young Entrepreneur of the Year award. It used compressed air and suction cups to climb up smooth surfaces. I did all the artwork – it was probably my first proper bit of design. Looking back, it was a bit rubbish. The awards were held at the old motor racing circuit at Brooklands in Surrey.
  3. On the same day I had a look around the Sultan of Brunei‘s old private plane which was housed there. Very plush. A few years later at college, I became friends with Steve, who comes from Brunei. The plane was still at Brooklands when I visited an Auto Italia event with Owen & Anne a couple of years ago. The three of us finally made it out there for Steve’s wedding earlier this year.
  4. I’m a founder member of the Kusatado Ninja and I’ve got the bright yellow jersey to prove it. We took turns “racing” mountain bikes round in circles for 24 hours. I use the term “racing” in the loosest possible sense – we didn’t do very well, but we had a great time burning round on bikes, burning on the blazing sunshine and getting high on RedBull. Wonderful.
  5. When I was a kid, we used to live right on the River Wey, in Guildford. We had a large canvas-covered canoe that my dad, my sister and I would row up and down the navigation, carrying it around the locks and generally having a laugh. We had a big adventure one day after some particularly heavy rain. The current carried us for miles, we took some interesting detours through water-meadows (they take the overflow when the river floods) and nearly got dragged down the odd weir. In the end we had to phone my mum and get her to come and collect us in the minibus.

You know what? It was good fun reminiscing about that lot. Good times.

And with that I tag you Weon, Matt, Simon, Rich and other SimonAndy.

It’s a bit wet out

You know that thing where despite the fact that it’s utterly miserable outside, you drag yourself out on your bike? You should do that more often. It’s ace fun!

I headed out with Weon & James on Sunday. It was raining, windy and generally horrible and you know what? That really didn’t matter. We had an absolutely ace time.

Owen was on a mission on the way up the hill. Once we got off-road, he went for everything. The Tramway, which is a soul-destroying drag straight up the middle of the hill was conquered first, before he took on and beat the sting in the tail of Dog-Poo Alley. I’d have managed it too if my bike had been willing to change down to the granny gear, honest guv’nor!

James is still quite new to mountain biking, so he’s keen to try everything out and absolutely bursting with enthusiasm. It’s really refreshing to see someone shouting “YES!” because they got through a tricky section in one piece and giggling like a loon when they fall off in the mud.

One trail we hadn’t ridden for ages follows the escarpment across the top of the hill above Sandy Lane before diving down into the woods. It’s an ace bit of single-track, especially when howling winds, driving rain, wet roots and James diving into the undergrowth all make it that little bit more challenging.

We finished off by slipping and sliding down Daisy Bank (cheeky!). James fell off at least once, I did that thing where your wheels follow different ruts and you end up at 90° to the trail and somehow Owen made it down in one piece.

One of the best things is the looks people give you on the ride home across town. They’re sat snugly inside their cars staring out at us: soaking wet, caked in mud and clearly having the time of our lives. Brilliant.


Man, this morning’s commute was hard work. It’s not very far, but this morning I rode out onto the Tewkesbury road into a headwind that nearly had me going backwards. I bet it’ll have swirled a full 180° by the time I come to ride home, too.

Even so, the ride always becomes more fun when I get into town. Inevitably most of the traffic gets snarled up at some point, so I can often bomb past it all. This morning it was especially good, as I traded places with a rather nice Porsche 911 several times, before eventually beating it to the town centre. Winner!

Right, I’m off to get some new batteries for my head-light. It’s slightly disconcerting when it fades away to nothing as I’m riding around a big scary roundabout…

Unintentional style

“Hey Olly, you just hipped off that jump.”
“You what?”
“Yeah, you rode in, took off and swung the bike around under you.”
“Sweet! I had absolutely no idea.”

I wouldn’t have the first idea how to hip-jump. The truth is, getting air still scares the crap out of me.