Archive for October, 2004

Morzine, Les Gets

I wrote about The Collective the other day – and the way that it captures the feeling of “flow” that you get when you’re ruling the trails out on your bike.

I was thinking back today to the last few times that I’ve really felt that. It doesn’t happen very often, when everything just clicks into place, where the trail submits to you, when you’re invincible.

Afan provided one such descent a few weeks back – Final Decent Zig-Zags on The Wall trail was the place. I ruled that descent, powered by nothing but adrenalin and a Boost bar.

Before that the last one that really stands out was the downhill course at Caersws. My confidence on the bike hit a high that day – I was flying (relatively speaking).

An all-time high-point for flow was the week I spent in the french Alps in the summer. Once my arms had acclimatised to the workout they were getting, I was able to really flow. Les Gets I, Le Canyon, the top half of Les Gets II, that run down through the cloulds and cows to Lindarets. I think I’ll be returning there next season.

Scotland has to take an honourable mention too – parts of Fort William’s DH course, Grant’s best-of-compilation route around Glentress and the Traquair trail at Innerleithen (especially that final descent, with all those whoops and drops to play with) – they all gave me that huge adrenalin buzz.

Its been a good summer for biking all in all. I’ve ridden some absolutely fantastic trails in England, Wales, Scotland, France and Switzerland, and whats more I’ve ridden them with some fantastic people. Here’s to y’all, and here comes the winter.

Riding in the rain at Gethin tomorrow then. Should be fun…

The Gallery

It took me a while, but I found one. A simple PHP based gallery system, that uses XHMTL and CSS for the layout.

If only I’d googled “Simple PHP Gallery” in the first place I might well have found it at my first attempt. Because its called just that – and it comes from relativelyabsolute.

The only pictures in there at the moment are some from a trip to Bringewood in July of last year, that I was using to test it all out. I guess I’d better get a new digital camera to fill it out a bit then. Canon Powershot A85 anybody? Update: Its entirely possible that I’ve just ordered that very camera…

Right, non geeky readers can stop reading right about now and go look at the pictures…

The Geeky Bit: Implementing SPG

Still with me? Good.

Installing SPG is dead simple. Download the .zip file, extract it, and then upload that to a folder on your website. As the system is so very very simple, its dead easy to customise it to fit in with your site aswell. Just alter sp_index.php and sp_styles.css to suit.

The hardest part came about because I’m using a fixed width template on this site. Left to do as they pleased, images that were wider than the site quite simply broke it. So I decided to set a max-width on the images, then let the user click on them if they wanted to see them full size. Easy enough, or so you’d think. Just set the max-width in the CSS file and alter sp_index.php to put a link around the image. No problem.

That is to say, no problem until we come to test it in Internet Explorer. IE doesn’t actually support max-width does it? JavaScript to the rescue then.

With a bit of help from the peeps on the SitePoint forums, I knocked up a simple little script especially for IE, that figures out if the image is too big and scales it appropriately. You can find it in the head portion of the gallery pages.

The Collective – A 16mm Mountain Bike Film

"The Collective" Logo

The Collective hs been hyped quite a lot in certain circles as the best mountain bike film ever made.

I’ve not seen all of the bike films ever made, but I can tell you for sure – this one is ace.

OK, so the first scene – big jumps and drops in the desert – isn’t brilliant, mainly because its all been done before. But from then on in its just amazing. The filming captures the speed, it captures the flow, it captures the fun and it makes it look beautiful.

Better than Earthed? I’m not sure – its a different kind of film. Earthed, like its predecessors – the Sprung series, are presented as video magazines, and they follow the racing around the world.

This one is more like a showcase – something that makes our sport look fantastic. It doesn’t visit the races (apart from the RedBull rampage). Instead it takes you down miles and miles of stunning singletrack and ‘shore trails.

You know that feeling you get when you’re flowing through that awesome singletrack descent – everything clicking into place, the wind whistling past you, the trees passing by at speed? It captures that feeling.

Just thinking about it makes me want to go out and ride.

Its dark and I have a wet arse…

…because I’ve just cycled back from work. It’ll be the winter all of a sudden then.

This weekend I shall be fitting the RaceGuard to my bike again, and purchasing commuter lights. I might even go so far as to get some waterproof over-trousers.

I should probably get a half-decent lock while I’m at it too. I’m always slightly apprehensive that I’ll get to the end of the day and find that someone’s broken the current one, what with it being cheap, nasty and not very secure and all. One of the new Kryptonites, the ones that can’t be broken into with an old biro, would be nice. Pricey though.

What price do you put on peace of mind though, eh?

John Peel: Goodbye Genius

Legendary radio DJ John Peel dies.

I don’t usually get particularly emotional about celebrities dying. When Princess Di was killed I didn’t really bat an eyelid – in fact I was ever so slightly worried for the sanity of the country at such massive public grief. For some reason this is really getting to me though. I was sat at work reading some of the tributes on the web, sometimes smiling, sometimes on the verge of tears.

John Peel

Maybe its because Radio 1 has been such a central part of my life thus far. It wakes me up in the morning and its usually on until late in the evening – just when he’d be on. He’d been there since the word go back in 1967. Of course, I wasn’t born for another eleven years, but he was there, on the Radio, right through my childhood.

The amazing thing is that my mum used to listen to him on Radio 1 back when when she was my age. She’s grown up, had kids and listens to Radio 4 now – and he’d be there telling his Home Truths. He quite literally spanned generations.

My younger sister, Florence, is only just getting into music in a big way, so she won’t have her muscial horizons constantly stretched in all directions by Peel’s fantastic late night radio shows. I only hope that the newer generation of DJs – the Zane Lowes, Steve Lamacqs and Huw Stephens of this world – can carry on where he left off. Great new music, no matter what anyone else thinks.

Zane Lowe played Orbital’s “Belfast” a few minutes ago. They’re one of the artists that I have absolutely loved from the very first time I heard them. Without John Peel’s support they might never have got their career off of the ground, let alone enjoyed the success that they did. So when they decided to call it a day, they played their very last session for his show. The same goes for Pulp, Nirvana, SFA, The Sex Pistols, Radiohead, The Smiths, Supergrass, Joy Division, New Order and countless others. He’s shaped the musical landscape for the last forty years people.

Who else is going to play swedish thrash metal, 1920s swing tunes, dark drum’n’bass and random charty-pop music, in the same show, without anybody batting an eyelid? No other DJ could get away with it, let alone get praised for it.

You’ll be missed John. Rest in peace.

Tresure Box

Its an ace little flash game thats well worth a play. Reminds me of the old Monty Python animations: Tresure Box.

Afan Rocked My Sausage

I never did get around to writing about Afan. So I will, right here.

Way back in early October, the 9th and 10th if I remember correctly, Will, Dom, Owen and myself headed down to Afan Argoed, in south Wales, for a weekend of mountain bikes and fun.

We stayed at the bike friendly Oakridge Guest House, run by Barrie and Jill – which we would all highly recommend. Give them a shout on 01639 645210 if you’re heading down there. We ate at their local pub – the Colliers, where the food isn’t half bad, and the identical twin waitresses are lovely. [Thanks to ickle Nicky A for passing on the info!]

Saturday AM: The Penhydd Trail

This trail is as ace as it ever was. It starts with a fair bit of climbing – singletrack to begin with and then a bit of a slog up a fire road. I really struggled here – but then thats not too surprising. I was on a downhill bike, running 2.5″ super-tacky mud tyres and chasing three mates on lightweight zippy cross-country rigs. We were amply rewarded at the top though, by Desolation and Brashy Track, which are ace bits of flowy singletrack.

After another climb, we reached what used to be the pinnacle of the trail: the Hidden Valley – its still a really cool singletrack descent through the forest, but its somehow lost some of the flow it once had. Maybe if I was on a lighter bike again…

These days though, the rest of the trail shines through. One more climb, and then its awesome singletrack almost all of the way to the end of the trail, with just a couple of short stretches of fire-road.

We reached the end buzzing and very much ready for lunch. So we went to the cafe and had just that. Mmmm, fried food.

Saturday PM: The Wall Trail

So named because thats what you’ll hit on the way around. Its horrible – climb after climb after climb after climb. Long soul destroying fire-road sections interspersed with bits of steep technical singletrack. Pure horrible nasty evil pain. For ages. We had to stop a number of times for chocolate and water and to get off and push. Its really not a fun experience.

And then you get to the section named “Last Decent Zig-Zags” and all is (almost) forgiven. Having been unable to keep up with the rest of the group on the ascent, here’s where me and my bike came into our own.

Running purely on adrenalin, I pedalled off down it. Owen kept up for little while, but the advantages of 205mm disc brakes, 2.5″ tyres, loads of suspension and plain old confidence saw me ride away from him as the trail got more and more flowy. I was riding no-brakes through sections where I shouldn’t have been able to, relying entirely on my tyres for grip and pinging off rocks on the outside of the trail to stay on track.

Its an ace downhill, but its not adequate payback for the slog up there in the first place. Especially as theres still a couple of miles of fire-road back to the visitors centre…

Sunday: The Whites Level Trail

This one is situated a few miles up the road from the main Afan visitors centre, at Glyncorrwg – where they’ve opened up a new visitors centre complete with bike shop and showers!

Its well worth the trek though. I thought that the Traquiar trail up at Innerleithen was one of the best trails in the UK, but this one kicks its bottom hard. There’s a long ascent to begin with, but its really well done. Its quite a technical singletrack climb up through the forest. You’re concentrating so hard and having so much fun clearing all of the obstacles in your path that you don’t really notice the gradient too much, and all of a sudden you emerge about a squillion feet up the mountain.

And we all know that what goes up generally deserves to come down again. So we did. The descents are awesome. Rocky, rooty, technical and really really flowy. Flowy to the point that Will tried a bit too hard and took a nice big gouge out of his arm. Ouch!

Its simply put, one of the best man made trails I’ve ridden. Just fantastic.

New Bike Time

Now Dom had spent the whole weekend whinging about his bike – a Carerra something-or-other. Towards the end of the weekend he knackered something on the rear hub. Now, he could have just gone out and had it repaired. But no, he’s used it as an excuse to go out and buy a Cannondale Jeckyl, complete with Lefty fork! Rock on dude!

Making This Work

This site appears to use a fairly simple layout doesn’t it? Thats because it does. Its basically one column, and its got a little grey sidebar floated over there.

So why is it proving to be such a [string of expletives] to get it to work properly in Internet Explorer 6? Huh? Its because there’s a little grey sidebar floated over there.

Incredibly, it works better in the veritable old IE5.5 than it does in its big brother.

Apart from the fact that Internet Explorer is incredibly insecure and prone to being hacked, its layout engine (the bit that draws stuff on the screen) is fundamentally flawed. Start floating things around the screen and it gets all confused and things begin to go horribly horribly wrong.

Why is it still like this? Mainly because it laid stagnant for several years (when it had no real competition), and then when Microsoft did get around to working on it again, they’ve been too busy patching up all of the enourmous security holes to worry about how it carries out its primary function: drawing pages on the screen. I’m not bitter.

Ever so sorry. I need to have one of these rants about it every once in a while. You know, my life would be a lot easier if you lot would use Firefox or another decent browser. Get to it right away or I’ll set the h@xx0r5 on your system.

Update: I made it work!!!

It meant completely rethinking the site layout, but I made it work in IE. I had to use absolute positioning and lose the spangly footer in the end. Bah humbug.