Archive for January, 2005

Resolutely not spending. Ish.

I’m sat here in front of my PC, drinking a gert big glass of Robinsons Summer Fruits Squash. Its really cold, and tastes like those cheap freeze-it-yourself ice pops, the red ones. I approve.

I’ve got Chain Reaction Cycles open in one tab and Merlin Cycles in another, weighing up my options. I want to put gears on the Stiffee, or perhaps get some disc wheels for it.

You see, I like it as a singlespeed, but its a complete beeeyatch to get it up the hills. I seem to remember that Dave H had trouble getting gears to work on the front of it though — the mad chainline led to chainsuck galore at the first sign of mud (the chainstay is testament to that). I can probably afford to nine-speed it though.

Once I’m up the hills though, the completely useless brakes do little or nowt to give me any confidence in the thing. Fairly non-technical descents are fine, but as soon as it gets tricky I get scared silly (no change there then). So getting a set of disc-brake compabible wheels with nice wide rims would be a nice upgrade. I’ve already got a pair of Hope E4 brakes – they need a seal kit and service but that’s not exactly an expensive process.

The thing is though, a decent set of hubs is quite expensive. I can get a set of wheels based on Shimano Deore disc hubs for under £100 – but I’ve had a set of those before and they weren’t the most reliable hub. Spec some nice Hope XC hubs and suddenly the price goes up to about £170. Expensive, but they’re nice bits of kit.

Oh what to do, what to do… oh now look – I’ve gone and procrastinated the whole evening away. Winner!

Bikes and Dirt. Much aceness.

So, there was Friday night. There was much drinking and dancing. Good night all in all.

Then there was Saturday. There was getting up in the morning, feeling like crap, eating a fry-up and heading over to the Forest of Dean for a bit of DH biking. Pedalabikeaway has been transformed with the addition of a new toilet block with showers!

Alex was going particularly big, launching some very hefty step-downs and gap jumps. Nick wasn’t, largely because his brakes are completely shagged (much like the rest of his bike). We really ought to club together and get him some new ones. Met James from Stopadoodledoo and got free stickers, which was cool.

We watched The Ladykillers in the evening. Pretty good film. All in all a very good day.

Sunday came a few hours later (need more sleep!). Got up, ate three of your finest boiled eggs and headed out to play on bikes again — only up Leckhampton Hill this time. I rode the newest track first, and we really weren’t getting along at all. I struggled to get down from the path to the trail, which is never a good sign, then ended up wearing the trail on one of the off-camber bits.

The second run saw me ride the old chute instead, which was a marked improvement. I nearly lost it big stylee a bit further down, when I grounded a pedal at speed and it kicked me right up in the air, so my hands were the only thing left connected to the bike. It was a symptom of my rear-shock playing silly buggers – it was bottoming out very very easily. Time to send it off for a service and get a heavier spring methinks. Pity I can’t afford it right now…

The final run was much better though – down the old Ridge/slalom track. I was right on Gary’s wheel until I span out in a muddy berm. I ended up running down the trail! After that I could feel the confidence coming back – I don’t like steep drops at the best of times, but I flowed down these quite nicely.

Then somewhere near the bottom, Gary had the idea of tramping straight on through the woods, instead of groung around the 180 berm, so we could meet up with the bottom third of the other tracks. So off we go up a bit, then whoop down the drop and clatter crunch skshhhhh through loads of undergrowth. There’s definitely potential for a traverse through all that though – its almost as if there already was one once upon a time.

I cleaned both of my bikes when I got back. That’s pretty much unheard of.

So that was my weekend. Pretty damn good all in all. I need an early night tonight though. Can someone remind me to go and get a new seatpin-collar for the Stiffee tomorrow? Cheers.

Really not how I’m feeling right now.


[Based on old Golden Grahams promotional postcard that’s lying around]

Halloween, redux

So, remember how I was telling you about my Halloween a couple of months back? Well Lewis finally got around to getting the pictures developed – I’ve bunged some of them up in the gallery for you.

I’m a little scared of us now.

Leaving fresh tracks in the powder

Who would have thought it? Thick snow on the top of Cleeve Hill.

After a nice XC ride through the snow up there, I caught up with Brett and Gary who were boarding in the stuff! I spent the afternoon racing them down the “piste”. Its amazing the grip you can get in the snow! Was it bad of me to go jumping down the tee-off points on the golf course? I don’t think it counts when they’re covered in powder :)

There’s a bunch more pictures in The Gallery.

Working on the Web: Where do I start?


A friend of mine wants to get into this whole web-building thang — but doesn’t really know where to start. He asked me for some help, and I replied with something along these lines…

What do you think the best way to do things is? I’m guessing HTML as the basic groundwork — then onto XHTML and CSS, with Flash & JavaScript for the movey bits. then maybe onto XML and PHP?

I could write a whole book on this, but I’ll try to keep it relatviely brief for now. I’d do it like this:

1. Get a decent browser

First things first: Download and install Mozilla Firefox. Its generally a much better web-browser than Internet Explorer, and follows the standards much more closely, which makes it a much better browser to work with during development.

2. Start with the basics: XHTML

Now that you’ve got a decent browser, you should start by learning your basic XHTML. Don’t worry at all about how the thing looks at this point – its all about document structure, and using the right tag for the job. A few examples would be:

Use <div> tags to divide a document up into logical divisions, such as <div id="header">, <div id="navigation">, <div id="content"> and <div id="footer">.

Use <hx> tags for all of your headings, e.g. <h1>Level 1 Heading</h1>, <h2>Sub Heading</h2>, <h3>Sub-sub heading</h3>, all the way down to <h6>.

Pick up a magazine, or a diary. Look how they are set out and try to match up the XHTML tag with the content. <h1-6> for headings, <p> for paragraphs, <strong> and/or <em> to strengthen or emphasise text, <table> and its siblings for tabular data (and not for page layout).

Make sure that your code validates – upload it to to check it out. Only then can you blame the browser if it gets things wrong.

I know that this bit isn’t in the least bit exciting, but its very important that you get this bit right. Do it properly and you’ve gone a long way towards getting accessibility issues and search engine friendliness sorted right from the word go. In this day and age, those are very important features in any website.

3. Learn some CSS

Once you’ve got a grounding with XHTML, you can start on your CSS. Start basic and get more complex as you get the hang of it. Make sure your code is correct over at the CSS Validator:

One of the best places to start out with CSS is Mako4CSS. Some of the information is out of date and refers to Netscape Navigator 4 – you can safely ignore that these days. Once you’ve got the hang of the basics, take a look at places like CSS-Discuss and the Sitepoint forums. If you want to see just what’s possible with CSS, take a look at the CSS Zen Garden.

Try not to curse Internet Explorer for getting it horribly wrong. Its really not a very good browser anymore, but millions of people still use it. A good place for finding ways of working around its flaws is Position is Everything.

4. Extra Bits

Once you’ve got this groundwork down, you might like to start experimenting with a bit of ECMAScript (its what they call JavaScript these days), Flash or PHP.

The important thing here is that you shouldn’t rely on client-side techniques (i.e. browser scripting and plug-ins) for critical site functionality. If the user has it switched off, or the plug-in isn’t installed, or they’re simply using an older browser, your site should degrade gracefully.

For instance, if you display some critical information using Flash, you should fall back to an alternative method (plain text is probably fine) for users who don’t have it installed.

Another example would be form validation – its helpful to have a ECMAScript alert telling you that the email field is compulsory for instance, but this should be backed up on the server side (for isntance with a PHP script), in case the user has disabled ECMAScript.

5. Books

As for books, I’ve never used any, but I’m told the following ones are good:

I hope thats helpful, and let me know if you’ve got any further questions on any of it.




People seem to be happy this evening.

I’m happy, because Wiggle are replacing the broken stuff, free of charge, which is nice. Good service makes me happy.

The girl who cleans the office, who is usually miserable, was all happy and smiley this evening. The girl in the shop on the way home was all smiley too. Maybe its because I’m being happy and smiley (though not significantly more than usual), or maybe I’ve got DULLARD tattooed across my forehead or something?

Answers on a postcard…

That was really really good…OH CRAP!!!

It was going really well. I’d had a great ride, was absolutely caked in mud and was still singing the Chemical Brothers track I’d heard earlier. I was generally a very happy bunny who was riding his bike home.

I’d ridden up the Sandy Lane side of Leckhampton, down the other side, up over the Woodland trust land, down past the cows and sheep, back up Lecky, through 1/20th Utah and Proflex Alley, down the old slalom track (EEEEK!), up towards Sandy Lane again, across the top to The Viewpoint, down via Dog Poo Alley and Fast Tony (ah, them were the days), before coming down the old tramway and heading for home.

I’d discovered that the Stiffee’s new tyres aren’t very good in thick claggy mud, but are pretty good everywhere else. I’d remembered just how bad v-brakes can be, and just how quickly you can get through pads. I’d also remembered why I used to use SPD pedals for cross-country rides. Might have to get me some new bike shoes.

And then the chain came off. “No bother” I thought. I stopped, got off and went to put it back on.

Huh? OH [loud expletive]!

It would appear that the jockey wheel and side-plates are no longer attached to the Singleator that I fitted yesterday. I wandered back up the road a bit and find the missing bits lying on the road, now somewhat mangled after a succession of cars has driven over them.

Its taken me all of one ride to kill it. As you can imagine, I’m really happy about that. Back to the old mech for now then…