Archive for April, 2005

Cwmcarn NPS Downhill

On Sunday we went along to Cwmcarn, South Wales, to see the British Cycling NPS Downhill Round Two, which is basically a load of people on expensive bikes flinging themselves down a gert big track to see who can get down there fastest.

It was quite a bizarre experience, arriving and wandering through the car park, seeing faces you’ve only ever seen on the likes of Earthed 2 – Steve Peat, the Athertons, Cunny and The Don to name but a few. The new track drew quite a large crowd, both curious locals and mountain bike fans. Its got a fantastic “stadium section” at the bottom of the track with a whole series of vulture-friendly jumps and massive bermed corners.

Photo: Oscar Saiz hits the 50ft tabletop

We stood and watched at the penultimate corner for an hour or so and saw a couple of massive stacks – the sort that you can see going wrong from the moment they take off. One rider hit the tabletop at full speed and immeditately became detached from his bike – he came down like a bag of spanners, and got a massive cheer when he got up and rode the rest of the course a couple of minutes later. A bit later we may have caused one a bit further up the course. We gave a rider a massive cheer as he came around the corner into the final section. Accordingly he went huge off of the next jump – only to crash big stylee as he hit the next berm. Sorry mate!

Our very own Alex Marshall took fourth place in the open category . He was clearly gutted to have missed out on a podium. He was knocked off at the last minute by a rider who got to re-do his run. Good effort nonetheless. In the end Steve Peat took the elite category by just 0.6 seconds from Gee Atherton, with big bro Dan Atherton finishing third. In the end I think it came down to whether you did the final hip-jump or not. Gee did it, Peaty didn’t and that was all that separated them. Rachael Atherton took the elite ladies.

I’ve bunged a load of photos in The Gallery – there’s Steve Peat, Gee Atherton, Oscar Saiz and god knows who else in there.

Music on your mobile? Pah!

I was reading Jeff Croft‘s latest post about just how much he thinks mobile companies are going to rip people off to download music over their networks. In the comments, Jared Christiensen asks a perfectly valid question:

Why on earth would anyone want to buy music and listen to it on a cellphone?

Well as of right now, I don’t think you would. But lets look forward a little bit.

There are current generation mobiles that are able to play mp3 (etc) music files, and have 32mb or so of memory on board. Some of these can even extend that with flash memory cards. What’s more, you can get 4gb flash cards these days. It won’t be all that long before they become relatively cheap.

Add those two together and you’ve got a mobile phone with 4gb of storage that’s perfectly capable of playing music. Do you see what we’ve made? That’s absolutely right: Its an iPod mini phone.

No doubt its got a colour screen, a camera, a basic organiser and some games on it too, not to mention the bluetooth capability. Its a wireless iPod photo mini phone. And lets be clear on this: It won’t be too long before these things sprout hard drives, giving them proper amounts of storage.

The iPod will be well and truly out of a job. After all, why would you carry an iPod (or whatever) and a phone about in your pocket when you can have one device that does the job of both? That is why Apple have hopped into bed with Motorola and created the iTunes phone. They can see exactly where the smartphone market is going. Its going to trample all over their biggest market.

Of course that doesn’t necessarily answer the question Jared posed. That one’s obvious: Because you can!

Starflyer 59

I’d never even heard of Starflyer 59 until Jon Hicks went mad and plastered them all over his site. I eventually caved in and had a look at their site, which has exerpts from their new album “Talking Voice vs Singing Voice“.

I think I’m going to have to purchase it. They sound a bit like a post Kelli Dayton Sneaker Pimps crossed with New Order … or something. I like it either way. I’ll let you judge for yourself.

Clearing out those Monday blues

Its amazing how much a bit of exercise can cheer you up. I got back from work, the sun was shining and my bike was calling out to me. So off I went. I didn’t really know where I was headed, which is probably why I ended up doing an unplanned ascent of Cleeve Hill. On a singlespeed mountain bike. I must be off my trolley.

The last time I went up there it was covered in snow. Not this time though. I went up the Aggs Hill / Mill Lane route — a nasty climb to begin with, then an easy bit past the resevoir and GCHQ’s back door. After that there’s the brutal ascent to the gate, before a nice gentle off-road climb up to the quarry where the motocrossers hang out.

There was a comedy kid on Aggs Hill, riding a knackered old two-stroke trials bike. No helmet, no number plates, and he was ragging the nuts off of it. He went past me in a cloud of blue smoke. I’m pleased to say that I got further up the hill than he did.

The climb nearly killed me. I surprised myself with just how much of it I rode though, only walking the really steep bit in the middle – and that was more a lack of fitness and resolve than outright strength. I’ve been up that way so many times in the past (not so much in the last couple of years though) and its always a killer. Boy, was it worth it though. I rode out of the trees onto the final bit of the climb – a dry, dusty trail, the sun beating down on my back and a gentle breeze to keep me cool. It was just plain lovely.

After sitting by the quarry in the sun for a while, I remounted and rode along the road to the masts, where I stopped and watched the kite-boarders for a while (I’d love to have a go at that), before heading over towards the golf course. The view from there is phenomenal — out over the racecourse and across the whole of Cheltenham. Its only when you see it from there that you realise just how far you’ve climbed, which is always satisfying. From there I rode down the rocky little descent and back into the trees, following the bridleway to Southam, which true to form, was an absolute quagmire. Great fun in a never-quite-sure-which-way-the-tyres’ll-go-next kinda way. In the space of half a mile myself and my bike went from being relatively clean to being absolutely caked in mud. Winner!

I got home grinning from ear to ear. Always a good sign.

Well isn’t that just typical?

Unless you’ve been living on Mars (or indeed anywhere else outside of the UK) for the past three weeks, you’ll no doubt be aware that there’s a new series of Doctor Who airing on BBC One. Unfortunately I missed the first two episodes, but luckily Bit Torrent came to the rescue and I spent a couple of hours catching up with them this afternoon. I happened to look at the clock about two thirds of the way through the second episode and realised that i’d just missed the third one on real telly. Arse biscuits. Not to worry, I’m sure the internet will come to the rescue once more…

To be honest I didn’t think they’d be up to much, but I really enjoyed them. They were just as silly as Doctor Who always has been, had the odd creepy moment (aye, I mean the bit in the basement with the manequins) and were generally good fun to watch. I’m looking forward to the next one.

Mmmm, cleanliness!

In other news, I absolutely stink of bleach. I had a ludicrously long lie-in this morning, couldn’t be arsed to go out on my bike when I did drag myself out of bed and in the end I cleaned the bathroom, hence the subtle odour around my person. I did finally get around to sorting out the Big Red Stiffee though, so it should be rideable if I can be arsed with it tomorrow.

And then I booted a Hedgehog…

In a fit of complete geekery, I also downloaded the live CD of the new release of Ubuntu Linux, nicknames “Hoary Hedgehog”. For those of you that don’t know, Linux is an alternative operating system (like Windows or MacOS) and a live CD lets you try it out without actually installing it on your hard drive.

Ubuntu Linux Logo

Its dubbed “the Linux for human beings”, and it seemed to work well enough. It was a lot like Windows really – its got a nice browser (Firefox), email (Evolution), office suite (OpenOffice), graphics package (Gimp) and even a decent set of games (including the lovely Gnometris). Unfortunately it lacks a few key applications (iTunes, Photoshop and TopStyle for a start) and I can’t be bothered to learn a whole new OS right now. Oh, and Ubuntu seem to like brown a bit too much for my liking. Maybe next time eh?

You know you’ve not had enough sleep when…

  • You move a Lucozade bottle cap around the table and expect the cursor to move around the screen with it.
  • You try to use the graphics tablet’s pen on the mouse mat.
  • You can’t understand why either of these techniques isn’t working.

Cwm Carn

I didn’t get to bed until early Saturday morning, thanks mainly to a couple of DVDs — The Forgotten (silly) and Dodgeball (very funny) — and a certain flatmate getting home from the pub without his door keys. Anyway, not enough hours of sleep later, that very same flatmate knocks on my door:

Him: “You coming to Cwm Carn?”
Me: “Mumble grumble mhrrrr”
Him: “Sweet! We’re leaving in about half an hour.”

And so we did. The main aim of the trip was to play on the new Mojo downhill track, but seeing as my DH bike is currently lacking its rear shock, I took the Big Red Stiffee.


As soon as we got there I remembered. I hadn’t ridden my bike since Cumfest and had forgotten to sort out the singleator. To do that I’d be needing an 18mm cone spanner. Where was that? Yep, you guessed it, its in the garage back home.

Brett Stevens on the new Mojo Track at Cwm Carn, South Wales

That wasn’t going to stop me though, and it wasn’t long before I was off and riding round the “Twych” cross-country trail. Unfortunately my complete lack of fitness and the aforementioned chain tension issue got in the way every time the trail went uphill (its amazing how much confidence you lose when you can’t be sure a pedal stroke won’t slam your knee into the bars), but even so it was great fun. The singletrack (clearly inspired in places by the trails at Afan Argoed) was great fun, especially the whoop-de-whoop bits, and the final descent to the car park. Perhaps the most satisfying was the short descent that goes alongside the forest drive. I was absolutely flying along there with some kids cheering me on from the roof of the big 4×4 that I was comfortably keeping pace with. Then the trail went back into the woods and that was the last I saw of them. The only problem is that its not long enough. Still, I suppose you’re allowed to do as many laps as you like…

Mynydd Mojo

I got back and found the others playing on the new DH track. Now, before you start moaning about how its not open yet and we shouldn’t be riding it yet, several of the Mojo crew who built the trail were riding it too and encouraging the rest of us. They just don’t want you doing uplifts yet.

Rowan Sorrell on the new Mojo Downhill track at Cwm Carn, South Wales

Its proper big — like something straight out of the Alps. There’s plenty of massive berms, hips, drops, doubles and even a few bridges to play with, but its all rollable – so if you don’t fancy flying 30ft through the air you don’t have to. There were a couple of locals playing on there and making to look decidedly easy, or so I thought.

Nope, that’s nothing. A bit later Rowan Sorrell and Tim Ponting of the Mojo Racing team turned up with some mates their mates and made everybody else look silly. They were going massive off of everything they could. Really really impressive stuff. I want to go back and have a play on my full susser now.

“I’ve got a fork between my legs”

We stopped off on the way back, picked up Brett’s sister and went for a pub dinner somewhere near Crickhowell. I’m not sure quite how we got her and two big mountain bikes across the back seats of Brett’s car – it certainly didn’t look very comfortable. I’ve not laughed that much in ages.

Should you be interested in such things, there’s more pictures in The Gallery.


Just got a text from Lewis:

Keep your eyes open for a patriot with plasters on the brake handles and non working front gears. Mine’s gone missing. Bastard.

So if you happen to see a black Orange Patriot around Cheltenham that fits that description, and looks like the one in the photo below, feel free to get in touch.

Lewis\' 2002 Orange Patriot