Archive for May, 2005


It’s funny, isn’t it? Three days of adrenalin pumping sport makes the real world seem really dull.

After spending a couple of weeks off the bike (due to illness) I got back on them in a big way over the weekend, pedalling up and down hills and generally riding like a complete loon.

I’m struggling with the not braking before launching myself into the air thing.

First there was the cross-country riding, pounding up Aggs Hill like it wasn’t there, with the Prodigy blasting in through my earphones. I was disappointed by Always Outnumbered Never Outgunned when it first came out, but several of the tracks have now got me ensnared, and you can’t beat their trademark pounding basslines can you?

Obviously the absolute murdering of the opening climb left me feeling broken for the rest of the ride, but it was ace nonetheless. I explored a few cheeky trails (most were completely bobbins), rode through a field of cows, got completely lost before popping out into Andoversford with one of those “Oh, I’m here!” moments, and found a weird trail that was a footpath one in one direction and a bridleway the other. I rebelled and followed the yellow arrows. Bimbling across Gloucestershire in the sunshine. Can’t beat it.

Then there was the downhilling (dude!). I nearly nailed one of the step-downs. It shouldn’t be a big thing but I’m struggling with the not-braking-before-launching-myself-into-the-air thing. Damn my sense of self-preservation. I also nearly ate the rock garden (literally). I lost the front wheel on the way in and found myself diving head-first over the handlebars. Fight or flight kicked in – everything slows down in those situations and you’re able to guide yourself into the nice soft undergrowth to one side of the trail. Sense of self preservation to the rescue, dammit! Alas I lost one of the preload adjusters from my forks in the impact. Then there was the catching shoulders on passing trees, dragging arms through brambles, pulling muscles and so on.

Despite the bruising it was ace fun. The trails are now officially scary fast. I keep replaying a couple of sections in my mind: Letting go of the brakes, flying down to the little drop, then whoop… There’s a second of silence, before the WHUMPH! Tyres reconnect with the trail, the shock takes the worst of the impact, then you’re concentrating hard on guiding the bike down through the trees – vvvvrrrruuuurrrrmmmm! You can really feel the tyres working overtime there. Brings a smile to my face every time.

The final section of the track is a monster. I had a few runs through there when everything just clicked. I was making almost subconscious corrections to my line as I dropped through the bombhole – steering without even thinking. Methinks the confidence is coming back in a big way.

Then today I came back to earth with a thump. I struggled to drag myself out of bed. I was sat at work finding that writing some HTML and some particularly complex CSS to go with it held none of its usual geek-challenge. Every website in the world seems dull, there’s nothing even remotely exciting on the telly and I’m feeling more than a little bit knackered.

Have. To. Get. Outside.

Have. To. Ride. Bike. Again.

By George, I think he’s cracked it!

The Odeon Cinema in Cheltenham continues to be one of the most uncomfortable places on the face of this earth. Ray Mears should set one of his survival programmes there. We could see just how long he can sit in one of those seats before his backside goes numb on a permanent basis, or his knees explode through the contortion of trying to fit into the tiny space alotted to them.

The fact that I was barely aware of this distinct lack of comfort until the film was over, serves to point out that the third episode of the Star Wars saga is one hell of a lot more absorbing than either of the first two. Much, much better. I want to say more, but I’ll leave it for now to save spoiling it for those of you that haven’t seen it.

You really ought to see it at the cinema though, it’s definitely a big screen film. But do try to find one that’s slightly more comfortable than my local.

The F.A. Cup Final.

The F.A. Cup is seen as the holy grail of English football. My team (Crystal Palace, sadly releagted from the Premiership this season) have only ever got to the final once, back in 1990.

We beat the then dominant Liverpool 4-3 in the semi final, which was a huge result for us, largely because they’d inflicted a record defeat on us (9-nil) earlier in the season. We faced Manchester United in the final, which ended with a 3-3 draw. We came so close to winning it right at the death but alas it was not to be. We eventually lost out 1-nil in a replay.

I was absolutely gutted. For a team like Palace to have got that far at all was a huge achievement, but to have come so close to winning, against one of the biggest teams in the country, and then have it taken away like that was really harsh.

Which is why I have some sympathy for the Manchester United supporters this time around. Believe me, part of me is extremely happy that Arsenal lifted the cup – mainly the parts that have an intense dislike for Alex Ferguson and Roy Keane (on the other hand I’m not so keen on Arsene Wenger either), but United didn’t deserve to lose the way they did.

To their credit, Arsenal managed to keep United from scoring at all, but this wasn’t really down to their superior defending. Their goal keeper, Jens Lehmann, was on inspired form and pulled off a string of fantastic saves, but that was about it. United (especially Ronaldo) broke through their defence countless times only to fluff it at the last moment. Rio Ferdinand did manage to get the ball into the net once but he was (correctly) judged to be offside. Goal disallowed.

But even then United wasted so many chances it was almost funny. There were shots into the crowd, free-headers into the crowd, mis-kicks galore and Ruud Van-Nistelrooy even failed to connect with the ball at all on a couple of occasions. Every time they went forward I found myself thinking “this is it, they’re finally going to do it” but the goal never came. Chance after chance after chance came and went until eventually, after 90 minutes of normal time and a further 30 of extra time they were still deadlocked. Nil-nil. A goal-less draw.

These days they don’t hold a replay a few days later. It goes straight to a penalty shootout. Arsenal scored all five of theirs and United only managed to put four away. Arsenal went home with the silverware and a lot of very happy (and no doubt hugely relieved) fans. Despite supporting the better team for most of the match, the United supporters went home with their heads hung low.

I guess that’s football for you.

The Stable

I can’t be arsed to write a proper meaningful post at the moment. Life is getting in the way. So I thought I’d write about my bikes for a change.

I’ve got two that work at the moment, then there’s two that I plan to make into working bikes again at some point. I’ve planned this for some time though. There’s a distinct possibility that I’ll never get around to it.

The “freeride” rig

Its an Azonic Saber. I didn’t like the Azonic logo, so that had to go, and besides it’s actually made by XTension bikes – and their logo is still there on the top tube. Its great, except on the really steep stuff. I know that’s partly down to me (steep trails bring out “the fear” in me), but I don’t think the long top tube, head angle and high bottom bracket help a great deal [1].

Azonic Saber

Its rocktastic just about everywhere else though. I’ve hauled it around XC loops (slow on the ups, ruling on the downs), across North Shore style skinnies and down full on World Cup DH courses. Its a fantastic all-rounder.

The do everything else bike

Its a big old Cove Stiffee. A bit too big for me really, but its a nice enough bike nonetheless. One gear, five inch forks and the parts from two different headsets. Aye, it’s a bit of a freakbike isn’t it? Still, it was built up almost entirely from spare bits so its not too bad.

Cove Stiffee

Its good for lazy summer cruises around the bridleways of Gloucestershire, and does pretty well in the singletrack too. It’s also proved itself more than capable of riding up and down snow-covered hillsides in complete blizzard conditions.

Then there’s the others

The Coyote keeps asking me to build it up again. I reply “OK, but only if I can get you a new shock”. It then whinges on about how it’ll be months before that happens and I bung it back in the garage.

Coyote XC-2 Frameset

It needs a decent shock though. The Fasttrax one that came with it is completely useless. The thing is, if I get it a nice shock it’ll want some new forks, wheels, gears, brakes, finishing kit, paintwork…

Then there’s the LTS3. That was my first ever full susser. On the one hand it handles pretty sweetly. On the other, the rear suspension is useless, it squeaks and I don’t think the frame is altogether straight anymore. The perfect candidate for a rebuild then.

GT LTS-3 Frameset

I think i’ll make it a single speed again. The last time I did that I got lampooned because apparently single speed bikes can’t have suspension, riser bars or any of that stuff. Pah! We showed ’em – right up until I broke the forks. Then there was the needing the bits for something else. Then there was the putting it away in a garage about 130 miles away for ages. I’ll put it back together one day though.

[1] Wow, can you hear me talking myself into getting something new there? Its amazing how easy it is to convince myself that I need a proper DH bike…


Anyway, enough about politics. The bank holiday weekend is where its at. On top of the Mr Scruff experience, there was one hell of a lot of bike riding.

You see, I got my full susser’s rear shock back from the menders on Thursday. So there was riding my bike on Friday evening, Saturday, Sunday and most of Monday too. Lots of fun was had throughout the weekend, but the undoubted highlight was Sunday’s trip to Gethin Woodland Park, which is home to a fantastic downhill track above Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales.

Its quite possibly my favourite DH track in the UK. Its got pedally bits, whoopy bits, huge bermed corners, rooty bits, rocky bits, the works. What’s more it really flows nicely. Some people might think I’m a bit of a mentalist for this, especially considering my reputation for not being very good at this sort of thing, but my favourite part of the track is the infamous rock garden. You cross a fire road and basically ride straight through about fifty yards of great big boulders, some of which move around under your wheels disconcertingly. Its very hard to get the line right through there, but its just so much fun trying. Get it slightly wrong and you’re bounced headfirst into the undergrowth (yes Gary, I’m looking at you) or fly straight on when you reach the corner at the end. Get it right and you’ll just fly through. Like so many things, its easier the faster you go. Acetastic fun.

Unfortunately its also absolutely knackering. So much so that when we went up to Cranham the next day I only managed a few runs before I could barely ride my bike. I ended up just lying down in the sun and watching the others. Not a bad end to the weekend really.

I’ve bunged some pictures I took on Saturday in The Gallery.

Use it or lose it.

I don’t really care enough to be particularly bothered by the outcome of this election.

Why? Realistically[1], there’s only two parties that are likely to end up in power: The Labour Party and The Conservatives. Their leaders both come across as complete slimeballs who are completely incapable of giving a straight answer to a question. Any question. Laugh all you like at the No, that’s where we differ sketches from the Fast Show but when interviewed for Chanel Four News over the past couple of nights that’s exactly how they came across.

So I voted — its my democratic right and I don’t really want to lose that — and I didn’t go in for any of that ridiculous tactical voting either, but I’m not really fussed who wins it. The government gets in either way.

[1] Well OK, so realistically there’s only one likely winner, but we’ll gloss over that.

Mr Scruff

So we’re sat in The Conservatory having a pint on a friday night. The DJ ends his set with I might as well plug the album. Its called Trouser Jazz and its been out a while.

BLOODY HELL! That’s Mr Scruff! Playing in our local!

About 24 hours later, Owen and myself are at the town hall for his proper gig. Pete was supposed to be joining us, but unfortunately he was stuck at some family do or other. Its safe to say that he missed out, big style.

We had a fantastic evening, spent chatting at the bar to various random people we hadn’t seen in ages and dancing to one of the most random mixes I have ever come across. A nice selection of classical jazz standards, mixed in with various cool rhythms from around the world. Then just when you thought it was safe he’d chuck in some big and bouncy hip-hop number or some classic techno. This was of course sprinkled with Mr Scruff’s own tunes — Spandex Man went down a storm. The graphics up on the big screens were ace too. Classic Mr Scruff imagery mixed in with a selection of fantastic slogans like Wobble Those Legs!, Drink Tea!!! and Big Up Cheltenham Massive.

Before we left Owen bought a tea towel and I got myself a nice mug. I’d probably have bought a teapot too, but they were a tad expensive.

All in all a quality night out, despite the lightning and torrential rain on the way home. It was quite amusing watching people absolutely jump out of their skin at the sound of thunderbolts.

I’m quite liking yellow at the moment