Archive for August, 2005

Brighten their day

You know when you go into the supermarket at the end of the day and the checkout girlie (or indeed blokie) blatantly doesn’t want to be there? You know, grumpy, really wants to go home, that sort of thing – just like you or I at the end of a bad day.

Smile. Be cheery. Say please and thank-you. It’s amazing how often they’ll cheer up. you’ll find that they start the transaction as a grumpy monkey and and up as a shiny happy monkey. You’re the winner. Feel free to carry on with your day as normal.

Anyway, it’s been a while hasn’t it? I’ve been going through one of those phases where I’ve got plenty to write but no real motivation to do it. Moving house (let me know if you want my new address) didn’t help. It’s the summer too, so there’s always something better to be doing outside. And lots of other excuses too, while I’m at it.

Anyway, I’m now living in a rather fantastic thatched cottage. My sister has major house envy, which is always a bonus. I’m still in Cheltenham, just a bit further out than before. The cycle-commute is longer as a result, which is probably a good thing, even if riding a bike is the last thing I want to do on some mornings. Which reminds me, I must put the rear-mudguard back on if these storms are going to persist in soaking me. I’d best do that now, or I’ll forget and end up sitting in damp trousers all day tomorrow or something. Laters.

There is this theory of the Mobius…

A couple of years back, when working for a small design firm, I put together a little website for a new restaurant in Leicester, called Mobius.

I was quite proud of it at the time, except for the glaring bug. It makes use of the Suckerfish menu system. Due to a (still unfixed) bug in Gecko-based browsers (including Firefox), if the menu intersects with an element which has a style of overflow:auto;, it’ll disappear as soon as you mouse-over that element.

At the time this really annoyed me. I posted on various web-forums asking if anybody had come across the same problem and if so, how they went about fixing it. It soon became clear that it was a bug in the browser, and there wasn’t a lot I could do about it. In the end, I gave up and left it. At the time, Firefox was very much a niche browser, not one who had been downloaded by 80 million users and was coasting comfortably past the 10% market share point. Alas, the site still suffers from the problem, just as it always did.

Out of the blue

Now, I was quite surprised when out of the blue, two years later, someone calling themselves “Event Horizon” emailed me out of the blue with a potential fix for the problem. “Perhaps you could apply this fix on the Mobius site you worked on.” they said. “Not likely” I replied, “I don’t work there anymore, but thanks nonetheless”.

The very next day, I was ever so slightly taken aback once more, when I took a phonecall from Mark Sanders at Chorlton Web & Design. “Two years ago” he said, “you had some problems with overflow in Firefox”. “Indeed I did” said I, “and in a very odd turn of events, I got an email about the fix last night”. “Bloody Hell!” exclaimed he. Very bizarre.

Anyway, I figured that if two people were going to contact me about the problem in the same week, there’s quite a demand for this knowledge. So I thought I’d share the story and the link to the solution. I hope it’s useful to someone.

Legs of steel

I’m sure I used to round that corner and dread that climb. I’d get to the top with my lungs fighting my heart to see which would escape out of my chest first. These days I just round that corner and pedal a bit harder until I get to the top. I actually enjoy that bit of trail these days. Clearly I’m getting fitter.

Part of it is down to riding singlespeed, I’m sure. You just can’t say “sod it”, stick it in bottom gear and then spin all the way up. You have to attack the climb. It’s all or nothing, and nothing is an admission of defeat and a walk to the top. That’s not to say that I don’t admit defeat from time to time, but more often than not, I’m getting up the climb in one go, or at least forcing myself to get back on and ride the rest of the way instead of walking.

Speaking of the singlespeed, I’m trying to put thoughts of shiny new bikes out of my mind by attempting to tame this beastie. I’ve always felt that it was a bit too big for me. These days I’m not so sure. It’s a bit long in the top tube, but since I cannibalised the shorter stem from the downhill bike and moved the seat forward a bit, it’s become somewhat easier to ride. It’s by no means perfect, but i’m no longer quite as stretched out as I was, so it’s a load more confident through the tight singletrack and I can actually ride it down some of the steeper stuff. Bonus!

Of course, I still want the shiny new bike aswell…

It still needs a disc-brake compatible back wheel (v-brakes are 100% of poo), some nice new forks, and another seatpost, even if only to stop the infernal creak that’s emanating from the RaceFace XY at the moment. It’s fine until you get a bit of dirt in there, at which point it creaks and cracks loudly over every little bump. Grumble. Clearly I’m just far too hardcore for it.

Morzine 2005

It’s late July 2005 and The Hills Have Eyes monkeys [Adam, Alex, Anton, Brett, Charlie, Gary, Gaz, Nick, Olly, Rob, Stu] hit Morzine in the French Alps.

We ride bikes like nutters. We do over 200 miles, nearly all downhill, over the course of two weeks. We rail berms, fly off drops, ride see-saws, and rule the singletrack. We fall off a lot. We kneel at the altar of body armour. We kill several pairs of forks, a rear shock, countless tyres, gear cables, chains, brake pads and other myriad parts. We spend an obscene amount of money on replacements (Yes Brett, we mean you). We make silly BWAAAARRRRRP engine noises as we fly down the trails. We celebrate my birthday. We’re given free drinks by friendly bar staff. We fly from one mountain to the next on the Fantasticable. We think Anne-Caro is a vindictive cow to have come up with that track. We chat to old friends in the pub. We eat too much food. We take pictures. We throw each other in hedges. We have an awful lot of fun.

We come home. We are depressed. We are really looking forward to the next time.

Update: We take more photos.

The hills are alive with the sound of… bicycles?

I’ve been back from the Alps for three days now. Boy oh boy, did the post-holiday depression kick in today. It’s fine all the time I’m distracted by telling people all about the holiday, or even reminiscing with my fellow holiday-makers, but as soon as I have to think about anything else, I just bog down and want to curl up in a ball and go to sleep.

I went to a great big family party on Saturday. It was great fun, but very hard work – I’d landed in the UK at about 11pm, got home at about 2am, got out of bed at around 8am, travelled across the country, arrived at the party at around midday and then spent roughly the next 11 hours catching up with various branches of the family (along with various family friends). Thankfully, they’ve given up on the good old Hey, I haven’t seen you since you were this tall! line of conversation and instead wanted to hear all about my adventures, or tell me all about theirs.

This is all well and good, but unless they’ve experienced a similarly extreme sport (I hate that phrase), it’s very hard to give them an idea of just what it’s like.

The Coke Habit

You see, a decent downhill bike can cost as much as a substantial narcotic habit to build up and maintain. Of course you don’t need to spend that much, but the pimp value always helps. Get it right though, and it can deliver an incredible rush. There’s bits of trail that I think back to now and they send tingles right up my spine.

It’s very hard to describe it. I tend to liken it to a roller-coaster, but one where you’re in charge of just how fast it goes and just how hard it pushes through the corners. It’s up to you to push it that bit faster, brake that bit later, and deliver the all important adrenalin kick.

Flying into a right-hander, completely off the brakes, letting the bike go airborne over the fly-off, twisting it beneath you before landing in the left-hander that follows, letting the wheels drift slightly across the track before setting up for the next corner. I’m sat here with a massive grin on my face just thinking about it.

Or there’s the times when you follow a quick rider – someone whose ability you respect and aspire to – into a trail, and they don’t get away from you, all the way down. Then there’s the very rare moments when they move over to let a faster rider through, and that faster rider is you.

Times like that, where it all comes together perfectly, are what it’s all about. When you get “the flow”, there is really very little else that can match up.

Bikes rock, 100% of fact.