Archive for March, 2006

Raining, pouring, snoring

I dragged myself out of bed this morning, late as usual. I heard the pitter-patter of raindrops on the window. Great. Riding to work in the rain is always good for a laugh. In my mad rush I couldn’t find my waterproof over-trousers (in fact I still can’t). No problem, I’ll just bung the crud-guard on the back of the bike. Could I find it? Could I fu… No, I couldn’t.

Man, it was absolutely hammering it down out there. I had a decidedly wet backside by the time I got to work. Oooh, I had such a comfortable day. I recommend that you try it. No, really.

I’d also recommend that you get overtaken by a Smart Fortwo on the way home. Now, that’s got to be one of the narrowest cars on the road, right? So why, when on a near-deserted dual carriageway did they have to pass me with literally a few centimentres to spare?


You might well have a narrow car, but that’s no excuse for passing me without altering your course even slightly. Ferchrissakes, it’s even a left-hand drive model! Dunderheaded numpty.

Dirt Magazine

I’m quite a fan of Dirt magazine. Back in the day it was great. Sure they made the odd design mistake like printing black text against a muddy trail but you overlooked that (unless you were Rich), because they had the grunge thing down to a tee. You would read it and want to get out on your bike right away.

The design style made it look like it was literally cut and pasted together – it was like reading a fanzine with some money behind it. The articles were compelling but it was the photography that really drove the mag. The absolutely stunning imagery was what set it apart from it’s peers. Reading through old issues of the magazine really brings out the image of the sport back in the day.

All things move on though, and so did Dirt. They wanted to expand their horizons to take in more than just downhill biking – and why not?

Alas they seemed to lose their way a bit for a while. The photos were still present and correct but they were held back by the the layout. If anything they got a bit too sensible, stuck in a wilderness somewhere between their old look and the very clean cut lines of What Mountain Bike. There was plenty of white space and it was all perfectly readable – all traditionally good things (just look at this place) but the grunge that defined them was sidelined.

I think they’re back in the groove now though. They’re still reasonably sensible where they need to be (you no longer get black text on a black background for instance), but the grunge is back in full effect. Each page of a feature article has it’s own layout, something which ought to disrupt the flow, but somehow it doesn’t. Not every one quite hits home but it doesn’t matter – each page is trying to push the boundaries in one way or another, making good use of colour and strong photography to create a fantastic looking magazine. It’s back to being a magazine that inspires you to get out on your bike and attack the trails.

If only they could sort out all of the spelling mistakes. Some people are never happy, are they?


The downhill trails on Leckhampton Hill are ace. Fast, flowy and technical. Alas, there’s a couple of places where they cross footpaths and the local council weren’t particularly happy with at least one of them. A diversion was needed. Today we built one.

Enter the final section of the course as normal (just about all of them end up on the same bit of trail) and instead of blatting down and over a blind footpath crossing into the final jump, you now carve around to the left, down a steep slope into a monster new berm and over a fairly major 20ish-foot jump (avec chicken-run) which takes you back towards the bowl we all used to ride back in the day.

It’s amazing how quickly things get done when there’s a load of people there to do the work. Biggups to Roger, Garry, Olly F, Simon, James, Nick, Anton, Jez, Mike and the lad whose name I’ve since forgotten (sorry) Rich. Good work peeps.

Down the forest innit

Saturday was supposed to be a tourist trip to London, but alas that fell through at the last minute. Luckily Simon swooped in with a trip over to the forest of dean for a bit of cross-country bike malarkey. I grabbed a lift from the G-Dog and despite getting caught up in some closed road shenanigans en-route, we eventually arrived and met up with Si and Emma at the cycle centre.


Bling bling baby!

After the usual extended faffing we headed off around the FODCA trail, me on the ‘dale, Garry on the shiny Enduro, Simon on his Yeti DH6 and Emma on a tiny Spesh Hardrock.

The trail is only about 4km or so long, but that’s 4km of technical, swoopy, rooty joy. None of us were on top form, struggling up the climbs and depositing ourselves ungracefully in the dirt on the descents. Garry even managed to pull an SPD-cleat right out of his shoe at one point.

It was all good fun though, especially the final section of the trail which is a slice of fast swoopy singletrack from bike-heaven. WOOP!

After a quick bite to eat we set off again, for a nice relaxing half-hour jaunt down the fireroads to the lake. It quickly became a jaunt that took us miles off-course and significantly more than half an hour.

Fireroads aren’t the most interesting things in the world, but the slog was well worth it. We eventually found ourselves at the top of some lovely singletrack which took us across the top of the hill before diving steeply down the side, taking us nearly all the way back to the cycle centre. Lovely stuff.

More filmage

So this evening I tackled The Last Samurai. Everyone told me it was good, but I resisted for a long time. A few reasons:

  1. Tom Cruise.
  2. It’s one of those historical epic things. Gladiator put me right off such films for a long while. 100% of not very good.
  3. Tom Cruise.

“This one’s got samurai though!” they tell me. True, and the Samurai were really bloody cool – right up there with ninjas. But Tom Cruise? I really struggle to take him seriously in any role at all. The likes of Top Gun and Days of Thunder have forever marred him as an actor.

But it’s in my housemate’s collection and I seem to be in movie mode at the moment, so I finally caved in.

I’ll give him his due: He was quite good in this. I really was willing him to beat Ujio on the training ground. He’s still a cheesy bastard, mind (please, stop it with the thousand yard stare) and his supporting cast was much better. Ken Wanatabe in particular was fantastic as Katsumoto, and Timothy Spall played the bumbling englishman as only he can.

Then there’s the scenery. I really want to visit Japan now: Lost in Translation made me want to see the cities and after seeing this I want to explore the countryside – though hopefully they’ve cleared up the mess of dead bodies and weaponry left behind after the massive battle scenes.

So in summary, it’s an epic, starring Tom Cruise, with one of the most ridiculous plotlines ever. A recipe for disaster really isn’t it? Somehow they’ve pulled it from the jaws of becoming another Titanic and made something quite enjoyable. It’s by no means one of the all-time greats, but it’s well worth watching.