Friday, October 13, 2006

Swimming is my methadone

Can't go cold turkey from riding without it, so another Friday night spent ploughing up and down in the pool. Next week it's time to see the doctor and get this knee checked out.

In the meantime, I can sit back and remember happy childhood days where my mum used to take my sister and me out swimming. We always loved to swim, and we'd come back to dad cooking dad-food: steak, stir-fry, and buttered mushrooms. The chlorine soaked skin, the hot and noisy kitchen and the juicy food well-earned. Mmmm....

Monday, October 09, 2006

How much do I miss riding my bike?


I don't recognise the body where muscles are turning to fat. The body that constantly feels tired and wants to be fed junk. I refuse to recognise the listless and apathetic mind that no longer feels uncomfortable, no longer feels challenged. From this beige perspective, the summer feels like a happy dream. The memory of it burns under the same jealous eyes that watch people going about day-to-day on their bikes. Swimming just doesn't do it. No adrenaline, no anaerobic test of strength, no smell of the moist earth, no speed, no distance, no solitude, no camaraderie... and a timetable... a bloody timetable! Oh, so I can only exercise after 20.45 on a Monday, 20.30 Wednesday, 20.00 Friday? No wonder so many people don't bother.

It's no big trial. It's not a disability. It's just a mental man-cold but it really does suck.

Monday, October 02, 2006


Crunching knees all the way to work today. Running is the tool of the devil and it seems to have pulped my knees so badly that gnashing swearing pain travelled with me on the morning and evening commute. Who would know that running 10km having not run in years would hurt no matter how much cycling you're used to? Who would know that going on a 4 hour ride the next day would be bad? And then 100km the next weekend. And then 120km the weekend after. I probably deserve trashed knees.

So it's time to put on the sensible hat and stop riding my bike for a while. Welcome to Surlyville, but not in the good way. On the plus side, after a summer of tipping the scales for the physical, it might be time to let them swing to the intellectual. The Turner Prize is back; Soweto Kinch has a great new album to get stuck into; and it's finally time to grab a hold of Irish History.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Why ride a singlespeed?

There's a thousand and one answers to that question, but todays answer is:

  • Because they work. Bikes with gears almost never work properly - a sticky cable here, a bent and bent-back mech hanger there, a worn casette, a wobbly front mech, a wobby rear mech, worn out jockey wheels, chainsuck, burrs on the chainrings.... the list of geared ailments goes on and on. They only really work new out of the shop and even then the cables stretch. That nagging feeling that my bike doesn't work properly drives me mad and 2 cogs, 1 chain allows me to bypass all that and get on with riding.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

The Choice

I came across a fragment of this poem in An Evil Cradling by Brian Keenan. The full text speaks (volumes) for itself.

The Choice
The intellect of man is forced to choose
perfection of the life, or of the work,
And if it take the second must refuse
A heavenly mansion, raging in the dark.
When all that story's finished, what's the news?
In luck or out the toil has left its mark:
That old perplexity an empty purse,
Or the day's vanity, the night's remorse.

W.B. Yeats

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Another infrequent brain-dump

100km races are getting kinda routine now, but the Builth Wells round of the Merida 100 was something else. 30+ degrees C, lots of climbing and a decision to ride more aggressive than I had at Rhyader would have made for a tough day out. As it was the organisers advised that we were only riding 84km and that there would be food+water at approx 20km, 40km, 60km. That turned out to be a lie and we rode 100km with food+water at 20km, 40km, and 85km. I can't really describe what that middle 45km was like. To begin with I was looking at my watch and thinking that I must be putting in a slower pace. Then, struggling across the baked dry and exposed hills, I reasoned that there couldn't be far to go before more water so I tried to drink more and stay hydrated. As it became apparent that I could make no assumption on how far the next stop was, it was time to start walking up the hills because I couldn't afford to sweat up them pulling my one gear. Riders nearby in granny gears gave me a bit of heart as they moved at little more than walking pace. After riding more than double the distance I had expected, since the last stop 4 cups of energy drink and 3L of water in my pack powered me over the hill back to Builth. It felt like the toughest 100km I've done, and the 7hr time (compared to 6:30 in the mud) confirmed it. Yes it's an enduro, and no-one said it was going to be easy but getting the distances so far wrong is just awful.

Unsurprisingly, I've had a slack week on the bike following that and the search for inspiration continues. 3 hours in the Chilterns felt like a gentle stroll and it was really boredom rather than tiredness that made me call it a day. Must find inspiration before the Selkirk 100km, followed by a week in the Scottish Border, follower by Trans-Wales. Maybe those should be inspiration enough.

More random Linux stuff... I got me an iPod Nano and it works great with mepis Linux. Downloaded an Ubuntu deb of ipodslave. Install with dpkg, fix dependencies with "apt-get -f" and then, as promised, Amarok supports it well. Ace. That means I can download...

Ignite and Neurosis - more splurging on new music. Since Ignite are playing London next Sunday it seemed like getting their new album would be the decent thing to do. They're still doing good. Bands that do straightup punk have got to be good or be dull, and Ignite are good so they fit into the small collection that is "punk CDs worth having". Neurosis albums take time but the signs are good so fingers crossed.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Wow... my feet finally touch the ground

It's gone mountain bike event crazy...

unexpected drafted into a SSMM I ended up doing the 24hr team thing again. I think I prefer the solo rides - there's something about riding round a field every 2 hours that reminds me of the apocryphal cure for teenage smoking by making them smoke until they're sick. You're going to camp in that field and ride every 2 hours until you get it out of your system. Ride, eat+drink, sit, ride etc. It's cool because it's big and you get to chill out with a bunch of bikers before and during the event, but it's not so fascinating when you've done it a handful of times. That said, riding the dawn lap where you get to see the sky turn from black to blue to gold, you get to see the dozens of little lights winding along the hillside where dozens are people are fighting their personal battles to keep the cranks turning, and you get to feel the sun's gentle caress before it becomes a scouring burden - that is a unique moment.

From there, it was some culture with John B Keane's The Field at The Tricycle in Kilburn. First a side-note: there are some references on the web to a place called CTJ Vegan Chinese Restaurant - there is a Chinese restaurant at that address, but it's not vegan and it doesn't even do good veggie food. I hear the meaty dishes are good though. The play was excellent. Tense, funny, endearing and well produced it made an excellent change from norm. The last thing I saw that was remotely like it was Ibsen's "A Doll's House" but a closer time period and a closer culture made The Field much truer to my heart.

Still more to say... but no time to do it. Story of my life at the moment

Monday, June 12, 2006

Bikefest and more Linux tweaking

Bristol bikefest - another great small-scale mountain bike event. I rode in the 12hr solo event and it was a hell of thing.

They put together a nice course with loads of singletrack and attracted a perfect number of riders (maybe a 100 soloists... I'm rubbish at esitmating numbers). Even the start was amusingly low-key: we all rolled out to a patch of grass and the organiser shouts, "3, 2, 1, go!".

The cheer of the other riders, the unbelievable uncouragement from the marshalls, the funny announcer on the PA system, the cheers from the spectators in the arena - there was just a great vibe the whole time. As for the riding, it certainly felt pretty strange as the 7 hour mark went by. That's longer than I've ever ridden continuous and was still only just over half way. I was happy to keep it together for pretty much the whole time, fuelled by fig rolls and bananas on the course and oat cakes, peanuts, apples, and potatoes in my "real food" breaks. The potatoes especially were great, bringing back a section from a Terry Pratchett book

"I never worry about [religion stuff.] Never --ing give it a thought. I've got my potato."
"Oh, yeah. Keep it on a string round my neck." Mr. Tulip tapped his huge chest.
"And that's religious?"
"Well, yeah. When you die, if you've got your potato, everything will be okay."

"A potato can be a great help in times of trial."

and indeed it was. My only disappointment was that I came in at 11hr20min (plus a bit) and was lapping about 40min by there so I didn't push it to squeeze in another lap. My excuse (such as it is) was a puncture on the previous lap which cost me 10 minutes due to exhausted lack of co-ordination (even then I had to stop a bit later and put more air in).

All in all a top weekend, and next year I'm dragging some more people along :)

To linux hacking... I've had a spot of bother enabling dma on the optical drive of my Shuttle SD11G5. It uses a Intel 915GM ICH6M with SATA hd and an IDE optical drive. The way I had it set up,

hdparm -d1 /dev/hdc


HDIO_SET_DMA failed: Operation not permitted

which is no good because without dma, watching dvds and ripping cds both kill the cpu. Turns out that the solution is in the BIOS. In Integrated Peripherals/OnChip IDE Device, make sure that OnChip Serial ATA is set to "Enhanced Mode". Having done this, the cd drive becomes /dev/hda (it's no longer related to the hard-disk) and enabling dma works... woohoo! Now I can watch The Incredibles.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Too busy to blog

...and that's surely a good thing.

Singlespeed UK champs were absolutely ace. Hamsterly is a great place to ride and the atmosphere all weekend was like music festivals used to be (except without the music which was, let's face it, incidental to having a good time). Some tents, some booze and herbal cigarettes and 90s dance music pumping until the early hours. And then we rode a "race" on the Sunday. Tight technical singletrack on the first section caused predictable carnage from the outset; 1000ft of climbing per lap made sure we knew exactly how much beer (some free) and pizza (plenty free) had been consumed the night before; rocky descending kept it interesting on the descents and - amazingly - didn't kill any of the people riding fixed. God knows how. The world needs more of this - 100 odd people in a little bubble of their own, making fun.

It's not all about the bikes. On Tuesday, Sell Crazy proved that there's more to Bracknell than just the forest. Another grass-roots kinda thing the gig was really good fun. They play kind of indie/rock with vocal harmonies in the SoCal punk style. Or at least that's what my ears made of it. It's good to hear a band that can write songs. They get the hooks, they get the length and the complexity right. Generally, I like challenging music - Sell Crazy don't really get up in your face or confuse you but they do know how to show you a good time to go listen to them. Then buy their CD.

Next stop, Bristol Bike Fest. And maybe a rant to get off my chest about stupid project management courses... hmm.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Simple is good

Velcro is simple. Velcro is good. Why make a shoe like this

when the old design always worked? To launch a "new model" every year? I don't know, but I do know that my 3-strap velcro shoes lasted 5 years before the sole cracked. After about a month these new fangled shoes are being relegated to road use only. And the genius who invented a mountain bike shoe that doesn't come off your foot when the "M-lock buckle system" gets muddy should get his head examined.

Happily, Specialized offer "a version for those who prefer 3-strap closures" i.e. those who ride somewhere other than California.

Friday, May 26, 2006

And there it is...

Go riding and you find it. 10 miles each way on the road going to work and back; get home and switch to my mountain bike; set off into the rain. It was an awesome mid-week adventure: hauling my way through boggy mud and clay. Normal climbs verge on the impossible, singletrack becomes streams and a ride near home becomes something remarkable. OK, it all went wrong when my brakepads wore out over 15 miles from home, but I'll quite gladly give 9 miles on the road for the feeling of doing something out of the ordinary and the sheer joy I felt when I could see the lights of Risborough up ahead.

Go ride a bike :)

Monday, May 22, 2006

What's the point of it all?

The muddy footprints through the kitchen; the washing machine going 24/7; the OS map drying in the front room; the batteries charging in every socket I can get my hands on; the cycling shoes in the airing cupboard; the mud tyres fitted back to the bike with the recently un-seized hub.

Shit ride on Sunday, but there's all the same work to do anyhow. I'm going to keep blind faith and squeeze in a night-ride on Wednesday. "showery rain, becoming more persistent later" be damned.

Still, Funland is the best messed up telly out there and a good way to take your mind to a whole other place

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

3 Good Things

With those three, any week is a good week.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Endurance training mind games

40 mile ride today, real training for endurance riding. Just to make things interesting, I swung back past my house at about the 3 hour mark to look temptation in the face. Then up a 1:4 hill, and hello lactic acid. Felt pretty good though and there's slightly less reason to be scared of the Merida 100 in Rhyader. Even better, at the top of the 1:4, I managed a 180 degree turn from hopping on the spot which isn't easy when you're tired. A satisfying morning out, but I still maintain that The Chilterns features among the worst riding in the country... someone deliver me from the chalk, clay, punctures, and lack of technical challenge!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Gave blood, didn't faint

Which is a relief. 2 successful donations now since I did and we can say that it was an aberration. Waking up to find little old ladies consoling me when I'd just got back from a week of mountain biking in The Alps was embarrassing. Hooray for eating before the session and hooray for spinach generally.

Interestingly, my drained state and uninspiring day generally has given rise to an idea for a collaborative method of pruning the search space of web queries. Probably not going to be the next PageRank, but I've installed Google API to have a play.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Dyfi Enduro

In my opinion, the best mountain bike enduro out there. It rocked.

40 miles of real mountain biking where sometimes it gets hairy and sometimes it's just sublime. Incredibly friendly locals, great organisation and a free mug... what more can you ask for?

Too knackered to write about the ride itself, but that's a good thing.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Sound at last!

Yay, finally got sounds working on my PC.

Maybe it was a bit ambitious running Linux on a fancy Shuttle SD11G5, but I'm finally winning the war.

  1. Fail to get Debian to install because Serial ATA isn't supported by the installer, and the bleeding edge installer doesn't work.
  2. Second attempt, try to install using debootstrap from a Knoppix CD. Still difficult to get a sufficiently modern kernel working.
  3. Give up and use Mepis, which is great but I don't get any sound.
  4. Find out that despite having a Creative sound chip in the SD11G5, it doesn't have the ac97 part so the default Alsa ca_0106 driver didn't work. Need to upgrade to Alsa 1.0.11.rc3
  5. Yadda, yadda get the kernel source and compile Alsa.
  6. Wonder why the new module doesn't get installed properly.
  7. Discover the magic file /etc/modules/paths and add the location of Alsa to that
  8. update-modules
  9. Reboot
  10. Uncheck the IEC958 checkbox in the mixer and turn up the volume
  11. Listen to Eric Dolphy! :)
Hope that saves at least one person the pain I've just been through!

Friday, May 05, 2006

Created a blog

I guess this means I'm a total geek now.

I am not a singlespeeder. I ride a singlespeed mountain bike, and it's with 1 part irony and 1 part stubborness that I try to reject the stereotype. Havining said that,

  • Beard - check
  • Taste for single malt whisky - check
  • Muddy bike with one gear - check
  • Subscription to The Outcast - check
  • Conventional non-conformist - yeah, probably

Oh well, at least I now have a place to vent my drivel.