Saturday, November 21, 2009

So that's another bike down. My bike-breaking history is not as bad as some: two aluminium, and now one titanium.

I've never really got that excited about the bikes, it's always been about the riding. Last year, I happened to be in Portland at the time of the North American Handmade Bike Show and it was just about the most boring thing ever. Wow, lugs. Tidy welds... super. But what made them better than my 1x1? Lighter, and more niche but well up the slope of diminishing returns. I'm kind of glad that beardy frame-builders exist, but I don't think I want to go hang out at a convention centre with them.

So, I've tried to pick bikes on the basis of functionality. The label and the finery does too much damage to the wallet when decent geometry shouldn't cost the earth. And what makes me deserve a multi-thousand pound frame? And that's pretty much how I look after my bikes. They're the vehicle to a world of singletrack and fun, not an end in themselves. So clean them when you have to, and chuck them in the shed when you don't.

The Voodoo was my most expensive bike yet. £1500 complete from Halfords, it's still 4.5 times less expensive than a top-of-the-range "race" bike. My first ride on it was beset by problems. The head-tube badge popped off after less than half an hour. The slidey dropouts kept sliding up, so the chain kept coming off. There was no honeymoon period, but it sprinkled gold dust over the descents and whipped up the climbs. I could sort the dropouts and bollocks to the head-badge.

Since then it's been ridden and crashed, scratched and left caked in mud, hosed down and ridden through rivers. And the mantra has been "forget about the bike" - if it's good enough to get me there and back with a grin, then it's good enough. This summer I rode other bikes for a while as the rear wheel from the Voodoo was away for serious repairs. When it came back, I hated that bike. Too whippy and unstable. Too big to crouch low. But I settled back in and the ride came back. I knew how far I could lean forwards, how much I could grab an edge from the tyres, how to flick my hips over jumps and drops.

So, I'm sad that I can't have those ride experiences right now. The Voodoo is with Halfords while they decide whether I'm a fat ape who runs his seatpost too high or a victim of a dodgy weld. Part of me hopes that they don't send a new frame, then I can go choose something else. But that ignores the money and the important thing:

The ride.

For now, it's fun time on the Pug. I don't know what I'm going to end up riding next week, but as long as the trails offer up challenges with one hand and fun with their, it doesn't matter. I suppose I'll want a new bike for the Divide, though :)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Thursday, November 12, 2009

I'm old

And late with posting about it. But the festivities were pretty good.

It was an early start so that Emily could go swimming with her club and I could sneak in a ride. As I pulled into the Look Out car-park, it was remarkably quiet but it was also 7.30am. I hadn't ridden off-road in about a week and every time that happens, I revert a bit to being an indoors person. The air felt cold and I wanted to start out wearing a jacket. In fact, part of me didn't want to start at all. But as soon as I turned those cranks, a massive weight left my shoulders and a massive grin slapped me in the face. Oh, yeah - bikes are awesome! Everything felt good: the bike felt lively underneath me, the trails were in good shape, and I was loving it. No time to ponder age, there was singletrack to go for!

There's a trail we know as "the rooty trail of death", and it has claimed victims. I came into it having pedalled and pumped and ragged my way from the car-park. My iPod was thumping and images from last night's Earthed DVD danced around in my brain. You know the rest. All speed and no plan, my front tyre went diagonally along a root, bounced off a mound of earth, and back into a tree. I tipped over the bars in semi slow motion, seeing the tree stump that I was going to land on. There was only time to go loose before I hit the ground.

At first, I couldn't move at all. Then I could get up, but the pain was all-consuming. Slowly it faded to the point where I could think. I'd kinda spoiled a good ride and set myself up for a painful birthday. Damnit. The dead leg meant that I couldn't ride back up the other side of the hollow I'd flapped into. The graze on my hip was sore under my jersey. I kept up the ride, though, knowing that these things fade.

My style was cramped now, and never as free as the first 1/2 hour. Still, it was a ride and you can't knock it. One patch of crash damage below...

The next part of the day was present-from-Emily time. Heelys! Ever since they came out, I've been jealous of todays kids growing up in a world with wheely trainers. It turns out that they come in adult sizes, so now I have my own. We went down to Hyde Park to give them a spin. With my battered legs, it was hard to balance on the wheels but I got there in the end. Emily's roller-blades were much quicker, but the Heelys got the attention (possibly in amusement/sympathy, but they were fun).

And in-between, there was time for Anish Kapoor's very playful works at The Royal Academy of Art. From sort of woven concrete in forms that echo industrial manufacturing, caves, and primitive art to huge mirrors that put the whole building into a snow-globe, to a giant block of wax that travelled through the gallery, it was fun. And then there was Homer's giant belly-button.

So, older and still none-the-wiser.